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Transcript

Powerhouse for God

A documentary film produced and directed by Barry Dornfeld, Tom Rankin, and Jeff Titon.

1989 by Barry Dornfeld, Tom Rankin, and Jeff Titon.

Film transcript by Jeff Todd Titon.

The film was shot in Page Co., Virginia in the fall of 1985 and summer of 1986. The editing was completed and the film was put into distribution in 1989.

For historical and contextual information see the book by Jeff Todd Titon, POWERHOUSE FOR GOD: SPEECH, CHANT, AND SONG IN AN APPALACHIAN BAPTIST CHURCH (University of Texas Press, 1988), and the documentary LP recording by Jeff Todd Titon and Kenneth M. George, POWERHOUSE FOR GOD (University of North Carolina Press, 1982).

Abbreviations: V/O = voice over; O/C = off camera; FIBC = Fellowship Independent Baptist Church; PG = Powerhouse for God (the book).

CAST OF PEOPLE IN THE FILM

JOHN Sherfey, pastor of the Fellowship Independent Baptist Church

PAULINE Sherfey, wife of JOHN

DONNY Sherfey, son of JOHN and PAULINE

JEANNIE Sherfey, wife of DONNY

DENISE Sherfey, daughter of DONNY and JEANNIE

TAMMY Sherfey, daughter of DONNY and JEANNIE

STEPHANIE Sherfey, daughter of DONNY and JEANNIE

DANA JOE (DANIE) Sherfey, son of JOHN

SHARON Sherfey, wife of DANA JOE

CHARLES Sherfey, son of JOHN

PAMMIE SHERFEY, wife of CHARLES

JESSE COMER, Sunday School teacher at FIBC

RALPH LITTLE

KENNY STROUPE

TODD STROUPE, son of KENNY

VIRGINIA CUBBAGE

MELVIN GRIMSLEY

GARY JENKINS

DENNIS JENKINS

HARRY JENKINS

MINNIE JENKINS

VERNIE MEADOWS

HATTIE MEADOWS

GOLDIE DOVE

ALLEN DOVE

TOMMY BEALS

JAMES MOOMAW

and several others not mentioned in the transcript by name.

TRANSCRIPT

[STANLEY, PAGE COUNTY, VIRGINIA. INTERIOR, FELLOWSHIP INDEPENDENT BAPTIST CHURCH.]

[MUSIC] (JOHN AND PAULINE SHERFEY SINGING "PREACHING BY THE ROADSIDE") [1]

JOHN and PAULINE (SINGING): Preaching by the roadside, under a tree;

Folks come along and make a mock of me.

They say we're crazy, soon we'll meet our fate,

But now we've churches in every state.

Somewhere in glory you'll find me;

You'll find me, yes, you'll find me.

Somewhere in glory you'll find me

Singing and shouting in eternity.

While I am resting beneath the sun,

My home is ready [at] the right hand of God.

The angels are holding my robe and crown

While Gabriel is ready, trumpet to sound.

Somewhere in glory you'll find me;

You'll find me, yes, you'll find me.

Somewhere in glory you'll find me

Singing and shouting in eternity.

[MUSIC FADES UNDER]

[PICTURE MONTAGE WHILE SINGING CONTINUES]

[EXTERIOR, FIBC]

[TITLE: Powerhouse for God]

[SOUTHEASTERN PAGE COUNTY FROM THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS]

[TITLE: Page County, Virginia]

[JOLLETT METHODIST CHURCH CEMETERY]

[GARY JENKINS AND CREW WORKING ON STONE RETAINING WALLS, SKYLINE DRIVE]

[HARRY AND MINNIE JENKINS ON THEIR FRONT PORCH, SNAPPING BEANS]

[KENNY AND TODD STROUPE LAYING CEMENT BLOCKS ON A HOUSE FOUNDATION IN A SUBDIVISION]

[JESSE COMER ON HIS LAWN TRACTOR MOWING POTATO TOPS]

[CHARLES SHERFEY AND HIS SONS PLAYING FOOTBALL IN THEIR BACK YARD]

[SOFTBALL GAME AT FELLOWSHIP INDEPENDENT BAPTIST CHURCH PICNIC]

[LUNCH AT THE CHURCH PICNIC AS JOHN'S V/O COMES UP.]

JOHN (V/O): I had been to the altar before, but I mean truly to make a conversion, I think I made that at Milburn Morlock's tent revival. [2]

[INTERIOR, JOHN AND PAULINE'S HOUSE TRAILER, STANLEY, VIRGINIA.]

JOHN: And when I went in I set down about five seats from the front, over by, it'd be on the right side as you go down the aisle, and about five seats from the front. And everything that Milburn said, he had the longest finger I believe I ever saw, that night, and it was right at me. And I thought, "My Lord, who's been telling him stuff on me?" I mean, he was a-hitting me up one side and down the other one, you know. But when he made that altar call, which I didn't think he was ever going to do, but he finally did, out of there I went, buddy. And I made a commitment to Christ.

[INTERIOR, FIBC. JOHN, PAULINE, JESSE, DONNY PRAY AT ALTAR FOR STEPHANIE TO BE HEALED. SOUND OF PRAYER CONTINUES UNDER.]

NARRATOR (V/O): This is a film about the pastor of a Baptist church in Virginia's northern Blue Ridge Mountains, and about his family and the church congregation. We center the film on the worship service, and we move out from worship to portray pastor John Sherfey and his family. We aim to show how they bring meaning to their lives through songs, prayers, sermons, and life stories.

JOHN (HEALING PRAYER): ... you said, "By his stripes we are healed." We believe that this morning. Right now in Jesus' name, amen. Amen. That little head's a-cooling off already, praise God. Amen. [3]

[INTERIOR, JESSE COMER'S HOME, COMERTOWN.]

(TITLE: Jesse Comer, Sunday School Teacher)

JESSE: In your heart, when the Spirit of God comes in, into your heart--. It's not the old heart that pumps the blood, but it's the center of man, the soul, the spirit of man. When a person gets saved, they know the difference between head religion and heart religion. It's hard to put into words, but you can feel it, you know that it's made a change in you, from the old person you used to be, to the person that you are now, when you're, after you're saved. You know there is a difference, difference there without a shadow of a doubt. A person with head religion may think sometime that they're right with God, but when they hear the right sermon preached, and when the conviction of God comes upon 'em, as we talked about a while ago, I think they will actually know the difference.

