Friday, May 30, 2008

Safely Back On American Soil

Thank the Lord for safe passage so far. It is good to be back on good old American soil.
One of the toughest parts of the trip are the hours that we have to spend in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. We arrived at the airport at 9:20 AM for our 12:30 flight. As usual, we barely made it to the gate just as the flight was beginning to board. Our team stood in line at the ticket counters for check in for over two hours! To say the lines are long in Manila would be a great understatement. Cathay Pacific Airlines is a first class organization, but Manila airport is an absolute bottleneck.

Here is a photo of one of the Cathay Pacific 747's like the one we flew from Manila to Hong Kong to Los Angeles. Security is unbelievable over there. Bags are screened in Manila at least two times and then again at the gate. Then in Hong Kong, even though you do not go outside of the secure area, you still have to go through a security checkpoint at the "Transfer Area" where bags are scanned and searched before one proceeds to the gate area. As you go down the ramp to the Jetway, carry on bags are searched again by Chinese military people. What was really interesting on this trip is that the plane we flew in from Manila to Hong Kong landed at Gate 23. We all exited the plane, walked nearly a mile, went through transfer point E-2 and then proceeded to the gate for our departure to Los Angeles. Gate 23! We got back on the exact same plane we had flown into Hong Kong. This is the second time this has happened on a trip back from the Philippines, and it seems that there ought to be an easier way to do this for people who will be on the same plane for the second flight.

At any rate, the trans Pacific flight was as comfortable as one can be in economy class. That particular leg of the flight lasted 12 hours (two hours shorter than the flight over!) and the crew is very pleasant. This plane seemed to be brand new, and had some very nice features even in coach. Six of us had seats in the back three rows of the plane and that worked out great. Those three rows only have two seats instead of three because of how the fuselage narrows at the rear of the plane. There is not room for a third seat, but there is a good bit of elbow room between the inside seat and the window. In a jam packed 747 that is a nice feature with elbow room by the window and the aisle.
It is always a wonderful feeling to touch down at Los Angeles International Airport. Back in the good old USA! It is a welcome sight indeed. Our flight landed about 2:40 PM, we picked up our luggage and cleared customs and then parted ways with our teammates from New Orleans. Their United Airlines flight was due to depart for the Big Easy from Terminal 7 at 6:00 PM. Joey and I will be flying US Airways out of Terminal #1 at 10:45 PM. What's funny is that they will be back in New Orleans before our flight even leaves LA. We should have time to freshen up in Charlotte between 6 and 9 AM tomorrow before flying back to Tri State Airport.
Looking forward to seeing the church family on Sunday.
Thanks for your continued prayers on our behalf.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Preparing to Leave Manila

Friday Morning 5:45 AM
Makati City, Philippines

Good Morning from Metro Manila.

Our flight arrived about 5:00PM – one hour late from Dumaguete (but that is pretty much par for the course for Philippine Air Lines. We have come to expect delays and flight cancellations on PAL, which is why we try to fly Cathay Pacific for our international flights. They are as different as daylight and dark. PAL, however, has treated us well on the two occasions that we have had flights cancelled.

Yesterday afternoon a representative met us at the baggage claim area and processed vouchers for the nine of us for rooms at the Charter House Hotel in downtown Makati City, meals while here, and two taxi/vans to transport us. No complaints about the service, only disappointment that the flight cancellation forced us to leave Dumaguete a day early and miss the second night of the crusade in Sibulan. I am happy to report, however, that Pastor Valdez left the sound equipment and musical instruments in Sibulan and since we had paid to reserve the municipal auditorium for two days, Pastor Neri Rio and his congregation from Sibulan were going to utilize the opportunity and finish out the last night of the crusade. Praise the Lord!

What a city Manila is! It is a huge metropolitan area and downtown areas look very similar to New York City or Chicago. There are, here in Manila, the extreme examples of poverty and plenty side by side. There are vast areas of slums with people living in the most deplorable conditions, and yet gleaming skyscrapers, malls and banks that rival anything you have ever seen in America.

Makati City is in the southern part of Metro Manila and was about a thirty minute harrowing drive from the airport. The traffic in this city is horrendous and the signs and lines on the streets mean absolutely nothing! Horns are utilized more than brakes and it is a miracle that there are no more accidents than there appear to be. You would NOT want to drive in this city.

Our hotel is directly across the street from the Green Bank Mall. Adjectives that come to mind to describe this three story mall would include swanky, opulent, upscale, and beautiful. The merchandise is top quality and the prices are astronomical. While walking through the mall last night, one member of our team remarked, “We’re not in Mayaposi any more, Toto!” Alvin, the taxi driver, told me that Makati City is the chief business city of the Philippines. I believe it. The place looks like lower Manhattan.

I am typing this in my room and hope to find an internet cafĂ© which will allow me to post this to my blog. In the mean time it is time to wake Jay, get some breakfast, and prepare for the taxi’s to pick us up at 9:00 for the ride back to Nino Aquino International Airport.
Our Cathay Pacific flight is due to leave for Hong Kong at 12:30 PM and we are expected to arrive back in Los Angeles at 2:40 the same afternoon (Friday).It is always so good to get back into Los Angeles. Once on American soil, I always say, “I can get home from here!”

Our team members are all well and in good spirits. I thank God for the opportunity to work with each of these wonderful folks. Even though the bulk of our mission is completed, please pray that we will have good witnessing opportunities as we travel half way back around the globe. Prayer for safe travel would also be our request, as the weather report for Hong Kong is calling for strong thunder storms and there is a new Typhoon brewing in the Pacific.

Baboo, I’ll see you on Saturday Morning, Lord willing!

Love to all.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Final Report From Dumaguete

Thursday Morning
Dumaguete City

Today we begin the long journey home. It is always hard to say goodbye to our dear friends here, but we are looking forward to being home with our families and back in our own churches.

Last night was our final crusade activity – an outdoor service at the “municipal auditorium” next to the Sibulan City Hall. Jay led the service. Music was provided by Daniel, Janna, and Amanda. Boy can those young people sing!!! I preached about the man who came to the door of Heaven but did not go in (the Rich Young Ruler). He came to the right person, he asked the right question, he received the right answer, but he did the wrong thing. Pastor Jonathan Ugdoc of Bais City interpreted for me and it was a pleasure working with him. Preaching with an “interrupter” is not an easy task under any circumstances, but Jonathan was one of the best I have ever had. I was able to get into a flow of thought and speech and he stayed right with me. His help was most appreciated.

The crowd was much smaller than what we had hoped for as there were only about 70 persons in attendance. However, thirteen responded to the invitation, accepting Christ as Savior. That puts the total number of recorded decisions this week at over 110. The personal information on all of these respondents was taken and followup will be done by Pastors Ugdoc, Joseph Zerna, and Neri Rio.

Every one who made a profession of faith received a Cebuano Bible, and many English New Testaments were also distributed throughout the week. There are over 500 New Testaments that will be distributed by these three Pastors after we are gone. This will no doubt be the most effective part of this entire ministry – placing the Word of God into the hands of people who are in desperate need of hearing it.

