Friday, November 20, 2015

Happy Birthday Freda Kimsey

When I check the status page on my blog, on any given day the views it receives may come from as many as 13-17 countries around the world.  It also shows me where the traffic comes from (various search engines, websites, etc).  The problem is, I never really know WHO is reading the blog. Oh, I know that close friends and family members read it regularly, and sometimes someone will leave a comment on a particular post that will let me know that person is reading it.  However there is one lady who seems to read my blog daily.  Even though I don’t always post daily.  In fact, when I don’t post to it in a while, she’ll send me an email to let me know she misses it.  Now THAT makes me feel like it matters to someone!

Well, tomorrow (Saturday, November 21st) is that lady’s birthday, and if I should ever wish anyone a happy birthday on this site, it should be Freda Kimsey of Parkersburg, WV.  I don’t think Freda would mind me telling which birthday this is, since an 80th birthday doesn’t come around very often.  In fact, it doesn’t come around at all for many folks.  Today is a day for Freda and her daughters, sons in law, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to celebrate, and we all should celebrate with her.

The Kimsey family’s story is a great American story.  She and her late husband, Dan (a career US Air Force veteran, who saw duty in Korea and Viet Nam) raised three daughters, and were great Christian examples to them and their families with a heritage that will last for generations.

Freda and Dan were married June 20, 1954 when she was only 18 years of age.  Dan passed away on June 5th of last year, just 15 days shy of their 60th wedding anniversary.  I was privileged to attend his memorial service in Parkersburg, and it was a fitting tribute to BOTH Dan and Freda and their lives well spent in service to God, Country, and Family.

As I said, Dan was a “Fly Boy”.  They were stationed at Lockbourne AFB and moved to Circleville, OH in 1955.  Freda soon became active in Circleville First Baptist Church around 1959.  Her faithful witness helped lead Dan to Christ and he came to faith in Jesus in 1961.  Freda worked in the church teaching Sunday School, VBS (back when it lasted 2 weeks) and was involved in Women's Missionary Union, holding various offices in WMU including president.

In April, 1963, Dan was transferred to Grand Forks AFB, and they immediately joined a church just off the base.  Even though only at Grand Forks for two years, Dan and Freda made many life long friends there.  1964 brought them back to Lockbourne and Circleville.  The church family and neighbors there became extended family to the Kimseys. 

When Dan retired from the USAF in 1972 they moved to West Virginia.  Once again, Freda made her home a welcome place to all her new friends and neighbors. She and Dan attended Marshall University football and basketball games regularly.  Eventually they settled in Parkersburg in 1978 and became active in the MU alumni association, where she even served as president.  She is still involved.  In retirement, Dan and Freda traveled regularly, visiting old friends and attending squadron reunions, etc.

It is an understatement to say that the last year and a half has been tough for Freda, her three girls, five grandchildren and nine great grandchildren, but they would all agree that they are blessed to have her in their lives.  She is a wonderful, godly woman, and a true prayer warrior.

Freda, you have been a great encouragement to this pastor for a number of years.  You are a blessing to many, and now we wish you a happy birthday, filled with the blessings of family and friends!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

For Those Of Us Of A Certain Age - A Great Christmas Poem!

All this talk about Starbucks and Christmas has made me realize that Christmas is just around the corner.  Hard to believe it's going to be upon us soon (even though Thanksgiving is still a couple of weeks away).  How is it possible that it's Christmas again?  Didn't we just have it ...?
It all got me thinking about back when it seemed like Christmas would never come. Back in the '50s on Gallaher Street in Huntington, WV.  Back in the days when "boys were boys", and we got into everything that we could, most of it our mothers would have described as "mean-ness". 

There were sling shots and BB Guns.  Double Bubble Gum and Bazooka Joe, Turkish Taffy, RC Cola and Moon Pies.  There was stealing tomatoes from Mr. Black's garden, and buying cigarettes for 35 cents from the machine at the Dairy Cheer and smoking them behind the Beverly Theater.  There was the daily ritual of throwing of crab apples at the Curtis girls on the way home from Gallaher School.  And who remembers climbing over the fence after dark  and skinny dipping in the swimming pool they set up on the school playground every summer?  There was lots of stuff to get into, and we did what we could, but sure enough, when it got down to this time of year, there was a marked change in our behavior.

After all, Christmas was coming.

You know the line, "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good, for goodness sake!...".

Santa Claus was coming and we knew there had to be a marked change in our behavior.  When it was Christmas time, a guy HAD to be good.  And it was tough.

Years later, as a young father, myself, those memories were brought back to me by Carl D. Taylor, when we worked together in an Automobile Dealership in Ashland, Ky.  At Christmas time, Carl was prone to quote a poem, a long one he had learned by heart at a young age, It harkened back to the days (even back before the '50s) with a narrative by a young boy who understood what each of us went through at Christmas time when we had to be "as good as we could be"!

I haven't seen Carl in years, but through the miracle of Google, I did find that old poem recently.  In the spirit of the coming season, I thought I'd share it with you today.  Hope it brings back some sweet memories to you.

Jest 'Fore Christmasby Eugene Field (1850-1895)
Father calls me William, sister calls me Will,
Mother calls me Willie, but the fellers call me Bill!
Mighty glad I ain't a girl---ruther be a boy,
Without them sashes, curls, an' things that 's worn by Fauntleroy!

 Love to chawnk green apples an' go swimmin' in the lake---
Hate to take the castor-ile they give for bellyache!
'Most all the time, the whole year round, there ain't no flies on me,
But jest 'fore Christmas I 'm as good as I kin be!

Got a yeller dog named Sport, sick him on the cat;
First thing she knows she does n't know where she is at!
Got a clipper sled, an' when us kids goes out to slide,
'Long comes the grocery cart, an' we all hook a ride!

 But sometimes when the grocery man is worrited an' cross,
He reaches at us with his whip, an' larrups up his hoss,
An' then I laff an' holler, "Oh, ye never teched me!"
But jest 'fore Christmas I 'm as good as I kin be!

Gran'ma says she hopes that when I git to be a man,
I 'll be a missionarer like her oldest brother, Dan,
As was et up by the cannibuls that lives in Ceylon's Isle,
Where every prospeck pleases, an' only man is vile!

 But gran'ma she has never been to see a Wild West show,
Nor read the Life of Daniel Boone, or else I guess she 'd know
That Buff'lo Bill an' cowboys is good enough for me!
Excep' jest 'fore Christmas, when I 'm good as I kin be!

And then old Sport he hangs around, so solemn like an' still,
His eyes they seem a-sayin': "What's the matter, little Bill?"
The old cat sneaks down off her perch an' wonders what's become
Of them two enemies of hern that used to make things hum!