[INTERIOR, FIBC]

JOHN (PREACHING): The Bible said that "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shall believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." There's a lot of church members but, honey, are they saved? That's what I'm trying to get over to you tonight. It means more than just saying "I'm a church member. I belong to this church. I've been in this church ever since I was a little boy," or "ever since I was a little girl." Yes, and you can still die and go to hell setting right in that church. Now you-all heard me tell the story about the woman seventy years old. Had been in a church, she joined that church when she was fourteen, and after she, the evangelist came along and preached "Ye must be borned again," and she came to an old-fashioned altar, gave her heart to God, and as she got off of that altar and testified, she testified to the fact "I have never heard 'Ye must be borned again.' I've been in this church ever since I was fourteen years old and I never knew 'Ye must be borned again.'" God help the pastor of those churches. They need to preach it that ye must be borned again. Because if you're not saved, and not, your name's not in the lamb's book of life, no matter how many times you've been to church, no matter how many times you pay your tithes, no matter how close you think you're living, if you haven't been borned again you'll die in your sins and go to hell.

RALPH LITTLE: Amen, amen.

[INTERIOR, JOHN AND PAULINE'S TRAILER.]

JOHN: After I got converted, why, the Lord started dealing with me to preach. And, you know, with me with no education--well, I had to eighth grade; I didn't get quite through the eighth grade--and the devil was beating me to death saying, "You can't preach. You can't preach. You got no education." Well, you see, I hadn't learned to trust the Lord. And so I just kept running. But still he kept burdening me. And Brother Fred Weston, down at the Mead Corporation, he'd say, "Why, John, God's calling you to preach." And I'd say, "Well, if he does, I'll preach," you know, and me knowing all the time that he was, you see. But still, I was trying to get away from it. I was under that stress and load and couldn't even do my job hardly right, you know. But on the way home that night, it just got so, burden got so heavy upon me. [STILL PHOTOGRAPH: JOHN STANDING NEXT TO HIS '42 STUDEBAKER.] I had an old '42 Studebaker. I think we showed you the picture of it the other day. Got about a half a mile of home and I just got to crying so bad I couldn't see the road. I just pulled over and fell down over the wheel, and I said, "Lord, if it's preach, I'll go." And when I said "I'll go," that load lifted off of me and, and, praise God, it's still gone. [LIGHT LAUGH] [4]

[INTERIOR, FIBC]

JOHN (PREACHING): Amen, it doesn't matter whether they've got a lot of money, or whether they're poor. It doesn't matter. Amen. Some'll say, "Well, if they're rich, they can buy their way in." No, honey, I'm glad I'm in something tonight that money can't buy people in, hah! Praise God, you may have a lot of wealth, hah!, but you'll never buy your way into the family of God, hah! If you get into the family of God, hah!, you'll come in by the new birth, hah!, just like Jesus told Nicodemus to do. [5]

JOHN (PREACHING): It makes, reminds me about the old woman, you know, that, she woke her husband up for ten years. Run him downstairs, just every little bit, "Somebody's in the house. Somebody's in the kitchen." And he'd go downstairs, turn the lights on, nobody there. So he'd go back, get in the bed, tell her there's nobody there. One night she, she said, "Honey, there's somebody in the kitchen. Go down quick." He jumped out of bed, down the steps he went, flipped the light on, and as usual he'd flipped it back off. But when the light came on he saw a man standing there. And he started, he'd already turned, started back up the steps but he turned around, turned the light on again and seen the man a-standing there. He said, "Don't move, don't move." Said, "You stand right there." He said, "You can have anything you want. Don't you leave." He said, "My wife's been looking for you for ten years." [LAUGHTER] I been looking for Jesus, too. Amen? I been looking for him for thirty-six years. Thirty-seven years to be exact. I've been looking for the Lord, but he hasn't come yet. But, praise God, he is coming... [FADES UNDER]

KENNY STROUPE (V/O): I think he has a great calling from the Lord and the Lord uses him. And I've never seen him stop.

[INTERIOR, KENNY STROUPE'S HOME, STANLEY.]

KENNY: When the Lord called on him to preach a message, he preached that message, and delivered that message, and delivered it with power, and with the Spirit.

[INTERIOR, FIBC]

JOHN (PREACHING): Praise God, I been looking for Jesus for thirty-seven years. He hasn't come yet... [FADES UNDER]

KENNY (V/O): You can feel the power of God, you can feel the Spirit when it begins to move and it begins to use a person. And I can see that in Brother John and I can see that in his preaching and in his actions and in just the way that he stands behind the pulpit and the way the Lord uses him.

[CUT TO KENNY AT HOME]

KENNY: Now I've seen many preachers and been in many churches, and but I've never heard a sermon delivered any better than Brother John can deliver a sermon.

[FADE TO BLACK]

[INTERIOR, FIBC]

[MUSIC] (VIRGINIA CUBBAGE, SHARON SHERFEY, AND JOHN SHERFEY LEAD THE CONGREGATION SINGING "SWEET HOUR OF PRAYER") [6]

VIRGINIA CUBBAGE, SHARON AND JOHN (SINGING): ... this robe of flesh I'll drop, and rise,

to seize the everlasting prize

and shout while passing through the air,

"Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer."

[CUT TO JOHN AND PAULINE]

[MUSIC] (JOHN AND PAULINE SHERFEY LEAD THE CONGREGATION SINGING "WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN") [7]

JOHN AND PAULINE (SINGING): Will the circle be unbroken,

By-and-by, Lord, by-and-by

there's a better home a waiting

In the sky, Lord, in the sky.

[FADES UNDER]

JESSE (V/O): The singing, I think, will lift a church up spiritually before the preacher gets up to preach. And there are a lot of people that are given a chance to sing in the church that love to sing. Even though we might not be great singers, ah, like I have said before, we like to give everybody in the church that wants to, a chance to participate.

[INTERIOR, DANA AND SHARON'S HOUSE TRAILER, INWOOD, W.V.]

