by Richard Mansel
On New Year’s Day, 2007, my Father, Dalton, took my brother and me on a journey through history. We traveled from Florence to Waterloo, Alabama where my Father was born and raised. The trip will be one of my cherished memories.
Waterloo is a city in the extreme Northwest corner of Alabama. Humbled by the beauty of the drive from Florence, we find ourselves coming upon a bridge spanning the Tennessee River. Looking to the left we see the hills of Mississippi rising above the glistening water. We can continue into town or we could turn right and shortly be in Tennessee.
The town is inhabited by a few hundred hardy souls who have chosen heritage over hubbub and fishing to fighting the crowds. The inviting landscape is dotted with dilapidated home places, small churches, comfortable houses, and the ever-present water. A drive through this countryside is a trip back into history. One of the few reminders of the modern age is a sign noting the many state championships of the high school softball team.
Waterloo is filled with history. The despicable Trail of Tears made a calamitous stop here in 1838 because the water was too low. Disease and desertion ravaged my ancestors, the Cherokees. Like Napoleon, Waterloo became one of our lowest points./1
Amidst this terrible stain, I owe much to this idyllic land. The relatives here share my blood and inhabit the memories of my family. Cemeteries mark our past and the stories of their lives will soon pass into history as the eyewitnesses fade away.
The rich history of family yields both joy and pain. Successes and scoundrels carry equal weight in the family tree. Their variety adds spice and cautionary tales. We take the good and dispense with the bad. Our lives carry their memories in our trials of fire.
My Father’s Mother, Ruby, possessed a spiritual courage that courses through my veins today. With her Bible in hand she took the preaching she heard and tested the spirits (1 John 4:1). If she found a disparity, she moved on. Dragging her two sons along, she led them on foot to find Biblical truth. Denominations came and went until she found the Lord’s church, and I stand before brethren in the churches of Christ today, in part, because of her legacy. Her search embodies the living heritage of those who preceded us. They are a people who fought for truth and fiercely protected its treasure to the death.
In Hebrews 11, we find the “hall of fame of faith.” The examples of great men and women of God who refused to abandon their Lord stand as champions of faith. The author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, NKJV).
I must remain in the Lord’s body with all the passion my Grandmother employed as she searched for it. This courage and resolve is my living heritage as she stands beside the millions who have fought similar battles because they “desired a better, that is, a heavenly country” where an innumerable company of angels sing praises to the king (Hebrews 11:16, Hebrews 12:22; John 12:13; Revelation 4).
The heart of the restoration movement is a passion for the words, ways, and love of God. We seek to please him as we walk in his paths. In a sense, this path is higher and more majestic because of the bold and bloody footprints of those saints who have fought the good fight so truth could ring true and proud through the rolling hills.
We Walk with Those Who Have Walked Before Us