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Ramsey devotes his life to mission work
Ramsey(left) and his fellow missionaries pose for this photo while working in New York.
By Shirley Shuman
Although mission work and smuggling usually do not go together, in the case of one young missionary, they definitely did. Jeremiah Ramsey, a 2010 graduate of Braxton County High School has spent much of his time since high school doing mission work in different areas. On his very first mission, he actually spent two months smuggling.
Although the smuggling in which Ramsey participated was illegal in the area where it took place, it of course did not involve any of the materials which one generally associates with smuggling. Carrying Bibles in briefcases, he, a friend of his family, and other missionaries, smuggled them into China. He explained, “We were stationed in Hong Kong,” he said, “and we dressed as businessmen to carry out our mission.”
Continuing, Ramsey said, “Each of us—usually in groups of three to five— would take two briefcases filled with 70 to 80 pounds of Bibles. We took the train from Hong Kong to the Chinese border and there attempted to get through customs with the Bibles. Of course the Hong Kong inspectors didn’t stop us, but the Chinese usually scanned everyone’s items carefully.”
“We prayed while we waited outside the customs area, and then went in one at a time. Our briefcases were put on a conveyor belt to be scanned, and the scanner would show black blocks. Whether they opened our briefcases and confiscated the Bibles often depended upon the mood of the Chinese custom agents. If they were in a bad mood, they confiscated the Bibles, and then, on our way back into Hong Kong, we paid a fee and our “books,” as we were forced to call them, were returned to us,” he said. Those who made it through met at a previously designated place.
According to Ramsey, the missionaries actually learned which custom agents were most likely to stop them, and, he said, they would go “a maximum of three times when certain work crews were on duty.” He told the story of his experience with “one lady custom agent,” saying, “One day this lady caught me three times. The last time, she said to me, ‘We caught you many times today.’ Then she took my briefcases and said to me, ‘You sit in that chair for three hour!.’” He did just that, and then the customs worker gave him the briefcases and said, “Take your books and don’t come back!” Then Ramsey added, “The next day, she was in a better mood and didn’t even stop me.”
Following successful crossing into China, the missionaries “had several drop-off spots, usually a store-type building with a back room.” They would go through the store and into the back room where they packed the Bibles into boxes. Chinese citizens would come in to pick up the Bibles and take them to various underground Christian churches. “Those Chinese individuals risked their lives by distributing the Bibles,” Ramsey commented. “We would have been sent out of the country, but they might well have been executed.”
Following his two months smuggling Bibles into China, Ramsey and two others spent a month on mission work in Vietnam. Returning to Braxton, he worked for Bi-Con during the winter. He spent the next summer in New Mexico as part of Next Step Ministry. There the staff, of which he was a member, and different groups from churches from all over the United States—and even Korea, “worked on homes” on the reservation where they were stationed. Here Ramsey explained something of which many people are not aware. The students who volunteer to work on various missions, he said, “pay to come and they bring materials for the work being done with them.” He did say, however, that the mission staff feeds the students. Another point he made here was that much of the witnessing the staff members did was actually to the young volunteers.
“We developed one-on-one relationships with these young people,” he said, “and many accepted Christ after hearing our testimony.” He added that the staff also sometimes built the same type of relationships with those living on the reservation. However, that “often proved more difficult.”
Ramsey’s next mission came the following summer, again with Next Step Ministry. This time, they were based in Glenville and worked in Rosedale. “We built two full buildings and did work for 20-plus households that summer,” he said. Again, of course, the workers came from churches outside the state. They lived in Anchor Ministry’s building.
Ramsey spent an entire summer working in New York. “We worked to help the Hurricane Sandy victims,” he said. “With the volunteers from churches all over the U.S., we worked the entire summer helping these people rebuild.” One thing which he pointed out here was that they “worked a lot on the first floors of homes and other buildings.” He explained, “Many structures’ second floors remained intact,” adding “Of course, some buildings collapsed and were condemned.”
A later two-week trip to Haiti involved an effort to build homes which had been devastated by an earthquake. Ramsey emphasized that, in Haiti, the missionaries “were just laborers” and said, “The Haitians told us what to do” and admitted the language barrier sometimes proved a problem. In Haiti, they made mud right in the middle of the dirt floors and worked from that. In addition to some repair work, the group built two entire houses.
