By Carl Stagner
Because of his commitment to the Lord, his family threw him out of the house at age fourteen. His school books were tossed out the door, and the injunction to go live at the church echoed harshly in his ears. He remembered the words of Psalm 27:10, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in” (ESV). So even as the young believer collected his belongings in a pillow case and set off into the unknown, a song eased the pain: “Whether I live or die, whether I wake or sleep, I am the Lord’s, I know.”
Milton Grannum grew up in Guyana, which was British Guiana at the time. Grannum is the man he is today because of the work of Church of God missions. As a Roman Catholic schoolboy, Grannum’s curiosity led him to attend the first vacation Bible school ever to be held in the country. The leaders were Herman and Lavera Smith, Church of God missionaries to Guyana. Grannum was intrigued by the message of the Church of God and won over by the love of the missionaries. Before long, Grannum was leading a group of peers to minister on the streets, in hospitals, and in nursing homes between the Sunday morning and evening services. But this newfound faith and commitment to the Church of God did not go over well with his parents, or his instructors.
“My family was Roman Catholic,” Grannum recounts. “On Sundays, no one saw me from morning until night because the Lord was my passion. The priests at the Roman Catholic school put a lot of pressure on my parents because I was so active in a non-Catholic church. In Roman Catholic doctrine, to even enter a non-Catholic church in those days was considered a sin. Not only that, but the culture in the country was such that in order for you to get a good job as an adult, you had to be a part of the one of the big churches—the Roman Catholics, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, or the Church of England. The Church of God was considered a non-entity in terms of status and significance. We didn’t have Church of God leaders positioned in different companies that would open doors for a young Church of God person like me. Everything hung on who you knew.” But everything did hang on who young Grannum knew, and his faith in the Lord allowed everything to work out for the good.
When circumstances seemed at their bleakest, Church of God missionaries brought hope to Grannum. Once on the street, the youth found his way to the home of his Sunday school teacher, who connected him once again with Herman and Lavera Smith. After Grannum had stayed with the Smiths for several weeks, Herman Smith found a house for Grannum and paid the rent out of his own pocket. “Every Saturday I went to Herman’s house to do whatever work needed to be done, to cut the grass, bathe the dog, wash the car…it was my tithe,” Grannum recalls. “After I finished working there every Saturday, they would give me a glass of milk and a sandwich and I would go home to the place I was staying. I had no money, but I knew my service should go to him.” At the conclusion of the Smiths’ service in Guyana, they arranged with the new missionaries to provide Grannum with lodging until he was eighteen, when he would be ready to leave for Bible college in Trinidad.
“When we invest in missions, we are making it possible for God to manifest himself through the instruments he is using in those countries. We don’t know the harvest, but we participate in the ‘seed time.’” Perhaps it’s this sentiment of Grannum’s that overwhelms him with anticipation for the Global Gathering. For the past two years, he has served on its program committee. “I’m looking forward to a clarification of vision, the cementing of powerful relationships, and for persons to capture a vision of the united church.” To register for the Global Gathering (June 22–25 in Anderson, Indiana), visit www.chog.org/globalgathering.
Reflecting back to that first VBS experience, Grannum says, “The second day I was there, we were doing arts and crafts. Smith asked me what I was doing. I told him I was finished doing my arts and crafts. He responded, ‘Well, if you’re finished, why don’t you become my helper?’ I don’t know what he had in mind, but what I heard was, Here is a person I had just met the day before who had now invited me to be his helper. From that moment on, I saw myself as a helper. I had a purpose in life. I believed it, embraced it, and it gave me new vision for what I was to do.”
Who would have guessed that a young boy in Guyana would have become the founding pastor of a large Church of God congregation in Philadelphia? Did Herman and Lavera Smith know what the fruit of their labor would be? Did Donald and Betty Jo Johnson and other missionaries who poured their all into children like Milton Grannum see the end result in advance? Did the churches that supported these missionaries know what the harvest would look like? No, but they were obedient to support and send workers into the fields. Thank God they did. Thank God they still do.