Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The National Day of Prayer

Thursday, May 1st is designated as the National Day of Prayer.

The concept was born in colonial America, when in 1775, the Continental Congress designated a "time of prayer in forming a new nation." The issue created an immediate controversy. Thomas Jefferson (always a champion of separation of church and state) objected, saying that religious groups could designate a day of prayer and meditation, but that it was not the place of the government to do so.

1952 was the year that President Harry S. Truman signed into a law a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer. Theoretically, the idea was to set aside a day when people of all faiths would come together for prayer. It was twenty years later, in 1972, when a National Prayer Committee was formed. Later that year, a group called the National Day of Prayer Task Force was formed to schedule events and activities for a National Day of Prayer. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law that set The National Day of Prayer to be observed on the first Thursday in May.

Today the National Day of Prayer has basically become a project mostly publicized and observed by evangelical Christians. The NFOP Task Force has national offices in Colorado Springs at the home of James Dobson's Focus on the Family. Dr. Dobson's wife, Shirley, serves as the Task Force's National Chairman. Volunteers around the country organize programs in many cities and towns, with special speakers, patriotic music, and public assemblies and marches. Many of the observations are held in the steps of Municipal Buildings and Court Houses in big cities and small towns alike.

While it is a good thing to call believers everywhere to prayer on this particular day, one day of focusing on prayer is not nearly enough. Prayer is to the soul as Oxygen is to the body. Believers must have contact with their Heavenly Father. Regular contact. He speaks to us through His Word and His Holy Spirit. We speak to Him through prayer. Prayer is not a position of the body. Prayer is a condition of the heart. Paul the Apostle reminds us to "Pray without ceasing". To always be in an attitude of prayer.

Prayer is not a magical formula to get the things we want from God. Prayer is not designed to get the Almighty to see things our way. Prayer helps us to see things from God's perspective. Prayer does not cause God to take our side. Prayer helps us align with His purposes. The old saying is that "Prayer changes things". Actually, prayer changes us!

We might pray publicly, with eloquent speech, and moving language. Or we might pray silently. One might go on his face before his God, or stand with arms outstretched and hands upturned expectantly. Perhaps you pour your heart out to God behind closed doors (as Jesus suggested). Sometimes we are so burdened and overwhelmed that we cannot verbalize the words. Perhaps we can't say anything at all - but the petitions can still go up to God with the aid of His Holy Spirit who "makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered".

The important thing is that we pray. Earnestly... Often... Persistently... Believing the promises of God. Pray specifically. Pray big! We have a big God. He knows what we need - before we do. He knows what we need - better than we. Yet he encourages us to bring our needs to Him in prayer. Since He has no need of our input, it would seem to me that God designed prayer for our benefit. Are you getting your benefit?

I have often described prayer by using a hand for a pattern. The little finger would represent "Confession". That is what clears the static from the line. Confession brings us into the presence of the Lord and confesses our need for His forgiveness.

The next finger would represent "Thanksgiving". An important component of prayer has us thanking God for his gifts and mercy on our behalf.

The next finger - "Praise", extends past all the others. Praise is somewhat akin to Thanksgiving, but the difference is that thanksgiving focuses on what God has done for us. Praise focuses on Who God Is!

The index finger would represent "Intercession", which allows us to bring the needs of others before the Throne of Grace. We should only bring our personal "Petitions" to the Lord after we have spent time in confession, thanksgiving, praise, and intercession. Our own problems and needs seem much smaller in consideration of the other "four fingers". The thumb of "Petition" helps us grip the needs as we hand them to a loving Father.

Growing one's prayer life should be an ongoing activity in the life of a believer. I want to be a student of prayer, a practitioner of prayer, and a believer in the power of prayer to change my life. The National Day of Prayer will be an important event tomorrow, but prayer is something we must practice on the other 364 days of the year as well.

Friday, April 25, 2008

May 2008 Philippine Mission Team

Pictured here is the team I will be leading to Dumaguete City, Oriental Negros, Republic of the Philippines, on a short term mission trip, May 19-31

Jay Adkins is Pastor of First Baptist Church of Westwego (New Orleans metro area) and he holds an M.Div. in Biblical Languages from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. This will be Jay's second short term mission to the Philippines. He has also done mission work in France. Jay has over ten years experience in the pastorate, leading churches in Kentucky and Louisiana. Jay is vice president of Beacon Ministries and serves on the Board of Directors of the Global Maritime Ministry in New Orleans. He was recently elected as chairman of the Administrative Committee of the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.
While being involved in all of the aspects of the trip, Jay will primarily be responsible for the two day Pastor and Church Leader Seminar, "Practical Helps for Effective Ministry". He will also be the main speaker on both nights of our outdoor crusade in the town of Sibulan.

Joseph Spurgeon is a member and Deacon at Westmoreland Baptist Church in Huntington, WV. This will be Joseph's second mission trip to the Philippines in two years. Joseph is multi talented. He had produced a number of outstanding video projects, and will have the duties of documenting this mission trip. He will be active in house to house evangelism, Bible distribution, and open air assemblies. On his last trip to Dumaguete, he worked hard to help paint the two church buildings we have helped build, and proved to be a great asset in ministering to young people and children. Joseph is the oldest son of Randy Spurgeon, who is the newly appointed Director of Church Music and Family Ministry of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists.

Robby Pearson is a native of South Carolina and serves as Associate Pastor at First Baptist Westwego. He will earn his M.Div. from NOBTS this year. Robby is a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the grandson of NASCAR patriarch, David Pearson, whose duels with Richard Petty are legendary. Robby also has several years of pastoral experience as a staff member and senior pastor in South Carolina churches. While taking part in the other ministries in Dumaguete, Robby will join Jay and I as a facilitator in the two day seminar, and will be a guest speaker one night in the outdoor crusade.

Bobby Wood is also a South Carolina native. Bobby serves as Education Pastor at FBC Westwego, through the "Unlimited Partnership" program that is sponsored by NOBTS, the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, and the Louisiana Baptist Convention, which pairs outstanding Christian Ed majors with local churches in the New Orleans area that were impacted by Hurricane Katrina. First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas is Bobby's sponsoring church in partnering with FBC Westwego. Bobby will be involved in witnessing, house to house evangelism, scripture distribution, construction projects, and other aspects of the mission trip agenda. This trip comes at a unique time for Bobby, as he was just married in early April! (I wonder how homesick this newlywed is going to be, halfway around the world from his new bride, Lindsay???)

