Posted by Larry Eckart on

God Was Doing More Than Cleaning Up a Cemetery                       

Dear saints of Island Lutheran,

God bless you all this late Monday evening.

It was a round about way that Steve White and I settled on Talbird Cemetery as one of the hurricane projects of Island Lutheran. At first we were going to do a smaller cemetery, Elliot Cemetery, where one of our founding members, Alexandria Patterson, is buried.

We showed that smaller cemetery to Ed Brashier from Lutheran Disaster Response. We will probably end up working on Elliot cemetery later. But Ed thought volunteers would have greater response to Talbird. Steve White tracked down the church with the deed to that cemetery: Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.

So Island Lutheran brought two different crews to Talbird Cemetery over the last two weeks. As you have seen in the photos, the tangled mess that was post hurricane is gone. Much of the peaceful sanctity has returned.

This past weekend I found families from Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church with brooms and rakes carefully, lovingly cleaning off the graves of their families. Their appreciation for our work is profound. I spoke with one pair of ladies. I chuckled. I had to listen closely to understand their Gullah laden speech.

The crews we brought in who worked on Talbird  felt great satisfaction in their work, as did the volunteers from Island Lutheran. But none of us, only the Lord, knew a higher need for that cemetery to be cleaned up. And that it needed to be done now. Now.

You see, tonight Rev. Ben Williams, the legendary pastor of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church died. He had been pastor of Mt. Calvary since 1983. He is the dean of African American pastors on the island and in the area. The funeral will be huge.

Rev. Ben was the one who opened his church and his children to our fliers and our VBS at Greens Shell Park. Ever since we have had a small but meaningful connection between our congregations. Kathy and I would run into Rev. Ben or someone else from Mt. Calvary periodically around the island.

Example. Just today Kathy was at Hilton Head Hospital and ran into Rev. Ben’s son. Rev. Ben was in ICU on life support.  God used Kathy to listen as Ben’s son asked questions about turning off life support and making other decisions that all children prefer to avoid. That moment where God had Kathy in the right place at the right time was built on several other times when she or we ran into Ben, his family or his congregation. A small but meaningful connection!

As I have told you, the African American cemeteries on Hilton Head go back to the days prior to the Civil War, back to the days of slavery and early liberation. These cemeteries are scattered around the island. There are 12 of these historic cemeteries.

Mt. Calvary holds the deed to five of these cemeteries. One of those five is Talbird Cemetery. All of these cemeteries are still a mess after the hurricane. 

Except one.

Rev. Ben Williams will be buried at Talbird Cemetery this Saturday.

Can I get a witness that God knows what He is doing?

We thought we were simply cleaning up a cemetery. God was working ahead so that this congregation, indeed the African American community in the area could bury their noted pastor with dignity.

Some days, following Jesus gives me chills. Good chills.

Please pray for the people of Mt. Calvary as they grieve over the loss of their pastor and make preparations to lay him to rest.



After the cleanup

Tags: mt. calvary, reverand ben williams, talbird cemetary