[JOHN, PAULINE, DANIE (DANA), AND SHARON ARE LOOKING AT FAMILY PHOTOS]

SHARON: What was that kid playing with there? What'd he have?

JOHN: Yep. Buddy Wayne Sherfey. [8]

NARRATOR (O/C): John, where's the one with Pauline's skinny legs?

ALL: [LAUGHTER]

PAULINE: Oh, right here it is.

JOHN: [LAUGHS] It's in there.

PAULINE: I think if you'd hold his britches leg up his'n'd been about as skinny as mine.

JOHN: What do you mean? I can't believe that I ever was that skinny, of course. I sold a wheat crop for eight dollars to get married on. Eight dollars I got out of four acres of wheat, and all that work I'd done to earn that wheat crop, and I sold that for eight dollars just to get this. But it was worth it.

PAULINE (LAUGHING): Look what you got.

ALL: [LAUGHTER]

JOHN: And I sold it to Bill Hilton, my brother-in-law, for eight dollars, and when I went to get married, I give six dollars and, or five dollars and something I think it was for the license, fifty cents for something else, I don't know what that was, a dollar to the preacher, and a dollar to the man to take me to get married. I come back home with not a penny in my pocket. I couldn't even buy her no chewing gum!

SHARON: [LAUGHTER]

PAULINE: Well, I had enough where you'd already bought me when you were going with me.

JOHN: Yes, she had a bowl full. That's right.

PAULINE: I had a butter dish.

SHARON: [LAUGHTER] Isn't that cute?

JOHN: Right. [LAUGHTER] Well, I took care of her on chewing gum. I really, I really fed that woman on chewing gum.

SHARON: Is that why you love it so much now?

PAULINE: Probably.

[FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHS FROM SHERFEYS AND MEADOWS] [9]

[FARM SECURITY ADMINISTRATION 1930s PHOTOGRAPHS]

[SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK PHOTOGRAPHS]

[MUSIC] (JOHN, DONNY, DENISE, AND TAMMY SHERFEY SING "GLORYLAND" UNDER.)

NARRATOR (V/O): Brother John and most of the older members of the church told us their memories of farm life in the old days. Their people were mostly English and Scots-Irish, and they came into the mountains before the Civil War. Fathers led the large families and they farmed as their ancestors had done. They produced more than they needed, and they traded their surplus in the valley markets. Many of today's church elders are still satisfied to farm part of the time.

[EXTERIOR, VERNIE MEADOWS' FARM, STANLEY. VERNIE DOING CHORES.]

VERNIE: In one sense, the world, it was better than it is now. For we raised all our stuff through the summer and then of a winter, why, we'd just set back, take it easy, raise chickens and eggs, and a truck'd come through and pick 'em up and pay us and bring our groceries to us, and it was nice. I enjoyed it. We'd get our work done, then hunt through the fall.

[PHOTOS BY THE FSA, PARK, AND TITON ON RELIGIOUS SUBJECTS]

[MUSIC] (SHERFEYS CONTINUE SINGING "GLORYLAND" UNDER)

NARRATOR (V/O): Like farming, the Baptist religion in the Blue Ridge is traditional. It comes from the part of European Protestantism that emphasized religion as a heartfelt experience. Baptists and Methodists brought this religion to Appalachia and the South in the eighteen hundreds. Preachers rode through the mountains and held services in people's homes. Many were converted at camp meetings and, later, churches arose in the region.

[CUT TO FIBC INTERIOR, CONGREGATION PRAYS AS NARRATOR CONTINUES V/O] In the mountains of Page County, Virginia, it has never really mattered if a person were a Baptist, Methodist, or Pentecostal. What matters is whether a person is saved. The church members told us that being saved starts with the knowledge that God has condemned them to hell for their sins. But if they repent sincerely, Jesus forgives, and the Holy Spirit enters, and they are saved. They believe that from then on they must rely on the Bible and the Holy Spirit. If they backslide into sin, they can rededicate their lives to God.

[INTERIOR, JESSE COMER's HOME.]

JESSE COMER: Prayer, to me, is talking with the Lord. It's, ah, thanking him and praising him for what he's done for you, asking him to meet the needs that you pray about in your life, and

[CUT TO INTERIOR, FIBC. DONNY TAKING PRAYER REQUESTS. JESSE CONTINUES V/O] believing God will do these things when you pray, by faith. [10]

DONNY: Before we do, maybe there's someone that has an urgent request that they'd like to make known at this time.

JEANNIE: Donny, I'd like to remember all the lost. You know, a lot of times we tend to forget about them, and the ones that used to come to church that's slipped along the wayside. Let's remember all them and I also have an unspoken request. And I'd like for the church to pray for me that I can be the witness God would have me to be. You know, the way was opened up this week out at the, work, that I could witness to some of 'em. And some of 'em talked like they was really thinking about the Lord. All of them's lost. Let's remember them in prayer.

JOHN: Amen. Bless you, brother Jesse.

DONNY: Let's remember that request this morning. Does someone else have a request? D. J.?

DANA JOE: Donny, a while back I had a request for work. And one of the guys up there, they just hired a new guy up there, and he come to me, he told me he was a Christian. And I just, it overjoyed me that the, God is moving at work. And now two other guys told me that they're trying to mend their ways, they're trying to quit their cussing and their drinking. And it just, it just tickles me that God is moving in Frederick, too, as he moves down here.

JOHN: Amen, yes.

DANA JOE: I just ask you to keep praying for that plant up there.

JOHN: Amen, bless you, Danie.

[FADE TO BLACK]

[INTERIOR, FIBC, A DIFFERENT SERVICE]

JESSE: Let's remember the lost everywhere tonight, including my own family that's lost and in sin. I'm not giving up on 'em, as I've said many times, but it sure is discouraging. And I'm asking y'all definitely when you pray tonight, remember my four lost children, my nine grandchildren, all of 'em at the age of accountability [11] but one. Possibly two. All of 'em lost, all my son-in-laws, every one of 'em. I'd have enough to fill two or three of these seats here tonight, if I could get 'em all here, and I mean they'd be sitting close together. I'm concerned about it. So I'm asking y'all from the very depth of my heart tonight. Pray for them. Remember 'em when you go to bed at night. I've got a pretty good sized family to be no older than I am, and I want to see 'em make it to heaven. I want to see that circle in heaven not broken. I want to see 'em there when I get there.