Billy Cox is making his first overseas mission trip, and he is "rearin" to go. Billy is an active layman in the Brotherhood ministry at First Baptist Church of Westwego. An accomplished carpenter, Billy looks forward to doing some light construction and remodeling work at the New Life Church building in Dumaguete while the seminar is in session in town. He will also be involved in our other ministries and will help us with scripture distribution. Billy is a "Barnabus" type encourager and is not afraid to get his hands dirty working for the Lord.

Daniel Savage has been the Worship Pastor of First Baptist Church of Westwego since January, 2007. Daniel has served as Worship Pastor of Mission Lab on the NOBTS campus, and he worked last summer for LifeWay as worship leader of the M-Fuge project in Mobile, Alabama. This talented young man writes music and plays five instruments. Daniel will lead our worship music in the outdoor crusade and at the two day seminar. He will also be involved in every aspect of music ministry on this trip as well as other areas of our mission. While this will be his first trip to the Philippines, Daniel will be making another overseas mission trip later in the year. Danil is pursuing his Master's Degree at NOBTS, where he also works part time as a barista in the Cafe' New Orleans in the Hardin Student Center on campus.

These two young ladies will also be making their first trips to the Philippines. Janna Johnston (top) and Amanda Lindsey are room mates at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and will also be rooming together in Dumaguete.

Both of these young ladies are active members of FBC Westwego and serve in Music and Children's ministries there. in music ministry in the Philippines, and they will help with the worship duties in the seminar and at the crusade

Amanda and Janna will also be involved with personal evangelism, house to house witnessing, scripture distribution, and we hope they will have ample opportunity to minister to the children in the communities surrounding the New Life Church in Dumaguete and the Mayaposi Baptist Church in the remote mountainous region of Mabinay.

We are blessed with a versatile and diverse team. It is the second largest team, in number, that we have ever taken to the Philippines, and the youngest group by far (Billy and I being the notable exceptions!) This trip promises to be different from any of the other seven short term mission trips that I have taken there since February 2000.
I believe the Lord is planning something wonderful as he prepares our hearts to minister to those precious people in a place I have come to love. Will you join us in prayer that we will see much success for His Kingdom? Who knows what God will do through this effort? Join us in calling on Him.
'Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.' Jer 33:3 (NKJV)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Preaching to the Philippians

Finally, I have something in common with the Apostle Paul -

I have preached in Philippi!

Not Philippi, the Macedonian city of Acts chapter 16, (named for the father of Alexander the Great); but Philippi, the county seat of Barbour County in the hills of northeastern West Virginia. This is the Philippi of covered bridge fame - the one I first learned of in Mrs. Gertrude Stone's West Virginia History Class at Gallaher Elementary School in 1960.

Tuesday evening was the first time I have had the privilege to be in Philippi, and I was there at the invitation of Rev. James Smith, the Director of Missions of the Monongahela Baptist Association. The purpose was to speak at that Association's Spring Semi Annual Meeting, hosted by the Southern Baptist Church of Philippi. This is a group of 23 Southern Baptist Churches scattered over 11 counties (Barbour, Lewis, Mineral, Preston, Taylor, Webster, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Randolph, and Upshur). Darrell Clark was also invited to come and offer special music in the service, and I was happy, not only to have company on the 3 1/2 hour drive up and 3 1/2 back, but also to have Darrell actually do the driving. (I tend to sleep much more peacefully when I am not behind the wheel!)
Besides the spring time beauty of that portion of "Almost Heaven" we found the people there to be most gracious and welcoming to two Marshall fans deep in the heart of WVU territory! We arrived in time to enjoy the pre-service spaghetti and meatball feast prepared by the ladies of the Philippi Church. It gave us opportunity to meet and visit with many of the messengers from the churches in the association. I met Rev. Don Ford, who tells me that, at 78, he is the oldest active Southern Baptist Pastor in West Virginia. There were a great number of couples and individuals who had come to do the business of their association, and to have a time of worship and fellowship with their fellow Baptists.
James Smith had issued me the invitation to speak a couple of months ago. He told me that the theme of the Semi Annual Meeting would be "Seize the Moment" and he asked me specifically to share my own testimony of my three and one half year battle with "incurable" cancer, and my love for missions. Jim and wife, Jerilyn, have been serving in northeast West Virginia for the past seven years. They came to the Mountain State after serving in a similar position as Associational Missionary in Macon, GA. Previous to their work in Georgia, they had spent 12 years as full time Southern Baptist Missionaries in Ecuador. My eight short term mission trips to the Philippines are NOTHING in comparison to the dedication of over 5,000 vocational Southern Baptist Missionaries (like the Smiths) who are presently serving Christ, all around the globe.
The Monongahela Association obviously believes in missions. There were reports that spoke of four new church plants in that association. Many of the churches participate in Franklin Graham's "Operation Christmas Child" shoebox Christmas gifts. We also saw evidence of the association's ongoing mission partnership with Russia, as materials were being collected to send to a Russian Orphanage Mission in the next couple of months. This is a group of churches that seem to be practicing what Jesus taught in Acts 1:8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (NKJV)".
There was great congregational music and special presentations by the host church's choir. Darrell sang, "The Anchor Holds" just before my message, and "I'd Rather Have Jesus" at the close of the service. He did an excellent job. My message was entitled "Carpe Diem" (Seize the Day) and the scripture text was taken from John 9:4 where Jesus is quoted as saying, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work."
(NKJV) . The gist of the message was, that like Jesus, we each have Important Obligations, ( "I must work the works of Him who sent Me...") ; Fleeting Opportunities, ( "...while it is day..." )
and a Crucial Outlook, ( "...the night is coming when no one can work." )
I was honored to have the opportunity to share with the good people of the Monongahela Baptist Association. My hope is that my message and testimony was half as much an encouragement to them as their example was to me. If you would like to learn more about the work of the various associations of churches that make up the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, just click on this link -

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Benji

Our younger son, Benjamin Scott Adkins turns 32 on Monday, April 21st. He has been a joy to us. Not perfect, of course, but he's been a good son. We are thankful Benji has married a wonderful Christian girl, Leigh Anne, and they have blessed us with two precious grandsons, Will and Asher. Ben is a teacher and coach, and is active in his home church, Rose Hill Baptist Church in Ashland, KY.

Today, on Ben's birthday, I thought I would share a verse with you that I wrote about him thirty years ago!
Little Benji's quite a guy
With curly hair and spirits high;
A bouncy step - variety!
The spice of life for Mom and me.
He's so much like his brother, Jay,
Yet different in a special way.
Those twinkling eyes just seem to tell,
He'll win your heart and do it well!
I guess sometimes it's hard to be
Just two years old - not quite three.
But Benji does his best, you know
To win the spotlight - steal the show.
Each night he meets me at the door,
Same question as the night before;
(Almost as I park the car)
"Daddy bring me candy bar?"
In quiet times I talk to God
And tell Him that I find it odd;
That He's blessed me, 'spite all my sin,
With number two son, Little Ben.
- C.J. Adkins
August, 1978

Saturday, April 19, 2008

On Family and Food in The Big Easy

It was nice to spend a little bit of time with our New Orleans family, but it is also great to be back home.

