Fruits, Yes! By Wilson Wayne Grant, M.D.
BECOMING- – – – – – – – – – – –
The Spiritual Growth Newsletter
2802Wilson Wayne Grant, PublisherMarch 2017
There came a time in my life when I recognized a profound truth: I am who I am because of all those who have touched me.
This truth came to life for me in a totally new way a few weeks later when a friend gave me a copy of the book, Flowers and Fruits in the Wilderness by Z. N. Morrell Brother Morrell, as he liked to be called, was one of the first Baptist ministers to enter Texas—arriving at the very time that Sam Houston was defeating Santa Ana at San Jacinto. During his long life in Texas, Brother Morrell was an intimate participant in the growth of Baptists in our State. Flowers and Fruits in the Wilderness was written in 1882, one year prior to his death in 1883. In addition to telling Morrell’s own story of mission, the book portrays the challenges and accomplishments of Baptists in Texas from the 1840’s to 1880’s.
Flowers and Fruits in the Wilderness chronicles the personal and corporate struggles of the scattered Baptist believers in those early years as they put down roots, started churches, and spread the Gospel. I was fascinated to read the story of how a half dozen little churches of the 1840’s grew into a thriving state convention by the time Morrell was writing his book in the early 1880’s.
My attention was riveted to the page as I came to the events of 1840. These were tough days in Texas—the economy was in shambles, the currency worth little, Mexico threatening to invade again, and conflicts with the Indian tribes was ever present. Even in the midst of uncertainty and need, however, the scattered Baptists sought to unite so that they could be more effective for the Gospel. Thus, a meeting was called at Independence, Texas in 1840 to unite the churches into a cooperating association. Out of this meeting came the Union Baptist Association, the first Baptist association in Texas which is to this day is still vibrant and productive with the city of Houston at its center.
This is Morrell’s description of this first meeting:
Dark as were the days of 1840, God sent a little ray of light to shine upon the path of his servants, scattered in the wilderness…ln June, 1840, a small company of breathern, with four preachers, R.E.B. Baylor, T. W. Cox, A. Smith and A. Dancer, met in the town of Independence, Washington County, to form a Baptist association. Under the all-seeing eye of God these breathern deliberated, and laid the foundation of the mother of Texas associations.
The second session of the body was held at Clear Creek, Fayette County, commencing the seventh of October, 1841, with messengers from nine churches, representing three hundred and eight-four members. At this session, a resolution was adopted, recommending the formation of an “Educational Society.” This small, financially poor, group of churches responded by organizing on the spot the “Texas Baptist Education Society.”
I paused and put my book down to wipe the tears from my eyes. I was moved by the commitment and single mindedness of these pioneers. In such devastatingly difficult times, they put aside differences in theology and methods to unite and work for common purposes. The first actual item of business after officially establishing the Union Baptist Association was to form the “Educational Society?’ This was not an idle gesture. Within five years, in 1845, the small band of churches through their educational society had established a school, which grew into Baylor University, at Independence.
Yes, those early Baptists left many fingerprints by this actions. Today there are eight
Baptist institutions of higher learning in Texas. They all grew from this daring act of faith in 840.
Howard Payne University is one of those eight institutions. Howard Payne accepted me as a student in 1959 when I had hardly any resources of my own other than a desire to go to college. The then president, Guy Newman, said to me when I visited the campus, “Wayne, if you really want an education you can get a good one at Howard Payne. We will help you get the resources you need.” He then guided me to the financial aid department and I received a scholarship and a campus work assignment. Through the generosity of thousands of Texas Baptists, past and present, I received a first-rate education.
Indeed, I am who I am because of all those who have touched me: Z.N. Morrell, R.E. B
Baylor, T W. Cox, Guy Newman, and so many more.
I am very aware of another truth: I cannot repay the debt of love I owe. I cannot repay Z.N. Morrell, R.E. B. Baylor, TN. Cox. I cannot repay the staff and teachers at Howard Payne University. I cannot repay the many common folk who established not only schools but hospitals, children’s homes, and churches everywhere.
I know now there is more to this truth: I cannot repay. But I can pass on to others what I have been given.
I pray that I and my generation, basking in the prosperity and freedom gifted to us by these forefathers, will be as conscientious as they in passing on the fruits of love.
by Wilson Wayne Grant, M.D.
BECOMING, The Spiritual Growth Newsletter, is written and published by Wayne Grant
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