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COME AND SEE, GO AND TELL

(or… where have we been?)

November 2021 Newsletter

Amish Country Theater, Berlin Square, Round Lake Christian Camp, Rosco Village Methodist Church, Nazareth Man House in Goshen, Indiana, Logger’s Cook Off Church, Wayne County Fair, Plain City Annual Fund Raiser Concert, Fredericksburg Homecoming, CGM Annual Banquet, Smithville Ruritans, Changed Lives Ministries Banquet, Hochstetler Reunion, Berea Church Picnic, Longenecker Church, Crafter’s Fair in Shipshewana… and that was September!

Prisons are still closed to outside groups except for regular weekly Bible Study volunteers, and then only one or two people at at time may enter, but we are keeping busy with other events as you can see in the preceeding paragraph. This week I will again email as many prisons as I can to hint around that we are available. Chaplains have been overwhelmed and overworked for the last year and a half, so even if/when they open up, we want to keep our name on their front burner. Pray for the chaplains, the inmates and the outside groups that are ready and willing to go in.


The following thought, “The Hope of the World,” is from Dennis Kinlaw’s devotional, This Day With The Master, pg. Sept 24. Dr. Kinlaw was president of Asbury College when I attended there (in the last century). I thought of this because in our current world situation, I am tempted to look to the wrong places for help. Dr. Kinlaw reminds us that our only hope is in Jesus:

THE HOPE OF THE WORLD

The hope of the world is not in power, position, or wisdom, and it is especially not in money. The hope of the world is in those people who are clean.

Isaiah 52:11 says,

Depart! Depart!…
Touch no unclean thing;
Go out from the midst of her,
Be clean,
You who bear the vessels of the LORD.

If you are to be the witness for Christ that He asks you to be, if you are to have a future with Him, you must be clean. The future and the hope of the world is wherever God is, and God dwells with and in His people when they are clean. He can get rid of our sins and take care of our failures and create in us a place in which He would feel comfortable living. Once we allow Him to do that, there is no end to what the Spirit can do with our lives.

You may be trying to possess Him. You may be trying to have Christ and keep some pollution in your heart. It will not work. If the future is to be realized, you must let Him cleanse you so you are clean, pure, and holy. He wants possession of every area of our lives, and if you surrender your life to Him, you will find yourself with a future.

What Christ receives He cleanses, and what He cleanses He fills, and what He fills He uses. The hope of the world lies in the people who give themselves to Him for cleansing and filling.

FEAR, CAUTION, PARALYSIS

September 2021 Newsletter

The last year has been “fearful times.” It has caused me to think about the question in Ezekiel 33:10, “How shall we then live?” We have been mandated by the government and the medical community certain ways to live: what to wear; where to go; where to not go; what medicine to take; what not to take; what we can say and what we cannot say…

One thing I don’t want to be in this fearful time: Fearful.

The COVID pandemic has filled us with fear. There is reason for this fear. The pandemic is real. I have lost six friends and several aquaintances because of COVID. They may have had underlying health issues, but they would not have died if they had not contracted COVID. It’s serious.

But I have lost almost as many friends during this time because of car accidents, cancer, heart attacks and who knows what other reasons. This may sound calloused, but, death happens. Everyday. I grieve. I cry. It makes me sad. But fearful?! I refuse to live in fear. I have friends who have hardly left their homes since March 2020! Fear has ruled their lives for a year and a half! They are paralyzed.

When I built silos in 1975, many friends cautioned me: be careful, people fall from silos. (A friend fell and was killed that summer.) It’s dangerous. You are being foolish. You are tempting fate. So many people told me how dangerous it was that I decided to look for something “safer.” While the silo crew was working at a feed mill in Baltic, I noticed that a feed truck was sitting in the same place for several days. I went in the office and asked if they needed a driver. “Yes, we do! The driver of that truck swung the auger out on a farm last Tuesday and he hit an electric wire and was killed.”

