John Schmid Music

Author: johnschmidcommonground

Give Me One Divine Moment

“Give me one divine moment when God acts and I say that moment is far superior to all the human efforts of man throughout the centuries.” -Dennis Kinlaw, commenting on the Asbury Revival, 1970

David Stutzman is recovering from a paralyzing accident. While visiting him at the rehab section of Walnut Hills, he told this story: His father, Andy Stutzman, lived to be a hundred years old. Andy was known as a man of God in our community. He was a minister who had touched many lives over the decades and had a very unique and effective preaching style. A faithful man.

Two days after Andy’s 100th birthday, he confessed to David that he felt that he had not fulfilled the calling of God on his life. He felt that God had called him to the mission field to places like China, India or Africa, but because of helping his father on the farm, and lack of finances, and then marriage and being called by lot into the ministry, he never left this area. He wondered if he had missed God’s calling.

Three days after his 100th birthday, David got a call from a Chinese National TV crew who wanted to do a documentary on Amish culture. The man indicated that in China virtually every person, from the richest to the poorest, has a TV.  Apparently, there is not much available to watch on TV, but the Chinese love to watch documentaries. He asked David to be their guide in Amish country.

When the film crew arrived, David took them to places like the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin; several Amish businesses; a cheese house… Then the Chinese man in charge said he wanted to film a real Amish Farm and Homestead, so David took them to a relative’s farm, a perfect place to film, except that “order” of Amish does not allow filming. However, after David told the story of what was happening, and how many people it would influence, and the fact that the documentary would not be shown in the U.S., the Amish cousin relented (cautiously). Go ahead and film.

The crew had a wonderful time there; they got to see the basement of this large Amish home with artesian well water flowing through it to keep the food cold. All the walls were loaded with shelves of canned goods and preserved food-stuffs in jars. They filmed in the barn full of hay and big Percheron horses—the Chinese love horses! They filmed the windmill, the barnyard, the fields, the state-of-the-art kitchen in the shop where the Amish church meets when it is this family’s turn to hold services…

Then the Chinese man in charge (only 2 of the entourage spoke English) asked to meet “a real Amish/Mennonite Minister.” So David took them to his home to meet his father, Andy. The crew set up cameras in 3 places (or angles). The Chinese man asked David’s father Andy- sitting in his rocking chair-

“Sir, what is that in your lap?”

Andy said, “It’s my Bible; the roadmap to Heaven!”

The interviewer asked, “Would you read something from it to us?

So, Andy proceeded to quote Psalm 37 (by heart!), several other scriptures, some hymns and a poem. He then gave his testimony and explained the plan of salvation in a very simple, understandable way.

The interview was over, the crew left, and several months later this documentary was viewed in China by 1.3 billion (BILLION!) people! It was voted the best documentary of that year and possibly of all time! A week later Andy would have been too sick to film. He died 2 months after that.

This man who wanted to reach the world, but never lived anywhere but Holmes County, Ohio, reached one seventh of the population of the world just 80 days before the end of his 100 year life! He explained the gospel to more people in a half hour interview than he had reached in his 80 years of fruitful ministry in the local church! God is faithful.  Give me one divine moment…

“The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29 

“If you sow and don’t reap, someone else will reap; be faithful. If you reap, having not sown, someone else sowed; be humble.” -Steve Wingfield

Time

I like to have our newsletter in your hands by the first of the month. As I write this, it’s June 9th! I’m slightly late. I could use the excuse that I’m busy (which is true). I could tell you of the many interruptions (also true). I could tell you how sick I was (a lie). The reality is- I couldn’t think of a thing to say.  So… I procrastinated. But… finally… I decided to print some quotes about TIME (not the magazine) and its use. Mainly for me, but hopefully for you, too. I hope these are helpful:

Lost, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever. – Horace Mann

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

God has not bowed to our nervous haste nor embraced the methods of our machine age. The man who would know God must give time to Him. -A.W. Tozer

Asked what he would do if he knew Christ would return in three days, George Whitfield replied:

“I would do just what I have scheduled to do.”

The chief value of an anniversary is to call us to greater faithfulness in the time that is left.

-William Manning

A converted Hindu was given a Bible and a clock. “The clock will tell me how time goes; the Bible will tell me how to spend it.”

