By Connie W. Adams
I write this column from Martinsville, Virginia, a city of about 20,000 in the south central part of the state. It would be hard to find a more beautiful spot than Virginia in the springtime. Pink and white dogwoods are in bloom and azaleas provide a rich contrast to the lush green of spring grass. Martinsville is just to the east of the mountainous regions at the beginning of the rolling land which stretches across southern Virginia to Tidewater. From the mountain backbone in the west, up the Skyline Drive, through the Shenandoah Valley, down the Blue Ridge Parkway, or across the highlands to the Chesapeake Bay and the swampy low country of southeastern Virginia, this is a land richly favored by the Creator. Perhaps I am prejudiced because this is my home state. Here I fished and hunted as a boy, worked in the woods or the fields and in idle moments searched the woods with Grand mammy for “lady slippers,” green walnuts or musky dines. But more important to me, it was here that I heard the pure gospel preached for the first time and gave my life into Gods service.
Through the years Virginia has been a neglected field when it comes to gospel effort. There was a time when that was not the case. In early restoration days much work was done here by notable pioneers. Campbell preached throughout the state as did other worthies. The Showalters and the lamented W. W. Otey sprang from these quarters and did much preaching. Digression swept the state and most of the congregations went with it. Yet, throughout the state there remains a significant number of conservative Christian Churches some of which have been converted in part or whole to the truth and others of which, I am confident, can be reached now.
As the work began to slowly rebuild from the ravages of the first digression, the new digression of twenty-five years ago hit the state and carried along with it the bulk of what had been accomplished. Now, there are signs of progress. There are three congregations in Richmond standing for the old paths, another at Rivermont (just out of Hopewell in my home community). One of the most neglected areas is Tidewater containing such major cities as Norfolk, Newport News, Hampton and Portsmouth, an area with well over one million people. North from Richmond there is Annandale in the Washington, D.C. area. Down the western side of the state there is a small work at Winchester. Then there is not much until you get to the extreme southwestern part of the state where a number of small congregations are standing for the truth, such as Clintwood, Pound and others.
The church at Martinsville is four years old having gone through the trials of separation from a liberal group. In that time it has had great success and realized much growth. Though meeting under crowded circumstances in a truck terminal, they have become entirely self-supporting and conduct a radio program three days a week which is bearing fruit. They have purchased a lot and plan to build soon. Leonard Salyers is preaching here and doing an effective work. He is a native Virginian and has done most of his preaching in the western part of the state. He knows the area and the people and is counted one of them. A number have been converted out of conservative Christian Churches, some from the Baptists, Pentecostals and others. Through the diligent efforts of brother Salyers and others one whole Primitive Baptist Church was converted. This was a black congregation. These brethren meet often with the church in Martinsville and have faithfully supported the meeting thus far. Thus one sees the refreshing sight of blacks and whites alike working together in the Lords cause in the state which was the capitol of the Old Confederacy. Attendance in the meeting has run over one hundred.
Twelve miles to the south is Ridgeway, Virginia, near the North Carolina line where there is a congregation of about 75. This was formerly a conservative Christian Church which was converted entirely a few years ago. They have a nice building located five miles north of Eden, North Carolina. Randall Elrod is the preacher there. We are using their baptistery this week.
In my judgment, there is a great harvest of souls waiting in the Old Dominion, especially in the mountain areas of the west and the central highlands. People in these areas are conservative by nature and are not hampered by the pretentious sophistication which blinds many to the gospel. Radio preaching is especially effective. Within one hundred miles of Martinsville, north, east or west, there are several towns and cities where work ought to be started. I believe the church in Martinsville will be the launching place for much good work in the years ahead. There are sizable cities in the Shenandoah Valley where congregations must be established. Roanoke and Lynchburg are major cities. One family from Lynchburg is driving 160 miles round trip to every service at Martinsville.
Aside from the fact that there is a great need here, prospects for success are great, that souls can be and are being reached with the truth, there is much to commend life in this part of the country. Towns and cities are growing and coming into their own as places of industry and commerce. Martinsville was named the “All-American City” last year. Added to this is the splendor of living amid scenes of Divine artistry where the hills, mountains, valleys and streams all bear evidence of the work of a benevolent God. Young preachers, if you are looking for a place to go and spend your life, or even a part of it, in sowing gospel seed, why not come to Virginia? Older and more mature preachers are also needed. A man should not only have adequate personal support, but also sufficient working funds for daily radio programs and newspaper teaching ads. Tent meetings would still be effective in some areas. 1 appeal to preachers to think of coming to this with area to work and to elders of congregations with ability to consider providing the necessary support for these men to come. Martin Lemon of Dyersburg, Tennessee, Rufus Clifford of Franklin, Tennessee and Tom ONeal of Murfreesboro, Tennessee have done much good work in this area and are also well acquainted with the needs and prospects. They would be glad to share what information they have, I am sure. Why should not greater effort be put forth to spread the gospel in the very state to which the Jamestown settlers came and started it all on the North American continent?
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 40, pp. 11-12
August 17, 1972