Here I raise my Ebenezer
Autobiography by Roy Allen Davison
An Ebenezer is a monument to commemorate help
received from God. After Israel had defeated enemies, Samuel set
up a stone of commemoration that he called, Ebenezer, saying,
Thus far the LORD has helped us (1 Samuel 7:12). Ebenezer
means stone of help in Hebrew.
The second verse of the song, O, Thou fount of every
blessing, written by Robert Robinson in 1758, which he published
in 1759 as A Collection of Hymns Used by the Church of Christ in
Angel Alley, Bishopgate begins:
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I've come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
When I was 73 a friend asked me to recount significant
spiritual influences and formative experiences in my life.
Spiritual Heritage and Early Years
Charles Jones and Pearl Mary Kincaid (Collins) were dedicated
Christians. After my mother passed away, my brother, Dale, sent
me a tract written by my grandfather that was among her things:
Why should I be a Baptist? Most of his extended family were
Baptists and I presume he was raised as a Baptist, but at some
point he came in contact with people who were striving to restore
the ancient order. His formal education was limited to grade
school, but mother said he had educated himself with a Bible and
a dictionary. He was a janitor at White Rogers to support his family of five
children, the youngest of whom died when he was thirteen from what
would be a minor foot infection now. There were no antibiotics
Granddad preached on occasion. When I visited the Central
Church of Christ as a young man, when passing through Saint Louis,
I met a man who remembered by grandparents. He said Charles
and Pearl had beautiful voices and sang duets at area singings. I
do not remember my grandfather at all because he passed away
when I was three, yet via my mother, he and my grandmother
had a significant influence on my life. I cherish some letters they
wrote my parents during the Second World War.
My parents, Charles Henry Davison and Bessie Inez Kincaid,
were married at Saint Louis, Missouri on January 14, 1939.
Mother was eighteen and dad was twenty-four. I was born at
Saint Louis on September 15, 1940. After dad joined the navy in
1941, he was stationed first at San Francisco and then in Florida.
Dad was an electronics technician and during the war was on the
research team that developed sonar. My brother, Dale, was born on Key
West, Florida on November 22, 1943.
The folks did not attend church during the war.
Dad's dream was to live on a small farm which he thought
would be a good environment for raising children.
Thus, after the war we moved to a 15 acre farm in
Lutesville, Missouri dad had bought and paid for during the war.
His research colleagues in the navy accepted employment as
civilians with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C.
and encouraged dad to do the same, but he chose the farm
instead, where he also had a radio repair shop.
I went to the first grade in Lutesville and the farm was
indeed a great place for a six and three year old boy, but things
did not work out well financially, so after a year dad gave in to
the continuing encouragement of his former colleagues at the
Naval Research Laboratory and we moved to Clinton, Maryland
near the District of Columbia where I attended the second and
half of the third grade.
"Which church should we attend?"
In 1948, when I was seven and my brother, Dale, was four,
my parents decided to start going to church. Sunday school would
be good for their children.
But which church should they attend?
My father had attended the Methodist church as a boy, but
felt no particular loyalty to that denomination.
My mother had attended the Christian Church, and had been
baptized into Christ when she was twelve. After she left home,
however, her parents left the Christian Church and became
members of the Central Church of Christ in Saint Louis, Missouri.
After some discussion, my parents decided to visit the Christian Church and the Church of Christ. I remember those visits well!
We first visited the National City Christian Church at 5
Thomas Circle in Washington, DC. It was a congregation of almost
2000 members. I remember the impressive building with its large
columns like a Greek temple. But most of all, I remember the
steps! There are 31 stone steps from the street up to the door.
There was no handrail. It was scary! I would need to be very
careful on those steps! If I fell, I might tumble all the way down
to the bottom and really hurt myself!
The Sunday school classes were putting on a big pageant for
the parents that day. So my brother and I were put on two chairs
in the corner of the classroom while the other children put on
their costumes. One boy was dressed like a Roman soldier and
had a wooden sword. The whole class then filed out into the
auditorium and took seats at the front. The teacher told us that
when the other children got up to go on stage, we should just
stay in our seats, since we would not know what to do. I
remember feeling very lonely and conspicuous after the others
got up. Dale and I sat alone in the midst of all those empty seats.
