"Second Timothy tells us to walk by faith, not by sight. My faith is all I have," Rev. Keith Lipsey, pastor New Bethel AME Church.
"I know where all things come from. They come from the Lord," Greg Poe, Christian and Edward Jones financial advisor who has been riding the recent roller coaster turmoil on the stock market.
"Just trust God. Sometimes it takes years before we see how God knew the best outcome. We should always trust God," veteran Rutherford County journalist Jean Gordon and granddaughter of Rev. R.L. Crawford.
When the going gets tough, the tough turn to their faith; and they often find the not-so-tough next to them, standing amazed in the presence.
If Rutherford County should be known for anything, it's the faith of its people.
One such faithful son was the Rev. R.L. Crawford, who has an unusual memorial. His collection of rocks which he used to mark prayers is now behind the cemetery at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. The church house and cemetery lie on Hudlow Road near the intersection of Hudlow and U.S. 64. It's worth a visit.
The column of rocks is over six feet high and that many feet across. The column was placed there in 1988 during the construction of the 74 bypass which passed through the Crawford's family farmland. The North Carolina Department of Transportation moved the column, rock by rock, to its present home when they learned of its historical value.
Crawford had brought home a rock from every wedding, every revival, every funeral, many of the worship services he led for his 50-plus years in ministry. Each time he would say a prayer and add a rock to the pile. Now it stands as a well-appointed prayer garden/memorial. It's immaculately maintained by the church's maintenance committee chaired by Jim Carpenter with lots of help from his wife, Joyce.
In 1981, legendary Charlotte Observer columnist Kays Gary wrote of how the impending highway threatened Crawford's prayer altar of rocks. At the end of the article, he quoted Crawford talking about how he prays because "the ground beneath us shakes."
Crawford's granddaughter, another journalism legend in her own right, Jean Gordon, said that faith over shaking ground is exactly what people need today as we deal with the coronavirus. "Trusting God is so important when we can't see a foot in front of us. That's what we're living through now."
"Just trust God," Gordon said of facing the threat of the virus to local residents and the economy. "I pray every day. My granddaddy taught me to do that. But I have never prayed more than I have the past two weeks. I'm sure other people are doing the same."
Gordon added "You have to pray and believe." She said she has one acquaintance who prays all the time, but is very frustrated with the outcomes. "I tell her you have to pray and believe God will do what's best. There are plenty of stones in this altar that represent prayers that didn't get answered like he wanted. Sometimes it takes years to see that God knew the best outcome."
It's that kind of faith that prompted Gordon to bring a particularly large rock to the altar to mark her prayer for the whole world during the current crisis.
Two other praying believers are Greg Poe and the Rev. Keith Lipsey. Each testified to a faith that is shared by hundreds of millions all over the world as thousands have died and the economy has been upended by the virus crisis.
"God always has the last word," Lipsey said. "He told us there would be times like this, wars and rumors of wars, famine, pestilence." He agreed that we may be facing times as tough as World War II, but he also said God is in control.
In addition to his duties at New Bethel, Lipsey is a child protective services worker with Polk County DSS and has an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy.
New Bethel is continuing to have Sunday morning worship services, but a recent Sunday saw the regular congregation of 100 fall to 65.
He has one daughter who lives in Charlotte.
Poe and his wife, Hannah, live near the Crawford memorial and are active in Community Bible Study, a large ministry that serves through Second Baptist Church in Rutherfordton. They also serve through Community Bible Study International and have traveled many times to southern Africa, where they have led Bible studies since 1997. They also lived in that part of the world for three years. They have two sons.
Poe said, "I know that my treasure is not in store houses where moths and rust can destroy, where thieves can break in and steal. Does the present situation create stress? Absolutely, but we have been so blessed. I have a great family. I have a job that allows me to work with tremendous people. We are so blessed."
Gordon said the Crawford family has many members locally and around the country. Her mother, Irene, now deceased, sounded the alarm with the DOT that they were going to destroy a 50-year-old altar when they agreed to move the rocks in 1988. Mt. Vernon Baptist agreed to host the memorial.
Today when drivers on 74 cross under the overpass at Poors Ford Road, they are driving through a piece of land that was prayed over for 50 years.
"I asked him for a Bible once and he gave it to me. Later my sister asked me about it and she said, 'Why did you give you a Bible?' I told her, 'Because I asked him.' He wrote a verse in the Bible. 'Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.' It's meant a lot."
She added that the prayer altar was a secret spot. "He would often take people down there to pray with him, but it wasn't like everybody knew about it. I was grown before I went down there."
The altar is a massive collection of rocks, invoking the rock of ages, and the old hymn that sings, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." For these three Christians and hundreds of millions of other praying believers, it brings to mind another hymn, "I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus, the Nazarene."
Standing amazed by that, more than some old virus, might help us get through.