And so, another mission trip draws to an end. We are all tired, but each of us have a sense of fulfillment in knowing that we have had a small part in what God is doing half way around the world from our comfortable homes. Many of my readers have prayerfully and financially supported us on this journey. The successes of it would not have been possible without that support. You are an important part of this team.

As always, I come away from this trip with a renewed zeal to serve God in MY field of ministry at home. There is a renewed sense of urgency in evangelism, and a fresh realization that God wants us to put the same principles to work in Huntington and New Orleans, as these precious Pastors in Negros Oriental do so faithfully.

I learned this morning that two of our church members at Westmoreland Baptist are facing the loss of dear family members. I understand that Ronnie Mills’ father was not expected to live through the night. Also Rick Rakes’ only remaining sibling, Trudy, passed away in Wurtland Manor Nursing Home. I urge our members to please reach out to these families in this time of their need.

Our trip home begins with a 2:45 PM flight to Manila, where we will spend the night. Then at 12:30 Friday afternoon we are due to board the Cathay Pacific flight for the Manila – Hong Kong – Los Angeles part of the journey. The amazing thing about that leg of the travel is that, due to the twelve time zones we will travel through, we will arrive in Los Angeles EARLIER than we departed Manila!
Joey and I should arrive back in Huntington about 10:30 on Saturday morning, We look forward to seeing many of you soon – especially Dr. Howerton. I seem to have cracked that tooth again.

There's no place like home!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wednesday Morning Update

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Dumaguete City

Day is dawning on our last full day here in Dumaguete. The long journey home begins tomorrow when our Philippine Air Lines flight departs for Manila at 2:45 PM (that’s a quarter to 3:00AM Wed. night/Thurs. morning back home). Our departure from Negros was moved up one day due to Philippine Air Lines cancellation of the Friday flight upon which we previously held reservations. This will require an overnight stay in Manila. As far as we know, the remaining flights will all be on schedule for our return – with the New Orleans team arriving home very late on Friday night, and Joey and I returning to Tri State Airport around 10:30 on Saturday morning.

Today is basically a free day for our team until the scheduled outdoor crusade at 5:00 PM. This is a very welcome occurrence, since we began intensive activities here the night we arrived. On past trips we have always had a day of rest before the mission activities started. We did not have that luxury on this go around. The entire team is exhausted, especially after the last two day’s activities.

Billy Cox and Bobby Wood have worked like borrowed mules for the past two days, constructing an entrance canopy at Pastor Valdez’ New Life Church in Upper Batinguel. The project was 95 percent finished when the heavy rain washed out their activity yesterday afternoon. Billy indicates that only one piece of the metal roofing remains to be installed on the 24 foot wide structure, The necessary materials are there on site, and Dave Valdez (along with James Enclonar and other men of the church) will be able to complete the work with no problem. Billy and Bobby not only built a structure, but also a great relationship with Pastor Valdez’ son Dave, who worked along side them and spent some extra time with them, taking them for lunch to some really nice local places.

Please pray for Dave Valdez and his wife Michelle and son Genesis David. Michelle and the 8 year old boy are in California, where she is working in a dental office while holding down two other part time jobs. It is not unusual in Filipino families to have family members working in other countries to provide financial support for their families. Dave has graduated from nursing school and will soon test for his board certification. He is praying that is visa will be approved and he will be able to join them in America soon. As it is right now, they are only able to see one another once per year. I just cannot imagine how tough that must be on them all.

The Seminar, while not hard physical labor, was still exhausting. Both of the Seminar days began for Jay and I around 6:00 AM and did not end until 6:00 PM. Getting ready for the classes required a good bit of set up each day, and attendees began arriving as early as 7:30 each morning. Daniel, Amanda, and Janna took care of registration and provided worship music in the morning and afternoon sessions. These young people are tremendously talented and have a great spirit to serve. The girls also provided unofficial child care for a beautiful little boy whose parents attended both days of the seminar.

Joey Spurgeon, with video camera always in hand, split time doing several tasks during the seminar. Joe did everything from filming, to running the sound, to running the power point slides for the sessions that Robby Pearson and I taught. Joey is also most valuable as a team member who connects with the Filipino people. He is especially gifted in regard to children and youth ministry. He has been a valuable asset to this team in everything from house to house evangelism to the crusade activities. He preached one night in Bais City and 28 people responded with decisions to accept Christ.

Jay’s morning sessions in the seminar, dealt with Bible study, text selection, exegesis, and sermon preparation and delivery. The pastors in attendance soaked it up like a sponge. Some have had some Bible school or a little seminary experience, but most have very limited formal Bible education. I wish each of you could have seen the intensity with which they listened and took notes.

My two afternoon sessions included lessons on the Characteristics of an Effective Leader on Monday, and Developing Leaders Through Discipleship on Tuesday. These were also well received by everyone in attendance. Robby Pearson’s two personal evangelism sessions on Casting the Net and Drawing the Net were simply outstanding. Robby is a likeable guy with a sharp sense of humor and an infectious laugh. For those of you who may be NASCAR fans, you might be interested in knowing that Robby’s father and grandfather were both drivers. In fact, his grandfather, David Pearson, was the top rival to superstar Richard Petty, back in the day.

Bethel Guest House was the perfect venue for this event. Their central location and reputation as “THE CONFERENCE CENTER” in Dumaguete lent an immediate air of credence to the event. Most of these pastors and their wives live in the most humble of dwellings and rarely have opportunity to be treated as special as they were here at Bethel Guest House. It was a real treat for them to spend two days in these comfortable surroundings, and it was fulfilling for us to be able to “pamper” them a bit.

I could go on and on about the seminar, but suffice it to say that I believe it may have been two of the most valuable days we have ever spent here. The other activities were important as well, but this was a special time of intensive training for the men who are on the firing line here all the time. The 71 in attendance were most appreciative of the event and many voiced their hopes that we might be able to do another seminar in the future.

Every attendee extended their gratitude for the free opportunity to learn and to have fellowship with one another. No one went away empty handed as nearly $1,000 worth of Bibles, Bible Reference books and other printed aids were distributed to everyone in attendance. Many shed tears of joy. I was most touched by a lady named Muffett Villiagas who is the wife of Pastor Andrew Villiagas. Muffett is a very talented lady who is a local radio and television personality and also writes a column for the Negros Chronicle newspaper here in Dumaguete. She is fighting a battle with cancer very similar to my own. Her prognosis is uncertain and she is pretty weak, yet she managed to attend most all of the sessions. On Tuesday afternoon she called me aside and gave me a plastic bag that contained seven small framed water color pictures that she had painted. She wanted each of our seminar team members to have one as a token of her appreciation for what we were trying to do here in Dumaguete. I cherish that little picture.

Thank you for helping us – both prayerfully and financially – to bless these precious people.

May God bless you!

Seminar Is A Great Success

The Pastor/Church Leader Seminar finished up today. Total Registration was 71! We could not be happier with the results. Here are some photos.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday's Update From Dumaguete

I hope all of our friends back home had a wonderful Memorial Day holiday. Although very busy today, and 12 time zones from home, my thoughts have often been about those whom we honor on this special day – those who have given their lives in defense of our great nation.

