John Schmid Music

Author: John Schmid


I left Benton March 3rd and headed for Harrisonburg, Va. to stay overnight with daughter, Katie. She and I joined Steve Wingfield and 31 other “pilgrims” to tour the Holy Land for ten days; to walk where Jesus walked (to run where Jesus walked?).

The reason I drove to Harrisonburg rather than fly from Akron/Canton to Dulles International Airport is because I had flown to Sarasota in January for a three day meeting and spent 3 days in airports. Every flight was delayed or cancelled! I almost had to schedule a psychiatrist to get over the stress and frustration of that fiasco. I decided that I would rather drive six hours to Katie’s house and then ride for 2 hours with the Wingfield van than to fly from Canton to DC. I’d rather be tired from driving than stressed out at airports.

We landed in Amman, Jordan late afternoon on Sunday, March 5 and were able to chill at the hotel until supper and bed tme.

I could go through our whole trip and bore you with details, but I will try to give a few highlights and insights of this amazing trip. Even though I have been to Israel several times, it never gets old, and I always learn something new.

The Dead Sea– We “swam” in the Dead Sea on Monday. “Swim” is in quotes because with water of 34 percent salt, it is impossible to sink. We floated. We were warned to guard our eyes because there are so many minerals in the water that your eyes would burn for two weeks (or more)! The minerals in the Dead Sea are magnesium, sodium, calcium, potassium and a concentration of the electrolytes chloride and bromide. Keep you head above water!

The Tabernacle– On Wednesday we visited a full sized model of The Tabernacle at the Israeli village of Timna. We saw the Laver, The Table of Showbread, The Lampstand, The Altar of Incense, The Ark of the Covenant, The Mercy Seat, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The guide showed us all these items and explained the purpose and practice and the symbolic meaning of each of them. I think what impacted me the most was his explanation of the torn curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. When Jesus died “…the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mk. 15:37) The torn curtain convinced many Jews that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.


When a Jewish man loses a daughter, it is tragic. But when he loses a son, he is so grieved that he will grab his robe near the neck and rip (rend) his garment from top to bottom… Just like God did when His Son died! “Truly He was the Son of God!” Jesus’s Father did what every Jewish father would do. He tore his garment. That proved that Jesus was His Son!

Katie– It was special to be able to be there with daughter Katie. I had gone with Adam and Amelia, but Katie had not been there. And even though it did not suit me to go at this time because of a busy schedule, it turned out to be a wonderful father/daughter time. AND- “Father/child” time (ahem… ‘Heavenly Father/and Us time).

A quick summary of what we saw:

Mt. Nebo, Church of St. George in Madaba, The Dead Sea, Petra, Agaba, Arava border, Timna Park, The Tabernacle, The Dead Sea (again- on the Israel side), Masada, En Gedi, Qumran, Jesus’ Baptism site, Jordan River, Tiberias, Nazareth Village, Sea of Galilee, 2000 year old boat, Magdala, Mt. of Beatitudes, Caesarea Philippi, Dan, Megiddo (Armageddon), Caesarea by the Sea, Roman Aqueduct, Mt. of Olives, The Garden of Gethemane, The Wailing Wall, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, The Western Wall Tunnel, St. Anne’s Church, Caiaphas’ House, Pool of Bethesda, Galli Cantu (where Peter denied Jesus), Holocaust Museum, Old Jerusalem, Shepherd’s Field, The Garden Tomb, … Benton!!


A revival broke out at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky.! The regular Wednesday chapel service on Feb. 8 spilled into the next class period and then into the afternoon and then… it went on for two weeks and is still not over! The lights in Hughes Auditorium burned 24/7 for two full weeks as students and visitors sang and worshipped day and night until the building was needed for a previously scheduled conference. The revival is currently still going on across the street at the Asbury Seminary Chapel, the Methodist Church, a gymnasium and several other buildings! Even Rupp Arena at the University of KY! Not to mention that it has spread to other Christian Colleges- Wheaton, Circleville, Azuza Pacific, Indiana Wesleyan… A volunteer usher at Hughes Auditorium wrote to a friend of mine: “I personally met people from Brazil, Columbia, Canada, India, China, Germany, Ukraine… people from at least 30 different states… and at least five other Christian Universities and 20 different state Universities.

