Archive for Friday, May 12, 2006

Rural minister lived life of quiet wisdom, gratitude

May 12, 2006


Editor's note: About 10 years ago Journal-World senior editor Bill Snead wrote John Beeghley, the senior elder of the Willow Springs Old German Baptist Church, asking if he could interview him for a story. After meeting with Beeghley and another minister, Merle Flory, Snead was invited to attend their church services "to get to know us better and to see just what we do."

Snead has attended services there since that meeting.

When John Beeghley would bring Sunday church services to a close, he'd thank the congregation "for their attendance and good attention" and announce the time for the next Sunday's service. But there was always a contingency. He'd add that it would happen only "if the Lord tarries" or "if the Lord wills it."

He often told those around him, either from the front of the Old German Baptist Brethren meeting house in Willow Springs or in his living room, that Jesus could return any day and "we are only one breath away from our last, and only God knows when that might be."

That was John's reminder that the time to walk the walk was now. He didn't believe in preaching fire and brimstone.

"Frightening people won't get them into heaven," he'd say.

John was tall and lean with large farmer's hands. His voice, a soft baritone, began somewhere beneath a long, gray beard that covered his chest. He was bald and his left eye, damaged at birth, made his serious expressions seem even more serious.

If it was your first experience with him, you'd think that look could wilt lettuce. But behind that seemingly stern visage was a kind soul with a deep passion for people and the Scriptures. He also had a great sense of humor.

"The Titanic was billed as an unsinkable vessel," he said, holding up his Bible. "But this is the unsinkable vessel: the New Testament."

Old German Baptist Brethren minister John Beeghley died Wednesday at his home near Pleasant Grove. He was 84 and was a lifelong Douglas County farmer and stockman. He was born about 100 yards from where he died.

Old German Baptist Brethren minister John Beeghley died Wednesday at his home near Pleasant Grove. He was 84 and was a lifelong Douglas County farmer and stockman. He was born about 100 yards from where he died.

He often recited poetry during his sermons.

He'd explain, "Pentecost means 50th day in Hebrew."

And he believed "an ounce of example is worth a pound of preaching."

Often during a conversation he'd answer questions with a riddle.

He was asked his thoughts about a Douglas County man who was buying several smaller farms in the Pleasant Grove area.

"Do you know the meaning of enough?" John asked. "It's always just a little more."

Heeding the 'call'

John died Wednesday morning less than 100 yards from the Douglas County farmhouse where he and his brothers were born.

He was 84. He farmed and raised cattle nearly all his life.

John was baptized in a pond at 21 and at 36 he was "called" into the ministry. In the Old German Baptist church, "called" is the appropriate word. Unlike most ministries, you don't apply for the job and there is no salary involved.

Most churches have several ministers, all local residents with regular jobs. Their numbers depend on the size of the congregation. They sit up front at a long table facing the back of the meeting house and all take part in the service.

The Beeghley brothers, Lloyd, left, and John, share a couch in the home of Charles Beeghley, John's son. The occasion was a birthday party for Bethany Beeghley, John's grandchild. Lloyd and his wife, Vera, live in Baldwin. The photo was taken in 2003.

The Beeghley brothers, Lloyd, left, and John, share a couch in the home of Charles Beeghley, John's son. The occasion was a birthday party for Bethany Beeghley, John's grandchild. Lloyd and his wife, Vera, live in Baldwin. The photo was taken in 2003.

When a replacement is needed, for whatever reason, church members meet to choose a fellow church member or members. All, one at a time, go into a closed room and say the name of their candidate to the ministers. It's called a "private voice."

When voting ends, the person with the most votes is the new minister. New ministers have limited duties and, for example, can't baptize or perform marriages.

No one lobbies for the position. The calling by the congregation is often a surprise to those chosen.

When John was asked if anyone had ever declined the time-consuming and responsible position, he said, "I can only recall one man doing that," and, he said, "that was unusual."

John spoke often and fondly about his one-room-school education. He liked it so much that he spent nine years going through eight grades, lingering twice in the eighth grade. "By choice," he'd say, "by choice."

Eight years ago we met John's boyhood teacher, Olive Randel, who still called him Johnny. She sang his praises as a student and for being bright and self-educated. "He's learned a lot on his own," she said.

He recalled as a teenager that his days were busy milking cattle and farming with his brothers Lloyd and Harold and his father, Dan. But he still had time to miss school. He bought a used typewriter and a kneehole desk and took a correspondence course on farm engineering and management.

John and Anna Beeghley posed for a picture shortly after they were married in 2000. Anna had been living in rural Garnett.

John and Anna Beeghley posed for a picture shortly after they were married in 2000. Anna had been living in rural Garnett.

