John Schmid Music

Month: May 2016

Little Boy Blue or Try A Little Kindness

Kindness is a language everyone can understand

I sang a few songs, including Howard Grey, at the Belmont Prison Chapel service on Sunday, and then I invited the volunteers who came with me to introduce themselves and share whatever God laid on their hearts. Here is what Atlee Mast shared:

“That song, Howard Grey, sparked a memory. I remember a boy in my third grade class who was very timid; even backward. He was a new kid. He didn’t know any of us. His name was Jr. He got picked on unmercifully by the students. I remember kids kicking and punching him and laughing.

One day Jr. came to school with his shirt inside out. The teacher asked about his shirt. He didn’t answer. (It was probably dirty.) She came back to his desk and asked, and again Jr. didn’t answer. He just sat there. She slapped him on the right cheek. Then with her other hand she slapped him on his left cheek. Then, back and forth in rapid fire she slapped him with her left hand and then her right hand (a third grader!). Left, right, left, right… His cheeks were bright red from the abuse. Jr. didn’t cry. He didn’t say a word. Just sat there.

One day in the boy’s restroom Jr. got kicked and punched and shoved up against the wall as the boys pulled his long hair and banged his head against the wall. I saw all of this, and like the song, Howard Grey, I did nothing. I just stood there and watched. Out in the hallway I remember asking Jr., “Do you like school?” (I don’t know why I asked that.) “Not much,” he mumbled. I guess that was my meager attempt to befriend him.

Jr. was only at my school for one year. I guess he went back to the Amish school. I never saw him again. Then in 1987, I read a story in Reader’s Digest entitled, “Little Boy Blue.” The frozen body of a little boy in blue pajamas was found in a ditch near Chester, Nebraska on Christmas Eve, 1985. No one knew who he was or where he came from or what had happened to him. The community came together and gave the boy a funeral. They buried him under the name Matthew, which means “gift of God,” and referred to him as “Little Boy Blue,” because of his blue pajamas. “The church was completely packed and nobody had any idea who this child was,” said Thayer Co. Attorney, Daniel Werner.

Two years after the article it was discovered that Little Boy Blue was 9 year old Daniel, son of Eli Stutzman, Jr., my third grade classmate! Jr. (Eli) grew up to live a life of deception, crime, homosexuality, and eventually murder. He died a suicide after 13 years in prison.

What if I would have befriended Jr.? What if I would have stuck up for him? What if I would have done something to defend this poor little backward Amish boy? I wonder how different his life and the lives of his wife and child and others might have been? If…”

I sang this song after singing Howard Grey (and before Atlee’s story of Jr.):

“If you see your brother standing by the road, with a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed.

If you see your sister falling by the way, just stop and say, “You’re going the wrong way.

You’ve got to try a little kindness, show a little kindness, shine your light for everyone to see.

And if you try a little kindness, then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of the the narrow minded people on the narrow minded street.”

I believe that we are all responsible for our actions, no matter what our background is. Grow up! Be responsible! We make our own choices. BUT, I have to wonder if God will hold that third grade teacher partly responsible for the death of an innocent 9 year old boy, abandoned in a ditch.

“Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Eph. 4:32

“Kindness is a language that the blind can see and the deaf can hear.”

Mary McAffee Story: A Totally Committed Life

Big blessings come from a quiet, faithful life

Henry Clay Morrison was a Methodist preacher before he became president of Asbury College and founded Asbury Theological Seminary in 1923. This is his story of a remarkable women in his first parish in Stanford, Ky. around 1887.

“When I got to Stanford, Ky. as the new pastor, I stayed at a boarding house with a most delightful family. The Baptist pastor, Rev. John Bruce, a single man, was also boarding with the same family.

When I inquired about the spiritual state of the community, Rev. Bruce said, “Well, it’s none too good. We need a revival. But there is a wonderful woman down at the toll gate on the Crab Orchard Pike about a half mile out of town. Her name is Mary McAfee. She is a most remarkable Christian; a little peculiar in her views, but wonderfully filled with the Spirit. If we had more like her, the churches would be in much better condition. By the way, she is a member of your church.”

Rev. Mallory pastored the Presbyterian Church. He called to see me a few days after my arrival, a most delightful gentleman. He talked earnestly about the need of a revival in our town. By and by, he said, “Have you met Mary McAfee? She is a member of your church. She keeps the toll gate down on the Crab Orchard Pike, about a half a mile out of town. She has some queer notions, but she lives very close to her Lord.”

Well, you may be sure I was becoming deeply interested in Sister McAfee, so I went down to see her. I found a very modest, little maiden woman who must have been past forty years of age. She told me a remarkable story of how she had received the baptism with the Holy Spirit in sanctifying power. How that after being bedridden for seven years she was miraculously healed, and that the Lord was graciously using her in the salvation of souls.