Dude! I walked out of that office thinking that I’d just as soon die falling off of a silo as to be electrocuted operating a feed truck! (I even heard of a man who died from an infection that he got from a paper cut! Is any job “safe?”)

Our missionary staff in Costa Rica thought I was tempting death because I had a motorcycle. “You’re going to get killed!” “Costa Ricans drive like maniacs” (Fact check: partly true) “You have no regard for your life!” (Fact check: false). I finally told the staff that if I would have had the level of caution that they are telling me I should have, I never would have come to Costa Rica! I was told Costa Rica was dangerous (Fact check: probably not true). “People kill each other down there. Don’t you watch the news?!” “There are diseases there! Snakes! Sickness!” “We’ll never see you again!”

I heard the story of a very fearful, cautious man in Miami who was afraid to take a walk because of the dangerous, heavy traffic. He went to the tourist bureau and asked what was the safest time to walk in Miami? The answer? Sunday morning. Why? Because it’s not a work day; all the Catholics are in church; all the protestants are in bed and all the Jews are down at the beach. So, the man took a stroll during the safest hour of the week: Sunday morning. He was run over and killed by a Seventh Day Adventist! 🙂

Folks, living is hazardous to your health. Be cautious. Be diligent. Everyday something bad could happen. But fearful? We don’t have to live in fear. Silo builders have safety procedures. Feed trucks can be utilized safely. Cars have seat belts. Germs and viruses are in the very air I am breathing as I type this letter. There is danger all around us 24/7. These are perilous times. Sickness, accidents, wars, turmoil, family issues, church stuff… be concerned. But fearful?! Not me.

“Fear not,” occurs 365 times in scripture. That’s one for every day of the year.

“Be very careful, then, how you live- not as unwise, but as wise…” Eph. 5:15 BUT! – “Fear not.” -Jesus

A DIVINE APPOINTMENT

August 2021 Newsletter

From Showing Up, pg. 3 by John Schmid

“I don’t even know where my children are…” said Sue from her prison cell. Volunteer Brenda Duvendeck was trying to strike up a conversation with her during the Bill Glass Prison Weekend of Champions in Northwest Ohio back in 1994, but Sue was not in the mood to talk. To get a conversation going, Brenda asked if she had children.

“Yes, I have children, but I don’t even know where they are. They’re in a foster home somewhere.”
“I used to keep foster children,” Brenda said. “What are your children’s names?”
“Desiree, Lavon and Miranda,” said Sue.
“I kept three children with those names last year! We went to Lake Erie several weekends and the Cleveland Indians games,” Brenda offered.
“YES! They wrote to me that they went fishing! Are you Brenda?! Do you have any pictures of them?!”
“Yes, on my refrigerator! I’ll bring them tomorrow.”
“Please do,” Sue almost shouted.

The next morning Brenda returned to the NW Ohio Prison with the photos. She hurried through security went directly to Sue’s cell and showed her several photos of three happy looking children sitting in Brenda’s front yard after a fishing trip. Sue burst into tears.
“Oh my children, my children! Desiree, Lavon, Miranda! How big they’ve grown. They look so happy. Oh, my children, my children…” and then more sobs.

Coincidence? No. A divine encounter. God set this up so that hardened, depressed, down-and-out Sue could reconnect with her children, and who knows? Connect with God.

I never heard what happened next. Did Sue commit her life to Jesus? Did she become a Christian? Where is she now?

Twenty some years after this happened (2015?) I was singing at an outdoor event in Shipshewana when I noticed a woman in the crowd who looked like Brenda. I took a chance, and from the stage I said, “Brenda?” She looked up. It was Brenda, the prison volunteer! “Did you volunteer with Bill Glass in the ‘90’s?” She nodded.

Before I sang another song, I said, “Folks, let me tell you a story about this lady in the third row,” and I went on to tell about inmate Sue and how volunteer Brenda talked to her through prison bars and discovered that she had kept her children. When I finished the story, I asked, “Sue, did I get it right?” She nodded yes, that was real close. “Have you kept in touch with Sue?” I asked. She shook her head, ‘no’ with a touch of saddness. I still pray for Sue every now and then, when I think of this incident (like right now as I write this).

