Supreme Ambition Ministries

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known – Philippians 3:10

…AND WHEN I RUN I FEEL HIS PLEASURE!

 p9080083.JPGThis is a picture of our oldest grandson, Marshall David Anderson.  Marshall lives in San Antonio, Texas with his Dad (Chad), Mother (Joelle), and his Sister (Hayley).  Kathi and I just got off the phone with him.  He’s 13 years old and in the eighth grade.  It doesn’t take much to thrill grandparents.  We have four wonderful grandchildren and, if given the opportunity,  we could easily bore you with stories, exploits and anecdotes.  I keep trying to remember other people aren’t nearly as thrilled with our grandchildren as we are.  But, since this is my blog and I get to write what I want, then I think I’ll tell you about this fine young man.

Marshall called us to tell us he placed 3rd out of over 100 runners in a race of middle-school age students.  The course was 3000 meters (just 1/10 of a mile short of 2 miles for us old timers).  I asked him, if he was learning any life lessons as he ran.  He said, “Yes, when I run, I try not to think about how tired I am  but how I can catch the guy just ahead of me.  When I start getting tired, I just think about how much God can help me during and at the end of the race, if I trust him.”  

Marshall has wonderful parents.  Joelle is actually his coach and both her boys’ and girls ‘teams placed third overall in the meet.  She is doing a great job! Of course, we are just a little prejudiced.  Chad and Joelle have tried to instill in their children the importance of being leaders in school and in extra-curricular activities.  They both have a consistently good work ethic and are instilling those traits within their children.   Marshall told his Dad about a year ago that he wanted to be a spiritual leader.  Nothing could have made his parents more thankful.  Didn’t hurt the pride factor for the grandparents either.  Wink

I don’t know if you realize it or not but Chad and Joelle met on the cross-country team at Marshall University.  Our daughter, Stacye met her husband, Fernando Ibanez, at Marshall.  He played basketball for Marshall.  Kathi and I met and married, while at Marshall.  My mother had two degrees from Marshall.  My grandfather graduated in the class of 1897 and I have his graduation class picture.  Is it any wonder our oldest grandson’s name is, MARSHALL?

Seriously, as I look at the picture above, which was taken a year ago, and think about the precious gift he and all our granchildren are, I cannot help but desire the same drive and determination they put into sports and school will be dedicated to living for the glory of God.

Other than Jesus and maybe the Apostle Paul I think the person I most would like to have met in my life was Eric Liddle.eric-liddle.jpgEric was a world class sprinter in the 1920’s.  He ran for Scotland, but participated in the 1924 olympics under the flag of Great Britain.  Eric was the son of missionaries to China and was a committed Christian as well.  He, perhaps, had the most unorthodox running style of any world-class runner in history.  In the 100 meters he would run with his head up, looking to the sky.  His arms flailed wildly.  But, boy was he fast? In fact, there was a point in his life when his sister, Jenny, felt Eric was putting too much emphasis on his running and not thinking enough about the work in China.  A confrontation between Eric and his sister ensued.  Eric finally said, “Jenny, I know God made me for a purpose. He made me for China.  But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.”  During the Olympic games, Eric’s faith and convictions were put to the test.  The time trials for the 100 meter race were to be held on Sunday and Eric would not run on Sunday.  No matter, if it were the President of the Olympics or the Prince of Wales himself, Eric Liddle was faithful to his convictions.  Fortunately, one of his teammates pulled out of the 400 meter race.  Eric ran, won, and set a world record.  Eric’s running was an integral part of him and those in power sought to separate his running from who he was.

After those olympics Eric went to China and during WWII he was placed in a Chinese prison camp.  It was there he taught and played with the children and it was there, too, that Eric Liddle died, running the race of his life:  The race of faith in Christ.  AND OH, HOW HE FELT HIS PLEASURE.

When I watched Marshall’s Daddy run in high school and college and when I watch Marshall now, my prayerfor them and all our children and grandchildren is that they will run to “feel His pleasure”.  

August 30th, 2008 Posted by | commitment | one comment

MY JOURNEY 9

LIVING BY FAITH!
ducks-in-a-row.jpg Living by faith is a term easily tossed around by us evangelicals.  But, in my limited experience, faith is only a word until you have to put it into practice.  Kathi and I had received word from God, “Get up! Go Away! This is not your resting place!  Now, what were we to do?  We humans like to have our spiritual ducks lined up  in a row, but in the life of faith it seems God is all about ‘leaning not to your own understanding’.
Finally, I decided I needed to talk with the Senior Pastor.  I told him I felt strongly the call to preach the gospel and did not think I needed to continue in pre-school and day care.  Furthermore, I told him I thought both of us should speak to the two spiritual leaders, who helped arrange my placement in the Church in Sarasota, and seek the guidance of the Lord as to where my ministry might fit best.  He agreed.  I told him Iwould not leave him without a proper director and would stay on the job and help train someone.  Unfortunately, someone close to him apparently put pressure on him and in a couple of days he asked me to give sixty (60) days notice, saying, “That’s how they do it in the business world…”  There go those pesky little ducks, if you know what I mean?  Now, I was a minister without any place to go, and had to be gone in two-months time.
I was anticipating word from the ‘man of God’ and my former Senior Pastor from WV.  That Senior Pastor had hinted that he had talked to the ‘man of God’ and apparently the Lord had confirmed there was a Church looking for a pastor, where my gifts and calling would be a good fit.  There was an interim pastor in that position, however, and he needed to be consulted, before any final decision was made.  Woops!  There go the ducks again!  This time tragedy struck.  It seems my dear ‘Senior Pastor’ from WV had a serious moral failing and had suddenly left town.  Of course, the main concern was for him, his family and the precious congregation in WV, all who were reeling from such a devastating blow.  But, as the old saying goes, “…Here I stand in the moonlight abandoned by women and men, saying over and over, ‘I’ll never eat onions again’.”onion-breath.jpg  Now I, too, am really in a fix.  No one is either available or interested in seeing I get to a place of ministry, and I’ve got less than (60) days before I need to leave and go…well…somewhere.  Can you ladies imagine what my wife was going through at this point?  To her credit she was stalwart and resolute in faith that we follow our new-found, desire  to ‘know Christ and to make him known’.
A meeting was called by the ‘man of God’ and several hundred people were planning on going.  I asked the Senior Pastor in Sarasota, if I could go to the meeting, since people from our Church in WV were going to be there and I thought our being there might bring some encouragement.  He said it was, OK!  However, when I returned a few days later, he said they would pay me for a few weeks, but that I should give up my position immediately.  In essence I guess I got fired.  They said it was for insubordination.  For the life of me I still cannot figure that one out.  Will somebody please find my ducks?  
Some dear friends of ours from West Virginia were living and working temporarily in Warner Robbins, Georgia.  Terry’s company was building a Lutheran Church.  Kathi and I shared our situation with Terry and Bonnie and Terry said, Pastor Dave why don’t you just come to Warner Robbins and work for me for a while?  Anyone who knows me knows that building things is not my gift.  I’m not afraid of the work.  I’ve worked at lots of different jobs and worked hard most all my life.  I said, “Terry, I’m not a builder”.  He said, “I’ll pay you $500.00/wk to come and drive the dump truck.”  Wow!  Even I can drive a dump truck.  I think I see a duck.   Do you see a duck?  We agreed.  Now, at least, we had someplace to go.
On Sept. 12, 1995 Kathi, Nathan and I sent the truck with our furniture on ahead of us to Warner Robbins and we spent a couple of days visiting with Steve and Linda Coder.  We had rented an apartment in Warner Robbins.  It was on the second floor.  When we arrived, I opened the door and our things were literally stacked ‘floor to ceiling’.  I have not been one to get easily depressed, but folks, I was depressedFrown  Most of the rooms looked the same way.  I did not say a word.  Kathi started hanging pictures. Laughing  Did I mention she is a nester?  I moved some boxes out of my way till I could find my easy chair.  I sat down, closed my eyes and began to pray.  I said, ‘Jesus, how long am I going to be here’?  I prayed for a while and to my surprise my precious Savior spoke to me.  He told me Iwould be there for about 6-8 weeks.
We unpacked, and on Monday I went to work.  Mr. ‘Dump-Truck Driver, right?  Wrong!  The whole time I was there I drove the dump truck one time.  Terry had me 80 feet in the air nailing trusses and putting on plywood.  God and Terry both have a wonderful sense of humor.  One time I was on top of that 80 foot Church leaning over the side nailing a truss.  Terry grabbed hold of the back of my pants where my belt was and said, Pastor Dave you may fall off here, but if you do you will go without your pants.  I’ve got you.  I’ve thought about that experience many times through the years.  Terry’s words were so true.  He really did have me.  He gave me a job in a skilled position for which I was not qualified just because I was his Christian brother.  Greater love hath no man than this.  Thanks Terry.  I’ll never forget it.
 During the sixth week I received a call from another Christian pastor.  His brotherinlaw, a pastor in Ormond Beach, Florida was in the final stages of a large building project.  It seems they were trying to build their new sancturary and be debt-free.  Unfortunately, the pressure and the long hours had brought this dear pastor, Gary Powell, to the point of exhaustion.  His brotherinlaw asked, if he could get me a salary for eight (8) weeks, would I  be willing to go and help Gary so he could get away for a few weeks.  I said, “Well, the Lord told me I’d be here about 8 weeks so I guess I’m ready.  Kathi, Nathan and I put most of our belongings in storage in Warner Robbins, packed our car as full as we could get it and off we went to Ormond Beach, Florida to Oasis Christ Fellowship.  We were going to help a precious brother in the Lord.  Little did we know that we were the ones, who would be helped.  Here ducky, ducky ducky!  There you are!
Still More to come…

