Salt water drips from his hair as his clear blue eyes shine with joy. The cold, choppy water cannot dim his excitement or the jubilance of those around him. On a cloudless July day, he commits himself to his newfound purpose, which he finds in Christ. Being baptized in the powerful waters of the Gulf of Mexico fits the outdoorsy Cain Brakefield, who considers his time with nature an opportunity to thank God.
Today, a brilliant blue sky canopies the downtown Jasper picnic table where Cain humbly shares his story. With birds chirping, trucks driving by, and nearby laughter from restaurant patrons piercing the air, Cain talks about his love for family, the outdoors, music, the city of Jasper, and God.
He is in his element outdoors. Cain says his dad, Jim Brakefield, has always kept him outside, developing his interests in fishing and hunting. Being outdoors has shaped his views, given him the chance to thank God, and helped him develop a strong work ethic.
Cain’s eyes light up as he shares about his experience on that life-changing mission trip. The group from Jasper First United Methodist Church, led by student minister Stuart Branstetter, went to Panama City, FL, to minister to people at a rehab center and homeless shelter. Cain laughs as he shares how he helped minister during the trip. He spent his time weed eating, the very job he thought he had escaped for a week.
Prior to the mission trip, 6 a.m. wake up calls for weight lifting were followed by football practice sessions in oppressive heat. Layers of sweat and grime continued to accumulate throughout the day as Cain spent the next six hours weed eating the perimeter of the Jasper Lumber yard in the sweltering temperatures. “At the time, it was one of the most miserable things I have ever had to do,” Cain says. “Now, I’m glad I did it.”
He lowers his head as he recalls his attitude toward the mission trip. “I went on that trip to get away. I thought of it as going to the beach, really,” Brakefield says. “Then, I got down there and I was like, no, I think God’s trying to show me something.”
He is speechless as he remembers his baptism, one of the best moments of his life.
For this young man who says his life began in the tenth grade, the Panama City mission trip was a turning point. It served as a catalyst for him to truly get involved in church, no longer just going through the motions. Stuart has become more than a student minister for Cain; he is a friend and mentor. Cain strives to emulate Stuart’s ability to love people, welcoming them with a smile and without judgment.
With anticipation and slight reservation, Cain shares his desire to exemplify the characteristics he admires in Stuart when he moves to Tuscaloosa for school this fall. As he pursues a degree in accounting, Cain, a Presidential Scholarship recipient, hopes to use his time in college as an opportunity to invest in others.
A look of gratitude crosses his face as Cain mentions how different people in the city of Jasper have invested in him. He loves his hometown, saying, “Jasper has some of the most down-to-earth people.”
He enjoys the tight-knit community of Jasper and considers it a privilege to have been raised here.
As Cain talks, it is evident that relationships are important to him. He seeks to love, thank, and befriend his parents. “I know my parents have sacrificed so much to help me and my brother thrive in life,” Cain says.
His desire to impact others alludes to the humility that defines him. Possessing wisdom beyond his years, Cain sagely advises students to pay attention to their studies and extracurricular activities, but to focus mostly on developing good relationships. He has learned that a person’s worth is not measured by their ACT score or popularity, but by how they interact with and treat other people.
“Let God’s love shine on other people through you,” says Cain Brakefield. 78
78 Magazine is a biography magazine based out of Jasper, Alabama. Please like our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/78mag
Photo by Lindsay Brewer