On day six of the outpouring (Feb. 13), Lydia and I stopped at Asbury U on our way to Fla. and went to Hughes Auditorium. A policeman at the door said that no one could enter until someone leaves. We soon entered and sat in the back row and simply absorbed the atmosphere as the overflow crowd sang, testified and worshipped. It was low key and unspectacular, and yet the presence of God was so real it brought tears to my eyes. People are hungry for God and for reality!

“Revive” means “to live again.” The words, “awakening” and “outpouring” are also used to describe what God is doing at Asbury and has done various times in America and other places.

In Ireland several years ago, I sang in several churches that the locals called “Revival Churches.” A revival swept through Ireland in 1840. So many people were saved that new churches were built to accommodate them. They were built in the rural areas so that the new believers would not have to walk all the way to town to worship. In the Belfast Shipyard, a huge warehouse had to be built because the many workers who came to Christ began to return the tools they had stolen over the years. There wasn’t room for them in the existing buildings!
In Wales, the coal mines were shut down for several weeks during their revival because the mules could not understand the cleaned up language of saved coal miners. Saloons went broke and many Welch Policemen formed quartets and sang at churches because crime was so low that there was nothing for them to do.

Revival is a supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit that results in deep conviction, true cleansing of our hearts and joy in the finished work of the Cross of Christ. It is not necessarily being born again; it is more like an awakening.
There were Great Awakenings in the United States in the 1700’s and in the 1800’s, but there was none in the 20th Century. There were pockets of revival- The Charismatic Movement; the Jesus Movement… but not a nationwide, culture changing revival. We are due. Our nation and our culture are in decline.

We need a touch from the Divine. Could this Asbury Awakening be the event that will sweep across our nation and give us life again?!
I pray that it is. Pray that it is.

P.S. The Revival of 1970 was part of the reason I went to Asbury. Pastor Jerry Durham took me there as a prospective student in 1972. I only went to be polite. No way was I going to go college. But at the campus I could “feel” the Spirit that had invaded the campus two years prior. That was not enough to convince me, however. It took the recession of 1974 and being laid off by my own dad that finally got my attention. I started classes there in the middle of the year, Jan. 3, 1975. At least five times while I was there, a chapel speaker would say something like: “…we were missionaries in Africa… we read our daughter’s letter about the revival at Asbury… revival broke out there around the camp fire…”
It was (is) real!

μαραναθα! Maranatha! (O Lord, Come!)


(November 2021 Newsletter)

I love stories of people who held their ground, who did what they thought was right regardless of the outcome, who couldn’t be bought. I want to be one of these.


Several businessmen were walking down the street in Calcutta, India when they stopped to watch an old lady cleansing the sores of a leper who was laying on the sidewalk. One of the businessmen said as he watched her swab the blood and pus off of the leper’s face, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars!”

The kind lady paused, looked up at him and said, “I wouldn’t either.” It was Mother Theresa !

She couldn’t be bought.


Rev. Hill was invited to have the prayer at the inauguration of President Richard Nixon. He was honored and excited and was telling his family, his church and his friends about this great honor. Then he was informed that he was not to invoke the name of Jesus in his prayer. “Why not?” he asked. “It’s offensive,”  was the reply. E.V. Hill said that would be like putting a letter in the mail with no address.

 Here is what he told the government official:

“I have never had such a great honor: to be asked to pray at the inauguration of the President of the United States! My children will tell their children that grandpa was asked to pray for the President of the United States of America. My grandchildren will tell their children that their great-grandfather was asked to pray at the inauguration of the President of the United States! Then they will say that grandpa didn’t accept the invitation because he refused to dishonor his Savior.”

NOTE: E.V. Hill prayed at Nixon’s inaugeration. In the name of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

He held his ground.


Bill Walton was player of the year as a sophomore on the UCLA undefeated National Championship basketball team in 1972. Coach John Wooden had strict rules about how his players dressed and wore their hair. When practice started again in October, Bill showed up with long hair.

Coach Wooden: “What’s this, Bill?!”

Bill Walton: “Coach, you have no right to tell me how to wear my hair!”

Coach Wooden: “You’re right, Bill. I don’t have that right. But, I have the right to determine who is going to play, and we are really going to miss you this year.”

