Introduction

 

 

            The Good Shepherd, moved with compassion, goes to great lengths to retrieve one of his lost lambs. Brad Greystone comes to realize that when God the Father in his all-knowing wisdom unleashes the hounds of heaven that it is only a matter of time until they pick up the scent and are on the trail of the one that has strayed. Many times the one being pursued, stumbling along in the dark comes full circle and catches a glimpse of the sheepfold from which he has strayed.

            Downing Chapel, nestled in the meadows and surrounded by the mountains of New Hampshire is the instrument that God is going to use to bring the wondering one home. With its pews now silent and haunted by a voice out of the past the Chapel now waits, waiting once again to be loved by those who have abandoned her and to be of use to the Master once again.

            Brad Greystone also comes to learn that sometimes in order to keep that which your heart desires you must first be willing to give it up. He experiences first hand the words of Jesus in Matthew the 10th Chapter and the 39th Verse when he said; He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that losest his life for my sake shall find it.”

            As Downing Chapel is being restored and coming to life again, voices and scenes out of the past are haunting the immortal soul of Brad Greystone. It seems the Chapel is beckoning to him just as the mountains of New Hampshire have been doing. As the Good Shepherd gets ever closer to his lost lamb, old altar call songs from out of the past keep echoing through his mind and pulling on his heart---Come home, come home, ye who are weary come home; Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling oh sinner, come home. Another old invitational song that they sang so long ago in his father’s beloved Downing Chapel has also been ringing through his memory---Why do you wait, dear brother, Oh, why do you tarry so long? Your Savior is waiting to give you, A place in His sanctified throng. Why not? Why not/ Why not come to Him now? Why not? Why not? Why not come to Him now?

            Having been called of God to preach the gospel and to work in the master’s vineyard, Brad Greystone has been running from the sheepfold but now comes to the end of the path that he has been trodding. Come home, the Good Shepherd calls. Nightfall is coming and you must come home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part I

 

Chapter I

 

            Brad Greystone stood on the front porch of the old farmhouse and looked out over the beautiful hills and valleys that surrounded his parents home here in New Hampshire. This was the house he had grown up in as a boy and he had spent many hours in his youth hunting on these hills and fishing in the streams down in the valley. It was a crisp fall morning and there was a chill in the air. His eyes scanned down towards one of the many meadows and there about a ¼ mile in the distance was the familiar grove of trees with great oaks and many maples. The leaves on the trees were all ablaze with their array of colors at this time of the year. This grove of trees was part of the 960 acres in the family farm. About a mile past the grove of trees lay Downing Meadows. It had been so named by his great grandfather on his mother’s side, Lewis Downing.

            Lewis Downing had settled in these mountains in the mid 1800’s, just after the Civil War, and had staked his claim. Lewis Downing had made a fortune in the mining business and had bought several thousand acres in this beautiful part of the state. Through the years much of the original land had been sold and all that remained was this farm of 960 acres that his father had farmed and in a separate deed was Downing Meadows.

            There had always been something strange and mysterious about Downing Meadows. It was on a separate deed drawn up by the original owner, Lewis Downing, but no one had ever known why. It was stipulated in the deed that the land could never be sold but would be passed down from generation to generation. Nothing could be built on it with the exception of a church. Lewis Downing had not been a religious man and his mind and life had been centered on making money. Why he had made this stipulation to the deed had always been a mystery.

            As Brad’s eyes focused on this grove of trees, his mind went back to his childhood days. His father, George Greystone had received the call to become a minister before Brad was born. Brad was the oldest of the four Greystone children and resembled his father more than his other three siblings. There were his two brothers, Bob and Earl, and the youngest of the four was their sister, Christine, nicknamed Christie as a child. As she grew older everyone just called her Chris. When Brad was just a boy, his father had hung a swing, much like a porch swing, from one of the limbs of a great oak in the grove. The family spent many Sunday afternoons having picnics among the trees of the grove. Brad and his two brothers would spend these afternoons fishing in a stream at the bottom of the grove and their younger sister, Christy, would spend her time near their mother, Charlotte, playing with her doll. Brad’s parents would spend the afternoon, after they had eaten, sitting in the swing and enjoying nature. Brad never realized it as a boy but now he knew why his father always liked to go there and have picnics on Sunday afternoons. His father would get his inspiration for the Sunday evening sermon setting on the old swing with their mother and communing with his God and enjoying the beauty of his creation. His Bible was his constant companion and was always nearby.

