The newest book in my kids adventure series, "The Night Heroes," just came off the presses. "Winter Wolf," like the nine previous books, is set back in history, this time in Abingdon, Virginia, of the late 1780s. One of my favorite things to do as I travel and study areas in which to set books is to become familiar with the content and uniqueness of different towns.
And Abingdon truly is unique. If you are looking for an area that is at once both loaded with history and bursting with life in the present, the area surrounding Abingdon is a good choice to explore. When I'm preaching up that way, I'm at Emmanuel Baptist Church, a lovely church high on a hill. If one turns either left or right out of the driveway, though, and starts to drive, the possibilities are seemingly endless.
A mile or so away on the left is a Body Works Fitness, where I love to go work out when I am there. Back the other way, 10 miles or so, is the Sugar Hollow Park, maybe one of the two coolest places I ever go for a run (the other being the wildlife sanctuary in Walterboro, South Carolina). The trails through the tall pines at Sugar Hollow are otherworldly; I imagine running in heaven will be a lot like that.
Heading into the actual old town of Abingdon, though, is something you dare not miss. There are, of course, great restaurants to eat at (don't miss the Puerto Nuevo Fresh Mex and Seafood) and a store (The Blue Hills Natural Food Market) that sells local honey and, pay attention, pumpkin-spiced genuine maple syrup.
In the old, original section of town, you will find the famous Barter Theatre, an idea born out of desperation that has gone on to become an icon. There is the boyhood home of Robert Sheffey, "The Saint of the Wilderness," the famous Christian evangelist who took the gospel across the open wild with such power of God that his life was made into a movie. There is the Martha Washington Inn, which was once the Martha Washington Women's College. The first structure ever built in Abingdon, The Tavern, was erected in 1779. It also served as an inn and a stagecoach stop and was the first post office west of the Blue Ridge.
There is also the Cave House, which is where the idea for "Winter Wolf" came from to begin with. Legend has it that in 1760 Daniel Boone and some of his dogs were attacked by wolves that came out of the cave that is now under that house.
Abingdon (then called Black's Fort, after the fort that was built to defend the area from attack) was the beginning of big things in that area. If you go there today, you can still see all of the history, but you are also within driving distance of the bustling, modern city of Bristol, which sits on the state line between Tennessee and Virginia. A major highway runs through the area, and there are hotels, hospitals, industry, homes; it is simply a lovely, thriving area.
And all of it started out tiny and insignificant. And that, as you may have guessed, is my point in all of this.
Back in the early 1700s, when settlers were coming into the area, there was little to nothing. But people looked beyond their own years, considered kids and grandkids and generations on down the line and started cutting logs, hewing timber and building things that they knew would one day be forgotten and replaced by bigger, better, more durable things. But the work had to start somewhere, and the sacrifices they made and the efforts they expended became the foundation on which all others to come would eventually build the marvelous things we see today.
In 1 Chronicles 22:5 we read, "And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceeding magnificent, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore now make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death."
David knew that he could not build the temple; that task would fall to his son, Solomon. What he could do, though, was prepare the way for Solomon to do so. And as a result of that, the magnificent temple of Solomon became one of the most incredible structures Earth has ever seen. That principle, laying the foundation for the generations to come, is what allows a family or a church or even an entire society to become great.
It is easy to turn our attention inward and think just of our own time. But we have what we have mostly because others who came before us sacrificed and laid a foundation for us to build upon. That spirit of forethought and sacrifice seems to be dying out in our day, though, in favor of self-gratification, or even, dare I say it, self-worship.
Our children deserve moms and dads who will marry, stay together, raise the kids together, take them to church together, teach them together, pray for and with them together and sacrifice for them together. Such a "mundane life" may not seem nearly as exciting as a life of fulfilling the sinful or selfish desires of the flesh, but will we really be the generation who, from cradle to grave, benefits from the sacrifices and dedication of those who came before us without returning the favor to those who come after us?
Great works and great societies are not built by those who have an eye only for the moment and a heart only for their own desires; they are built by those who are willing to allow their very lives to become the building blocks upon which future generations can continue to reach ever higher.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@ cbc-web.org.