The daily schedule began with a Haitian breakfast, which included a flat tortilla, some kind of meat, rice and beans—and which Ramsey pronounced “delicious”— from six to six-thirty. Following a one-hour ride in the back of a truck, they worked until four o’clock and headed back to the base. Their base was a mission center which included a school with armed guards at the front gate, a hospital, and a large church. Upon their return, they had devotions followed by dinner.
Some of the more interesting building Ramsey did with Next Step Ministry took place on a Navajo Indian reservation. There they built hogans, the traditional Navajo home. “Hogans are eight-sided structures,” Ramsey explained. “Some have dirt floors, but some of the younger Navajos want wooden floors,” he added. He also explained some of the Navajo’s superstitions about their homes. “The front door of a hogan has to face east to meet the sun. The building must also have one window facing each of the other three directions, and they hang a certain wreath on the door to keep out rattlesnakes,” he said.
Discussing his experiences on the reservation, Ramsey talked about an elderly lady who already had a home but for whom they built another building. “This elderly lady had 15 people living in her hogan. You can imagine how crowded that was, because the hogan is usually just one large room.
We built her another building, this one of wood, and we made sure it had eight sides,” he related.
Apparently the missionaries managed more one-on-one relationships with the Navajo than with other groups. Ramsey said he “grew close to a lady named Marie.” He said, “When I first met her, she had leukemia and was somewhat reluctant [to get involved with the church services]. She used to come to church with a friend. One night, though, she came into the church and looked for her friend. She even called her name, and when someone told her the friend wasn’t there, she just turned around and left.” Continuing, Ramsey said that Marie had leukemia, but “since she began a relationship with Christ, she has been getting well.”
Jeremiah Ramsey, whose parents are Clark and Dani Ramsey of Rosedale, obviously takes his missionary work seriously. Vowing that he plans to continue” helping others and bringing the lost to Christ,” he currently possesses a goal of completing missions in other countries and is working to accomplish that goal. Driven by his own faith and the desire to help others, his success seems certain.
Braxton Jury convicts Webster
woman of murder
A Braxton County petit jury has convicted a 50 year old Webster County woman of first degree murder. Julia Surbaugh was on trial for the shooting death of her husband in 2009 in Webster Springs. The trial was moved to Sutton after an impartial jury could not be assembled in Webster.
The worst winter ever? Think again!
Surbaugh was found guilty in a 2010 trial, but in 2012 the case was returned to the court for re-trial by the State Supreme Court which cited procedural errors in the first proceedings.
During the trial, Webster County Prosecutor Dwayne Vandevendar presented evidence including a recorded statement where Surbaugh said she shot her husband twice. Defense attorney Dan Hardway presented a defense focused around what he termed police errors or lack of evidence collection. Hardway also alleged that errors were made by the hospital in Michael Surbaugh’s death.
After ten days of hearing evidence and testimony presented by the state and defense, the jury of seven women and five men deliberated a little over three hours before returning their verdict. Judge Richard Facemire read the verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree with a recommendation of no mercy to the court shortly after 9 p.m. last Thursday, March 6.
Surbaugh was immediately remanded to the care of the Braxton County Sheriff’s Department for transport to the Central Regional Jail to await transfer to the State Penitentiary where she will serve a life sentence without the eligibility of parole. She had previously served 3 years after the first conviction, which also was guilty of first degree murder.
By Shirley Shuman
Burnsville native joins Calhoun Banks staff
Numerous individuals, disgruntled and miserable because of the snow and extreme cold they have experienced this winter, maintain that this has been the worst winter Braxton County has seen. Perhaps, if these people are relatively young, that may be true; however, many remember much harsher winters regarding both snow—depths and lasting time—and temperatures.
For example, one 83-year old man, who asked not to be named, remembers that in 1977, Strange Creek was not only frozen over, but “the ice was 19 inches deep.” This individual went on to say, “Loaded log trucks actually drove over Strange Creek for several weeks. It didn’t get above freezing for close to a month.” That winter also included “lots of snow,” he said.