 But I am so perlite an' tend so earnestly to biz,
That mother says to father: "How improved our Willie is!"
But father, havin' been a boy hisself, suspicions me
When, jest 'fore Christmas, I 'm as good as I kin be!

For Christmas, with its lots an' lots of candies, cakes, an' toys,
Was made, they say, for proper kids an' not for naughty boys;
So wash yer face an' bresh yer hair, an' mind yer p's and q's,
An' don't bust out yer pantaloons, and don't wear out yer shoes;

 Say "Yessum" to the ladies, and "Yessur" to the men,
An' when they 's company, don't pass yer plate for pie again;
But, thinkin' of the things yer 'd like to see upon that tree,
Jest 'fore Christmas be as good as yer kin be!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Random Thoughts

There is no one who can ask more questions than a four year old.  I'm laid up this week, spending much of my time in the recliner with my recently operated on right foot elevated.  My four year old grandson, who lives next door, has been coming in and out to visit me.  I have had the time to really pay attention to him and his actions and I have been amazed at how many questions he can ask.
His mind is like a sponge, and his curiosity is insatiable.  It is a joy watching and listening to him as he processes the steady stream of information generated by his inquisitive nature.


Does anyone else out there think the moderators on last night's Republican candidate debate asked more substantive questions than did their counterparts at CNBC on the last debate?  Questions seemed to be more focused on economics, foreign policy, immigration, and policy issues in general, and less on "gotcha" questions and stirring up hostile exchanges between candidates.  On the "not ready for prime time" earlier debate, recently demoted Gov. Chris Christie really seemed to dominate that group. Although not a great Christie supporter, I thought his performance was more suitable to be with the "big hitters" no matter what polling information indicates.


I have been invited to speak at the Veterans Day Program at my grandson's elementary school tomorrow morning.  I have attended the annual program there for the past few years.  They always do a great job in honoring the veterans who attend and the kids always have a great patriotic program.  To be honest, I am a little bit nervous about this program.  It's not that I'm nervous speaking to a large group of people, as I do that every Sunday morning.  It's the fact that they have invited me to be the speaker for this particular event.  I feel a bit like Paul when he compared himself to the other apostles. I definitely feel that I am the least among these veterans.  Among those who will be in the honored group are men like my father in law who served under General Patton in WWII, as well as other Korean and Viet Nam war veterans, along with Kosovo vets and men who have served in both Gulf Wars and in Afghanistan.  I have Viet Nam era service, but was never stationed overseas during my Air Force career.  I plan on talking about the fact that all veterans are trained to serve as combatants even though many primarily served in supportive roles.  I'm going to talk about the Oath of Service and what that means to every veteran who has served.  Should be an interesting time, and I know my grandson, Asher, is very excited about it.  This is his last year at Charles Russell Elementary, and he's proud that his Papaw is going to be the speaker.  Now I hope I don't let him down.  There is the pressure!


This Saturday, November 14th marks the 45th anniversary of the crash of a chartered Southern Airways jet that claimed the lives of 75 Marshall University football players, coaches, boosters, and flight crew, as it went down just short of the runway at Tri State Airport.  That rainy fall night is etched into the memories of anyone who had connections with the University in particular or the city of Huntington in general.
I had just transferred in that fall semester from Marshall to Free Will Baptist Bible College (now Welch College) in Nashville, TN.  My Saturday had been filled with intermural athletics, and laundry all afternoon.  There was no television in our dorm, and late that evening several of us were comparing notes and trying to get scores from our favorite teams.  Most of the guys there were SEC and ACC fans (since most of them were from the southeastern US) and those scores were most discussed.  I had asked several guys if they had heard anything about the Marshall vs. East Carolina game, and somebody said "I think I heard that East Carolina won".  That was about all the information I could get, since Al Gore was still a reporter for "The Tennessean" then and had not yet invented the internet.
It wasn't until after lights out, as I lay in my bunk with my earphones plugged into the radio, listening to WMAK, that I heard the report on the 11:00PM news cast that a plane carrying the Marshall University football team had crashed in Kenova, WV.
I rushed to the pay phone in the stair well and called home (collect) and stood in stunned silence as Dad told me the information that was coming in over the local television stations from the crash site.
I had been in numerous freshmen classes with several of the now varsity players who were on the ill fated flight.  Our neighbor, Ken Jones, the sports director of WHTN channel 13 was on the flight. My Dr. was aboard.  Several other boosters and local business people - many from our neighborhood, several of them parents of my friends and former classmates were also among the dead.  I would imagine there were very few people in Huntington who were not personally touched in some way by the tragedy on that long ago November night.
I remember feeling so helpless, and so far away.
It's been 45 years since that terrible night, and I still remember it like yesterday.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Get Over It, and Get On With The Mission !

Well, the latest uproar in the so called "Culture War" revolves around Starbuck's new "Christmas Cups" for 2015.  Some well meaning evangelicals are bemoaning the fact that Starbucks has
de-Christmasized the seasonal cups - thereby advancing the attack in the ongoing secular "war on Christmas".

Fellow believers, let's slow down and take a rational look at things.

First of all, Starbuck's previous "Holiday Cups" have never made reference to Christmas itself, nor to the true meaning of the holiday.  A quick check of Google Images will show that the previous years seasonal cups had white tree ornaments, or snowflakes, or doves decorating the cup over the same red background that makes up this year's cup. No "Star of Bethlehem", no nativity scene, no shepherds or maji, nor images of the Christ Child.  Certainly no inscription of "Merry Christmas".

They were simply "Holiday Cups", not "Christmas Cups" any way.  Deal with it!

Secondly, why should we really expect a totally secular business enterprise to endorse the centerpiece of the Christian faith?  I mean, really.

Like many other Christ followers, I do regret the secularization of America.  Since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, there most certainly has been a strong Christian influence in the United States.  While our founders were most certainly not all devoted followers of Christ, there was a strong recognition of the existence of a Sovereign God, and a belief in the value of His written Word.  These are evidenced by references to Him in our founding documents and other writings by the founders, and to the practice of taking oaths of office, or giving testimony in court with a hand placed on the Bible.  Without a doubt, our legal codes are based on the Commandments of the Bible, and our society was heavily influenced by what we often call the Judeo-Christian ethic.

After WWII, as the second half of the Twentieth Century unfurled, the Christian influence in our culture, slowly began to erode.  While this erosion has been slow and steady, those of us who have lived through the cultural changes of the '60s and '70s can look back and identify some of the key events that highlight those changes.  Now, here in the second decade of the 21st Century,  we can safely say that we are not a Christian nation.  Even though references to God still exist in inscriptions on the Supreme Court building, in our pledge of allegiance to our flag, and a slogan on our money, a true reliance on the Supreme Being no longer exists at large in the USA.