As you can see from the photo at left, Jay and family are alive and well and Linda sure was glad to be with the little guys she hasn't seen since last June. The photo was made on Monday evening (the day we arrived). Jay and Canon (the three year old) had come to meet us at the Seminary's Providence Guest House and had spent part of the afternoon with us there. When Michelle and Quint got out of school they met us at the Texas Roadhouse for dinner. Turns out that would be the only time we would see Michelle and Quint until Thursday after school. Jay had to attend a city council meeting on church business Monday evening but the rest of us enjoyed a meal at Texas Roadhouse and just spending some time together.

I know what you may be thinking. Texas Roadhouse? With all the great places to eat in the Big Easy, why would we go to Texas Roadhouse? The answer is simple. That's Canon's favorite place to eat! We had time to visit some of the other places as well, but that evening was for the kids...

As part of my board of trustee meeting, there is lunch with the Seminary family on Tuesday; a seafood buffet for trustees, faculty and spouses on Tuesday evening; another lunch in Wednesday with students, faculty, and staff, and a "country buffet" on Wednesday evening with the Trustees, Seminary administrators and their spouses in the smaller Creole Room off the cafeteria. One benefit to being a Seminary Trustee, is that one certainly eats well! After a week in New Orleans I'll need to get back in the gym every day for a couple of weeks to try to lose some of the pounds I know I've gained.

New Orleans is famous for a number of things and food is way up there on the list. We had lunch at the Camillia Grille in the Uptown section of the Big Easy. The Po Boy was delicious and the server (a guy named Marvin) was hilarious. He was as entertaining as the food was delicious. Thursday evening we dinned with Jay's family at Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro on St. Charles. It is Linda's favorite. We have been there several times in the past but this was our first visit there since Katrina. The place didn't reopen until this past January, but it is back, and the locals and tourists alike are pleased! The atmosphere is tops, and one can sit in the window booths and view Emeril's Delmonico's down the street, and watch the green Trolley Cars going up and down the St. Charles line.

There are so many great places to eat in New Orleans, that I'll never run out of new treats. I could never afford to eat at some of the places there, but there are so many great restaurants to choose from, there is no danger of ever running out of options. The Cajun and creole food is in abundance and I have learned to love it. Red Beans and Rice is a local favorite, as well as Gumbo, Shrimp, Catfish, Jambalaya, and Crawfish (prepared any number of ways). Oyster Bars abound, and the seafood in New Orleans is the best anywhere. The blackened redfish will make your mouth water.

My personal favorite places to dine are "Mother's" in the central business district, "Cafe Mespero" in the Quarter, and "Snug Harbor", on Frenchman Street in the Faubourg Marigny District. For Po Boys, "Sammie's" and "LaFitte Cafe" (both on Elysian Fields out near Lake Pontchartrain) are hard to beat. Visitors love the Beingnets and Coffee at "Cafe DuMonde". If I lived in New Orleans, I would weigh 400 pounds (or go broke trying).

The best hamburger I have ever tasted is at a place called Port of Call on the corner of Esplanade and Dauphine Street. They serve a cheeseburger and baked potato to die for. I love to have lunch there, but it is not always an easy task. We tried to eat lunch there Thursday, but to no avail. They open at 11:00 AM (sort of). We were there after 11:00 and there were several employees inside milling around but the doors were locked. We asked one of the employees who stepped out on the street when they were going to open up. "I'm not sure" he said. "We're having some issues." Jay tells me that is not unusual for that place. He laughs about a time when he and Robby Gallaty went by for lunch about noon and found the doors locked. A guy with a Port of Call T-shirt was standing by the door, smoking a cigarette.

"Are you open?" Jay asked.

"Not yet" the fellow replied.

"When will it be open?"

"Not sure", the guy shrugged.

"Why not?", Jay asked with some exasperation.

"They had a party in there last night, and we haven't got the place hosed out yet.", he explained.

That's life in the Big Easy!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Odds 'N Ends

The NOBTS Board of Trustees meeting finished up with dinner and dessert about 7:30 Wednesday evening. On the academic side, three professors were elected and tenure was granted to four others. We approved several new Certificate Programs and a new Women's Studies Track at the graduate level. This is a beefed up graduate level program to continue the outstanding Women's Ministries program in the undergraduate side. Several new extension centers were approved in Florida and Alabama to join the others that already exist in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

NOBTS is seeking innovative ways to bring Seminary Education to anyone in the United States or around the world. The delivery system now includes:

  • Traditional on campus degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels
  • Off Campus programs through our hubs and extension centers

  • Internet classes (for anyone, anywhere with access to a computer)

The high level of Internet courses that are now offered, came, primarily as a result of Hurricane Katrina. As you know, Katrina hit on August 29, 2005, only one week into the fall semester. The school was devastated and the main campus was shut down for a full year. The administration opened temporary offices in Atlanta. Faculty were spread over six states as they evacuated the campus, and students fled to 23 states. Yet, under the leadership of President Dr. Chuck Kelley and Provost, Dr. Steve Lemke, within just a couple of weeks, EVERY class that had been offered that semester (including Biblical languages) had been posted online, and every NOBTS student was able to continue his or her course of study as long as they could get access to a computer. This was an absolutely monumental task, and one that was not duplicated by any other institution of higher learning in the entire Katrina "strike zone". Graduation was held, on schedule, that December in Birmingham, Alabama. Again, the only college or university affected by Katrina to finish out that fall semester.

The Faculty of NOBTS pulled this off in spite of the fact that everyone of them were literally rendered homeless by the storm. I'm telling all my Southern Baptist friends, that you can be proud of this dedicated group of men and women. One just can't say enough about the dedication of the faculty and staff of this institution! We trustees have ample opportunity to interact with them while we are here, through lunches with them and the students in the Campus Cafeteria. The Tuesday activities always conclude with a large dinner for Trustees with faculty members and their spouses, and there is plenty of time to interact with them and the students all around the campus. This institution is committed to training men and women to fulfill the Great Commission and make an eternal impact on this world for the cause of Christ. Our next generation of church leaders, pastors, missionaries, and Christian educators are being trained here. I wish everyone had the opportunity to see the love, dedication, and vision for World Evangelism that is prevalent at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Besides the academic matters, Trustees also had t (o approve several recommendations involving financial matters and a host of Building and Grounds issues. As mentioned in my previous post, restoration work is pretty much complete, but there is still a severe shortage of housing for students. This is the number one priority right now. Please pray that we will be able to raise the $7,000,000 needed to build the first of the desperately needed three two bedroom apartment buildings.