JESSE (V/O): We ask everyone that will and can to get up out of their seats and come forth, and this is the altar prayer.

DONNY: I believe we'll ask Brother Kenny [Stroupe] to lead us in prayer.

[ALTAR PRAYER] (NOT TRANSCRIBED)

JOHN (V/O): So there's power in the Word, see. And if people believe that and live that, you can have a power-house for God. But until they believe it, it's nothing at all; it's just like a mere book. [12]

[EXTERIOR. CHURCH MEMBERS FRAMING AND ROOFING JOHN'S NEW HOUSE, NEXT TO THE CHURCH.] [13]

MELVIN GRIMSLEY: Now Brother John you nail yours and I'll get mine.

JOHN: I'll get that set down here.

BARRY DORNFELD (O/C): John, how much is it costing to build the new house?

JOHN (O/C): This one, costs about twenty-five thousand to build this one.

BARRY DORNFELD (O/C): That include labor or not?

JOHN : No. See, the labor's charitable work that these men are doing. Come in, work, you know, just charity for the church.

[CUT TO JESSE SAWING WOOD, OTHERS WORKING.]

JESSE COMER: About yay long?

JOHN (V/O): Build a house, you know, you want--. I'm not going to be here forever, you know, as old as I'm a-getting, I'll soon be, if the Lord don't call me home, why, I'll get down to where I won't be able to preach, and, but, I want, certainly I want to have something good for the next preacher that comes along. When we left from the Comertown church [STILL PHOTO OF COMERTOWN CHURCH], we came to the old Graves Chapel [STILL OF GRAVES CHAPEL], which is just straight down below us here, about, oh, not even half a mile. Saved up enough money to buy this piece of ground and then we borrowed twenty thousand from the bank and we built the church. [CUT TO NEARBY ROAD SIGN ADVERTISING FIBC.]

NARRATOR (V/O): While making this film, we wondered about this church as a community. [CUT TO EXTERIOR, FIBC. CHURCH MEMBERS GREETING IN FELLOWSHIP BEFORE THE SUNDAY MORNING SERVICE; SOUND UNDER.] We saw that many members traveled from other towns to get there. And so, instead of a neighborhood, the church community revolves around families, and the promise of their being reuinted in heaven. John is the heart of the church, and his family is central to what goes on there. Although he was born and raised in the mountains a few hundred miles to the south, many people told us John continues the religious tradition they grew up in. Yet, there's a strong influence of younger people in the church, and this has already resulted in some change. For now, the church is a community of families, beliefs, and worship.

[INTERIOR, FIBC. JOHN SHAKES HANDS WITH TOMMY BEALS AS A NEW MEMBER OF THE CHURCH]

JOHN: Tommy, we give you the right hand of fellowship into the church of the Fellowship Independent Baptist Church, to work with us and us with you, and we love you. Be faithful, be steadfast, and do the will of God and he'll bless you. God bless you. Amen.

[MUSIC](CONGREGATION SINGS "I'LL FLY AWAY.") [14]

JOHN: Now I want you Christians to come around and shake hands with him, tell him you're going to pray for him. [MEMBERS EMBRACE TOMMY.]

CHORUS (SINGING): ... where joys will never end, I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, o glory, I'll fly away....

[CUT TO INTERIOR, JOHN AND PAULINE'S TRAILER. JOHN WATCHING VIDEO SAMPLE OF THIS FILM ON TELEVISION.]

BARRY DORNFELD (O/C): John, why did you decide to participate in this film?

JOHN: To me, any time you can witness for Christ, I think it's a good thing. I know some don't like TV cameras, and, but to me that is one great way of witnessing for Christ, see. Because when it's played on the television or showed on the screen, a lot of people [are] going to see it that would never go to church. They'll never enter the church. They get to hear the witnessing of Christ, they get to see the life, how they live, and to me that's a great thing. [15]

[INTERIOR, FIBC. SPECIAL-HYMNS] [MUSIC] (JOHN, CHARLES, PAMMIE, DONNY, AND JEANNIE SHERFEY SINGING "GOING HOME.")

CHORUS (SINGING): Going home, going home, I'm going home,

There's nothing to hold me here;

Well, I've caught a glimpse of the heavenly home;

Praise God, I'm going home.

Going home, going home, I'm going home,

There's nothing to hold me here;

Well, I've caught a glimpse of the heavenly home;

Praise God, I'm going home. [16]

[INTERIOR, DANA JOE AND SHARON'S TRAILER. JOHN, PAULINE, DANA JOE, AND SHARON RELAXING AFTER SUPPER.]

JOHN: All right, there's me and Pauline and Charles and Donny, that's one group; then there's me and mom, that's another [STILL PHOTO]. We sing duet. And then there's me and Denise and Tammy and Donny sings together.

PAULINE: Tammy and Denise.

JOHN: Well, I'll get to that in a minute, honey. And I'm just coming down the line, now.

SHARON: You got to get 'em all.

JOHN: Then there's myself and Donny, Charles, Pam, and Jeannie sing together [STILL PHOTO]. Then there's Sharon and Danie sings together. Then sometimes me, Danie and Sharon and sometimes, who else? Have I got 'em all?

PAULINE: Tammy and Denise sings together [STILL PHOTO].

JOHN: Tammy and Denise sings together.

DANA JOE: Charles and Pam.

JOHN: Charles and Pam sings together.

SHARON: There's a lot.

JOHN: So, it just, it's however we link up, that's how we go. A lot of Sherfey to sing!

[INTERIOR, DONNY AND JEANNIE'S HOME, STANLEY. DONNY AND HIS DAUGHTERS DENISE, TAMMY, AND STEPHANIE, REHEARSE]

[MUSIC] ("LOVE WILL ROLL THE CLOUDS AWAY.")

CHORUS (SINGING): As along life's way you go...

DONNY (V/O): I started the girls off when they were three years old. And I would set one on one knee, and one on the other knee, and we would sing, and then after they got, I guess, about eleven, I started learning them harmony and parts, learned that you try to get a harmony in there. That's the key to it. Get it to where it sounds like a melody, and then you get something pretty to come out of it. But [I] learned 'em parts after awhile. They have what seems like a natural thing for it, anyway.