During the worship service, I noticed that the preacher wore
special clothes. It looked like he had his collar on backwards.
The next Sunday we visited the Anacostia Church of Christ
(in 1952 the name was changed to the Southeast Church of Christ
when they built their own building). It had less than a hundred
members and met in a rented lodge hall. The building was used
for dancing on Saturday nights, so someone had to come early on
Sunday morning to sweep up the broken beer bottles and open
the windows to air the place out.
My brother and I had an interesting Bible class, and I
remember how nice the singing sounded. The people were
friendly and made us feel like long-lost friends.
Can you guess which congregation my parents decided to
attend? They were zealous and attended all the services and Bible
studies. Although my father came from a denominational
background, he thought he was a Christian. He had been
immersed when he was a teenager, so he thought his baptism
A gospel meeting was held with Bond Stocks doing the
preaching shortly thereafter and my father went up and down our
street inviting people to attend. During that meeting, in October
of 1948, he was baptized for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38).
The clear preaching of the gospel caused him to realize that his
previous immersion was not valid, and that he actually was not
yet a Christian.
When he was a teenager, his mother had told him he was
old enough to join the church. He asked how he was supposed to
do that, and she told him to talk to the preacher. When my father
heard the true gospel preached during that meeting, he realized
that his previous immersion was just to please his mother and to
join the Methodist Church, not to put on Christ (Galatians 3:26).
We drove 45 minutes to services in D.C. I remember one
Sunday evening when I rode with dad alone to services because
mother was ill. We passed several church buildings on the way.
(One was a Catholic building with a big sign in the yard, BINGO
EVERY THURSDAY EVENING!) I asked dad where all the different
churches came from. During the 45-minute drive home he
reviewed church history telling about the Apostasy resulting in the
Catholic Church, the Reformation resulting in various Protestant
churches, and the restoration movement to form churches of
Dad had been attending night classes to earn credits toward
a BS degree in physics. After he became a Christian he decided to
further his education at a Christian school so he could learn to
preach. He had always tried to do what was right, but simply did
not know what was right. He thought there were probably others
like that too, and he wanted to be able to help them.
So I attended the second half of grade 3 and the first half of
grade 4 at Finger, Tennessee near Henderson. Dad went to
Freed-Hardeman College on the GI Bill that financed education for
veterans after the war. We lived in a motel that had been
converted to student housing across the highway from Logan's
That year my cousin, Sandy, became my sister through
adoption. It was great to have a two-year-old sister!
When we were learning to use a dictionary in the fourth
grade I discovered that in my school changes I had missed
learning the alphabet! I remember going over my ABC's to learn
the alphabet on the bus on the way to school one morning. At
that school I was cast as the preacher in Tom Thumb's
Wedding. Mother made me a tuxedo with tails from cheap black
cloth and I performed my first wedding when I was nine! I still
remember my lines consisting of 29 words!
At the time, Freed-Hardeman was only a junior college, so
from there we moved to Portales, New Mexico where dad studied
at the Bible Chair and earned a BS degree in Physics and Bible
from Eastern New Mexico University. I attended the second half of
the fourth grade and the first half of the fifth grade at Portales.
I walked for half an hour home from school. A boy (who was
much taller than I) at a house I passed would regularly ask me if
I wanted to have a fight with him. (He had six fingers on each
hand.) I got tired of it, so agreed one day to fight him at the
neighborhood playground at 10 a.m. the next Saturday. I had
several friends along as moral support. He was alone. I told him,
I don't have any reason to fight with you. But you want to fight,
so if you want to hit me or something, go ahead! He did not
want to just haul off and hit me, so he gave me a little push. Each
time he gave me a push, I would back up a little. He pushed me
all the way across the playground and then turned me around and
started pushing me the other direction! His pushes were getting
harder and I misjudged the force of one push and fell down. He
then sat on top of me. That was not a problem except that in New
Mexico, even the grass has stickers! So I started to cry because
of the stickers! He then let me up and went home. The next time
I passed his house he asked, Do you want to have another
fight? I said, Sure! Any time! He said, No. That won't be
necessary. After that he would greet me when I passed his
house, and he never asked for a fight again.