            Brad’s father, George Greystone, had been soundly converted to the gospel at the age of 22. Two years later he met his future wife, Charlotte Downing, and after a six- month courtship, they were married in Centerville Community Church on June 7th, 1949. Theirs was truly a marriage made in heaven and shortly thereafter, George Greystone received his calling to preach. In their early marriage, Brad’s parents lived near Barberton, New Hampshire and his father preached in many of the local churches there. After Charlotte’s parents, Charles and Sarah Downing passed away, she inherited the family farm and they moved to this house that they had lived in for the past 42 years.

            The Reverend George Greystone had it in his heart for some time during his early marriage to his wife Charlotte, to build a church. After moving to the family farm here, he learned of Downing Meadows and the terms of the deed. Feeling this to be a leading from God, he made plans for the new church to be built. He wanted it to be a simple, humble church where everyone would feel welcome. He didn’t want the stained glass windows or the fancy fixtures. He had seen and even preached in some of the great cathedrals in Barberton and he felt that the poor could not feel welcome. He knew some people hesitated to come to these churches because they didn’t have much to put in the offerings at the church. They had little income and they felt those churches were out of their class. Reverend George Greystone wanted a church where the common people would come. He wanted a non-denominational church that would welcome all races, creed, and color, the rich and the poor alike. A church or a chapel, if you will that God would put his sanction upon. He took literally the teachings of his Lord when he said; Whosoever will, let him come. Whosoever cometh unto me I will in no wise cast him out.

            Brad’s thought are interrupted when he hears his mother calling to him from the doorway, “Brad, breakfast is ready, come and eat.” Brad had been summoned home when his mother had called him telling him his father had made a turn for the worse but she didn’t think it was life threatening. He wanted to talk to Brad and had her to call and see if he would come home. His father had suffered a stroke five years earlier and his health had steadily declined since then. Brad’s wife, Caroline and their two boys, Jeff and Bruce, had stayed back at their home in Georgia. Brad and Caroline had agreed this would be best at this time since the fall semester of school had just started and they didn’t want to take the boys out of school until, if and when, it became necessary.

            Brad made his way into the big country kitchen. His mother had made her breakfast specialty of eggs, bacon, homemade biscuits, and gravy. The kitchen was filled with the aroma of fresh, perked coffee. His father was still asleep and his mother said it was best to let him sleep and get his rest. She would fix him something when he woke up. Brad sat down at the table and respectfully bowed his head as his mother said grace and asked God’s blessings upon the food and also upon his father’s health. As they began to eat his mother spoke up and said, “Brad, your father wants to speak to you and your brother Earl when he gets here.” “What about mom?” Brad asks as he notices the serious concern on his mother’s face. “I don’t know,” his mother answered, “he didn’t say only that he has something very important to discuss with you and Earl.” “When will Earl be here?” Brad asks his mother. “He said when I called him, he would be here tomorrow. He has some things he has to clear up at the law office,” his mother replied.

            Brad’s father had been the pastor of the church in Downing Meadows for over 30 years, ever since it was built, until his stroke five years ago. His voice had been affected and he could no longer preach. Other ministers came to pastor for the three years following his father’s illness but little by little the congregation got smaller up until two years ago when they quit having services there altogether. That was when his father’s health wouldn’t permit him to attend church services any longer. Reverend George Greystone had been the fire in the pulpit. His dedication and love for the people is what held the church together. Brad’s mother was a Sunday school teacher at the church, but since his father’s illness, she had to step down to attend to him. It was said the Reverend Greystone could preach on hell, fire, and brimstone with such a love and compassion like no other preacher had ever done before. When he preached on this subject it was like a man running into a burning building risking his own life to rescue those who were endangered by the burning flames. His preaching was not to condemn, but to save.