As a child, Memorial Day was special to me. It was that day in the spring when Dad was off from work and the school year was coming to an end. Dad would load the trunk of the car with wreaths and other floral arrangements, and Mom would prepare a picnic lunch. Then we three kids would pile into the back seat of the car (no seat belts in those days) to make long trip down State Route 10 to Logan, WV for our annual “Decoration Day” activities. It was always a day packed with great fun for my brothers and my Logan County cousins.

We visited the cemeteries that were sacred spots to my maternal grand parents. The little graveyard on the hill overlooking the little community of Chauncey. There, in a little fenced enclosure were the graves of Mamaw Stidham’s family. Her mother’s marker was there, as well as those of several other family members. Mamaw always knelt at the gravesides of two of her own children, Hessie (who died of leukemia at age 12) and “Little Buddy” (who was only three months old when the Lord took him). I could not comprehend it then, but now my heart breaks at the thought of the grief my grandmother must have experienced to lose two precious children!

Following the time at Chauncey, our three car caravan would travel to a place that my Grandfather called Sunbeam. There we would exit the cars, everyone would carry a wreath or mowing instruments and walk across a railroad trestle and along the track for what seemed to be a mile or more. At a certain place (only Papaw knew the spot) we left the tracks and climbed a steep hill to the grave site of his parents, Asbuury and Lucinda Stidham. These graves were barely discernable in the growth of underbrush in the deeply forested hillside. Sickles and trimmers were used to clear away the brush before the wreaths were lovingly placed upon the graves of my great grand parents.

After the picnic lunch with the entire family, our five loaded back into the car for the 69 crooked miles of Rt. 10 that would take us back home. There was one more stop for us along the way home. That was Forest Lawn Cemetery in Peck’s Mill, where Dad’s mother and father were buried. That large, well manicured cemetery stood in stark contrast to the overgrown grave yards we had visited earlier in the day. It was always a breathtaking sight to see the hundreds of little American Flags adorning the graves of the veterans across the rolling hills of Forest Lawn. Dad would explain to us that this is what that holiday was about.

My grandfather buried there was a “Doughboy” in France during World War I. It is hard for me to believe that today only one veteran of World War I still survives. Time passes quickly. Dad was a veteran of World War II, and those vets are also leaving us in great numbers every day. I thought of them today as I walked on one of the 7000 islands here in the Philippines where thousands of young American men shed their blood and gave their lives for the cause of freedom. May those who have died here, and in other remote areas of the world, be remembered today with love and devotion. May we say in unison today, “Thank you. We will never forget your sacrifice.”


Today was the first of our two day Pastor/Church Leader Seminar, “Practical Helps for Effective Ministry”.

Fifty Five gentlemen and ladies were in attendance at the beginning session. Each of the registrants received a program, biography of each teacher, spiral notebook, pen, and packet of printed notes. I welcomed each of the registrants and we asked a dear friend from several years back (Pastor Roberto Martin from Bais City) to lead us in prayer. The program then opened with 20 minutes of praise and worship music. Daniel and Amanda led the congregation in a time of joyful celebration. Then Jay began the first session on Bible study, prayer, preparation, and presentation of the Gospel message. While aimed particularly at the pastors, this lesson was also helpful for any Bible teacher or Bible Study leader. Jay will conclude this series of lessons on Tuesday morning.

I began the afternoon session with a lesson on “The Characteristics of Great Leaders” using two Bible characters (Caleb and John the Baptist) as examples. On Tuesday, I will conclude my unit with “Developing Leaders Through Discipleship”. What a blessing it was to share with these precious folks!

Robby Pearson completed the day’s teaching with “Casting the Net” in an important session on personal evangelism. Tuesday he will conclude with “Drawing the Net”.

Along with providing us with great music, Amanda, Janna, and Daniel handled all the registration activities for us. Joey Spurgeon was a tremendous help, working the sound, running our power point presentations, and video taping much of the proceedings. While the seminar team labored here, Bobby Wood and Billy Cox spent the entire day at the New Life Church where they were constructing a porch type canopy over the entrance of the church building. They made great progress and expect to finish it on Tuesday.


To say this seminar was well received would be a tremendous understatement. Just seeing the joy on the faces of these pastors and many of their wives was a blessing in itself. We gave away more than 80 Bibles, reference books and Bible Study guides. Thirty more will be given away on Tuesday along with three very special study Bibles.

In one of the drawings, Marissa Martin, a pastor’s wife from Bais City, ran to the table when her name was called and grabbed a thin line bible with a snap cover and clutched it to her chest. “I have been praying for one of these for years!” she said through tears streaming down her face.

One gentleman who is a teacher at a Bible Institute in Mindanao told Jay, “You don’t know how important something like this is to these pastors. What we need here and throughout Asia is ‘traveling education’ because these men do not have the means to attend Bible Colleges and Seminaries. Please do not let this be the last time you do this!”

Each attendee was honored to receive the gifts and to eat the delicious meal prepared by the hotel staff. Most of these men and women would never have the opportunity to meet in such a comfortable venue and receive the gifts provided by our friends back home.

Saying “Thank you” for supporting this mission work just doesn’t seem to say enough. You who have given to this effort, and the earlier efforts have helped make an eternal difference in the lives of many.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Morning Post from Dumaguete

Sunday Morning
Dumaguete City

Hot and HUMID are the two words that would best describe the weather here in the Philippines this week. Temperatures are surely in the 90’s with equally high relative humidity. We have been blessed to have escaped any major rain storms to this point. This is great, since most of our activities thus far have been outdoors.

This morning we are splitting into three teams, each of which will be ministering in different churches. Robby Pearson will be preaching at Pastor Valdez’ New Life Church in Upper Batinguel. He will be joined there by Billy Cox, Daniel Savage, and Janna Johnston. Brother Joseph Zerna’s Easy Ride will be departing the hotel at 8:00 AM to take the two other teams north to their Sunday assignments.

Jay Adkins, Bobby Wood, and Joseph Spurgeon will be dropped off at Bais City to minister this morning at the church there with Pastor Jonathan Ugdoc and his wife Joan.
(our teams had previously spent two days in Bais – assisting in starting two new preaching points in that area). After the two hour drive to Bais, we will leave that group there, and Amanda Lindsey and I will accompany Pastor Joseph Zerna and Juvy on the one hour trip into the mountains of Mabinay. I will preach at the Mayaposi Southern Baptist Church, and Amanda will provide special vocal music.

Let me say a few words about our team members.

This is the youngest, most diversely gifted group that I have accompanied in my eight trips here since 2000.

Joey Spurgeon has a great gift of love for these people and is tremendously valuable in ministry to children and youth. He has taught them songs, told Bible stories, and generally made friends with every child and teenager with whom he has come in contact. The video camera has been his constant companion and already I am anticipating viewing the finished product. Joey is well loved and accepted by the people here. Folks from Westmoreland Baptist can be very proud of how Joey is representing our church and our state.

