|The death of Jason Abraham Alford ended more than three-quarters of a century span of service of four Alford brothers in the Methodist ministry. Born in a farm home in Pike County, Mississippi, and having a local Methodist preacher father and a devoutly Christian mother, he never knew what it was not to love God and the Church. His ninety-six years were a continuous reflection of his heritage.
Brother Alford’s ministry was greatly enhanced by his marriages—the first to Katie Kunderd Flanders who died in 1940 and the second to Ava Morton who survives. These two ladies were totally involved in his work wherever it happened to be. Their contributions are immeasurable.
Deep personal commitment characterized Jason Alford’s life and ministry. In counseling young minister he once said, “When you visit your people make sure when you leave that they are aware that a man of God has been there.” He was proud to be a man of God and the thousands to whom he ministered both as a pastor and as a hospital chaplain were brought into the presence of the Lord as he talked and prayed with them. Someone in downtown New Orleans where he served over a long period of time remarked that Brother Alford’s people were not afraid to die if he stood by their beds.
As a preacher, Brother Alford’s greatest concern was to tell “the story.” It was not by sudden whim that he chose the hymn “We’ve a Story to Tell the Nations” to be sung at the end of his funeral for this was the theme song of his long life. Those who were present at the funeral felt in a special way the mandate of the hymn. In telling the story by his life and his preaching he showed himself to be a man of deep convictions. Right was right and wrong was wrong—the shades of gray were not countenanced. In his quiet way he measured issues on the basis of the story he was called to tell and spoke and lived ever for the right.
With his family, friends, and church he was not only generous but also self denying. Having no children of his own, he served as second father to numerous nieces and nephews. Some he helped through college, others he assisted in time of special crisis and need. Always the members of his family knew they could count on “Uncle J” for his prayers, his love, and if need be for his financial help.
He had been hoping for some time that the Pine Grove Church where he attended and served as teacher and church school superintendent could become a station church. He had determined not long before he died to give far beyond his tithe to help make this possible. The bulletin of the church carried a poem, “Ode to Brother Alford,” on the occasion of the celebration of his birthday. Written by a friend, the first stanza expresses aptly his life of giving.
I know someone who gives away
His heart in bits and pieces;
A little bit here, a little bit there—
It seems he never ceases.
He gives his time to help the sick.
He comforts the sad and lonely.
He forgets himself and what he needs
And lives for others only.
When the end of his life came, those who loved him remembered his smile, his love of the beauty of flowers, his humility, his loyalty and his patience. As the ministers who were present at his funeral gathered at his casket, placed their hands on it and sang “Amazing Grace,” it was sublime to know that through this grace Brother Alford was at that moment no longer “seeing through a glass darkly” but rather in the glory of the light of the Presence he was experiencing “the kingdom of love and light.”
|Source: Journal Louisiana Conference, 1974; p. 144 By L. Ray Branton|