Bill Walton ran out of the gym, hopped on his bicycle and sped down to the barbershop. He jumped in the barber chair in front of other customers and yelled, “CUT IT OFF! QUICK!”

He made it back to practice and went on to earn 2 more Player Of The Year awards, and an NBA career.

Coach Wooden held his ground.


Nashville’s best musicians just could not get the guitar licks at an Elvis Presley recording session for the song “Guitar Man,” so they called the man who wrote it, Jerry Reed. He sat in and in a couple hours the song was recorded. Elvis was elated! His musicians were happy, his producer was happy… And just as Jerry was going out the door, he was presented with papers to sign. “What papers?” “It’s Col. Tom Parker’s rule. You sign half of your publishing rights away.”

Jerry Reed said, “That’s not going to work, brothers!”

“Well, that’s Tom Parker’s rule. You sign or the song does not get released.”

“Look,” said Jerry, “it was a high honor to be in an Elvis session. I’ll never forget it, but you’ve been trying to record this song all day, I came in and now it’s recorded. Elvis is happy. He’s elated! So you can just go over there right now and tell him that this song will not be released. See ya!”

The song was released. It became a country and pop hit. Jerry is the ONLY one who ever got all of his rights to a song that Elvis recorded. Nashville still loves it that Reed got one over on Col. Tom Parker.

He held his ground.


OCT. 2020

Jack Murphy- May 26, 1937- Sept. 16, 2020

Jack Murphy died last week. I worked with him numerous times with Bill Glass Prison Ministries (Champions For Life). He ran me ragged. He spoke at our CGM fundraiser banquets at least three times. He was a friend and a mentor.

The song, The Touch of the Master’s Hand, partly describes his life:

It was battered and scarred and the auctioneer thought it was hardly worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin as he held it up with a smile.
It ain’t worth much, but it’s all we got left, guess we ought to sell it, too.
Now, who’ll start the bid on this old violin, just one more and we’ll be through…

The song goes on to tell how the bidding on an old beat up violin stalled at $3.00. Then someone in the crowd came forward, picked up the bow, tightened the strings, and played a beautiful melody. When the crowd realized the worth of the old instrument, the bidding picked up at $1000… 2000… 3000… and then… SOLD! $3000! Its true worth was recognized.

When I recorded this song 20 years ago, a former Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra first chair violinist played the background music! That violinist was Jack Murphy, who also had been a tennis champion, a Barnum & Bailey Circus high diver, a hall of fame surfer, a surf board manufacturer, a Hollywood stunt man, a jewel thief (!), and eventually, part of a crime that took the lives of two people. He ended up in the Florida State Prison with two life sentences! And then (long story), a prison minister with Bill Glass Prison Ministries for more than 30 years.

Jack’s life went from a charmed, successful, adventerous, financially secure life to a “battered and scarred” existence in a maximum security prison. While in an 8×10 solitary confinement cell on death row in the Florida State Prison, he received a letter from a stranger who talked about Jonah in the belly of the whale. Jack began to ask himself, “How did I get here?! From first chair violinist; from training with the U.S Olymic team; from having my own line of surf boards; to a place about as big as the belly of whale. What happened!?”

That day Jack began to realize that something went wrong. Although Christians had written to him and Christian inmates had tried to talk to him, he “wasn’t ready.” One day the new chaplain came on death row and with his South Carolina drawl, he challenged Jack to consider Jesus.

“Get out of here with that garbage. I don’t need that stuff!” was Jack’s answer.

Chaplain Max Jones said, “Well, when you’re done being a tough guy, let me know. Jesus has a better plan for your life than you seem to have. If you’re in prison, you haven’t managed your life very well.”

Jack couldn’t argue that. When he got released from death row into general population he went to the chapel. Some of his tough guy buddys had become Christians while he was in the hole. He went to chapel to see what was going on and after several weeks, he went forward and committed his life to Jesus.

One of the accusations by his unsaved friends was that, “You’re just doing this to feel good.” Jack’s reply was, “DUH! You’re right! Why do you think we drank whisky?! Why do you think we took drugs?! Why did we chase women?! SO WE WOULD FEEL GOOD! I feel better than I ever have! For the first time in years, I sleep all night. The guilt is gone. I can look people in the eye! There is peace! You’re absolutely correct! I gave my life to Jesus so I would feel better!”

