The Legacy of Sister Tracy's great-grandfather,

Brother O. J. Banta.

In April 1937, Brother Oscar Joseph Banta suffered a fatal heart attack during a public debate with an evangelist from the Church of Christ. His nine-year-old son Joseph would later grow up to become Brother Joe Banta and his six-year-old daughter Jaxene is now Sister Jaxene Burkett - my grandmother.

This newspaper article reported his death:




O. J. Banta, 34-year-old stillman at an oil refinery, died Thursday night as he wanted to die - while defending the doctrines of the Christadelphian Ecclesia, of which there are only 24 members in Houston.

During a debate with Evangelist John O'Dowd at the Oddfellows Hall, 420 Drennan, Banta fell dead while O'Dowd was speaking. O'Dowd accompanied him in an ambulance to St. Joseph's Infirmary, but the man had died instantly.

Justice Tom Maes returned an inquest verdict of death from a heart attack.

Banta's death ended a friendly argument of long standing between the two churchmen. In fact, they had debated once before on another question.

Banta, who is an arranging brother for the Christadelphian Ecclesia, was taking notes when stricken.

The last legible thing he wrote was "Divine Creed - creed - I believe."

His wife and son, Joe, 9, were in the audience when Banta died.

Mr. Banta lived at 7138 Avenue E and is survived by his wife, a son and daughter, Joe and Jaxene, 6, and his sister, Mrs. H. R. Johnson. He worked at the Shell Refinery.

The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Boulevard Funeral Home, with burial in Forest Park Cemetery.

---The Houston Chronicle, April 1937

A week after my great-grandfather's death, a touching letter was found in one of his coat pockets addressed to his beloved wife, Sister Billie Banta.




March 1937



In other words, don't open as long as I live.




Beloved: I believe I will go before you into the "land of forgetfulness", therefore I wish to speak "though absent."

Make your "calling and election sure" and meet me in the "Kingdom of God and of Christ" (if so be I attain to such). Lay aside "every weight that besets, and run with patience the race" without grieving for me.

Beloved, you must read more. Read the writings of Dr. Thomas, and Brother R. Roberts daily along with the Holy Oracles. Be patient in all things and give yourself wholly to the TRUTH.

Remember one thing too, "pray without ceasing." Never let a day pass without making your troubles and wishes known to God several times; for He careth for you.

Let the world speak foolish things, but you, "guard your tongue" speaking only after you have weighed your words to see how they are going to sound. "Be slow to speak, instant in prayer." Take all your troubles to Him in prayer, and not to the arm of flesh.

Be patient in tribulation, knowing that it is sent for your good later. When trouble comes bear it alone. Cease from WRATH. "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."

Remain pure in doctrine, reading after the writers mentioned above. Be sure to pour over Elpis Israel - Ways of Providence - Visible Hand of God - Seasons of Comfort, etc.

Engage in no silly talks, and above all, refrain from speaking evil of any who bear the name of Christ no matter how they behave. Speak to them alone, and give them good things to read. BE KIND. PRAY FOR HELP.

Before making any decisions on matters of Spirit, or temporal matters, pray fervently for guidance. Follow the Scriptures. Let no human ties influence you, no matter how much you suffer for it.

Instill "fear" into your children, and all children you speak to, for "The fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of wisdom." Do not think you are being cruel for "in all things consider the end thereof."

Read the writings of Paul, Peter, James and the Acts over and over all your remaining time. Pray for purity, and when you have asked, seek in the Bible. You will obtain help if you help yourself.

Troubles and calamities will increase more and more as the end nears. Brethren will become weaker and cooler. This is foretold, but Beloved examine yourself and live for Him who died for you. Pray Always.

"Sow in Tears" for you will, after many days, "Reap in Joy" and will obtain joy and gladness "for sorrow and sighing shall flee away" when we are reunited in one family, through God's mercy, in the Kingdom.




In my mind I travel back 60 years and see Bro. Oscar, with a heavy heart, lovingly writing these last words of love and encouragement to his beloved sister/wife. Then I picture a time after his death, when his letter sat in his coat pocket in a dark little closet in a house full of grief - waiting to be opened and read. I wonder what he would think if he knew his letter has found its way into the hands of his great-granddaughter. Would he have believed it possible that his caring act of love would have touched sisters around the world in these latter days? None of us ever know how far our simple acts of love will be spread.

Bro. Oscar and Sis. Billie Banta

After my baptism, my dear grandmother gave me copies of the newspaper clipping and my great-grandfather's loving letter. These heirlooms are precious reminders to me of how God often works through families from generation to generation. I am reminded how blessed I am that God has, in His mercy, called me into His family through Christ.

2 Timothy 1:5 - I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy Grandmother Lois and thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded that in thee also.

Genesis 68:19 - For I know him [Abraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment . .

I have read, reread and hopefully absorbed great-grandfather's words of encouragement to hold fast to the Truth. I pray that you too, my dear sisters, will be encouraged by this tender letter.

Even though we sow in tears now, we will reap in joy everlasting, if we faint not. It is my prayer that all generations of God's family by His mercy will soon be united forever as one in the Kingdom.