Bill Bright said, “A successful witnessing experience is when you present the claims of Christ to a person and then leave the results up to God.”

Since we don’t know what happen to Sue, we have no choice but to leave the results up to God. I think He can handle it. But He wants to use you and me to share His love and salvation with the world. “Go into all the world… and I will be with you…” Matt. 28:19

OBITUARIES and PRIVACY

July 2021 Newsletter

I read the obituary of a friend last month. Here is the explanation: “…he died on Tuesday…” That’s all it said. No details, no reason for the death, no accidents or sickness… just simply, “…he died…” And then it went on to tell when he was born, who were his parents, when is the funeral, etc.

I was telling my daughter that it used to be different. They used to give details. We knew the cause of death by reading the obituary. Today everything is so private. I once called the hospital to see if my mom was still there. “Has Lorain Schmid been discharged?” I asked. “We can’t tell you,” was the response. I was slightly “irked,” so I said, “Ma’am, Let me rephrase that: I’d like to speak with Lorain Schmid.” “She is not here. She was discharged this morning.” (?!)

Part of this seemingly unwarranted (in my opinion) privacy kick is because of laws, some of which are there for good reason, others, you just have to wonder what in the world were they thinking?

I told my daughter about a 1937 obituary from my home area of Moreland, Ohio that told the whole story. Since nobody involved is still living, I will quote directly from the original obituary:

“Lester Burnett, 24, first Wayne County man to operate a passenger-carrying plane from a local airport, ended his life last midnight by firing a bullet from a .22 caliber rifle into his brain. Burnett shot himself at the home of his sweetheart, Myrtle Patterson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John C. Patterson, near Moreland. Refusal of Miss Patterson to agree to marry him on her birthday anniversary in June had almost immediately preceeded the shooting.”

The article goes on to explain that Miss Patterson wanted Burnett to have a steady income before she agreed to marry him. Then it gets graphic again:

“Miss Patterson’s father found the young man’s body slumped down in the car seat. Blood flowed from a wound in the forehead. He had evidently shot himself while the girl went upstairs… The coroner pronounced death due to suicide.”

Dude! Can you imagine an obituary like that today?! I realize that death by suicide is horrible for those of us left behind and it is discretionary and kind to the family and survivors to not give details, but the pendulum has swung the other way, leaving us wondering what happened? Lack of details in an obituary makes me guess: Suicide? Drugs? Sickness? Homicide? Old age?

I just learned that a few of my friends have already written their own obituaries! Their reasoning is to spare their children the stress and burden. I haven’t written mine yet, but I learned that D.L. Moody, the famous evangelist, wrote about his obituary:

“Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal-a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.” -D.L. Moody

Friends, life is short; death is certain. Are you concerned about dying? Don’t. You will live forever! Your concern should be: Location, Location, Location.

If you believe in the name of the Son of God (commit your life to Jesus) you can know that you have eternal life.
-I John 5:13

And privacy? “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.”
-Luke 12:2

“Be real, stay ready.” -Glendon Bender

“Christians live good and they die good.” – Steve Wingfield

Time

June 2021 Newsletter

At a concert last week, a man came up to me, stuck out his hand and said, “I’m Reuben Wilson!” “Reuben Wilson! From college days?!”

Yes, I had not seen Reuben for 50 years! (I’m old!) He and his wife traveled to Holmes County from Columbus, Ohio just to hear our Tribute to Johnny Cash concert. He saw the advertisement while visiting and said, “I think I know that guy.” After the concert we sat in the hotel lobby and reminisced. How could it be 50 years?! We talked for an hour or so and then decided to have breakfast the next morning at Boyd & Wurthmann Restaurant here in Berlin.

On the way home after a long breakfast, I began to understand a statement that all the old fogies used to say: “Life is short.” My response was always, “Yeah, yeah, you old fogies are always thinking about the ‘good old days’ and how the younger generation doesn’t appreciate anything.”