"I still have my La Salle University diploma," he said, smiling.

Courting and cookies

He married Ethel Kinzie in 1943, two years after meeting her at a church affair in Sawyer. She died in 1996 after suffering a series of strokes and Alzheimer's. John, along with his family and Visiting Nurses Assn., provided care for four years.

After rattling around his empty house, he found that a trip to the Holy Land and to several annual church conferences did nothing to help his morale. He wrote a letter to Anna Hirt, a widow and an old acquaintance who lived near Garnett.

During the past years John had learned to cook, so he sent two boxes of his homemade cookies to Anna. The second box was for her 91-year-old mother.

"I thought we could wait until later to tell her who they were from," John said.

After Anna invited him for an early dinner, the 78-year-old suitor arrived at her door with a bouquet of roses.

"We had a good meal of fried venison : a good visit," he said.

The pair then called on Anna's mother before he returned home.

John and Anna were married in a private ceremony on Good Friday 2000, but not before John got feedback by talking with his family and members of his church and by calling many of his friends. During his phone calls, he described who Anna was, how they met and their marriage plans. The enthusiasm in his voice said it all.

At the end of one of John's sermons about life and aging, he said: "The Scriptures come to me, and by the time I get to them they leave me, so I guess it's time for me to sit down. : Remember : it's all in the Scriptures."


speedykitty 11 years, 8 months ago

A nice story about a life well lived. It's good to share it.

trinity 11 years, 8 months ago

i second that, baille. what a wonderful article about a wonderful man.

this truly lifted my heart; it brought a tear, but somehow also brought a peace and joy to my heart in the reading about john. i'm sure he's resting in peace.

craigers 11 years, 8 months ago

Great story. I think it is wonderful that they do the work of the minister for no pay. No amount of money could ever be enough for men like this that help others gain wisdom.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 8 months ago

Someone clarify for me: is this the same as the "Church of the Brethern"? It's not the same, is it?

Hey, Bill: great photos. Really nice.

Bubarubu 11 years, 8 months ago

There are a number of brethren movements. The Old German Baptist Brethren church is related to the Church of the Brethren, one that (from my understanding) rejected modernity until early in the 20th century. More conservative groups have broken away from the OGBB since the start of the 20th century. I'm not terribly familiar with the church, however, so someone who knows better should feel free to correct me.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 8 months ago

It is always nice to see a story that is not all doom and gloom thank you.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 8 months ago

My wife's grandfather is buried at the cemetary at the Church of the Brethern near Lone Star Lake. I think it's call Washington Creek(?).

I'm a big fan of the "unpaid preacher" concept. I think paid preachers lull the rest of us into laziness. The preacher becomes the go-to person for all the difficult stuff that we don't want to address. I think God asks us all to do the "hard stuff". We use paid preachers like a note from the doctor that excuses us from P.E. class.

canyon_wren 11 years, 8 months ago

That is a great article. To know about people like this man brings some sense of "normalcy" in a world full of crazy actions by people who have lost all concept of what is important and "eternal."

I agree that the concept of "paid preachers" seems to go against what the Bible actually spells out, and though a lot of the paid ones still have the "gift," many are so materialistic themselves that they can't possibly serve as models for living the life God showed us he wants for us through Christ's example.

Thanks, Bill Snead, for taking the time to learn about this man's life and sharing that with us!

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 8 months ago

No, Wren, I don't think that "paid preachers" goes against scripture. Even Paul says to not "muzzle the ox while it treads the grain" (one of the letters to Timothy, a reference to a part of the old law) in reference to our church leaders. I don't think it's "wrong" or un-Biblical, but I think there are advantages to not having paid preachers.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 8 months ago

Paid or not as long as they dont abuse their postion. church and the calling is not about money, good heart good soul and belief that is what counts any abuse of the church or your calling paid or unpaid is sad, wrong and evil.

canyon_wren 11 years, 8 months ago

Old Enuf--But Paul also made tents. He supported himself in other ways. I personally think that a lot of preachers--because that is all they do--don't have much of an idea of what real work is and how it impacts the average person's life. Also, many (not all) that I have known get a lot of perks in addition to what I would consider generous salaries, considering what many of the members of their congregations make, and to me, that weakens their "testimony" if you will. One preacher in my experience spent more time talking about his Porsche than he did about Jesus.

I agree that it would be difficult for preachers to manage without some remuneration from their "flocks" but I think that the ones who are "called" as this man apparently was come closer to what preachers should be.

As you can tell, I don't have a very high opinion of preachers in general, though I have known some remarkable ones.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 8 months ago

But, Wren, Paul pointed out that his self-support was his choice, not by command.