Those of us who do worship our God and have placed our trust in Jesus Christ, deeply regret the Christless condition of our present culture.

But why should we be surprised?

The Cross of Christ is a reproach to this world.  The message of Salvation has long been anathema to those who do not believe.  Christians have been persecuted and despised by the world system since Christianity's earliest days (see Acts 4) and persecution and martyrdom of Christ followers has intensified throughout the centuries (see Foxes Book of Martyrs).  And even today, our fellow believers are being persecuted with ostracism, imprisonment, and even death in many countries around the world.  Why should we expect a secular culture to cater to our beliefs.  Furthermore, why should we expect any better treatment that was afforded our Lord?

Jesus put it this way:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you..."  (John 15:18-20a ESV)

Finally, we believers spend an awful lot of time and energy fighting those things that we perceive to be a threat to our beliefs. 

Don't get me wrong.  We hold to Truth.  Truth is not a concept, Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ. We also hold to the truth of the written Word.  Sin is sin and we recognize it as such.  Sin when it is finished brings forth death.  There is no cure for sin other than the application of the precious blood of Jesus as we by faith receive the gracious gift of God through Christ alone.

We live in a depraved world, and a dark culture.  Too often we spend our time railing at the culture around us.  We've done a pretty good job so far of letting the world know what we are against.

It's time we do a better job of letting the world know what we are FOR.  Things like Grace, Mercy, Love, Forgiveness, Eternal Life, Abundant Life and a personal relationship with God.

We are called to be Ambassadors of Christ.  We have been reconciled to God through Christ Jesus, and He has called us to a ministry of reconciliation. Perhaps we should spend more of our time and energy finding ways to share the Good News of Christ, rather than protesting, ranting on social media, and trying to force a godless culture to confirm to our beliefs.

Only Christ can change lives, and he does. 

Share the Gospel.  Tell the Christmas story - the story of Jesus.  Endeavor to show the Love of Christ in your life and, "always be ready to give an account for the hope that is in you...", and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Word of Praise for Those Who Serve Our Veterans at the Huntington VAMC (Especially the Nurses on 5 South)

I am a U.S. Air Force Veteran from the Viet Nam Era.  When I received my discharge from active duty, I was blessed to get an entry level job with the VA in the Huntington Regional Office.  I worked there several years advancing up to the Finance Office (and would have been long retired had I stayed) but eventually I left "government work" for a career in sales that I felt, and proved right, would be more lucrative financially.  Although I did well in sales and management, I did miss out on many good government employee benefits, but that was the path I chose, and I am content with the choice.

I had little contact with the VA Medical Center in Huntington until,  at the bidding of a fellow veteran friend of mine, I went up and signed up for the Veterans Health Care system.  After all, he said, "We've earned it"! 

Neither of us had service connected disabilities, but we were eligible for the program, including prescriptions, with provisions of co-pays, etc.

I had never thought much of the old "VA Hospital" up on the hill off Spring Valley Drive just outside the city limits of Huntington.  It is where my grandfather (a WWI veteran) had died from lung cancer in 1959.  I always thought of the hospital as the place "where old guys went to die".  Not a very good image, but it's what I thought, nonetheless.

A pleasant surprise awaited me after I became eligible for the system.  As I begin to get treatment for my feet and vision care related to my Type 2 Diabetes, my opinion of the facility began to change.  Dad had been going out there for years, and I began to realize what good care he was receiving. I learned that it had become associated with the Marshall University Medical School, and there were some outstanding teaching physicians who were there on site.  In fact, in the past year an a half, I have actually been treated by two excellent physicians who are practicing there, whom I had previously seen in private practice here in my hometown of Ashland, KY!

A couple of years ago, we began to see some bad reports on television about the VA Medical Center in Phoenix, and as the news media often does, they "dug up as much dirt" on the VA health care system as they possibly could.  While I realize that there may be some VA facilities that are not performing well, and I do know that there is a shortage of good physicians system wide, my experience has been nothing but positive.

I have been having issues for some time with diabetic ulcers on my right foot.  In March of 2014 I was admitted with osteomyelitis (in layman's terms a bad infection) in my right foot, with sharp pain shooting up my leg.  They determined that the infection was MRSA, an antibiotic resistant staph infection, which left untreated, would be extremely dangerous.

To make a long story short, I had two stays there in March and July of 2014, resulting in amputations of toes number 4 & 5 along with part of their metatarsals as well.

On both occasions, my room was located on "5 South", which I understand to be the surgical floor.

Just after my 65th birthday, in late October of this year, the symptoms recurred. I had continued to be dealing with an ulcer on the bottom of my big toe, which, no matter how hard we tried to keep it clean and properly dressed, continued to resist healing.  It turns out, I had either contracted MRSA again, or it had never completely gone out of my system.  At any rate, in severe pain, and a tremendously swollen foot, I was admitted back to the VAMC.  Within a couple of days, I endured
another two surgical procedures, the second one being a resection of the bone in my big toe, where the MRSA had already infected part of the bone.  Thankfully this procedure was designed to save my "Piggy that went to market" from the "chopping block".  The surgery was successful.

Once again, I found myself in a private room on 5 South, and renewed old acquaintances with many of the same nurses who had taken care of me last year.  I was so happy to see them again, as I could never describe the wonderful care they had given me after those two painful amputations last year. 

Well, I was with them for nine days and the treatment from "my friends from before" and nurses that I had not previously met, the nine days of my "Incarceration" were made more bearable, and at times, even bordering pleasant.  My one big regret was that last year, although I thanked them profusely for their care, I failed to let anyone higher up the chain of command know how much I appreciated their help and professional care on my two periods of confinement.  So, upon arriving home last week, I wrote a letter to the VAMC Director to commend the guys and girls on 5 South who provide such excellent health care to me and our other veterans on that floor.  Here is the text of the letter I sent to Director Nemo.  Hopefully they will receive the recognition they deserve from higher up, and if not, perhaps some of them who are now my Facebook friends will see this post and share it with the others.

November 4, 2015

Director Nemo
VA Medical Center
Huntington, WV 25704

Dear Director Nemo;

I recently spent 9 days as an inpatient in room 5124 in your facility, I underwent a couple of surgical procedures, and was treated for having MRSA in my bloodstream, as well as a serious infection in my right foot.

The reason I am writing today is to bring to your attention the quality of care I received from the Nurses on 5 South.  Every employee I encountered, from the housekeeping, dietary, and other areas was top notch, but I cannot say enough about the nursing staff on 5 South.

I was also a patient on that same floor, twice in 2014 as I underwent two partial amputations on my right foot.  That is when I first learned what a wonderful group of men and women served our veterans in that part of the hospital.  I had several of the same nurses this year who had cared for me before and I was blessed to have them care for me again.