CHORUS (SINGING): ... and the world--

DONNY: No, no, no. [SINGING:] When the road gets rough...

[CUT TO INTERIOR, FIBC]

[MUSIC] (DONNY, DENISE, AND TAMMY IN CHURCH SING "I BOWED ON MY KNEES AND CRIED HOLY")

CHORUS (SINGING): ... one who died for me.

O I bowed on my knees and cried holy, holy, boldly;

I clasped my hands and sang Glory,

Glory, to the son of God.

O I bowed on my knees ...

[CUT TO INTERIOR, DONNY AND JEANNIE'S HOME.]

DENISE: [I'll] be a secretary. And then, because I like indoors. And I'm taking courses for business. And if I can't be that, I want to be a singer. And if I can't be that, be a hair stylist.

DORNFELD (O/C): Why do you want to be a secretary over being a singer?

DENISE: Well, I don't know! [LAUGHS.] I just like thinking of myself being a secretary since I can get dressed up and all that stuff, 'cause I like dressing up.

TAMMY: A cosmetologist, which is a hair stylist. And then if I can't be that. I'll probably go into public relations or something like that.

DORNFELD (O/C): What would you like about cosmetology?

TAMMY: Well, I like fooling with Stephanie's hair, or mine, and I think it'd be an interesting career for me.

STEPHANIE: A hair style. And if I can't be that, I'll be a singer.

[EXTERIOR, DONNY AND JEANNIE'S HOUSE. JEANNIE, DENISE, AND TAMMY TAKE IN LAUNDRY WHILE DONNY AND JOHN BUILD AN EQUIPMENT SHED. BANTER AND SOUNDS OF HAMMERING.]

JEFF TITON (O/S): Do you think of yourself as a working mother now?

JEANNIE (O/S): Yeah, I would say so. It seems like I work all the time.

[INTERIOR, FAST-FOOD RESTAURANT IN STANLEY, VIRGINIA. JEANNIE SLICING TOMATOES.]

TITON (O/S): When you decided to work here did you talk it over with Donny?

JEANNIE: Yeah. We had a family discussion about it. We sat down, we told the girls exactly that they had to help out with the work at home because that I wouldn't have time to do it all. And they agreed to it. And I basically came to work to pay for my car. We had traded cars. And Donny had about all that he could handle at the time, so I came to work to pay for that. And I got that paid for, so then he traded trucks on me. So then I started making payments on the truck. Now then, it's a new home. [LAUGHS] And by the time the home's paid for, I'll be ready to retire. [17]

[INTERIOR, AUTOMOBILE. DONNY AND CHARLES SHERFEY DRIVING AND TALKING.]

NARRATOR (V/O): John's sons, Charles, Donny, and Danie, commute several hours from their homes to the Washington, DC area where they deliver fuel and home heating oil. They choose to live near their family despite the long hours they have to drive.

[CUT TO CHARLES DELIVERING FUEL OIL, THEN IN HIS TRUCK, DRIVING AND LISTENING TO GOSPEL MUSIC ON HIS CASSETTE PLAYER, THEN SITTING ON HIS PORCH AT HOME.]

CHARLES: Well, mom and dad sang a lot at home, they were, especially when we were traveling to different places, going to different churches, us boys would be in the back and there was a lot of times we'd be punching each other, or pinching each other, you know, [STILL PHOTO OF JOHN AND BOYS, BACK OF OLD PONTIAC] just being typical boys we were always at each other. I think mom and dad in the front were trying to drown us out and they were singing "Just Give Me One More Day." Seemed like that's the song I remember the most: "Lord, Just Give Me One More Day." And they'd be singing at the top of their lungs. I think they were trying to drown the noise out. And of course, [LAUGHS] you get three boys in the back seat, it's hard to drown that noise out. [18]

[INTERIOR, FIBC.] [MUSIC] (JOHN AND PAULINE SINGING "ONE MORE DAY.")

JOHN AND PAULINE (SINGING): Do not call me now, dear Lord, for I'm not ready,

Lest the soul be lost and I'll be cast away.

Hear my feeble plea, dear Lord, and give me heaven;

Don't turn me down, dear Lord, but give me one more day.

O dear mother I have nothing now to offer,

But a soul that beams with just a feeble ray.

Will it get me o'er this awful lake of darkness

Or must I die without a chance of one more day.

One more day is all I ask, to live forever;

Hold my hand and let me hear the angels say,

"Write his name upon the shining book," o angel,

Don't turn me down, dear Lord, but give me one more day.

JOHN: Amen, that song has always been special to us because I've got the witness here behind me. And Pauline and I [were] singing it on the radio, years ago. Donny had got away from God, drifted back in sin, and--. Course he went with the wrong crowd, and I know he don't mind me telling this. And he was in the Comertown church when we made the altar call that morning after I'd preached. Donny jumped up and ran out the door. We went to the radio station and our hearts was broke, burdened. And Pauline said, "Let's sing that song and dedicate it to Donny." The news I got was that Donny just broke down and wept. Thank God, that night [chokes back tears] after I got through preaching, by the help of God--I can't preach without the Lord--Donny came to the altar. He's been there ever since. That's why I like that song. I tell you, friends, there's nothing like living for the Lord. Satan will tear you down if he can, but God will give you the victory.

[INTERIOR, DONNY AND JEANNIE'S HOME. PARAKEET CHIRPING.] [19]

DONNY: Dad was preaching one morning. That was at Comertown. Dad was preaching one morning and I got up and walked out of the church and I didn't, you know, felt like I needed it, and besides that I felt like I was condemned for what I was doing, and ah, I didn't go back in, and then me and my wife and her father and mother were riding down the road and I was listening to the radio--. I usually went to the radio station but I didn't go that Sunday. And I heard that song and I broke down and started crying. And that night I went back to the altar.

JEANNIE: When he went out of church that morning I felt like that he had came up short, and that that's the reason he'd left. So I went out after him but he wouldn't go back in. So I went back in and got my pocketbook and told his mom, and his mom was setting close to where we were, and I told her that we was going. And it seemed to upset her quite a bit. Then we went on back down the road towards my parents' house and got with them and started riding around, just kindly viewing the countryside. And when he broke down, I knew that it was because he was feeling condemned and the Lord was speaking to his heart.