From Portales we went back to the D.C. area and dad
resumed his work with the Naval Research Laboratory and
preached on occasion for small congregations. I was baptized into
Christ on Sunday evening, March 4, 1951 at Alexandria, Virginia.
I attended the second half of the fifth grade at Indian Head,
Various men who worked at the Naval Research Laboratory
were invited to work for a new guided missile division the Bureau
of Standards was setting up in Southern California. (I have no
idea why the Bureau of Standards had a guided missile division!)
When a small congregation near the new division asked dad to
help them as a self-supporting preacher, he accepted the job and
we moved to the Riverside, California area in August of 1951. I
attended the sixth grade and the first half of the seventh grade in
Preaching for the small congregation did not work out. (The
daughter of one of the elders was offended by something dad
said.) So we started attending services at the Ninth & Lime
congregation in Riverside, which was a great blessing! They had
excellent Sunday school classes in which daily Bible reading was
encouraged. When I was 12 I started reading five chapters from
the Bible every night before I went to sleep and did not miss a
day doing this for several years thereafter. By then I was
planning to be a preacher.
As dad grew spiritually he began to question whether a
Christian should be designing guidance systems for weapons of
mass destruction! Especially Romans 1:30, inventors of evil
things, caused him to give up his well-paying government job
with a good pension plan. He worked for a TV repair company for
a while until he learned that the boss was dishonest and wanted
him to lie to customers. He started doing TV repair work on his
In the middle of my seventh grade we moved to Socorro,
New Mexico where dad was hired to preach full time. That was
the only one of our many moves that caused my grades to suffer
significantly. But I learned a lot! My homeroom teacher was also
the high school speech teacher. So I got to listen in on Mr. Miller's
speech classes which I found extremely interesting! At Socorro I
also learned the wonders of the local library and read biographies
and science fiction books (when I should have been studying or
Shortly after we moved to Socorro, two of the best givers in
the congregation were unexpectedly transferred away, so the
congregation could no longer support dad.
A wonderful summer!
Dad saw an ad in the Christian Chronicle in which Alvin
Jennings, who was preaching at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in
Canada, was seeking someone to move to Prince Albert,
Saskatchewan to start a congregation there.
So at the end of the school year we packed our belongings
into a trailer and went to Saskatoon, where we lived temporarily
in the basement of the church building.
Dad could not find a job at Prince Albert, but got a job right
away with the University of Saskatchewan as an electronics
technician. There was a shortage of housing in Saskatoon,
however, and we could not find an affordable house to rent.
But I had a wonderful summer! In Saskatchewan at the time
various congregations had what they called summer Bible
schools. They were something like Bible Camps except that
instead of being mostly camp with a little Bible, Bible classes
were taught from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and there was preaching every
night for two weeks. (There was plenty of time for recreation
after four!) I attended the schools held at Perryville and at
That summer I also learned about Radville Christian College,
a small boarding secondary school in Saskatchewan, and decided
that, Lord willing, I would attend high school there a year later.
We could not find a suitable house in Saskatoon. My sister,
Sandy, who was six, was tired of living in the church basement
and asked mother one day, Mom, when are we going to start
living again? Mother probably felt the same way.
The folks learned from the real estate agency that was
renting out our house in Southern California that the renters had
moved out owing several months' rent. Since the rent money was
used to pay the mortgage there was danger of losing the house.
So at the end of the summer the folks decided to go back to
California to save the house.
Financially nothing worked out well that year, and dad
concluded that he should have stayed in Saskatoon rather than
try to save a house.
A great year in the eighth grade
But for me it was a great blessing because I had a
tremendous homeroom and science teacher for the eighth grade!
Walter Gardner was qualified to teach in university but
preferred teaching the eighth grade. During successive periods of
a few weeks we made an in-depth study of various branches of
science: geology, meteorology, anatomy, etc. He challenged us in
this way: We have a 45 minute class. Actually, if we work hard
we can learn what we need to learn in 30 minutes, and then have
15 minutes at the end of the period to have fun! The fun was
usually doing some kind of scientific experiment, but sometimes
we could just visit. We usually got our work done in 30 minutes!