Hazel Hall also remembers a worse winter although she doesn’t recall the exact year. Hall and her family lived up on a hill, and her husband worked in an oil field and was away. She said she was “stuck on the hill for three weeks.” She also remembers that their house had one room with a flat roof, and the snow on that roof measured 27 inches. Her daughters, she noted, came up with an interesting use for that snow.
“Afraid the roof would collapse, we shoveled the snow off,” she said, “and our daughters Michelle and Dee went out and built an igloo outside my kitchen window.” Continuing, she explained, “They hollowed it out, took out some rugs and candles, and had a lot of fun.” Then, the family had to go to North Carolina because of her father’s illness. When they returned, “all that was left of their igloo was rugs and candles.”
Hall also remembers a strange phenomenon which her family witnessed. Out in their meadow, they saw “what looked like snow wheels.” She noted, “They say that the wind, temperature, and snow have to be just right for this to happen. It was really phenomenal!”
Also of Gassaway, Helen Traugh told of the type of winter she experienced “as a kid.” She said, “I remember it was so cold the creeks froze over, but we still went to school. Dad put hay on the sled, and Mom tucked jars filled with hot water in the hay. Then she covered us with blankets, and he took us to school.” She commented, “You know, they didn’t call off school back then the way they do now.” Regarding snow depths, Traugh said, “One winter, the snow was so deep that we could raise our windows and reach out and touch the snow.”
Asked about this winter’s “reputation,” Alberta Skidmore of Heaters remarked, “This to me hasn’t been such a bad winter.” She recalls that the snow “was really deep back in the early 50’s” and added, “We didn’t have warm days between snows. Actually, after the first snow, we usually had snow on the ground for a long time.” Skidmore can recall walking to school “when the snow was almost to [her] knees.” She, too, emphasized, “We had school even in that bad weather.”
Another individual who remembers the snow of 1952, Grace James of Frametown, described that winter. “It started snowing Thanksgiving evening and snowed so much we couldn’t get out except by walking,” she said. She remembers that, sometime later, “Glen Singleton came up Stumbo with a bulldozer and cleared a road for those of us who lived up there.”
James also told of her husband’s experiences taking care of cattle “he was wintering for Byrl Fisher.” She said, “The cattle were in a barn on the hill, and Bob walked through the snow to feed and water them. I remember when he came back he was wet all the way to his waist.” One winter, when her husband was working in Kentucky, James had the job of feeding the cattle. “The hay was in the barn, and the cattle were in the barn, but I had to go through all that snow to get there. Then, the cattle’s water was frozen so I had to thaw it,” she said, adding, “I nearly froze to death.”
Adding to the stories, Elizabeth Stewart of Sutton described winters she had experienced from two points of reference. “Before I returned to Braxton County, I taught in Pocahontas County. I remember while I was there we had snow right after Thanksgiving, and still had snow in the spring. It was still so cold that spring that, for the Junior Prom in May, the girls wore their winter coats over their prom dresses.” She noted that her first purchase when she moved to Pocahontas was a pair of boots, of which she made good use.
Speaking of winter from another point of reference, Stewart told of a storm “back in the 50s” when her family “brought in the neighbors who had no heat in their home.” She remarked that she and her siblings thoroughly enjoyed having the neighbors’ children around.
Stewart remembers the winter of 1976-77 as being “the worst in Braxton.” She commented, “We hardly went to school in January that year. We were supposed to return to school between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and of course no one wanted to do that.” Here she told of something that those people with whom she taught at the local high school will remember well. “When I worked in Pocahontas County, I [in fun] learned to do the Pocahontas ‘snow dance’ to bring snow. Well, I jokingly ‘did’ my snow dance. We didn’t have school between Christmas and New Year’s Day because of snow. As a matter of fact, January was just a wash as far as school was concerned,” she said.
That year was also “incredibly cold,” Stewart noted, adding “That was the winter we got our Canadian geese. They were looking for moving water and found it in front of the dam.” She remembers, too, that the geese “had their own little bank account from donations to buy grain for them.”