Jay is putting together the nuts and bolts of the Pastor/Church Leader Seminar, which will be here at the Bethel Guest House on Monday and Tuesday this week. While I have taken care of the logistics, Jay has set the schedule and planned the content of the two day event. We have 50 pastors and church leaders registered, but we have already heard from more than a dozen other pastors requesting the opportunity to attend. We will do our best to accommodate all who come.

The rest of our teammates are all members at Jay’s First Baptist Church of Westwego in metropolitan New Orleans. While a couple of them have previously made other mission trips, all of them are first timers here to the Philippines. Although I was already this past week, and deeply appreciate their efforts in this mission.

Bobby Wood is the tall guy in the photo above. I cannot say enough about Bobby. He is a great young man with wisdom beyond his years. He serves as Education Pastor at FBC Westwego. Married just since early April, this trip has been a little tough for him and his new bride, Lindsay, who stayed behind! Bobby has been a big hit here , and a valued member of this team.

Billy Cox is the senior member of the group. Like all of us, he is exhausted from the grueling travel the last three days in the “Easy Ride”. He and Bobby Wood worked several hours yesterday morning on setting posts in concrete, making preparations for the construction work they will be doing at New Life Church Monday and Tuesday while the seminar is going on here at the hotel. Billy has a sweet spirit and is taking up the “Thamer Calhoun” roll on this team!

Robby Pearson is an excellent preacher and as fun to be around as anyone I have ever known. He has a quick wit and contagious laugh. Most of all, he loves Jesus, and has a burning desire to tell others about Him. I know that the expense of this trip has been a financial burden on him and his family, but I am so glad he came along.

Our three musical team members, Daniel Savage, Janna Johnston, and Amanda Lindsey can be described in one word. Wow! What talent. These are great young people who love the Lord with all their hearts. All are students at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and actively involved in various ministries on campus and at FBC Westwego.
Daniel will be going to Korea just a few weeks after returning home from this trip. He will be serving as a worship leader for a LifeWay camp there in Korea.

Janna, a pastor’s daughter, will probably serve in full time missions upon her graduation from NOBTS. She is a tireless worker, and deeply spiritual. The beautiful voice that God has given her is a bonus. Amanda has the heart of a true servant. She gladly does any assignment given her, and does it with a smile. She is a trained counselor and has the potential to impact many lives with her God given gifts. And can she sing? Wow!
What a set of pipes!

Well, time to go for now. I just wanted to share these thoughts with you as we head out for church this morning.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Thanks to a generous gift through the office of Dr. Greg Wrigley and the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, we were able to purchse the Study Bibles and reference books pictured here. These will be given to the attendees of our Pastor and Church leader seminar to be held on Monday and Tuesday.

Jay, Robby Pearson and I have been busy the last couple of days preparing for the seminar and working through hotel officials to make sure things will be ready on Monday morning. God seems to be putting everything together in this regard.

This morning, Bobby Wood, Joey Spurgeon, and Billy Cox went out early to the New Life Church and did preliminary work for the construction project that will take place on Monday (and possibly Tuesday). In just a few minutes, all of our team will be headed for Mayaposi, Mabinay in a remote mountainous area for crusade activities tonight. Tomorrow promises to be a very busy day as our team will be split into three groups, with two going north to churches in Bais and Mayaposi, while one group will stay at the New Life Church with Pastor Valdez. Jay, Robby, and I will be doing the preaching duties tomorrow at the three churches. Others will help with songs, prayers and testimonies. All of us will be together tomorrow evening for a music workshop at New Life.

Joey Spurgeon is diligently video taping much of the goings on here and I do look forward to seeing his final production after we get home. I'm sure he will post it on You Tube so everyone will be able to enjoy it.

All for now. Tonight promises to be a late one as the trip back from Mayaposi will take nearly three hours. Then we turn around and go back in the morning at 8:00 AM! I wish we could just stay up there but it is not feasible this time.

All of our love to each of our family members. We miss you, and hope you have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day Week End back home.

God bless.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Lots of Activity Today

Friday Night, May 23rd
Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental
9:30 PM

Lots of activities today as our team split up into three separate teams to accomplish a number of tasks. I have tried to post to this blog twice and both times have lost all of the information. I am so tired and discouraged with this thing I am only going to give the totals and close in hopes this thing will publish this time. 28 Professions of faith today to bring our two day total to 88.
Praise God for the moving of His Holy Spirit.
I will try to post more tomorrow when, hopefully this computer will be a little more cooperative.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Day One is In The Books


Thursday, May 22, 2008

11:00 PM

Dumaguete City, Philippines

Day one is officially over. We have been in the Bais City area today. We had our breakfast early and had team devotional before leaving the hotel at 9:30 AM. We returned about 10:30.

The two hour trip up the coast was made even more difficult than the usual drive. Road construction made the journey more difficult than usual. We had lunch at a decent place in Bais City and we actually saw part of the NBA playoff game between San Antonio and the Lakers. There was a market next door with fresh produce and Jay decided he needed some of those delicious small greenish bananas. Shortly after lunch, he fed one of the Bananas to a MONKEY out on the sidewalk. That's right. A monkey...

We then proceeded to the home of Pastor Joanathan ans sister Joan Ugdoc. They had plans made for us for the day. We split into groups of two and three - and each group hit the trail, to raise money and lay an invitation for the evening crusade. Our teams divided up with our Filipino hosts to do house to house evangelism in Bais. Each team met with much success (and a few challenges) in sharing the gospel and in inviting people to the evangelistic crusade that was to be held at the Oktis Barangay Basketball court at 5:00 PM.

The service didn't start until 6:00 PM. Robby Pearson preached and over 60 adults made public professions of faith in Jesus Christ.

Praise the Lord for a wonderful starting point.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

safely arrived

Manila, Philippines
1:20 PM
Wednesday, May 21, 2008

At this writing we have now been traveling for 36 hours. We are now in the old Domestic Airport at Manila, awaiting our flight to Dumaguete. The Cebu Pacific Airline flight is scheduled to begin loading in about 50 minutes. Of course that’s “Filipino Time” which may mean 50 minutes – or it may not…

The flights so far have been timely and as comfortable as can be expected in economy class. This team is a fine group of folks and have already begun to mesh as a unit.

I am including a photo from Hong Kong International Airport, and an interior shot of the Manila Domestic Airport – two very different places! We arrived in Hong Kong at 5:45 Wednesday morning (May 21st) and I was able to get out on my Blackberry to send an email to Linda, Benji, and Sonia, so they could get the word out of our safe arrival to that point.

The weather here is HOT and HUMID. After claiming our baggage at Aquino International Airport and wrestling it through customs and over to the old Domestic Airport, we were all getting pretty “ripe”. I managed to get a “cat bath” in the Comfort Room here at the airport and changed shirts. Feeling (and smelling) much better now, but all of us are feeling the effects of a day and a half of travel with only three or four hours of sleep (while sitting up).