This is the first Trustee meeting, Linda has been able to attend with me. Spouses are always welcome to come to the meetings (at our own expense) and several spouses are usually in attendance. On Wednesday, Dr. Rhonda Kelley, who is the wife of Seminary President Chuck Kelley, usually has an activity planned for the wives who are present. Yesterday morning they had prayer and coffee time in the President's home from 9:00 till 10:30 and then went for a "cooking class" at the famous William Sonoma's on Canal Street. Then they were taken for a "taste of New Orleans" at a restaurant on the top of the World Trade Center overlooking the city. They had a great view of the surrounding area, including the Mississippi river which is at flood stage and very near the tops of the levees! The wives who went had a great time of fellowship, and got a really good meal in the process...

Last night, when the Trustee meeting ended, I had the opportunity to have ANOTHER meeting. This one was with the New Orleans area's young men and women who will accompany me and Joseph Spurgeon on our upcoming short term mission trip to the Philippines. This was our last opportunity to get together to answer questions and tie up loose ends before we depart in one month. The group who will be joining us in LA on the evening of May 19th includes, our son, Jay, and several of his seminary friends and church members. Billy Cox is the senior man of the group. Billy is in his 60's and is rearin' to go on his first overseas mission trip. Janna Johnston and Amanda Lindsey are seminary students and members of Jay's church in Westwego. Janna and Amanda will help us in worship time and will work in children's ministry while in the Philippines. Robby Pearson is the third preacher in the group, and he will obviously help us in the seminar and crusade and at other preaching opportunities. Daniel Savage is worship leader at Jay's church and Bobby Wood is his Christian Education minister. Both of these young men will be an asset to our team.

Today is my "vacation" day before we head home on Friday. Jay and Canon will be coming over about 9:00 this morning and we will make a visit to the French Market to pick up a few things Linda wants, and we'll take the usual walk through the French Quarter and probably have some bingnets at Cafe' DuMonde. (how can anyone go to the Quarter and not get a bingnet?)

Then at 1:30 this afternoon, Jay and Robby, Vernon Henson, and I have a tee time for my first round of golf since July 4th last year! Linda will be taking care of Canon until Michelle and Quint get out of school. The whole family should be able to get together for one last dinner tonight. There is a crawfish boil on campus tonight, and I would like to go, but I don't think you could drag Linda there with a team of wild horses.

I am certainly looking forward to getting back home. It's nice to get away every now and then, but I do have responsibilities that God has given me at Westmoreland. This week has been a time of work but also a time of refreshing that I believe will help me perform those duties with more energy than before. I also want to thank Rick Weber for filling in at the Wednesday evening service for me, and to thank Charley Dygert and Darrell Clark for taking care of some hospital visits I would have done if in town. Thanks guys!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Economic Impact of Hurricane Katrina on NOBTS

Today was the first full day of the semi annual meeting of the New Orleans Baptist Seminary Board of Trustees. The various committees (Investments, Buildings and Grounds, and Instructional) had their individual committee meetings, discussing recommendations we will make to the full Board of Trustees tomorrow. One of the things seminary President, Dr. Chuck Kelley did with each particular committee, was to share the "Executive Summary of The Economic Impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary".

This report was created by Dr. Kelley to present to the SBC Executive Committee this past February. I will not try to recreate the full report here, but I think my readers would be interested in hearing some of the basic information. The photo at left shows the main gate of the Seminary campus on Gentilly Boulevard. The flood waters were about four feet deep at the front corner of the Seminary after Katrina's storm surge hit on August 29, 2005. The campus slopes gently downward toward Lake Ponchartrain, and as a result, the back side of the campus was under 15 feet of water. Officials opened up the campus for one week in October, so faculty, staff and students could salvage whatever they could, then the campus was closed for a complete renovation until August of 2006. Here are the basics of the final report on Katrina:

Total recovery cost from Hurricane Katrina on the NOBTS campus is $75,000,000.

Insurance reimbursement totalled $33,483.

Gifts from Southern Baptists were $12,300,000. ($6,000,000 of that amount came in an emergency gift from the Cooperative Program)

The state of Louisiana donated $1,951,000 toward faculty salaries.

The Bush/Clinton Fund (that you saw advertised so many times on television) gave exactly $0.

(FYI, according to Dr. Kelley, NOBTS was the only institution of higher learning in the Katrina "strike zone" that did not receive a dollar from the fund set up and publicized by the two ex-presidents)

The "Total Cost of Recovery" includes:

  • Physical restoration of the campus

  • Relief and assistance provided to the students, faculty and staff

  • Operating the Seminary without the main campus for a year

  • Loss of normal income streams, some of which are not back yet.

Obviously the disaster impacted the NOBTS annual budget, but the administration must be praised for doing all that was possible to keep the "per student costs" at one of the lowest levels of all the Seminaries in the United States.

Nationally, the average cost per student in Seminaries is $35,000.

Among SBC Seminaries the average cost per student is $14,000 (this difference is primarily due to the generosity of local Southern Baptist Churches in their gifts to the SBC Cooperative Program.)

The really amazing figure is the the "Pre Katrina" cost per student at NOBTS was $7,000! Even after the devastating losses due to the Hurricane, NOBTS still boasts the lowest cost per student at $9,000. We Southern Baptists can be thankful for what God has done for our theological students.

Dr. Kelley says that the greatest challenge the Seminary faces today is to replace the 92 two bedroom apartments that were destroyed and demolished after Katrina. There are now more students than there is housing. The Building and Grounds Committee has proposed three new buildings to replace those lost housing units, but it will be a long time before those kind of funds can be raised. Plans are underway now to try to build the first of those three, two bedroom apartment buildings, but the cost will be in the neighborhood of $7,000,000. We are praying that God will provide that amount through His people across the SBC. If you would like to help, gifts may be sent to the Office of Development, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 3939 Gentilly Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70216.

There are many, many other needs, that we do not have time or space to mention here. I would be happy to provide you with the full written report if you would like a copy. It is truly an eye opener. Just contact me at if you would like a copy, or if you would like more information. It is wonderful to see what God has done through His people to bring this great Seminary back from the brink of destruction.

As Joe McKeever, the local Director of Missions, says, "When you pray for New Orleans, pray big!"

