Monday, December 17, 2012

The Man Who Moved a Mountain

Bob Childress, The Pastor Who Tamed Buffalo Mountain

Pastor Bob Childress.

 A Milestone Monday Feature

Today we think of gang violence downtown and forget that once there was gunfire in the small communities of Southwestern Virginia. Bob Childress was a hard-drinking, hard fighting resident of that region where the poverty of subsistance living was made more bearable, it was thought, by escaping to alcohol. Bob's parents drank heavily and fought constantly.

Following in his parent's footsteps, Childress missed a lot of school as a youth. One day he witnessed a massacre at the local courthouse and was moved to quit drinking and pursue a career in law enforcement. This was a noteworthy change in itself. Childress settled down, married and had four children; but G-d had plans for his life that would change the lives of people around him in a way he couldn't imagine.

Childress went to a revival meeting and found something more powerful than the spirits in a bottle. He found G-d and felt called to the ministry. At the age of thirty he returned to school, finishing high school in the same one-room schoolhouse attended by his six year old son.

He sought to bring the Spirit of the Lord to his hurting community. Though his education was pretty basic, he managed to go to Union Seminary in Richmond and struggled through. He became a much sought after speaker and was offered a very comfortable position with a large church... and he turned it down. Buffalo Mountain was his calling from G-d and he returned to his community and started a number of churches. His Sunday was a marathon as he made the journey to preach at each congregation.

Bob faced the daunting task of bringing the message of G-d's love to a community steeped in fatalistic despair. The churches he founded are testimony of what can be accomplished by a life lived for a greater purpose. Childress continued his ministry while caring for his daughter Hattie, who was severely disabled. When Bob's wife died, he took on such tasks as boiling the wash water for diapers. In the 1950's he was preaching in fourteen different churches every week. He died in 1956 at the age of 66.

Richard C. Davids tells his story in The Man Who Moved a Mountain [click to read], a stirring book. Lives like that of Bob Childress should challenge all of us. “Only eternity will tell the tremendous good accomplished in this unusual diocese.” -- The Synod of Virginia.

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