Plans call for us to get checked in to our hotel about 4:30 – 5:00 PM (if everything goes as scheduled, and we will then have a joint dinner meeting with our Filipino team members before bedtime. This meeting will be a get acquainted time for our first timers, and a time to go over plans for our mission activities, which begin B&E tomorrow!

Billy Cox said, “Nobody will have to rock me to sleep tonight”. We all share the same sentiments.

Joey, Jay, Robby, Bobby, Billy, Amanda, Janna, and Daniel join me in sending our love and appreciation out to all our loved ones and those who are praying for the success of our mission activities.

(A personal word to Terry Perdue) There is all kind of stuff for sale here at the airport, but I haven’t been able to purchase any Manila folders – they’re fresh out! Perhaps you can check with office Depot…

9:35 PM Wednesday
Dumaguete City

This will be brief as I can hardly hold my head up.

We had our full team meeting tonight. Productive time, but nothing earthshaking.

I did get word that our Philippine airlines coming home On Friday has been cancelled. All I know right now is that Michelle tells me that our flight is cancelled and they have us going back home a day earlier.

Michelle, I can’t get into my email (verizon or roadrunner account). Please email me at with any details on the cancellation, that you may have.

I can’t hold my head up any longer. I’m going to bed.
Good night every one.

Monday, May 19, 2008

We're Off!

Joseph Spurgeon and I will be leaving Tri State Airport at 1:30 this afternoon for our Philippine Mission Trip. This is a five leg trip with flights from Huntington to Charlotte, Charlotte to Los Angeles, LA to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Manila, and the final leg (pictured at left) from Manila to Dumaguete. We should arrive in Dumaguete about 4:00 PM on Wednesday (Philippine time) which will be 4:00 AM on Wednesday back home.
Plans call for us to meet up with the seven members of our team from New Orleans at Los Angeles shortly before 8:00 tonight (Pacific Time) which will be 11:00 PM back home. Our flight for Hong Kong is scheduled to leave LAX at 10 minutes till midnight and will arrive in China about 5:45 Wednesday morning.
This will be my 8th short term mission trip to the Philippines since February 2000. We have built a wonderful partnership with Pastor Doming Valdez and his wife Villa, Pastor Joseph Zerna and Juvy, and have made many dear friends there in the Dumaguete area. Our Filipino hosts have an ambitious schedule planned for us as follows:
May 21 - arrival
Lee Plaza needs
Dinner, Get Acquainted and Planning Meeting at Shakey's, Dumaguete City

May 22 - 23 - Bais City
8:00 A.M. - start trip to Bais City lunch at Amorganda's Won restaurant
1:00 P.M. - to Joan & Ptr. Ugdoc's church mission area doing House to House Evangelism
5:00 or 6:00-8:00 P.M.- Evangelistic Crusade

May 24 - Mayaposi, Mabinay
8:00 A.M. - trip to Mayaposi lunch at Amorganda's Won restaurant. House to House Evangelism 4:00 P.M. - Evangelistic Crusade Mayaposi Church vicinity

May 25 - SUNDAY - Mission Team divides into 3 groups:
NLCC (Ptr. Valdez and Villa) – Robby, Jana, Billy
Mayaposi (Ptr. Zerna and Juvy) – CJ, Amanda, Bobby
Bais City (Joan and Ptr. Ugdoc) – Jay, Daniel, Joey

(The Bais and Mayaposi teams will leave Dumaguete at 8:00 A.M.)

4:00 P.M. - 7:00 P.M. - Seminar Workshop at NLCC

May 26 - 27 - Pastors/Church Leaders Seminar - Bethel Guest House

May 28 - Sibulan, Negros Oriental
8:00 A.M. - 11:00 A.M. - House to House Evan. Ptr. Pleider de la Pena and Ptr. Neri Rio's areas
2:00 P.M. - House to House Evangelism Ptr. Silorio and Ptr. de Jesus areas
5:00 P.M. or 6:00 P.M.-8:00 P.M. - Evangelistic Crusade - Sibulan Auditorium

May 29 - Bais City Bay - Dolphin Watching Farewell Fellowship Time
6:00 A.M. - trip to Bais City Bay
3:00 P.M. - trip to Bethel Guest House, Dumaguete City
5:00 P.M. or 6:00 P.M. - 8:00 P.M. - Evangelistic Crusade - Sibulan Auditorium

May 30 - Homeward Bound
These plans are always subject to change - and I'm sure there will be adjustments, but this will give you an idea of our activities. One item that is not listed will be some planned construction activities (weather permitting) at the New Life Church in Dumaguete. Part of our team will be involved in those activities, while part of us will be leading the Pastor/Church Leader Seminar at the Hotel in Dumaguete on May 26-27.
Our team members include Jay Adkins, Robby Pearson, Daniel Savage, Bobby Wood, Janna Johnston, Amanda Lindsey, and Billy Cox (all of New Orleans) and Joey and I from Huntington.
Please remember us in prayer during these next two weeks. Also, please pray for our families who will miss us and be concerned about us while we are gone.
I will hope to post daily updates (with a few photos) when I have Internet access in Dumaguete. Please check in during the week for the updates, and pray for much success in these Kingdom Building activities.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom and Dad

May is a month that holds several birthdays for our family. Two of them are my mother and father's.

Last night we celebrated Dad's 81st birthday, and since I'll be half way around the world when Mom's comes around this Friday - we celebrated hers also. Here's a photo that Linda made where part of our family gathered for a dinner in their honor. Mom enjoyed the salad - Dad enjoyed the attention. In case you're wondering, that's Dad wearing the hat.

As an elderly lady at a nearby table was studying Dad's new birthday hat, he told her, "I only get to wear this thing one day a year." She smiled and then refocused her attention to her plate.

The chapeau is courtesy of my younger brother, Bruce. He seems to specialize in unusual gifts for Dad. I won't go into a list of the more exotic gifts, but, if you have ever seen the green baseball cap that lights up with red letters, spelling out "Bah, Humbug" - well, Bruce is also responsible for that. We can look for that gem to come out again the day after Thanksgiving.

As we were walking toward our seats, a party at one of the tables began singing, "Happy Birthday" do Dad (obviously due to the head gear he was sporting). He and Mom stood there talking to the folks while the rest of us were seated. After several minutes my son, Benji, walked back over to the table and said "Papaw, come on and let these folks eat."

"Are you kidding?" the guy at the table answered. "We'd have to pay for a show like this anywhere else!"

Dad knows darned near everyone, so I asked him who those folks were.

"I don't know." he replied. "The guy asked, 'Aren't you Caudle Adkins?' When I said, 'Yes' he said, 'I've been listening to you on the radio for years! When I was just a young Christian, many years ago, you came to our church at Dry Branch (in Kanawha County) and held a revival. You've always been one of my favorites.'"

And so it goes.

Besides me and my brothers (Bruce and Carl) Mom and Dad have impacted many lives over the years.

Yesterday Dad turned 81. Friday Mom will be 79. I am thankful for my parents, and so grateful that I still have them. Mom will not remember the events of the evening but she had a good time, none the less.

Dad ALWAYS has a good time...