As a pastor I have spent a lot of time visiting in hospitals in the Huntington and Ashland area.  I have also been a patient, myself at Our Lady of Bellefonte, Kings Daughters, and Cabell Huntington Hospitals.  While I received good care at each of these facilities, none of them compared with the kindness, caring, and professional bearing of the nurses on 5 South of the VAMC Huntington.

The nurses who primarily worked with me were Rainelle, Paige, Beth, Marc, Scott, Abby, Susan, Rhonda, and Brittany. There were others, too, whose names escape me now, but each of them went above and beyond just “doing their jobs”.  I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the wonderful care they provided for me and, I’m sure, for the other patients as well.  I was impressed with the comprehensive personal care they provided, even with a large patient load.

It’s hard enough to be a patient in a medical facility, sometimes in great pain, and always concerned about the outcome of one’s  illness.  These wonderful nurses made the hospital experience not only bearable, but helped raise my spirits by actually seeming to care about me as a person, not just a patient in the crowd. I believe these dedicated professionals deserve recognition for a job well done.

Sincerely,C.J. Adkins

Just allow me to close this post by saying a big THANK YOU to EVERY nurse, doctor, resident, student, housekeeper, food service personnel, social worker, therapist, and chaplain with whom I came in contact.  Every single one of them provided professional, caring service, always ending every conversation with a hearty, "Thank you for your service."

May I say to each of them in return, "Thank you for YOUR service, and may God bless you abundantly!"

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Yesterday's Blog Stats

I never cease to be amazed how connected our world is today.  I have had the privilege to travel as far as 13 time zones away, and I know how long that can take (even by jumbo jet) and how expensive that proposition can be. Yet the world wide web has connected us with people all around the world, instantly!

Social Media of all types allow us to post updates and status, tweet, post photos, skype, facetime, instagram, and numerous other vehicles of communication.  I use it to visit daily with scores of friends, young and old, whom I have come to know well after a dozen mission trips to the Philippines.  I hear from many of them regularly - in spite of the time difference.  Our sharing of information and photos, help us stay close even though we are separated a half a world apart.

Then there is this blog site.  I have been blogging for several years now.  Not every day, and it's really a small time operation.  It's bush league compared to bloggers who reach millions, but when I look at the stats on my little blog, it still boggles my mind how many visits my site gets on a regular basis.

Over the time I have been sharing thoughts in this media, I see that I have had over 128,000 visits to this site.  Yesterday alone there were 373 separate visitors to "For What It's Worth" from ten different nations around the globe.

The breakdown looks like this:

United States
United Kingdom
South Korea

Just think of what is involved here.

An insignificant pastor in the WV-OH-KY Tri State Area of the United States, who only has time to blog intermittently, can pick up nearly 400 viewers around the world, on a day when I have actually not published anything new for several days. Information is moving at a blinding pace, even into nations where I know no one personally!

It's a small world and it's shrinking faster and faster every day.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Enough! Enough! Enough Already!

There is a scourge in our culture today, and it has become an epidemic in the Huntington & Charleston, WV; Ashland, KY; and Ironton & Portsmouth, OH areas.  It has touched nearly every family in our Tri-State area in some way.  If it hasn't touched yours yet - it will!   It is the scourge of Alcohol and Drug Addiction, and it is spreading like wildfire in a parched forest.

If there was a killer virus going around, we would all be taking extreme precautions.  Awareness would be at a peak. Every preventive effort available would be employed to stamp out this virus.  We would stop at nothing to protect our families, our children, our loved ones and our neighbors from the scourge. Folks, it is far past time that we focus time, energy, awareness and resources to stop, at all cost, this plague that has already gone beyond what many of us would have ever dreamed.  

People actually joke about it.  Some are oblivious to the danger, and many are clueless.  Others think, "It can't happen to me or my family", but it does!  The entertainment industry glorifies it.  The Advertising industry glamorizes it.  It has long been fashionable for the thrill seekers to dabble with addictive substances.  It draws in the curious, the lost and hurting, and the most vulnerable among us, the children and young people in our community.

My friend, Esther Edmondson, had posted a link on social media, attributed to an Ashleigh Marie Cross.  I do not know Ms. Cross, but she hits the nail on the head with the following description of the power of addictive substances:
I destroy homes, tear families apart,take your children, and that's just the start.I'm more costly than diamonds, more costly than gold,the sorrow I bring is asight to behold,and if you need me, remember I'm easily found.I live all around you, in schools and in town.I live with the rich, I live with the poor,I live down the street, and maybe next door.My power is awesome; try me you'll see,but if you do, you may never break free.Just try me once and I might let you go,but try me twice, and I'll own your soul.When I possess you, you'll steal and you'll lie.You do what you have to just to get high.The crimes you'll commit, for my narcotic charmswill be worth the pleasure you'll feel in your arms.You'll lie to your mother; you'll steal from your dadWhen you see their tears, you should feel sad.But you'll forget your morals and how you were raised,I'll be your conscience, I'll teach you my ways.I take kids from parents, and parents from kids,I turn people from God, and separate from friends.I'll take everything from you, your looks and your pride,I'll be with you always, right by your side.You'll give up everything your family, your home,your friends, your money, then you'll be alone.I'll take and take, till you have nothing more to give.When I'm finished with you you'll be lucky to live.If you try me be warned this is no game.If given the chance, I'll drive you insane.I'll ravish your body; I'll control your mind.I'll own you completely; your soul will be mine.The nightmares I'll give you while lying in bed,the voices you'll hear from inside your head,the sweats, the shakes, the visions you'll see;I want you to know, these are all gifts from me,But then it's too late, and you'll know in your heart,that you are mine, and we shall not part.You'll regret that you tried me, they always do,but you came to me, not I to you.You knew this would happen. Many times you were told,but you challenged my power, and chose to be bold.You could have said no, and just walked away,If you could live that day over, now what would you say?I'll be your master; you will be my slave,I'll even go with you, when you go to your grave.Now that you have met me, what will you do?Will you try me or not? Its all up to you.I can bring you more misery than words can tell.Come take my hand, let me lead you to hell.
As a pastor, I am seeing the blight of substance abuse touch far too many families. Not just in parts of town that "good people don't frequent", or among those who are often described as "those people", but in your neighborhood and in my neighborhood, and yes, even in the church.  As a pastor, father and grandfather, over the past four decades I have seen far too many "good kids" and "Family men" and "Soccer Moms" fall under the control of an outside substance.  I have visited far too many jails, hospital psychiatric units, recovery centers,  and funeral homes as a result of this scourge.  I have sat with too many broken, weeping families in time of loss.  I have sat in too many courtrooms seeing kids I have watched grow up and play with my own children, stand before judges, convicted of dealing, or convicted of crimes committed in order to help finance their addictions.  I have stood by too many grave sites, opened prematurely by the scourge of substance abuse and alcohol and drug addiction.  I have seen the scourge in my own family.