Through a series of miracles and people going to bat for this reformed criminal, including the prison wardon(!), Jack was released after serving 20 years of his double life sentence. One of the arguments at the parole hearing was by his ex-convict friend, Frank Constantino. “You call these places ‘corrections,’ or ‘reformatories,’ ‘penitentaries,’ (which comes from the word, “to do penance”). Well, this man is reformed. He is “corrected.” He repented. If you don’t consider his release, then change the name of these institutions to what they really are: warehouses. Don’t give us this balony about corrections.” Frank persuaded the parole board.

There were reporters at the prison gate when Jack was released. “How do we know you’re really reformed?!” was their accusing question. “Watch me,” was Jack’s simple answer.

We watched him for 30 years. Thousands of prison services; thousands of changed lives; NO more crime; thousands of banquets, churches, radio programs, TV shows (including Larry King Live!)… we watched until May 26. Jack is home.

He’s auctioned off cheap to the thankless crowd, much like that old violin.
But then the Master comes and the foolish crowd can never understand
The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought
By the Touch of the Master’s Hand!”


SEPT. 2020

My wife’s grandfather moved from New Wilmington, Pa. to Ohio around 100 years ago (1917?). After renting a farm near Maysville for four years, grandfather Jonathan Byler bought a 160 acre farm just east of Mt. Eaton. He gave $1000 down and the rest was financed by the owner.

The first few years were rough and finally grandpa could not make the payment. At the bank, where grandpa went for a loan, the banker looked at the land contract and whistled.

“The owner expects to get the farm back,” he said.

“How do you know that?” asked Grandpa.

“In the fine print it says that the owner can foreclose if even one payment is missed. No grace period, no nothing! In this poor economy that’s finacial suicide. And this man will do it. Furthermore, we have no money left for real estate loans.”

Grandpa went home very discouraged. What could he do? He decided to write to Frank Thompson, his former employer in Pennsylvania, and see if he would give him a loan. He hated to impose on his friend’s kindness, because Frank had already shipped a fine purebred bull to Ohio for almost nothing, but there seemed to be no other options.

Mr. Thompson was able and very willing to help grandfather. He had not forgotten his former hired hand’s hard work and honesty. He sent a check almost immediately.

When the banker saw the $8500 check, he whistled twice as loud as the first time. That was a lot a money in those days. (Imagine how big of a check it would take to pay off a farm today!) He looked at grandfather in a new light. The owner did, too. When he saw the check and papers to sign the farm off, his face turned white as chalk, but there was nothing he could do but sign the papers. He had expected to get his farm back.

Grandpa Byler died in 1930 leaving grandma Barbara with a mortgage and 9 children. She wrote to Frank Thompson and said that she could not make the payments. Could he just sell her a acre or two off the corner of the farm? Frank didn’t write back. He came personally in his chauffer driven limo and went into the house and said, “Don’t worry Barbara. We will never take your farm.” He even offered her more money if she needed it. Lydia’s Uncle Dan said he had never seen his Amish mother hug anybody, but the Thompsons were hugging and crying and letting her know she could keep the farm even if she never made another payment! (This was during the depression.) She eventually paid the farm off, but for three years she made no payments, and Mr. Thompson cancelled the interest.

That story has been told in the Byler family for almost a century. Wouldn’t it great if we could get ahold of someone in the Frank Thompson family and thank them for the kindness of their ancestor? I called The American Bridge Company several times where Frank had been the comptroller, trying to find descendants or relatives. “Never heard of him,” was the usual reply by a young, non-history minded secretary. Click. Then five years ago, cousin Linda Byler Sortor went online and (long story) got in touch with Tommi Wagner, a great granddaughter of Frank Thompson! After telling her the Thompson/Byler story (she had never heard it) we invited her to our Byler Reunion here in Ohio. She came with her brother and a cousin, Jim Stranahan. It was a great and emotional time of rehashing how their anscestor saved the Byler farm. And the family. There were 200 or so Byler descendants (out of a potential 1000 or so) at the reunion.

Last week we finally accepted Jim Stanahan’s 2 year old invitation to come to New Wilmington. He took us to where grandpa Byler lived and worked on the Thomson farm. We saw the house and the barn. He took us to the oldest Amishman in Lawrence County, where he had gone last week, to see if he had ever heard of a Jonathan B. Byler.

