Who has had the biggest influence in your life (besides your parents)? Is that an easy question for you to answer? It sure is for me.
I grew up in a small church. There were never more than a handful of kids. At one point the youth group had 2 members, the preacher’s son and me. I grew up playing the piano whenever my aunt could talk me in to it and racing around the building after church in the twilight. Sunburned shoulders during VBS and getting my velcroed tape player stolen out of my dad’s truck when I was 16. These are the memories I have.
When I was in 7th grade, a new preacher came to town. Brother Charles Bradley. This guy was a fiesty guy from Arkansas who I could barely understand because of his accent. Every time he would say “Amen”, I thought he was saying “Amy” and let’s face it, I was probably doing something in the back row that I could get in trouble for. I would jump a mile high every time.
Little did we know how much this man would change our life in the short time we had with him.
I believe Brother Charles was at our church for under two years but in that two years he challenged my church and my family until the point where you were uncomfortable. My family became a God-centered family under his direction. Very unlikely characters became Sunday School teachers and changed teenagers lives. Kids learned the books of the Bible and Bible verses like never before. We became on-fire for God and our lives were changed forever.
Brother Charles was never afraid to go up to strangers no matter where we were and say, “Hey, man, do you know my Jesus?”
Fast forward to college…
Brother Charles was living in Arkansas. When life got where I couldn’t handle it, I headed to Arkansas. I would usually take a friend with me and just escape to my sanctuary…Brother Charles’ house. We would sit in his living room and just talk about life. I remember on more than one occasion when I would tell him about my troubles (that usually included boys) and he would say, “I just don’t think that’s what God has planned for my Amy.” He made me think, question, pray, cry and ask God for answers.
Brother Charles lived back in the woods deep in Arkansas. I could block all my troubles out and I could also sleep like nobody’s business. I remember one day I woke up and was shocked to see that it was 11:00! Miss Lois, Brother Charles’ wife, had saved breakfast for me and I mean she cooked like it was the last meal you would ever have. So I ate. Can’t be rude. And I drank. Brother Charles was juicing before juicing was cool. He would always give me a glass of carrot juice to drink. “It’s good for your eyes”, he would say. Then about an hour later, Miss Lois had made us lunch too, another smorgasbord that you ate even though you were still full from breakfast. You definitely never left hungry. She made sure of that!
Brother Charles was known for making you try food you might not otherwise eat. He took me to a Chinese buffet and I thought I was safe until he had me try crawdads…only he could get me to do that.
I always felt like Brother Charles had a direct line to God. I probably put too much faith in him but he never let me down. He steered me in the right direction during very important times of my life.
I could never thank him enough for all that he taught and how he steered me closer to God each time I needed it.
All I can do is show the same love and steer other people to God the way he steered me.
Brother Charles has watched his first wife, beautiful daughter and sister all lose the fight to cancer. Now it’s his turn to fight. I pray that God will ease his pain and make his last days memorable for him and the people who love him so much. I pray that his mind will be at ease and calm. I pray for his son to have strength to stand by his dad’s side. I thank God for bringing Brother Charles into my life because I know I would not be where I am today without him and my family is better for the lessons he taught us. I pray that I can be the witness that he taught me to be and show Jesus’ love wherever I go. What a reunion it will be when he gets to heaven and sees all the lives he touched. He is going to have a big mansion let me tell you.