"This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118: 24

Friday, May 16, 2008

My Little Pal

Meet Matthew Asher Adkins - Grandson number four.

He is my little pal...

We celebrated Asher's third birthday this week, and it is hard for me to comprehend where the time has gone. When my mind goes back to that morning (May 12, 2005) when Asher made his first appearance at Kings Daughters Medical Center in Ashland, KY, my eyes well up with tears of joy. It was truly a bright moment in the midst of one of the darkest times of my life. This little guy was sent from God to give me hope in a time when hope was a rare commodity.

It was barely six months earlier that I had been diagnosed with "incurable, fourth stage" colon cancer. The big tumor had metastasized to my liver and a number of lymph nodes. Facing "an average survival time" of 18 to 22 months, the outlook was bleak. Linda and I were exploring every avenue of treatment, and trusting God to perform His perfect plan in our lives - whatever that might be. When Asher came into this world I was in the midst of my first six month course of chemotherapy. In fact, that very morning I waited around the hospital, I was scheduled for a chemo treatment at the Ashland Belfonte Cancer Center in nearby Russell, KY. Fortunately, Leigh Anne cooperated by delivering the little guy in time for me to meet him before hurrying along to make my appointment for the four hour drip.

Asher has been a joy.

During the tough two years that we were battling the malignancy, he was an important part of my therapy. At first I was depressed, thinking that I might never see Asher or his cousin Canon (who was born the week before my cancer was discovered) grow beyond the toddler stage. Anyone who has gone through chemotherapy knows just how bad one feels during those times of treatments. The effects are both physical and emotional. Well, Friday evenings became a time that took my mind off the troubles and sickness for a little while. Those sleep overs and other visits from Will and Asher were good medicine for me and Linda, and have built a lasting bond between us and these two local grandsons.

Asher shares the name of one of Jacob's sons in the book of Genesis. The name means "happy", which pretty much sums up Asher's existence. He is a happy little guy - until someone tells him he is not big enough or old enough to do a particular thing. I have told others that he is three - going on sixteen. Oh, how he wants to be a big boy! He is big for his age and most folks think he is older than he really is. But despite his protests of "But I AM a big boy", he still endures the frustration of standing on the sidelines watching Will play soccer, basketball, football, and baseball. He wants to play so badly too. It's just hard for him to understand why he can't be in the middle of the action when he is 6' 4" tall - on the inside...

He loves and admires his brother who is four years his senior, but he is not going to be a doormat for Will and his friends. Asher demands equal time and equal treatment, and exhibits a competitive spirit. He is a determined little guy, and one can't help but think that Asher will make his mark in life. But for now, he watches his brother, imitates his actions, and loves the times that he and Will play ball together in the back yard.

Asher has an unruly shock of curly hair that will probably be a major source of aggravation for him as he gets older (it was for me!) His little gap toothed grin will win your heart in no time. Like his brother and his two cousins in New Orleans, Asher is sharp as a tack and has a sweet, loving spirit. He is blessed to have both grandfathers close by, but he simply takes "Poppy" Clanton and "Papaw" Adkins for granted. Not long ago, in a moment of excitement, he came running up to me wanting some help with something.

"Poppy! Poppy! Poppy!" he called.

"Who?", I asked.

He screwed his face up in frustration and said, "I mean Papaw!"

I thought I'd have some fun with him so I asked, "Who is Poppy?"

Asher looked at me like I was crazy and announced, "He's that OTHER guy!"

Lance and I may just be those "two guys" to him right now, but he's pretty special to us.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More Soldiers Coming Home

Two Christians with very different gifts and ministries went to be with the Lord this week. One was a prolific songwriter and singer and the other a Pastor of a large church in the Tampa, Florida area. Both died in tragic accidents. Both impacted their world for Christ using their gifts and God given talents for building His Kingdom.

Dottie Rambo died on Sunday when her tour bus left the roadway on a Missouri highway striking an embankment. Her group was on its way to a scheduled performance in the Dallas area. The other members of her traveling group sustained injuries in the crash but Rambo was the only fatality. The western Kentucky native was well known to fans of southern gospel music. She burst on to the gospel music scene in the late 60's, winning a Grammy in 1968, and Dove awards in 1982 for "We Shall Behold Him" and 1999 for "I Go To The Rock". Over the past decade or so had become a regular on Bill Gaither's Homecoming Tour. During her prolific career, Dottie Rambo published more than 2,500 songs, including, "One More Valley", "He Looked Beyond My Fault”,“If That Isn’t Love”, "He Looked Beyond My Fault And Saw My Need", “I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before”, "To Much To Gain To Loose", "The Hills of Home", "The Church Triumphant", “If That Isn’t Love”, "Sheltered In The Arms Of God" "Remind Me Dear Lord", "Tears Will Never Stain The Streets Of That City", "In The Valley He Restoreth My Soul", "He Ain't Never Done Me Nothing But Good", and "Behold The Lamb". Dottie Rambo was 74.

On Monday, Forrest Pollack and his 13 year old son, Preston, died in the crash of his private plane in a remote area of western North Carolina. Pollack and his son had flown to Asheville, NC from Tampa for a brief stopover before heading off to a conference in Texas on Monday morning. His plane left Asheville at 5:00 AM, but concerns arose when he never reached his destination, and had made no radio contact with anyone. Search activities began and the wreckage of the plane was found in the rugged mountain terrain of The Shining Rock Wilderness area of the Tar Heel State.

The Asheville newspaper reported that Pollack had come to Asheville to visit his mother for Mother's Day. His 14 year old daughter, Brooke, had gone on the trip as well, but stayed behind with her grandmother as Pollack and Preston headed on to Texas for his preaching appointment there. The paper also reported that he had planned to stop off in Arkansas to pick up a friend on the way to Texas.

Pollack was pastor of the Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Florida (Tampa Bay metro area). Only 44 years old, Pollack was a "mover and shaker" among Southern Baptists in Florida and throughout the Convention. In fact, he was scheduled to be a featured speaker at the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention's Annual Meeting in Indianapolis next month. He had previously served on the Resolutions Committee, the Committee on Committees, and the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life. He had authored two books, and was President of the "Large Church Roundtable" pastor's fellowship, which he founded in 1999.

Having seen him many times at convention meetings, I had only met Brother Pollack once. It was in a hotel elevator in Greensboro, NC two summers ago at the SBC meeting where he nominated South Carolina pastor Frank Page for Convention President. His nominating speech was one of the best I have ever heard as he spoke eloquently and passionately about how Page was the best man to lead us at this point in Convention history. Pollack was bright, personable, and friendly. I cannot remember seeing him when he was not smiling.

His passing leaves his lovely wife, Dawn, five surviving children, and the 6,000 member Bell Shoals Baptist Church to mourn their loss. Yesterday the church website simply bore this statement, "We grieve with hope and assurance that our Lord Jesus will lead us and carry us through these difficult times. We have lost a great brother, pastor and friend in Forrest Pollock as well as a precious little brother in Christ, Preston Pollock."