August 28th, 2008 Posted by | Biographical | 4 comments

MY JOURNEY 8

GET UP!  GO AWAY!  THIS IS NOT YOUR RESTING PLACE!
 sarasota.jpgOn March 3, 1993 Kathi and I arrived in Sarasota, Florida.  It was a big move for us.  We left all three of our children in West Virginia: Chad and Stacye were in college and Nathan was completing his sophmore year in high school.  We hated to leave our children , but off we went into what we thought was obedience to God.  We had been told by two men we respected deeply that it was God’s will.  At the time there seemed to be no choice.
We had been left with the impression we were going into a situation where the senior minister was going to retire soon and that I would be taking his position.  I understood I would begin as an Associate Pastor and help with the youth.  In additon I was under the impression I would oversee their child care center, since I had 11years previous experience in a similar program in West Virginia. Boy, was I in for a surprise!  My first day on the job was a Friday and the church Board fired the present Director, and  sent a letter informing the parents.  Neither the Director nor the teachers had any idea this was going to take place.  Someone from the Board escorted the Director off the premises, and another joined me in meeting the teaching staff.  I guess they hoped the staff would stay and join me in this unusual endeavor.  Thankfully they remained.  They weren’t happy, but at least they stayed.
The following Monday morning I was met by a barage of upset mothers.  May I tell you that I hope I never have to face such a situation again in my life.  What I went through that day was way above my pay-grade.  I had to remind myself of mad-mom.jpgthe words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:28 ,“God causes all things to work together for good to them that love the Lord…”  Some of those dear ladies were concerned that I might actually be a child-molester, and they let me know so in no uncertain terms.  After trying to soothe their frayed nerves  and after a couple of hours, I looked at one of those distraught mothers and said, “You know, M’am  I know I’m a good guy, but I realize you don’t have a clue about who or what I am.  If I were in your position, I would feel the same way.”  When I spoke those words, all the worry and concern left her face.  She decided to leave her child in our center and she became a faithful supporter of our program.
Unfortunately, not all the parents were so easily convinced.  The attendance dropped and the center was having difficulty meeting budget needs.  Couple that with the fact the center was advertised as as Christian child care center and only one teacher even professed to know Christ as Savior.  Two of them were living in open immorality.  I knew we could not continue as we were.  I also knew, if the center was to be the beacon of light and excellence in the community, we had to have more qualified teachers.  Shortly, two of the teachers resigned, and I had to dismiss two others.  The door was open for me to hire teachers more appropriate to our stated purpose.   I found a couple of good teachers, who professed to know the Lord, and they had college training in Early Childhood Education.  However, no sooner had I hired them than the Church Board told me I had to fire one of them and that I had to become a teacher’s aid in the classroom of one of my employees.  I was her boss but I was also her ‘helper’.  Didn’t make sense to me either.  The Board told me, when the enrollment increased and the finances were better, I could leave the classroom and resume my duties as Director.  Well, I began to visit women’s organizations and market our center to mothers and grandmothers.  Before long we were doing so well that all classes were filled, we added an extra class and there was a waiting list.  Still the Board refused to let me come out of the classroom.  Lest you think I felt I was too good to be in the classroom, such was not the case.  While in West Virginia, I had already spent 16 years working in day care and pre-school.  I had spent years in the classroom already.  I thought I had been brought to this Church to become the senior minister.  My undergraduate degree was in Secondary Education.  What I learned about pre-school I learned from the School of Brokenness.  Yet, there was more breaking to be done.
I called my Senior Pastor from West Virginia, who had told me it was God’s will for me to go to this Church and shared with him our dilemma.  He said he would talk to the ‘man of God’ about the situation.  Alas!  I heard nothing from either of them for weeks.  Kathi and I began to ask Jesus what we were to do.  We were both broken and disillusioned.  We had done our best for twenty-five years to submit ourselves and be servants and it appeared no one cared.  Cry  We thought the minister we served in West Virginia and the ‘man of God’ were two of the greatest on the earth.  We put everything on the ‘back burner’ just to have the privilege of serving them.  I missed my children’s childhood, in great part ,because, I spent so many hours (60+/wk) for 16 years serving ‘my men of God’.  My health was in jeopardy. Driven to near dispair, I was sitting in our home in April, 1995, having been in this present predicament for two years.  Suddlenly, I looked at Kathi and said, ‘Honey, we’ve both got college degrees, and I have a Master of Divinity, but none of it means anything.  Could we just start all over and try to get to know God’?  She quickly responded in the affirmative.  After 26 years we just started as if we were new converts and tried to get to know Jesus intimately.
hand-to-the-plow.jpgSome months prior to this I had met a servant of Jesus, Steve Coder.  He is the President of Hand to the Plow Ministries and the Senior Elder in a fellowship outside Sarasota called, The Church at the Barn.  From the moment Steve and I met it was as though our hearts were knit together in an unusual way.  We discovered we had a similar view of the Church as the Bride of Christ. Steve, Linda, Kathi and I began to fellowship together.  Since 1996 I have travelled with Steve to Haiti and to New York City after 9-11 on mission trips.  I mention Steve at this point because he was to be used of the Lord to help us find direction in our life.
In the summer of 1995 and after months of prayer and no apparent direction from Jesus, I was once again sitting in my office in our home on the first Saturday of July, 1995.  I was finishing preparation of  a sermon for the next day, since the Senior Pastor was on vacation.  My mind was on the sermon.  Suddenly, I picked up my new Bible Kathi had gotten me for Father’s Day (I promised her, if she would get me another one, I’d try not to write in it.  I failed).  Anyway, I picked up that Bible, and began to pray through the thumb indexes.  It’s difficult for me to explain this but when I got to the one, which says, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, the Holy Spirit spoke to me.  It frightened me a little.  But, I said, “Jesus, which one is it’?  Just as plainly as I am writing to you now he told me it was Micah.  I asked him which chapter and verse and he said, ‘Chapter 2 and verse 10’.  Well, I didn’t know what Micah 2:10 said any more than you might know.  I turned to it in my new Bible and this is what I saw in the NIV.  “Get up!  Go away!  This is not your resting place.”  I was shocked.  Now I had a decision to make.
In a few days I felt I needed to talk with the Senior Pastor to see if there was actually a place for me  in the ministry and if he was going to retire.  When I spoke with him, he confirmed that he felt there would be no place in the ministry for me there.  A couple of hours later I received a call from Steve Coder, saying he was going to be in town and asking if he could come by and see me?  When he arrived he told me the Lord had given him a word for me, and that word was, “Lo, get thee out”.  Now I received my word from the Lord, and it was confirmed, but I had nowhere to go.  What was I going to do?  That will have to wait for yet another day…Hang in there!

