By Joe McKeever
JACKSON, Miss. (BP) – Most pastors I’ve known have admitted that they were particularly blessed by their mothers.
I certainly was.
Lois Jane Kilgore McKeever grew up in church, met my dad when she and her sister were singing in church, and kept her six children in church until they were grown. Of her four sons, two became preachers. Ron and Joe (me) together have logged more than a hundred years serving the Lord.
In those early years Mom got no encouragement from her husband (my wonderful dad), but she had us all ready on Saturday nights. My older brothers would pull out that number 2-1/2 washtub and fill it up. We all bathed in the same water. The joke was that the last kid died in quicksand. Sunday mornings, we would walk a mile from our house to the church.
We were poor, but we were freshly scrubbed and our clothes were clean. Lois McKeever was forever cooking and washing clothes and cleaning house. She kept the radio on to gospel singing and preaching, and could sing the prettiest alto you will ever hear.
When I was 7, we moved from rural Alabama to the coal fields of West Virginia. The one church in the mining camp was Methodist, and that’s where we went. I was too young to notice these things, but Mom used to tell us later in life that when we started going to that church no children were attending. But the influx of us six young’uns, from age 3 to 12, formed the core of what became a thriving children’s church. When we moved away four years later, the place was overrun by children.
I ran across some notes about another faithful mother in a journal from over 20 years ago from the life of Luther Little, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., in the 1920s and 1930s. He published a book of sermons called “Humanity’s Sunrise,” a copy of which can be found in the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s library. That’s where I found what follows.
Luther Little was called to preach at the age of 15. Everyone in the family, with the exception of his mother, tried to discourage him. The youngest of several boys, his brothers teased him mercilessly, calling him “deacon” and “parson.” His mother would say, “Don’t let them discourage you, son.”
She never heard him preach.
The day Luther was to preach his first sermon — he was still 15 — he hitched up the horse and buggy. It was a hot June day. His mother was not feeling well. She said, “Son, it’s too hot, and I can’t make the trip. You go on, and when you come back, you can tell me about it.”
He preached on “Draw nigh to God.” It was a short sermon; he didn’t have much to say. At home, he found his mother in bed. She lingered for three months. One morning at sunrise, the father awakened his sons and said, “Get up, boys. Mother wants to see you.” She was telling her children goodbye.
One by one, Mrs. Little loved on the boys and talked to them. When she came to Luther, her youngest, she put her arms around his neck and kissed him fervently. “Son,” she said, “do not let them discourage you. You go on and preach the gospel, and when it is over, come on home and I will be standing at the gate, and then you can tell me all about it.”
In 1930 when he wrote that book, Dr. Little added this. “I hear those words yet. I feel those kisses burning deeper as the years go by. I am going on to preach the gospel as she said, and when it is over, I expect to find her at the gate, and through all eternity, I can tell her all about it.”
My wonderful mother, likewise, is in heaven now. I’ve sometimes thought that every time Ronnie or Joe leads someone to the Lord, the Father in heaven turns to the celestial record-keeper and says, “Put another one down for Lois.”
Thank God for faithful Christian mothers.
Joe McKeever, a former director of missions for New Orleans Baptist Association, is like a lot of pastors who have been “particularly blessed by their mothers.” Early on, he recalls, Lois Jane Kilgore McKeever made sure her six children were “freshly scrubbed” for the mile walk to church each Sunday.