“Jonathan B. Byler was my uncle!” said 85 year old Amos Byler.

“A couple of his grandchildren are coming on August 13,” Jim told Amos.

“How many benches should I have?” asked Amos.

Jim said, “There will be seven of us.”

So, on August 13, 2020, over 100 years after Lydia’s grandfather left that area, we met Amos J. Byler, probably the only living first cousin of Lydia’s dad, Tobe J. Byler. He seemed very pleased to meet us. His four children all took off work to be home when these long lost cousins showed up. It was time of meeting, sharing, story telling, laughing… We can’t call it a reunion because there is no “re.” It was a “union.” The “re-union” will be next time, which is already in the planning.

What if Frank Thompson had not been kind enough to loan money to Jonathan Byler? What would have happened to widow Barbara and her 9 children? Thankfully, we’ll never know. I know this: his kindness will never be forgotten.

The heart benevolent and kind most resembles God.” -Robert Burns

Kindness is the golden chain by which the society is bound together.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction.” James 1:27


August ’20

It’s Sunday. That means Daddy has been drinking, and it’s anybody’s guess what mood he’ll be in. A sober, hard working man during the week, he can transform into a monster after a weekend of drinking. My conscience is clear, so Daddy will have no reason to mete out one of his savage beatings.

As I go in the house, I see Daddy is sitting at the kitchen table, and my heart sinks. I see his bloodshot eyes and the blacksnake whip lying coiled on the table beside him. Sick horror floods through me as he lurches to his feet, grabs my arm without saying a word, and begins savagely beating me with the whip. I’m no stranger to the torture inflicted, but this is different. The stark injustice of the attack freezes me and I don’t dash around the table or struggle to escape as I have in the past. I simply stand in shock as Daddy lashes at me with all his strength. My fury at the unfairness of this unprovoked attack grows into a white-hot rage, and I grit my teeth, determined not to give my father the satisfaction of a response. He is enraged by my indifference and he flails madly until he collapses into his chair, exhausted and panting.
Still seething with rage, with blood trickling down the back of my legs, I shove my face right into his and I hiss between clentched teeth, “If you ever lay a hand on me again, I swear I will kill you!”

That’s the beginning of Bobby Eaton’s book, The Boy In The Window, co-written with Andrew Weaver. I had the privilege of touring with Bobby and his wife, Sharla on a week-long “Sing and Sign” Tour. Bobby and I and The Steve Stutzman Family went to seven different communities from Georgia to Ohio with our songs and our books and presented Christ through song and testimony, mainly Bobby’s story of poverty, abuse, betrayal, prejudice and bullying… and then… redemption and salvation through the kindness and witness of strange new Mennonite neighbors who moved (“swarmed,” according to Bobby) into his poor “white trash” Kentucky community.

One night he was invited to a Mennonite neighbor’s house for supper and couldn’t believe the laughter, love and abundance he saw around the table. It was totally different from the “war zone” and scarcity he was used to at his house. As he returned home that night, he stopped and turned around and looked back at the Mennonite house and said, “Someday, I want to have a family like that.”

Bobby eventually joined this Mennonite group, married one of their girls, was ordained into the ministry, became a missionary to Haiti, came back to the states and is now a very successful buisinessman, building mini barns in North Carolina, and preaching when he is asked. He also has a “family like that,” with eight children who are all married with families of their own. Several of them are in the family mini barn business.

One of the most amazing “miracles” to me in Bobby’s story is that when his abusive, alcoholic father died, they were best friends! Bobby forgave his dad, lead him to Jesus, and helped him to lead a victorious Christian life! A wonderful true story of how Jesus can change the culture of a family!

If this sounds like a book report, you’re partly right. It’s a LIFE report and I am recommending this inspiring story. You can text me for a copy of his book (330-231-1164), or order The Boy In The Window on Amazon, or go to The Gospel Book Store in Berlin or Faith Books, Mt. Hope.

His story will inspire you.

The lifelong flight to escape my destiny as a failure.” – Bobby Eaton



The year was 1348. A ship floated in the busy waters of the harbor of Messina, Italy. It maneuvered in a strange manner as it neared the dock. When the harbor-master boarded the ship after it finally docked, he was met with an appalling sight: Nearly the entire crew was dead! They had strange, black, egg-sized lumps on them that oozed pus and bled prolifically. The ones still alive had high fevers and were vomiting blood, and most of them soon died.

