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November 5, 2007

Something Wonderful!

Editor’s note: This week’s devotion is pulled from the book Dam Break in Georgia—a collection of personal testimonies from those who survived the devastating flood that swept through the Toccoa Falls College campus in the early hours of November 6, 1977.

The rage of the waters was not assuaged. The next residence in the doomed row [of houses] lay right in the path of the fury and was also angrily swallowed. It belonged to Paul and Mary Williams. How “Uncle Paul” and Aunt Mary” met death we cannot know, but we can surmise that they met it as they did life, with serenity and equanimity.

Uncle Paul was a Texan. He met Aunt Mary at Toccoa and though she briefly served as a missionary in Cuba, she came back promptly to marry Uncle Paul. Just as promptly he took her back to Texas and stayed there twenty years. But the pull of Toccoa Falls and the hearty charisma of R.A. Forrest proved irresistible. They came back. Uncle Paul was a rancher, a cattleman and a dairyman. But even in the days when a full-fledged farm operated at Toccoa Falls, he was more. Uncle Paul was wise, philosophical, Will Rogers-like and dear to the students, staff, and faculty alike.

Aunt Mary was the kind who brought cookies to the guard shack for cold and lonely boys. The day before the flood she had given a married student, Jim Weiss, a ball of popcorn. When there was a vacancy on the Board of Trustees at Toccoa Falls College, Uncle Paul was nominated. Aunt Mary was the director of Christian Service for women for more than twenty years. At the time she died, she had in her purse $100 in Christian Service funds for the purchase of materials. When her purse was found after the flood the money was intact.

Aunt Mary not only directed Christian Service activities, she participated in them. At the hospital, in the schools, and in town, doors were opened because she cared for people. Dr. Opperman, TFC college president, affirms that sometimes at the end of the month when there was no way to meet the payroll for the college, Uncle Paul would walk in and lay a check on his desk. His resources were on the line for God.

When Uncle Paul was alive he always had appropriate stories, but he has a completely new story now. The grown children of Uncle Paul and Aunt Mary call them blessed. Their lengthy lives are over and their bodies rest on the hillside near the graves of Dr. and Mrs. R.A. Forrest.

The college that affectionately called them Uncle and Aunt honored them in death. They will be among the last to be buried on the tiny hillside. Just the Friday before the flood, Aunt Mary saw the Rev. Nathan Penland, executive director, Alumni Affairs, in the campus post office. He may have looked downcast, because Aunt Mary said, “Don’t get discouraged, Nate. I know we all do at times. Paul and I really believe God is going to meet the school real soon in a very unusual way. We don’t know exactly what He’s going to do, but it’s going to be wonderful.”

And wonderful it was! For godly people with heaven in view.

(Dam Break in Georgia—Sadness and Joy at Toccoa Falls by K. Neil Foster © 1978 Horizon Books Publishers, Camp Hill, PA 17011)