As most of you know I am from the beautiful hills of West Virginia. There is nothing so grand as time spent in the land discovered by Alexander Spotswood and his merry band of Golden Horseshoe men (of which I am one 😉 ) contested by Chief Cornstalk (members of my family died in combat against his braves) and fought over by Devil Anse Hatfield and the many Logan Wildcats and Braxton Dragoons or Pocahontas Rescuers who fought honestly for land and family, or as Shelby Foote so rightly noted, “I’m fighting because you are down here” against those who came into their home terrorizing the locals, whether they be from Kentucky or Yankees from Indiana, Pennsylvania, or Ohio. Not to mention the birthplace of Booker T. Washington and the discovery’s of George Washington Carver (whose old timey days I spent quite a wonderful time at with my grandfather winning greased pig challenges while he triumphed in horseshoes 🙂 ). There is simply nothing like those majestic and grand mountains which I long to call home again in the covenant LORD’s lovely and providential timing. I know many of us would love to spend more time on this orb close to our mothers and fathers and the graves of our ancestors.
It is because of those hills and dales that I am moved to write this day with such longing and deep emotion. I can remember my last long trip back in 2013 through Rte. U.S. 60 from Charleston to Lewisburg, a jouney I made many times as a child through towns like Boomer, Hawk’s Nest, and Rupert and the literal tears I shed as I went through those municipalities once more and noted that there was no gospel witness to be had in the face of the wickedness of the evil one which pervaded both pulpit and town square. Now, I love the good folks in Ellisville, Mississippi with a love that passeth all understanding and a covenantal surety that I cannot express with the meaningless words of the English language, yet though while I roam this blessed creation in service of the Almighty and though I may never humbly leave the land of Jones County in His providence, that does not mean I will never cease praying for my homeland of coal and fly-fishing par excellence. A day does not go by that my soul does not burn for the people of West Virginia. My heart aches in depths of which I cannot properly describe for their deliverance from the clutches of liberalism and anti-Christian nonsense to a faithful embrace of the love and mercy of our blessed Savior. I am nearly in tears writing such a thing. They are such a part of my psyche and my person that such sweet sorrow delves earnestly in my heart that in many ways expresses itself in a constant mourning through which there is a profound and abiding resemblance of the gut-wrenching pain that the Apostle Paul expresses so deeply in Romans 11; there is also a sense of the sadness and groaning of the prophet Jeremiah in his Lamentations for Jerusalem. While there certainly remains a small, but persistent remnant of Godly work, I long with an almost spiritual depression that God’s merciful grace may once ring forth in the power of the Holy Spirit from Peter’s Mountain to Blair Mountain, from Fort Hill to Fort Henry, to the precipice of Cheat Mountain down to the Berkeley Springs. My earnest and heartfelt plea is that God in His complete and everlasting mercy and grace would not abandon West Virginia and the many souls which populate the towns and villages that are so forsaken by wicked man! For my soul cannot take the loss of the preaching of the pure grace of Christ Jesus which regardless of the attempts, both of commission and omission, absolutely shall continue unabated by the enemies of the gospel in that land, which so many mock and turn their noses up to, despite the clear and desperate need of the images of Christ present. There certainly is nothing attractive about reaching out to those poor, and worldly despised folks up in them hollers; unfortunately for the general conceptual perception of church planting in our denominations.
I am reminded especially of my baptism at the Old Stone Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg, West Virginia, of the hard and confessional work of their long serving pastor John McElhenney, his gospel preaching and confessional love for over 60 years of ministry as well as of the personal faithful generations through whom I share blood who not only founded that congregation but continue through the work of my grandmother to continually and dutifully serve that church for over 200 years only to see that church and so many others in the small towns and rural counties of West Virginia be given over to the misguided and sad veiling of liberalism and frank unbelief. My soul aches at such things to such a degree to cause me to wailing, both internally and externally. Yet I take great care in the promises of Holy Scripture given by the great and almighty savior that this will not forever be the case. While a Babylonian captivity may be in the active work at present I have the promise of God Almighty, the creator of the Heavens and the Earth whose Son has put to destruction the work of the evil one, that even the sparrow need not worry about her next meal or the great lily of the valley cared quite lovely by the providential love of the Father. The GOSPEL will once more triumph in that land. (Isaiah 66).
This especially became clear to me as I listened to the somewhat unofficial state song of West Virginia called, “West Virginia Hills”. This particular tune speaks of the way in which the love for those hills drives the author to opine at length about the land which he has left in search of labor and personal provision. This is something which I definitely resonate. Two lines from that song I want to leave you with here at the end of this short blog post:
Oh, the West Virginia hills! How majestic and how grand,
With their summits bathed in glory, Like our Prince Immanuel’s Land!
Is it any wonder then, That my heart with rapture thrills,
As I stand once more with loved ones On those West Virginia hills?
Oh, the West Virginia hills! I must bid you now adieu.
In my home beyond the mountains I shall ever dream of you;
In the evening time of life, If my Father only wills,
I shall still behold the vision Of those West Virginia hills.