Source--The Sesquicentennial History of The First Baptist Church of Hot Springs, AR --1836-1986


Two of the brightest jewels in the diadem of heaven are Brother John and Sister Jewell Abernathy. Truly, they are two of God's saints who extended themselves to the utmost to carry out the great commission of our Christ, when he said, "go unto the uttermost parts of the earth." Commissioned by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, they served thirty years in China, eleven years in Korea and three years in the Philippines, for a total of forty-four years on the foreign mission field.  The two actually met in 1920 on the way to mission assignments, and they were married in 1925 in Shantung Province, China.

While Brother John was entitled to bear the title of Doctor of Divinity, he preferred to be called "Brother John", and brother he was to many souls. He was born in North Carolina and graduated from both the Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth and the New Orleans Seminary. He was also a graduate of the University of North Carolina.

As foreign missionaries, John and Jewell Abernathy went through five wars and on three occasions were separated and lost all of their personal belongings. For nine months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Brother John languished in a Japanese prison. After being repatriated he was commissioned by our government as Liaison Officer between our Army and the people of China where he received the citation "Order of the Cloud and Banner" from General Chiang Kai-shek's staff, with the rank of Brigadier General. During the time he served as liaison officer, he was also Chaplain for a Chinese interpreting school, seeing 121 students become Christians. He also taught military English. Later when his friends would call him "General" he would blush. The Abernathy's were in Tsinan, the capital of Shantung Province, in 1932 when the great "Shantung Revival" began and continued through World War 11. They were personal witnesses to the working of the Holy Spirit in this great historical event.

During their tour of duty in Korea, Brother John became the founder and first president of the Baptist Seminary in Korea. At the end of their tour of duty in Korea they returned to the U.S.A. and what a blessing it was for First Baptist Church when they selected Hot Springs as their place of retirement and First Baptist their place of worship. They came under the watchcare of our church on March 13, 1960.

Soon after they arrived in Hot Springs they began to ac­cept invitations to speak and present programs in churches, associations, conventions and civic organizations. They never slowed down.

Three years after their arrival in Hot Springs the Foreign Mission Board again tapped their energies and ability and sent them to Manila where Brother John assumed the duties as pastor of the Clark Air Force Base Baptist Church in the Philippines. Before leaving Hot Springs the church gave a tea in their honor on July 14, 1963 and on December 15, 1963 the church sent them the money they needed to purchase an organ for their church. After three years of service in Manila, they returned to Hot Springs where they retained residence for the balance of their lives.

On June 24, 1970 our church elected Brother John as a messenger to the Baptist World Alliance meeting in Tokyo, Japan, where he had a part on the program. In June, 1967 Bro. John was elected Second Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention by acclamation, the second member from our church to be elected an officer of the Convention.

After a long and serious illness, Brother John had his coronation day on March 19, 1973 when he went home to be with the Lord. There is no way to determine his influence for good while he was a patient in the hospital. He won the hearts of the doctors, nurses and all who were responsible for his physical needs. This was attested to, when his funeral services were held in our sanctuary on March 22, 1973, by the large number of hospital personnel that attend­ed.

His funeral service was a celebration in its truest sense. Ruth Bremer sang, "How Great Thou Art." The pastor, Rev. Lloyd Cloud, read from Brother John's Bible the scriptures he marked before his death, passages from the 37th and 116th Psalms and all of the 103rd Psalm. Col. Chris Widderson of the Salvation Army, who served in Korea with Brother John, led in prayer. Dr. Roger M. Smith, Assistant Executive Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board, came from Richmond, Virginia to represent the board and read a large number of letters of tribute from denomination leaders across the country. Bob Taylor sang "Amazing Grace" and on the fourth stanza asked the audience to stand and join in the singing. It seemed like the gates of heaven had opened and that the angels were singing too.

Rev. Cloud read II Timothy 4:6-8 and delivered the "Celebration Sermon." What a tribute to our church that such a service as this would be held in our church and for one of our own. Again we say, PRAISE GOD!

Sister Jewell, his life's companion, started praying that if it was the Lord's will He would take her home to be with her beloved John. Her prayers were answered on February 16, 1977 and she was reunited with Bro. John in the presence of Jesus. Her coronation service was also held in the sanctuary of our church with a large attendance.

In his will Brother John left all of his possessions to Sister Jewell and in her will she left all of the remaining posses­sions to the Foreign Mission Board. We salute this royal cou­ple for the countless number of lives they touched in their ministries.