Well, now that I am an old fogie, I realize that the older old fogies knew what they were talking about. They had experienced it. Life is short. Your children grow up fast. You grow old faster than your think. You can’t run as fast (if at all), there are aches and pains in places that you didn’t even know you had places… The fogies were trying to warn me. They didn’t use these phrases, but they were saying, “Redeem the time.” “Don’t miss life.” “Don’t mess around…” “Life is short!”

Which brings me to an amazing piece of time trivia that came to mind: I shook hands with a lady who shook hands with Abe Lincoln! Can you believe that?! Yes, I actually shook hands with a lady who shook hands with Abe Lincoln!

When I was a young boy, the farmer across the road was Jim Hoy. His mother, Kate, lived with him. She was born in 1859. In 1861 Abe Lincoln’s campaign train made whistle stops in Ohio. Jim Hoy said it stopped in Wooster. Local historians doubt that, but the train definitely stopped in Alliance. Kate’s father drove his horse and buggy to wherever it was to witness the event and Abe Lincoln reached out from his train car and shook little two year old Kate’s hand!

And 90 some years later, I shook Kate’s hand. (OK, I don’t remember actually “shaking her hand,” but I was in her living room enough remember that she patted me on the head a time or two.) The point is, I have a “physical connection” with a great president who was born over 200 years ago! And… is 200 years as long ago as I previously thought? Maybe Einstein was right: Time is relative.

Time. Sometimes it seems to drag. But no grandfather clock ever had “Time Drags” written on its face. Tempus fugit (Time flies) is the classic reminder. Don’t waste time. Life is short.

“Our greatest danger in life is in permitting the urgent things to crowd out the important.” -Charles Hummel

“The chief value of an anniversary is to call us to greater faithfulness in the time that is left.” -William Manning

“Redeem the time because the days are evil.” Eph. 5:16

“A thousand years are like a day.” -God (Ps. 90:4 and I Pet. 3:8)

OF THE MAKING OF BOOKS, THERE IS NO END

May 2021 Newsletter

OF THE MAKING OF BOOKS, THERE IS NO END -The Preacher, Ecclesiastes 12:12
“Reading gives us something to do when we have to stay where we are.” -unknown

During the 13 month “two week” COVID shutdown, I read a dozen or so books written by people I know:
Ron Archer, What Belief Can Do, How God Turned My Pain Into Power and Tragedy Into Triumph
Peter Dunn- Unlikely Entrepreneur, Memoir of Peter Graham Dunn
Lizzie Hershberger- Behind Blue Curtains, A True Crime Memoir of an Amish Woman’s Survival
Dena Schrock- Behind Closed Doors, The Life Of A Swartzentruber Amish Girl
Monroe Miller- This Twisted Path, My Journey Through Abuse and Addiction
Randy Fath- One Solitary Tipi, My Story of Hope and Healing during Three Years Alone
Jacob Byler- Genealogy of Eli Byler (Lydia’s family- this book is probably not too exciting to non Bylers)

I have room on this one page to “review” two of these books:

WHAT BELIEF CAN DO by Ron Archer

I met Ron Archer when he spoke at a local event. He is a powerful speaker with a powerful story. He was a “trick baby.” His mother was a prostitute who was was forced by her pimp to have an abortion when she got pregnant with Ron. It was a botched abortion and the baby lived, although with severe medical problems. Ron was abused and bullied by some, he was rejected by his stepfather, he became a stutterer, a bed-wetter, and an overweight kid who banged his head against the wall to knock himself to sleep at night. At age ten, he held a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. The gun did not fire. Afterward, a schoolteacher and a widowed neighbor stepped in and shared the love of God with him- forever changing his life. In this message-driven memoir, Archer shows readers that regardless of background and experiences, God can transform your PAIN into POWER, and your MISERY into MINISTRY.

