Today’s special guest is David Brooke, the father/hero of author Ann Gabhart’s Orchard of Hope. David visits us here from Hollyhill, Kentucky, the setting for Ann’s Heart of Hollyhill novels.
Please tell us a little about yourself. Where you’re from? What do you do?
My name is David Brooke. I grew up right here in Holly County. I had great parents. My mother was the kind of Christian woman who is continually a blessing to her family and to all who knew her. She was a rock for me when my wife deserted us when Jocie was four years old. That changed everything for me. I had to give up my church and question my calling to preach. I didn’t doubt the Lord called me to share his Good News. That happened while I was on a submarine serving in World War II. Still, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get to follow that calling after my wife divorced me since no church would allow a divorced man to stand behind their pulpit.
I was fortunate to get a job as editor of the Hollyhill Banner and then even more fortunate to have the paper’s owner give me generous terms to allow me to buy the paper from him. It was a good job for me because I could bring Jocie with me to work after my mother had a stroke and died suddenly. While sometimes I feel as if the Lord sends too many trials my way, I also have to acknowledge and be thankful for his blessings and help. For one, He sent me Wes to not only help me keep the presses running but for Jocie. She needs that pure grandfather-type love Wes gives her so freely. And Wes needs Jocie, too.
It’s good putting out a paper with local news. A different way of ministering to folks, but sharing good community news and being compassionate with bad news does give me the feeling of helping people. Now I’ve found a church willing to chance having a divorced pastor lead them. So maybe the Lord always had a plan. I just had to wait on His perfect timing.
Orchard of Hope is about hope in the midst of a turbulent era in the South. I’d love to hear what you think about what was going on around you at that time. Do you believe that the tensions that caused such strife could have been handled in a different manner?
Things have been wrong in the South for a long time before now, 1964. A man should never be judged by the color of his skin or his religion. The Lord loves us all and in our great country, we claim to believe all men are created equal. If we truly believe that, we should live that truth. So things did need to change, but change can be difficult and as you say, turbulent. Sometimes it’s easier to not stir up trouble, to just let things drift along the way they always have been. But the Lord can poke our consciences to open our eyes and see that changes need to be made however hard that is to do. He gives a young woman courage to sit in a seat on a bus that she’s forbidden to sit in. He makes a child brave enough to walk with soldiers to a new school. He empowers a man like Martin Luther King Jr. with a gift of words to find a peaceful way to make people see that all men have the right to equal opportunities. I’m a peaceful man, as is Martin Luther King Jr., but there are times when a man has to stand up for what is right no matter the consequences.
Sadly, I think the strife was bound to happen because there are so many people who cling to the old prejudices. That’s sad but too true. Just think about those little girls killed in that church bombing or how the Birmingham police used dogs against children marching for their rights while the firemen turned water hoses on them. While I wish none of that had happened, being human is a messy condition. We are not puppets on a string. The Lord gives us freedom of choice even when those choices lead to sorrowful and sinful decisions and outcomes.
So, true, David. So true. When I think about your story, the words of 1 Corinthians 13:13 come to mind: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” These words come after several verses that tell us what does and doesn’t constitute charity (or love). You faced some trying times. Do you think that those who were front and center of the controversy at that time, took to heart the wisdom and truth of 1 Corinthians 13. If so, how? If not, how do you believe it was ignored?
Some did and some didn’t. There are times when a man has to accept that he can’t change everyone he meets. That’s when he has to focus on his own thoughts and actions and those of the people he knows best. I love that chapter in the Bible. Love does make a difference and of course, as you point out, charity here is another word for love. But wisdom is something that at times is lacking in all our lives. That’s not knowledge. A person can have mountains of book learning and still lack wisdom. True wisdom comes from God. So some of the people in the midst of the Civil Rights struggle did embrace the truths in 1 Corinthians 13:13. Others may have thought they were, but without the God-given wisdom to understand those truths. And some cared nothing about words from the Bible and only wanted to live for themselves without faith, hope, or charity. I’m thankful the Lord rained down wisdom on my church people and that together we were able to find a way to get past unreasonable prejudices and step closer to being the church the Lord wants us to be. The Lord can change the hardest heart and bring revival in His perfect timing.
The folks in your church are good folks, even it if takes a while, and tragedy, for some of them to come around. I always have to ask about Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” When God says, “all things” I believe He means even the bad things that happen to us. Did you discover this to be true in the issues you faced?
That’s a hard verse for many people. Some believe the Lord sends the bad things to teach us. Some believe the bad things happen because they didn’t love God enough. I personally believe the Lord can and does make good come from all things, but that He cries with us when tragedy strikes. He sorrows over the bad choices we make. He wants good for us.
So even though I don’t believe God caused the bad things to happen in my life, life does happen. And some of life is not happy and good. Evil pokes up and not only injures those who give in to wrong temptations but also to innocent family members and bystanders. That’s how it was when Adrienne left us. She hated being married to me. I couldn’t be the husband she wanted. She chose to find her happiness somewhere else, but I had to live with the consequences of her decision and so did Jocie and my older daughter, Tabitha.
