Several weeks ago my family and I drove over to Abingdon, Virginia for the wedding of our oldest son. Abingdon is an old city that dates back to the 1770’s and is rich with Appalachian history. It is also the hometown of one of my favorite evangelist from the turn of the century. Robert Sheffey was born in 1820 to a prominent family. His mother died when he was two leaving Sheffey to be reared by his aunt. He was saved at eighteen and began preaching as a Methodist circuit riding preacher. He traveled fourteen counties and was a regular at the historic Wabash Camp-meetings. He was an eccentric man, to the point that he was denied a license to preach for many years. Sheffey was known for his love of animals. He gave his lunch to hungry dogs and would dismount his horse when going up a steep hill so the horse wouldn’t struggle. He actually stopped a funeral procession once to keep small animals from being ran over by wagon wheels. Sheffey also had a heart for people. He would give the coat off his back to people and his hand knitted socks to those with none. Oddly enough he wasn’t that great of a preacher, but his strength was his ability to get a hold of God and see sinners saved. His prayers were so effective that other evangelists would ask him to pray for various needs. He died in August of 1902. On his monument is written these words “The poor were sorry when he died.”
Coming home that evening as I drove into the night through the silent darkness of the Mountain Parkway, my mind began to wander and I began to think about my own epitaph. Am I a friend of publicans and sinners? What have I done to further the cause of Christ? Will the impact of my ministry and personal evangelism carry through the generations to come? One hundred years later the impact of the Gospel is still the same, and it will last an eternity.