The cargo that this ship carried was destined to change the course of world history. It wasn’t the grain and other goods. It was the rats that came ashore. Even more, it was the fleas on the rats. When the rats died, the fleas looked for other hosts- dogs, cats, horses, pigs… and humans. This ship, with its rats and fleas passed on The Black Death, or as we know it today, The Bubonic Plague.

Within four years the plague killed at least a third of the population of Italy and some reports say one half of the population of Europe! The city of Messina lost 80% of its population! Many men said goodby to a healthy family in the morning only to come home in the evening to find his whole family dead.

Soon, so many died that there weren’t enough living people left to bury the dead, so the bodies were stacked up like piles of wood or bales of hay! The stench in homes and in the streets was unbearable.
(These first paragraphs are paraphrased from Cathedrals, Castles and Caves pg 63 by Marcus Yoder)

The Bubonic Plague was considered the worst disaster in the history of the world, UNTIL… the “Spanish Flu” of 1918.
“The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than World War I, at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. It was a global disaster.”
-from Molly Billings, June, 1997 modified RDS Feb. 2005

The Spanish Flu spread far and fast because it hit just when the United States entered WWI. One article tells that a soldier in Kansas got the flu and it spread through the army camp. They were deployed to Europe and by the time they landed the whole ship was sick. They disembarked and went to their camps and infected everyone there! The infected soldiers went to the battle field and… there were more dead men in the trenches because of the flu than because of war.

I did a little research (emphsis on little) and learned that there have been many epidemics and pandemics throughout history. One article was entitled, “The 20 Worst Epidemics and Pandemics in History.” Here is the epidemic list with the estimated number of people who died as the last number: China, 3000 BC; Plague of Athens, 430 BC, 100,000 dead; Antonne Plague, 165 AD, 5 million dead; Plague of Cyprian, 250 AD, 5000 a day(!); Plague of Justinian, 541 AD, 10% of world population died; The Black Death, 1348, 25 million; Cocolitzli Epidemic, Mexico, 15 million; American Measles plague, 1500s, wiped out Incas and Aztecs; London Plague, 1665, 100,000; Plague of Marseille, 1720, 100,000; Phiadelphia Yellow Fever, 1793, 5000; Flu Pandemic, Russia, 1889, 1 million; Ameican Polio Epidemic, 1916, 6000; Spanish Flu, 1918, 500 million; Asian Flu, 1957, 1 million; AIDS Epidemic, 1981-present, 35 million; Swine Flu, 2009, 1.4 Billion cases(!), 500,000 dead; Ebola, 2014, 11,000; ZIKA Virus, 2015; Corona Virus, 2020, still counting…

During this current Corona Virus pandemic, I have made some observations. One is that I am beginning to think that some of our leaders and politicians are not totally honest (radical thought, I know). The numbers change. The rules change. The experts change. The experts told us that 2.2 million are going to die. A week later they adjusted it to 200,000. Then to 60,000. I don’t know how many have died, but when I do hear the figure, how do they expect me to believe it?! I also wonder why these “experts” are considered experts? They were wrong by a factor of 36 times!

Another observation: Every pandemic lied about the number of deaths. The Spanish Flu got its name because Spain told the truth about Flu deaths. Germany, Italy, England, Russia, and the US all suppressed the actual numbers so as to not discourage the soldiers or give the enemy the idea that were weak, but since Spain was not involved in the war, they told the truth and the world thought the flu was only in Spain!

The current Corona numbers are also lied about, this time by inflating them, either for political or financial reasons. It seems that anyone who dies is written up as “COVID-19.” Is this pandemic real? Yes! Is it serious? Yes. Should we be careful? Of course. Should we do everything the government tells us to do? Well…

We will get through this (see 20 epidemics, paragraph 7 above). God is not taken by surprise. He is in control. “You shall not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday…” Ps. 91:5,6 Note also: “Fear not” appears 365 times in the Bible. Once for every day of the year.