August 26th, 2008 Posted by | Biographical | 3 comments

MY JOURNEY 7

A GIFT IN A BROWN, PAPER-BAG!

dave8-yrsthumbnail.jpgAs a young child one of my favorite things was a picnic.  For the kids in our community a picnic consisted in whatever our mothers put in a brown paper bag.  One of the most exciting parts about the picnic was opening the bag to see what was in it.  More often than not I was delighted with the sandwich, chips, and dessert that my mother provided.  However, there were those occasions when what I found in my brown, paper-bag was less than appealing, perhaps due to the fact that one or more of my friends had something lots better than I had.  It was then that the bartering began.  I would talk, manipulate and trade till I got just what I wanted.  Truth be told, what I ended up with was probably no better than what I started out with, but the joy was in the thrill of the chase…Know what I mean?  Forrest Gump summed it up fairly well.  “Momma says, ‘life is like a box of chawclits’.  You never know what you’re gonna’ get.”

The next sixteen years of our life were to be just that.  I think I failed to mention in the previous blog, when we left Racine First Baptist Church, we had nowhere to go.  I mean nowhere, folks.  I was a 29 year old preacher with a wife and three (3) young children had been branded within the American Baptist Convention as a man with ‘doctrinal difficulties’ and I had no prospects for the future.  There was a non-denominational Church about an hour from where we lived.  We had met the pastor at series of special meetings he was having at his church, and I had travelled to Israel with him a few weeks previously.  I trusted him as a brother in Christ and called to pray with him concerning direction for our life.  He thought I was desirous of a position in his Church.  I really wasn’t.  I just needed some spiritual guidance.  During our conversation he said, “Dave, you bring Kathi and the children and we’ll put a roof over your head and food in your stomach.”  Thank you, Brother!

And so…the ‘picnic’ began, and I began to open my bag.  The first few items I had in the bag were really good and made picnic.jpgme want more. The church provided us with a two-bedroom trailer and a small salary initially and I began to help with whatever needed to be done: ministry, construction, etc.  Within a few months it seemed good to the pastor and to our family that we become a permanent addition to the staff of this successful church.  I and another pastor became youth pastors.  The church had a vibrant youth group with a number of them really excited to follow Jesus.  Our youth meetings consisted of playing together for one hour and then having a time of worship together in which one of the two of us leaders preached to and challenged these kids to a closer walk with God.  A great number of those youth are continuing their quest as adults to follow the Lord Jesus, and have led their children to do the same.  PTL!

As I have alluded to, the emphasis of this church and her ministry was following Jesus.  An emphasis was placed upon obedience to God that is missing is many churches today.  The Sermon on the Mount is concluded by our Lord with a parable concerning the proper place to build a house.  His conclusion is that for a house to withstand the bombardment of the elements it must be built on a solid foundation.  Jesus’ own application to this parable indicated that the wise man is one who ‘hears these words of mine and DOES them’.  Apparently, Jesus saw the importance of obedience to God.  Unfortunately, preaching a steady diet of obedience without also preaching the balance of a passionate relationship with Christ lends itself to the creation of people who are vulnerable to legalism.  As you might conclude that is exactly what happened.  A visiting minister with whom we travelled and, who came to our church frequently, even did a missionary tour of churches he had helped establish, preaching on the carnal nature.  Somehow he came up with 200 to 300 characteristics of the carnal nature.  By the time he got through that preaching assignment even the Baptists were losing their salvation.  LOL!  The picnic was starting to go south and some of the food did not taste very good.  But, you know, once you have tasted something good you are willing to move some moldy bread aside to get back to the good stuff.  I kept eating.

pirate-pastor.jpgThe message on obedience to Christ degenerated into the importance of following the ‘man of God’.  In our movement we were associated with a very precious and gifted man of God.  The senior ministers of our churches gladly submitted to and obeyed this man, because he exhibited a unique love that could only come from God.  Unfortunately, the senior ministers began to desire the people under them to be as faithful to them as they were to the ‘man of God’.  This led to a misguided messianic complex among the churches, and an inflated view of who we were compared to others within Christ’s church.  Before long the unspoken version of truth was that our ‘man of God’ was the greatest of all, and we needed to sacrifice everything for his calling and ministry.

There were numbers of people committed to this cause, and I was one.  I have always tried to be a 100% kind-of-a guy.  If I am into something, I’m into it lock, stock and barrel.  What could be greater than to be a part of an end-time ministry?  So, I was whole-hearted in my effort.   The ministry became the most important thing in my life.  It was more important than my wife or my children.  Don’t get me wrong?  I loved them, but I thought the best thing I could do for them was to serve my ‘man of God’.  And serve I did!  Following is a partial list of the jobs I had concurrently for 16 years at that Church: Associate Pastor, Christian Education Director, Day Care and Pre-School Director, Athletic Director in a Christian School (K-12), Vice Principal, Bible Teacher, Physical Education Teacher, Basketball and Track coach, Pastor of a Sunday School Class of about 60 people, Visitation Leader two nights each week.  In addition to that I was one who stood ready 24/7/365 for any and all personal help the senior pastor needed.  As you might imagine, those 16 years took quite a toll on my health and my family.  Even writing about it makes me really tired.  During those years it was not uncommon for me to work nearly 60 hours per week.

Not all of our experience there was negative.  Our children were able to grow up there and have a place they can think of as home.  We have many friends both in and out of the church that are treasured.  We had some wonderfully, anointed spiritual experiences and were exposed to some of the greatest in Christian and classical music.  Being there was not a ‘picnic’…or maybe it was.  It’s just that…well…I didn’t know all  that  was in the brown, paper-bag. 

By this time the desire for preaching and discipleship was welling up within me.  I felt the desire to…as we preachers say…‘get back in the pulpit’.  I remember one day saying, ‘Jesus get me out of here’!   It wasn’t long after that when I was sitting in my office and I received a phone call from a pastor in Sarasota, Florida.  He asked if I had ever considered leaving the ministry in West Virginia.  I told him I had not seriously considered it.  He asked for permission to speak with the senior pastor and the ‘man of God’ about me coming to Sarasota to assist him and then to take over as pastor, since he wanted to retire.  This was in October, 1992.  I did not hear another word from anyone until around the middle of December of that same year.  It was a Sunday afternoon.  Kathi, the children and I had just returned home from seeing a presentation of The Nutcracker Suite.  We had gotten home just in time to get ready for the Sunday evening service.  The door bell rang.  It was one of the associate pastors and right behind him was the senior pastor.  When I saw them, I knew.  The senior pastor said, to the children, “Well children.  I guess we better tell your parents they are going to Florida.”  As I said, I knew immediately what was going on.  Kathi didn’t have a clue, nor did the children.  I had not told them about the phone call from the pastor from Sarasota.  Kathi was shocked.  At first she thought we were going for vacation and she was excited.  However, it was soon apparent to her that such was not the case.  The pastor then clarified that we were moving to Florida to become an associate and then later become senior pastor.  Kathi’s face turned white as a sheet.  I thought she was going to die…Truly…I thought my wife was dying right before my eyes.  Then more quickly than I can tell you, she jumped up off the couch and ran over and stood in front of that senior pastor and said, “Pastor, I’ve been praying right here on this couch for years and I’m ready to go.”  I think I mentioned before that I can never figure her out. Smile!

