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THE INFLUENCE OF ONE MAN

MAY 2020 NEWSLETTER

The last “legal” event I attended before the Corona Virus shutdown was the Wednesday night Bible Study at Operation 6-12, a drug rehab program here in Holmes County. Elam Stoltzfus and his son, Nic, were here from Florida and Pa. respectively, so we invited them to come along. Elam is a documentary filmmaker and Nic is the curator of the Nicolas Stoltzfus house in Wyomissing, Pa., the ancestrial home of the first Stoltzfus to come to America.

After singing, studying and just shooting the breeze (ahem: “fellowshipping”) each of the 14 men in the program introduced himself shared a little of his story. Most had come from fairly good families, but somewhere along the line, they got into the wrong crowd and started their decent into drugs, addiction and all that goes with it. These men are all in the program voluntarily because they want help. They want to change. They can leave any time.

When they had all introduced themselves and shared, there was a pause, and then Nic Stoltzfus asked if he could share something. Nic grew up in northern Florida where his ex-Amish dad ended up after serving at We Care Prison Ministry as a young man.

Here is what Nic shared: After hearing your stories, let me tell you that you are not just changing your life; you are changing the generations to come. My great grandfather was from this area (Sugarcreek). He was an alcoholic. He was abusive and negligent to his family. One night he attended an evangelistic church meeting and he committed his life to Christ. His whole lifechanged.

But the damage had already been done to all of his children except for the youngest, Monroe. Monroe is my grandfather. He was too young to remember his dad as an alcoholic. The dad he knew was a kind man, a Christian, a pillar in the church, a good father!

All of grandfather’s children (my mom and her siblings) grew up in a loving, Christian home. My grandfather’s siblings’ families (my great uncles & aunts; my second cousins) are descendants of an alcoholic. Mom’s cousins have issues that aren’t prevelant in my immediate family.

Nic went on to say that his grandfather’s brothers many times would lament, “Monroe, you grew up in a different family than we did. You are very fortunate.”

Then he challenged the 6-12 men: You are doing the right thing. You are not just changing your life; you are changing the lives of your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren… Don’t quit! Don’t give up! Complete this program and become the Christ follower that you were created to be, like my great-grandfather finally did. I’m a recipient of his changed life. The generations to come are depending on you!

Folks, everyone of us are influencing the generations to come in one way or another. My children are beneficiaries or victims of my influence as a father. My grandchildren, my friends, my community… will be influenced in some way by my behavior.

People, especially family, will imitate you to one degree or another.

Our goal should be that we follow Christ so closely that we can say with Paul,

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” I Cor. 11:1

The generations to come are counting on you.

“The evidence of a changed life is a changed life.” -Charlie Pratt, ex-inmate, Attica, NY

UNANSWERED LETTERS

MARCH/APRIL 2020 NEWSLETTER

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

A FAITHFUL LIFE

FEBRUARY 2020 NEWSLETTER

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.

HALLELUJAH! PRAISE GOD FOREVER!

January Newsletter 2020

Dennis Kinlaw was president of Asbury College when I attended there. He tells of taking an afternoon walk in the Helderberg Mountains (NY) with Norman Grubb, son-in-law of C. T. Studd, the “Babe Ruth of British Cricket,” who became a missionary to Africa. Grubb spent many years in the heart of Africa, working with his father-in-law. One of the stories that Grubb told Kinlaw was “unforgettable.”

Studd and his missionary team lived deep in the interior of Africa. Their mail only came every two weeks. Their existence depended on the money that came in the mail, so its arrival was always an event. C. T. Studd was the master of ceremonies at this bi-weekly ritual of the “opening of the mail.”

One fortnight there was a pleasing amount of money in the mail. Studd’s comment was, “Bless God forever! He knows what a bunch of grumblers we are, so He sent us enough to keep us quiet!” Another fortnight the amount was quite small. Studd’s comment was, “Hallelujah! We must be growing in grace. He thinks we are learning to trust Him.” One fortnight there was nothing. Grubb said that the missionaries gathered around Studd waiting, wondering what he would say. They were not disappointed. He lifted his voice in a shout, “Hallelujah! Praise God forever! We are in the kingdom already, for in the kingdom there is neither eating nor drinking, but righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost!”

Some would think Studd’s faith was reckless, but I suspect that he had a special place in the heart of God because he dared to expect God to be faithful to His promises.

As I look back on 2019, do I see the undeserved goodnesses of God? As we look forward, do we look with joyous anticipation? We should. His track record is very good! May this be your (our) best year yet!