My favorite quote of his: “Eat the word of God, for this is the breakfast of CHAMPIONS. Are you a CONTENDER or a PRETENDER; a WINNER or a WHINER; a VICTOR or a VICTIM; a CHAMP or a CHUMP? You can be MORE THAN A CONQUERER!”

UNLIKELY ENTREPRENEUR by Peter Dunn

Born in China; shipped off to a Canadian boarding school at age 6; hitchhiked all over Canada after high school; married a Kidron girl he met at Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta; served in Mennonite Voluntary Service in New York City where he helped troubled girls earn money making wooden plaques; shut down by NY child labor laws; moved to Leanna’s home farm near Kidron where he started what is now the number one supplier of wood décor in the United States- P. Graham Dunn.

Peter Dunn is a loose cannon that is finally firmly bolted down (I think…). He is not afraid to try anything to grow his business and his many failures prove it. He is also not afraid to get back up, brush off his skinned knees (or broken bones) and keep going- he WILL find what works.

Unlikely Entrepreneur is inspiring on several levels:
-Peter overcame the hurt, rejection, bitterness, anger of being torn from his parents to go to boarding school.
-He found forgiveness for the school that mistreated him around graduation time when he was only being honest.
-He wrote this 270 page book in two months during the COVID-19 crisis shutdown. Peter redeemed the time.
-Exhibit “A” of a successful man? Look at his family. The Dunn family is the real evidence of Peter’s legacy.

This Memoir will inspire you.
CAUTION: You may want to fill out an application to work at P. Graham Dunn after reading this book.

The other inspiring biographical books mentioned above are just as good and can be ordered locally (Gospel Book Store in Berlin or Faith View Books, Mt. Hope) or on Amazon. I recommend them. Maybe I can “review” them in the near future.

“Readers are leaders.” -John Kennedy

How The Mighty Have Fallen

April 2021 Newsletter

A man committed suicide some years ago. In addition to the devestation that this caused his family, friends and the community, his widow discovered that he left her with huge debts. Several hundred thousand dollars of debt! She was forced to go to work, not only to survive, but also to pay off the impossible debt. She went from shock to grief to shock again, and then to anger… and then desparation. How could her loving husband leave her in such desparate shape?! I couldn’t imagine how she felt.

Until now. It wasn’t a spouse or a family member. It was a spiritual hero. World renown Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias died last May. What a loss! I wrote my feelings about him in our July CGM Newsletter. His writings and books helped me tremendously. I even bragged that I had breakfast with him once. Now the shock, the grief, the anger, the betrayal…

Accusations emerged that Ravi had sexually molested several women. I didn’t believe it. Many Christian leaders are routinely accused of all kinds of stuff. RZIM hired a law firm to investigate the allegations and clear the air of these rumors. The deeper they got into the investigation, the more evidence emerged that the “rumors” were not rumors. They were true! Ravi had a dark secret of sexual sins! He owned several massage parlors and he routinely went to them for “back problems.” Then he got very friendly with the masseuses. Then he got sexually involved. Then he paid them off to “keep quiet.” It just gets worse. How could Ravi do this to us?!; To his family?!; To the church?!; To the Lord?!

Several thoughts that I can fit on this one page:
-What Ravi said and preached was (is) true.
-What he did was sin.
-Sin always affects more than just the sinner. King David thought his adultery with Bathsheba would be just between the two of them. But then Uriah was murdered to cover the sin. The baby that was born died. David’s son, Amnon, raped his sister. Brother Absalom killed Amnon in revenge. Absalom tried to overthrow his own father, King David, and then was killed by David’s general, Joab. If you follow the path of sin and deceit seemingly started by David’s “private” affair with Bathsheba, it eventually leads to the loss of the Kingdom of Israel! All because of one night of sinful pleasure. I wonder what the fallout will be from Ravi’s secret life? At least King David confessed when he was confronted by Nathan the Prophet. Ravi had that chance when accusations surfaced in 2017, but he lied and denied. I believed him 🙁

I was a classmate of John Hong, a well known professor and evangelist in Korea. In a Bible study he asked the question: “How do you know you will remain faithful?” Six of us stared at each other. How could we know? John’s answer: “Surround yourself with holy men.” In other words, study God’s word AND be accountable to each other. Allow yourself to be questioned, challanged, “sharpened” by friends.

