Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas News

Good News is scarce these days. Our world seems to be reeling and rocking like a drunken man. Most of the news is bad. The economy is bad news. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are bad news. Terrorists having cells here in the U.S.A. is bad news. Climate change is bad news. We need some good news in the middle of these chaotic conditions. We need some reassurance that everything is going to be o.k.O.K. - So you need some good news? In the Holy Bible, Luke 2:10, "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." This "good tidings" was the good news that the Messiah had come into the world. This "good tidings" was that the Messiah would bring joy to "all people"! Joseph was told by the angel, in Matthew 1:21, concerning Mary, "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." Salvation from sin is GOOD NEWS in these bad times!

In Copenhagen, Denmark the world's leaders are anxiously discussing the world's climate changes in earnest. Ice-bergs are melting. The ozone is being poisoned. They seem to be sincerely worried that man is going to wreck the planet beyond repair. Here is another bit of good news from the Holy Bible that I've thought a lot about in view of recent revelations on the subject. Genesis 8:22 "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."Here is more good news. We have a promise from God that even in these troubled end-times God will give peace to those who trust in Him. May the Prince of Peace give you re-assurance to trust in the Lord with all of your heart and Bless you with his Peace this Christmas. The peace I'm referring to is described by Paul the Apostle in Philippians 4:7 "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.


Looking Back

At the last General Assembly in August of 2008 we handed over all documents to our successor and officially retired. We had just completed 19 years of full time service in Africa. For nine years (1989-1998) Frances and I lived and worked in Kenya, East Africa and for the last ten years as the Field Director (1998-2008) for Western, Eastern, and Central Africa where the Church of God has over 4,000 churches. This area includes 33 of the 50 (some say 58) nations found in Africa – but does not include Southern Africa, which is an entirely different Field Area which operates under the Full Gospel Churches of God of Southern Africa. The Church of God and the Full Gospel Church of God administration strive for full cooperation between the churches and membership is transferable between these two according to the rulings of the General Assembly.

At the General Assembly in San Antonio, TX all official responsibility was handed over to a choice servant of God and of the African people. Bishop Peter A. Thomas and his wife Deborah are now serving as the chief executive officer of the Church of God in the 33 countries of West, Central and Eastern Africa (basically Sub-Saharan Africa) where the Church of God has over 4,000 Churches. We will never forget the love and support we had from so many of you choice servants of God; nor will we forget the love we found among people from many different tribal, ethnic and social backgrounds. As found in 1 Samuel 12:23 “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.”

It is impossible to ever get Africa out of our minds and hearts. However – here is what we have been doing. For the first year – we have been just visiting churches here in the USA. Most times without an official invitation. I admit it: It has given me great joy to sit quietly in a sanctuary where I had absolutely no responsibility for the outcome of the service. Sometimes no one else in the church knew me. Inevitably though, in many places I would be recognized and asked to say something.

We have been honored to be invited to preach on several occasions. I have filled in at our home church, the Sixth Avenue Church of God in Lenoir City, Tennessee when Pastor Ernie Varner was away on missions trips.
I was invited to preach at the One-Hundredth Year “Home-coming” at the Tellico Plains Church of God on July 12, 2009. This was my first church; the church where I started my ministry on March 1, 1961 (Forty-eight years ago!). What a thrill to see so many of those wonderful folks still faithfully serving God in that church now being Pastored by my former Sunday School Superintendent, Pastor Paul Fritts and his faithful wife, June.
Again, on September 20th, 2009, we were highly favored to be asked to be the preacher for the “Home-Coming” at the Cedar Hill Church of God in Talbott, Tennessee – our last pastorate before going out to Africa as missionaries. Pastor Sam and Ruth Youngblood are now once again serving that church with their unique quality style of leadership! The place rang with tears of joy and the laughter of brotherly love.