Betty Schiefer, who lives in Gassaway, also remembers winters when it was incredibly cold. Schiefer definitely maintains this winter “has not been as bad as some [she remembers].” She said that she can remember when “Elk River froze over completely.” She also remembers that her family “cut ice out of the river and stored blocks of it in sawdust.” These blocks of ice “lasted all winter” and they used them during the summer “to keep things cold and to make ice cream.”
Schiefer, who caught the school bus at Rock Camp, remembers that the boys from one family “came across the river to catch the bus.” For quite a while during that winter, she said, “they walked across the river,” adding, “They carried a pole to use to test the ice as they walked.” Adding to others’ comments about having school in all kinds of weather, Schiefer commented, “Sometimes the buses ran late, and we had to wait for them, Also, sometimes they didn’t run. Even then, though, they had school for the kids who lived in town. They just did not cancel school.”
Echoing those who spoke of the winter of 1952, Carolyn Patrick of Frametown said that winter they saw “really bad weather.” She gave one example of the depth of the snow that year. “Our grandmother lived alone across the hill from us. To check on her, the boys in the family actually made a tunnel through the snow to cross the hill to her house.”
Another example of remembering deep snow came from Mary Stewart of Gassaway. “Once, when I was a child,” Stewart said, “we woke up and the snow came to the bottom of our windows. That morning, my dad and my brother went out to try to go to work, and my brother’s car was completely covered with snow.” Stewart also recalls that they had school even during those bad winters, and she told about walking to catch the bus. “We lived in the country, eight-tenths of a mile from the bus stop. My dad used to walk out to catch a ride to work, and when we went to catch the bus, we tried to step in his footprints to make it easier for us to walk,” she said.
Two of those interviewed feel that this winter may be the worst they’ve experienced. Mary Sue Rollyson of Frametown, for example, said she thinks “there’s been more snow—more spells of snow.” She said, “This has been the longest winter I can remember.” Rollyson supported her comments with the fact that she and her husband “have already used 10 truckloads of wood in the fireplace,” even though they heat their home with electricity. Also, she noted, “Our electric bill has been at least fifty dollars higher each month than it was last winter.” However, Rollyson has “actually enjoyed staying inside this winter. “We have the fireplace, and I’ve been doing a lot of quilting,” she said.
Willa Brown, the second individual who regards this winter as being a particularly bad one, said, “At least it’s been the worst one in recent years. I can’t remember a worse one.”
According to the National Weather Service, the weather this year has broken several records for cold temperatures. However, most if not all of those apply to records for one day rather than for the extended periods which the interviewees remember. Considering the snowfalls they described and the long periods of snow on the ground as well as prolonged extremely cold temperatures, one can only conclude that this winter, indeed, has not been the worst the county has ever seen. After all, the Elk River did not freeze over.
Royce Steele, a well-known face in the Braxton County banking community, has joined the staff of Calhoun Banks where she now serves as Assistant Branch Manager of the Gilmer County division.
Royce is a native of Burnsville, the daughter of Don and Mildred Singleton, and still lives in the area on Sidling Run with her husband Jeff and two sons. After graduation from Braxton County High School, she obtained a degree in Accounting from Glenville State College. Following graduation, she went to work for the Bank of Gassaway as a teller, eventually working her way up to Flatwoods Branch Manager and Loan Officer during her 21 year tenure.
The move to Calhoun Banks was somewhat spontaneous according to Marty Collins, Calhoun Branch Manager. “I had met and gotten to know Royce by way of banking classes we mutually attended. I developed a great respect for her abilities and work ethic. When we had an opening here in Glenville, I approached Royce and was delighted when she agreed to join our team.
That team is a part of a locally owned financial institution, founded in 1900, that operates 4 branches, located in Grantsville, Glenville, Arnoldsburg and Elizabeth. “We are a small community banking system, but we are big on service and technology,” explains Collins. “Each location is full service and makes their own local loan decisions. We even make house calls. If customers can’t come to one of our locations, we will try to come to them. Service is our number one objective.”
Even though the Calhoun Banks are small by some standards, Collins says they take great pride in keeping their employees schooled on current banking regulations to better serve their customers. “Our banks are growing and we feel that is a good indicator of the quality of service we provide,” she adds.