I was having breakfast at our hotel in Louisville, Ky. when Ravi Zacharias walked by. He was one of the speakers at the convention I was attending (NACIE ‘94). I looked up and said, “Hello,” and he said, “Hello,” and then he paused and chatted a bit and then he sat down at our table and shot the breeze with us for several minutes, as if we were old friends! I couldn’t believe it! He acted as if we were equals!

Ravi Zacharias died this month and the more I heard about him in the eulogies and funeral tributes, the more I realize that he treated us like equals because that is what he believed: we are equals. He didn’t think he was any better than anyone else, even though he was known all over the world as the premiere apologist in the Christian World. The C. S. Lewis of our age. He has spoken in well over 50 countries and was the friend of Kings, Shahs, world leaders, presidents… Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, street kids, University students… he took the message of Jesus to wherever he was invited.

He was a brilliant thinker. His motto: “Helping the Thinker Believe; Helping the Believer Think!”

Ravi was born in 1946 in India. Althought his family was Christian, he was a skeptic. At age 17 he was so hopeless that he tried to commit suicide by swallowing poison. While recovering in the hospital, a friend brought him a Bible and told his mother to read to him from John 14. A phrase in verse 19 touched Ravi: “Because I live, you also will live.” He thought, “This may be my only hope: A new way of living. Life as defined by the Author of Life.” He committed his life to Christ, praying that “Jesus if You are the one who gives life as it is meant to be, I want it. Please get me out of this hospital bed well, and I promise I will leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth.”

Ravi got out of the hospital and kept his promise. He left no stone unturned in his pursuit of Truth. He helped thousands of others to see the validity of the Christian message. The only thing more indisputable than his logic and his intellect was his love for people. He never tried to win an argument; he tried to win people. He realized that behind every question is a person, and behind every person is a soul searching for meaning. He always saw the soul and tried to win the person, not the debate.

The Christian World AND the whole world will miss this great man of God. I never can hear him speak without thinking of a hotel breakfast room where this giant walked by and sat down and chatted with us! He was one of us! His ministry (RZIM) will continue to win people to Christ for years to come!

With all the wonderful things that we could be saying about Ravi and his life, here is a thought:

What if that friend would not have brought a Bible to Ravi’s hospital room? What if Ravi have tried suicide again? Would he have recovered and been a good businessman in India so that no one outside of Delhi ever heard of? Would someone else have lead him to Christ?

We’ll never know. But we do know this: That friend DID bring a Bible and Ravi DID commit his life to Christ, and he became the world’s leading apologist for Christ, and I along with thousands of others are better people because that one kind deed allowed a suicidal teenager to recover and reach his potential.

Folks, you never know. You give a Bible, a tract, a kind word… and the world is changed!

May God continue to bless the life and ministry and memory of Ravi Zacharias. And bless that friend who gave a Bible. May you and I be that friend.



I toured with the We Care Prison Ministries Fund Raising Banquet Tour for two weeks.

In each of the 14 banquets ex-inmate, Jeff Tyler, shared his story of being helped by Steve Stoltzfus, one of the We Care chaplains in Alabama. Jeff had messed his life up so completely that he lost everything- his business, his wife, his three daughters, his parents, his siblings- everyone close to him! He wrote to his daughters every week, but they were so traumatized by his abandonment of them (drugs) that they never wrote back. He wanted to give up, but Chaplain Steve encouraged him to keep writing, even if they never respond. They never did.

Now that he is out of prison, he has re-established a relationship with all three daughters! The letters, even though they went unanswered, surely helped.

In each of these banquets I sang Randy Davenport’s song, Mail Call- about a prisoner who went to mail call everyday but never got one letter. Russ shared that at mail call all the inmates gather around the officer and wait for their name to be called. Some never received one letter the whole time that Jeff was in prison. They turn away trying to look tough. BUT, when Jeff heard his name and the officer handed him a letter, he said it was like winning the lottery! Better than a million dollars! He hurried back to his rack and read the letter once, twice, three times… and then he would share it with a friend, and then another friend. Then he would read it again.

One of America’s great poets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, has a similar, even more devestating story of unanswered letters. She was born in 1806 into a difficult family. Her tyrannical father was very domineering and for some unknown reason forbid any of his 12 children to ever marry. When Elizabeth ran off and married fellow poet, Robert Browning, her father disowned her.