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hello from New Orleans

Linda and I rolled into New Orleans about 12:30 this afternoon, 15 hours after leaving Ashland Sunday night. We were blessed with a safe journey - no problems along the way, light traffic most of the trip, and decent weather after we got past Jellico Mountain in Tennessee. We shared driving duties overnight. One slept while the other drove, and we switched off several times. We thank God for watching over us, and keeping the driver awake. I would much rather travel overnight (not wasting daylight hours driving) as long as there is someone along to share driving duties. We have both noticed, however, that it is not nearly as easy as it was years ago.
The fifteen hours in the car reminded me of the fact that in just about a month, I will be leading a group of 9 on another short term mission trip to the Philippines. The amount of time we will be on one flight (from Los Angeles to Hong Kong) is equal to the time we spent traveling from Ashland to New Orleans. That is a LONG time to be crammed into an economy class seat. There is a tad more leg room in the car, and the seat will recline much further than the 6 inches or so it does on the 747. On the other hand, one can get up and walk around the airplane, stretching your legs, while the journey continues at several hundred miles per hour!
New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast are well on the way back from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina two and a half years ago. The whole area is a beehive of activity and construction. Yes, there are areas that are still in ruins and there are entire neighborhoods and towns that exist no longer. However, The Crescent City is coming back. Not bad for an area that was 80% inundated by the toxic floodwaters in the horrible aftermath of the hurricane. I sense a spirit of optimism in the city in general. This evening I stopped in a Winn Dixie store here in the Gentilly section of town. I was one of only three white faces in the bustling supermarket in a part of the city that was particularly hard by the disaster. In talking with some folks in the long check out line, I noted the determination they had to get past the trouble of the past and on with their lives. The residents I spoke with, each expressed somewhat optimistic feelings about the future. That's quite different than attitudes I have seen here on past "post Katrina" visits.
We were able to spend a couple of hours with our son, Jay, this afternoon. Even though he had an important meeting this evening, we still had dinner with Michelle, Quint and Canon - a very enjoyable experience for Mamaw and me! Jay is coming over tomorrow with Canon (the three year old) and they and Linda will be able to spend a good bit of time together while I am in my first day of Trustee Meetings.
The weather is clear and cool here. Unusually cool for this time of year in New Orleans (there goes that darned global warming again!) In fact, the forecast I just heard over the television said that the low tomorrow morning should be a record low temperature for New Orleans for this date. In fact, I saw seminary president, Dr. Chuck Kelley and Board Chairman, Rudy Gray in the lobby tonight, and Dr. Kelley said, "Looks like you brought that West Virginia weather down here with you, C.J.". All I could do was agree, as it is very similar weather to what we experienced when he was with us in Huntington on April 2 & 3.
Trustee Committee meetings begin tomorrow, and the Board meetings and dinners will continue through Wednesday evening. I serve on the Instruction Committee, and we have a full agenda for tomorrow's meeting, with a number of recommendations we must consider to forward to the full Board for consideration in the plenary session on Wednesday.
Wednesday night, after the dinner, Linda and I will be headed to First Baptist Church of Westwego, where I will be meeting with the New Orleans portion of our Philippine mission team. This will be a final get together, to answer questions and tie up loose ends before our trip in May. Thursday is a day off and we look forward to spending more time with Jay and Canon. Unfortunately this is testing week in the schools here, and Michelle and Quint will not be able to get with us until after school on Thursday. We should all be able to have dinner together on Thursday evening, then, plans call for us to head back home on Friday afternoon.
Not exactly a "vacation" but a nice way to at least mix business with a little pleasure.
I'll try to post more tomorrow. Thank you for continuing to remember us when you pray.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Familiar Faces in New Places

How do you replace a guy like Randy Spurgeon?
The simple answer is - you don't!
Randy "wore a number of hats" at Westmoreland Baptist Church, and his moving to Scott Depot to become Director of Music and Family Ministries for the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists is a real blow to our church. His departure creates a definite sense of loss for the congregation of Westmoreland Baptist, where he has served faithfully for ten years.

Randy's departure creates a number of challenges, but nothing that our God did not foresee, and prepare us for. While there is only one Randy, and we will miss him, it is comforting to know that our God is "Jehovah-Jireh", The Lord Who Provides! He has graciously provided two of our own members to step forward in our time of need to take on (in an interim role) two of the major duties Randy had performed as well as one other. They will be bivocational staff members, (I highly prefer the term "bivocational" to that of "part time") and Sonia and I look forward to working with them here at WBC.

Pictured on this page are Rick Weber, who will serve as our Interim Director of Student Ministries and Church Outreach; and Carla Bell who is taking on the duties of Interim Director of Music at Westmoreland Baptist. Both Carla and Rick come highly recommended by Randy, himself, and are very qualified to step into these positions. As Pastor, I cannot express how thankful I am that the church has voted to call these two individuals into these important roles of service at this time of transition.

Carla, whose full time job is at Huntington Federal Savings and Loan, brings many years of musical experience to the table. She is actively involved in our music ministry at Westmoreland, singing solos, and in various vocal ensembles, and in our Adult Choir. In fact, in Randy's past absences, Carla has led the choir in practice sessions and she is well respected and accepted by our choir members. Carla's family is also active at Westmoreland. Her husband, Scott, teaches an adult Sunday School class and serves as a deacon. Daughter, Mindi, is active in music ministry and serves on the team which decorates the sanctuary with flowers, etc. Younger daughter, Katie, teaches a children's Sunday School class and also plays guitar and sings from time to time in our services. Scott and Carla's son, Zach, is a student at Spring Valley High School and has already begun to sing in the choir and do part time duty in the sound booth. The Bell Family is an asset to Westmoreland Baptist Church, and we are blessed to have them.

Rick Weber brings years of ministry experience as he takes on these two important duties of Director of Student Ministry and Church Outreach. One of these duties was Randy's and the other is a newly created role. Rick is highly qualified and gifted for both. Rick's ministry experience ranges from the role of Senior Pastor (he has most recently served Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Wayne County), to full time positions in Christian Education and Youth Ministries. Rick basically grew up in Westmoreland Baptist Church, and, for one two year period in the 90's, even served as Interim Pastor here. As Outreach Director, Rick will oversee our G.R.O.W. outreach ministry which has faded a bit in the past year or so; and other outreach endeavors, such as the Men's Outdoor Ministry. One of Rick's great strengths is personal evangelism. He loves telling people about Jesus. This passion for Christ fuels Rick's ministry to the Middle School and High School Students of our community.