 On March 1, 1993 Kathi and I pulled away from a 16 year ‘picnic’ and a gift in a brown, paper-bag.  We were scared, scarred, and glassy-eyed…but off we went….in obedience.  Little did we know that the ‘School of Brokenness’ had yet another picnic and another gift for us. *

*When I use the terms ‘gift’ and ‘picnic’, I do NOT do so with tongue in cheek as if God were some kind of sadist.  I do so with the full knowledge that his blessings are often wrapped in unusual packages.  His blessings often come with a crushing.  At the last supper our Lord inaugurated, what we know now as communion, by passing the cup and the bread.  Prior to this sacred meal he had asked an impetuous James and John, if they could drink the cup he was to drink?  They responded that they could.  This cup is called a cup of blessing.  Within that cup, however, are all blessings; some are negative and some are positive, but all blessings.   Anything which we allow to draw us nearer to the glorious crown of intimate fellowship with Christ is a blessing.  Life is a picnic. That is, life is lived out in the flesh as people live together, laugh together, and rub one another raw.   Christ intends for it to all be blessing.  Whether it is or not depends on our responses to the negative and the positive.  Not all that happens to us in our life is God’s will, but He, the Divine Yes, speaks into each circumstance and will use it to draw us into deeper fellowship with him, if we allow. 

STILL MORE TO COME…Hope you’re not weary…

August 20th, 2008 Posted by | Biographical | 4 comments

My JOURNEY 6

GOD’S GIFT FROM THE MOUNTAIN

We were very content in Fairmont.  We had a nice home, two precious young children, a congregation with some vision and opportunity to do something significant in Christ’s vineyard.  Interestingly, I had been given the assignment of finding a camp where our regional Southern Baptist churches youth groups could have a retreat for the spring of 1974.  Unfortunately, all the camps in northern West Virginia were booked and the only one I could find was near Charleston, which was some distance away.  Since we were going to be near the church of our mentor, Dr.camp-virgil-tate.jpg Daniel Light, I thought it might be good, if we featured their fine youth choir.  I called Dan to speak with him about it and in the course of the conversation he mentioned there was a Church in Racine, WV which was looking for a pastor.  Apparently their pastor had left for another Church.  Dan said the previous pastor was a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Seminary and they liked him so well they wanted another Southwestern man.  Dan asked if I would be interested.  I explained I had only been in Fairmont less than a year, and I really wanted to stay there.  My desire was for a ministry of longevity.  He said, it was the Church in which he had been ordained to ministry and that his wife, Jenny’s relatives were in the Church.  He asked if I would at least pray about it?  I said, “Well, I can at least pray about it.” 

The arrangements were made for the retreat and a sizeable group of us from northern WV made our way south to Charleston to Camp Virgil Tate.  While at the camp Dan talked with me more about First Baptist Church Racine and the more he talked the more I could sense the Holy Spirit stirring me about it.  One of the difficulties I faced was Kathi.  You see she is like most ladies; she is a nester.  She had put her roots down, had found another young mother in our neighborhood with a child about the age of our oldest, and life was….well…it was good.  Of course, I would not want to uproot her and our babies unless we both felt this opportunity was definitely from God.  So, on the way home to Fairmont from Charleston, I began to pray, “Lord, if you want us in Racine, please let Kathi be open to the possibility.”  When I arrived home, I said, “Honey, How would you like to move to Racine, West Virginia?”  She quickly responded, “Let’s go!”  

Shortly, we made our way through the interview process and were on our way to Racine, WV.  Now you need to understand something.  Racine is not… (Deep breath)…it’s not your typical urban community.  In fact, it’s not typical anything.  Now don’t get me wrong.  It’s not bad, just different.  At least it was different for us.  I was used to the flat Kanawha River valley where I was raised among dairy farms.  Racine is nestled between the gorgeous mountains of West Virginia.  The sun still rises there but just does it a little later in the day than it does in most other places.  Racine had a small grocery store, post office, and a barber shop.  But Racine also had some people whose desire was to know Jesus.  Although the terrain was much different and the cultural opportunities were limited, it was the call of God and the spiritual hunger of a few people that drew us there.  Some of the decoal-river.jpgarest friends Kathi and I have today still live between those mountains of the Big Coal River.

We settled into what we hoped to be a long and fruitful ministry.  Arnold Tamplin, Pat Hudson, Harold Madison (who was a Methodist layman), and I began to visit up and down the roads and into the ‘hollers’.  We began to win people to Christ.  Before long there was a spirit of anticipation among the people both in and out of the Church that God might visit that little community.  Sometime along the journey I felt the Lord prompting me to invite an evangelist from San Antonio, Texas, Larry Taylor.  Larry came with a simple message of Christ and him crucified and a personal testimony of his own deliverance from Heroine.  During that meeting there were around 140 decisions for Christ; 90 of those decisions were first time decisions for salvation by students from at least two local high schools.  Of course, the main thing one wants to do is to get those new converts into churches and into some kind of discipleship.  We did just that.  We set up stations in other communities and attempted to firm up the decisions that were made.  Unfortunately, many of those ‘first-timers’ did not remain true at that time.  My prayer is that later in life they referred back to that initial experience and went on to maturity in Christ.

First Baptist was doing well.  The revival had helped the Church.  Several adults with children were joining the Church and the ‘cogs in the wheel’ were churning.  There was a problem, however, that began to surface.  From the beginning of our ministry Kathi and I felt our call was to the Church, rather than to the lost.  That’s not to say I wasn’t evangelistic.  While we were in Racine our Church was second in the state (around 600 churches) in baptisms.  But, I saw the real need was for the new converts to have a healthy spiritual environment in which to grow.  Some of the leaders in the Church, however,  wanted me to preach evangelistic messages from the pulpit.  I, on the other hand, saw my scriptural position as an equipper of the saints for the work of the ministry.  Some of the ‘saints’, however, thought they were paying me to do their witnessing for them.  The local Barber, who was unsaved, started coming to Church on Sunday mornings.  One day I went to get my haircut and he said, ‘Preacher you keep preachin’ the truth.’  He said, ‘The way you’re preachin’ is right.  I don’t care what those people down there say.’

persecution21.jpgAfter Kathi and I had been at the Church for about two years we were introduced to a man of God and his autobiography, which chronicled his walk with God.  Both his book and his messages were challenging, and spoke to some of the same issues about which I was concerned in the Church…lack of Christian maturity being one.  He pointed out the importance of God’s people being obedient to his will and giving evidence of the salvation within.  Tragically, after we had attended a few of his meetings and I even journeyed to Israel with him, the ‘power pockets’ within the Church began to work against me.  The false accusations began to fly.  The least accusations were that I was not preaching Baptist doctrine.  The worst were that I was involved in black magic and witchcraft.  Neither of the two extremes, nor any of those things along the continuum was true, but rumors don’t depend on truth, only willing participants to share a negative message.  Before long, private Board meetings were being held without my knowledge, and one Sunday in February of 1977 the Chairman of the Deacons stood to announce a Special called Business Meeting for the next Sunday.  I knew immediately what that was all about, so Kathi and I began to pray about what we should do.  We did not want to cause division within the Church.  What to do?  The next Saturday night I tossed and turned all night wrestling with the decision.  Finally, word came.  I was to resign and not put the Church through the difficult choice of taking sides for me and/or against life-long friends.

At the end of my message I read my resignation, sent my wife and three children (Nathan was born while we were living in Racine) out of the building to spare them any more hurt, and I sat down on the front row to allow the Church to act on my resignation.  Sadly, some people, who had not been in Church for months, came that day to vote against me.  Some of them began to say things that were untrue and crushing.  Finally, in the midst of one ‘speech’ I stood, turned and faced the congregation and said with tears in my eyes, “I love you with all my heart”, and I walked out of the building. 