It's time that we wake up and collectively cry out, "ENOUGH!"

"Just Say No" programs have a nice ring to the sound, but the epidemic is far more widespread and dangerous than slogans can solve. Passing more laws will not fix the problem.  Hiring more law enforcement personnel won't do it.  Policing alone will not solve the problem.  Building more jails will not solve the problem.  Needle exchange programs will not solve the problem, nor will laws decriminalizing certain substances help stop the epidemic. Social programs alone cannot cure the illness.

The answer is going to have to come from a power higher than ourselves, our government, our courts, and law enforcement agencies.  Critics will say that the answer I espouse is trite, outdated, and delusional, but I can tell you that the only true cure to this epidemic is through the life changing power of one who said, "Come unto me and I will give you rest...".  The one who identified Himself to the aged Apostle John as the one "who was, and is, and is to come".  The one in whom is found, "joy unspeakable and full of glory" and "peace that surpasses earthly understanding".  The answer is in the Christ who bore our sins to the Cross of Calvary, rose from the dead, and sits today at the right hand of the Sovereign God of the universe.

Scoffers today will laugh and marginalize the Christ of the Bible, but friends, I can testify from my own personal experience, to His life changing power. I have family members and friends whose lives have been transformed through the power of a risen Savior, whose chains of addiction have been broken. I submit to you today that He is the ONLY hope of cure for this epidemic, which is our own depraved nature.

Casual church "membership", nominal Christianity, good bloodlines, and giving lip service to "religion" is not efficacious in itself. Deliverance comes only through a relationship with Christ. His Lordship in our lives. A disciplined life of following Jesus and allowing His Spirit to empower us.  It involves self denial, cross bearing, and trusting completely in Him.  We've got to get the word out on this!

Sadly, the Church, His Bride, has been backward and ineffective in getting the positive message of Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness and Relationship out in an effective manner.  I pray that each of us who profess to be Christ Followers, and the congregations we make up, will go on our knees before our God in repentance, and brokenness, and rise with determination and commitment to be Ambassadors for Him - offering His help, and a human helping hand as well, for those who are suffering from addictions and substance abuse.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Go Rest High On That Mountain

 Sometime in the overnight hours (our time) a half a world away, a blood family, and a church family will gather to bid farewell to Pastor Dominador Valdez. "Doming" as he was called by family and friends was the founding pastor of the New Life Christian Church (SBC) in Upper Batinguel barangay of Dumaguete City, capital city of the province of Oriental Negros in the Republic of the Philippines.

Doming was a former boxer and security guard, who many years ago, gave his live to Jesus Christ, and surrendered to the call of God to a ministry of evangelism, church planting and pastoral duties in his beautiful native land.  He was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather, uncle and friend. I know he will be deeply missed by his friends and neighbors and the precious faith family of NLCC.

I became acquainted with Doming in February, 2000 on my first overseas short term mission trip to the Philippines with a group of pastors from Eastern Kentucky.  It was a trip that changed my life and my ministry forever.  My assignment while in Dumaguete was to partner with Pastor Doming and his brand new church planting work in Dumaguete and its outreach ministries in the surrounding areas which included rugged rural mountain regions and coastal areas of southern Negros Island.

This assignment led to a ten year partnership with Pastor Doming and a lifelong friendship with this quiet, soft spoken man who had a desire to reach lost people in his country, with the life changing gospel of Christ.

I remember the night we first met at the passenger terminal at the Port of Dumaguete.  Rev. Charles Davis introduced me to this diminutive dark haired smiling fellow, whose English language skills were not the greatest. Bro. Davis said, "C.J. you'll be working with Bro. Domingo here."

"Your name is Domingo?" I asked.  "Like Spanish for Sunday?"
He broke into a large grin and said in his broken English, "Yes! Sunday! Like Billy Sunday!" (making reference to the fiery American Evangelist of the early 20th Century).

I liked him immediately.

I could go on and on here with stories about the blessing of the 10 years of working together with this kind pastor.  Through the people of Ashland Baptist Church, Westmoreland Baptist Church and the many friends of Beacon Ministries, we were blessed to help them in their ministry in numerous ways.

  • Financed and help construct two permanent concrete church buildings (in Dumaguete and Mayapusi)
  • Purchased numerous musical instruments, keyboard, guitars, and electronic equipment
  • Provided hymnals, and an overhead projector, and volumes of discipleship materials
  • Purchase about two hundred plastic stacking chairs for the churches
  • Traveled hundreds of miles together over highways and rough, rocky, (sometimes nearly impassible) mountain roads and trails
  • Held numerous home Bible Studies in numerous preaching points around the area
  • Held scores of crusades in villages throughout southern Negros Island
  • Walked miles together in house to house evangelism
  • Assisted in baptism services on the beaches of Negros and in beautiful pools of water in the mountains
  • Celebrated anniversary services of NLCC together over that decade.
  • Purchased a motor bike for Doming, and another motorbike for one of the young pastors of their satellite churches
  • Purchased hundreds of pounds of rice for their feeding ministries.
  • Purchased several thousand Bibles in the Cebuano dialect and help distribute them along with hundreds of Gospel tracts.
  • Held a two night mass youth rally at the Nino Aquino Freedom Park Amphitheater on the grounds of the Provincial Capitol Building
  • Worked together to host a two day Pastor and Church Leader Seminar in the Bethel Guest House in Dumaguete City, which was attended by 74 pastors and leaders from varying Evangelical denominations.
  • Provided those pastors with nearly a thousand dollars worth of Bibles and resource materials,
  • Doming and I even did a Wedding ceremony together!
One project that Doming always talked about was his vision of building a prayer retreat  that he called the "Nagabe Prayer Mountain".  He would often ride his motorbike (and also walk) to a remote area in the mountains overshadowing his home in Upper Batinguel. His family spoke of him spending days at a time "Praying in the Mountain".  He loved that area and hoped to obtain the property and build a retreat there that could be enjoyed by many.  A stroke several years ago not only brought about a curtailment of his physical ability to do many of the things he enjoyed, but also ended his efforts to develop the Prayer Mountain.

Even though circumstances brought our official partnership to an end in 2010, I still counted Bro. Doming as a dear friend, brother, and co-laborer in Christ.  Last week, on September 11, Doming's weakened body finally succumbed to the mounting illnesses and complications thereof, and his spirit flew away back to the Father he sought to serve so faithfully in his life.  My deepest condolences go out tonight to his wife Evilla, his son Dave (and wife Michelle), his daughter, Noemi Joy and his grandson, Genesis David.  My thoughts are with the Valdez and Dales families and to my many friends at New Life Church, as you grieve your loss. The Good news is that Doming is more alive today than in all of his years on this planet. He is with the Lord he loved and served, and he waits for us to join him in his heavenly home.