                                                             Don’t Tell Me

                                    Don’t tell me what you will do When you have time to spare;

                                    Tell me what you did today To ease a load of care.

.                                              
                                    Don’t tell me what you will give When your ship comes in from sea,

                                    Tell me what you gave today, A fettered soul to free.

                                                         -Greenville Kleiser

Time. This summer will be my 55th high school reunion! It seems like I graduated just a couple of years ago. I am on the reunion committee, so in looking up “lost” alumni, I “found” one my classmates, Connie Hoy, whose great-grandmother lived across the road from us when I was a boy. Great-grandma was 96 years old the year Connie and I were in first grade. She was born in 1859. In 1861 President elect Abraham Lincoln traveled from Springfield, IL to Washington. D.C. on a whistlestop train tour on his way to his inauguration in March of that year. At one of these stops, probably Coshochton, two year old Kate Hoy was lifted up by her father and Abe Lincoln reached over the traincar platform guardrail and patted her on the head. When I was very young, visiting the Hoys, Kate Hoy patted me on the head!

Did you get that?! I was touched by a person who touched Abe Lincoln!! Abe died in 1865! One hundred and fifty seven years ago! Yes, I knew someone who met Abe Lincoln in person! Maybe ancient history isn’t so ancient! Maybe “long ago” is not all that long ago. Is time relative, like Einstein said?

Time. Redeem it. The days are evil. (Eph. 5:16) And the days are short. History may not be as long ago as we may think. We should use time wisely.

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more… I’ll be there.

Until the next time

Nick The Greek

I had heard of Nick the Greek ever since I started in prison ministry (32 years ago), but I had never met him. He was a gang leader, a drug addict, a hit man, a thief, an all-around thug who got radically saved not long after he started his 20 year sentence at Mansfield prison. I met him last Fall at, of all places, an Amish funeral! He came to funeral of Dan Schlabach, a supporter of the Greek’s Inside Out Ministries. Dan’s son, Dwain, was a CGM board member.

Nick gave me his book, Too Mean To Die. What a story! I want to share two of the craziest witnessing events I have ever heard. It could only work in prison and only with a newly saved former corrupt, vulgar gang member. Let me summarize from Nick’s book:

“You really believe that stuff, Greek?”

“Yeah, I believe it,” I said, and I tried to show him some verses to back up what I was saying.

But he just brushed me off and started cursing and using God’s name in vain.

“You keep talking like that, and you’re going to have to deal with me,” I said.

Now, it’s not that I used the best language myself. It was taking me a while to clean up my foul mouth. The first English words I learned when I came to this country were curse words. But I couldn’t stand this man cursing the God who had just saved me from a life of destruction.

He kept on spewing forth this nonsense, so I reverted back to the old Nick. I held my Bible up like I was reading it, and when he was distracted I hit him- pow!- right on the nose with my Bible. His nose collapsed, his eyes closed up and they had to take him to the prison hospital.

A day or so later I walked up to my cell and this same guy was lying on my bunk with his head all bandaged up. He looked like a dead man. I feared big trouble, but when I walked in ready to fight, he said, “Greek, if you believe in God that much – to do this to me- I want to know your God!”  Long story short: I led this bandaged former enemy to Jesus!

Not long after this, I was assigned to a cell with a man who was not too sympathetic to any religion, especially Christianity. “No problem. You leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.”

But this guy was on my back from the moment he started bunking with me. I think he assumed that anybody who was into Christianity was a weakling. He kept riding me, making fun of my Bible reading and of my belief in God. I tried to ignore him, but it got harder and harder. I didn’t want another situation like the broken nose, but one day he finally went too far. I grabbed him around the neck and stuck his head in the toilet in our cell and started flushing away. Everytime the guy came up for air, I’d push him back down in the water. When I saw he had enough, I stood up and said, “Now, you ready to listen to God’s word?”

He said, Yeah, he would like to know more. I couldn’t believe my ears!

The whole social setup and “street” rules in prison present problems for a Christian inmate. Jesus taught that we should turn the other cheek. It’s a fine line to walk…

Folks, I love these stories, but please do not use these methods in your local church. I recommend The Four Spiritual Laws or The Roman Road. Be passionate to win people to Christ, but broken noses and swirlies may only work in prison. And then, only on special occasions.

