My Cloud of Witnesses

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Tears came to my eyes as I reread the letter. Sent to me in 1989 via airmail, my mother had concluded her newsy note with a scripture and blessing.

I paused then said aloud to no one in particular: “My life has truly included a great cloud of witnesses.”

As I read Hebrews 11 and 12 in my daily reading, I saw my own “by faith” heritage, with those who have gone before me. The following is my own personalized epistle, based on this faith segment in the Hebrews. I pray that as you read, your own cloud of witnesses will be brought to remembrance.


Putting into action whatever God speaks will not only assure you that He has spoken, but will become a convincing proof that He will speak again.

As I reflect on my own heritage, I see many previous generations acting out their faith.

Enacting God’s prompting, my great-great-grandfather, William Henry Hickman raised his family in the Word of God. While the country moved toward Civil War, this Alabama Cumberland Presbyterian stayed true to the promises of God. I’m thankful for his obedience.

Enacting God’s prompting, my great-grandfather, Samuel C. Hickman left his family in Alabama to homestead in West Texas. Topping the caprock in 1900, he made the buggy trek to seek out fellow Christians thirty-two miles away in Floydada, where the “Presbyterians had their protracted meetings.” At home, he and his wife, Nancy Sarah Leatherwood regularly gathered their family around a pump organ to sing songs of praise. I’m thankful for their obedience.

Enacting God’s prompting, my great grand-uncle, James Vandever Leatherwood joined with a handful of others to begin Pansy Baptist Church in 1905 to serve the needs of this growing rural community. Sixty-seven years later, my family joined this Bible-centered body where I learned much about my faith. I am thankful for J.V.’s obedience.

Enacting God’s prompting, my grandfather, John S. Callihan taught himself to read, using the Bible and a Webster’s dictionary as his main textbooks. At a “religious camp meeting” in Wake, Texas he met my grandmother Emma Ethel Hickman and once wed, they carried the habit of public reading of the Scripture into their home. My mother remembered him reading the Bible aloud by lantern light in the evenings. I’m thankful for his obedience.

(John S. Callihan – circa 1970)

Enacting God’s prompting, my mother, Jewell Callihan responded to an altar call at the Wake school where the preacher read from Luke 12:20-32. She committed her life to Jesus at age thirteen and years later would read the Bible aloud to me, just as her father had done for her. I’m thankful for her obedience.

(Mother at about age 15)

Since therefore I am surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, I desire to let go of every offense and temptation in order to run this spiritual race with passion and determination.

Whether or not you have your own cloud of witnesses, I pray that you will be part of a cloud for your future generations.