It was quite an exciting adventure for me as a young boy to travel with my Dad all around the Virginia countryside as he proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ to the simple mountain folk with a great burning zeal in his heart to be a "New Testament" preacher, a living member of the book of Acts.

My inheritance mounted up day by day until I had acquired a wealth of great lasting value. Every time things seemed to become commonplace, another outstanding event would transpire that would again implant its roots into my subconscious; events that would bear fruit later on in my life.

Not long after my eighth birthday, my father and his deacon, Brother Eck Fletcher, and I left on a Wednesday afternoon for Pardee, Virginia, a coal-mining camp on Black Mountain. Brother Fletcher and I often accompanied Dad on his speaking engagements. As we wound our way across the twisting road in our model "T," I felt the cold bite of the winter winds whip into my face through the open side window, where the curtains were missing. I snuggled close to the back of the front seat to keep the air from hitting full force upon me. I loved to go with my father when he went out, and the excitement of having this privilege helped to dispel any discomfort that I felt.

The church at Pardee was not pastored by any single individual. The church building was owned by the Pardee coal-mining company and served as a community building or union hall for whatever special occasion arose. As such, my father had the privilege of preaching there the fourth Wednesday of every month, the other Wednesdays being rotated in turn by the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian preachers.

Upon arrival, as the car chugged its way to the side of the church and came to a stop, I strained impatiently against the seat of the car, eager to be out with the other boys I saw scampering around the churchyard.

"Brother Pat, something seems wrong. Look at the people's faces. They don't seem quite so happy to see us. Wonder what's happenin'?" The deacon's voice was filled with anxiety.

My father's eyes scanned the faces of the people who were milling around outside, but he spoke with confidence. "If there is a problem, no matter what it is, God knows all about it and can take care of it, Eck."

As he opened the door, I slid out past him and made my way over to the nearest group of boys, but before I could barely say my first hellos, my father's voice called out to me, "Come on, Clifton. I'ts time to be going inside."

Reluctantly, I followed Dad down the aisle where I was motioned to my place on the front pew, while he continued toward the platform. He had scarcely reached the pulpit when a commotion was heard outside. Brother Eck looked toward the door with concern, but my father, as was his habit upon arriving at a church, turned and knelt at the bench setting on the rear of the platform. He began to call upon God for His help in the forthcoming service. Brother Eck glanced again toward the door, then he too fell upon his knees in prayer, following my father's example of "committing all to God."

I sat there, absorbed in swinging my legs back and forth under the seat, impatient at having to wait alone. Then the angry shuffle of feet and the loud murmur of disapproving voices brought me to full attention. Something was going to happen, and that "happening" was headed right up the aisle coming closer to the platform with each step.

I turned and with surprise noted a Black-wood policeman in full uniform headed up the aisle where Daddy was praying. He stopped short at the platform, hesitated for a moment, then called, "Hey, preacher!"

Up until this point, my father had seemed oblivious to all the commotion, intently communicating with his Maker. Now he turned his head to see who had called him.

As the sheriff noted the glow upon his face, it seemed to throw him off guard for a moment; he was not quite sure how to react to someone who looked as if they had just been speaking face-to-face with God.

Daddy slowly rose from his knees to a standing position to face the burly policeman. Brother Eck got up also and came to stand beside my father. It seemed as if the whole congregation moved silently forward and pressed together as if to hear all the better. I felt this, rather than actually seeing it, for my eyes were glued upon the unfriendly face of the sheriff.

My father's voice spoke out of the silence. " "You speaking to me, sheriff?"

"Yeah, preacher, 'fraid I am. I came to tell you that you gotta close this meetin' down and move along. Ain't gonna allow you to have no more meetin's here in this town. We all," with this he swung his hand to take in all the observers, "want you to get out and now! Ain't no holy rollers allowed in here no more."

As my father stood there, his eyes searched the crowd, letting it register in his mind that what he had heard was true.

I was instantly filled with scorn for these people. "What's the matter with them?" I thought. "Don't they know my daddy ain't never done nothin' wrong? Don't they know how good he is?"

A swift glance from my father, showed that he perceived my thoughts. Flushed with embarrassment, I dropped my head. I began to pray within myself, not really knowing what to pray for, "God, help us, whatever we need. Don't let them treat us like this."

I don't know whether my prayer helped or not, but at that moment the Spirit of God moved in upon the scene. A look of boldness came over my father and Brother Eck's faces as they moved down the aisle making their way through the crowd. Their voices began to break forth in praises to God in the midst of those self-willed people. I hung onto my father's coattail not sure of what to do. As the Spirit moved upon him, it was then that he became the "master of the situation" instead of the "unsure servant."

He and Brother Eck moved as one. At the same moment, they began to wipe their feet on the steps of the church, as Jesus had told His disciples to do in Luke 9:5 when they were not received.

"This place shall not prosper," spoke my father, "for you have not just rejected us, you have rejected the Lord."

The spirit of the crowd was broken, and each person looked at another trying to determine just what their reactions should be now. Here and there a few people dropped their heads shamefully, realizing that a pronouncement of doom had fallen upon them. They were unsure of what to do next.

As we climbed into the car and it sputtered to a start, Daddy was still magnifying and praising God for the situation; that they had been counted worthy to suffer for His name.

