As a teenager in Jackson, MS, I became very concerned (“convicted”) regarding my personal sin. I was attracted to a movement called “Youth for Christ,” (Billy Graham was a founder) which conducted weekly Saturday night “youth rallies.” I had watched the lives of several other high school young people who were committed to Christ – I still remember them and their names – and hungered for the quality of lives that they had.
This was a work of God in my life.
Following one of the Saturday night meetings, I wandered to the front of the meeting place, a large room in the mezzanine level of the King Edwards Hotel in Jackson. That night’s Preacher, Barney Walker, Jr looked at me with compassion and made a direct appeal to me: “Fella,” he said, "Why don’t you settle it tonight?!” Director Harold Jordan then read Scriptures to me. “But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them he gave the power to become sons of God … which were born … of God!” (from the 4th book of the Bible’s New Testament — John 1: 12, 13). And then pointed to the promise of Jesus Himself: “… him that comes to me, I will in no wise cast out!” (John 6:37) In prayer I “came” to Jesus in repentance, accepted His suffering on the cross for my sins, confessing that He had risen to life following His death.
“Whosever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13
In a brief prayer of commitment, I claimed these Bible promises. That very evening I was “saved” (that’s what the Bible calls it) based upon those promises. Indeed, Jesus has kept his promise to me all these years!
In April of 2012 Joan and I went to my Central High School reunion in Jackson, MS. While there, once again I drove her around to the places vivid in my mind from boyhood days: my home on Road of Remembrance in West Jackson; schools I had attended (Whitfield Elementary, Enochs Jr. High, Central High School and Mississippi College in Clinton (next town west of Jackson), many times driving by the Reformed Seminary on Clinton Blvd. I began Mississippi College as my Pastor grandfather had done (“Preacher” John Lee Hughes) in about 1903. On what is now a part of the Mississippi College campus is the site where my mother was born while my grandfather was a student. Three miles east was the Lakewood Memorial Cemetery where my parents and other relatives are buried.
Through the years the King Edward Hotel on Capitol Street — the site of my conversion to Christ — had been abandoned, was in disrepair, and likely targeted to be torn down. But I was elated when we drove by the Hotel this time … and went inside … to see that it had been beautifully restored as a Hilton Garden Hotel! In going up to the restored meeting room on the mezzanine floor – the site of our “Youth for Christ” meetings – I recalled the spot where I had gotten on my knees and asked the Son of God to come into my life … which He did! Joan took pictures.
Amid all of this, in the “back” of my mind, was the awareness of an impacting family story of “Lost” Billy Pigford. As a “wee lad” in the 1700’s, little Billy was found wandering on the Carolina coastline, the sole survivor of a shipwreck. He wasn’t even sure of his country of origin, probably one of the British Isles. Lost Billy was taken in by a family and raised as a son, in time he married and fathered children. One of his descendants was my grandmother, Lottie Pigford Hughes, wife of my Preacher Grandfather, Rev. John Lee Hughes. Am I thankful for Lost Billy’s survival? If he had not survived the shipwreck, there would be no grandmother Lottie Pigford Hughes, my mother would not have been born, nor would I, nor any of our children … or our grandchildren!
So I have so very much for which to be thankful! Physical life, quality and abundant life, and. Soon, eternal life with Jesus and all those that have come to saving faith in Him!