Ms. McCain is the Story of the Rural Church Part II

Somewhere about 1 hour, 10 minutes, and 2 seconds (but who’s counting) into that first meeting,  I realized that Ms. Mccain had mentioned her twin brother, Robert, about 15 times.  Robert, she claimed, had grown up and “made a preacher”.  It was obvious that she loved Robert and was very, very, very proud of him.  Now, when you think of someone who is preacher material, you don’t generally think of someone who is Ms. McCain’s twin.  I couldn’t help myself from thinking that because of Ms. McCain’s circumstances, that Robert must have been the pastor of some little bitty backward bunch of Baptists in a ‘holler’ somewhere that most of us wouldn’t dare step foot (don’t judge me –  you weren’t there!).  Ms. McCain, although direct, was not very articulate.  She had, at most, three changes of clothes, and two of them were for working in.  Her one indulgence in life was chewing tobacco, and a little of it was escaping down the side of her chin.  She was overly direct.  She was not into socializing and I couldn’t help but think that her TWIN BROTHER must be somewhat similar given the fact that he was her TWIN!   

Almost in passing and as I was trying to think of an excuse to leave, I asked Ms. McCain if I would know her brother.  “Probably,” she said.  I knew most of the preachers from around the area so I asked,  “What is your maiden name”?  As she swept one of about a dozen kittens off the porch she answered, “Orr”.   This is where you, the reader, need to imagine my face with no blood, my lip quivering, and my mind trying to grasp what just came out of her mouth.  Now, if you are not a West TN Baptist, the name Robert Orr means nothing to you. But it rang a bell with me.  I quit trying to make excuses to leave and I sat back down in my rocking chair knowing that the past one hour, ten minutes, and two seconds had not even scratched the surface of who this woman was. 

“Robert Orr is your brother?” I asked as if I were trying to get her to admit she was stretching the truth a little.  Correcting me, she said, ” Yes. Dr. Robert Orr is my brother.”  Let me put this in perspective for you.  Robert Orr has preached in more churches in West TN than anyone else.  He was the pastor of First Baptist, Dyersburg, for years.  He has taught and mentored many pastors who are active on church fields here in TN and around the country.  Robert Orr mentored men who are now pastoring mega churches.  His life personally touched thousands of people, and the people he influenced have reached millions.  And here was Ms. McCain, his twin sister happily living with nothing more than what she needed to survive daily.  The irony had to lead somewhere.  There had to be more.  There must be a reason that Robert was the revered pastor and Marie was the unknown twin.  There had to be a reason that none of the deacons at Cottage Grove had shared this little tidbit before I drove out there! 

The ironic thing is this:  Without Ms. McCain there would be no Dr. Robert Orr.  Without this little, wrinkled, hunched over, 91-year-old woman Robert wouldn’t have pastored F.B.C., Dyersburg.  He wouldn’t have mentored all those young pastors who have reached so many people.  Without Ms. McCain I would have never heard the name Dr. Robert Orr. 

Their mother had grown very ill, and Robert was ready to quit school to take care of her.  Ms. McCain knew Robert had been set apart by God to preach.  She knew that if Robert quit school that he would never be properly educated to do what God had called him to do, so she quit.  She took care of her mom and the rest of the family.  She cooked, cleaned, and took care of everyone else in the family as she rested in the knowledge that she was doing her part in Robert’s pastoral calling.  Was it a sacrifice?  You bet!  Was it necessary?  Yes.  Was it driven by love of God and love for her brother?  Absolutely. 

After two hours on the 95 degree front porch made more stifling by the West TN humidity, I went home tired, but wiser.  It was the most aerobic listening that I have ever done.  I lost two pounds sweating in that rocking chair.  It was like making a journey to 1930 to receive the ultimate history lesson from a character made up in the mind of some great Southern novelist.   As I drove back to 2004, I thought about how blessed Ms. McCain was to have lived a life of such intentional simplicity.  I mulled over the fact that we are all gifted by God in various ways.  Sacrifice and hard work were the gifts God had given her.  Her gifts were used to launch the preaching and teaching ministry of her brother.  His gifts were used to encourage hundreds of young men as they preached to millions in places that Ms. McCain had never even heard or dreamt of.  And I knew I was blessed with the knowledge that all of that began at a little rural church called Cottage Grove Baptist Church.   Ms. McCain’s story of sacrifice and love, although not identical, has been replicated in rural churches around the country.  Her’s is the story of the rural church.      


Published in: on January 23, 2008 at 2:22 pm  Comments (5)  


  1. What a great testimony!! I well remember my great g’parents home in Hendersonville, NC before an indoor bathroom was installed… and the rural churches. What a blessing to experience!

    Did the deacons ever indicate why they failed to mention ‘the’ twin brother?

    Thank you for sharing such a powerful story; we never know what God has in store but we can never lose faith.

    God’s Blessings on You & Yours.

  2. I was just kidding about our deacons. They are a great bunch of guys. They just took it for granted that I knew. It is quite a remarkable story of God’s grace and love. It just reminds me again how important, even today, that our rural churches are. Robert Orr died last year but Marie is still alive. She finally allowed her family to put her in a nursing home when she turned 93. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Thanks for such a great reminder that when we serve faithfully where God has placed us we can impact many. I need to remember that by serving my students and helping them grow now, I have an impact on those they will meet in the future. The kind of influence is in part, up to me.

  4. Kim,
    I heard a wise person say that we should bloom where we are planted. There is a ton of wisdom there.

  5. […] 26, 2008 Part I and Part II are the prequels to this post.  […]

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