Knowing this man, remembering his life, and his dreams, I could not help but think of the words of a song written by Vince Gill. It's called "Go Rest High On That Mountain". I think it is appropriate. It goes like this:

I know your life on earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain
You weren't afraid to face the Devil
You were no stranger to the rain

Go rest high on that mountain
Son your work on earth is done
Go to Heaven a shoutin'
Love for the Father and the Son

Oh, how we cried the day you left us
We gathered round your grave to grieve
Wish I could see the angels' faces
When they hear your sweet voice sing

So go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done
Go to Heaven a shoutin'
Love for the Father and the Son

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How Do We As Christ Followers React To The Case Of Kim Davis?

Last week, just about 30 blocks from where I live in Ashland, KY, the County Clerk of nearby Rowan Co. Kentucky was sentenced to jail by Federal Judge David Bunning for being in contempt of Court. Anyone who doesn't know the background on this case has probably been on the International Space Station, or deep in the Amazon jungle for the past two months, so I will spare the background information.
The scene that played out that day on Greenup Avenue was driven by heavy emotion as protesters gathered from many different states. Both sides carried signs, chanted slogans, and there was an ugly undercurrent of incivility characterized by name calling from folks on both sides of the issue.

Ms. Davis has been characterized as a fanatic, looney tune, fundamentalist, and even a hypocrite due to the fact that she, herself, has been married four times. Hardly a poster child for the sanctity of marriage.  Others who know her well,  state that she committed her life to Christ only four years ago, and (even as a "baby Christian") has diligently sought to follow her Apostolic Church's teachings of the Bible.  Allow me to say here that I do not know the woman, and I cannot speak to her motives, spiritual depth, or personal faith.

What I do know is that this is a very complex issue. It involves far more than a "hillbilly eastern Kentucky political hack and religious zealot" who refuses to grant marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.  She has, in fact, ceased to issue marriage licenses to ANY couples, gay or straight.  I know that there is also at least one other (and possibly a third) County Clerk in Kentucky who have also ceased to issue marriage licenses.

As a Christ Follower, and a Pastor I have wrestled with this issue every day that she has languished in the Carter County Detention Center, about 30 miles down the road in the small town of Grayson, KY.

Like many others, I am appalled and outraged that a Christian has been jailed in America for standing firm on their religious beliefs.  Yet it is also understandable that an elected public office holder, who has sworn to fulfill all the duties of her office, and resisted a court order to do so, has been found in contempt of court. The question arises as to whether there is a difference between personal religious beliefs, and those that are held by a public office holder in the line of their duties.  Personally I believe that ethically, Ms. Davis' resignation would have been appropriate, stating publicly that she could no longer perform all of her duties of the job due to her religious beliefs. This would have made a powerful statement, however she chose to go in another direction which resulted in the media circus that took place in front of the Federal Courthouse in Ashland last week.  The sad thing in that spectacle, was that there was no visible difference in the behavior of the "Christian" supporters of Ms. Davis, and those who were there to protest against her actions.  In the midst of the name calling and vitriol, sadly lacking was the spirit of Grace and Love that truly identifies us as followers of Christ.

Some have asked me what I would do, if taken to court over refusing to perform a ceremony for a same sex wedding.  The simple answer is I would refuse to do so, based on my biblical beliefs, and our church wedding policy.  "Would you be willing to go to jail over that?"  I have been asked, and I do not have to hesitate on giving an answer to that question.  Of course I would.  But my situation as a minister of the Gospel and Ms. Davis refusal as a publicly elected official to perform her government mandated duties are two distinctively different situations.

Back in June, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-4 vote, basically redefined the millennia old definition of "Marriage".  Public officials across the nation whose duty it was to issue marriage licenses were then faced with a decision as to whether they would comply with the SCOTUS ruling, or not.  (I understand the concept of the "Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates", and I also understand, and despise the judicial tyranny that we are seeing here, so please spare me any lectures right now about that).  Ms. Davis' decision to remain in office and defy the court order based on her "deeply held religious convictions" obviously put her on a collision course with the judiciary.  Much can also be made about other elected officials who have chosen which laws they would enforce and which they would ignore.  This is a major problem in our government at several levels.  Ms. Davis just happens to be one who crossed the politically correct line of demarcation.

I would urge each of my readers to take a moment to read what I think are two excellent blog posts that pretty much sum up my stand on this issue.  These articles are written by Dr. Ken Keathley, Dr.Russell Moore, and Andrew Walker - godly men, all, who stand for the inerrancy and truth of scripture. First a very simple article by Dr. Keathly , which can be found by clicking here.  Then the Moore/Walker article which can be found by clicking here.  I hope my believing and my unbelieving friends will give thought to the content these posts.

Here are the points I would like to make in this writing today.

  • We live in a secular nation, and reluctantly I must agree with President Obama, when he said "This is not a Christian nation."  We were founded on bliblical principals, but we have fallen far from those standards as a nation.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States, has overstepped it's authority in redefining marriage. They most certainly could have ruled to allow "Civil Unions" if they so desired, but to call same sex unions, "marriage" is an affront, not only to Bible believing Christians, but to the institution that has existed for centuries, defined as a lifelong commitment of one man and one woman.
  • Under the laws of our nation, unless a future SCOTUS reverses this decision, it is considered "settled law" (just like Roe v. Wade, and the Dred Scott Decision - which was later repealed)
  • Persecution of Christians in America is coming.  In fact it is already here, and true Christ followers in our generation, and certainly in generations to come will most certainly be called upon to decide if we will "obey God, rather than man".
  • This should not really be a surprise to us, as our Christian brethren have been persecuted for centuries all over the world for their faith.  We Christians in America have been "spoiled" and softened by taking advantages of the religious liberties we have enjoyed for more than two centuries.  Those liberties are eroding quickly, and this writer believes, will soon be gone.
  • Judge Bunning, while fulfilling his duty to find Ms. Davis in contempt of court (which she was) had great latitude in the possible sentencing guidelines at his disposal.
  • He chose jailing her, because in his own words, a lesser punishment "Wouldn't change her mind".
  • This is one of the most chilling parts of of this entire saga.  Ladies and gentlemen, the "thought police" are here.  This is just the beginning, but make no mistake, the hole has developed in the dam.  Be prepared for the deluge.
  • How will we deal with this as people who truly seek to follow Jesus?
  • Please hear me in what follows.
In the early chapters of the Book of Acts in the New Testament, the Apostles John and Peter were taken into custody by the ruling Jewish Sanhedrin Court, after a miraculous healing of a lame man had taken place in the Temple complex in Jerusalem.  When asked by what power and in what name they had done this, they unapologetically said "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth".  Their crime was preaching and teaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.  When commanded to never preach again in the name of Jesus, their reply was, "We would obey God rather than man."  