In his role as Director of Student Ministries, Rick will help cast the vision of reaching many unchurched young people for Jesus Christ, while seeking to disciple those who are already actively involved in our youth group. Since he is in a bivocational role, he will continue to depend heavily upon the help of our existing volunteers, like Jim and Kathy Bailey, Tara Lockhart, Angie Morris, and others, to accomplish these goals. He plans to attend Centrifuge with the kids at Ridgecrest this summer and get to know them and the volunteers better as they begin to plan for the Student Ministry activities beginning this fall. Rick understands the value of the Team Concept. He has long been an assistant football coach in Wayne County Schools, and is now serving as Chaplain of the Spring Valley High School football team. Rick's full time job is as a teacher at Spring Valley, where he works with teenagers every day. He knows students and is familiar with the challenges and issues they face in life. His affable personality and sense of humor easily wins the confidence of young people and adults alike. I believe Rick will be a huge asset to us in leading this important ministry.

Rick's wife, Connie, will be graduating from Marshall University next month and should be teaching in one of our local school system in the fall. We recently welcomed Rick, Connie, Steve and Trish back into our fellowship, and we believe they will be a blessing to our church family. Their adult daughter, Leeah, is actively involved in outside music ministry and she remains a member at Ebeneezer Baptist.

Well, there you have the basic introductions. Carla and Rick will assume their official duties on April 21st. Both are qualified and gifted for the positions which they have agreed to accept. Their most important attribute, however, is their love for Jesus. Please join me in welcoming Carla and Rick into their new bivocational staff roles - but most of all, please join me in asking God to bless them and use them for His glory and honor!

Let us never forget our three fold focus here at Westmoreland.
Magnify God... Make Disciples... Minister to People.
"The love of Christ compells us..." - 2 Corinthians 5: 14

Friday, April 11, 2008

It's A Grand Old Game

My 7 year old grandson, Will, got his first hit last night.

Will is playing his first season of organized baseball in the Boyd County National Little League's "Minor League" divison. This division is composed of 7, 8, and 9 year olds, a number of whom, like Will, are "rookies". He has played catch with me in the back yard since he was four years old, and has loved to hit the ball since the age of three. He has shown a natural aptitude for hitting the baseball - from both sides of the plate! His swing is a coach's delight and it helped him get picked up by the Diamondbacks in the first round of the league draft last month. I got to see his first pre season scrimmage game on Tuesday, and the D-Backs took their lumps at the hands of what appeared to be a more experienced team. Will played third base and short stop in the scrimmage. Will went 0 for 2 at the plate in his first scrimmage and had nothing hit in his direction.

I didn't get to attend last night's second scrimmage game, as I was at the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists Evangelism Conference in Cross Lanes, WV. When I called my son, Ben, to check on the results of the practice, he told me that Will had recorded his first hit. He made it safely to second base on the next play, but was eventually tagged out at third base during a rather unspectacular exhibit of inexperienced baserunning. He was happy to get his first hit, but frustrated anew at no opportunities in the field. Seven year olds get a little frustrated with standing around in the field, waiting. "Will they ever hit a ball to me?" he asked his father after the game. "Yes" Benji told him, "And you will need to be ready to know what to do when that happens."

Will has quite a bit of natural athletic ability. Now that's not just a proud grandfather talking, but it is an opinion that can be backed up with fact. He has played other organized sports, including one season of basketball, and two each of soccer and flag football. In football and soccer he has dominated nearly every game in which he has participated. He has been blessed with good speed, excellent coordination, and an instinct to make all the right moves. In football last fall, when he quarterbacked the Bengals, Will ran for 41 touchdowns, and threw for two. He dominated his age group in soccer, and in basketball, he scored 18 points in the first game he ever played. It just comes natural for him, and he loves sports, but Baseball has proved to be a wake up call for Will. It's pace is much slower than the other sports he has played, and their are long periods of inactivity - especially at this level of competetion. Plus, baseball is just a different type of game.

Baseball is played in a pastoral setting and each baseball park is different from the next. The layout and dimensions of the infield are the same on every field, but that is where the similarities end. Each ballpark has different dimensions to the outfield fence. Some are symetrical, some are not. Some fields have large areas in foul territory between the baselines and the fences, some do not. On some diamonds, the backstop is not far behind home plate. In others, there is a large area between the plate and the backstop, which can be crucial in the event of a wild pitch or passed ball when runners are on base. The outfield fences vary in height from one ball field to another. By contrast, each football field is identical. Gym sizes vary, but each basketball court is the same. Soccer fields are uniform as well. But baseball is different.

Most other team sports are played with a time clock, or played till one team reaches a certain score. Baseball is different. In baseball, the defense has possession of the ball. The game is not broken into two halves or four periods. The game consists of a certain number of innings, and should the score be tied at the end of the 9th inning, extra innings are played. Again, no time clock, so a baseball game can go on, and on, and on. (the longest I have ever witnessed was 21 innings!) With no shot clock, ten second rule, or delay of game penalties, the pace of baseball is much slower than that of football or basketball.

In other sports, the ball or the puck is hit or thrown or kicked into a goal of some type in order to score. In baseball, the scoring is done by simply putting the ball into play, and advancing base runners around the diamond until they cross home plate. However, putting the ball into play is no easy task. The pitcher stands only 60 feet and 6 inches away from the batter, offering up pitches that range from a blazing fastball to breaking pitches like the knuckleball which moves like a butterfly. The batter has one responsibility, and that is one which (I think) is the most physiologically difficult task in all of sports. That is to strike a sphere, with a cylinder, and to hit it (in "coachspeak") squarely. Now think about that one for a minute.

Many folks find baseball down right boring. I think it is the greatest game of all. In fact, it's a lot like life in a number of ways. It is a game that cannot be learned overnight or mastered in a short period of time. The strategies and nuances of baseball must be picked up through practice and game experience. It may seem that the fielders have nothing to do, but in fact, the experienced baseball player is "into the game" whether the ball is ever hit to him or not. He must know the game situation at all times. How many men are out? Are there any base runners? Where should I position myself on this particular hitter? Might he pull the ball or is he likely to hit to the opposite field. Should I play him deep or shallow? If the ball is hit to me, where must I make the throw? If it is hit somewhere else, what do I do? Do I need to cover my base? Do I need to back up another fielder? Do I need to cut the ball off when thrown in from the outfield? Must I tag the runner or is there a force out somewhere? It goes on and on. A fielder must know each situation through the times of seeming inactivity, and yet be ready to explode into action the moment the ball is put into play.

The hitter faces a number of questions as well. Each pitcher is different. The hitter will adjust to the righthander differently than he will the southpaw. How many men are on base? How many outs? Do I stand deep in the box to get that extra split second look at the pitch, or do I move up to help negate the effectiveness of the breaking ball? What kind of "stuff" does this pitcher have, which pitch will he throw? What are the clues? Do I take the big swing or choke up on the bat and just seek to make contact? Is the pitch in the strike zone or not? There is only a millisecond to make the decision to take the pitch or swing away. When I hit the ball do I look to take the extra base?