A BUSY CHRISTMAS SEASON

December is usually my busiest season because of the opportunity I have to sing/speak at local small business Christmas banquets. At one time Holmes County was the “small business capital of Ohio,” and many, if not most, of these local businesses are owned by Christians who want a family friendly, Christian program. They may not want a preacher, but they don’t want something devoid of content. I seem to fit right in to that genre. I enjoy having fun, but the end goal is to point folks to real meaning of Christmas: Jesus.

The banquets are also a great help financially to the ministry. The local businesses believe in what Common Ground Ministries is doing and they are generous.

So… I am tired, happy, content, excited, thankful… I have several days off. Bring on 2020!

Leave the irreparable past in His hands and step out into the irresistable future with Him.” – Oswald Chambers

There’s no future in my past.” – Will Stoltz

The best is yet to be!” – Dr. Robert Coleman

2020 will be a great year..” – John Schmid

A Song Speaks To The Heart

I try not to let it bother me, but when somebody gets up and leaves during one of my concerts, it bothers me.

Last week at The Salvation Army Resource Center in Medicine Hat, Alberta, I was singing a Tribute To Johnny Cash before transitioning to gospel by singing Steve & Annie Chapman’s song, I Want To Go With My Daddy. Halfway through the song a man abruptly stood up and walked out. I guess he doesn’t care for Gospel songs?

After the concert his buddy told me the rest of the story: When he heard Steve Chapman’s lyrics about a son following his dad down the wrong path, he said, “I’m going to go spend time with my son!”

What a great reason to leave a concert! Even if it’s me singing! Great lyrics, Steve Chapman!

Steve Chapman once told me that some of his songs are recorded with the purpose of never being sung in a concert setting. They are recorded to reach that man who drives his pickup by himself with a CD player and hears God speak to him through a song when no one else is around. I don’t think I Want To Go With My Daddy is one of those, but it sure did speak to a man publicly in Medicine Hat last month. And he acted. Right now!

Songs seem to speak where preaching or reading doesn’t. Gospel Echoes representative, John Yoder, who toured with me in Alberta, told about a man who approached him at a banquet last year: “I was incarcertated at _____ Correctional several years ago when your team came to our prison. I was not allowed to attend the chapel, so you came back to my unit and sang for the 20 minutes you were allowed. I want to tell how much that meant to me. Many groups come and talk to us, but you sang. It touched my heart.”

Now folks, let me clarify, speaking and preaching are very important, and I consider my singing as “plowing the ground for the seed that will be planted by the preaching of the Word.” But sometimes singing is what reaches the heart of a man. It did in these two examples. Stories like these keep me singing.

I wish there was room to put the words to Steve’s song here, but they can be heard by googling, I Want To Go With My Daddy by Steve Chapman.

A closing thought:

WHY MUSIC?

I. Music is a science.
II. Music is Mathemtical
III. Music is a Foreign Language
IV. Music is History
V. Music is Physical Education
VI. Music Develops Insight and Demands Research
VII. Music is all these things, but most of all, Music is Art.

That is why we teach music:
Not because we expect you to major in music…
Not because we expect you to play or sing all your life…

But so you will be human…
So you will recognize beauty…
So you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world…
So you will have something to cling to…
So you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good-In short, more LIFE.

They Are Watching

Let your light shine because your life is a testimony

“I knew this young man when he was 6 years old.”

Two inmates were standing in front of the chapel after I had given an invitation. They were waiting until everyone was finished praying so they could speak to the congregation before the yard was opened and the chaplain would release them to go to supper.

When the prayer time was over the chaplain looked up and nodded for them to step up to the mike.

Inmate William started speaking, “I was praying with this young man and I looked at his name tag so I could call him by name. When I saw his last name, I recognized it. I used to run around with people by that name. I asked him if he was related to Ray Abernathy (made up name). He said, ‘Yes, that is my uncle.’ How about Joe Abernathy? He said, ‘That is my dad.’ ”

Then William almost started crying. “Oh, my! I remember you! I used to do drugs and all kinds of crazy, bad stuff with your dad and uncle. I remember you as a cute little 6 year boy old hanging around us and wanting to be like us. I am one of the reasons you are here! I was a terrible example for you! I have become a Christian since I am here in prison and I’m not the same man you used to admire! Will you forgive me for being such a bad influence in your life?!” William went on to lead this newly arrived young prisoner to faith in Jesus Christ!

While he had the mike, he went on to repeat some of the points I made in my sermon:

  • No matter how big or small our circle of influence, we influence people by our lives.
  • People are watching.
  • Little boys want to be like the older men. Especially dad. And dad’s friends. As William had mentored this little boy to a life that eventually lead to prison, he now wants to mentor this young man to a life that leads to eternal life.