In the years that followed I was called back to Racine to assist with funerals and for special celebrations. On one occasion after attending an anniversary celebration and standing and talking with some of the members, our oldest son, Chad said, “Dad, which ones were against us?”  I said, “Son, could you not tell?” What he did not know was that he had been standing with me talking to the main person, who was against us and he couldn’t tell by me that the man wasn’t a good friend.  Hallelujah!

Our youngest son, Nathan Aaron, was born while we lived in Racine.  His name means “God’s gift from the mountain”.  He, along with Chad and Stacye are very precious gifts from God.  But perhaps the greater gift we received from the mountains of Racine was a lesson in love. Maybe this is the first homework assignment in the School of Brokenness.  It’s easy to love when you’re new in town and everyone is trying to get acquainted with you, but it is an entirely different issue, when men are speaking evil against you falsely.  Let’s see!  What did Jesus say about that?  Oh yeah!  “Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for may sake, for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.  Rejoice!”  Doesn’t God have a sense of humor?  Rejoice? And yet as we grow in Christ there is a depth of truth in his words which defies reason.  I confess, I don’t know much about this ‘suffering’ thing but I do try to claim the Apostle Paul’s words to the Church at Rome.  “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose…” (Romans 8:28).  I’d like to think I love my Lord more deeply today, in part, because of ‘God’s gift from the mountains’. 

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MORE TO COME…

August 18th, 2008 Posted by | Biographical | one comment

MY JOURNEY 5

THE SCHOOL OF BROKENNESS

Now that I was graduated from Southwestern Baptist Seminary, I was ready to begin my ministry in a nice urban church, or so I thought. I had my Master of Divinity degree…three and one-half years of intense learning. Surely now I could begin shepherding a group of people. I was so excited to get started, but Kathi and I had no direction from the Lord, and few churches were contacting me to candidate. One day the phone rang and it was our mentor, Dr. Dan Light. He was the minister under whom I was called to preach, and who married Kathi and me. It was he, who encouraged me to attend Southwestern, since that is where he had gone to school. He was then, and has been now for over forty (40) years a dear friend and Spiritual Guide. When I answered the phone, I heard his beautiful, baritone voice say, “Brother, come on home to West Virginia. We need you!” On that word we loaded up an EZ-Haul truck, and with Kathi’s father’s help, made our way back home to West Virginia with two (2) children in tow.

We unloaded our few belongings in my parents’ garage, and drove to Huntington to live temporarily with some friends from college days at Marshall. They had a brand new baby. We had Chad (18 months old) and Stacye (2months old). Did I mention this house was about 800 square feet in size? We slept on a, rollaway bed no bigger than a twin size, which was just about right for a young married couple. Since I had no church in which to minister, I had to get a job. I got a position on a construction crew, swinging a sledge-hammer, knocking down walls inside a building to make ready some exclusive apartments. I remember one day in particular I swung that sledge and failed to let my hand slide down the handle. One of my fingers jammed into the wall. I yelled…No bad words; you understand…just “ouch!” or something permissible for a ‘man of the cloth’. My finger was cut open and I was bleeding. I guess I had a lot of pent up anger, because I remember feeling as though this was just as good of an opportunity as any to have a long overdue conversation with the Lord. So I said, “OK, I went to Texas and went to school, something I didn’t want to do, just because you wanted me to. I graduated. I got this precious Masters degree, and what good is it doing me?” I’m stuck here in this old hotel doing a job I could have done with no education.” Fortunately for me God does not seem to get upset quickly. Unfortunately for me God seldom talks to me when I get like that. So, I spent 2 months in that job before being called by the First Southern Baptist Church of Fairmont, WV as their first full-time pastor. In the late spring of 1973 Kathi, the children, and I made our way to Fairmont to begin our ministry.

As I look back on that humble beginning there were a lot of firsts. I had my first Sunday in our new church. I had my ordination in our new church…and…let’s see…There was something else. What was it? Oh yeah…I ran off my first deacon. Not any deacon, mind you. This one was the Chairman of the Board. Can you believe it? I actually ran off the Chairman of the Board of Deacons on my first Sunday in ministry. Boy! What a gift! In my defense, he got mad because he thought I was trying to do his job as devotional leader of the Sunday school. It was a ‘rookie’ mistake on my part, but he would not be consoled. Some of the people said we were probably better off without him, but I felt like a dog.

Interestingly, throughout my ministry I have run into these situations on numerous occasions. Each time a situation occurred I would question my ‘call’ or think about resigning…but I never did. It was not long before I began to realize that when I graduated from seminary I enrolled in another school, THE SCHOOL OF BROKENNESS. I was to discover that I would not graduate from this school in weeks or months…but in years. In fact, after being a student in this school for 40 years I’m not sure I have even left kindergarten. When one walks onto the campus of The School of Brokenness and finds the main classroom building, a discovery is made. The steps to the building go ‘down’ not ‘up’. There are few enrollees in this school and fewer seem to ever graduate. The mascot is a Lamb. The symbol is a Cross.

I was confused, when I would run headlong into struggles, tests, trials and battles. I was one of the ‘good guys’. This stuff is not supposed to happen to ‘good guys’. Right? A closer inspection of the Bible reveals, however, that God’s people have always been people, who suffered. Apparently there is a maturing process that must take place, and interestingly, suffering plays an important role in all that. Paul said in Philippians 3:10, “That I might know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings…” A few years ago I was privileged to spend some time in a car with Gene Edwards, the chief proponent of the House Church in America, and a prolific author. Gene asked me to share my testimony with him. I did, giving him the ‘Reader’s Digest’ version. My friend, Steve Coder said, “Gene he’s not telling you everything.’ Gene then looked at us and gave us one of the most pregnant statements ever uttered, at least to me. He said, “Until a man of God suffers, the Church does not need to hear from him.” I have had several years now to meditate upon that statement and around forty (40) years of preaching and ministry upon which to test it. Something happens to a person, when he suffers. There are spiritual qualities of humility, and a depth of love, which cannot be known apart from joining in “the fellowship of his sufferings”. In fact, Paul gives quite an insight to this mystery saying, “…we are…fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him…” (Romans 8:17). I still don’t like suffering. I try to get out of just as much of it as I can. But, after all these years I think I have a little understanding of what it all might mean. I’m not the same man I was on that ‘first’ Sunday in 1973. That young preacher boy was to have several more run-ins with ‘Deacons’ and the like. I’m still in The School of Brokenness. There are no signs of graduation and no one is fitting me for a cap and gown just yet. But…well…something has happened to me. I think I actually know Jesus a little. I mean really know him. I do know that I love him more deeply and my fellowship with him is sweeter than it was in those early days.

Could I share a precious experience with you from those days as Pastor of First Southern Baptist of Fairmont? Kathi, the children and I were only there about fourteen months. During that time I was very zealous for the Lord. I would walk the streets of Fairmont and go ‘door to door’ taking ‘Religious Surveys’. I even trained my flock in personal evangelism and showed them how to do the surveys and lead into the ‘plan of salvation’. Well, one of the young ladies in the church was the only ‘saved’ person in a very large family. She had a brother, whom they called Bo (Pronounced ‘Bow’). He was an alcoholic. I visited in their home and got acquainted with Bo. Shortly, I began to receive calls from Bo on Saturday night, when he had drunk just enough beer to loosen his tongue. He would ask me to come pick him up at the local bar, which I did. We would either come back to my house or drive around and he would want to talk about Jesus and being saved. Then he would ask me to take him back to the bar and drop him off, which I did. Once in a while Bo would show up at a Church service with just enough beer in him to give him courage to be there. However, on one special Sunday evening service Bo came…and he hadn’t had a drop to drink. I preached and gave the invitation. Down the aisle Bo came, staggering like a drunken man, who had had nothing to drink. He gave his life to Jesus and the Lord took away his desire for alcohol.

