The Church On the Hill
by Jacqueline L Wade
Isola Mississippi 1939, The Jim Crow Laws separated the blacks and the whites. This was a time a black man had no rights unless he was willing to die. There were many lynching's going on throughout the south and many people feared for their lives. But as long as I can remember my daddy always said, "No matter how tough times would get our strength was in the Lord." Prayer always restored the hope of our people. When the church came together and prayed it would lift our spirits. It was the way to pass over those troubled times to boost our overall happiness. But it was our cry to the Lord for help and guidance that gave us our greatest strength. My daddy always said "It's the prayers of the righteous that availeth much."
It was the beginning of the summer and the church was preparing for our annual picnic. This was an exciting time for the women of our church. It gave them the opportunity to show off their many talents in the kitchen. I was excited too because that meant my mama was going to make my favorite chocolate cake. Back in those days folks called it dirt bread because the chocolate was dark and rich. My daddy was the pastor of the church and my mama was the first lady. It wasn't a very fancy place, but it was a place we could call our own. We were known as the church on the hill. My daddy was Pastor Leroy Jones Senior. I was named after my daddy, but folks called me Junior. When my daddy preached the Word of God it sounded just like roaring thunder and that's when things started to happen. When the word went forth, the power of God would fall upon the church, people would stand to their feet, shouting and praising God, running up and down the aisles, speaking in tongues, and dancing in the spirit.
When someone needed healing or deliverance this was the place to be. It was the power of prayer that made all the difference. When the church came together in prayer there were miracles, signs and wonders. People would come from faraway places to see if what they heard was true. They always got what they were looking for.
There were many folks who loved my daddy because he was such a God fearing man who believed that faith in God and loving your enemies was a man's greatest weapon when it came to his enemies. My daddy was not only loved, but he was hated by his enemies.
There was one particular fella named Silas Brown who hated my daddy and he did everything in his power to cause trouble. The Lord sent my daddy several times to warn Silas Brown about that sinful place, that old juke joint and all of the evil that was going on. The Lord said, if he did not obey destruction would fall. But he refused to listen. But that didn't stop him from being angry with my daddy. He told the Sheriff that the church was too loud and that we were causing him to lose business on Sunday. But the Sheriff didn't care one way or the other. I remembered the time he tried to set fire to the church, but it started to rain. The rain put fire out. The Lord was watching over us.
Silas Brown owned a juke joint just a few miles away from the church. It was an old ramshackle building, unappealing, old decrepit shack that was so small that only a few people could fit. It was a place where black sharecroppers and plantation workers could hang out after a long week of work. It was a disorderly and rowdy place that was frowned upon by many white folks. It was the place that black folks could socialize with their friends, eating, drinking, dancing and gambling. But this was a place that took them away from the pressures of society and gave them a voice. It was a sinful place and God was not pleased. Whenever we had church on Sunday the power of God's anointing would cause so much confusion at that juke joint the people were afraid. There were things happening that could not be explained. The roof caved in and people were trapped inside for days before help arrived. There was even a time that the place was flooded with water when there wasn't a storm. Daddy always said that warning comes before destruction.
I remember one morning my daddy and the men of church were repairing the roof of the church when that Silas Brown, and ten other men came over to the church. They threaten to kill my daddy if he didn't stop having church on Sunday and all that noise he called it. My daddy told the men of the church to stay on the roof and keep working. My daddy came down from the roof. He said "Brother Brown, I want you and your friends to come and fellowship with us on Sunday morning. We'd love to have you.”
Silas Brown got angry. He told my daddy "this is not a social call! People are afraid to come to my juke joint because of you. If you don't move this church I'm going to burn it to the ground!
"My daddy softly replied, "Please bring your families as well.”
Then suddenly, Silas tried to hit my daddy and that's when the ladder came down from the roof and struck Silas in the head. It knocked him out cold. My daddy bandaged and cleaned Silas's wound. He helped the men put him in the wagon. They took him home. He didn't come to until a few days later, and he had no memory of what happen.
When the men finished the roof I climbed in the wagon with my daddy. We were on our way home to have supper. I had so many questions in my mind. I asked my daddy why he helped Silas Brown after he did all those bad things to him. My daddy softly replied, "Son do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. It's not for me to avenge his wrong. We must love our enemies or we will become just like them. The Lord will repay all evil doers in his time."
