This morning I realized, after writing this column for almost four years, that maybe it is time to write my own testimony, as I had prayed yet could not find anyone or anything else to write about this week. Born into a troubled marriage in Oct. 1945, I had a young mother, Marjorie Benefield Acord, who felt she had to leave her marriage. She left me with a neighbor and a note for my father, Ellis Acord. He took me to her parents, Carl and Lizzie Fairley, who adopted me when I was fourteen months old. Later my birth mother married Harold McCall, of San Antonio, and they were able to adopt two children, H.T. McCall and Janellen Valle, about the age of my own older two. My birth father married Dorris Thompson of Pascagoula, and they had three boys, Ellis, Jr., Roy Dale, and Larry Wayne Acord. The oldest, Ellis “Budgie” Acord, with his wife Linda, lives here in Hickory. All my parents are gone now, but I am close to the grown children of my birth mother and father.
I received things in my grandparents’ care that would not have been possible otherwise. Though they had had a hard life up to this point, having lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, and various personal problems, they both worked stable jobs and tried to improve our situation through the years, providing me with love, Jesus, and education in both academics and music. I learned to play the piano and enjoyed choir throughout high school and college.
Church was membership at the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church with Mama and Daddy, and participation also at my Aunt Esther and Uncle Callie’s First Baptist Church of Gautier, Mississippi, on the Coast where we lived. One morning our elementary school, next door to First Baptist Church, took all of us children to the morning service of the revival going on that week. At the end of the sermon, I, eight years old, ran to the front, crying and praying to be saved. I knew all about it, as I had been raised in church, but the Father, through His Holy Spirit, evidently drew me that morning to Jesus and His offer of salvation, and I was changed forever. I will never forget the joy I felt that day, as I went home and played hymns on the piano and sang praises about what He had done for me. The next day I tried to get my girlfriend to go down to be saved. Grant you, this was still during school hours! Yes, we live in a different America now.
I loved everything about church activities—playing for church services, enjoying Youth for Christ, Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, choir, Girls’ Auxiliary, even sermons. My mother instilled in me a love for the Word of God, and I enjoyed reading and listening to sermon materials as a young teenager, which has continued to be my spiritual food and pastime all throughout my life. To me, apologetics, or reasons to believe, with heavy doses of Bible scriptures, are important in teaching young people of our culture. Helping them see when God moves and works, as a result of prayer and supernatural experiences, changing lives and moving through gifts of the Spirit in church, is also vital.
I graduated from Pascagoula High School, and entered William Carey College, where I met and married my late husband, Royce Gale Russell, from Foxworth, Mississippi. He taught math for three years before working as a technical writer for Ingalls for 32 years. We built a home and raised our children in Gautier. We were married over 53 years when he went home to glory on February 1, 2018, here in Decatur. Royce was much respected and loved by me, our family and others.
In 1967, I graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi, then stayed home for sixteen years caring for our five children, after which I began teaching at Escatawpa Elementary near our home. Our only son David, a graduate of Greenville College in S. Illinois, and his wife Sherri Philyaw Russell, from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, live in Lebanon, Tennessee, where they raised and homeschooled their children and have been managers and house parents for Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes for eight mentally-challenged men, for 27 years. Their daughter, Bethany is a life coach and therapist living in Denver, Colorado, and Justin works construction in Nashville.
Our second child, Robin, is married to Bill Rivers, an art teacher, from Ocean Springs. They also live in Tennessee, caring for their only son Joshua, born with the congenital form of myotonic muscular dystrophy, which has caused him to be, at age twelve, still unable to walk or talk. But he is a lovable, sweet boy, lovingly cared for by his parents and nurses.
Thankfully, I have two daughters who live close to me now in Decatur. Mary Kay and Ed Boudreaux, also from Ocean Springs, both teach Special Education at Newton County High School. They gave us three grandchildren: Kayla, a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi, Jonathan, a sophomore at Mississippi State University, and Anna, a sixth grader at Newton County High School. Our youngest daughter is Joanna, married for 20 years to Kurt Glennon from near Lakeland, Florida. Kurt is in the Navy Reserves and is a pilot for Jetblue Airways. Their son Asher is six.
Our fourth child is Reba, married to Bryan Davis, from Moss Point. Living in Escatawpa, both are realtors serving Southeast Mississippi. Bryan has also been a district manager for a large retail company for 21 years, while Reba homeschooled their children. Their daughter Rebecca teaches ballet and will graduate from the University of South Alabama this spring. Their son Austin has recently begun a career as a drone photographer with a commercial FFA license.
In 1970 and ’71, God did a work in our lives, which changed us into being what some call “Bapti-costal,” since we began experiencing Pentecostal beliefs, joined an Assembly of God church, yet still attended Baptist churches at times, like when we moved here “chasing grandkids” and there was not an A/G church in town. Yet we loved and still love the people of Clarke-Venable Baptist Church, Decatur Church of God, and other churches in the area.
On the Coast, I had survived nephritis as a child and thyroid cancer after Joanie was born. After we moved here, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and surgery was scheduled. We visited a Pentecostal church where I requested the elders to anoint me with oil and pray for me to be healed, as James 5:14-15 recommends, which they did. After the surgery the surgeon told me they had to remove the kidney anyway, but the cancer was found to be necrotic, or dead!
When we moved here in 2000, I taught ninth grade English and Biblical History at NCHS for nine years before retiring after 25 years. People have been so good to us, we have made many friends, and we are very thankful God moved us here. God is good!
Live for Jesus! He’s coming soon!
You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 6012-635-3282.