This past weekend, I had the joy of performing at a festival called “Music in the Park,” in Geraldine, Alabama. Several groups and soloists, along with myself as Bro Billy Bob, were on stage during the day. Several local authors sold their literary works too, as did I. Geraldine is about 15 miles from my hometown of Rainsville, where I spent my first 20 years. I hoped I might see some old friends there, perhaps whom I had not seen in a while. Wow! Did I get a surprise!

The event was put on by the city and Mayor Chuck Ables, as well as Donna Feazell, owner of IC Radio there. I have known the mayor and several of his family members for quite a long time. Donna Feasell has hosted several area radio and television shows, which I have appeared on. She is currently the host of a television and radio talk show called “Your Afternoon Drive Home.” She was the emcee of Saturday’s event. I expected to see both of them, and probably some of their family members, but I saw several others whom I had not anticipated

One such couple was Gerald and Lamesa Bowman. They were there promoting and selling their series of children’s books called “Simon the Weenie Dog.” I was their pastor in Fort Payne, almost 40 years ago. I have seen them several times since then, but always glad to see them again.

Another lady, who looked familiar but I couldn’t place her, walked up the me. As I often do at this age, I was thinking I should know her. She said, “You did my wedding.” She was not a member of my church, but her parents were. She and her husband were one of about a dozen couples I married one summer back in the 90s, when I was a pastor in Rainbow City. I had not seen them since those days.

Craig White, a long-time friend who now serves as a pastor in Pisgah, was there. I’ve seen Craig periodically through the years and even done programs at his churches. It’s always good to see friends like him.

While I was on stage, I spotted my cousin Tony Wood, and his wife Erika, in the crowd. I did not recognize the man with them. After I finished, I went back to speak to them. Tony introduced the man as Jim Spears, his cousin on the other side of his family. Jim said he lived up the mountain a piece, in the community of Pea Ridge. My mind went back, way back, to a time when I had less wrinkles and more hair, and sang rock-and-roll. I recalled a young man named Jimmy Spears, from that same area. He and his brother had sat in with our rock band several times at rehearsals and jam sessions. I remembered that he played drums and had long blonde hair. The man sitting across the table from me last Saturday did not look anything like the young man I remembered, but that had been almost 50 years ago. Much to my shock, it was him! We had not seen or heard from one another in all those years! Needless to say, we had much catching-up to do and we did. He had lived in Alaska for many years but had moved back to the mountain a few years ago.

What a blessed joy it is to meet up with those old friends from our past. There is an old gospel hymn titled, “There’s No Better Friend than Jesus.” How true that is. He never leaves us nor forsakes us!

— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.

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