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Orell Overman-Servant Of God

by Buford Smith

From Words of Life News -- November-December 2014

I was in the 10-12 age group when Brother Orel Overman preached a revival meeting for the Jennings, Louisiana, Church of Christ. I remember a very tall thin man with a deep voice. His face seemed alternately stern and sad, until he spoke. He said the obvious, he did not need a microphone. His voice covered the auditorium.

I was impressed by this tall man, his eyes blinked rapidly as he spoke softly of Jesus. He carried a white handkerchief. With one corner he wiped his eyes. With another he cared for his nose. He had my attention.

I heard his message through his body language. My mind's eye sees him in the pulpit: tall and serious. He told no jokes. He elicited no laughter. He did not speak of ball games, of fishing, or of hunting. He spoke of the great love of God expressed in Jesus, and he cried. Jesus was important to him. The meeting ended. Other things crowded my mind. The picture of the tall man who cried, slowly faded.

At age 26, the Lord nudged us. Maude and I moved our family to Southeast Louisiana for a two year study with Bro. Richard Ramsey. The next three and a half years were in Cynthiana, Kentucky, ministering to the Salem Church of Christ.

On June first of 1967 we moved our family to Dugger, Indiana. The parsonage was not ready for our arrival. We camped at Woodland Bible Camp for two or three weeks. God used that time to re-acquaint me with the tall thin man who cried when he preached about Jesus. His body language had not changed. God provided the mentor I would need.

Brother Orel did not offer to become my private mentor. I adopted him. When I felt pressured, or had a question about Scripture, I called or visited. If he wasn't home, he was most likely at Woodland Camp, doing things needed to get ready for campers. Wherever I found him, his demeanor was the same. His unhurried approach encouraged me. He made no demands of me. He simply answered my questions. Every time we had a discussion at Woodland, and I was invited to share my knowledge, I deferred to Bro. Orel. I knew I would learn from him and others would be blessed.

For several years Bro. Orel had a daily radio program. When discussing some prophetic Scripture or answering troubling questions, he gave needed explanations then would say, "It seems to me ... ," and, in his strong quiet voice he gave his understanding.

In 1998 we prepared to dedicate the new Shiloh Church of Christ building. I suggested having Bro. Orel deliver the main address. I believed he would have the right message of seriousness and encouragement for the congregation. His message seemed to be well received. I appreciated his encouraging words to all of us.

Two occasions show a lighter side of this dedicated servant of God. One year, Bro. Orel directed the week for young campers. At an evening singing/Bible Study/devotional time, Bro. Orel and the campers were seated in a circle. The campers wanted to sing "Scotland's Burning." Bro.Orel hesitated a moment, then led them in the song. The last act of the song was to yell, "Throw on water! Throw on water!" After the giggling subsided, Bro. Orel looked at other grown-ups and said, "There is not much theology in the song, but they like the action."

For several months the local radio station offered a ten minute devotional and invited local ministers to participate. I usually drove over to Bro. Orel's home to record, then, on my way home I stopped at the radio stationto leave the taped devotional and an LP record of church songs that were used to open the program. One day I was running late. I drove to the Overman residence, recorded the devotional, and realized I had forgotten my LP record of church songs. Bro. Orel ruffled through his supply of LPs. I saw an S. C. C. LP cover, with a record inside. I grabbed it and ran. At the station, I told the DJ, Max, to "choose an opening song."

As I wheeled out of the parking lot, I turned on the radio, to critique my devotional. Soon Max introduced me.

"Today's devotion is by Buford Smith from the Dugger Church of Christ." I waited. I heard Tennessee Ernie Ford  singing "I'm sending you a big bouquet of roses." Later, when I returned the LP, Bro. Orel enjoyed a chuckle. He had no idea who put that record in the S.C.C. cover.

Recently, Bro. Orel spent rehab time in the Lyons Nursing facility. We approached his room, and hesitated. He sat, facing the window, hunched over in his chair. He didn't see or hear us come into his room. Upon reaching his chair, we found him hunched over a book. He was reading the Chronicles of Narnia.

I have high respect and trust for several preachers and Bible teachers in our brotherhood. I do not attempt to gauge their effectiveness as servants of our God. However, by God's grace I have been blessed to observe Brother Orel Overman, for forty-seven years. I listened as he taught the Word. I heard him encourage families as they watched the body of a loved one being laid to rest to wait the Lord's coming. I observed him doing physical labor to have Woodland Bible Camp ready for young campers. I believe I know him. I trusted him. I recommended him to every person seeking a deeper understanding of the God of the Bible.

Bro. Orel spent many hours studying the Bible and discussing the teachings of Scripture. He believed it. He loved it. And he was devoted to his Lord and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. His devotion is evident in what he valued: the books in his library, his lifestyle at home, at church, at camp, and in public.

I think the great apostle Paul expressed it well, "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain!" Bro. Orel lived it.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Buford Smith is minister of the Shiloh Church of Christ, Dugger, IN.

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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10