Don Abernethy sat in a pew near the back of the country church his family attended in Hickory, North Carolina. Most Sundays, the whole family would have been there, but on this particular day, 12-year-old Don was alone. Maybe in some way, that made him more responsive to what God was about to do in his heart.
“I had no outside influence except the Holy Spirit Himself,” Don recalls. “We had this older preacher who was a real tender kind of preacher. The Holy Spirit worked on me that day, and I couldn’t sit there any longer. I went down the middle aisle with tears in my eyes to commit my life to Jesus Christ.”
Now in his late 70s, Don looks back on that Sunday as the turning point in his life. “It has meant more to me than any other influence in my life,” he says. “My fundamental desire to please the good Lord and to listen to the Holy Spirit has always been there, and I’ve never lost it. I have never been at a point where I didn’t need God.”
During his high school days, Don sang in his church’s choir, and in 1958, the church received an invitation to have its choir members join a mass choir at an upcoming Billy Graham Crusade in Charlotte, about 60 miles southeast of Hickory.
“I went three or four nights that week,” Don says, “and you’ve got to remember that 60 miles back then was a long way to travel on country roads. But God knew what He was doing when He put me in that environment.”
For Don, that Crusade began a lifelong affinity with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and later with Samaritan’s Purse as well.
After earning an accounting degree, Don was hired by a transportation company, and he spent years in Jacksonville, Florida; Atlanta and Charlotte, before returning home to Hickory. “In all of my moves and different locations, I always was actively locating a good church to attend, and I always tried my best to spread the Word,” he says.
In the late 1980s, the company Don worked for was bought out, and he launched his own business, Click Store Inc., which rents and leases semi-trailers to companies that need to truck goods across the country.
He notes that 90% of the products people purchase have been on a truck at some point: “Nothing maneuvers nationwide without trucking. When my former company was bought out, I bought 15 trailers from Drexel Furniture. They told me they would keep them until I got them paid for. I’m a country boy—I didn’t have any money. Thirty years later, we have over 500 trailers, with more on order. I can’t keep enough trailers.
“We’re service oriented, and that’s kind of how ministry is. I mean, when you help other people and care about them, you will be blessed and appreciated for it. That’s true in the ministry, and it’s also true in our work.”
Don has been involved in many ministries over the years, and he has given generously to the work of evangelism.
“God has blessed me financially,” he says. “Proverbs 3:9-10 says: ‘Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty’ (ESV). So, my barns are overflowing. I give God all the glory for it.”
One way Don has supported evangelism is by donating the use of some of his trailers—sometimes as many as 30 at once—to be used by BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse.
And over the years, his connections with these organizations have grown into personal friendships.
“I’m an outdoorsman,” he says, “a fisherman and a hunter. I picked up the sport of coon hunting, and I was very successful with it and finished two dual grand champion coon dogs.”
Once, Don was invited to a hunting event on a large farm in Oxford, North Carolina. A family friend, Marty Jacumin, called and arranged to meet Don for the weekend. Marty was on the pastoral staff of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, not far from Oxford. That weekend, Marty brought along a friend—Will Graham, who had attended seminary with Marty and was also serving on the church’s pastoral staff.
“Will and Marty and I couldn’t get enough of each other,” Don recalls. “I mean, it was like being in glory. It was just the sweetest thing in the world.”
Don’s friendship with Will continued to grow. After Will joined the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 2006 and began conducting evangelistic Celebrations, he would call Don if the event was going to be within driving distance from Hickory. “I’ve got a three-day Celebration,” he’d say, “and I expect us to have dinner after the service at least one night!”
Looking back on his 70-plus years, Don is struck by the two commandments that Jesus said were the greatest. “Scripture tells us that loving God is the most important thing,” he points out. “And then you show Him you love Him by loving your fellow man. My message would be that when God controls your manner and your lifestyle, nothing but good comes from it. A common, ordinary man can be successful if he follows and honors the Lord.
“My company is very successful financially, and I consider it to be under the control of the Lord Jesus Himself. I’m just a steward. My connection with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and all the people within the Association has been a wonderful encouragement, and it has allowed me to minister along with them throughout my life.”
Photo Above: (L-R) Jane Austin Graham, Donnie Abernethy, Don Abernethy and Franklin Graham during the 2019 Tar Heel State Tour.
Above Photo: Thomas J. Petrino/©2019 BGEA