My best friend Skipper (Larry Snyder) and I won second
place in the school science fair. (The girl who won first place had
boiled all the meat off a chicken and had glued and wired all the
bones together to make a chicken skeleton!) Skipper and I had a
display of our rock collection we had assembled on our Saturday
hikes into the hills. We also put an electric eye on the display so
the light would come on when someone stood in front of the box.
That year in Physical Education classes we were given
dancing lessons. I thought, This is not something a Christian
should be doing! So I asked dad to write me a note asking that I
Two girls who sat near my desk in homeroom chided me,
What's wrong? Are you afraid of girls? Actually, I was! But that
was not the reason. I said, It's against my religion. I could see
that the Japanese girl was favorably impressed.
For some reason my classmates that year affectionately
called me, The old man. Fortunately, I have continually become
younger since! When I did not join in on some of their escapades,
they would roll their eyes and make the shape of a square with
their fingers. It was a great year and a great class!
We also had a great exercise in democracy! There were
several homerooms for each grade, and each eighth-grade
homeroom nominated a classmate for student body president the
We nominated a tall black boy: handsome, good student,
sociable and a friend to everyone.
The school was completely integrated racially. Among 700
students there were about 10 blacks and about 50 Mexicans. The
latter formed something of a clique, no doubt because of the
language. But among the students I noticed no racial prejudice
When the candidates were announced, we were first shocked
and then very angry, that our nominee had been left off the list!
The nominee of each class was supposed to be on the list! No
explanation was given. But we concluded that the school
administration had rejected him because he was black.
So our class mounted a write-in campaign for our nominee,
and he won the election!
Near the end of the school year a special assembly was held
to give various awards. The auditorium was packed, with students
standing in the aisles on each side because there were not
enough seats. I was standing way at the back.
They were talking about some kind of a good citizenship
award when suddenly my name was called out. I thought there
must be some mistake, so I did not react at first. The principle
said, Is Roy Davison here? I thought, Well, there is no other
Roy Davison in this school, so he must mean me. In a daze I
walked up to the front with students making way so I could get
through. On stage I still thought, This must be some kind of a
mistake. They gave me a medal with a red, white and blue
ribbon. I turned it over and my name was engraved on the back.
Then I thought, Well, it really must be for me!
On my way home, my bicycle was stopped by one of the
school rowdies. He said, Let me see your medal! I took it out
and gave it to him. He said, What would you do if I kept it? I
said, Well, I guess there wouldn't be much I could do. He gave
it back and said, No. You deserve it, and rode off on his bicycle.
He was the boy I had reported for having made a master
key for the student lockers. Skipper and I had the job of going
around after school and using a master key to lock any lockers
that had been left unlocked. The boy who stopped me had
bragged to me one day, I have a key like that too! And he
showed me his key that he had filed off.
Although dad did not preach full time while we lived in
Southern California, he baptized 30 people he taught in home
Since dad thought he should have stayed in Canada the year
before, he contacted the University of Saskatchewan to see if he
could get the same job back and they accepted him immediately.
Thus, during the summer we packed all of our belongings
into two trailers and were all ready to move back to Saskatoon.
The day before we were to leave, however, dad got a call from
the university saying that they could not give him the job after all
because some had complained that the work should be given to a
Canadian (although they could not find anyone with qualifications
as good as dad's). So what should we do?
Since the original intention had been to move north to
establish a new congregation, dad decided we would head for
Saskatoon as planned, and he would look for a job there or in
Prince Albert. Along the way, however, he would also investigate
other possibilities for establishing a new congregation in a needed
area as a self-employed preacher.
The larger trailer was 8 by 8 by 16 feet. We had a Nash car
and a very small van dad used in his TV repair business, a
Thames English Ford. He intended to make two trips, first with
the car pulling the large trailer and then with the van pulling the
smaller trailer. But when he hitched the loaded large trailer to the
car, the Nash springs were so soft that the back almost touched
the ground. He tried hitching it to the van and its springs were
stiff enough to bear the load. But when he tried to move, the
small engine did not have enough power to move the trailer. He
had the engine checked, and it had virtually no compression.
Thus, he had an overnight valve job done, and the next day dad
and I, and our dog Tippy, set out on the first trip. On the level,
the maximum speed the rig would go was 30 mph. The van had
two seats and the dog rode in a box behind my seat.
