Black Marks on White Paper

 Davis Deer Camp

Davis Deer Camp

“In a tiny seed lies the potential for a forest”

 

The idea for Tiny Seed Blog has its roots in 1998 at the Davis Deer Camp in South Arkansas, when I was first introduced to Bennie D. Warner. He had been appointed District Superintendent of the Camden District in Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. I was a pastor in his district and the meeting was a get acquainted time for those who would serve under him. It was there he shared his story of how a tiny seed grew into a bountiful forest.

 Bennie D. Warner

Bennie D. Warner

His story begins as an eight year old in a poor Liberian village.  A visitor comes and makes Black Marks on White Paper and delivers a speech from his notes. This experience engendered a desire within Bennie to read and write. This burning desire became fulfilled 8 years later when he enrolled in a mission school in Gbanga and was given a work study scholarship.

The Missionaries who ran the school became foster parents for Bennie. They helped him not only gain a secondary education, but provided him an opportunity to receive a college degree and graduate degrees in eduction and and theology. Returning home, he served the Gbanga mission as principal and pastor of the mission church. Despite economic, educational and social challenges, Warner grew in influence through his election as Liberia's United Methodist Bishop and in 1977 as Vice President of the Republic of Liberia upon the death of his predecessor.

In 1980 while Warner was in the United States for a church meeting, there was a military coup in Liberia with the President and most of the cabinet were executed. Warner was advised not to return home as "they had a M-16 with his name on it." Warner became a man without a country. Yet in his indomitable way he decided, "God is calling me to be a missionary to America." Warner has spent the last 37 years fulfilling his childhood vision in the pulpit and classrooms of the U.S.

I will never forget that day at Davis Deer Camp. After I retired from pastoral ministry in 2009, I pursued taking film courses at Arkansas State University. After producing a short film for a graduate documentary class, my appetite was whet. 

During a reflective moment, Bishop Warner's story seemed the obvious next step.  Black Marks on White Paper took over two years to produce. It premiered in April of 2013 as a part of the Ozark Film Festival in Batesville, Arkansas. Over the last 4 years, the film has been seen by tens of thousands of people through screenings, DVD, VOD and most recently was broadcast on Arkansas Education Network, the PBS affiliate for the state.  The end of the film comes full circle in 2009, as Warner returns to his native village and promises to provide a school for its children.  The School was dedicated in 2016. What a wonderful forest was built from the tiny seed given to an 8 year old.

If you have not seen, Black Marks on White, consider watching the film by clicking on the play icon in the middle off the photo below. Also, if you would like to receive notices of upcoming Tiny Seed Blogs, subscribe by typing your email at bottom of the page and by responding to an email, which will be sent you to confirm your subscription.

My mission is tell tiny seed stories of hope and transformation in culture filled with skepticism and cynicism.