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Century Farm trail offers natural illustrations for Bible stories

Friday, June 29, 2012

Century Farm owner Kenny Webster stands before the once-towering Goliath, a mighty tree that fell during windy weather in March of this year. Beyond, Webster's tree named, 'Little David' still stands with a sling and a rock hanging from its trunk. One site for Bible stories on Webster's nature trail, it seems nature wasn't through telling the story to residents winding their way along the nature trail on Webster's property.
For many, stepping into nature brings God close at hand.

For Kenny Webster, stepping onto the nature trail he created on his Dyer County farm brings forth the opportunity to share the Gospel with others.

Webster owns the Tennessee Century Farm first established 124 years ago by his great-grandfather, James Martin Webster. Located approximately 2 1/2 miles outside of Friendship, his home place still yields row crops. The property also features a bountiful flower garden and a hiking trail that - thanks to Webster's creative outlook - illustrates stories from the Bible.

The mile-long trail meanders through Webster's farm, creating a three-hour walk for those who would like to take the time to discover a unique view of the Bible stories they grew up with. The walk provides settings that inspire stories from Mt. Sinai, Mt. Carmel and Calvary; the Sea of Galilee; the Nile; and the Jordan River from both the Old and New Testaments.

Trees on the trail have also been named for Biblical characters. Depending on the shape and the location of the trees, Webster uses the woods to tell stories of Joseph and Mary; Sampson and Delilah; Solomon; King Saul, King David and Jonathan; Daniel; Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and the Fourth Man in the Fire; David and Goliath; and the tree that sparked the trail's Biblical theme - Noah.

Knobby growth along Noah's tree resembles animals. For Webster, the discovery sparked his imagination and began his quest to find other items along the nature trail that illustrate the stories he shares each week with the youth he teaches in Sunday school.

A pond on Kenny Webster's property just outside of Friendship provides the perfect setting for Bible stories occurring near the Sea of Galilee. The trail also features hills Webster has named for Mt. Sinai, Mt. Carmel and Calvary.
"Seeing the animals on the trees reminded me of Noah," said Webster.

A large tree with three trunks provides the perfect setting to discuss the Trinity. A dead tree, struck by lightning many years before it finally fell to the ground, is known as the Elijah tree.

"The tree fell in 2009," said Webster. "But (before it fell, it was there) 15 years, standing dead. I call it 'the Elijah tree' because fire from the sky consumed it."

The trail also features three or four trees Webster has named Jesus trees, where he stops and shares stories from the life of the Savior; and a natural chapel where a fallen sweet gum tree now offers benches for visitors to sit and listen to stories about the 12 Disciples.

The largest tree on Webster's property, once affectionately named 'Big John' after Webster's father who passed away in 1979, was renamed Goliath once the trail began to take shape.

The giant Goliath once towered over a small tree Webster calls, "Little David." The addition of a slingshot and a large rock helped tell the story, but nature wasn't through yet. High winds in March of this year provided a dramatic illustration for the end of the story.

Knobby growths on this tree on Century Farm owner Kenny Webster's nature trail inspired visions of animals, thoughts of Noah - and the idea to turn the trail into a place to share Bible stories. 'Seeing the animals on the trees reminded me of Noah,' said Webster.
"One of those windy, windy days in March blew Goliath down," said Webster. "(But) the wind didn't get Little David. I hated that (Goliath) fell because it was the biggest tree on my farm. It is probably 4 feet in diameter. I called it the 'Big John tree' to remember my daddy. I did hate to see it fall."

Another location on the trail inspires a lesson from the Henry Blackaby book, "The Seven Realities of Experiencing God."

Webster, who serves as a deacon and fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade Sunday school teacher at Friendship Baptist Church, invites residents of the area to join him on the trail. He has hosted Scout troops, youth groups and church groups from surrounding counties, as well as kindergarten and first-grade students from nearby Friendship Elementary School.

He cautions those who would like to participate on the walk of the large hills that inspire mountaintop stories from the Bible - and the current summer temperatures.

"This time of year, it is better to come out early or late," said Webster. "The best times to come are March and October. March and early April, before the leaves get thick, you can see the trees better. And, then again in October, when the leaves are beginning to change color and it is getting cooler. This time of year, you have to worry about ticks and mosquitoes."

A retired educator, Webster spent 39 teaching before retiring in 2002. He spent 35 of those years at Dyersburg Middle School. He now enjoys ornithology, star-gazing, visiting with family and fellow retired teachers, and maintaining his trail and flower garden.

"I built the thing with a handsaw, riding lawn mower, Roundup and pruners," said Webster.

Those interested in touring Webster's nature trail or flower garden are invited to contact him at (731) 677-2919 or (731) 445-5755.

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