It’s called, “Accountability.” Where was Ravi’s board? Where was his accountability group? Where were the “Holy Men” in his life? Were there no signs of misconduct? Did he not have the bounderies that Billy Graham and Josh McDowell have set up?
– Never be with a woman alone.
– Always travel with a male friend.
– Never drive alone to or from the airport with a woman.

Chuck Colson, Chuck Swindoll and several others (including me) have a series of questions that they allow themselves to be asked every week in their Accountability Group: 1. Have you been with a woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising? 2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity? 3. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material? 4. Have you spent adequet time in Bible Study and prayer? 5. Have you given priority time to your family? 6. Have you fulfilled the mandate of your calling? 7. Have you just lied to me? These seven questions are still no guarantee that I will not veer off the path, but they sure help.

I want to finish strong. I want to leave a clean legacy. I have every sinful tendency that lured King David and Ravi Zacharias and millions of other men throughout history.

Lord, may I keep myself open to your rebuke by being open to correction by my Accountability Brothers…

BE STILL AND KNOW…

March 2021 Newsletter

Some of the Amish around here still cut the ice on their pond to fill an ice house so they have refrigeration all summer. I haven’t seen it for quite a while, but last year I did see a team of horses pulling a wagon load of ice near Fredericksburg, so I know it still happens. And just last week someone posted a picture of ice cutting day on Harrison Road just north of here.

Which reminds me of a story I just read recently: It was ice cutting day and men were on the pond cutting ice while others were loading the wagons and hauling ice to the insulated ice house between the house and the barn. When the day was done and the ice house was filled, one of men who had been in the ice house discovered that he had lost his pocket watch. He went back to look for it along with several other men who could squeeze themselves in the limited space, but after ten minutes they gave up. The only way to find a watch would be to take all the ice out. They weren’t going to do that. They gave up and headed for the house. Then a young boy entered the ice house after they left and in three minutes came out with the watch in his hand!

“How did you find it?!” they asked, astonished.

“I just sat real still until I heard the ticking. Then I reached between some blocks of ice toward the ticking sound and there was the watch!”

Be still and know that I am God…” Ps. 46:10

In our modern fast paced world with meetings and schedules and electronics and so many concerns and distractions, I find myself more like the men who quit looking for the watch than the young boy who sat still until he heard the ticking.

I read through the Bible every year and pray every day, but when it comes to prayer, I seldom hear the “ticking.” I know prayer works, but I am reminded of Elijah when he “ran for his life” from Jezebel (I Kings 19:3) and ended up in a cave. God told him to get out of the cave and “stand on the mountain before the Lord.” A great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but “the Lord was not in the wind;” and after the wind, and earthquake, but “the Lord was not in the earthquake;” and after the earthquake, a fire, but “the Lord was not in the fire;” and after the fire, “a still small voice.”

It was this “still small voice,” (the ‘ticking’?) that spoke instruction and encouragement to Elijah. He heard the “ticking.”

We need prayer. Our country needs prayer. Last week in the US House of Representatives, Florida Rep., Greg Streube, stood up against the evil Equality Act, saying that transgenderism is contrary to scripture. NY Representative, Jerry Nadler, said, “What any religious tradition describes as God’s will is no concern of this Congress.”(!) Mr. Nadler, it was a concern of the founding fathers. What has changed? When is the last time we saw one of our leaders kneel in prayer for our country like George Washington did at Valley Forge (in the snow!)?

I (we) need to pray. Until I (we) hear the ticking, the still small voice. I’m concerned about our country, but my main concern should be my own prayer life. “Lord, teach me to pray.” Lk. 11:1

“Pray for great things, expect great things, work for great things, but above all, pray.”

