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Picking Up Where Others Left Offcomment (0)

January 23, 2003

By Johnie Sentell

January presents us with a clean slate and fresh opportunities. It also helps us ponder our responsibility to pick up where longtime workers left off as they finished their courses.

Brother Doyle Brown retired Dec. 31 after 24 years as bivocational pastor of Seman Baptist Church, Eclectic (Elmore Asso-c.).

Both he and his wife, the former Wanda Barton, are graduates of How-ard Col-lege, now Samford University. He got his degree from New Orleans Seminary in 1961.

After serving his first 24 years in full-time ministry, he faced a dilemma: “I had five children in high school and junior high. We were at a church that couldn’t afford to pay more. I had to make an adjustment, so I went bivocational.

“The Lord just opened doors for me to go that way,” he said. “I felt good about it. I have been very well blessed. It has been an excellent opportunity for ministry.

“I feel like I have been closer to the people, because this helps me identify with the working people as well. I was more a part of them as I worked and shared with them.

The church averages about 75 in Sunday School now, up from the 15 or 18 it had 24 years ago.

“It has been a rewarding ministry for me and my wife,” Bro. Brown said. “She worked for the district attorney for about 21 years in the area of child support.”

He noted that many years ago she was at the Baptist Building in Montgomery, working as secretary in the church-minister relations office when it was first established.

“I wish more of our younger fellows would think about bivocational ministry, because you do have such a rich opportunity — to minister not only to your church but to the people where you work.”

During the past few weeks we have all grieved over the death of missionary Dr. Martha Myers of Alabama. State Baptists have also recently lost workers less well known. Allow me to mention three.

Katrina Sumner died at the age of 31 after she suffered strokes last week in a Birmingham hospital. She grew up as a “missionary kid” in Africa. Her father, John Garrison, has also served as pastor of Southside Baptist Church, Athens. He currently serves as pastor in Indiana. Katrina leaves behind her husband, David, Baptist campus minister for students at Auburn University-Mont-gomery, and their two children, ages 6 and 2.

Brother Lawson Corley, 78, died on Christmas Day. He was a prisoner of war during World War II and a lifetime deacon at South Roebuck Baptist Church, where he served as a Sunday School teacher for teenage boys. He also served on the board of directors of Birmingham Jail Ministry. Brother Corley spoke to many schools about his passion for Native American artifacts, his war experiences and his love of God and of his country. He always said the price of freedom is not free.

My mother, Nettie Coleman Sentell, went on to heaven Jan. 2, about five months shy of her 95th birthday. As a student at Monte-vallo in the late 1920s, she helped the Baptist students group there become the first in the nation to meet standards of the Southern Baptist Convention. After graduation, she visited churches in east Alabama, helping them to develop stronger Sunday Schools.

All of her life she maintained her interest in strengthening Baptist work through the local church, the association and the Woman’s Missionary Union. She was a longtime member of First Baptist Church, Ashland.

In her youth Mother enjoyed swimming and playing basketball and tennis. All her life she was a big sports fan, especially of high school and college football.

It is pretty amazing that just weeks before her death, when the six high school divisions held their state football championship games, four of those six games involved teams from every high school that she, her husband, her children and her grandchildren had ever attended: Lineville, Clay County (Ash-land), Homewood and Hoover.

She was delighted when three of those teams wound up as state champions in their division! Mother departed on a high note.

I had recently asked Mother what her favorite verse in the Bible was. She chose Jesus’ last promise, from the Great Commission: “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

On the day before she died, Mother was reaching out in front of her as if to touch something or someone. I heard her whisper, “Take me. Take me.” And my son, Stuart, heard her say, “J.W.” — the name of my dad.

Now, after four and a half years, my parents are together again.
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