Saturday morning, was the annual church picnic. This was a day the church looked forward to. Folks came from miles around to attend the picnic. This was a time of celebration and fellowship with family and friends. There was plenty of food for everyone. We sang and dance to the sound of the fiddle and the banjo. While we were celebrating that Silas Brown went to visit the root doctor. He was so embarrassed and ashamed about the accident at the church that he would stop at nothing to get even with my father. The root doctor was a man known for magical spells and curses that came from plants. They say Bessie Johnson's put a root on her husband to keep him away from Silas's juke joint so he would stop being such a womanizer when it came to other women.
The root doctor was a sorcerer who made a living casting evil spells on people. He was also known to some as a prophet who could see the future. Silas wanted the root doctor to curse my father and the people of the church. He paid that root doctor two – hundred dollars to destroy my father and the church. The root doctor took some gofer dust, some herbs, powdered lizard and snake tails, and put them in a small black bag. He lifted them up and began to pray over the black bag in a language one couldn't understand. But he told Silas Brown it would destroy the power of the church and their God. He gave Silas a mojo bag to wear around his neck to ward off any evil spirits that tried to attack him. The root doctor insisted that Silas take him to the church so he could release a curse upon the people.
Later that night Silas and the root doctor went to the church. The root doctor pour the content from the black bag in front of the door. He brought along a dead chicken and cut its head off sprinkling blood all over the front entrance as he prayed in an unknown tongue. That same night my mama and daddy were up all night praying and crying out to the Lord. Whenever mama and daddy prayed all night something was about to happen. Come Sunday Morning, daddy opened the front door of the church as the people filled the house, my daddy in a thunderous voice shouted to the people. "Let's give God some praise! This is a commandment from the Lord."
As we praised God, He released His anointing. It felt like a might rushing wind. As the praises of the people continued to go forth it caused the atmosphere to shift. Every witch and warlock had to flee. It caused all evil and wickedness in the valley to be destroyed. The juke joint began to tremble and shake. Then suddenly it began to sink deep in the earth. The people began to panic. They were afraid and they tried to flee, but the people could not escape it was too late!
When Silas Brown heard the news about that old juke joint he was furious with the root doctor. The curse had failed. He returned to the root doctor demanding answers.
The root doctor quickly replied, "Their God is strong and powerful. You saw what he did. I felt his presence. He came and visited me. He told me I cannot curse his people or I would surely die. He wants me to leave them in peace."
"I will give you whatever you ask replied Silas. I want you to get rid of them. I'll double the price this time, but you've got to destroy them!"
Hoping that by magic he could persuade God's people to turn their back on him. The root doctor allowed his greed to blind him from what God was about to do. He told Silas Brown that he would return to the church on Sunday morning and this time he would not fail. Silas Brown decided to go with him to make sure the job was done. Despite the Lord's warning to the root doctor he decided to carry out his plan.
On Sunday morning it was church as usual. We were in the midst of praise and worship. When that Silas Brown and the root doctor show up in front of the church. They entered the church as we continued to praise and worship God. The root doctor began to speak out to the congregation trying to elude them from worshipping God, but we kept praising God. But the more he tried to persuade us the more we cried out to God. It made him angry. Then suddenly my daddy looked that root doctor in the eyes and said with a thunderous voice, "The Lord said leave this house or you shall surely die." But the root doctor refused to listen. He lifted his hands and began to speak in an unknown tongue to release his spell upon the people, then suddenly the church was engulfed by fire. No one could get in and no one could get out. It seemed to be a hopeless situation, but God was in the midst of it all. As the fire burned it didn't touch the people, the people falling to their knees as they continued to crying out to God. I lifted my head, looking out in the midst of the fire there were angels encamped around us and there stood a figure of a man, wearing a blood stained robe, I could see the holes in his hands, the holes in his feet, but I could not look upon his continence for the light was too great.
Then suddenly, the fire began to rise, the root doctor and Silas Brown were consumed in the fire. I watched as the fire continued to rise like a mighty hurricane. Then suddenly, it faded into the atmosphere. I closed my eyes and continued to pray. Then everything became still. I slowly opened my eyes. I found myself laying at the altar next to my daddy. From that day, our lives were never the same. The moral of this story, "you can't curse nothing that's already blessed."