I've known more preachers who struggled to pay their bills than I've known rich ones. Yes, they are out there, but I've not known many. And, I've never worshiped in a place that bought into that kind of materialism.

A Porche does seem a little excessive, but consider this: if I perform well in my job and earn enough to buy a Porche, is it wrong (the guy in the cubicle next to me has a SWEET Mercedes)? A preacher has the same right to buy a toy as you and I do. But, the part about your post that caught my attention is the part about his OBSESSION with his toy. I think that should be cause for concern for any Christian, preacher or not.

canyon_wren 11 years, 8 months ago

Old Enuf--I agree that anyone who can afford it has the RIGHT to buy his "toy" but if I were a preacher and knew that so members of my congregation were struggling to get by (especially the elderly), I simply could not indulge myself.

But then I think people in our society, in general, are way too materialistic and certainly many who ARE, are people living on the "dole"--our tax money.

I guess that I just cannot grasp the desire for the excesses which characterizes our society (though I am no Socialist by any stretch of the imagination) and feel that someone called by God to preach would have no real desire to be a part of that.

Obviously, I look at the world a bit differently from how the majority do, and that doesn't worry me a whole lot. (And I am pretty sure you are not old enough to be MY dad!!)

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 8 months ago

But, Wren, consider this: are preachers held to a higher standard then "regular" folks? I think we tend to think that way, but it's really not how we should view our faith. In Christ, we all carry a cross, so if we are being called to live humbly, that applies to me and you as much as it does the preacher.

The difference is that the preacher is under the microscope in ways that "regular" folks are not, but we are all being held to a very high standard: Christ.

dejady 11 years, 8 months ago

This was an uplifting story. In a lot of ways my own Grandfather, who recently died at 95, was an "unpaid minister" the church he ministered through music, but in daily life he lived as Mr. Beeghley did. He was the most significant person in my life. A man capable of unconditional love. I know he is resting in peace with my Grandmother, and I'm sure there was a party in Heaven when he drew his last breath here on earth. I am glad he has been joined by another wonderful soul..By the way, I thought the love story in this article was beautiful.

canyon_wren 11 years, 8 months ago

O.E.--I don't mean to hold preachers to a higher standard. I am not expecting anything of them that I do not expect of myself. I like what Thoreau says: "With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor." According to the headlines of this article, this gentleman was wise, and although I think that should be a basic characteristic of preachers in general, few, in my experience, possess that characteristic.

Incidentally, I just read your posts on OTS and have to agree with you about the parties and lack of options. As a registered Independent, I don't have any strong party loyalties, but feel that the Democrats surely could come up with someone that would appeal to most of us, rather than to specific minorities.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 8 months ago

yes the love story was very nice, and I wish more stories like this were printed. I am always glad to hear of a life well lived and lived well

hottruckinmama 11 years, 8 months ago

i could read stories like that all day. i grew close to centropolis down in fr. co. where there is rather large population of german baptist. they are very nice people.

Daniel Speicher 11 years, 8 months ago

If I may get in on this "paid preachers" debate for a moment...

First off, it is important for me to state two things:

1. I'm studying to become a pastor (so, I'm kind of "inside the argument" and it will be hard to step outside and have an unbiased opinion.)

2. I have had amazing pastors my entire life that have been great role models and have used their money wisely and not gone into excess.

Having said that, let me say that I am for having "full-time" paid pastors in churches. Not that I think that it is a "requirement" or that a paid pastor will be more effective than a non-paid pastor, but instead that the paid pastor can focus in on the specific task that God has called him/her to. That isn't, of course, to say that I think their work should be confined solely to the four corners of the church. I think community involvement is important for the ministry. And, once again, I have had amazing pastors as I was growing up who were involved in the community and didn't mind getting their hands dirty in a service project.

But, I disagree, to an extent, that pastors shouldn't be held to higher standards. Whereas I believe that all Christians should hold themselves to high standards as to be examples to the world... I believe that pastors need to hold themselves to high standards for the church. If pastors are called to be examples to their "flock" than what they do, to the newer or weaker Christian, is iron clad permission to do in their lives as well. I won't criticize, specifically, the Porsche situation. Maybe he got a good deal... Maybe all the needs in his church are met... Maybe they had a benevolence program set up to help those in need. I can't judge. But, I find that, often, the Church has abandoned its responsibility to the needy... And it is something that needs to be addressed.

As an aside, it is for this reason that I am so excited about the LEO Center downtown. The LEO Center is fulfilling the call in the Christian's life to provide for those who are less fortunate and give basic help and care for those who need it most! I thank God that the LEO Center is becoming a place in which any Christian can get involved (financially or by service) to help those that Christ would have helped.

--Danny Speicher

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