            Brad sensed that his father’s declining health was due to his not being able to minister as much as it was physical. Downing Chapel, as it was called by many, had been the love of his life. He could still remember his father’s first sermon there and the dedication ceremony. How his father’s face shined as his booming voice preached under the anointing of the spirit. He had asked God to inhabit and bless this sanctuary. Let all of God’s creatures hear the gospel. May the doors of this church always be open to the wayward soul. The church had been filled to capacity that day. Wave after wave of the spirit moved upon and over the congregation. The shouts could be heard throughout the surrounding woods as the blessings of God rained down upon the people and God gave his stamp of approval upon Downing Chapel. The service ended that day about 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon and everyone was still reluctant to leave. They were singing a rousing rendition of Amazing Grace as they left the church shouting and hugging one another. Brad’s eyes have misted over as the memory of that day has touched his heart.

            Brad is brought back to the present as his mother looks him in the eyes and says, “It has never left, has it son?” Brad excuses himself from the table and tells his mother he is going to take a walk while his father is sleeping. He decides to walk down to the grove of trees. The swing is still there and he sets down and begins to think; what does dad want to talk to me and Earl about? Earl is a lawyer with his own law practice in Texas. Brad himself is an industrial architect with the firm of Hastings and Associates in downtown Savannah, Georgia. Their brother Bob is a sales representative for a company in Los Angeles and their sister, Chris, the only single one of the children is an airline stewardess for a major airline working out of Seattle. Brad is thinking, Bob is next in age to me and Earl is the third oldest. Why did dad specify Earl and me? Could it have something to do with our occupations, he wonders.

            Growing up Brad had wanted to be an artist and in his early adult life did manage to pursue it as an occupation for awhile. Those were lean years and he finally fell back on his college education of architecture and went to work for Hastings and Associates drawing blueprints for home and commercial buildings. He still painted pictures from time to time but only as a hobby now. Some of his first paintings still hung on the walls of his parent’s home. It had been the passion of his life back then and his father always said he was a natural. It was too bad, he thought, that he could never get the art world to think so.

            As Brad sat quietly absorbed in his thoughts, he heard a squirrel cutting nuts in the distance. They have gotten used to his presence and had gone on with their business. This time of the year they were busy storing nuts for the winter so they would have a food supply when the snows of winter began to blow. He heard the breaking of twigs and setting completely quiet and without making a move, he turned his eyes towards the noise. Looking closely, he saw two deer among some thickets about 100 feet away. It was a doe and her fawn. Life was so much more serene and peaceful here than it was in the city where he and his family lived.

            When he and Caroline were first married, he had wanted to move back to the hills of New Hampshire. He had wanted to paint the beautiful landscape of this, his home state, and maybe make a living doing so. But time and circumstances have a way of changing ones plans. The demands of making a living had more or less forced him into going to work for Hastings and Associates. He had given up his dream of becoming an artist and settled into the rut of everyday living. When he and Caroline were first married, they had attended a church in Savannah. But after the boys were born, he and Caroline didn’t attend as frequently and finally quit going altogether. He had talked to his mother and sometimes his father over the years about his spiritual life. He had told them there were no churches anywhere near that were like Downing Chapel. “They’re all modern and cold mom,” he would tell his mother. “It doesn’t do Caroline and me any good to go. We never get anything out of the services that they have,” he would tell her. Brad’s mother was never anyone to listen to excuses though and that is why he had to leave the breakfast table. She would tell him, “If you can’t find a church there that you like, move back home and come to Downing Chapel.” When he would tell her his job was in Savannah and that they couldn’t move, she would say; “Well, son, start a church of your own there.” Charlotte Greystone was just not one to listen to excuses. Brad’s mother knew as he himself also knew that if one had the desire to go to church, nothing would stop them.

 

 
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