Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Camp Meeting Week

Inside a New Air-Conditioned Building

It's that time again!  Annual "Camp Meeting" worship services and Bible Studies began last night at the North Cleveland Church here in the state of Tennessee.  It's always a time of spiritual refreshing, seeing old friends, making new friends, learning more about the Word of God and experiencing our relationship with God and with one another.  It's always a busy time for a minister.  That's why this entry will be comparatively short.  Tommy Bates started us off last night.  This morning - THE BEST PART - (always the best part for me) was the Bible Study.  This year Mitchelle Tolle is once again the Bible Study teacher.  Wish all of you, my friends and blog readers, could be here with us.  You can see the services at night, streaming live, on the Internet.  Go to www.cogtn.org and click the link on the hompage, the 2011 Camp Meeting page or North Cleveland Church of God hompage at www.nccog.org.Services begin each night at 7:00p. through Friday night, June 24, 2011.

You might see me there!

Ministers Listening To The Bible Study

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On Preparing To Be A Missionary

I have been asked by several people (especially those with a desire to become missionaries) if I could tell them what they need to study in order to better prepare themselves for being a missionary.  My normal response is to say – Study every subject that you have opportunity to study.  Everything you can learn now will make you a better missionary then. 
                Of course if you are a young teen-ager, you should at least finish High School.  A College degree is required by most mission sending agencies if you plan to become a career missionary.  Having a Master’s Degree in Religious studies is better and a Doctor's Degree is even more valuable.  The more formal education you have, the easier it is to obtain a work-permit type of visa.  Foreign government leaders do look for those who can perform tasks that their own people are not qualified for.  I was asked once by an African government official, “Why should I give you this work-permit if there is someone in your church from our own country who can do the job you are doing?”  No, our calling is not to be compared with a secular job – but his question did make sense to me. 
I don't think I was at any time consciously preparing to go to Africa. Looking back from this vantage point, I can see how God was preparing me in many ways; some little some larger.  As best I can understand it - the preparation started when I was 8 years of age and had that dramatic conversion experience which I have blogged about previously.  As I explained in that blog, my Dad felt “called” to preach at the age of 20 and started pasturing small churches near where he lived.  As a result, he soon realized that he needed more education so moved to Seveirville, Tennessee so he could attend our Church’s Bible Training School (now Lee University).  After much experience I believe that when anyone has the opportunity to preach from the pulpit he/she soon recognizes the need to be a better communicator.  There is a verse in Ecclesiastes 10:10 that says, “If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.”  One translations says, “Be wise therefore and sharpen the blade.”  If you have ever cut wood for burning in a wood stove, you have a better understanding of that principle than others.
At the age of 11 years, I felt in my own heart that someday I would be a preacher.  Dad was now pasturing a church in Jellico, Tennessee.  Jellico, on the border with Kentucky, was a small mountain town with it’s own unique culture.  I did not make a public announcement about that call but did share it with Mom and Dad.  They were very wise and did not push me out front but chose to allow me to be the first to say anything publicly about that call.  I attended the 6th grade here, and entered the local spelling bee, won the county reading contest, and sung in a school choir.  All of these things were shaping my future. 
This is my High School Graduation picture
At 16 years old, while Dad was pastoring the church Spain Street Church of God in New Orleans, Louisiana, we had a visitor from South Africa who shared his slides with us about some of his work among the Bantu tribes in Southern Africa - and that started an awareness that I should try and help those who were less fortunate than me and who had never heard the gospel of Jesus.  In New Orleans, I learned how to adapt to a foreign culture.  I learned from the “Swamp People” and from the Cajuns of the big city.  While I had been very popular in the small school in Jellico and Campaign, Tennessee where my Dad was well known by most folks in those little towns, we were now in a town of a half million people.  My school (Francis T. Nichols High School) alone had more than 300 students.  That was as many as the whole town of Campaign, TN where I had been in the 7th and 8th grades.  God was preparing me for diversity.  In New Orleans, I was able to study French as a regular school subject.  This would not have been possible in the country churches we had just come from.  Little did I know at the time that I would be able to use that French in Africa while serving our Church as Field Director for 32 countries.  Twenty two of my countries officially spoke French.  No – I was not fluent in French but was able to understand much more than I could speak. 
Thank you for taking your time to come by and visit with me today.  I realize this blog may have been a little lengthy but thanks for enduring to the end!  Well - really there is more to the story which I hope to share with you on another day.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Our 54th Happy Anniversary

Frances and Me

God has been so good to me to give me a good and godly wife!  She is my inspiration.  The greatest moments in my adult life have happened with her by my side.  She is beautiful, brilliant, dignified and so sweet that sugar won't melt in her mouth.  The sight of her smile, when focused on me, takes my breath away. She has incredible inner strength that others are attracted to like a magnet. Honesty comes naturally for her. She speaks what she means and means what she speaks. She has raised our three daughters up to be lovely women who share the same old fashioned values with their Mom - and did this while I was away much of the time, "somewhere working for the Lord". Yes, the Lord has been good to me.  When we met, she was at Berea College in KY, working on plans to become a medical doctor/missionary.  However, when I asked her to marry me she changed her plans to fit in with her husband's plans.  She went on to U.T. in Knoxville, TN and earned her B.A. degree in Education.  She became a school-teacher and helped support me while I pastored small churches that could not pay a full salary.  After five years she followed me to Guyana, S. America, back to Tennessee, then to Africa where we lived for ten years!  So she has literally followed me half way around the world.  What a woman ! 

 God was also good to us over the years and as we pastored churches for 24 years and served in missions for 23 years.  He gave us many good friends.  One such friend from a church we pastored in the 1980s sent an e-mail asking us to join him for breakfast on the morning of June 2nd at the Cracker Barrell for breakfast.  Bobby R. and his wife lived across the street from us for 7 years.  He was on the Church and Pastor's council and also led singing in our church.  He worked with our youth of the church and won their respect and trust.  He currently works for the State of Tennessee and has responsibilities all over the eastern part of our state.  We are thankful to you, Bobby, for being our friend.
Bobby R., Church Member and Good Friend

Immediately after our leisurely visit with Bobby, we received a call from Frances sister, Beth, that Curtis was having a tough time.  We decided to spend the rest of our day by driving up and spending some time with Beth and Curtis.  He has to have oxygen 24/7 and is feeding himself through a tube into his stomach, but maintains a most congenial and positive attitude.  I was privileged to take Beth to the grocery store and help with an errand or two.  Then we joined two of Frances Brothers and one of the wives at the new BoJangles for dinner before driving back home.  We were tired but felt a sense of satisfaction.  Curtis has a new laptop and a grandson is there with them to help him whenever he has a tech problem.  So - Curtis, if you are reading this blog - THANKS for your hospitality!  I still think you should consider doing a blog and giving us your thoughts here.  What about it?

Curtis in front of his new laptop

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