Well, Bo was one of my new disciples so I trained him in personal evangelism and the taking of the ‘Religious Survey’. A part of that survey was the question, “Of which of the following religious founders do you know the most about: (1) Moses, (2) Buddha, or (3) Jesus Christ.” Bo had never learned to read very well. One day he and I were out going door to door, when we came upon a home where both the man and woman were outside working in the yard. I asked Bo to take the survey with the man, while I surveyed the lady. I could overhear Bo struggling with the survey. When he got to the question about the founders of religion, instead of saying “Buddha”, he said, “BUBBA”. The man with whom he was sharing said, “Buddy, what in the world are you doing out here?” Bo responded, “Let me tell you what I’m doing out here.” Bo then put away the survey and told the man how Jesus saved him, and delivered him from alcoholism. I left that Church after only fourteen months and after I left, Bo Simmons became a deacon in the Church. Isn’t God good?

More to come…Whew!

August 14th, 2008 Posted by | Biographical | 6 comments

MY JOURNEY 4

WEDDING BELLS, BABY SHOES, AND GOSPEL NEWS

On June 7, 1969 Kathi and I were married at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Charleston, WV by the Reverends Daniel Light and Archie Snedeggar. We spent our honeymoon in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania at the Mount Airy Lodge. It has been nearly 40 years since that precious day. No two people could have been more in love than we were then, and, by God’s grace, still love one another today. Our journey together has traversed both hill and dale, and has not been without a few bumps in the proverbial road, while experiencing many highs as well. I think both of us would say that we understand more today what it means to love deeply.

We had been married only five weeks when we loaded everything we had into a 4X8 U-Haul, hooked it onto our 1967 yellow, Camaro and started on the long journey to Fort Worth, Texas so that I could begin my seminary studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Yes…seminary! I, who could hardly wait to graduate from Marshall, and, guess who did not particularly like school, and was now enrolled in seminary to prusue the Masters of Divinity degree. Kathi and I went to Fort Worth with no job and no place to live. We were young, visionaries with a deep desire to serve  God and with a faith we thought could move mountains…and it did. Our first night in Fort Worth was spent in the Fort Worther Motel. It was July 20, 1969, the same day Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon. As I lay in that motel bed that night, young, adventurous, and scared to death, I told Kathi I was so frightened that I would run, but I didn’t even know in which direction to run. She confessed later, she didn’t know, if I was about to confess to being a serial killer or what (not really, but my statement did cause her some concern).

The next morning we searched till we found the seminary (Kathi cried, when we got there). Then we began to search for an apartment to rent. Thankfully, we found a place just one block from the seminary. It was an old, two-story house, which had been divided into 4 apartments. We were in the upper right-hand side. There was no insulation and no air conditioning and we were in Texas in July…sooo…hot would be one way to describe it; a hundred and ten degrees in the shade. We hardly had any money but we bought a 5000 BTU air conditioner to go in one room and we bought…well…a miniature daschund. Yeah…I know! What can I say. We were kids. The dog’s name was ‘Kathi’s Happiday’ and we called him, ‘Happy’. We kept him for a couple of years until he fell in love with a female German Shepherd and ran away from home. SMILE!

The Lord provided a job for Kathi. She taught high school Spanish at Lake Worth, High School, while I went to school. It was not an easy assignment but she shouldered the load and made it possible for me to go to the seminary full-time. Thanks honey!

We spent three and 0ne-half years in Fort Worth. The experiences we shared there are too many to tell. I was priveleged to receive some of the finest Christian training available, and sat under the teaching of some of the greatest men of God I have ever known. Perhaps some of the greatest blessings given to us at that time were the friends we made. We still share fellowship with some of them. Lonnie, Harry, and Norma Jean are three with whom we shared some of the most precious memories. Who else would fix fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and biscuits after church on Sunday night? What about all those nights before Thanksgiving when we stayed up nearly all night baking turkey and pecan and pumpkin pies? Then, there was Johnny and Ginger and Pat and Venita, with whom we shared classes and ministry both in Texas and Colorado. Yes, Texas was very good to us, but the greatest gifts we received from there were our two oldest Children: Chad, who is nearly37 and Stacye, who is coming upon 36. Wow! Were we ever proud of those two! They both have families of their own now. Stacye lives with her husband and two boys in West Virginia and Chad lives in Texas with his wife and son and daughter. God gave us one West Virginian, Nathan Aaron, “God’s gift from the mountain”. He lives in New York City and is following his dream of acting and writing.          He is a wonderful man as well. The Bible says that children are ‘an heritage from the Lord’, and the parents are blessed, whose quiver is full… Kathi and I are more blessed than we deserve.

Permit me to share one anecdote from those years in Texas. Languages have never been easy for me. Imagine me         having to take both Greek and Hebrew? I’m glad I did, but I would not want to repeat the experience. One day for some ‘very good’ reason I had not done my Greek homework. I was NOT going to class without it so I decided to cut class. I seldom did such a thing but this was as good a day as any to do it, or so I thought. Greek was my last class of the day so I decided, since I had this self-imposed vacation, that I should celebrate by going home. However, I felt I needed a cup of hot chocolate. I stopped by the student center to purchase it and sat at one of the tables to relax a moment before going home. Wouldn’t you know it? Just about the time I was about to take my first sip in through the door came Dr. Doug Ezell and the entire Greek class. There I sat with…well…with chocolate on my face, and some explaining to do. Dr. Ezell saw me and said, “Well, Dave, what are you doing here?” He then proceeded to gather all the class around my table and they sang “Just As I Am”. All good fun. I was definitely convicted and never cut class again.

I graduated in December 1972. It was a proud day. I had managed to squeeze three years of study into three and a half. LOL! But, that really wasn’t too bad, considering we had two children and Kathi had to quit teaching. So, I worked full-time and went to school full-time. Now I was ready to begin ministry full-time…or so I thought. During the next 30+ years we were to experience a small portion of what it means to ‘take up the cross and follow Jesus.’

MORE TO COME…

August 12th, 2008 Posted by | Biographical | 5 comments

MY JOURNEY 3

GGGGGO AAAAAND PPPPPREACH – OH BROTHER!

Once I graduated from High School my choices were to either go to college or to be drafted into the Army and end up in Viet Nam. Although I was then and am now a very patriotic person, and honor our military personnel, my first choice was not to end up in Southeast Asia. Therefore, I chose to attend Marshall University. Choosing a major, now that was a horse of a different color. In fact, I was so confused about my future that I actually changed majors five (5) times before I finally graduated. I even changed from the School of Arts and Sciences, to the School of Teachers, back to Arts and Sciences, and finally back to Teachers. Let’s just say I was one confused fellow before I met Jesus.

I mentioned in the previous blog that from the time I was two (2) years of age I was a stutterer. Off I go to college and the first class I have is a speech class. As fate would have it, I was placed in a class with several Marshall Football players. They sat on the back row. I sat on the front row, but for the life of me I do not know why I chose that position in the class. Shortly, the time came for my first speech. I practiced it faithfully and as long as I was by myself I did it very well, but as soon as I tried to give it in front of my roommate I cccouldn’t ddddo it, if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, they don’t let you give speeches to yourself so I had to do it in front of the class. May I say the event was a memorable one, but one I would just as soon have forgotten. Everyone in the class hung their head. All those football players, girls, even the teacher, all would not look at me. All, that is, except one girl who sat beside me on the front row. She had a boyfriend so I don’t think it was that kind of thing. She never took her eyes off me. When I sat down, she told me I had done a good job. I knew I hadn’t, but her acceptance went a long way to build my shattered self-esteem.

After class, Mr. Denman, my professor and an avowed atheist, called me to him and asked if I had ever had speech therapy and I told him I had not. He asked if I would like to have someone help me. I thought about it for a moment and said, ‘Why not?’ The therapy he suggested was with a girl, who was a senior at Marshall, majoring in Speech Therapy. Not the best choice for me. I did not want to stutter at all but especially not in front of an attractive girl. One of my assignments was to go to various business establishments and purposely stutter, observe the people’s reactions and then return to my room and journal about the experience. Then, in my next session with the therapist, I would have to talk with her about it. I met with the girl for a semester, but nothing she did seemed to help me. She graduated and I did not have the courage to be the Guinea Pig for another student, preparing to take their show on the road. There were more speeches, more heads looking down, and more embarrassing moments than I want to count. Mr. Denman GAVE me a ‘C’ just to get me out of the class. I was glad to go and I’m sure he was glad I was gone. He was always kind to me, but I’m sure having me in the class was a test.