Folks, people are watching us. They watch how we behave at the basketball game, in traffic, at the restaurant… they watch how we react to adversity; how do we handle being treated unfairly, how we handle success… they watch us on Sunday and they watch us on Monday and the rest of the week.

I have heard Steve Wingfield preach from Mark 4 about Jesus calming the storm, and he notices a verse that might seem insignificant to the story: “There were also other boats with him.” (v. 36) But that little verse reminds us that in the midst of the storm the ‘other boats’ are watching. How will Jesus and His disciples handle the storm? Those other boats may be our children, our employees, our friends… maybe they are total strangers. But our reactions (our lives) are living testimonies that influence people, whether we are aware of it or not.

Your are a witness. Your life is a testimony, either for good or for bad. The professional athlete who says, “I’m an athlete, I’m not a role model,” doesn’t know what he is talking about. Little boys are watching. I watched. I put my bat behind my back like Rocky Colovito. I tried to fade away like Pete Maravich. I try to engage the crowd like Johnny Cash did. I read through the Bible every year like Dennis Kinlaw did. I work hard like dad did… I try to follow Christ like Paul did.

“But I’m not well known or influential.” Ah, dear friend, I beg to differ. Someone knows you and you have a circle of influence, small though it may be. You are influencing someone. May we live our lives so that if someone emulates us, he will end up in Heaven, not prison.

“Let your light shine before men so they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” Mt. 5:16
“…you will be my witnesses…” -Jesus

Doomsday Predictions

This past weekend, September 23, 2017, the world was scheduled to end. David Meade prophesied that a planet was going to smash into earth and destroy the world. Since you are reading this, you probably realize that it didn’t happen. Not to worry: Meade has rescheduled this collision for the end of October.

Doomsday predictions are not new. The apostle Paul had to warn the Thessalonians to “not be idle.” Apparently they had misinterpreted messages about the coming of Christ and since they thought the world was going to end very soon, they decided to take it easy until He came. Meanwhile, they were living (mooching?) off of the church. Paul then commanded the church to “keep away from every brother who is idle…”

You may remember the book, 88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return In 1988. As convincing as that book may have been, with all its mathematical calculations and reasonings, I didn’t believe it. Jesus had said, “No one knows the day or the hour, not even the Son of Man.” I did read the book and, yes, I believe that Jesus is coming back, but anyone who sets a date is setting himself up to be a fool. He can’t win. If Jesus does come back, so what? No one will congratulate him on the way up; if Jesus doesn’t come back… well, the fool resets the date.

Having said all that, I have to confess that the events in the last months have made me wonder if the end really might be near. Even leaders that I trust, “non-kooks,” like Ann Graham Lotz and John Hagee, have wondered if the Lord is speaking to us through these events.

Matthew 24 reads, “… You will hear of wars and rumors of wars… Nation will rise against nation… There will be famines… earthquakes… persucution… you will be hated… many will turn from the faith… there will be false prophets… the love of most will grow cold…”

In August there was a full solar eclipse, the first one in many years to be seen only in the US (God’s judgement on America?!) Last year was the blood moon. There have been three major hurricanes in a month. There was flooding in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico… an earthquake in Mexico and Guatemala, famine in Africa, major fires in Montana… North Korea is threatening war. The NFL has become a political quagmire… Political unrest; racial anger; police assassinations; school shootings (and stabbings)… whew…

Is God trying to tell us something? Is Matthew 24 being fulfilled?!

Here’s my take on these events and predictions of the end of the world: Yes, God is speaking to us through these events. But, He also speaks through every sunrise and every sunset every single day. He raises His voice through earthquakes, floods, famine, etc. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our troubles. They are His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Although I don’t believe in doomsday dates, here are some things that these predictions do for me: They encourage me to be ready.

  • Make sure I have committed my life to Jesus Christ.
  • Make sure I have no known sin in my life.
  • Be at peace with all men.
  • Live as if He is coming tomorrow, and work as if He’s not coming for 1000 years. Martin Luther said that we should live every day with the day of our death always before us, like a billboard that we see everywhere we turn. Jim Elliott said he wanted to live so that when it came time to die, there was nothing else he needed to do but die. John Wesley said, “Our people die well.”

Friends, the Lord is coming back. He didn’t come on Sept. 23. Or did He?! Well, yes, for two people that I know, He came. Two of my friends died and stood before the Lord on September. 23rd. For them, this life is over.

