Why Family History Matters
I had lunch with a group of friends on Friday. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been talking about the timeline of Genesis, and it has led to some interesting conversations.
One of the guys did a little studying and came back this week, saying only one-hundred and twenty years had passed between the flood and the Tower of Babel – making the “how quickly humans forget” point.
It reminded me of a three-hour conversation I had with my niece and her boyfriend a month ago about how quickly generations in our own families are forgotten.
Not only do we not know the sacrifices they made, the lessons they learned or the triumphs they celebrated, but we don’t even know their names.
I made this point to my niece and then I traced the heritage of Christianity in our family for her back as far as I could. I’ve since learned even more that I plan to share with her.
Before my grandmother (Modene) on my dad’s side of the family married my grandfather (Edward), she was a King – born to Hugh King and his wife Unie in 1915.
Hugh struggled with alcohol – sometimes spending a large portion of his paycheck at the saloon. One day, he was headed up the stairwell to the saloon when God spoke a very simple question to him: “What are you doing?” Hugh shoved his paycheck back into his pocket, walked back down the stairs and never touched another drop. He knew the Lord had spoken.
After his conversion, he became a voracious reader of the Bible, memorizing large portions and speaking it over his family. And his conversations with friends were driven by Scripture. He took his family, that included six children, to a small hardshell Baptist church on the back roads of central Arkansas, and somewhere along this journey, my grandmother, Modene, became a Christian.
She married my grandfather when she was twenty and eventually they moved north to start a new life. After surviving the Great Depression with three boys – two of whom were adopted relatives, she went on to become one of the founding members of Chandler Acres Baptist Church in Bellevue, Neb. (a suburb of Omaha) where she served faithfully for the rest of her life.
Modene lived long enough for my niece to get to know, and love her. Modene used to pray with my niece and she took to her worship on occasion, as well as VBS. Once I connected the dots between Hugh, who died in 1936, and Modene, who died in 2002, my niece’s eyes lit up.
“I had no idea,” she said.
“Each generation faced a potential pivot point – they could do their own thing or turn toward the Lord,” I said. “Some did their own thing, and you know their stories. But others turned toward the Lord and it changed everything. I want you to know their stories, too.”
After the conversation, I browsed through Modene's gigantic family Bible. She recorded portions of the family tree inside it in her own handwriting. If you offered me a million dollars for it, I wouldn’t take it. As I flipped the pages, I rediscovered a number of newspaper clippings about various family members.
Since she was from such a small town, the local newspaper ran stories about every community gathering. One small clipping reported that Modene’s brother, Ed, “who just recently surrendered to preach, delivered his first sermon.” Modene cut it out, pasted the one-paragraph story onto a piece of cardboard and proudly wrote, “My Brother” under the byline (see the photo below) before slipping it inside her Bible.
Modene did her best to make sure generations after her understood the difference that Christ made in her generation.
Now it’s my turn.
I’ll be taking Modene’s Bible to my niece’s the next time I visit.
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