Fast-forward now a couple of years and I have met my sweetheart, and I have been miraculously brought into the Kingdom of God by the shed blood of Jesus. Life was different. I was still a stutterer but my life began to take on meaning and purpose. My grades had improved and I had come to the realization I was not at camp but at college, preparing for my future. After becoming a follower of Jesus, some of our new friends in Campus Crusade for Christ put me in charge of the arrangements for Christian, folk-singing group that was coming to Marshall. The big day came. All the arrangements were made and Kathi and I joined several hundred others at the concert. During the concert, the group started singing a beautiful song about the birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Suddenly, it was like I was being lifted up on an elevator in my spirit. I was taken into a place of glory and a place of vision. While this experience was going on, it was as though I sensed God calling me to preach the Gospel.

After the concert I knew I had to talk with Kathi about this strange event. By this time we were engaged and I knew we had to be in agreement on this kind of a vocation. I took her to our favorite spot. It was a little soda fountain called, “Campus Sundries”. As I carefully began to relate my experience, I was shocked to discover she had had a similar experience at the same time, but felt God was calling her to be a Pastor’s wife. Now, we’re really in a fix. Why? Because she didn’t want to be a Pastor’s wife any more than I wanted to be a Pastor. I was a Physical Education major and I wanted to teach and coach. In fact, Kathi said to me, “You know, God needs Christian coaches as much as he needs Pastors.” I responded, “Yes, I know, but I don’t think that is what He is calling us to, do you?” She acknowledged that she thought I was right.

For several days we prayed about our experiences. While meditating on the issue one day, I began to talk plainly with the Lord and tell him I could not talk. I said, “Lord, I can’t do this. I’m a stutterer.” More quickly than I can tell you the Lord reminded me of Moses. Now I had attended Sunday school all my life but I had to search my Bible and look this one up. When God called Moses, he began to make excuses. One of his major excuses was he could not speak. Apparently, Moses had a speech impediment. The Scriptures said that God told Moses He would give Him Aaron as His tongue. At that point I paused and prayed, “Lord, I’ll go where you want me to go and I’ll do what you want me to do. But you will either have to straighten out the tongue I have or give me someone to speak for me.”

Shortly, I was speaking with my mother and she immediately got me an opportunity to speak at my home Church, Beech Hill United Methodist near Point Pleasant, West Virginia. I wrote my message out on big yellow pad and got a lot of help from one of Billy Graham’s sermons. I walked into my home church and stood in front of people, who had known me all my life. It came time to get into the pulpit. I walked up and stood behind that pulpit, where I had watched my pastors preach all my life. I had no idea what would happen. I was afraid! I was full of faith! Sounds strange, but it was true. I announced my text and began to speak and for the first time in my life the words flowed out like a cup of milk and honey. HALLELUJAH!

Kathi and I were married in June of 1969. After we returned from our honeymoon I had five (5) weeks of summer school to finish to graduate. The class I had to take was for my minor, English grades 7-9. The class was Oral Interpretation of Literature. Public reading is one of the hardest things for a stutterer. I signed up for the class but when I arrived, the class was over-enrolled and they had to split the class. I went with the split. When I walked into the class, guess who the professor was. Right! Mr. Denman. He took one look at me and with more disappointment than I can convey he said, “Oh, Mr. Anderson, what are you doing here?” I said, “Mr. Denman I have to have this class to graduate.” He really tried to hide his disappointment but it was evident. The day came when I had to do my first oral presentation. I could choose any piece of literature I wanted. I chose Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear. The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid…?” I read the whole passage. When I began, Mr. Denman had his head down in anticipation of what was coming. About a quarter of the way through the passage he lifted his head and never took his eyes off me. I was under a great anointing. At the end of class he once again called me to him as he had done four (4) years previously. He said, “Mr. Anderson did Speech Therapy help you?” I said, “No, sir. It did not.” He asked what had happened to me and I asked him if he really wanted to know. He responded in the affirmative and I told him the story of how God called me to preach and healed me of stuttering. A few days later I spoke with Mr. Denman and told him I had to have an “A” in the class to graduate.  I asked, if there was extra credit I could do to insure the “A”?  He said, “Mr. Anderson you have your “A”.”  

Approximately ten (10) years later, Kathi and I were attending a Marshall Football Homecoming game. I was sitting in the stands and saw Mr. Denman walking up the steps two sections over. There were thousands of people there. I stood and waved to him. He looked my way, saw me and gave a big, hefty wave. My wife saw him about 10 years after that in the Huntington mall. She reminded him of who I was and he said, “Oh, I remember Mr. Anderson.” He was an Atheist, but God did something for me that could not be explained and I don’t think he will ever forget.

MORE TO COME…(You can also view this permanently on “MY JOURNEY” page).

August 8th, 2008 Posted by | Biographical | 2 comments

MY JOURNEY 2

SON OF MARSHALL…SON OF GOD!

Kathi and I began to see more of one another that summer. I had just come out of a couple of relationships and was carrying a lot of emotional scars. I was the kind of guy, who tried to fall in love with every girl I dated. NOT GOOD! Kathi had just said ‘goodbye’ to a young man deployed overseas that she thought was ‘the one’. It wasn’t long before both of us were in great confusion. We were having feelings for one another. However, we had told one another; when we began to sense we were falling in love, that neither of us would ever tell anyone else we loved them unless it was the one we would marry. She even asked me, if I would sing in her wedding. Not what I wanted to hear. It didn’t take long for me to realize Kathi was the one for me and I…well…I told her I loved her. She was very thankful God had shown me but she was resolute in her commitment and did not give me the ‘obligatory’, “I love you”. She left me hangin’ a little, but…it was really OK. I respected her for sticking to her principles. She has remained one who is not easily moved by what others think and has made a resolute Christian as well. Sometime later…not long but seemed like an eternity, Kathi and I were walking back to her dorm one night. We had been to the Campus Christian Center and curfew was up. Yeah, she had a curfew. Did I mention we went to college in the 60’s? Anyway, as we walked toward the dorm we paused to kiss goodnight. Suddenly, she said, “Dave, I love you.” I think it shocked her as much as it did me. She says that it was something she really had no control over (I can have that affect. LOL!). She told me later it was like something physical came up from deep within her and came through her throat and out her mouth before she knew what she had done. Well, let me tell you I was one happy college guy. I picked her up, swung her around and shouted.

Meeting Kathi changed a lot for me, and one of those changes was my poor grades.            During that summer I actually made the Dean’s list and got my grades up so I could join the track and cross country team for the fall term. At that time in my life athletics was my life.            It was something I had substituted for my inability to speak. I had been working out all summer and was in the best physical condition of my life. It appeared my dreams of running for the Green and White of Marshall U were finally coming to fruition. Finally, I could be known for something besides being a shy, stutterer. However, between summer school and the fall term I got sick. I was so weak I could hardly put one foot in front of another. I had a temperature and a sore throat. Kathi encouraged me to go the campus doctor. He did a quick examination and sent me immediately to the county hospital for some tests. I went back to the campus doctor and he told me he had been very concerned about me, even considering I might have Leukemia but he said the tests showed I had Mononucleosis. I asked him what that meant for my running cross country that fall. He said there was no way I could do it. I said what about track in the spring. Again he said it was not possible. Since I was then a junior, my chances for realizing my dream were gone. In what seemed like a moment of time and a horrible turn of events, my life was over, or so I thought. My life was athletics. I thought it was all I had. Now it was gone. I was mad…I mean really mad…at God. I told him, “My only chance at some notoriety and now you’ve taken it away.” Kathi, who was light years ahead of me at that time in her spiritual astuteness, said, “Maybe God has something better in store for you.” I couldn’t see how that could ever be.

