I was very blessed to have Rye Fleenor as a pastor growing up in a small country church.
Affectionately known to most everyone as Preacher Fleenor, I did a post on him shortly after his passing in late 2009. That's him in the picture holding his now teen-aged great-grandson Andrew, who coincidentally preached this past Sunday at that same small country church. I hear he did a wonderful job too. What an impact and legacy my beloved preacher left behind after his promotion to Glory.
During an annual Bible School one summer in my own pre-teen years, I was introduced to our new pastor, Rye Fleenor. At that time, Bible School was a week-long event and brought kids to the church from all over the local area. Now I'll admit...I was never a shy kid, and my mom would probably goes as far as to say never met a stranger. Meeting Preacher Fleenor was no different for me. While the political posturing to gain any type of influence with the new pastor was ongoing among the adults that week, I took right up with him and Mrs. Fleenor for my own reason...they were both very, very nice people who listened to my stories and opinions.
For a kid, being listened to and taken seriously is pretty important stuff. By week's end, I found my place sitting right between the Fleenors at the closing picnic of Bible School. She cut my corn off the cob for me, and he made sure I got my fair share plus of the homemade ice cream. I had certainly made two new friends and become a big fan of them both.
So common in most Southern churches, there were many dozens of additional picnics, cookouts and covered dish dinners at the church through those years I was growing up. And let me tell you this too...the ladies at that church could cook (and still can)! As I reflect back over those years, I realize now that Preacher Fleenor had a very unusually long stay as pastor of that little country church. The United Methodist Conference doesn't leave a pastor in the same place for much past a few years, and they have almost complete control over the placement of pastors within the denomination. I'll leave that subject matter alone for now despite my rather strong feelings, and since I attend and belong to a church of a different denomination today.
I guess God had different plans for Preacher Fleenor, and after all, He still ultimately calls the shots in all church matters (Oops...bet I just offended a few people with that statement).
When I think back across the many memories of sharing a slice or two of watermelon with Preacher Fleenor while we discussed any number of topics (but most always included sports), I realize just how much of an influence he has truly been in my life. No... I've not seen or talked to him in well over 20 years, but the memories are so strong and the positive impact has been...eternal.
Thank you Father for your love and for sharing that love with me through people like Rye Fleenor. I ask you bless the path of Andrew with Your ever righteous and holy touch so that he may have an impact for You on others, like his great grandfather, and always for Your glory. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.