Legacies and Homecoming

Mama and Daddy (Willie and Martin Johnson)

Father’s Day found me in a bit of depression – I never know when this “uninvited guest will show up. I wanted to write this post to remember Daddy, but it has taken me days to complete it.

Earlier in June I went to church with my brother’s family in West Tennessee. We drove a few miles out in the country to a small building near Gleason, TN.countingjoyblog.wordpress.com

It was Homecoming Sunday; I had not been back to this church since the spring of 1985. You can find the story of that Sunday here.

This is the church where Daddy preached the last few years of his life. His picture in a hallway identifies Willie Johnson as the first preacher for this church from 1980 to 1985.

I remember attending small churches in Michigan, Kentucky, Alabama, and North Carolina where Daddy served as a full-time preacher all my life. Sometimes he served as a part-time preacher when he worked as a deputy sheriff. We also lived in Texas, but I don’t remember it.

You can read more of his story here.

Coming back to Liberty brought so many memories. It reminded me of the legacy that he built, actually a legacy we all participated in. In the very smallest of churches my brothers learned to lead the worship – song leading, praying, speaking, serving the Lord’s Supper. I learned to teach Bible classes to children.

Since Daddy was only 56 when he died, he did not see the fruits of his labor – his legacy. But he is still remembered in Liberty today. In 1980 when he was asked to preach for a brand new church called Liberty, he already had a full-time job as juvenile officer in Henry County. Preaching would be a part-time job.

Twice on Sunday morning I heard this quote repeated. When the brand new church leaders asked Daddy to become the preacher at Liberty, he replied, “I’ll be your preacher on Sundays, but I won’t do your visiting, your Bible teaching, etc.” 

The legacy I observed on this Sunday morning in June came from those beginnings. As we sang hymns I looked around the audience. Nearly every man was singing bass! They have many who rotate as song leaders, and on Sunday nights the full-time preacher doesn’t preach; a rotation of men speak. Such participation amazes me.

Outside the church building at Liberty in the ’80s, Mama is on the right.

The building has been modernized, expanded, and improved, but it is still simple and functional, reflecting the values of its members. This church is precious to all of Willie Johnson’s children because they walked with him and Mama through his darkest days of illness and finally death. 

The second-best thing I found that Sunday was a “dinner on the ground”. For those who don’t know, years ago these dinners were actually spread out on crude tables and sawhorses and then eaten while sitting on quilts. Our potluck dinner was spread in the “building down the hill”.

I had to take a picture of my plate. If you have followed this blog, you know my story with food allergies. This was my first potluck since I’m eating whatever I want now.  This plate includes macaroni and cheese, lasagna, rolls, and sourdough bread – foods I have not eaten for 10 or more years. My dessert plate was full also!

The legacy of a father extends beyond what he did. He lives on in the children and grandchildren he knew and the great-grandchildren he never met. 

Four children,

eight grandchildren,

sixteen great grandchildren

are scattered around the South, carrying that legacy into small and large communities and churches, teaching Bible to children and adults, leading in worship, serving in leadership roles. I don’t think this legacy would surprise him, but I think he would have loved watching us. He always spoke of his kids and grand-kids with pride.

I’m thankful today for the opportunity to revisit this church and hear the emotion in the voices whose lives were blessed and influenced by this righteous man.



One thought on “Legacies and Homecoming

  1. Ruth Shoaf

    Thanks for sharing your memory of your dad. I plan on reading this to my sister , Frances Tyree Miller, who knew your parents from their days in circle sixteen at Lipscomb.


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