Forrest Pollack and Dottie Rambo were two very different people, with differing gifts, called into very different ministries, but both were able to make a mark for Christ during their lifetimes. It has often been said that the most important data on a tombstone is not the name of the deceased, nor the date of birth, nor the date of death. The most important mark on that stone is the little dash that separates those dates. That "dash" represents all that was accomplished in the life of the departed one. There is an old saying, "Only one life that soon will pass, only what's done for Christ will last." Dottie Rambo and Forrest Pollack used the "dash of their lives" to exalt Jesus.

May each of us do the same.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another Great Ministry Under Way

This Saturday, May 17th, will mark the third week of Westmoreland Baptist Church's initial season of Upward spring soccer. So far, the program has been a great success.

Over 70 young people from Pre-K through 5th graders are participating in our Upward Soccer League. There are eight teams in this initial season. The level of coaching is excellent and the kids are having a wonderful time. The motto for Upward Sports Ministries is "Every Child Plays... Every Child Learns... Every Child Wins!" We have found that to be true in our Upward Basketball and Cheerleading efforts during the winter months, and the spring soccer program has proven to be a wonderful ministry.

Upward is a sports ministry begun about 25 years ago at First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, SC under the direction of Caz McCaslin, a staff member of the church. Upward is now a national program with over 2,000 local churches doing ministry to children and families through Basketball, Cheerleading, Soccer, and Flag Football. Our church has opted to try Basketball, Cheerleading and Soccer, and it has been a good fit. Over two hundred reservations were received for our Upward Basketball and Cheerleading Awards Ceremony back in March. The crowd was so large that if the league grows next season (as we believe it will) we may have to move our games from the church gym to the Westmoreland Boys and Girls Club (in the former Westmoreland Elementary School Gym), one block down Hughes Street from the church.

Soccer has already proven a bigger draw for us, and we expect that the Soccer Awards Ceremony will be even better attended than the Basketball ceremony was.

The ministry is much different than other "youth sports programs". It is truly a ministry, as every game begins with prayer and every child gets a Biblical devotional each game. No ministry such as Upward would be possible without the unselfish dedication of the leaders, coaches, and helpers. An important part of our Upward ministry is the prayer team of over 100 church members who are praying for 100 days for the success of this ministry and the safety of the children involved. The coaches are dedicated Christians, who must give testimony of their relationship with Jesus Christ. Integrity is essential in the coaches as they are the primary role models for the young people involved. The coaches are positive, dedicated to instruction and building up the lives of these children, and well educated in the Upward system.

Jeff and Tara Lockhart head up our Soccer league, and have already devoted hours of their time, as well as assuming much expenses along the way. They joyfully give of themselves in this important ministry. Even some of our senior members have gotten deeply involved in Upward. Retired guys like Thamer Calhoun, Charley Dygert and Bob Moses have donated hours of their time and talents. Wonderful folks like Dallas and Dee Ashworth and Maxine Bias, man our concession stand at each basketball and soccer contest. They are not in it to "make money" for the league, but rather to provide a service to the kids and their fans. This past Saturday I heard one mother question the cost of the concessions she had purchased.

"Are you sure that's right?" she asked.

"That's right", Dallas answered.

"That can't be enough", she protested. "You all should raise your prices".

I smiled as Dallas explained, "We're doing this as a ministry".

We'd give it away if we could...

Someone has asked if we are trying to get all the families involved to attend Westmoreland Baptist Church. The answer is, we are trying to bring Jesus to every family involved. About half of the applicants listed home churches that they regularly attend, but half have no home churches. We want to show Christ's love to them!

In closing, I want to share an email with you that I received from a lady whose family has been attending our church on a regular basis since her son participated in Upward Basketball this past winter. I'll leave her name off, but I want you to get the gist of the message:

"Pastor C.J.

I would like to thank you for making us feel so welcome. When we first moved to Hughes Street, I told my husband and kids that I wanted to start attending your church. I was a little intimidated at first because I was worried about how "welcome" I would feel and I guess that's why it took me so long to start coming. The Upward Basketball program was the little 'push' that I needed. I feel like I've been a part of the church forever. I really do feel at home. Everyone there is so friendly. Thanks again. "

Now THAT's what I'm talking about! That's part of what makes Upward such a special ministry. I thank the Lord for opening this wonderful door of ministry to us at Westmoreland Baptist Church.

I highly recommend it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

These are some of the women in my life whom I have dearly loved. I'm sorry that I do not have photos of my grandmother Stidham and a better photo of my grandmother Adkins.

Pictured here are my mother, my wife, my mother in law, my daughters in law and their mothers, an old photo of my Dad's family, and my great grandmother. All are (or were) special mothers.

So, I really have nothing profound or charming to say today. Just a simple wish to the ladies in my life, and for all the other mothers who may read this blog -


Friday, May 9, 2008

We Are Marshall

I watched the movie again last weekend with my 7 year old grandson. Will went with us to the theater when "We Are Marshall" first came out, and he has asked to see it again several times. I don't watch the DVD often, but whenever I do, it never fails in bringing tears to my eyes. Most likely any Huntingtonian who remembers that night in November 1970 has a similar flood of emotion when the film is shown.

Most of us can remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news of the Southern Airways chartered plane crash at Tri State Airport, claiming the lives of most of the Marshall University football team, coaching staff, Athletic Director, sports announcers, boosters, and flight crew. I had been a classmate of a number of the players at Marshall. My doctor and his wife were on that plane. The parents of several of my friends were also aboard. Our neighbor, WHTN Sports Director, Ken Jones lost his life as well. It would have been hard to find anyone in Huntington who would not have been touched by the tragedy.

I had transferred from Marshall to Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville to prepare for the ministry only a semester before the crash. Several guys in the dorm were talking that evening about the results of various college football games. Alabama, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina were the favorites of most of the southerners in the dorm. I asked if anyone had heard how Marshall had done and Grady Holder said, "I think I heard they lost to East Carolina."

"Oh well", I thought, "Same old same old."

It wasn't until I climbed into bed that night that I turned on the radio. That was my usual routine, with the radio turned down low, listening to Scott Shannon, I generally dropped off to sleep pretty quickly. At the top of the hour (11:00 PM) the regular five minute news report came on with the lead story that a plane carrying the Marshall University Football team had crashed upon landing at Tri State Airport in Kenova, WV.

I couldn't believe what I heard. Sitting straight up in the bed, I asked myself, "Did I dream that?" My roomate was home for the weekend so there was no one to verify what I thought I had just heard. I quickly put on my pants and made my way to the pay phone on the third floor in the stair well at Goen Hall. I called the radio station and the DJ answered after a number of rings.


"Did I understand that there was a plane crash in Huntington, WV?" I asked. "What can you tell me about it?"

"I don't know a lot" he said. "It was a college football team and everyone on board is believed to be dead."

"My God!" I gasped. "I know some of those guys."

"I'm sorry, man. That's really tough. I sure hate it for you..."

Immediately I called home and Dad filled me in on what was known of the tragedy at that hour. A thousand thoughts ran through my mind and suddenly I felt so very, very far from home. Over the course of the next few days, I poured over newspapers, caught the TV news when I could, and called home often. The more I learned about the various friends and neighbors who had been lost, I just felt more and more helpless, and incredibly sad...