I was so very sick I had to go home and it appeared as though I was going to miss the entire fall semester. By some miracle of God, however, within two weeks I was well enough to return to school, if I promised to rest every afternoon. I missed Kathi so much I was willing to promise anyone almost anything to get back to school. Interestingly, a turn of events was about to take place which would radically change my life. One of the Marshall Football players began to speak with me about joining his fraternity. I had not thought much about it before because my grades were not good enough. But now I was an academic qualifier for several things. Denny was a great guy and was so proud of his fraternity that I eventually decided I would give it a shot. I pledged Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity in the fall of 1967. It was a Jewish fraternity, although there were young men from all faiths and non-faiths, who were a part of it. Now, I don’t recommend joining fraternities for everyone, but for me this was the right choice. Forty years later at age 61 I still have good friends, which I made during my time with the Zebes. Being in the fraternity forced me into social situations and brought me out of my crusty, protective shell.

In the spring of 1968 one of my fraternity brothers invited Kathi and me to a gathering of young Christians on campus sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. It seemed like a good thing to do on a Thursday night so we went. I don’t think either of us was prepared for what we saw. College students were ‘turned on’ to Christ. I had been raised in the Church and like most youth did not appreciate my spiritual roots until much later in life. I was trying to avoid Church, God and the whole scene. Remember I was mad at God. Fortunately for me that did not bother God. Thursday night ‘College Life’ meetings became a regular part of our schedule. After a few weeks I began to think more seriously about my future. I was fairly sure by now that my future also included a cute little Co-Ed named Kathi, and I wanted to be sure I was as responsible about life and its choices as I could be. On one of those Thursday evening ‘College Life’ meetings I was listening to one of the Brothers share a simple message on salvation. My heart was unusually stirred. Kathi and I left the meeting at the Campus Christian Center and I was walking her back to the dorm. As we passed the women’s gym and turned the corner toward her dorm a miracle occurred. Suddenly, without a prayer, an altar, a formal invitation or anything, Jesus entered my life. I can take you to the exact spot today on Marshall’s campus. I’ve been privileged to take all three of our children to see the place where my life was radically transformed. Each time, to His glory, he has helped me to show them the exact place where it happened. My grandfather was a part of Marshall University’s graduating class of 1897. My dear mother had two degrees from Marshall. Kathi and I are both graduates of MU. Two of our three children attended there and our first grandchild’s name is Marshall. So, we really do bleed green in our family and I am thankful to be a “son of the great John Marshall”. However, nothing compares to having been known for the last 41 years as a son of Jesus the Christ, the King of all Kings and the Lord of all Lords.

MORE TO COME… (You can also view this permanently on “MY JOURNEY” page).

August 7th, 2008 Posted by | Biographical | 3 comments

MY JOURNEY

My Journey

Following is a brief testimony of my journey in Christ.  Perhaps reading about my walk will both inspire and challenge you in your own walk with God.  My mistakes are many but hopefully the lessons I’ve learned in the process will be helpful to all who read…

THE EARLY YEARS

 I was born in a little river town called Point Pleasant and grew up in a small community in West Virginia near the Kanawhat River called Beech Hill.  My parents were a little older when they had me (37), and were told by the doctor that after giving birth to my brother nine years previously that they would not be able to have other children.  Fortunately for me my parents had developed a habit of prayer and so they each began to pray, without letting the other know, that God would send them a ‘man of God’.  Surprise!

Once I arrived on the scene the evidence of a ‘calling’ on my life should have been evident.  The first two months of my life were critical.  I was not growing like I should and I could not keep any food on my stomach.  Shortly after I would eat my mother told me that I would throw-up everything.  So forceful was my body’s reaction to eating that the force of it would carry across the room (or so it seemed).  After many trips to the Holzer Clinic in Gallipolis, OH., Dr. Charles Holzer decided he would do exploratory surgery to see what might be wrong with me.  As you might imagine, my parents were quite concerned, especially my mother.  Finally, the day arrived, when I was to be taken to the hospital.  My father owned and operated a restaurant/truck stop, which was located next door to our little house.  My mother did most of the baking and some of the cooking of the vegetables each day.  Apparently, they did not have to take me to the hospital until the afternoon, so mother was peeling potatoes for mashing…and she was praying for me.  It had been a miracle that I had come to them and now it appeared my time here would be rather short.  While peeling and praying, she said she heard the voice of God so clearly it seemed almost audible.  He said so sweetly to her, “Where is your faith?  The child will be alright.”  At that point she said a peace came over her that she could never describe to anyone.  Later that day they took me to the hospital and Dr. Holzer said, “Well, we’ll see if we can tell what’s wrong with this little fellow.   My mother responded, “Do whatever you need to do.  The Lord has told me he will be alright.”  Once they cut my stomach open they found I had pyloric stenosis.  It seems there is a muscle between the stomach and the intestines that let’s  food out and…well it was closed and wouldn’t open.  Dr. Charles just stuck his finger through it and opened it.  He also took out my appendix, since I wasn’t in the habit of eating rocks and would not need it for digesting them (so they thought back then anyway).  Now, at almost 61 years, my problem is not digesting food.  It’s eating too much of it.  Oh, the trials of having a wife, who is a marvelous cook.

At the age of two another crisis arose and required more surgery.  Unfortunately, this experience was so traumatic I remember vividly some of what happened.  I remember them strapping me down to the table.  I remember seeing both my mother and the doctor standing by the table.  I was kicking and screaming and wondering why my mother was letting them do what ever it was they were doing.  I have clear memory of the ether being administered.  In my mind it was a big, black mask.  Due to the fact I was beginning to talk in sentences and because my nervous system had been so traumatized, this event left me with a considerable speech defect.  I became a stutterer.

Throughout my childhood and teens the stuttering defined who I was.  The fear of it controlled me and drove me to be a more introverted personality.  Couple that with an undiagnosed ADD/ADHD thing going on and I  was…well…a handful, I’m sure.  I don’t think I was a mean child, just mischievous.   I was easily picked on by bullies until one day a boy in the neighborhood through an apple and hit my dog, Terry.  I jumped on him like ugly on an ape and sent him home crying.  He never bothered me or my dog again and we became friends.  Think of that!

The stuttering followed me into high school but I found an outlet for my deflated ego.  I discovered I was a good athlete.  I played first string defense on the football team and was co-captain of the track team.  Our 4×400 relay team was one of the fastest in the state of West Virginia in 1965.dave-football.jpg

Upon graduation from high school I chose to go to college at Marshall University.  Did I mention I was a good athlete in high school.  Well…I didn’t say anything about being a good student, did I?  Student?…Not so much.  I barely made it into college on academic probation and my first two years at Marshall I thought I was at camp.  I went to some classes, played lots of basketball,  spent time with my friends, and…by the end of two years I was 13 quality points in the hole.  Because of my poor grades I had to go to school in the summers also to try and make up my quality points.  The summer before my junior year I met a beautiful young girl from Charleston, WV named Kathi Hall.  I had some special friends in summer school and she was acquainted with one of them.  One Sunday evening my friends and I decided to go to a Pizza Pub for dinner.  We had ordered and were just sitting and talking, when Kathi and her Marine boyfriend came into the Pub.  She needed to talk to one of the girls in our group.  I watched her walk in front of our table.  I watched her as she talked to our friend.  Then, I watched her walk back around the table and out the door.  As she and her boyfriend passed us the second time I nudged the guy sitting next to me and said, “I’m going to marry that girl.”  Shortly after that her boyfriend was deployed and they decided to see other people until he got home.  Kathi joined our group and before long our relationship began to bud.

MORE TO COME… (you can also view this permanently on “MY JOURNEY” page).

August 2nd, 2008 Posted by | Biographical | 3 comments