In 1932, My grandfather, A.M. Overton, was a pastor of a church in Mississippi with a wife and three small children. His wife was pregnant with their fourth child but when it came time for delivery, there were complications and both she and the baby died. During the funeral service, the preacher officiating the service noticed my grandfather writing something on a piece of paper. After the service the minister asked him about it, and he handed him the paper with a poem he had just written which he titled, “He Maketh No Mistake”.
"He Maketh No Mistake"
My Father’s way may twist and turn
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad to know,
He maketh no mistake.
My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead,
For He doth know the way.
Tho’ night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break,
I’ll pin my faith, my all, in Him,
He maketh no mistake.
There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim,
But come what may,
I’ll simply trust and leave it all to Him.
For by and by the mist will lift,
And plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way, tho’ dark to me,
He made not one mistake.
- A.M. Overton, 1932
Background Info(Written by my father, Dr. Bob Overton, in response to an inquiry by a researcher named Wiley Fulton)
Thanks for your interest in my dad, A.M. Overton. I am glad to give you some information about him.
He grew up in Toone, TN, the son of a farmer. He graduated from Union University in Jackson, TN, where he was a debate partner with J.D. Grey. He told the story that when they left college, J.D. said, "I am going to be president of the SBC," to which Dad replied, "I will probably be so far out in the boondocks that I won't hear about it." While a college student, I visited Dr. Grey at the FBC of New Orleans. He treated me royally and spoke most fondly of Dad. He also gave me some information about the poem. I knew something of the story but not as much as he told, which I will repeat to you.
First, Dad was pastor of the FBC of Baldwyn, MS, a small town in northeast Mississippi. While there his wife died in childbirth, the baby also dying. He was left with three children, two girls and a boy, ages about 8-12. During the funeral service, the pastor preaching the sermon noticed that Dad was writing. After the service he asked about it, and Dad gave him the words that are now familiar to many people around the world, "He Maketh No Mistake."
Shortly afterwards, he married a lady from Baldwyn and then became the pastor of the Fulton Baptist Church [now FBC], about forty miles from Baldwyn. Fulton is a county seat town just a few miles west of the Alabama state line, about fifty miles south of the Tennessee state line. He pastored that church until his death of colon cancer in 1952, at the age of 52. I was the oldest of four children born to that marriage in Fulton, followed by two daughters and another son. His preaching ministry was that of expository preacher. He almost always preached through books of the Bible, one on Sunday morning, another on Sunday night, and another on Wednesday night. [Sometimes I think that both Sunday sermons were from the same book.]
His activities were many. He began a radio program around 1945, a Saturday morning "Radio Bible Class." This grew into a network of several stations in several states nearby; then later he added some large "clear channel" stations in Texas and Mexico that covered a large part of the nation. He once received a letter of H.S. Ironside of Moody Church, Chicago, very well-known at that time, commending him for his good work. It was during that time that I played the piano as introduction and conclusion to his programs, traveling with him every Saturday to Tupelo, MS, where the broadcast originated, and once a month for a whole afternoon while he recorded four or five messages for use in the larger stations further away. I had no idea at the time that those experiences were making an enormous impact on me. When I arrived at Mississippi College, by his arrangement, shortly after his death, having just surrendered to preach, it dawned on me after two or three years there that I was miles ahead of my fellow ministerial students in knowledge of the Bible. The reason, of course, was that I had been under my father's strong Bible preaching three times every week all my life through high school, plus the untold numbers of radio messages. I must admit that I wasn't really "trying" to learn the Bible all that time, but much of it rubbed off on me anyway. A tribute, of course, to the grace of the Lord to me.
You will appreciate this little side note, especially given your name. He received mail from all over the country in response to his radio programs. He never, ever asked for money, but it came unsolicited and was the entire financial provision for the programs. His address was simply, A.M. Overton, Fulton, MS. He once received a letter addressed to A.M. Fulton, Overton, MS. Somehow, he got it! By the way, the Lord's provision of finances for the radio ministry was a story in itself. Countless times he came to the absolute last day that bills had to be paid, without sufficient funds to pay them, but the last mail delivery on the last day would always have the needed amount, often almost to the dollar!