I had never met anyone to whom Jesus seemed a more real, gracious and present Savior. Tears trickled down my cheeks while she talked. I asked for an interest in her prayers and went away profoundly impressed.

We had a skeptic in the town; you always find one in a County Seat. I went up to his office and had a talk with him. He was a bit sour; he criticized the religious life of some of the men in the churches and was disposed to find fault. I was a bit embarrassed. But then he said, “There is a little woman, though, by the name of McAfee, who keeps the toll gate down on the Crab Orchard Pike about a half mile out of town. If I could get the kind of religion she has, I would like to have it.”

I remembered that my Master had likened a consecrated, holy life to a “city set on a hill that could not be hid.” When ministers visited me, I would take them down to the toll gate and ask Sister McAfee to tell her experience. Each one was deeply moved. She was never excited, never afraid. She was resting in the calm of full redemption and perfect love. Her education was limited, but her comprehension of scriptural truth was most remarkable and her thinking wonderfully clear. She prayed earnestly that I might be wholly consecrated, entirely saved from sin, and filled with the Holy Spirit. She was a power in our revivals. Everybody believed in her. Her testimonies were quiet and convincing. She walked with God. She breathed the spirit of prayer, forgiveness and love. People who came in contact with her longed to know more about Jesus.

A newspaper reporter went down, had a talk with her and published her testimony in the Lousiville Courier Journal. Rev. W. W. Hooper, down in Mississippi, read her testimony and traveled 600 miles(!) to Stanford to ask her about her experience and ask for her prayers. While there, he received the baptism with the Holy Spirit in sanctifying power. He returned to Mississippi to preach a full salvation in Christ received by faith.

It would take a case full of books to tell how the fire spread. Sinners were converted, preachers were sanctified, missionaries went out across the seas. Years passed. Little Mary’s health failed and she faded gradually. Then her saintly spirit, on wings of love and faith, rose to meet and dwell with her blessed Savior forevermore.

The good people of Stanford sent for me to say some words at her funeral. As I stood by the plain coffin and looked at her quiet saintly face that seemed to tell of a soul that had entered into eternal rest, I hadn’t a doubt but directly and indirectly 100,000 souls had been touched for good through the holy life and the testimony of a little maiden woman who kept the tollgate on the Crab Orchard Pike about a half mile out of town near Stanford, Ky.”

This article from The Pentecostal Herald, Nov/Dec 1988

Howard Grey: 1948 – 2016

The story behind the song

I heard of Howard Grey at a Ramblin’ Jack Elliot concert in the fatigued basement of one of the stately College of Wooster buildings in 1990. Neighbor Ed Schrock had tickets to hear this legendary folk singer and invited me to go along. We sat at tables with random folks and one of the ‘randoms’ at our table was Gary Hall, a singer. “You’re the man who sings ‘Howard Grey!” Ed exclaimed. “Yes, that would be me,” answered Gary.

And the story was told. Gary sang Howard’s song. And I bought Gary’s record (yes, that’s how long ago it was–a record!). And I began to sing the story of Howard Grey: a boy who got picked on in school and another boy who joined the mockers, and then got a glimpse of Howard’s tear stained eyes looking right back at him.

The writer was Lee Domann, singing about his shame at joining the ones making fun of Howard. And he regrets that he never had the chance to ask forgiveness because Howard’s family moved away soon after the incident.

I called Lee Domann soon after learning the song (about 1991?) to get permission to record it, and to find out where and to send the royalties. “Is that a true story?” I asked him on the phone. “Yes. I’m ashamed to say that it is.” “Anything come of it?” I asked. “Interesting that you would ask,” Lee said. “My father passed away last summer and I went home to the funeral. As they lowered my dad’s casket into the ground, I looked into the crowd through my tears… and right into the eyes of Howard Grey! He had come to my dad’s funeral! I went over and stood beside him. He was looking down at the ground. I put my arm on his shoulder and he said, “I heard the song.” After an awkward pause, I said, “Will you forgive me?” “Yeah,” was his one word answer.

“Twenty years of shame and guilt was lifted off of my shoulders that day. I consider myself fortunate that I was able to find Howard and make things right,” said Lee. “Many folks never get the chance.”

Several years later I called Howard and introduced myself. I told him that I sing the song about him. He sort of chuckled. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist. Several years later Lydia and I stopped in to visit him in Topeka, Kansas. We took his wife and him out for a meal. I saw that he would be easy to pick on. Unassuming, bashful, no self image…

Howard and Lee Domann and I kept in touch by phone and a visit or two over the years. Several times I called Howard right during a concert to have him say hello to the crowd. He never said much. “Hi,” was about all I could get him say. But it showed the people that he was a real person, just like the ones they were thinking of while I sang the song. Many of us can relate to Howard’s experience.

