Andy Hollifield 4-4-18
I have given a lot of thought to the question of whether or not I am doing anything that makes a difference. I mean a difference that when I come to the end of my life, I will be satisfied that I did the best I could at whatever I have done and helped others along the way. I am not talking about from a pity point of view, I am talking about from a determined point of view. I realize that the age of grace is coming to a close and I want to have as big of an impact as I can on as many lives as I can for the Lord and point others to him.
I am thankful for the opportunity that I had this past weekend to do the Easter egg hunt with those kids at Steadfast House who are victims of domestic violence. I have thought about some of the things that I remember from an early age. I remember probably my first Sunday School room was a small and have changing room beside the baptistry of Fellowship Baptist Church in Woodfin, NC. I can still remember what my teacher looked like. I think her name was Marie Player. I remember the flannel board that we had where she would tell us a bible story and have us kids to put the pieces that matched the story on the board.
The reason I mention these things isn’t to boast about what I remember at that early age of somewhere around 3 or 4, but to prove the point that I do remember them. I remember the effort that was put forth on my behalf by this lady. I am sure that she probably went home frustrated a lot of Sundays because she probably didn’t think we were really getting it. Even though she may have never have known it, the work she did made a difference. It was the foundation for everything in my life that has come later. She made a difference that a few years later helped lead me to the Lord. She even had a hand in me answering the call to preach because of all that she had instilled in my little mind eighteen years or so before.
Francis Silvers was not only one of our neighbors but also a good friend. Her brother was at one time married to my mom’s first cousin so we kind of considered her as family anyway. She would come and pick us up for Sunday school and take us to church along with her four kids. About three years later, my mom’s cousin would come to pick up her and all four of us to take us to New Hope Missionary Baptist in Barnardsville. Her and my mom were also our Sunday School teachers for a few years and it was in that class that I got my first bible, which I still have, for memorizing the books of the bible. Two women and eight kids in a big Plymouth going to church. That is one of those pictures that brings a smile to my face each time I think about it.
Mrs. Player, Mary Ellen, and my mom were just a few teachers that made a difference. My dad was also my Sunday school teacher for several years and before him was a lady named Francis Brooks. There was also a second grade teacher at Woodfin Elementary named Mildred Phillips that made far more of a difference than she ever realized for decades. I was a new third grader at Woodfin after just moving there from Weaverville. It all began with a play we were doing in her reading class. Mrs. Phillips discovered that I had a voice that carries, which is a polite way of saying I am loud, and she put me in the lead role because she found that I was pretty good at memorizing and there was a lot of lines in that part. That was probably the first time that memorizing all of those Sunday School verses really paid off. Mrs. Phillips later had me to do the ribbon presentation when our principal Mr. Bentley retired. Here I was, a little third grader in front of all the students through eighth grade, doing my second public speaking event ever. How cool was that? My first public speaking occasion came in second grade at Weaverville Primary in a talent show. Not that I had any talent but Mrs. Sluder, my second grade teacher at Weaverville, helped me enter the show and I got to practice in front of the class. I was telling and acting out the story of Little Red Riding Hood. I won second place, just because the judges thought I was a cute kid without stage fright. I lost to a guy whose talent was singing. That guy was Arthur Rice who now sings with the Kingdom Heirs southern gospel group and the house group at Dollywood amusement park. The grand prize was a huge over-the-head hair dryer, like in beauty parlors, which was a big deal back in 1972-73.
Another person that impacted my life making a difference was my pastor Bruce West. Not only was he my pastor when I got saved in 1973, but he has taken me under his wing since June 1986 when I started preaching. I have learned just as much if not more from him out of the pulpit as I have in it. His experience has proven invaluable throughout my ministry and even now. He has taught me the way to handle various situations that arise in ministry and most of all stressed the importance of praying my way through them and waiting for God’s direction. The funny thing is that I was going to the same church that Bruce was serving as a deacon in while I was a three year old in Sunday School. Little did either of us know then how we would impact each other’s lives years down the road. I was the one that Bruce called on to fill in for him during sickness after I started preaching. I would have probably ruined my ministry years ago by doing stupid stuff if it hadn’t been for his wise counsel throughout the years.
These are just a few of the folks that have made a difference in my life. I haven’t even mentioned Big Carl Robinson who constantly called me to come and preach at his church even though he was a far better preacher. He gave me a ton of experience as did Gene Edwards who was the son of the late Les Edwards who was my pastor at Fellowship when I was only around 3 years old. Funny how God brings things full circle isn’t it. There was also Gary Fender that always called me for youth Sunday and his church even gave my wife and I a dinner and a pounding of food and household items a week before we got married. You don’t forget those type of things. Dennis Lanning was another one that even though he was closer to my age, he used me frequently in his church as did Jeff Burchette who I grew up with even though he was a little younger than me. Dennis and Gary Fender even preached my ordination in 1986 because Bruce wasn’t physically able at the time. Those people stick in your mind forever and they are always fondly remembered.
Those things are the kind of impact that I want to have on people’s lives so that when I am an old man, there will be some young people that can look back at their lives and say those kind of things about me. I don’t worry about trying to itemize the things I do, I am just grateful for the opportunity to do them. Like one of my favorite songs says, God has a record book. For all those folks I have mentioned and many that I haven’t, I want to pin roses on you now and say “thank you” even though that seems so inadequate for all you have done. Rest assured that, at least in my life, “You Made A Difference.” Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!
Andy Hollifield 4-4-18