My journey of faith (Part 1)
I am Irma J. Register, one of seven Associate Pastors of the Eagle River Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of Reverend Doctor William Greene, Sr. Pastor. I was born in 1954 in Sylvester, Georgia, Worth County. I am the fourth eldest of 10 children.
I remember the morning of my 15th birthday. I was so happy to be 15! I was thrilled; I was full of joy and happiness! I knew if I could be happy at 15, I would be happier at 16, the year that a girl turns into a woman and can legally leave home without running away. I was ready to leave home I didn't feel I was loved as I should have been.
However, my childhood ended on Friday, Sept. 2, 1970 when my mother died in Lowndes County. I was 16. This was my first week in high school. I was a junior. My father was out that night with his girlfriend and when he came home around 2 a.m. he was wondering why everybody was crying and why my cousins were there. We told him mother had died. We later found out it was from a heart attack. Our home was not a happy home. I understand now that my mother was overweight, depressed, oppressed while working outside the home in the fields. By the age of 33, she had 10 children. After working in the fields, she came home, cooked and cleaned until we were old enough to help. Mother had a sixth-grade education, she taught us how to read at home, and she kept us in church. She was the disciplinarian of the family because she was always there.
As a child, I could not imagine the problems or issues my parents experienced with the pressures of life. Overnight I became an instant mother of six children, raised on a farm, living and working in the tobacco fields, cotton fields, and on our knees picking cucumbers. We picked pecans during autumn season, so we could have money to go to the fair or just for necessities.
When my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, my life was once again put on hold to take him to his doctors’ appointments and to take care of the younger children. In 1974, my father died. I was only 20. My father was a good provider for his family. He would work all day, and during the week his passion was fishing — he loved to fish and hunt. He was a survivor, in spite of his personal issues. He was a drinker. Back then you were not called an alcoholic; you were called a proud black man.
We were never without food. We would have fish and chicken, because my father caught the fish at night after working all day. There were so many times he would sell fish to our neighbors. We raised chickens on the farm. We always had meat at every meal, steak, rice, and gravy every Sunday morning for breakfast. Life didn't get easier, for a while it only got worse. I understand now, by the Grace of God, He brought us through. As I look back, I now understand the old song that stays in my memory, How I Got Over. My Soul looks back and wonders how I got over. I understand it was God that brought my family through.
I was a teenager at school by day, and a mother, sister, cook, and housekeeper at night and weekends, making provisions for my siblings. However, I was determined to finish high school. I did not like staying at home being a housekeeper. I did not have the opportunity to do with my life as I hoped.
I wanted to go into the military. I always admired the Navy uniforms. Out of all the branches of the military, the Navy appealed to me the most. I inquired about signing up to leave after graduation; the Navy recruiter told me I would be stationed in the state of Maryland. I then got cold feet, because I did not want to leave my family — never thinking God's plan for my life was already worked out.
To be continued…
This column is the opinion of Reverend Irma J. Register, associate pastor at Eagle River Missionary Baptist Church, 16050 Lesmer Court, Eagle River. Reach them at 694-6142.