Teaching Sunday School:
Right after the Tellico Plains Home-Coming, I felt impressed to offer myself as Sunday School teacher to Pastor Fritts. So – on September 6th I began a year-long commitment to teach the Sanctuary Class in this church. We have already put the first quarter behind us as of this writing. Yes, it is one hour’s drive from my home here in Cleveland to the church in Tellico Plains – but what a thrill to feel that one is being led by the hand of God. Excitement is high. Words of encouragement and appreciation come regularly – but the greatest reward is the sense of God’s presence and direction I feel in this venture.

The Cabin:
I feel that God put this special blessing within my reach. I was able to acquire a 5-acre lease on private land in the Cherokee National Forest here in East Tennesse. It has a two room hunter’s shack on it, powered by solar electricity and some basic amenities. Water for drinking and cooking is hauled in. It was immediately named “Pumzika Acres”, which is Kiswahili for “You-Rest Acres”. Many of you have heard me tell this story of how, at a time of great stress in the beginning of my Africa ministry God gave me a night vision in which he spoke that word to me: PUMZIKA! It has been my privilege to have 7 of my Africa brethren to visit this restful place. Last year we had the honor of having Rob and Kathy Davis and two of their children visit us here for Christmas day!!! Together with our children we cooked deer in an old iron pot over an open fire. Ahhh!

In Sickness and in Health:

Frances came through successful open-heart surgery in March of this year. She continues to need prayer but is doing some better. She has some good days - but some bad days. The complications required a CT scan yesterday, December 18, to see if doctors can determine why the heart is still plagued by arhythmia. We will know the results in about two weeks at the next Doctor visit.

About two weeks ago I came down with what I thought was just the common cold which I can normally handle without going to the doctor. However, since I did not want to spread it to Frances, I decided to go see if I could get help. Fortunately I did. It took 7 shots and four breathing treatments and a round of anti-biotics to knock out that bug. Officially it was pharyngitus, Sinusitus, and bronchitus. Thank God I'm over it and Frances (altho she did cough some) was able to overcome it without getting totally sick.

Our first-born co-authored a book for teaching math – and continues teaching school here in Cleveland. She has received some funds for the work - and anticipates more as the book sells. Her husband Rick Durham has had heart problems complicated by diabetes. He is still able to work but does not feel good a lot of the time. Pray for them.

Daughter Ruthie and her husband Curtis Crockett continue with their work in the church. Ruthie is in charge of the Angel Food ministry for the Grace Assembly of God Church. She is such an angel herself. It is an appropriate ministry for her.

Tabitha, our youngest, and her husband Philip Jaycox were appointed to pastor the Church of God in Water Town, New York just two weeks ago. It seems to me that it is sooooo far from home. I miss the grand-children bad.

Well ... that about sums it up.


Here is a picture of five generations. Mom, Me, Ruthie, Lydia and Julian


jack69 said...

awwwwww Fred. What an entry and a great Blog. Wonder why we haven't connedted before? Sherry is looking through the blog on the other side of the table. Does this look like Lowell? He was such a kid.
Ed and Irma, ohh, Sherry was all a dither. "She wrote the song I carry in my purse, "I have a Hope!".
She is digging up the jewels. Give Frances our love. She measn a lot to us and a WHOLE LOT or people. God bless you all.
If you are teaching in the spring in Tellico we must come up. It would be such a thrill to us.

Just the names Fred & Frances sets off so many good times in such a short span of time. We love you guys. I imagine you guys got part of the storm, hope all is well!
Jack & Sherry in Florida

Fred Alton said...

Jack, can't imagine why we haven't connected before. The internet is a funny thing - seems to have a mind of it's own at times. LoL.

I passed your message on to Frances and she's reading your book now. She will read it slower than I did and probably retain much more of it than me. for sure.

I promised the pastor in Tellico Plains that I'd teach through next August - so should be going there when you come this way. I'm really looking forward to your visit.

I'm leaving here in the next twenty minutes. Takes me one hour from my house to the church. C Ya.

About Me

My photo
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.

TheCabin on Day One

TheCabin on Day One
Fred Alton