The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon … They shall still bring forth fruit in old age … Psalm 92:12,14
Even though I knew I would eventually have to face the passing of my earthly father, it came unexpectedly. When my oldest sister phoned my home in Cary on the morning of July 16 to tell me that Daddy had died, it was hard to accept the fact that he was gone.
He had lived most of his 88 years in Western North Carolina, serving God, enjoying his family and ministering to people.
As a native of Spruce Pine in Mitchell County, Dad was fortunate to have grandparents and parents who possessed a deep faith in God and were active in the work of His church. When Dad was 6 years old, his grandfather, a mountain lay preacher, placed his hands on my father’s head and asked God to someday “make a preacher out of this boy.”
Mom and Dad had a lifelong love relationship. They married in 1945, while still in their teens. Dad answered the call to preach in 1947, and he accepted his first pastorate in 1948. Milton A. Hollifield Sr. continued to be a caring and dedicated Free Will Baptist minister for more than 60 years; he pastored four churches in McDowell, Haywood and Buncombe counties, and another in Wayne, Mich. Dad also challenged himself to make a minimum of 25 pastoral visits each week. God blessed his work, and every church he led experienced exponential growth.
In addition to his work as a pastor, Dad served as an evangelist, preached in four countries, supervised five building programs and led numerous revivals in 18 states. He also took time to mentor younger pastors, and about 20 preachers and missionaries answered God’s call under his ministry.
My father was active in several committees and boards of the National Association of Free Will Baptists. He also organized and was a promotional representative for the Free Will Baptist Blue Ridge Association, and he served 12 years on both the national Board of Retirement and North Carolina’s Board of Care.
He was elected state moderator for Free Will Baptists and served two years on the national Executive Committee.
He also served as a charter member of the Board of Directors of the Swannanoa Valley Medical Center.
“Preacher Hollifield,” as he was affectionately called, remained active until the end of his life in serving churches through preaching, conducting funerals and doing ministry in hospitals, nursing homes and visiting the homebound. In reflecting over his life and the achievements of his ministry, he would often say, “Why me, Lord?” because he knew that all the things he celebrated happened because God chose to work through him. To God be the glory!
Dad left a great legacy as a follower of Christ, a man who loved his family, and someone who demonstrated his care for others daily.
My life was influenced in many ways by my father, but I would like to mention just four things that I consistently observed in him: daily fellowship with God, a strong work ethic, a practice of giving to others in need and a focus on Kingdom advancement rather than minor denominational differences. Although we miss him, we remain confident that he is in the presence of the Lord and that we will see him again.