For the next ten years, Elizabeth tried to mend the relationship with her father. Every week she wrote incredibly crafted, poetic letters to him. She never received a response. Finally, one year before her father’s death, she received a box in the mail from her father. She was ecstatic! Her excitement soon turned to anguish. Every single letter she ever wrote to him was in the box, unopened! She was devastated. How cruel!

Today these letters are published and are considered to be some of the most beautiful classical English literature ever written. What a tragedy that such incredible writings were never seen by the one for whom they were intended. If Elizabeth’s stubborn father would have just opened even one letter, perhaps his heart would have been softened just a little. But he didn’t, and he died a poor, bitter man because of it.

As I think how foolish, bitter and even stupid this was, I am reminded of the beautiful collection of love letters that were sent to me and remained unopened for 23 years of my life. They sat on the shelf, collecting dust. This collection of love letters is called the Bible. God wanted to mend our relationship. He wrote how much He loved me, but I never opened the letter until I was 23!

Now it’s different. I read His letter everyday! Then I read it again. Then I share it with a friend. It’s like winning the lottery. Better than a million dollars!

Do you read God’s love letter to you? Are you like Elizabeth Barrett Browing’s father? Are you like I used to be? Or are you like inmate Jeff Tyler. You read God’s word everyday. You read it again. You share it with a friend. I want to be like Jeff. Realize how precious is a letter from a Friend.

Good news from [the outside] is like cold water to the thirsty man.” Prov. 25:25
“Study [the Bible] to show thyself approved…” 2 Timothy 2:15
“Thy Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” Psalm 119:11



The weekend of July 28, 1991 we went to Putnamville Correctional (then called The Indiana State Farm) for a Gospel Echoes sponsored “Daily Light Seminar – Self Acceptance from a Biblical Perspective.” During the invitation on Sunday morning an inmate asked Doug Gingerich to go with him to the altar. Doug and the inmate walked to the old fashioned altar in this huge prison chapel that was built before Christian Chapels were considered discriminatory in government facilities.

“He asked me to pray for God to help him quit smoking. I was so convincted, I don’t remember praying for him, but I remember praying that God would help me quit smoking,” Doug said.

Doug was in my Sunday School class and I didn’t know he had a hidden habit. He later told me that he thought, “Now that I quit smoking, everything is fixed. I’m clean with God…. Later I realized that now God could show me all the other garbage in my life!”

Doug was a changed man. Within two years he sold his thriving construction business, moved to Florida to be a volunteer prison chaplain with a newly formed minsitry: GEMS (Gospel Express Ministries South), and with the money from selling his business and his house, he went to college classes after working in the prison all day. He earned his B.A. and became state chaplain (no longer volunteer). His first salary was $21,000 @ year. With four teenagers and a stay-at-home wife!

For the next 15 years he served as chaplain at five northern prisons: Liberty Correctional, Appalachee Corr., Washington Corr., Wakulla Corr. and Gulf Correctional (some of these prisons twice) before being promoted in 2001 to the Central Office in Tallahassee where he was appointed head chaplain over all the faith based prison dorms in the Florida System.

Fast forward to Jan. 25, 2020: I was on my way from Sarasota to Montgomery, Alabama to be with We Care Prison Ministries Program for the 30th year in a row (minus a year or two). I called Doug to tell him I’m coming through his town, can I park my RV in his yard overnight? “Sure! In fact, I’m having a retirement party on Saturday. Can you stay an extra day and be here?”

Of course I can! Can you believe that?! I’ll be late for We Care, but I was at the very first prison service where Doug Gingerich fully dedicated his life to the Lord and later to prison ministry, and now I have the honor of being at the celebration of his last prison service. Well, his last “paid” prison service. I know Doug well enough that even with the travel and retirement plans, he will never stop ministering in prisons and in his local church. Oh! I forgot to mention: Doug is also the pastor of the church they attend (Berean Christian Fellowship)!

I dedicate this letter to my friend and fellow soldier in the trenches, Chaplain Doug Gingerich. Almost 30 years of faithful service and sacrifice. Doug is the kind of man who would have been one of my financial supporters if he had stayed in business. Instead of giving tithes and gifts to many ministries, he gave his whole life to God and to prison ministry. Congratulations, Doug! You and I both know that “retirement” just means a change in direction.

Blessings in this new phase of life.