Steele says she is pleased to be a part of Calhoun Banks. “This bank feels like home. They treat customers like family and that’s what I believe a good financial institution should do,” Royce said when asked to comment on her new job. In addition to being an assistant branch manager, she will also serve as a loan officer.
Whether it’s a used car or a business loan, Royce Steele invites central West Virginia residents to stop by the Glenville Calhoun Bank and visit her. All branches are open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 on Friday and from 8:00 a.m. till noon on Saturday. Or call Royce at (304)462-5051.
Rosedale Senior Center request money from County Commission
Wanda Cottrell, representing the Rosedale Senior Center was one of the first to address the Braxton County Commission at their regular meeting last Friday, March 7. The representative told Commissioners of the Rosedale community’s desire to add on to their senior center. She outlined the activities and financial condition of the center before requesting $5,000 to help with the addition. Commissioners requested a financial statement of the organization and suggested she obtain a formal request form from the Clerks’ office for the funding.
Sheriff Eddie Williams also appeared before the Commission to follow up two requests he made at earlier meetings. The Sheriff had previously requested that he be allowed to establish a Deputy Sheriff’s Reserve unit as allowed in State Code. He explained that reserve members would not be paid and assist deputies during the fair, other busy activities and emergencies. Terry Frame stated she had read the portion of the code that allowed for such an organization and was “leery” of the liability that the bounty might be exposed to. Gary Ellyson stated he was not opposed to the idea, but felt the details needed to be worked out in a work session. Ron Facemire stated that he felt the county should contact their insurance carrier with questions concerning the liability to the county.
Sheriff Williams also requested the Commissioners decision on moving his deputies offices to the old EMS building on Main Street which he has made at two previous meetings. Both issues were tabled by the Commission.
In other action, the probate appointments of the month of January were approved on a motion by Terry Frame.
Applications for corrections of erroneous assessments for Sondra & James Dean and Brent and Wilma Nettles were approved as presented.
Ron Facemire made a motion to approve the consolidation of tax tickets for Paul & Wilma Davis and John W. & Paul M. Davis.
Terry Frame made a motion to change the meeting dates of three future Commission meetings due to holidays. The June 20 meeting will be moved to June 23; the April 18 and July 4 meetings will be cancelled.
Terry Frame made a motion to readvertise for interest in the vacant position on the BC Solid Waste Authority Board.
Following a brief discussion, Terry Frame made a motion to table action on a request from attorney Daniel Grindo to remove the executor in the estate of Lou Rader. Frame stated that her discussion with the Fiduciary Supervisor indicated that resolution to the matter was forthcoming. The motion also requested the matter be put back on the agenda of the April 4 meeting.
A request place $2700 in the Circuit Clerks budget was granted on a motion by Terry Frame. The funds were transferred from the Miscellaneous Revenue line item.
It was also Frame who made a motion to approve a change in the employee’s handbook requiring the use of a time clock for county employees.
Bidding materials for a Holly Gray Sewer Line Project was tabled pending additional information.
Following a review, Ron Facemire made a motion to pay county and EMS invoices including the P-cards.
The minutes of the previous meeting were approved as presented.
Terry Frame notified her fellow commissioners that she had been contacted by Bob Stalnaker who was resigning as county medical examiner. She requested that a letter be send to Stalnaker thanking him for his service and that the Commission look into the requirement for replacing him.
Frame stated that she had tried to contact personnel at the Day Report Center and no one answered the phone. Frame made a motion that the Commission write a letter to the governing body to formally request a refund for services not provided.
President Gary Ellyson stated that he wanted to extend a special thank you to Commissioner Frame and Edie Tincher for their hard work in getting the grant submitted for the Day Report Center.
Terry Frame made a motion that the Commission host daily work sessions on budgetary matters from March 7 through the 28.
Being no further business the meeting adjourned at 9:57 a.m. The next regular meeting of the Braxton County Commission will convene at 9:00 a.m. on March 21.
Braxton County Schools wants your opinion!
The Braxton County Board of Education would like for citizens help with the school calendar. Please log on to the school webpage: http://boe.brax.k12.wv.us/ and let your voice be heard by taking a survey for your preferences for Braxton County Schools 2014-15 school calendar. Please vote soon survey closes on March 17.