Tribute: An act, statement or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect and admiration.
Ambassador: A person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specific activity, person or Kingdom.
What more can be said about a generation that has been called “The Greatest”? I can only add that they should be honored and respected for their leadership, perseverance and endurance that resulted in a steadfast faith, wholesome families and the contribution to the welfare of the church and community. We appreciate them because of the legacy the leave for us. They set the example of hard work and a job well done. But most of all they taught us what it looks like to walk with Jesus through a lifetime of experiences.
It has been my privilege to have been the teacher of the Ambassadors Sunday School Class for the last twenty years. Although twenty years sounds like a long time it is just a short span of time of the sixty-four years the class has been meeting and fellowshipping together. The class started in 1952 at the Budlong Christian Church. They called themselves the “Young Adults Class”. Oh, it seems so long ago. There have been five teachers over the years. They were Edsel Dale, Clearance Chapman, Jim Curd, Purdy Colaw and myself. Sometime in the 1970’s, Jim Curd re-named the class to “The Ambassadors”. The original class (to my best knowledge) was the Bowers, Keepers,, Colaws, Chapmans, McCinurks and Swarans. There are two of the original member still involved, Alice Bowers and Reba Keeper. Several of the men served as elders. They were Carl Bowers, Jim Still, Purdy Colaw, Clearance Chapman, Bill Fisher, Henry Peters and Buck Keeper. What an act to follow. I apologize if I left any one out that should have been recognized. I have made the most of the resources available to me.
Because of the age of the class, the past twenty years has made me realize the reality of our finite time here on earth. We have lost the fellowship and company of so many. The members we have lost in just the past twenty years is about twenty-eight. Those who are unable to attend because of health or other confining reasons are another twenty souls. The class has seen more than two hundred and fifty member at one time or another. Can you imagine the influence and impact they have had on family members, neighbors and work associates. They truly were Ambassadors.
We had some fun when I asked them, “What the most enjoyable times they had together?” It seems if there was a bon fire and weenies involved they were willing and ready for an outing. Whether it was out at Al and Bonnie Hayter’s house in October for a roast, or at Jerry and Carolyn Meyers backyard retreat for a picnic in the summer and fall, they were ready. Other enjoyable times were spent at the Cayton’s annual Christmas brunch, trips to Lambeth’s Restaurant in Springfield, going to Cookson Hills Children’s home in Kansas, Oklahoma, the Buchanan’s fish fry, ice cream socials, Young at Heart and of course going out for breakfast together after church service. They truly enjoyed being in the company of each other. Some friendships were life long, others were much shorter. It didn’t matter. They would make you welcome no matter who you were or where you came from. The hand of friendship and fellowship was always extended. They were a community within a community.
I then asked them, “What was the most difficult thing they faced?” Of course many of them have lost spouses which is very difficult. Some had lost a child which seems so unnatural. We are prepared to see the end of our own lives and possibly the life of our spouse. But a child? That’s even more difficult. As a group, the consensus was the transition from the “Old Fairview” to the “New Fairview”. As I am getting older I am beginning to empathize with them about change. Some in our fellowship rejected the move and went elsewhere. But the Ambassadors persevered. The affirmation for them, that it was indeed God’s direction, was the night we had a prayer vigil at our “new” church. A table cloth caught fire from a candle that had burned down to the base. There was a bible setting on the table. It was opened to II Chronicles 7:1-4 which read “Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the Lord because of the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. All the sons of Israel, seeing the fire come down and the glory of the Lord upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground and they worshiped and gave praise to the Lord, saying, ‘Truly He is good, truly His loving kindness is everlasting.’” The table cloth was completely consumed, but only the edges of the bible were scorched. For them, and many others in our congregation, it was a sign that God was going to use this building in ways we could not imagine. It has certainly come to pass.