[CUT TO INTERIOR, JOHN AND PAULINE'S TRAILER.]

JOHN: But he told me, he said he'd been playing both sides of the fence. In other words, he was going to church and professing to be a Christian, and then he would go back and live in the world and, you know--. But he said, "I found out you can't play both sides of the fence."

[CUT TO INTERIOR, DONNY AND JEANNIE'S HOUSE.]

DONNY: You know, dad's the type of person, he's been in the ministry business for a long time, but, ah, I think any time you, you know, well, you fellows have talked to him quite extensively and you've found out that he's rather strong in what he believes. And, ah, he knows the way that, or he knows what the Bible says is the way you should live. And I think any time you see one of your own children, you know, applying the principles that you think the Bible teaches, it's going to make you happy. And he still relates the story, that--. Well, he told you all. So he's still relating the story, I guess. Ah, it's something I'll never forget. I guess it's something he'll never forget.

[INTERIOR, FIBC.] [MUSIC] (JOHN SINGING "I MUST TELL JESUS.") [20]

JOHN (SINGS): I must tell Jesus all of my trials,

I cannot bear these burdens alone;

In my distress he kindly will help me;

He ever loves and cares for his own.

I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus,

I cannot bear my burdens alone;

I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus,

Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

[CUT TO MOVING SHOT OF STANLEY, VIRGINIA'S MAIN STREET, THEN TO SHOTS OF FARMS AND CHURCHES IN THE SOUTHEASTERN PAGE COUNTY COUNTRYSIDE.]

O how the world to evil allures me,

I how my heart is tempted to sin.

I must tell Jesus and he will help me

Over the world the vict'ry to win.

I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus,

I cannot bear my burdens alone;

I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus,

Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

[INTERIOR, FIBC.]

JOHN: How true that is. Jesus can help us...

[MUSIC] (JOHN LEADS CONGREGATION IN "AMAZING GRACE.") [21]

NARRATOR (V/O): By telling stories about himself and his family, John binds doctrine to personal experience. His testimony about his first sermon points out how he learned to depend on God, not on himself. [22]

[INTERIOR, JOHN AND PAULINE'S TRAILER.]

JOHN: I went back to prayer meeting, told the pastor the Lord had called me to preach. And on Sunday he told the church, he said, "Now, the Lord's called brother John to preach." He said, "I'm going to take him with me down to Goshen Valley, Sunday, to preach down there, out in the sagegrass field." And of course, me just being young, I went home and I memorized me a sermon. And I was going to show 'em what a preacher John was. And I did. [LAUGHS.] 'Cause when I got up to preach, honey, believe me, I had it, I mean, the fifteenth chapter of St. John, I had that down so good, man, I could just ream it off, you know? But when I got up to say it, why, it left me. It was gone, blank. And all I could do was just testify and cry, you know, and tell 'em how the Lord saved me. And that was it. And then, as I came back up the road that evening, I was riding with brother Milburn Morlock, and he looked over and said, "John, pray. It'll be all right." [LAUGHS.] Well, I wish he'd have shut up his fist and a-hit me, you know. [LAUGHS.] I was already a-hurting.

[INTERIOR, FIBC.]

JOHN (PREACHING): Honey, God give me this message, hah! I go to the study and I pray about it, hah! I ask God what he wants me to preach, hah! And I can't do it unless God gives it to me. And when God puts it on me, honey, whether you like it or whether you don't, hah! it's God that said it, hah! Talk it over with him. Amen. [23]

[INTERIOR, FIBC. JOHN'S STUDY.]

JOHN: Ah, yes, I'm sure they's some folks going to see this film and they'll say, "Well, that preacher's mad, he's wild," see. Because--. But really, I'm not--. I'm feeling good. [LIGHT LAUGH.] If they just had my feeling, they'd know then, why, see. But that, that's the way God called me to preach.

TITON: I remember you once said, "I don't write my sermons down, I pray them down."

JOHN: Right.

[PAN TO NARRATOR.]

TITON: What, what does that mean?

[PAN TO JOHN.]

JOHN: Well, I pray and ask God, as I told you awhile ago, for the message. And then I rely on him to give me what he wants me to speak. And when I get in the pulpit it just comes. And how, now, that I cannot tell you, but it just comes upon me, and the words, it seems like one'll push the other one out.

[INTERIOR, FIBC.]

JOHN (PREACHING): You know what, beloved, I'd let up on it, hah! I haven't preached as hard as I have been, hah! Hah! because, ah, hah! some got a little puffed and got a little hurt, hah! But my brothers and sisters tonight, hah! if you get puffed you're just going to have to swell up, hah! and if you bust, just go ahead and bust, hah! because God will seam it back up, hah! and put you together, hah! I'm going to tell you just like it is. If you want to go to heaven, good. If you don't, that's up to you. Amen? God said, "John, I want you to preach harder than ever before." And I said, "God, I promise you I'll do it." I set out there in that field and I wept like a baby. I mean I wept. I don't know whether my wife knew it or not, but brother I wept just like a baby. Why? Because I had failed. I had failed. "Failed how, preacher?" To preach it like God wanted me to. I've cut corners. I, I, I'll admit it. I've let down. But I'm telling you tonight, bless God, from now on--. You say, "Preacher, if you're going to preach like this, I'll have to move my membership." There's the same door you come in, hah!, it'll let you out. Amen? Thank God...

NARRATOR (V/O): We saw that John frequently told stories and preached about important moments in his own life. Through these stories he makes his life public, as a kind of model, for the church members as well as for the unsaved. [24]

JOHN (PREACHING): Let me tell you something. When I grew up, honey, my daddy took me out in the field with a hoe when I couldn't hardly carry the thing. Amen? He made me go. I mean, I didn't want to go. Sure, I liked that shade tree, that black spot out there on the ground. I could get out there and play with the pups and just have a ball, Amen? But no sir, "Son, you're going to the field." And I mean I couldn't hardly carry that old hoe. But I went to the field and I dug weeds. I couldn't keep up with him; I couldn't do what they done. But you know what daddy would do? Every once in a while daddy'd reach up in my row and he'd chop a weed or two for me, help me along, kept me up with him. Amen? [25]

[INTERIOR, JOHN AND PAULINE'S TRAILER.]

