Barry Branaman: a great friend and mentor

Barry Branaman
Barry with his wonderful wife Kathy on the day of his graduation from seminary in 2009.

When people discuss their blessings, they’ll usually mention spouses, children, friends, health, finances, etc. If you asked me to discuss my blessings I hope I would mention the godly men God has put in my life. One of the most important is Barry Branaman.

He was a mutual friend of Elwyn and me when I taught in Marysville, CA. I met Barry through his two daughters who attended a young adults’ Bible study I started attending. He became my mentor soon after I became a Christian. The first Bible study I ever led took place in his living room under his supervision. He rarely said anything, but it was a constant source of encouragement and comfort to have him present. I knew he could answer any questions that I couldn’t.

Barry taught me to make time for people.

I spent many hours in Barry’s living room talking to him about the Bible. People have told me that I ask a lot of questions, and I would agree; however, Barry was the person God put in my life at that time to answer all the questions I had as a new Christian…and there were a lot. If I had to single out the one person who helped me understand the Old Testament it was Barry.

Barry taught me about stewardship.

I told a story in a sermon about Barry helping me see our possessions as a stewardship. When I thanked Barry for letting us use their home for our bible study, his simple response was, “That’s what it’s for.” With Barry everything he had was for serving God’s Kingdom. When Katie and I visited California in December 2012, we stayed with Barry and his wife Kathy. From the moment Barry and I saw each other I felt like no time had passed. He was as gracious answering my questions then, as he had been eight years earlier.

When I moved to Lemoore, CA in 2004 I remember standing in Barry’s kitchen telling him goodbye and that I really loved him. In return he gave me A Harmony of the Gospels, which I just took off the bookshelf behind my desk to read the note he wrote inside:

“To Scott,

May the Good News ever grace your heart and lips, thoughts and life. may the love of God always surround you and keep you in all ways. May your service in Christ be ever for His glory. May the Holy Spirit be your continued guide and Comforter, “empowerer” and keep.

Your brother forever,

Barry”

Barry still speaks.

On Thursday I received the news that Barry Branaman passed away at the age of 59. Last week’s sermon was about finishing strong, and Barry is an example of a man who did that wonderfully. I’m very thankful God blessed me with such a great friend, mentor, and brother in Christ. I’m much better for having known Barry, and by “better” I mean I have a deeper love for God and His Word because of him.

Hebrews 11:4 says, “Abel still speaks even though he is dead” and that could be said of Barry. I learned so much from him that when I’m teaching the Bible, often I’m passing along what he taught me.

If you knew Barry Branaman and would like to share a memory about him, I’m sure it would be a blessing to anyone who reads this post.

Update on our trip to CA – Part I

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to provide an update on our trip to California, which basically consisted of two purposes/parts:

  1. Attend Katie’s father Rick’s wedding reception in Roseville (which is near Yuba City where I used to live/teach and is where I became a Christian; therefore, a number of important people in my early Christian life are in this area, including people who served as mentors to me).
  2. Since we were in CA for the reception, head further south to Lemoore to visit our previous church Grace Baptist and see all our friends.

I figured the easiest way to provide the update would be with day-to-day info:

  • Thur, Nov 29th we left about 11:00am and headed to Redding, CA to spend the night with the parents of Katie’s high school best friend. This served as a nice halfway point for us. Although there was a lot of rain, this kept the roads fairly clear and made a relatively comfortable 8 hour trip with the kids.
  • Fri, Nov 30th we left Redding and headed to Roseville, CA where we stayed with Kathy and Barry Branaman. I became good friends with them in 2003 while living in Yuba City when I became a Christian. I met their daughters when I started attending a young-adults’ Bible study, and soon after Barry became a mentor to me. Our time with Barry and Kathy was really, really wonderful. Katie gets along very well with Kathy and I love spending time with Barry. I wish we could have spent more time with them, and hopefully there will be more opportunities to see them in the future despite the distance. We stayed each night with them from Friday to Monday.
  • Sat, Dec 1st was the day of the wedding reception. We spent a lot of time with Katie’s family who were in the area from out of town. When I lived in Yuba City, my best friend was a fellow teacher named Elwyn Ordway. He taught next to my classroom and he was very instrumental in me becoming a Christian and in mentoring me, especially in regards to reading my Bible. We were both single at that time, but since then we’ve gotten married and God’s blessed us with wonderful families. Elwyn, his wife and two kids came to the wedding reception, which was really great because it allowed me to spend the evening with him. Plus our kids get along well and were happy to be together. There’s something very, very satisfying about being with Elwyn and having our wives and children together, because of the years of singleness we spent wondering if we’d ever get married. I don’t think it would be too much to say it’s a real blessing to me just to see him with his wife and children.
  • Sun, Dec 2nd Katie’s father had a large breakfast for all the friends and family in the area. After breakfast we went back to Rick’s new wife Kathleen’s house where we hung out for a few hours with family before going back to Barry and Kathy’s house. One of the real difficulties with traveling back to California is the limited amount of time to spend with numerous close friends. Barry and Kathy knew this and graciously invited us to have a potluck at their home Sunday night and invite some of our friends from the area. At one point Katie was sitting at the table with three of her girlfriends she lived with in Chico when they were all single, and now they’re all married with children. One of Katie’s girlfriends married one of my groomsmen. They were actually part of our wedding party, and Katie and I joked that one day maybe they’d get married and we’d be part of their wedding party…which is exactly what happened. Sunday night we said goodbye to all our friends, including Barry and Kathy as they’d be getting up early for work the next day and we’d leave before they got home.
  • Mon, Dec 3rd we headed to Yuba City to stay with Elwyn, his wife Britta and their kids. I got to see Elwyn’s classroom and probably one of the highlights of the trip for me was a walk we went on together, talking about what God has done in our lives since the years when we taught next to each other as single guys. Now we’re able to look back on how gracious He’s been to us and how much He’s blessed us despite the stupid things we’ve done at times.
  • Tue, Dec 4th we left Elwyn’s house in Yuba City and headed to the Hanford/Lemoore area where we’ll be through Sunday. Dave and Naida Gomes were our best friends during our years in that area and they invited us to stay with them for the next five or six nights.

I’ll probably provide another update when we get back to Woodland. Our week is already filling up with Bible studies, dinners, and speaking engagements the entire time we’re here. Going back to Grace Baptist, our previous church, preaching there and seeing everyone is something I’m looking forward to more than I can put in to words. GBC is where I entered full-time ministry under Pastor Joe’s leadership and it was two years ago this week that I made the announcement that I was transitioning to Woodland. In other words, I’ll be be back at GBC preaching on the two year anniversary of when I announced I was heading to WCC!

I need to wrap this up as dinner will be soon, then Bible study tonight that we’re looking forward to crashing. This is actually the home fellowship I used to lead before passing it on when we moved. We’re going to show up and surprise everyone.

Will write more when we get back to Woodland :).