For everyone of us a date has been set. “It is appointed unto men once to die and then the judgement.” Hebrews 9:27

Pastor Bill Detweiler said, “There are only two days in all of history that matter: 1. This day, and 2. That Day! Live this day so that day, “the great and terrible day of the LORD” will be a day of rejoicing for you. Malachi 4:5

Be ready! The Lord is returning! When? I can tell you the date: THAT DAY!

Gold

Go West, Young Man

In the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska around 1896, the Canadian Mounted Police would not allow anyone to enter the Yukon region unless he had a year’s supply of food and equipment. (No Yukon Wal-Marts in those days.)

These men would hike up the steep, icy, muddy, narrow Chilkoot Pass carrying about 65 lbs. of goods, drop their load off at the top of the hill and go back down for another load until they had about 2000 lbs. of food & equipment at the top.

After 30 trips up and 30 trips back down, the Canadian Mounties would weigh their food and if they determined that there was a year’s supply, they then gave them permission to proceed down the Chilkoot Pass to the Yukon River-–another 30 trips down & back, until the one-ton load was at the bottom.

It was 30 miles from Skagway to the Yukon River. One source estimated that a prospector would walk 2,500 miles by the time he got his year’s supply to the river bank! There he would build a raft and float 200 miles down the river to Dawson City to stake his claim and start mining. A few got rich, but the majority were too late.

I suppose I’m thinking about this because I just got back from Skagway, Alaska, where this scramble for gold took place about 120 years ago. Many thoughts went through my mind as I read about these amazingly hardy souls. What would possess a man to leave his home, family and farm or business and make the dangerous trip to Alaska to mine for gold? To walk 2500 miles carrying 65 lbs. on his back after he got there? Adventure? Greed? Desperation? Boredom? Lure of riches? Get out of debt?

I often wonder what I would have done if I would have lived during that time? Would I have “gone west, young man” like Horace Greenley encouraged? Would I have believed the amazing reports that a man could just pick up gold nuggets off the streets and become an overnight millionaire?

In my family research, I came across the obituary of my great-great grandfather, Nathan Smith. He was a farmer in Wayne County, Ohio. Born in 1827. Here is an excerpt from his obituary:

“…He was born and reared on a farm in Plain Township. In youth, aged about 20 years, he caught the gold fever and went overland to California with other gold seekers from Wayne County. Returning home from there he settled down in Plain Township and became a prosperous farmer, industriously and successfully following that vocation, marrying and rearing an estimable family of sons and daughters…”


A more detailed account is found in Paul Locher’s book, When Wooster Was a Whippersnapper, Pg. 68:

…he joined the Dennison Co., which was composed of 40 men, all from Wayne County. On March 11, the group left Wooster for California. The trip was made overland with mule teams, Benjamin Eason being one of the drivers. After spending five days in Salt Lake City for recreation, the party arrived in Placerville, 55 miles east of Sacramento, on July 4, 1850.

The Dennison Co. remained in California until the following winter, mining, trading and speculating. The group then returned home, traveling by steamer with “eyes still ablaze with scenes of border bloodshed and lawless cruelty,” as historian Ben Douglass described their experience.

Four months (116 days) on a wagon pulled by mules! No air conditioning. No MacDonald’s. No rest areas! Would I have “gone west?” Grandpa Nathan did.

At age 20, I possessed most of the above vices and virtues: adventurous, greedy, debts, no brains… I wasn’t bored or desperate, but I have the same adventurous blood flowing through my veins as great-great grandpa, Nathan Smith…

,BUT, at age 23 I committed my life to Christ, so maybe that would have governed my actions and attitudes during the feverish gold rush days.

What a history! What a story! I can’t judge or condemn those who sought riches (a better life), but I do have some sage advice:

“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” -Matt. 6:33

The Irish Revival of 1859

The Drimoleague Methodist Church in Ireland is a relatively small building with stone walls that are two feet thick. The sanctuary is about the size of my timber frame barn/office, maybe 24 by 36 feet?

“It was built in 1865 as a result of the Revival of 1859,” the locals told me.

“The Revival of 1859?!” I asked. And then I started hearing the stories of this amazing move of God.

The Revival started in Northern Ireland and spread over the whole country. A group of people got saved here in Drimoleague and began meeting west of town at the farm of my host’s relatives, the Kingstons. After several years of meeting there, The Drimoleague Methodist Church was built.

Pastor Greg came to Drimoleague from the town of Coleraine, in the north of Ireland. He said the revival crowds in Coleraine were so big in 1859 that the only building big enough to hold their meetings was the brand new, just finished, Town Hall Building.