R.A. Torrey

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

2020 started well: A concert on New Years Eve at Shipshewana; a “birthday bicycle ride” on New Years Day (71 miles); several prison services before heading for Harrisonburg, Va. on the way to Florida; concerts and visiting in Pinecraft, and then four prison services at the Annual We Care Prison Week in Alabama.

After two weeks of events in Ohio we headed back to Florida for our Annual CGM Banquet, concerts, a prison or two, and then I joined The We Care Prison Ministries Banquet Tour: thirteen cities and banquets from Meigs, Ga.to Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas… And then- BOOM! COVID!

We took a basketball team to Grafton Prison on March 16. The next day all Ohio prisons were quarantined. Soon, all prisons in the country were closed. Eleven events and services were cancelled in March and fifteen events were cancelled in April. I didn’t count the total number for the year, but I’m guessing close to 100 events on my calendar were cancelled.

My pastor, John Risner, summed up the year in his sermon on the last Sunday of the year:
The year started out with much hope and excitement. THEN… 1. COVID 2. Toilet paper shortage 3. Zoom Meetings 4. Face Book Live Concerts 5. Schooling from home 6. High School Sports cancelled (while our girls were at the State Tournament!) 7. Study online 8. Quarantine

  1. Travel ban 10. Unemployment 11. Businesses closed 12. Social unrest 13. Financial hardships 14. Riots 15. Prostests 16. Murder hornets 17. Conspiracy theories 18. Outrage everywhere
  2. Anger 20. Public meltdowns 21. A contested presidential election 22. And there was even an Amish political parade (in Fredericksburg)!…

BUT! After a month or so of “nothing” and many cancellations, I was able to do a few things. I sang about once a month at the Walnut Hills Nursing Home on the porch outside. I did some mushroom hunting and found no mushrooms, but I did test positive for Lymes disease. (The Dr. thinks we got it in time.)

In July I fulfilled a bucket list dream of following my great-great-great-great grandfather’s 1812 journey to Wayne Co. from Mingo Bottom, Ohio (now Mingo Junction) to Apple Creek via canoe. He floated down the Ohio River in a 68’ dugout canoe to the mouth of the Muskingum, then up the Muskingum to the Killbuck Creek, then up stream to just north of Holmesville where he unloaded the goods off his canoe near Butler Spring onto four 4 horse wagons and drove overland to Apple Creek, where he lived until his death in 1838. His trip took a month.

On July 5, daughter Amelia and I launched our 17’ aluminum canoe (with a motor) at Mingo Junciton and headed down the Ohio River. In two days we reached the Muskingum where we motored up stream through a series of locks to McConnelsville where Lydia met us and we switched daughters. Katie jumped in the canoe and Amelia went home with Lydia. Altogether there are 11 locks on the Muskingum, which is the longest river that is entirely in Ohio. Katie and I made it Conesville, just south of Coshocton, where we ran aground in the wide and shallow river, so we stopped there and I finished several days later in a kayak! 160 miles total trip! Our Philip Smith II family heritage trip.

After the canoe trip we went to New Wilmington, Pa.to meet several of Lydia’s cousins for the first time. It’s a long story, but her grandfather came from there around 1918 and that side of the family was basically cut off. Everyone was excited to meet each other and now we are having the Byler Family Reunion in that community this summer.

The rest of the year slowly opened up to churches, banquets, concerts… just about everything but prisons. They are still closed and ultra cautious. COVID in a prison could spreat like wildfire! We did get the opportunity to send in 45,000 cookies, but we could not go in with them. We delivered them to the front gate and left.

The year ended with a perfect white Christmas- six inches of snow on Christmas Eve and then it left about three days later!

In FEBRUARY- We plan to finish the We Care Tour (see schedule) and then back to Florida for our Annual CGM Banquet, a concert at Birky Square and then back to Ohio.

Blessings! Pray for us! May God grant us a good year and bring us back to “normal.”

THE TOUCH OF THE MASTER’S HAND

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!”