Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I am thankful to God for the most wonderful year of my life, 2008! In August I retired. It is wonderful to be retired and to know that (if the bottom does not fall out of our economy) we will have a decent check for the next 19 years from our 401K retirement plan through the Church of God. I started to work for the church in 1961 and built 47 years of un-broken service. The first few weeks my pay was in the single digits per week. Frances graduated from UT and started teaching in the fall after we were appointed. Of course that helped us get by. While we were missionaries the salary was always very low but for the last ten years it was much better. (to say the least.) During these years I was privileged to serve at one of the highest appointed officers in the entire COG World Missions Department, which was called Field Director. What a wonderful journey.
First I served as evangelist and did the required "two successful revivals" necessary to receive Exhorter's credentials, the first rank of ministry in our organization. After pastoring my first church at Tellico Plains, Tennessee beginning on March 1, 1961 where I served for five years, I was appointed as overseer for our churches in the nation of British Guiana in 1966.
I enjoyed the strong support of the Superintendent, Reverend T.R. Morse who became a part of our family. I was honored to be asked by his family to be one of three speakers at his funeral last year. Our children still refer to him as "Poppa Morse" and to his widow as "Granny Morse". When I finally reached the age of 30, Brother Morse came to our home in Guyana and left me a blank copy of the Ordained Minister's (Bishop's) exam with instructions for me to "take Bible and Minutes Book and fill it out before he came back in a couple of months." When he sent the test results and application to headquarters the offices sent the results to the overseer of Tennessee. That's why, instead of being ordained in Guyana, I was ordained by proxy at the Tennessee Camp Meeting. I've been told by two different men that they stood in for me when I was ordained.
The journey has not been without it's difficulties, especially during the last ten years while I served the Church as Field Director for Western, Central and Eastern Africa. There are only 8 Field Directors in the entire Church of God denomination at any one time, so I felt honored to have been selected by our leadership to be one of them. I was a member of the International Council. I was a member of a special African Committee composed of Church of God and Full Gospel Church of God persons. My area covered 32 countries, close to 5000 churches, and close to half a million members of the Church. I was a member of the Ordained Bishops Council for 40 years. As I told the Missions Board the last time I met with them, "God and the Church of God has been good to me!"
A few nights ago I ran into a much respected fellow minister while out shopping. He has served in a much higher position than I and was elected by his peers more than once to high office in the church. This brother is still working and still drawing a full salary as far as I know. When I enquired as to how his Christmas holiday had been, he replied, "Brother! It has been a tough time - but we finally made it through! I'm so glad it's over." I was thrilled inside as I smiled and said, "Brother, I believe that this has been the best Christmas we have ever had." Then, as an afterthought, "Well, if not the best, then one of the best!" Now, please know that I was not rejoicing in the pain of my brother - but was rejoicing that God has given me a sense of peace and satisfaction and I no longer struggle with some of the things the men on "active duty" struggle with. If this is a carnal thought on my part, just forgive me.
Another thing - my family has been blessed in their journey. We have three daughters, 7 grand-daughters and 1 great grand-daughter plus 1 great grand-son! Our oldest daughter and her daughters have joined the South Cleveland Church of God and both sing in the choir. This daughter is also a Sunday School teacher at their Church. Plus, she teaches 2nd grade at a respected elementary school in this city. Her husband is the son of a preacher and is a trusted security guard. Our second daughter has joined Grace Assembly of God and she and her husband and their baby daughter actively participate in the life of that church. Her husband is a skilled craftsman in the house-building trade. Ruthie's firstborn daughter is the mother of our great grand-son and they live in our city. We have a loving relationship with them and get to see our great grand-son frequently. Our youngest daughter is the wife of the pastor of an Independent Church called Hope Outreach in Jefferson City, Tennessee. This is a Pentecostal Church with a ministry to the less-fortunate in Jefferson and Hamblen Counties. Many of the converts to Christ come out of the housing projects. I feel honored and blessed that my children have this kind of love and compassion for people regardless of their race and/or social status and are sharing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the God of the Bible with them. In addition, we have two more step-grandchildren and 8 step great-grandchildren whom we love very much. They were all with us for Christmas on December 20, 2008. In addition, Mom is here in Cleveland, TN and enjoying relatively good health. I have a brother and two sisters who live in this area. The other brother has bought a place and plans to move here upon his retirement. We have a great relationship with each other. Also my wife's brothers and sister with their spouses frequently get together with us. What a blessing to have family close and to have a close relationship with one's family.
Another Blessing is the fact that we have good friends. This may be the subject of a future blog.
I'm also blessed to be a citizen of the United States of America. I lived in Africa for ten years and for the last ten years (while living here) have worked in Africa. I have seen there that nations who are ruled by dictators (even the benevolent ones) operate in uncertainty. Corruption among leaders leads to corruption at every level. Yesterday, here in America, we saw the peaceful installation of our 44th president, Mr. Barack Hussein Obama. What a privilege to live in a land where leaders are not chosen because of their name nor race but because of their leadership abilities. I think one of the most important principles of democracy was expressed by President Obama in his speech yesterday when he said, "We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."
This expresses some ideas that I certainly believe in:
1) Don't meddle in your neighbor's business as long as he does not harm you.
2) If you do things that create crisis for us, we will work tirelessly to stop you.
3) We are concerned about the space around us (our environment) and want it to be orderly and conducive to living well.
4) Believe in the way you live; live in the way you believe.
5) Make a strong public declaration of your faith in the outcome of your lifestyle.
In conclusion: This has become a more lengthy blog than I intended it to be. Still I have not covered all of the reasons that 2008 was a wonderfully blessed year for me nor have I adequately covered the few things mentioned here. My prayer for you is that you will be blessed with God's great mercies as I have been. May you have assurance today that God is God; that God is Good; that God is in control of your life.
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- Fred Alton
- Cleveland, TN, United States
- I am Fred Alton Brannen, the son of Louis A. Brannen (deceased) and Bonnie Jones Brannen, Louis was an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God. Bonnie is an Ordained Licensed Minister and at 89 years of age is still actively engaged in speaking and singing engagements. I am married to the former Frances Hildreth. We celebrated 53 years of marriage this past June and we are the parents of 3, grand-parents of 10, and great-grandparents of 10. I pastored in Tennessee for 24 years and served the Church in some capacity in missions for over 23 years. I retired from full-time ministry in August of 2008 but remain active, speaking and singing and teaching whenever opportunity affords itself. In January of 2010 I received a letter of commendation for having been credentialed as a minister in the Church of God for 50 years! My family is very important to me. Our get togethers are always noisy affairs and most times will include family sing-alongs. The children love their Mom's cooking so we have the privilege of seeing them regularly! WE LOVE having them over.