                                    He who is wise wins souls. Prov. 11:30

The Power Of A Song

I just sent the manuscript of my new book, The Power of a Song, to Carlisle Printing. I have been wanting to write this book for over 20 years(!).  I’ve had chapters written for at least half of that time. I finally hired an editor (Elaine Starner) to help and to goad me along the way.

I don’t know how long it will take now, but while we wait the month or two it takes to typeset, proof read, edit and print a book, let me paraphrase one of the chapters to give you a taste of what is in the book:

Chapter 16   FROM DEPRESSION TO DANCING 

Ben (not his real name) grew up in a dysfunctional Amish family. His father was in a mental institution. The family was so poor that Ben began stealing food from local grocery stores. He ran away from home and slept in barns and abandoned buildings. When he was caught and arrested, the Smiths (not their real name) went to court and asked the judge if they could be Ben’s legal guardians. The judge agreed. They took Ben home and he became part of the Smith family. He attended the local school where he was a good student and a star athlete. After graduation he went to college in North Carolina, got married, had children, made plans to go to the mission field… and then Jimmy was born. Jimmy was a special needs child (Downs syndrome). His birth changed everything. Ben went into depression.

When the Smiths heard that Ben was suffering from depression, they bought a CD that I recorded in Pennsylvania Dutch and drove to Ben’s home in South Carolina.  Here is Mrs. Smith’s description of what happened:

We drove 1500 miles to hand deliver the Dutch CD. We could hardly wait to start the player. We ran into the house and turned on the “Dutch” music. Ben sat straight up in bed. He began to laugh and laugh. Soon, he was on his feet, dancing. “I can understand that language!” he declared. “I have not had any relationship with my Amish relatives since I left home! I need to go home and visit my family!” This CD activated in his heart a whole new joy. He came alive with that wonderful music. He renewed his walk with the Lord, he went back to work… his family and marriage were saved. All because of a music CD in Pennsylvania Dutch! 

Jimmy, the child who was so ill and took so much care, is now in a Christian school for special needs children. Several months ago we were driving around with Ben and Jimmy, and while we were driving Jimmy quoted the first five chapters of the gospel of John by memory! Tears were streaming down our faces. Jimmy said, “Don’t cry. It will be alright.” Then he sang one of those Dutch songs, something about chickens, I think. We all laughed until tears fell again!

This book, The Power of a Song, is a collectioin of stories of how a song changed a person or the atmosphere of an event, or even history. In this case, a song changed Ben.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing.” Psalm 30:11


There are 21 stories (chapters) of life changing incidents involving a song in this book.

Let me know if you would like to preorder a copy.

“Music is amazing because it helps heal both the performer and the listener.

Everyone benefits from music. An equal opportunity healer!” – Unknown

“There will be no singing in Hell.” – Martin Luther

This World Is Not My Home (Whew!)

The old song, This World Is Not My Home, has become more real to me in the last year and a half as we see friends and aquaintances dying from COVID and the related affects of it (blood clots, strokes, sudden deaths, etc…).

The pandemic is real, but the way it is being handled and dealt with has eroded my trust in the media, the medical profession, the so called “scientists,” and even some friends who think so differently than I do. It has not affected my trust in the politicians as my faith in them was already right close to zero. It’s hard to get lower than that, but they are working on it.

From day two of the shut down (March 18, 2020) I thought something was fishy. (I don’t know why I didn’t think it on day one.) I’m not a medical person, but it seemed to me that what we were doing was like killing a poisonous spider on our face with a sledge hammer. The “cure” was as bad or worse than the disease.

As my trust in earthly institutions erode, my trust and hope in Jesus has been strengthened.

At our annual Florida banquet on February 23, Tino Wallenda, of the famous Flying Wallenda Family, spoke to our audience from a chair that was balanced on a pipe about four feet off the ground (for 25 minutes!!). The pipe simulated the high wire. One of the lessons he gave us was that a high wire walker must focus on something that does not move. You cannot look at the traffic or the spectators or anything that moves as you walk the wire or you will lose your balance and fall to your death. The lesson is obvious: Keep your eyes on Jesus. He is the same today, yesterday and forever.