In base running, do I take a large lead off or a shorter one? What kind of move to first base does this pitcher have? Am I liable to be picked off, or can I get the jump to steal second? If the ball is hit fairly, what do I do? Must I tag up on the fly ball, or take off running as hard as I can? The questions go on and on.

Baseball is a lot like life itself. There are important decisions to be made. Some of what happens falls upon your shoulders. At other times, the actions of others affect your circumstances. There are things you can do to affect the outcome, yet often times the circumstances are beyond your control. You learn to expect the unexpected, and to be ready for whatever comes your way, make adjustments, and deal with the outcome. Sometimes the ball takes a bad bounce. You just have to understand, it happens. Sometimes you make an error. Once committed it cannot be undone. All you can do is seek to overcome and to learn from your mistake.

You learn that to win, you must learn how to play well with others. Individual effort is important, but the sum total of team effort is what matters. It is not the fastest or the strongest player that always wins, but it is the team that adjusts, gives its best efforts, and perseveres that generally comes out on top. No one is indespensible. Expect to sit the bench some, and don't get upset when you have to come out for a sub. It's a team sport. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes the game gets rained out. There is no time clock to let you know how long you have to play. Enjoy the moment. Play the game well.

I hope Will learns how to love the game of baseball as much as I do. It's an acquired taste that some folks never develop. But most of all, I hope he learns that, if he lets it, baseball will teach him a lot about life itself.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A New Step Of Ministry For Two Dear Friends

Pictured at left are Randy and Debbie Spurgeon. For nearly ten years, Randy has served as Minister of Music and Youth at Westmoreland Baptist Church in Huntington, WV. Randy has assisted me in many of my pastoral duties. He has been a great associate and above that, a friend and brother. I have worked closely with Randy for over five years, and literally traveled halfway around the world with he and Debbie on a short term mission trip to the Philippines a few years ago.

Debbie has faithfully served our church, by singing in the choir, caring for bed babies during the Sunday School hour, and working with the Sparks in our AWANA ministry. They have become very special friends to Linda and me, and are loved by the congregation of Westmoreland Baptist Church. Their three sons are also active at Westmoreland. Joseph is serving in his first year as a deacon, David sings in the choir and works in AWANA, and Joshua is our church pianist. As you can see, this family is an important part of our congregation, and therefore it is with mixed emotions that we must wish Randy and Debbie a fond farewell.

On Saturday, April 5th, Randy was elected by the Executive Board of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists to serve the convention as the State Director of Music and Family Ministry. He will be taking on the responsibilities of Tom Young, who retired from that position late last year. Beginning Monday, April 21st, Randy will begin his duties as a State Convention Officer. He will be submitting his resignation to the church this morning at the close of our worship service. It promises to be a very emotional time for all of us.

Randy's last official day as a member of our staff will be Sunday, April 20. However, our State Convention Executive Director, Terry Harper, has told Randy he would be allowed to finish out his obligations at Westmoreland. That means he will still be with us on Wednesday evenings and Sunday evenings through May 18th when he will conduct the Children's Musical and preside over the AWANA Awards night. Even though Randy's new duties with the State Convention will require him to travel about the state on Convention business, he and Debbie will remain members at Westmoreland, and will worship with us when he is not travelling. His family will continue to minister here as well.

All of us at Westmoreland Baptist Church will miss Randy. While we are thrilled for him to have this new opportunity, we realize this closes another chapter in the history of our church and begins a new one. This will be a difficult time of adjustment for us as well as for Randy and Debbie. I know that you will join me in wishing him much success and fulfillment in his new role of ministry. We need to be much in prayer as our church enters this new chapter of our work, and seeks the right person or persons to pick up all of the responsibilities that Randy has handled for us so well.

May God bless Randy and Debbie, and Westmoreland Baptist Church. We're not "losing" them, we'll just be sharing them with the Southern Baptists all around the Mountain State.

Baby Steps

On April 2nd and 3rd, baby steps were taken toward more cooperative ministry between Southern Baptist Churches during the "Building Bridges" conference hosted by our Greater Huntington Baptist Association. Our goals were to build bridges of cooperation between the local churches in our GHBA and between the three Baptist Associations in the Tri State Area of West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. Ultimately our goal is, through cooperative ministry, to build bridges to the large numbers of lost and unchurched people within the shadow of our steeples - bringing them to a relationship with God, through His son, Jesus.

At Thursday's pastor's lunch hosted by Westmoreland Baptist Church, we were blessed to have thirty nine people present. This number included pastors and staff members from Baptist Churches in three states (2 churches from Ohio, 7 from Kentucky, and 11 from West Virginia were represented). A good number of other Kentucky pastors had planned to attend, but ministry constraints forced them to have to send their regrets. Besides representatives from the three "target" associations, we were pleased to have associational missionaries present from West Virginia's Monongahela and Coal Fields Associations as well. A delicious lunch was prepared and served by precious members of the host church. Fellowship around the tables was great. I was pleased to note that the guests didn't necessarily "bunch up" in their own state groups. There was a good mix at most every table. It was a time to make new friends and to renew many old acquaintances. Darrell Clark blessed us with singing "It Is Well With My Soul", and Eddie Henson (true to form) brought several boxes of books to share with the pastors present. Eddie is a blessing.

Dr. Chuck Kelley, our conference speaker was gracious to grant us a long session of Questions and Answers after our meal. As President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Kelley was able to share much information and insight into the current state of Southern Baptist life. Questions ranged from queries about the Seminary and it's recovery from Hurricane Katrina, the state of New Orleans in general, current issues in our convention (Calvinism and bringing young leaders to the table in SBC life) etc. In every case, and on every question, Dr. Kelley gave reasoned and thoughful answers, and always brought the focus back to our primary objective - bringing Christ to a lost world. It is very rare for most local church pastors to have quality personal time with one of the heads of a Southern Baptist entity. Dr. Kelley's insights were truly helpful and appreciated by all who came. He closed out the session with a scripture lesson that blessed and challenged everyone present.

The Wednesday night worship celebration at Highlawn Baptist Church drew over 250 people who were treated to some excellent soloists in the pre service music time. Then during the worship time, we were blessed by a combined choir comprised of over sixty people from ten churches. Matt McKenzie of Highlawn directed the choir and Randy Spurgeon of Westmoreland Baptist Church lead the congregation in joining our voices in praise to God. Dr. Kelley preached a powerful sermon with an unusual title ('God Prepared A Worm") from an unusual text (Jonah 4:7). Heaven came down on Wednesday evening in east Huntington.

