Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 22, 1951
NUMBER 45, PAGE 6,9b


John T. Lewis, Birmingham, Ala.

(Editor's Note: The following article was printed in the "Steel City Star" as a paid advertisement. The space was bought by members of the Ensley Church of Christ. We think it worth a reprint in the Guardian.)

Brother J. P. White, one of the deacons in Central Church here in Birmingham, has recently sent out a mimeographed circular letter, to some elders, and some preachers, around over the country purporting to be in defense of "Childhaven." Brother Earlie T. Williams, an elder in the Poplar Street Church, Florence, Alabama, has answered him. The questions and answers appeared in the Gospel Guardian, December 21, 1950. I think brother Williams did a good job in his answers; but just why brother White, since he is not on the Board of Directors of "Childhaven," thought it necessary for him to come to the defense of the institution, with his innuendoes, in the form of questions, I do not know.

When I read the questions in the Gospel Guardian I called one of the elders of Central Church and asked him if the questions represented Central Church, he said he had never heard of the questions before, and he doubted if the other elders had. Question 12: "Is it not a fact that a large percent of orphans taken into homes were taken for servants?" I will let those who have adopted children answer that one. Of course brother White's answer would be, send the orphans to "Childhaven" whence they cannot be adopted into servitude. Since brother White is a deacon in Central Church here in Birmingham, some might conclude that Central is not taking care of its needy. I think that conclusion would do Central an injustice, because I think I know that Central looks after its needy, and in the scriptural way.

We will now study the scriptures that I referred to in my first article. In I Timothy 5:1-16, we read:

"Rebuke not an elder, but exhort him as a father; the younger men as brethren: 2 the elder women as mothers: the younger as sisters in all purity. 3 Honor widows that are widows indeed. 4 But if any widow hath children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety towards their own family, and to requite their parents: for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 5 Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, hath her hope set on God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. 6 But she that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth. 7 These things also command, that they may be without reproach. 8 But if any provideth not for his own, and specially his own household, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 Let none be enrolled as a widow under the threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, 10 well reported of for good works; if she hath brought up children, if she hath used hospitality to strangers, if she hath washed the saints' feet, if she hath relieved the afflicted, if she hath diligently followed every good work. 11 But younger widows refuse; for when they have waxed wanton against Christ, they desire to marry: 12 having condemnation, because they have rejected their first pledge. 13 And withal they learn also to be idle, going about from house to house: and not only idle but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. 14 I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule the household, give no occasion to the adversary for reviling: 15 for already some are turned aside after Satan. 16 If any woman that believeth bath widows, let her relieve them that are widows indeed."

In verses 1, 2, in the above scripture, Paul tells us the relationship of church members, and how the younger members should respect, and treat the older members, and how the younger members should consider, and deal with each other. In verses 3-16, he shows that when a widow is left with children they do not automatically become objects of charity, or wards of the church, they become such only when they have no relatives to care for them. You can go to "our" old folk, and orphan homes, and I venture to say you would find only a few that have no relatives that could and should be caring for them.

I came up the hard way. My father was a renter all of his married life, he and my mother had ten children, nine boys and one girl. At the end of the year, some corn in the crib, meat and lard in the smoke house, and enough money to get the children a pair of shoes around, my father was happy. My mother sewed some in those days, she would get thirty cents for making a pair of jeans pants for men, the butter, chickens, and eggs she sold took care of the grocery bills. A calf, a pig, or something my father had to sell supplied the children with what clothes they had.

It was a hard year in 1893. I was 17 years old, and my father hired me out for $10.00 per month, through crop time, that is from March till August, to help run the expenses at home. Labor on the farm in those days worked 15 to 16 hours a day.

My father died in 1901, and left my mother to carry on the best she could. The youngest boy was around 6 or 7 years old when my father died. Four of the boys were grown. If some well-meaning person had suggested a "Childhaven" for some of the youngest children, he would have had, not only my mother, but four grown brothers to reckon with. We were poor but we had a sense of honor. My mother continued to rent land, and carried on with the children at home until 1907, when one of the older boys bought a farm, and my mother moved to it, and that was her home as long as she lived, she lived a widow for 37 years, and died in April 1938. She was never embarrassed, or cramped, in her old age by living in the home of someone else, all who lived there, lived with her.

My brother that bought the farm soon married, another brother and I took it over, and when he married, I took over the farm and managed to keep the interest paid on the mortgage as long as our mother lived. When the boys all married and moved out, I kept a kinsman hired to run the farm, and stay with my mother. My youngest brother was gassed in World War I, and he was never strong after that, when he came home he married and had three children. He died in the Veterans Hospital, Memphis, Tenn., when his youngest child was a baby. When he died I did not tell his wife that she should put her children in an orphan home, get her a job, or go back to her people in Mississippi. I told her if she would stay with my mother, as long as I had a piece of bread they would have some, she stayed. "Betsy," the baby, and my mother were almost as close as the Siamese twins, nothing gave my mother more pleasure than to have Betsy sit on the arm of her chair, to talk to her, and crawl up, hug her neck, and kiss her. Of course the other children loved their grandma too. Once when my mother was away on a visit, Venia, their mother, had to punish the girls for something, and when my mother came back, Doris, the other girl, met her at the gate and said: "Grandma you must not go away any more, we need you." During all the years that Venia, and the children lived with my mother I never heard of either one ever giving my mother a cross word.

When our mother died, and another moved back to run the farm, I put a mortgage on our home, borrowed money and built a house for Venia and the children. I have hogs killed every year, and meat and lard put in the smoke house for them. Thus Venia was able to keep her children, they finished grammar school at Almaville, and high school in Murfreesboro. When they finished high school, Milton, the oldest child, was drafted in World War II, and while in the service he married in Baltimore, Md., lives there, and is rearing a family of his own. When Doris, the oldest girl finished high school, she worked a year at the air base in Smyrna, Tenn. She saved enough, with the work she did at college, to put her through her first year at David Lipscomb College. I then helped her till she finished college. She is now in her second year teaching high school, she has a car and drives from home each day. Betsy is now in her third year at David Lipscomb College. When she finishes, they will be able to care for themselves, and the emergency will be over with us. I suppose all the other boys were as interested in Venia and the children as Mrs. Lewis and I; but they had families of their own, and our home was never blessed with children, so that responsibility became a pleasure to us, and we have been paid a thousand times by the love and respect the girls have for us, and by the fact that they are Christians and love the Word of God.

During all these years, with these responsibilities on me, I never ran to the church, told them that I had to provide a home for my mother, or provide for my brother's family, and I needed more money. That was my business, and not that of the church, and therefore the church knew nothing about these things. I am telling them now, only because I have heard of some of the "Childhaven" advocates asking: "How many children did he ever adopt?" This is my understanding of the teaching of Paul, in I Timothy 5:3-16. Is this "Somerite" foam? Borrow brother Gus Nichol's glasses and see if you can see "Childhaven" in these verses.