Having been jailed, beaten, and commanded never to preach again in the name of Jesus, they were released from custody.  I think it is incumbent upon us first to note what they DID NOT do under threat from governmental authority:
  • they did not publicly call for God to send fire down from Heaven to devour their persecutors
  • they did not go out and retain the "Judean Center for Law and Justice" to take their case.
  • they did not organize a picket line at the Sanhedrin, bemoaning that their rights had been violated.
  • they did not go on social media to plead their case to the "court of public opinion"
  • they did not have a petition drive to enlist others to stand with them
  • they did not rally the Christians in Jerusalem to come to the Sanhedrin shouting slogans and hateful epithets against their persecutors.
  • they did not run for the hills, or go undergrround
What they DID DO, however, was noteworthy. They went back to their fellow believers and reported all that was done and said.  The church then joined together in PRAYER.  Not a prayer of vengance, nor a prayer of protest, but a prayer for BOLDNESS that they would be empowered to stand for Christ against all odds.  The Bible says, "When they had prayed, the place where they assembled was shaken".

There is a lesson for us here today, as the dark clouds of persecution gather in our society.
Let us be men and women of Prayer.
Our nation is likely under the judgment of God for our lack of faithfulness and prayer.  
So now, let us pray -
Let us pray for boldness.
Let us pray that Ms. Davis will be released from jail, no matter what other civil penalties she may face.
Let us pray that the Gospel of Christ will be the center of our motivation, not just taking sides in the so called "Culture War".
Let us pray that we will be people of Grace and Ambassadors for Christ in a postmodern culture
Let us pray for unbelievers, that they might come to know the joy and true liberty that comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
We serve a God who is sovereign over the universe, much less the three branches of the United States government.
Let us pray for "kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth"  (1 Timothy 2:2-4).
And finally let us remember that God is in control.  When the government becomes spiritually oppressive, never forget that  "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water,; He turns it wherever He wishes"  (Proverbs 21:1)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Louisville, KY Bus Station, 1970

I spent five hours in Louisville one January night;
     Observing with confusion, amazement and delight -
A human drama/comedy staged with quite a fuss
     In the ancient Greyhound Depot, while I awaited my next bus.
"What a people zoo" I thought as through the crowd I pressed,
     And immediately came face to face with a derelict, distressed -
Because, he said, he'd just been robbed by "a couple of no 'count boys",
    ( If I heard his tale correctly mid all the background noise).
He told me just a quarter would help relieve his stress,
     And he promised he would pay me back, if I'd give him my address.
Then one of Louisville's finest came strolling through the door,
      And with a look of abject terror, the wino hit the floor.
He scurried like a waterbug frightened by the light;
     Among the weary travelers and quickly out of sight.
The officer, however, didn't really seem to care about the old panhandler
     Or his hurried exit there -
Nor the sailor at the news stand reading girlie magazines,
     Nor the leather jacket wearing punks playing three pinball machines.
T'was the gal behind the counter of the cafe', sling hash,
     To the jukebox sound of "Woodstock" (played by Crosby, Stills and Nash) -
Who drew him like a magnet - this waitress young and fair,
     Which held that cop's attention with her flowing auburn hair.
As he sat down at the counter, seemed that she could read his mind.
     She smiled, and purred, "Hi Freddie!", and wiggled her behind.
I could tell they were not strangers, oh, that look was in their eyes.
     He grinned and said, "The usual".  She yelled, "BURGER, COKE and FRIES!"
I really couldn't tell you much more of what they said,
     for the more I thought about it, I wouldn't be caught dead;
Eavesdropping on this waitress, so intently chewing gum,
     And the cop who had so recently nearly mortified that bum.
I scanned the crowded terminal and wondered half aloud,
     'Bout all the lives and times of all the faces in the crowd -
Where they all were coming from and where they hoped to be,
     At this same time tomorrow, or in an hour or two or three.
There were soldiers toting dufflebags, going to and from Fort Knox,
     And a lady near my Granny's age, who held a battered box
Gingerly upon her lap, taped up and tied up with string.
     And one could only wonder what she carried in that thing.
A young girl sat down upon the bench directly facing me,
     Dressed in the counterculture garb of 1970.
The tension of those war torn years was etched upon her face,
     And her jacket emblems called for Peace to save the human race.
Then over in the corner, unless I saw amiss;
     A fellow with an earring winked at me and blew a kiss!
I'll have to say I was relieved when the clock upon the wall
     Finally signaled Two A.M. and I heard the PA call -
"Bus 1550 boarding now", Oh! what a joyful sound to know that in just moments
     I'd be West Virginia bound.
An when at last at Dad's house, home at last, I knew that we'd discuss,
     The night I'd spent in Louisville, as I waited on my bus.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Remembering A Great Man On The 47th Anniversary Of His Death

