Friday, August 22, 2014

An Unlikely Story – Bob R. Agee

© 2014 Create Space Publishing (internet)

I first made the acquaintance of Dr. Bob R. Agee when he and I both transferred into Oklahoma Baptist University. I was returning from a year at Howard Payne to complete my undergraduate degree in Religious Studies. He had just been called as president of the university moving from a position at Union. I liked him immediately. He was enthusiastic, affable, and both academically and spiritually sound. He did not know me from the man in the moon, but he treated me (as he did all of the students) with the utmost of dignity and respect.

A couple of years later, when I graduated, I still expected that he didn’t know more than that I was one of the crowd graduating with a baccalaureate degree. He surprised me, deepening my respect for this leader. As he shook my hand and handed me my diploma he did not say, “Congratulations, Mr. Potter” or even “Benjamin.” Nor did he jump to everyone’s favorite diminutive “Ben”; but he said, “Congratulations, Benjie!” Wow, he knew me—even though we’d only spoken or nodded in passing during those years at the school. What I really liked (and still do) about Dr. Agee was his simple statement through actions that “you are somebody important”, and it was his habit of making that message known to all of his students.

And his recently published memoirs offer an understanding of why he is that man, and why he served as an excellent pastor, then educator, then administrator. An Unlikely Story opens the window on Agee’s life to the point of writing and (as good memoirs should) really gives the reader a taste of what made the man that became the author. Through the pages, one can see how the humble beginnings as a sharecropper’s son shaped and molded a man who knew the advantage of hard work and had the grace to accept an opportune challenge.

Those who have had the acquaintance of Agee over the years will enjoy reading about his rise through academia, his relational style that started with family and spread to church and college and community. I know that I found it a real blessing to get to know better this man who has held my respect over the decades. Especially inspiring are the pages in which he tells of his on-again, off-again battle with hairy cell leukemia, which attacked early and has re-visited in some of the later years.

Particularly interesting to me was his reflection on “Reflections” (see page 124) quoting a couple of elderly friends who were facing the declining years with gusto. It put me in mind of a dear friend who continued to play piano for her church well into her 90s (even until only about a year before her passing). This retired school teacher told me on more than one occasion that following a bout with heart trouble, “I decided that I’m gonna die living.” I think that this attitude sums up the goal of Dr. Agee, and I say keep on fighting.

I recommend this book for anyone who likes to be inspired by inspiring life stories, but especially for former church members of Dr. Agee’s congregations from his early adulthood, and also for members of Union University and Oklahoma Baptist University families. His memories will bring to mind your own memories. This is a quick and enjoyable read at only about 150 pages. It flies by. Order a copy to day with my five reading glass endorsement.

—Benjamin Potter, August 22, 2014

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