JOHN: I guess I was closer to daddy than--. I don't know whether I was closer than any other one of the children or not, but seemed like to me, me and daddy were closer, [STILL PHOTO OF JOHN AND HIS FATHER] for some reason. And I'd help him farm a lot, you know. I've seen him set out and shuck corn. [STILL PHOTO OF JOHN AND DONNY IN FRONT OF A LARGE MOUND OF CORN.] You break that ear of corn, see, you shuck it back and then you have to break the ear off, and when you break it off, I've seen blood on the corn from where his hands would be bleeding from cracks. And, but he never complained. He never said, "My hands are hurting." But, ah, [CHOKES BACK TEARS] I've seen that a-many of a time. That's the kind of a daddy he was, that he was trying to take care of his family, and feed us, you know. That's the way he would work.

[STILL PHOTO OF JOHN'S FATHER.]

JOHN (V/O): I was sitting in the funeral home the day they closed the casket lid on my daddy.

[INTERIOR, FIBC.]

JOHN (PREACHING): Amen? I was a pretty big man; I thought I could take a lot of things. I'd held up pretty good until they closed that lid. And, brother, I like to have went down. I mean to tell you, something come over me, I don't know what it was. I don't know, I can't tell you. But I'll tell you one thing: I'm looking forward to the day when I can see him again. Amen, when they took my son, I had him in my arms when he left this walk of life. I was standing, holding him in my arms. I can remember it, I can see him now. You know what, friends? When I see Buddy [Wayne] again, he won't have that color to his face. Amen, glory to God, he'll be like an angel.

[INTERIOR, JOHN AND PAULINE'S BEDROOM. JOHN HOLDS UP PHOTO OF BUDDY WAYNE SHERFEY.]

JOHN: That's Buddy Wayne. That's his picture there. He was like five days of being five years old when he left this walk of life.

[CUT TO JOHN AND PAULINE ON THEIR COUCH.]

JOHN: Buddy took sick and, ah, I don't know, for some reason or other, I just, it didn't dawn on me that he was sick, you know, as he was. And so finally at last she said we ought to take him to the doctor, so, the doctor mixed up some kind of a toddy or something and he said, "Give him a teaspoonful of this every fifteen minutes." And he said, "If he ain't no better in the morning, call me."

PAULINE: He was getting worse, you know, and I don't know, I just don't know what come over me and I said to pray, you know. And right at that time, you know, John, he wasn't a Christian. And I hadn't been going to church either.

JOHN: She was back in the kitchen and I was standing there with Buddy in my arms. And of course I knew he was leaving; I mean, I could tell that. And, ah, she screamed, just as loud as she could scream, and hollered, "Pray." Well, I couldn't pray. I was away from God, I was out of the will of God. But that was what brought me into the fold of God. And I'm glad, though, the Lord loved me enough to chastise me that way. [STILL PHOTOS OF SHERFEY FAMILY GATHERED AROUND BUDDY WAYNE'S GRAVE, 1950S.] I'm not glad that he took my son, see. But I don't blame him for taking him, because it was for a good cause. Romans 8:28 says "All things work together to good for them that love the Lord," see. But God has to chasten us a lot of times to make us realize and understand.

[STILL PHOTO OF BUDDY WAYNE.]

JOHN (V/O): "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons."

[INTERIOR, FIBC.]

JOHN (PREACHING): But, brother, God knows how to handle us. God knows how to handle you. God knows how to handle me. Amen? He don't take a belt to us, and he don't take a pole, and he don't take things that children have been beaten by, but, brother, I want you to know one thing: he knows exactly where to get you. Amen?

[INTERIOR, FIBC. JOHN'S STUDY. JOHN READS BIBLE.]

JOHN (V/O): A few years ago I was, we was living in Falls Church and I got down sick, you know. I was, had a kidney stone, and I was laying flat on my back in bed and I couldn't, I couldn't go, and I was kind of like the apostle Paul. Whether I was in a trance or out of a trance, or whether, you know, whether I was, ah,

[INTERIOR, JOHN AND PAULINE'S HOME.]

JOHN: in heaven or out of heaven, I don't know where I was. I mean, really I couldn't tell, but as this came over me, I remember going up a steep grade, very narrow path. And somebody caught me around the shoulders trying to stop me, but I kind of shrugged my shoulders, you know, as you would when something gets ahold of you. And they went out of hearing, a-hollering and screaming. And I kept climbing that hill, and I got [with]in about twenty feet of the most beautiful hill I believe I ever saw. Pasture, looked like green grass. And the Lord walked by with my boy by the hand. And of course I didn't see the Lord in the face. But when Buddy walked by that gate and saw me, he said, "Daddy." And when he said "Daddy," that's when I came out of whatever I was in, now. And so I know that he's in heaven, waiting for me, see. And so I've got a zeal and a desire to see Jesus first, and then I want to see Buddy. So by the grace of God, it won't be long till I can see him, see. Amen. [26]

[INTERIOR, FIBC.]

JOHN (PREACHING): You know what? Somebody said there wouldn't be no shouting in the air.[27] Brother, you better not get close to me, then. Praise God, when I see Jesus, when I see my son, when I see my daddy and my mother, and all of my loved ones that's gone on, how in the world will I keep from shouting? Amen, so, praise God, if you're close to me and you don't like it, you better move over just as far as you can get. Because, praise God, I believe there'll be some shouting in the air when God's people leave this old sinful world and meet Jesus in the air. Praise God, I think it's worth time to talk about shouting a little bit with me. Amen. You know when my father and mother passed away, it brought sorrow to my heart. It brought sorrow to my heart. I guess yours have, too. Brother, when you lose your loved ones, it brings a sorrow in your heart that no man, no man--. I guess brother Earl, here, hah! and brother Kenny and brother James and other preachers, hah! have went into the hospitals, hah! my friends, or went into homes, hah! I have, when folks have passed away, hah! And brother the sorrow that's in their hearts, hah! And you put your arm around 'em, hah! or you begin to talk to 'em, hah! and to try to help 'em through that sorrow, hah! Hah but neighbor, it's hard, hah! It's hard to find words, hah! Hah, to tell 'em what all about it is, hah! Ah, but the only thing we can do, hah! is just to tell 'em to look up, hah! that it won't be long, hah! until there'll be a homecoming day in heaven. [28]

[EXTERIOR, FIBC. HOMECOMING DINNER. GENERAL CONVERSATION.]