Now, nearly 38 years later, the feelings come rushing back every time I see the movie. I know that director McG. employed some theatrical license, but basically the story is based on fact. It succeeded in bringing the old memories flooding back, and I wonder where the time has gone. There was the deep sense of loss in the community. Then the years of frustration as the football program slowly went forward. The frustrations of the 70's - the hope and promise of the 80's - and the championship seasons of the 90's. What a great story, and a great movie to keep it new in our minds. Now I have grandchildren who are fascinated by the story and love the movie.

Upon seeing the movie for the first time, Will asked me about the fountain. "Do you know where that is Papaw?"

"Sure do, would you like to go see it?" I asked.

He couldn't wait. He generally spent the night with us on Friday, so that Saturday, Linda and I took him up to Huntington for his first visit to the Marshall Campus. After visiting the fountain, I asked him if he would like to see the grave site and memorial in Spring Hill Cemetery, and we made the trip up 20th Street hill to visit that sacred spot. Will is a Marshall Football fan now. He loves to go to the games, and thanks to "We Are Marshall" he will never forget what transpired in Huntington, thirty one years before he was born.

I think it's important that we never forget.

Perhaps the movie will cause a whole new generation of fans to remember the ones who lost their lives, and to build a sense of pride in what has been accomplished after such a great loss.

"From Ashes to Glory" indeed.

I am proud when I hear Will and his little brother, Asher, say, "We are... Marshall!"

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Every Pastor's Bad Dream

"Pastor", the voice on the other end of the line says, "This is Bill down at the funeral home."

"Yes Bill, how are you?" the pastor asks.

"Fine sir. One of the members of your church has passed away, and the family has asked if you would be able to handle the funeral service on Thursday..."

The pastor is shocked. He has a number of sick members to whom he has been ministering lately, but none of them seemed to be near death. Perhaps it is one of the many homebound members - some of whom are in nursing homes and convalescent centers. Maybe there has been a terrible accident. Many thoughts run through his mind.

"Of course I will Bill. Who is it?" he asks.

"Gladys Hornbuckle", the Funeral Director says matter of factly.

"Gladys Who?", he thinks. The pastor doesn't ask it audibly, of course, but he is dumbfounded. Who in the world is Gladys Hornbuckle? He racks his brain, but to no avail. It's no one he seems to remember. There are a number of members of the church who would be classified as "inactive", but in his 10 years as pastor of the church, he has a general idea of whom most of them are. Some members are no longer residents of the community but have kept their membership at the old home church. Maybe Gladys was one of those, he muses. He only has a moment to consider the question.

"The family is here with me now, making the arrangements", says Bill. "The service will be as 2:00 PM on Thursday. What shall I tell them?"

"Sure, Bill. Tell them I will be happy to try to help." the pastor replies. "Please give me the name and phone number of whoever is making the arrangements, and I'll get in touch with them by this evening."

The pastor spends part of the afternoon researching Gladys Hornbuckle. He finds that she is on the "inactive member" list. Only one or two of the long time members he inquired of thought they might remember the late Mrs. Hornbuckle. One of the members of the Membership Committee remembered several telephone conversations with Gladys. That committee meets periodically trying to manage the information regarding MIA church members. Notes of that committee indicated that Gladys did still live in the community and had been contacted on several occasions, each time replying, "I know I need to get back in church. That's my church and I love it, but I just need to get back in the habit." The pastor allows for how he would like to have a dollar for every time he had heard similar comments over the years of his ministry.

Later that evening the pastor calls the cell phone number given to him by the Funeral Director. He speaks to the daughter of the deceased.

"Mother really loved that church", she says. The voice on the other end sounds seems genuinely convinced of Gladys' devotion to her church.

"Where did your mother live", the pastor asks.

"About a mile from the church" is her answer.

"Was she homebound?"


Confused, he continues. "Had she been ill for some time?"

"No" the daughter says, "She's really been in pretty good health for someone her age. This was just a sudden stroke that took her."

The pastor expresses his sympathy for her loss, but struggles to try to learn more about the situation. "I don't think I have ever met your mother. Had she been attending another church?"

"No. She really loved your church. She was baptized there forty two years ago. She took us to Sunday School there when we were little kids. We wanted to have the funeral service at the church because she really did love that place, but I think it would have cost extra to have it there - having to use the hearse for an extra trip and all."

"When was the last time your mother was here?" he asked.
"I'm not really sure."
"How about you?"
"Oh, it's been a while since I was there", the daughter says. "My favorite member was Mr. Wayne. He's really a great Sunday School Teacher. How is he?"
"Well, Brother Wayne passed away about five years ago" the pastor replies.
"Do you attend church regularly somewhere?" he continues.
"No. We work so we really don't have much time for that."
The pastor sighs, "I see". He's had this conversation before, so he seeks to find out more about the deceased.
"When might I come by and talk to you about your mother?" he asks. I would like to have more information if I am going to do her funeral service.
"Well, what do you need to know? It's all in the obituary."
"Is there any particular scripture reference that she may have considered her favorite?"
"No", comes the reply. "I think she kind of liked the Psalms. Probably something from Psalms."
"Do you have any plans for any particular music during the service?"
"Don't you all have someone who can do that?", comes the incredulous reply.
"Well, we do have some musicians and vocalists, but if you wanted one of them, it would help if you had some particular information about favorite songs, etc."
"What would that cost?"
"I'm sure most of them would not have any set charge for doing music at a funeral service, but most of them might have to take time off from work to do so."
"Well, the funeral home told us we could have recorded music."
"That's true. That particular funeral home has an organist, or they can offer a number of beautiful recorded hymns. Did your mother have any favorites?"
"Well", says the daughter, "I thought I might have Vince Gill's 'Go Rest High On That Mountain', Nat King Cole's 'Unforgettable', or 'I Did It My Way' by Old Blue Eyes - she really liked that one."
"I'll bet she did" the pastor says to himself.
The conversation continues, but I will spare you further details...
Every pastor has had a similar conversation. Some of us who have been around a long time have had several of them. After 37 years in the ministry I am still amazed at the number of people who identify with a particular local church, but never darken the door. They say how much it means to them and how they love the people, but it has been so long since they have attended, most of the congregation doesn't even know who they are.
Now, there are legitimate reasons for some members to be missing. Genuine health problems can keep some away. Some are bedfast and genuine shut ins, but how many times have we heard the health excuse, yet regularly see the "sick folks" at the grocery store, beauty shop, or going to the local bingo game? More times than some might imagine!
Eventually, that final appointment comes, and the family is left to plan the funeral service, and a conversation like the one above ensues. Sometimes these situations remind me of a little verse on a card my Dad use to carry in his Bible. It bore a photo of a hearse in front of a church building and the text read:
Every time I pass the church,
I stop to pay a visit.
Else someday when I'm carried there-
The Lord may say, "Who is it?"
"...not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." - Hebrews 10: 25 (NKJV)