When Tino goes into prisons, he often invites inmates to walk the 15 foot long pipe that he has set up between two chairs, about two feet off the ground. Usually the champion inmate makes it about half way across the pipe before he falls off. Then Tino gets on the pipe and tells the inmate to “get behind me and put your hands on my shoulders. Now let’s go.” And the inmate makes it all the way across the “tight rope” with his hands on Tino’s shoulders. Every time! Follow Jesus. Lean on Him. He will lead us though this treacherous life.

Pandemics; wars; economic collapse; lying polititians; shortages;… Our only hope is Jesus.

                                                                                    Chorus:

This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.          Oh, Lord, You know I have no Friend like You.

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.        If Heaven’s not my home, then Lord, what will I do?

The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door,               The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door,

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.                  And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

Post Script: A neighboring farmer was planting corn. He kept his rows straight by lining the radiator cap of his John Deere tractor on a fence post or a bush at the far end of the field (this was before GPS on tractors). On one particular day he looked back as he planted and noticed that the row as curved as a rainbow! He looked again at the “bush” he was lined up with and realized that his “bush” was a cow! She was slowly walking east. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Don’t be fooled.       

                 “Many will come… claiming, ‘I am He.’ Do not follow them.” Luke 21:8

You’ve Been Reading My Mail

(December 2021 Newsletter)

Dear Friends – Thank you for budgeting the time to read along for another year. If you are a Christian believer, I hope that your investment of 10-15 minutes twelve times this past year has served to fortify your faith. If you are not a believer I hope that your thinking has been challenged. If you were to say to me, “Well, I’m willing to read about what you believe, but to believe is not to know,” I might respond: “Okay, suppose you ask me for the address of a mutual friend and I said, ‘Here’s the last address that I have on file for him. I’m not absolutely 100% certain that this address is still accurate, but I have not heard that he moved, so I believe it is.’ Would you say, ‘Then just forget it?’ No! We all use the term believe for things that we’re confident about, but perhaps can’t always 100% prove.”                                

We hear a lot today about how important it is to “follow the science.” Well, why not follow the evidence when deciding what’s true about life? Juries often decide cases on the basis of a preponderance of evidence. So when I say “I believe,” what I mean is that I’ve become rationally convinced that the Bible is reliable, that Jesus lives, and that Christianity is true. My faith is an intelligent Bible-based faith, not a blind faith. Let me encourage you to get off the fence. Consider the evidence. Stake a thoughtful faith claim. Invite Jesus to rescue you from sin and insecurity and let Him be real in your life.

The above paragraph was written by Daryl Witmer of Maine, who is a Christian apologist. When I read his newsletter I said to myself, “That’s exactly what I want to say!” so I asked him if I could reprint it. “No probem,” he said. In fact, he quotes other folks in his letter. He printed the quote below from Frank Turek, also a Christian apologist. (An Apologist is“a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial.”)


Jesus of Nazareth is arguably the most influencial human being to ever walk the earth. If you’re going to call yourself a pursuer of truth, you have to at least read what He allegedly said and did. He’s the center of human history, and you’re not going to look into Him?!


******

ANOTHER YEAR!

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” Jeremiah 8:20


The children of Israel were in captivity in Babylon. “...and we are not saved (rescued).” Charles Spurgeon spiritulized this verse to remind us and warn us to take stock of our lives and get our house in order. The end of the year is a great time to take inventory and make plans. Here is part of what he said about the above verse (Jer. 8:20): “Not saved! Dear reader, is this your mournful plight? Warned of the judgment to come, bidden to escape for your life, and yet at this moment not saved? You know the way of salvation, you read it in the Bible, you hear it from the pulpit, and yet you neglect it, and therefore you are not saved. You will be without excuse…”                           
Spurgeon goes on to plead with us to make sure that we have made things right with God. In the words of the old hymn that I learned from Johnny Cash: “The old account was settled long ago.”

There was a time on Earth when in the books of Heaven,                        Long ago, yes long ago…

That an Old Account was standin’ for sins yet unforgiven.                       I said the Old Account was settled long ago.

My name was at the top there was many things below.                             And my record’s clear today, he washed my sins away.

But, I went unto the keeper and I settled it long ago.                                 And the Old Account was settled long ago.

May your accounts be settled! MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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.