As far back as I can remember, Dad published a monthly paper called "The Clarion" which went to hundreds of homes all those years. The radio ministry expanded the reach of it and it was sent to most of the states plus a few foreign countries. He published numerous gospel tracts on various subjects and these were sent all over the world. He published several books of the radio sermons and also, as you thought, a book of poems. But the book of poems was not promoted and never went very far. "He Maketh No Mistake" was in that book, entitled "Chimes of Dawn."
Perhaps a crowning achievement of his life was the beginning of a school for preachers which was housed in the church in Fulton. He was Dean and Teacher, and some pastor friends of his composed the teaching faculty. This lasted only a few years because it ended at his death, but for those years there were 20-30 students every semester. In our house we had two upstairs bedrooms and four of the students would live there, eating their meals at our table. I don't know how my mother managed this, but it just seemed like the way life was supposed to be for us kids. Table conversations were most interesting. Again, part of my legacy. These were the years I was in upper elementary school through high school, so mid-40s to early 50s.
His life was cut short, or so it seemed to us, by colon cancer that began in 1951. He had surgery at the Baptist Hospital in Memphis, TN, and later returned to the pulpit for a while, but after a few months the cancer resumed it relentless march through his body. He suffered much pain for several months before his death in July of 1952. Looking back, it's hard to see how he could accomplish so much in so short a period of time. He was a tireless worker who never really took any time off. The church built for him a garage with adjoining office in the back yard of our house, which he enjoyed for many years. Part of his radio ministry became the sale of religious books which he stocked in that office. So I grew up with a ready-made "library" of Christian devotional books and Christian fiction for teenagers. Another part of my legacy.
Surely you have recognized by now that I have enjoyed writing these lines to you. I have never had occasion to do this before, so I thank you for the inquiry that set it into motion, and for my son's internet search concerning the poem that precipitated your inquiry. Apparently you are something of a "history buff" so maybe you have enjoyed this little trip down memory lane just half as much as I have.
Perhaps you would like to know that I was a Baptist pastor for 47 years, the last church being the Rice Temple Baptist Church in Houston, TX, where I served for 31 years. I began teaching for Southwestern Seminary's Houston campus in 1983 as an ad junct professor, then retired from the church and began work fulltime with the seminary in 2001. I greatly enjoy my work as Dean and Professor because it is an opportunity to make an investment in the lives of men and women who will be serving the Lord all over the world for many years. I continue to preach regularly, serving as Interim Pastor for churches most of the time.
I was enjoying my Labor Day weekend with some jetski therapy and I learned something. (Yes, jetskis can be therapeutic!) My family has spent a lot of holidays like this at my in-laws lakehouse on Toledo Bend here in Texas. We had a great day enjoying a surprisingly pleasant weather day for this time of year. Daniel, my 13 year old son, who would later have an epic knee board wipe-out, and I were taking the jetski out on the first run of the day. Now, I had not planned on learning anything that day, I just want to make that clear. Toledo Bend is a large resevoir on the Sabine River which seperates Texas from Lousiana. It is full of stumps which makes it a fisherman's paradise and a skier's nightmare. Yet we ski. In order to avoid said stumps, boaters navigate along safe routes by following countless miles of buoys. As we were approaching a buoy, Daniel, who was driving, asked me "where is the next marker?" I looked and did not see it either, UNTIL we actually reached the buoy closest to us. And then I saw the familiar shape through the splashing water. I pointed it out to him and off we went... rapidly I must add. This was after all... therapy!
All of a sudden, there it was, the lesson I didn't know I needed. This is exactly the way I treat God and his directions. It is not enough for me to be able to see my objective that is right in front of me. Oh no, I insist on knowing where the next marker is as well. This causes me to be impatient and discontented. Now, the worst thing to do on a jetski in a stump infested lake is to charge off without seeing the next buoy. Sometimes those next markers are not easy to see, and to set off without a bearing could end badly. In the same way, when I can't see God's next objective for me, I tend to set out in a direction that seems to make sense to me. This rarely works out well, but I never seem to learn how to identify this kind of situation. I need to be willing to hang out around my current situation and see what God has put in front of me. This is true even when the next marker does not show itself right away. God has this thing about teaching me things at the least obvious times and situations. In the waiting and seeking God, I tend to learn and grow.
So I wait, and seek, and learn, and grow and try to be content... and look for the next marker.