Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where Giants Grow

Author's note:
Please see previous these posts: 1 & 2 in that order. Hopefully this may make some sense.
However I'm not making any promises.

Additional author's note: Obviously I did not write this as soon as I had hoped - life intervened - as happens far too often. I should have learned by now never to promise a "sequel" - However I did "start" writing this the day after Tim's funeral. It took me until now to realize how much I needed to finish what I's part of the process I'm going through mentioned in other recent ramblings.

I watched Tim Awbrey more than I spoke with him. Sure, we had conversations over church pot luck meals, or while he supervised some project on church property, which usually meant putting his two strapping sons to work. His boys were top members of the Boy Scouts, and much of Tim and Fran's lives centered on the many activities associated with making certain their sons got the very most out of scouting...not necessarily badges or awards...but the values a program like the Boy Scouts reinforces.

He was also very active in his sons' athletic competitions. They were big they are big men.

Their roots, like Tim's and his sister Teketha's, are firmly entrenched in a tiny place in east-central Texas.

The Freyburg United Methodist Church was dedicated in 1879, but the original land for the building was sold to church trustees a couple of years prior to that, by one of the many German immigrant farmers who came to the area following the Civil War. They came looking for a place to plant grow their families and their crops. This is where their family values were also nurtured and nourished...and the foundation of a new legacy to their lineage was born.

The six acres of land upon which the church sits today was purchased for $48 dollars with only one stipulation: that it "be kept, maintained and disposed of as a place of ministry and membership."

And so it has been for 130 years.

In those days there was a "circuit" preacher who would pass through on a semi-regular basis. There weren't enough preachers or parishioners in Freyburg, or any one town nearby, to support a full-time pastor. Men called into the Lord's service split their time between any number of houses of worship...worshippers made due with God alone when there was no Pastor present. It was a system that worked well.

It still does.

These days, the Freyburg United Methodist Church, has...a circuit preacher...delivering sermons twice, sometimes three times, per month.

There is little else in Freyburg that I could discern from our brief visit, and still not many towns nearby - albeit I-10 does make travel much easier and distance is measured in different ways now.

Next to the church is a small cemetery, this is where Tim was laid to rest. It is impeccibly maintained by the devoted members of the church, as it has been since the need for such a place of peace and passing first arrived, probably not long after the first settlers.

Despite the proximity to a coast to coast highway, you have to know that you are going to Freyburg to get there. There is one exit off the freeway, and it leads to a farm to market road...and that road leads to the church, and to a field neatly filled with gravestones and memories.

I was struck by how, in so many ways, our busy world has not intruded into the tranquility and tradition of Freyburg. Beyond some basic restoration work, like painting, the church is much the same as it was when first erected (they got rid of the outhouse a few years ago). You can envision people worshiping there today much as they did 100 years ago.

As we stood by her brother Tim's grave, Teketha pointed to the land on the other side of the church and said that area was once her family's dairy farm.

And it all made sense to me. Here I was standing in Freyburg, Texas...a town you could miss even if you had a map, but I was surrounded by men, women and children some of whom had driven through the night from Oklahoma to attend the funeral near San Antonio and then another hundred miles or so for this brief graveside service.

This was family in the strongest sense of the word.

A big family, perhaps technically not all "related," but family nonetheless. These were people united in the values which had been gently planted, caressed and had taken root more than a century earlier here in tiny Freyburg, Texas.

Like the crops planted by those original settlers, those values and traditions had been nurtured, and nourished. Only the the source of nourishment differed...the blood of Christ.

The work ethic, those traditions and values are still standing strong in the family to this day and I suspect they will continue to flourish for generations to come...all because of the intentional devotion and vision of men and women in tiny Freyburg, Texas more than a century ago.

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.- Psalm 80:8