Howard was not a roaring success by worldly standards. He was retired and on disability by the time I met him. I began to send him “royalty checks.” I told him that every time I sang his song, I would pay him royalty of $25.00. About once a month I sent him $100. If I didn’t, he would call me. 🙂

On June 1st, we put a royalty check in the mail for him. That night I got a call from his son. “Dad passed away today. He laid down to take a nap and died in his sleep.”

Howard did not live an easy life. He didn’t have a lot of victories. Lee Domann’s song may have given him a little satisfaction that his life made a difference in other’s lives. (It sure did!)

Howard Grey, Oh Howard Grey… I’ve never quite forgiven us for treating you that way.
I only hope that maybe you will hear this song someday, And you’ll know that I am sorry, Howard Grey.
We’ll probably never meet again so I can only pray That you and God forgive us, Howard Grey.

RIP, Howard Grey. Your story will live on.

“You’ve got to try a little kindness, show a little kindness, shine your light for everyone to see.” –Glen Campbell–

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” -Plato
–Mark Twain

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” -Jesus

The Power of Prayer

Adam and Amelia

In 1986, our son Adam was in Millersburg hospital. It was just a few days shy of his first birthday, and since he didn’t talk yet, he couldn’t tell us where it hurt or what was wrong. He just writhed in pain and threw up.

He wasn’t sick when he and Lydia came home to the states. I had stayed behind in Costa Rica to help run the annual beach camp-out for the Young Life Club. I would come home when it was over, about ten days later.

When I called home (via ham radio in those days) Lydia said Adam didn’t feel good. The next day, just before I left for the beach, I made one more call and Lydia said Adam was in the hospital and they didn’t know what was wrong. Since he had just come from a tropical country, they thought it might be malaria.

And since it was Adam’s first birthday, I got calls from all over:
“Hey! How’s Adam? Happy birthday!”
“He’s in the hospital in the states and they don’t know what’s wrong.”
“We’ll pray.”

Our friend, Jim Scionka called. He was now a student in Dallas at Christ for the Nations School. He requested prayer in their chapel. Galen Stutzman, fellow language student and a Wycliffe worker in Columbia, alerted the Wycliffe prayer chain. Jon Showalter called. He told Rosedale Bible School. Marv Asfahl told the Young Life Headquarters about Adam. LAM missionaries all over the globe were praying. Our home church, Berlin Mennonite, got the message and Mennonites all over the county and country were praying. I can’t remember who called from Wilmore, Ky., but they heard our plea and Asbury College and Seminary students were praying.

Folks, only eternity will tell, but I wonder if the people praying for our little boy didn’t number in the thousands, in many different states and countries!

About two days into our camp-out on the coast, my boss, Marv Asfahl, came in from San Jose and said, “Adam is going to have exploratory surgery and I got you a ticket to go home. Let’s go.”

The trip home is a story in itself, but I got to Akron/Canton airport and they had lost my luggage. “Sign these papers.” “Keep the luggage!” I yelled, and we ran for the hospital. When I got to Akron Children’s hospital, I learned that Adam was in exploratory surgery with a Dr. Bachman, one of the best surgeons in the US.

Long story short: Adam had Meckle’s diverticulum: a “kinked” intestine. When Dr. Bachman opened him up, he unkinked the hose and the blood started flowing into the pale intestine. If the surgery would have been several hours later, the chance of gangrene would have been high, as well as infection, sickness and…

God heard the prayers of His people. Adam still has a foot-long scar across his stomach as a reminder of God’s faithfulness and the power of prayer. Some of you reading this were among the prayer warriors.

Why do I bring this up now? This April our daughter, Amelia, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Although that’s the most “treatable” kind, it’s still cancer. We trusted God, but we were still a little stressed. It’s 30 years after Adam’s event and now we have Facebook! When Amelia went to surgery on Friday, May 20, I put a prayer request on FB. Within an hour there were over 100 “likes,” meaning at least that many people saw the request. There were over 50 “Comments;” encouraging words and promises to pray. They were from many states and probably a dozen countries: Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Honduras, Guatemala,….

Long story short: God heard your prayers. He “healed” our daughter. Maybe He would have been gracious and merciful and healed Amelia without the prayers of His people, but why not obey Him?: “Is any among you sick? Let him call..for prayer… And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” James 5:15

God answers prayer. He is an awesome God. Would I be this happy if God had chosen not to heal Amelia? (or Adam?) No. Would I still think He is awesome? Yes. Would I still praise Him? “Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him.” Job 13:15

(Oh, I did go back for my luggage 30 years ago.)