"Eck," I heard him say, "God's Word says, ‘blessed are ye, when men shall revile you and persecute you ... for My sake"' (Matthew 5:11).

As I watched the crowd vanish from view as we rounded the curve, I turned around and sat back in the seat. I felt daddy's elation would soon die down, he would come to himself, and everything would be back to normal. But little did I realize that God was about to manifest His glory and miraculous power to His servants in reward for the New Testament action they had taken.

"Praise the Lord," Brother Eck sang out, "Praise the Lord!"

"Praise the Lord!" my father responded with equal fervor.

As their praises rang out magnifying and glorifying God, their English tongue (with its Virginia dialect) changed to a language that made no sense to me. It was a language I had often heard when they "got happy" and "got in the Spirit." Both men raised their hands in the air simultaneously as a gesture of thanksgiving that they were counted worthy to be used in His service.

As the car continued chugging its way down the narrow, winding, blacktop road, full of sharp turns, I thought, "Oh, no! Daddy's gonna wreck this car if he don't get a-hold of the steering wheel."

"Daddy!" I yelled, "Eck! Look out! We're gonna wreck!"

But they were oblivious to all and lost in a spirit of worship. Though screaming at the top of my voice, my words were overpowered by the exuberant praise combined with the noise of the engine.

Looking out over the short hood of the model "T" and down the road as it wound its way down the side of the mountain, with its deep ravines on one side and rock walls on the other, my heart seemed to choke in my throat so that no other words could escape. Turning to the window, I stared in horror. As the trees alongside passed in a blur, I looked down into the valley where the peaceful scene of a gently flowing creek seemed to contrast with the terror I felt inside the car--the terror of an imminent crash.

All my senses were alerted and seemed to demand immediate action. My first thought was to hide on the floor and cover my eyes so that I couldn't see the road and wouldn't know the exact moment of the crash. My next impulse was to take control control of the car myself. Quickly I made an attempt to reach between the two men in the front seat and grasp the steering wheel which now seemed to be turning lazily of its own accord.

As I lunged forward, I was knocked into the back seat again by their waving arms.

Around each curve we went, the men in the front shouting, with uplifted arms and closed eyes, while in the back I regained my bearing and once again attempted to reach the steering wheel. But, again I was met by a barrier of praising arms, and immediately found myself helplessly lying on the back seat. Further attempts also proved futile as the car continued on the trip down the mountainside toward the next little mining town of Dunbar.

"What'll I do?" I thought desperately. Panic grew inside me and my stomach had a sinking feeling as I watched that wheel turn, and then looked ahead to the big curve coming into view. A picture formed in my mind of the car not making this next turn of the road and plunging into the yawning ravine which seemed to be just waiting to swallow us.

I sat there helplessly as the car rounded the curve that unforgettable day. I don't really know the moment the realization came, but slowly my mind began to absorb the fact that although no human hands touched the wheel, that car made each turn and twist perfectly down that mountainside!

Yes, God was with us and sent His angel to drive our car that night. When we got to Dunbar and Brother Eck and my father came to themselves and realized what had happened, it was enough to set them off again, and I was a long time getting home that night.

It wasn't until sometime later that I realized another miracle had occurred that same time--one of prophetic judgment. The word soon got out that the church at Pardee which was closed that evening to those who would preach the full gospel was never opened for another service. As my father had "wiped his feet" symbolically, so had God literally "wiped His feet" of a hard-hearted people. They had rejected Him once too often.

Later in life, when I had become a pastor, I thought about this incident, and determined to see for myself if the old church was still there and if it was being used or not.

One summer day, when my wife and I were vacationing for a few days in Virginia, visiting her folks, I decided to make that trip up to Pardee.

There on that same spot stood the old building--but what a difference since that memorable day in 1926.

The scene that met my eyes was evidence of God's judgment. I don't know why they allowed such an eyesore to remain to detract from the landscape. It's weather-beaten shake shingles from the roof lay scattered throughout the churchyard. Gaping holes in the roof allowed the weather to assault the interior at its own will. It sagged at the seams and seemed ready to crumble at the slightest disturbance. Its eaves now offered sanctuary to creatures of nature. Weeds grew in profusion. Some pews had been carried outside and sat rotting from exposure to the extremities of the changing seasons.

I pulled up, parked, and got out. As I strode over and peered into the windows, I stared in amazement. The floors that once supported rejoicing saints now could hardly afford to support the dust of their memories. All remains lay in a shambles.

As I pulled away from that place 45 years later, God's presence came down and surrounded me. His voice seemed to say, "Son, you've seen the evidence of My power. You, too, can have this same anointing."

My heart felt as though it would burst out of my chest with the fullness of His Presence. I replied, "Yes, Lord, I want it. I want it!"

Then all the experiences of that day flooded my memory and I decided to measure the exact distance that God's angel had driven our car. I followed the twisting, turning, serpentine road, remembering vividly each detail of the ride. When I pulled up to the town's bridge spanning the small creek, my speedometer registered one and a half miles. Although short in distance, it remains in my memory, the longest ride in my life.


From: THE MIRACLE OF MURLIN HEIGHTS by Clifton E. Snodgrass, pag. 20-30, Whitaker House 1976, Springdale Pa, USA.