It was a long time before I could see anything good coming from that, but the Lord did strengthen my spirit and make me more compassionate with others who suffer life struggles. So whether our troubles are the result of our own mistakes or those of others or happening for a purpose we can’t divine, I have no doubt that He is right beside us through whatever happens to us. If we lean on the Lord, He will give us the strength to face whatever life throws at us and the courage to stand up for right.
Is there scripture or a biblical concept that you lean upon to help you through this time of both national and personal conflict?
Every time I open my Bible, I find new verses that strengthen and comfort me. The Bible is a testament to the power of God. His word abides there and it goes out and settles in hearts and does not return empty.
I tell in Orchard of Hope one verse that has meant so much to me and has helped me through some rough patches in my life. I’ve had plenty of those–so many that there are times when I’m almost afraid to stick my head out from under the covers in the morning for fear of what challenges might come my way next. But then the sun starts pushing light in through my window and I say my morning prayer. “Oh, Lord, be with me today.” The Lord’s answer has never failed to echo back to me. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
That’s the last line of the last verse in Matthew where the Lord is giving his disciples the Great Commission to go and teach the nations and baptize them. Those men, the Lord’s disciples, faced hardships I can’t even begin to imagine and yet they were faithful in carrying out the Lord’s command in spite of persecution and the very real threat of death. I too want to be faithful in what the Lord wants me to do and it is very good to know that He is with me always. Eternally. That’s why I preach. To share that good news with the people the Lord puts in my path.
Thank you for letting me share my beliefs here, Fay. I do hope sharing a year of my life with all its problems and challenges in the Heart of Hollyhill books will touch people’s hearts and lead them to seek a closer relationship with the Lord. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
David, your story challenged me, and it touched my heart tremendously. Thank you for visiting with us here at Inner Source. I look forward to Wednesday’s interview with your author, Ann Gabhart.
About the Author:
Ann H. Gabhart, the author of several bestselling novels, has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who never wanted to do anything but write down stories. She’s published twenty-six novels for adults and young adults with more stories on the way. She keeps her keyboard warm out on a farm in Kentucky where she lives with her husband, Darrell. They have three children, three in-law children, and nine grandchildren. To find out more about Ann or her books visit www.annhgabhart.com. Check out her blog, One Writer’s Journal, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
About Orchard of Hope:
It is 1964, and fourteen-year-old Jocie Brooke is about to have an unforgettable summer. Her father has found a new love, her hippie sister is about to have a baby, and her aunt is finally pleasurable to live with. But, when a black family from Chicago moves into the quiet hamlet of Holly County, Kentucky, Jocie finds herself befriending a boy that some townspeople shun. Due to the unspoken racial lines in this southern town, the presence of these newcomers sparks a smoldering fire of unrest that will change Holly County–and Jocie–forever.
Orchard of Hope, the riveting sequel to The Scent of Lilacs, takes readers along to experience unexpected love, fear, forgiveness, new life, and a deeper understanding of the value of each individual’s story.
About Scent of Lilacs:
Jocie Brooke has never wanted for love, despite the fact that she hardly remembers her mother. Jocie’s father, preacher David Brooke, has done his best to be both father and mother to his daughter. Even Jocie’s spinster Great-aunt Love, who’s slowly going senile, cares for Jocie in her own stern way. But in their small town of Hollyhill, Kentucky, painful secrets lie just beneath the surface, and inquisitive spirits discover surprising truths. There’s a reason why Aunt Love hides behind black dresses and a stoic countenance. And David takes his morning walks not just for quiet solitude, but to wrestle with the past.
Full of stories of lost loves and the trials of small-town living, this heartwarming novel explores the journey of faith and family.
About Summer of Joy (Re-releasing soon):
The summer of 1964 certainly was eventful, but it’s nothing compared to what’s coming to the Brooke family and to Hollyhill, Kentucky. David finally gets up the nerve to pop the question to Leigh and wedding plans are in the making. But the past is coming to call on many in Hollyhill, threatening to destroy the relationships that everyone thought were so strong. Two people–one David thought was gone for good and the other no one’s ever heard of–are making their way to the small town and promise trouble.
This complex and well-written story is the perfect conclusion to the Hollyhill story. With true-to-life family drama, refreshing humor, and lovable characters, Summer of Joy will delight readers.
Ann is giving away a copy of Orchard of Hope. Ann will be busy here this week with her interview on Wednesday and a guest post on Friday. To be registered for your chance to win a copy of this absolutely wonderful novel, be sure to leave a comment for each of the posts. Those who have commented on all three posts will be registered, and a winner will be drawn on Friday evening and the winner notified by e-mail (so be sure to leave that with your comment.
If you missed the interview with David Brooke, click here.