Homegrown Integrity

Roy Stockstill was the lead pastor at Bethany Church in Baker, Louisiana, for 20 years.
Roy Stockstill was the lead pastor at Bethany Church in Baker, Louisiana, for 20 years. (Ministry Today archives )

Homegrown Integrity

The quiet witness of his father led Roy Stockstill to faith in Christ.

Roy Stockstill

Editor's Note: This article is from the fall 2010 issue of Ministry Today magazine.

My father, Joel Ernest Stockstill, was born in 1885. He and my mother, Mamie, had nine children. My sister Inez died in my father's arms, but her death was the catalyst that brought him to Christ. Papa, as we called him, was a quiet and honest believer from that time forward. I can recall many things about his life that transferred to me and became part of my spiritual DNA.

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First, he lived by principle, not personality. He worked during the Great Depression and held a longtime job at a sawmill. When he was asked to work extra time on Sundays, something that conflicted with his belief in honoring the Lord's Day, he declined; the decision cost him his job.

But with nine children to feed, Papa happily purchased a plot of land in the country and fed our family with homegrown vegetables and other produce from simple farming. Because of his example, I too have been able to find the courage to make the right decisions in ministry, even at great personal sacrifice.

Papa also demonstrated consistency in prayer. I recall his trip to the woodshed each morning for his daily prayer time. His time alone with God gave him the faith he needed to face literal and spiritual storms in his life. Once when a tremendous hurricane passed over our home, he lay calmly in bed speaking his faith as huge trees were uprooted in our yard!

I can recall many times when he exercised his faith. Once when I had returned home during World War II from the European theater en route to the Pacific theater, he entered my room after spending time with the Lord and confidently announced, "You will not be going back overseas."

My father spoke prophetically that day and soon after a miracle occurred. I was transferred to a stateside position only hours before the rest of my unit moved out to the Pacific.

Today we live in a financially inept society where many Americans are drowning in a sea of debt, but Papa showed financial integrity by living within his means. It is a foreign concept to millions of people, but he detested borrowing. But if he had to do it, the transaction was sealed with a simple handshake because the lender knew Papa would rather die than break his word. True to his convictions, when Papa died he owed no one anything.

At his funeral, I was reminded of the words of the apostle Paul: "Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out" (1 Tim. 6:6-7). I later implemented my father's financial values into the finances of our church, refusing elaborate and expensive building structures in favor of simpler, utilitarian buildings that would free up more funds for world missions.

A final principle I observed in Papa was the integrity of justice and equality. In a time when prejudice and racial division were the norm in south Mississippi, Papa felt called as a lay preacher to minister mainly in
African-American congregations.

In an era when it was unthinkable for a white man to cross racial lines, he would sometimes walk six miles to minister in small African-American churches. His fierce love for the black community was reciprocated, and oftentimes a knock on our door in the middle of the night was an urgent request for Papa to go and pray for one of their members who had fallen sick or died.

He would then walk to the home of the person to pray or stay up all night with grieving or stricken family members. It is no wonder that our church, Bethany World Prayer Center, is also a multiracial witness in the racially divided city of Baton Rouge, La.

The psalmist says, "The generation of the upright will be blessed" (Ps. 112:2). I have been greatly blessed by Papa and owe my life, my ministry and my legacy to a quiet sawmill worker who showed me the true meaning of integrity.

Roy Stockstill has been in ministry for 64 years. In 1983, he retired from Bethany World Prayer Center and turned the leadership over to his son, Larry. Roy continues to share his faith and encourages others to  develop a life of integrity and character.

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