Things went ok until we hit a 20 mile grade in California
where road construction was being done. The van had no water
pump but convection cooling and was definitely not designed for
what we were asking it to do. Fortunately, the construction
company had placed laybys about every 200 yards with barrels of
water for cars that overheated. We overheated every 200 yards
and barely made it from one water barrel to the next before the
engine began to vapor lock. We would cool down the engine (dad
found that it stayed cooler if he left the radiator cap off and just
let it boil) and then start out again. On the grade the engine
barely had enough power to get us started in low, so I would
push to help get us going and then jump in. It was a great
adventure for a thirteen-year-old boy with his dad!
As we crossed the Mojave Desert on the way to Las Vegas,
to say it was hot would be an extreme understatement. Tippy was
so hot that he would lay his head on my shoulder and intersperse
his pants with a moan now and then. At first we had two five
gallon cans of radiator water along and one five gallon can of
drain oil that dad got free at filling stations. But the toiling little
engine, that had to run in low or second gear most of the time,
was using so much oil that we decided we needed two cans of oil
and one can of water.
When we saw a sign in the middle of the desert, Watch out
for cattle on the road! dad quipped, This must be where they
raise that dried beef!
A double mattress was loaded last on top of the trailer and
made up as a bed. At night we would climb up on the trailer, prop
up part of the canvas to make a little tent, and sleep on top of the
trailer. There was no money for motels.
After we passed Vegas and headed for Salt Lake City we
were thankful that the temperature dropped some. There were
two short, steep hills on the trip that the van just was not
powerful enough to climb. We had to wait for a pickup to come
along with a friendly driver willing to tow us to the top of the hill!
Downhill, dad always had to put the engine in low gear because
the breaks were not strong enough to slow the rig downhill.
As we approached Salt Lake City several big trucks blew
their horns as we met them. We thought there must be
something wrong with the rig so we would pull off and check
everything but could find nothing wrong. Then we noticed a
distinctive truck and remembered that it had passed us some
time before. Then we realized that the truckers had passed us on
their way to Salt Lake City and were just saying hello when they
saw us again on their way back to California! So after that, when
they blasted their horns at us, we tooted back!
When we passed through West Yellowstone, Montana at
6667 feet altitude there was snow on the ground. We did not
mind at all after the sweltering heat of the desert! The next
morning there was snow on the canvas above our heads when we
When we visited a congregation in central Montana, dad
asked if they knew of any cities that might be good places to
establish a new congregation. It was mentioned that there was
only one church of Christ in all of North Dakota, at Bismarck. A
brother agreed that we could leave the trailer at his house while
we scouted for a place to go. So, without the trailer, the little
Thames took off like a jack rabbit as we headed for Bismarck,
North Dakota to visit Gordon Pennock who was preaching there.
Brother Pennock suggested Fargo as a good place to
establish a congregation. Dad went to Fargo and found a job as a
TV repairman right away.
Gordon was going to Saskatoon to conduct a gospel
meeting. Since I knew the brethren there from the summer
before, it was arranged that I would go to Saskatoon with Gordon
while dad went back to California to get my mother, brother and
sister, and to drive the car and the other trailer to Fargo. Dad
found a car to drive that a dealer wanted to move to the
When I returned from Saskatoon to Fargo the folks were
camping in an empty house they had rented for one month while
they looked for something more suitable.
Radville Christian College
RCC campus 1957, from a painting by Fred Brehaut
In September of 1954, after being with the family for a week, a couple of weeks
short of my 14th birthday, I went to Radville, Saskatchewan to
attend secondary school at Radville Christian College. It was a
small Christian boarding school serving churches of Christ.
Attending a boarding school with forty students is like being
part of a large family. Close and valued friendships were formed
with students and faculty, and I met the girl who fourteen years
later would become my wife. Since the school was 500 miles from
Fargo, I was able to go home only at Christmas, Easter and for
two months in the summer. So much could be told about my
three years at Radville, and one year at Weyburn after the school
moved there, that it is difficult to know what to tell and what to
(To be continued, Lord willing.)
Published in The Old Paths Archive