A Redeemed Life

Sometimes, prison may be the best thing for you

Every now and then I hear a story that encourages me to keep going. I plan going to keep going, no matter what, but encouragement always helps. We received this letter recently:

Hello John and Lydia,

When I saw you last week, I really wanted to tell you about my ex-daughter in law. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison for theft of doctor prescription pads and impersonating a doctor.

She became an opiate addict because of health problems she had at age 17. The addiction destroyed her marriage to our son, but God has been so very good to her in prison, and a miraculous new person emerged!! She is now working with our local judge for the past year in a program directed for persons being released from prison. She is leading this group called Half-Way Home,* which the judge is mandating they attend before they get the final release by him.

God has answered so many prayers I prayed. I am in contact with her regularly, even though she is my ex-daughter-in-law.

I stand amazed in the presence of God, how he works in His mysterious ways. I thank you both for the ministry you do.

The Kairos group in the prison is a much needed ministry, and we continue to support them.

God IS in the prisons, but these persons really have to work hard to change their lives and many of them do not have the people like my daughter-in-law had to help them during and after their release. Most of her roommates have been re-admitted to prison due to the difficulty of making it on the outside. Most of them are from families with many problems, and they try to find love and acceptance from all the wrong groups of people.

Thank you again and may God Bless you as you continue you ministry!

Joe and Mary*
*Names have been changed, but the story is real.

After talking with this couple, I remembered that we had visited this ex daughter-in-law in prison. We saw her during a chapel service – she knew who we were and we knew she was there, but we didn’t know her. I hope to meet her now that she is out. It sounds like God did a great work in her life.

Thoughts on Education

Si Hoc Legere Scis Nimium Eruditionis Habes (Per contra, Scientia est Potentia).”

Translation: “If you can read this, you have too much education.
(On the other hand, knowledge is power)

Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”

– Albert Einstein

Education Versus Learning

I’m reminded of the story of the Harvard professor who informed his class that he spoke five languages. “For example,” he said, “the word “horse” in Spanish is ‘caballo;’ in German, it’s ‘Pferd;’ in French, it’s ‘cheval;’ in Italian, it’s ‘cavallo;’… and of course, in English, ‘Horse.’ ” Just then the bell rang and class was over. As the professor walked out into the court yard among his students, a loose horse galloped by. “Oh, my goodness!” cried the professor. “What sort of beast is THAT?!”

Maybe I’m thinking of this because I have coffee in the mornings with very successful businessmen who didn’t go to high school. I live in a community where education is looked on with a degree of suspicion. For instance, my board is made up of very successful businessmen who love the Lord. None of them went to High School. If I would sit here and think, I could name 20 successful businesses in this county started and run by men with only an eight grade education.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of local people are given employment by men who can’t even be labeled “dropouts” because they didn’t go to high school to drop out of! I often ask, “If not for the folks who didn’t go to high school in Holmes Co. who would hire the college graduates?”

Don’t get me wrong. I think education is very important. I’ve got a bunch of it. When we lived in Central America, education was about the only way out of a life of poverty. In the prison system, lack of education, and especially lack of ability to read, is directly proportional to a person’s chances of ending up in prison. “Readers are leaders.” And by inference, non-readers seem to be losers. I always encourage an inmate to study for his GED. An ex-con has two strikes against him. An ex-con with no high school is almost an automatic “out.”

So… is education the answer? I guess it depends what the question is.There is in this country today an educated class who wouldn’t know what common sense was if it came in wearing a name tag. You know the type. They’ve never had a real job. They’ve never lived in the real world. They don’t know the challenges of everyday living that you and I face. But they have a diploma. They are the plumbing inspectors who never really “plumbed.” They are the milk inspectors who never farmed. They are the lawmakers who don’t have to follow their own laws. They are in government and tell us how to live our lives. They teach where our children go to college.

I guess I’m also thinking of education because college debt (school loans) has passed credit cards as the number one debt in America. Young people are graduating with six figure debt and they discover that their degree is not useful in the real world. They are prisoners of debt. That young person who cooked your Big Mac may have a degree in history or English or philosophy and a debt of $90,000. He’s been tricked! So… what are my thoughts on education (learning?) I agree with the farm wisdom I heard at the Moreland Feed Mill when I was a boy: “It’s what you learn after you know everything that counts.” Or Edwards Deming: “Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival!” Or eighth grade graduate, Ray J. Miller: “When you don’t have any education, you have to use your brains.”

So, every morning, I “study to show myself approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Tim. 2:15) Now and then I take continuing education classes in the form of seminars, correspondence courses, classes on CD…I want to be the best I can be. But, I am aware that “knowledge puffs up (makes arrogant). Love builds up.” (I Cor. 8:1)

When you quit learning, you’re old, no matter what your age. – Henry Ford