The Thursday evening service, hosted by First Baptist Church of Ceredo, WV was equally powerful! The combined choir and special music was inspirational, and the sanctuary was nearly full of folks who had come to worship. Dr. Kelley's message, reminding us that we can do so much more together than we can alone, was absolutely anointed by God. This was evidenced by the great response during the invitation portion of the service. The sweet Spirit of God was also evident after the service closed. Many people were slow to leave the building, visiting with brothers and sisters in Christ. Tears, smiles, and hugs were in abundance on Thursday evening.

Other than the anointed singing and preaching, two things impressed me the most about the two evening services. The first was the excellent representation from many of our local churches. This was one of our goals - bringing churches together for worship and fellowship. The other was the fact that over the two services EVERY department head from our West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists State Office was present - many of them were there both nights! What a blessing it was to have their support in this effort. I want them to know how much it is appreciated.

The Building Bridges Conference is a great kickoff, I think, for the West Virginia Evangelism Conference to be held next Thursday and Friday at Cross Lanes Baptist Church. Details, speakers, directions, etc are available on the state convention website, . I hope to see many of you there.

I want to personally thank my fellow pastors and the Associational Missionary of GHBA for the planning, hard work, and prayers that went into this conference. Thanks also, to the members of the local congregations who supported the conference with your attendance and support (financially, technically, and otherwise). You are a blessing!

Well, that is the overview for Building Bridges (#1). The conference can serve as a "precious memory", or it can be the beginning of a new era of cooperative ministry among the churches in the KYOVA region. Thursday after lunch, a young pastor from Ohio and another young pastor from Kentucky both told me they would like to continue this effort, hosting events at their churches in South Point and Grayson. As Doug Virgin would say, "Well Glory!"

It may be baby steps but it is a start...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Some Random Thoughts On The Passing Scene

It's Wednesday morning and tonight is when our "Building Bridges Conference" begins here in Huntington. Services start tonight at Highlawn Baptist Church at 6:30 PM and continue tomorrow night at First Baptist Church of Ceredo. Dr. Chuck Kelley has arrived in town last night and he will be preaching at both services, as well as speaking at a lunch gathering of WV, OH, and KY pastors on Thursday at Westmoreland Baptist Church. We have worked hard to reach out to our sister churches to build bridges of fellowship and cooperative ministry here in the Tri-State area. Those of us who have organized this event have done everything within our power to prayerfully plan and promote the conference. Will it be successful in our purposes? Only God knows. Now, as it has always been, it is up to our Heavenly Father. The most we can do is pray, and pray big. I hope you will join us in this prayer for God's hand to move upon us.


Things have been plenty busy around the church this past month, taking my time and attention, and slowing any kind creative time I would like to spend in writing. One of the issues that has consumed my thoughts and time, I cannot discuss until next week. The other is quite open and I am happy to share with our readers right now. Our Upward Soccer spring league has completed three of it's four registration/evaluation sessions this week, and final registration and evaluation will be this Saturday morning from 9:00 till 10:30 AM. To date, 43 children, age four through 5th grade have signed up to play. We have had a group of FAITHFUL volunteers who have braved cold (Saturday), rain (Monday evening), and mud and wind (Tuesday evening) to be there for this important ministry to children and their families. I thank God for people who are willing to serve. I know that God will bless them richly as they serve in blessing these Children with the good news of Jesus, in a sports ministry setting.


Remember the "Duct Tape Bandit" from Ashland, Kentucky? About the time you think it's safe to move on and forget such a character, he pops up in the news again. Today's copy of Ashland's "Daily Independent" reports that Boyd County Judge C. David Hagerman has ruled that Kasey Kazee is mentally capable of standing trial for first degree robbery and second degree persistent felony offender charges. Kazee, 24, drew national attention on August 10, 2007 when he attempted to rob the Shamrock Liquor Store on 13th Street in Ashland. He entered the store with his head completely wrapped in duct tape, with only room for his eyes and mouth exposed. He relieved the clerk of the money in the cash register, only to be tackled on leaving the store, by another store employee who was hosing down the parking lot.

Kazee was held down until the police arrived. Local television station, WSAZ, interviewed Kazee in the Boyd County Detention Center, and he gained lots of national attention as the interview was picked up by CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. In the rambling interview, Kazee asserted that the police had the wrong man as he asked the reporter, "Do I look like a duct tape bandit?" "Do the math", he said. "They got the wrong man." Never mind that the police videotaped his "unwrapping" after his arrest. Kazee continued to maintain his innocence.

The whole situation created lots of laughs locally and jokes on the late night talk shows, but Kazee faces some really serious jail time if convicted. The charges for the robbery count could earn him 10 - 20 years and the persistent felony offender rap could buy him 20 years to life! I know Dave Hagerman. He is a good judge and has a great sense of humor, but nobody will be laughing in his courtroom when Mr. Kazee comes before the bench. His trial is scheduled for May 12.


Local boy, Brandon Webb got the win Monday as the starting pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks in their opening day game against our Reds at Great American Ballpark in the Queen City. Brandon, who owns a sinkerball described by the TV announcers as "The most wicked sinker in major league baseball" was masterful in his six inning performance. He won the Cy Young Award two years ago, and was runner up last year. Hard to believe that's the same little boy who played for my "Adkins Insurance Agency" little league team in 1984, or the one I watched play for the American Little League White Sox, Ashland Tomcats, and Ashland Athletics Connie Mack Team with my younger son, Benji. Brandon is a class act, from a great family. With all the garbage going on in major league baseball, he is a breath of fresh air, and someone the whole tri state area can be proud of.


The Kentucky General Assembly has come down to it's last week, and it has really been a do nothing session thus far. New Governor Steve Beshear, who campaigned on a platform of allowing casino gambling in the Commonwealth, was unable to get enough votes to even get the proposal out of committee. Beshear had argued that expanded gaming was absolutely necessary to take care of the revenue shortfall Kentucky is facing. As the session came down to the last days there was still no budget. Finally, after a 21 hour marathon session, the House and Senate negotiating committee came up with a budget proposal. It contains no new taxes but adds about $150 million in additional revenue. It also assumes a savings of $85 million from the anticipated retirement fo 3,000 to 5,000 state employees. School teachers and state employees will receive a 1% pay increase.

The group began working to hammer out this agreement at 19:00 am on Monday, and worked overnight until 7:00 AM Tuesday, breaking only for meals. Why is it that legislatures, like pro football teams, don't seem to really get serious until the two minute warning?


Just a few thoughts on a Wednesday morning...