After meeting there for several years, these “revival people” built their own new church building. Almost a century later, the people of Coleraine made a startling discovery in the Town Hall records: Because of the excitement of the Revival, the ‘new’ town hall had never had a Grand Opening! So, in 1959, the town of Coleraine had a Grand Opening Celebration for its brand new, hundred year old Town Hall!

The most amazing story I heard is what happened at The Harland & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast. This is where the Titanic would be built. Many of the rough, crude shipyard workers had conversion experiences and to clear their consciences, began to return tools that they had stolen over the years. The stolen tools began to pile up. So many tools came back that Harland & Wolff had to build a new warehouse to store them all! Our hosts in Donegal said that warehouse is still standing! (Think of how our economy would be affected if we would just be honest!)

There were (are) many more revival stories. Several of the churches where I sang were built during this exciting time in Irish history. The Coolkelure Anglican Church was built by the owner of the large estate whose life was transformed by Christ during this revival, so he built this beautiful church so his workers would not have to walk the 4 miles to Dunmanaway every Sunday.

I had 14 concerts in ten days on the “Emerald Island.” I performed in some amazing classic churches. I met some wonderful people. I was close to the ancestrial land of my great-grand mother (County Waterford). I was able to see some changed lives.

But as I sit back and reflect on my trip, the thing I think about most are the 158 year-old revival stories, and I am encouraged that God can break into any culture with His Spirit and change lives, change communities, change cultures–so much so that churches must be built to house the worshippers and warehouses need to built to hold the stolen goods returned by repentant sinners! Do it here, Lord!

Thank you for praying for Common Grounds Ministries and for my trip to Ireland. Pray for revival! It can happen!

AN IRISH PRAYER:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
The rains fall soft upon fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Samuel Morris

From Liberia, Africa to Fort Wayne, Indiana

In Bolivia last week, David Harriman told about a man who knelt in front of a tombstone and prayed, “Lord, give me the same spirit that you gave this man, Samuel Morris.”

Samuel Morris was born Prince Kaboo in 1873 in Liberia, Africa, the son of a Kru tribal chieftain. As a child, he was captured by an enemy tribe. They demanded his father bring them a present each month if they wanted to see their prince again. His father brought a present each month, but it was never enough.

When he could bring no more, Kaboo was beaten every day. During one of many intense whippings, Kaboo saw a bright light and heard a voice from Heaven telling him to flee. The rope binding him fell to the ground; he ran into the jungle where he wandered for days living off snails, mangos, roots… He traveled at night and hid in hollow logs during the day. He eventually came upon a coffee plantation owned by a Christian former slave.

There he met Miss Knolls, a graduate of Fort Wayne College (now Taylor University). She led him to Jesus. He was baptized with the name Samuel Morris in honor of her benefactor. He learned to read using the Bible as his textbook. He wanted to know more of this Holy Spirit he was reading about. When she told him that a man named Stephen Merritt had led her to Jesus, Samuel decided to go to America to find him.

He hired on a British ship where the arrogant British passengers made fun of him and treated him with scorn. When the captain became deathly sick, Samuel prayed for him and he was healed. Samuel then led him to the Lord. The captain made Samuel his personal assistant. By the time they reached New York, the whole crew and many of the passengers had become Christians through Samuel’s witness.

In crowded New York City he miraculously found Dr. Merritt who kindly offered to show him the city. “I don’t care to see buildings. I want to find the Holy Spirit,” Samuel said. The doctor sent him to Fort Wayne College. Everywhere he went, people were drawn to Jesus. In one church, as he sat up front, people saw his glowing face and began to come forward before he even got up to preach!

In late 1892 he came down with pneumonia. Five months later, in May, 1893 he died. His goal to take the Holy Spirit back to Africa was not met. He had been scheduled to help lay the cornerstone at the newly formed Taylor University in Upland, IN. As he lay sick, he said, “God is sovereign. I have finished my job. God will send others better than I to do His work in Africa.” At his funeral many students committed themselves to go to Africa. He was buried in the Lindenwood Cemetery in Fort Wayne. Seventy some years later a man knelt and prayed for the same spirit.

Would you believe that while we were in Bolivia that man came to the guest house where we were staying?! I got to meet this man who had prayed at Samuel’s grave!

“God gave me the same spirit He gave Samuel Morris. I rose from my knees a different man,” he said. He went on to be a pastor and then the president of a large missionary organization. He just retired and was bringing some businessmen to Bolivia to show them how they could get involved in missions.

Taylor University named one of their dorms for Samuel Morris. He never got to go back to Africa, but his influence is still felt all over the world today, 124 years later.

The next time I am near Fort Wayne, I plan to visit his grave.