Like most other Sunday school classes, the Ambassadors directed their class offerings to specific ministries. The first and second Sunday’s were for “Life Choices”. The third and fourth Sunday’s were for “Cookson Hills Children’s Home”. On the fifth Sundays there would be a special offering for the Shores in Thailand, Kristen Hicks in Guatemala and “Ozark Crisis Response”. Many of the members were involved in church type ministries such as communion preparation, communion meditations, childrens ministry, teaching Sunday school class, helping with vacation bible school, harvest party and feeding Ozark Christian College students in their homes. All of them participated in providing food, water and praying for the victims, families and friends of those in the Joplin tornado. Jim and Flo Still led “Childrens Church” for fifteen years. Most all the women were involved in Funeral dinner preparation and serving. Flo Still, Betty Farrington and Betty White were, and two still are, involved in quilting blankets for Cookson Hills.
Their work and ministry were not confined to just church activities. Carl Bowers was instrumental in establishing the “Carthage Crisis Center”. He and Alice’s tireless work there is one reason of its success. Betty Farrington, Reba Keeper, Midge McGrew and Leoti Ball have volunteered at “Crosslines” for the last twenty years. Reba, Alice and Midge have volunteered as receptionist for counseling in the front office. Jim Still and Carl Bowers kept our church building, vans and apartments in good repair. Floyd Youngblood took a pickup load of apples to Cookson Hills every year for the last sixty years. Probably most of you didn’t know this about them. That is just who they are, unassuming, without fan fare. Their attitude was to roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done.
I asked them, “What is the most significant thing they had learned and how it changed their lives?” “Go to church and take your kids.” “Jesus is the only way to God.” “Jesus is the way, the truth and life.” “Be the same outside the church as you are in the church.” “God said “Let it be”. Many are able to see things at a deeper level. “Coming to a realization that Jesus is God.” “Learning there is so much you don’t understand and so much more you need to learn.” “Be an example where ever you are.” “Discovering how many times you can read the same scripture and God show’s you something different each time.” They all have appreciated the strong community of the class.
When it comes to having surgery or being in the hospital, it is like a secret society. You don’t know that they have been in until they’re out. When I asked them why, they responded that they knew the ministers or I were busy and didn’t want to bother us. It’s just their generation. They grew up not wanting to take hand outs and not be a burden. Wow, what we can learn from that. It does have its draw backs though. We need each other. We need community. Sometimes it was very hard to do something for them. So, one Sunday I taught a lesson that had to do with blessings. The main point was that when we refuse a blessing from someone, we are denying a blessing from God for that person. It really helped in allowing some people to do some good things for them.
Even though they could not answer the question, “What is the most significant thing the Ambassador class has done?” I’m sure you all would agree with me. They didn’t claim to do a big project or program that they had organized, but that it was more of how they would all come together and help somebody if there was a need. They would take on the jobs and responsibilities that were not always the easiest or got much attention.
The greatest thing I think they have done is showing us what humbleness of service through action and purpose in life really looks like. Their love and devotion to family, friends, the body of Christ and utmost to Christ himself shows in their desire to finish the race well here on earth, and to look forward to their eternal destiny. Their lives were and continue to be full of compassion and generosity. They have been the teacher, and Mary and I have been the student. We have learned so much from them.
I want to close this “Tribute to the Ambassador’s” with a Christmas poem my wife, Mary, wrote for our family several years ago. It goes to the heart of who the Ambassadors were. I not only think it is appropriate for our earthly families but also our eternal family as well.
A LIVING FABRIC
The fabric of a family made up of living threads
Connected to each other in commitment and strong stead
Each one a life connection that keeps the fabric strong
With love and gentle caring on this life’s road sometimes long
The laughter and the heartfelt tears, the triumphs and the losses
The chance to be a steadfast thread that supports each one it crosses
Oh marvel at its beauty rare, the colors of each strand
The careful, divine weaving by the Master’s skillful hand
The days so quick and fleeting pass, the sands of time go swift
The treasure of each memory shared, a precious, blessed gift
Thank God that there is family, each cherished thread to love
Interwoven sweet communion through life’s journey and Heaven above
Chad and Mary Cayton