J.A. Copeland moved his wife and five children to Center Point, Arkansas in 1907. The reason was because they had a good school there. The school wasn't for the Copeland children; it was for Copeland. The 26 year old dirt farmer had dropped out of school years before, and he wanted to go back and finish his education. Why? He had felt called by God to preach, and he knew that he needed to finish his education. And that’s what he did, attending high school along with one of his children.
J. A. Copeland was a simple man of faith who loved God and wanted to serve Him. In some ways, he was a man ahead of (or perhaps behind) his times. In an era in which a preacher’s faithfulness was often determined by his ability to debate and stridently defend the truth, Copeland was a man of love and peace and patience. Copeland never gave up farming; he would never earn enough money to support his large family by preaching alone. He was often called to preach gospel meetings in far off corners of Texas or Arkansas and wasn’t paid enough to cover his train ride home. He was never at the center of what was happening in the brotherhood; Delight, Arkansas is never at the center of much of anything. J.A. Copeland was a simple, quiet man of faith and substance who influenced many people while he was alive and many more after he died.
J. A. Copeland was my great-grandfather. I never met him; he died the year that I was born. But his simple faith in God and commitment to Christ is part of the DNA of my family. At a family reunion about thirty years ago, we counted 44 preachers among Papa Copeland’s sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, and that number would be much larger now if we added the next generation. Papa Copeland never knew he was started a family business; he just was trying to make a difference in the family of God.
When you throw a stone into a pond, ripples are created that spread our across the surface far from the stone’s entry point. Our lives causes ripples of influence that spread our far from us in ways that we can never imagine. We will never see all those ripples or how they impact others far from us. It is important to live our lives in the right way so that our splash makes the right ripples.