JOHN (V/O): You know, here we have our homecoming, our reunion day for the church. Well, ah, that's just a little taste of what [INTERIOR, JOHN AND PAULINE'S TRAILER.]

JOHN: heaven's going to be like, see. I mean, ah, we try to remember all the deceased, but when we get to heaven, see, it'll be all those that are deceased will be alive, see. And you're talking about a reunion, I mean, those that've been separated for years and years and years

[CUT BACK TO HOMECOMING DINNER]

JOHN (V/O): will be together again, see. That's going to be a joyous time.

[GENERAL CONVERSATION.]

[INTERIOR, FIBC.]

JOHN (V/O, PREACHING): He's preparing a home. Who knows?

JOHN (PREACHING): My mansion may be ready this evening. [LIGHT LAUGH.] What if we walked down to the table, food spread on the board, and God'd say, "John," heh, "it's time to come home now. I've got a better meal a-waiting." Heh-heh. What if that'd happen? I'm ready, I'm ready. Heh. Oh, I love you, church, I love you, I really do. I appreciate you. But if God calls me, honey, I'll say, "Here I am, Lord," heh. Amen, I been waiting. I been waiting to go. I love you today. I love you, but oh how sweet heaven's going to be. How sweet it's going to be. I love you, I appreciate you, thank God for you. But one day, one day we'll hear him say, "Well done. Well done." That's what I want to hear him say, brother James. When I stand before him I want to hear him say, "Well done. Come on in, boy. Come on in. It's all yours, now." Glory to God, Hallelujah. I'm looking forward to that day. May God bless you is our prayer. That's my message to you this morning. I've delivered my soul. I hope you've enjoyed it. I hope you've enjoyed the service. But if you're not a Christian I want to give you an opportunity to make your peace, calling, and election sure with God. Confess your sins and accept him as your savior. Will you do that while we sing a verse of a song. Will you sing? [29]

[MUSIC] (VIRGINIA CUBBAGE, SHARON SHERFEY, AND DENISE SHERFEY LEAD THE CONGREGATION IN SINGING "ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD?") [30]

[JOHN CONTINUES WITH THE ALTAR CALL (INVITATION).]

VIRGINIA CUBBAGE, SHARON SHERFEY, AND DENISE SHERFEY (SINGING): Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?

Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?

Are you fully trusting in his grace this hour?

Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?

Are you washed, in the blood,

In the soul-cleansing blood of the lamb;

Are your garments spotless, are they white as snow?

Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?

JOHN: Is there one that'll come for prayer right now? I don't know your life, but Jesus does. He sees you right where you are. Will you come? Is there one? [PAN TO SHARON AND DENISE, SINGING.] Are you fully trusting in his grace this hour? How about it, will you come? [CUT TO JOHN.] Are you washed, are you washed in the blood? Is there one that'll come, anywhere right now? Say, "Yes, preacher, by the grace of God, I'm coming. I'm tired of sin. I'm tired of strain. Now I'm coming home." We're going to sing one more verse. This verse is for you.

[JOHN SINGS HARMONY:]

Are you washed, in the blood,

In the soul-cleansing blood of the lamb;

Are your garments spotless, are they white as snow?

Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?

[CUT TO FIBC INTERIOR, A DIFFERENT ALTAR CALL. PAULINE, SHARON, AND VIRGINIA PRAY AT THE ALTAR.]

[MUSIC] (CONGREGATION SINGING "ONE DAY TOO LATE.")

JOHN: Jesus is calling for you. He's got his hands stretched out for you. He wants to bless you tonight. [CUT TO ALTAR, JESSE COMER PRAYING WITH DENNIS JENKINS.] He wants to bless you tonight. You came one day too late. [CUT TO JOHN, THEN CUT TO PAULINE EMBRACING SHARON AND VIRGINIA.] Oh, thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Amen. [VIRGINIA WALKS BACK TO PIANO.] Some others ought to come. Will you come? [CUT TO ALTAR, KENNY STROUPE PRAYING WITH TODD STROUPE.] You didn't raise your hand for a Christian, will you come? [CUT TO CONGREGATION, PRAYING AND SINGING.] Make your commitment to Christ tonight. [CUT TO JOHN.] He's standing ready with his hands stretched out, saying, "Come, come, come." Will you come? Will you come? [CUT TO JESSE PRAYING WITH DENNIS.] Will you come, right now? [CUT TO JOHN AND KENNY PRAYING WITH TODD. TODD AND KENNY RISE AND EMBRACE. FREEZE FRAME.]

JOHN (O/C): Amen, glory to God. Thank you Jesus. It's wonderful when a father can pray for his own son. Amen? I think that's joy, a privilege, and an honor. [FADE TO BLACK.] [31]

[INTERIOR, FIBC.]

[MUSIC] (JOHN LEADS THE CONGREGATION SINGING "CANAAN'S LAND.") [32]

JOHN AND CONGREGATION (SINGING): I'm on my way, to the Canaan's land;

I'm on my way, to the Canaan's land;

I'm on my way, to the Canaan's land;

I'm on my way, praise the Lord, I'm on my way.

[JOHN WALKS TO REAR OF CHURCH DURING CLOSING PRAYER. CREDITS BEGIN. SERVICE ENDS. PEOPLE CONVERSE IN FELLOWSHIP. JOHN GREETS CHURCH MEMBERS AS THEY LEAVE. MUSIC CONTINUES, OVER.]

I'm on my way to the Canaan's land;

I'm on my way to the Canaan's land;

I'm on my way to the Canaan's land;

I'm on my way, praise the Lord, I'm on my way.

JOHN (V/O): Amen, I'm on my way to Canaan's land, I want to take everybody I can get.

[FELLOWSHIP AND GREETING AS CONGREGATION FILES OUT OF CHURCH. FADE TO BLACK. CREDITS CONTINUE.]

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