Jerry E. Stidham was my maternal grandfather. He crammed a lot of living into his 59 years - from his birth in "bloody" Breathitt County, Kentucky until his death in Logan General Hospital. His formal education was limited to high school, but his entire life was spent in broadening his horizons through reading everything that came into his hands. He had a thirst for knowledge, a gift of tact and diplomacy, and a heart to serve. All of those characteristics served him well throughout his life and varied careers.
Papaw Stidham's father was a coal miner and his uncle was a blacksmith in the mines. I am not certain what brought his father to Logan County, WV from Breathitt County, KY, but later in life, long after Papaw was gone, Mamaw told me she thought there might have been some kind of "incident" in Breathitt, that facilitated the move. That's all that she ever said on the matter.
My grandfather grew up in the coal camps of Logan County. He worked around the mines as a youngster, doing "gofer" work (go for this - go for that) and doing other menial tasks. He told me about a task he was once given as a young teen. The Superintendent told him, "Jerry, run down to Browning's house and let Mrs. Browning know that her husband was killed in a slate fall." I've often wondered what possessed the boss to ask a teenager to handle the delivery of such devastating news. Well, he did as he was told. When the lady opened the door he noted two children playing in the house, and one in her arms. He blurted out the news, and the woman passed out from the shock, falling to the floor with her baby still in her arms. He told me in the final years of his life, that he had learned a valuable lesson in that situation about dealing with people in a compassionate and tactful manner. That lesson served him well later in life, both in his secular work and that of the pastorate.
As soon as he was old enough, he followed his father and uncle into the shafts and tunnels, digging black gold under back breaking conditions. He worked his way up through various jobs with the Island Creek Coal Company around Holden, WV. His penchant for public service took him into several fraternal organizations, and eventually led to his election to the West Virginia House of Delegates where he represented Logan County for three terms. Eventually he went to work for the United Mine Workers of America, rising through various positions until he eventually served as an International Representative and Lobbyist for the Union.
Always a man of high morals, he was highly respected in the community. His years of serving others through his legislative, union, and benevolent work endeared him to his neighbors. His high moral ethics, however, were not tied to any particular relationship with God. Oh, he believed in God all right. He respected the Bible, and the Christ Followers (that is the ones whom he genuinely believed "had it"), but he had little time for organized religion, himself. He "left that to Mary and the kids." The religion he had "in his head" and his talent for writing poetry, led him to publish a new poem every Christmas season and have it printed into a personal Christmas card that he and Mamaw would send to their many friends. In fact, his poetic skills earned him an appointment by Governor Hulett C. Smith in the mid sixties as West Virginia's Poet Laureate.
Papaw's life was forever changed in February of 1961. That was when, under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, he surprised Mamaw by getting up early one Sunday morning and going with her (uninvited) to church. As the choir sang, "When The Roll is Called Up Yonder", to every one's surprise, Jerry Stidham rose to his feet, walked down the aisle, knelt at the altar and gave his life to the Lord. He was later called into ministry and served several churches in Kanawha County and eventually, back in Logan, at the very church where he had received Christ.
As we remember him this week on the 47th
 anniversary of his "graduation" to Heaven, allow me to share with you a poem he wrote about the day he came to know Jesus.
On my knees at an altar one day
Crying "Lord, Lord show me the way,
Forgive me of sin and my evil ways,
And place me on a life that pays."
"Take me, Lord, and do as you will,
Thy Holy Spirit my soul to fill.
Make me clean, and give me Grace",
(And tears were falling from my face).
And as I prayed my burden did cease.
In its place came such sweet peace;
The tears I shed, just like a boy,
Became at once as tears of joy.
This is where my story begins,
I arose to my feet and faced my friends,
First time in life, to testify.
I'll never be ashamed to cry.
If he were still with us today, he would be over 100 years old. However, his memory is frozen in time as a man, still in his prime, who loved his family, his community, his church, and his Lord. I wish my children and grand kids could have known my grandfather. I wish you could have known him. Even today I miss him. He made a great impact on my life as a young man, and his example has helped me try to be the kind of father and grandfather he was.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Thank You Matt Shamblin

Yesterday, Matt Shamblin accepted the call of Rose Hill Baptist Church of Ashland, Kentucky to serve that congregation as their Senior Pastor.

This West Virginia pastor truly has mixed emotions in light of this development.

As a 35 year resident of Ashland, myself, I am thrilled that the Lord has opened this wonderful door of opportunity for Matt to advance the cause of Christ in our city.  I have many close personal friends at Rose Hill, and my younger son and his family are members of that great church.  Two of my grandsons were baptized there and both are actively involved in their Student and Children’s Ministry groups.  I am thankful that my family members will have the blessing this godly young man, who has a pastor’s heart, as their undershepherd.  There is no doubt in my mind that Matt, Chrissy and the girls will be a great asset to Rose Hill church in particular, and to the Ashland community in general.

On the other side of the coin, I am saddened for our State Convention at our loss that will result from Matt's coming departure.  He has grown to love West Virginia, and served us admirably at Good Shepherd, North Charleston, and (interim) at Witcher Baptist Churches.  In his last few years as our Director of Evangelism, his love for lost people and zeal for evangelism has been evident, and he has been a true asset helping our pastors and churches as we seek to penetrate lostness in the Mountain State. 

At the end of last year, he was called upon to take on a responsibility that he did not seek.  Following the retirement of our State Executive Director, the hand of God was evident in the events leading up to bringing Matt into the position as Interim State Exec.

Saying that he inherited a very difficult situation would be an understatement.

Financially our State Convention was in a free fall.  Over the past few years Cooperative Program giving from the churches had taken a nose dive.  At the end of 2014 our State Convention coffers were nearly totally depleted. In that twelve month period alone, our Convention’s deficit totaled $167,803.07.  Only two months in 2014 saw us finish in the black with overages of $13,287.27 (March) and $3,721.57 (August).  We were literally on the verge of bankruptcy. 

In January Matt gave the State Convention Executive Board a clear and transparent report of there the WVCSB was financially and it was a scary picture.  He told them where we were, how we got there, and what was needed if we hoped to survive as a state convention.  He encouraged those board members to ask questions and to be informed.  Most importantly he encouraged them to join him in seeking God’s face for our needs in this state.  He encouraged the Exec Board to be catalysts in casting the vision for the future of the WVCSB.  He also apologized for the times when board members felt anxiety or stress in feeling that they could not ask questions of state convention leadership.  He stressed transparency, and the need for all of us to work together in order to rebuild trust and unity. 

Thus far in 2015 we see the financial trend reversing.  Over the past four months we are $49,265.10 to the good, with only a $712.35 deficit taken in the month of March.  Furthermore, during Matt’s tenure, our Finance Committee has hammered out a new proposed budget that hopefully will keep our positions funded and actually increase the percentage of CP dollars that West Virginia will pass along to International and North American Missions and the other SBC entities. 

Matt has been instrumental in re-building bridges and relationships, beginning with the State Office staff, and with our associations and churches.  One would have to have had their head in the sand to not be aware of the deep division that has existed in our State Convention for the past five years or so.  An “us against them” mentality has been an ugly undertone that has fractured fellowship among many, caused some churches to reallocate giving, and hampered the Kingdom work here.  Matt has gone above and beyond the call of duty in trying to bring transparency and trust to a higher level between the state office and our associations and churches.  His efforts have been well received.  He has offered to go and speak to each association and any church who wanted to know more about the financial update and the condition of the WVSBC.  My understanding is that he has been welcomed in all of our associations except one. 

I first became acquainted with Matt several years ago, in a situation when he and I had opposing viewpoints on a particular issue.  Nothing doctrinal, please understand, but involving methodology.  Each of us felt strongly about our particular viewpoint.  He made a trip to my office and we spent a couple of hours in deep conversation and closed with prayer.  We agreed to respectfully disagree on the particular issue, but out of that meeting a friendship was born, as well as a mutual respect for one another and our respective desire to work together as we could for the cause of Christ.  I value his friendship deeply, and I do hate to see him leave our convention, but I also thrill to know that God has opened another door of ministry for Matt and his family.  I pray that he will realize much success for the sake of the Name!

I believe that the West Virginia Convention owes a strong debt of gratitude to Matt Shamblin for his faithful service to the Lord and the churches of our state.  It hasn’t been easy for him, and he has actually faced some opposition along the way, but he has been faithful to the task, and I believe he has left our convention in much better shape than he found it when he was placed in that position of trust.

Thank you, Matt, for your service to the Lord in our state, and Godspeed in your new field of service.