Monday, April 11, 2011

Last Stop, Bunkie, Louisiana

As my post retirement friendship tour began to draw to a close, this after my wife, Lynn, informed me that me “to do list” was getting longer and longer, I found my way to Bunkie, Louisiana.  Now I have to admit, that Bunkie is not at the top of most people’s “bucket list,” but it was truly an important place for me to visit during the second week of my retirement.  The reason goes back to the first of this three column series on friendship: “make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.”  One of my oldest friends, or better said, a friend I have had for the longest amount of time lives in Bunkie, Louisiana.

My friend, LaMon Brown is Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Bunkie, and I have known him since he and I were five years old.  Allow me to share some of our history.  Back in the days when five your olds could, I walked the three blocks from my home to Mr. Martin’s Store to buy baseball cards with bubble gum wrapped inside.  On the way home, I passed a house where I saw another five year old with a tricycle with attached wagon filled with bottle caps.  The caps also came from Mr. Martin’s Store.  It seems that as I was working on my baseball card collection, LaMon was working on his bottle cap collection. 

Skip forward to third Grade.  LaMon and I were both in Miss Rousseau’s class.  I sat in one corner of the room and LaMon sat in the other corner of the room (a sure sign that we were both to grow up to be preachers).  Over the years, we were in the High School Band together, occasionally  dated the same girls (not at the same time) and on some occasions my mother would pick LaMon up and take him home from school instead of me. 

LaMon and his wife Pat served as Missionaries in India and Thailand and at one time he and I both served the Church in New Orleans, I as a pastor and he as a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  We spent lots of time together during those New Orleans years, played lots of Golf and talked lots of theology.  During one important golf outing we decided that our calling as ministers was to bring people back to the Center. Not the middle, but the center.  The two are not the same thing. The middle is all about compromise and the Center is Jesus Christ.

So, a trip without spending time with LaMon would be like a day without sunshine.  We spent time talking about the things which are important to us: our families, our health, Jesus the Center, and believe it or not, we even played a little golf.  It is truly a blessing to have had a friend for fifty-eight years, a friend who will be honest with me, who will disagree with me and still love me, a friend who brings out the best in me.  This friendship is a “pearl of great price,” and a reminder and an assurance that all friendships are gifts from God.  A reminder that we human beings were not created to live alone but to live in fellowship with God and with one another, now and forever. 

With all the distractions life in the twenty-first century offers us, this “friendship tour,” reminded me, and I hope my sharing of it reminds you, of what is important in this life, as well as in the life of the world to come.”

May God grant us these friendships that make us more than we could ever be on our own!
Blessings and Peace,

Ben Alford

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