The Man Who Moved Men and Mountains

I grew up in a community just North of Athens, Alabama. Our pastor, John Crawford, invited a former employer to speak at our church. I wasn’t old enough to understand the magnatude of the moment. The man Bro. John invited to our church was Robert Gilmore LeTourneau, a multi-billionare and world famous inventer. I don’t remember all he said but I do remember that he lived on the tithe and gave 90% of his income, not his net worth, to the LORD’s work. The story of R.G. LeTourneau is facinating and I thought you might enjoy it.

RG LeTourneau is perhaps the most inspiring Christian inventor, businessman and entrepreneur the world has ever seen. A sixth grade dropout, Robert Gilmore “RG” LeTourneau went on to become the leading earth moving machinery manufacturer of his day with plants on 4 continents, more than 300 patents to his name and major contributions to road construction and heavy equipment that forever changed the world.  Most importantly, his contribution to the advancement of the Gospel ranks him among the greatest of Christian Businessmen of all time. Famous for living on 10% of his income and giving 90% to the spread of the Gospel, LeTourneau exemplified what a Christian businessman should be.

RG LeTourneau dropped out of school and began working in an iron foundry at the age of 14, in the year 1901. Numerous tradesmen jobs later, he discovered a passion for machinery, initially as an auto mechanic, and later as the manufacturer of the largest earth moving equipment on the planet. At the age of 28, he returned from a period with the Navy serving our country in World War I to a car dealership, of which he was half owner, that was steeped in debt due to a partner who took to drinking. LeTourneau removed himself from the business with $5,000 in debt. The year was 1915. Ouch. Jobless and beyond broke, he jumped at the opportunity to level some land for a wealthy rancher. RG claimed that this experience was the most satisfying job he had ever held. 

LeTourneau slowly expanded to larger and larger land leveling contracts. He continually under-bid his competitors to win jobs and would scramble to invent machines to speed up the work and keep him from going broke. Although there were many technological advances in other areas of commerce in the early 1900s, in the world of earth moving at the time, it was still in the stone age. Roads were built by employing large numbers of men with shovels and utilizing mules to drag small plows. RG LeTourneau was among the first road construction contractors to introduce machinery to moving earth.

The year was 1919 and as a Christian, he felt the tug to be doing more for God. He went to his pastor, Reverend Devol, for advice. RG thought that anyone who was wholly committed to Christ had to become a pastor or a missionary to truly fulfill the great commission. After deep prayer with his pastor, RG LeTourneau was shocked to hear Rev. Duvol say the words that guided him for the rest of his life, “God needs businessmen too.” This was a revelation to RG. He immediately began to consider his business to be in partnership with God.

Still, RG LeTourneau was puzzled as to why God would choose him to be Hisbusinessman.  Especially when, at the age of 40, in the year 1927, a big construction job went bad and put him $100,000 in debt. But as RG remarked later, after seeing what God could do to restore a business and a life, “He uses the weak to confound the mighty.” For history buffs, the end of the 1920s marked a unique event in American history, the start of the Great Depression. Not exactly the best time to be up to your eyeballs in debt and uncertain as to how to feed your wife and kids. 

The following story highlights a miracle that God performed while RG faithfully served God, not man. The surety company that had backed RG LeTourneau on the construction job that posted the $100,000 loss was going to see to it that RG paid them back every penny owed. So on LeTourneau’s next job, the surety company demanded RG work on Sundays or else they would foreclose on his business, his house, everything. Since RG’s business partner was God, he gave the problem to God to solve. The owner of the surety company, Mr. Hall, boarded a train to officially shut LeTourneau down, but upon arrival to the job site the next day, something miraculous occurred. The surety man had a change of heart and allowed RG to continue.

Although the job was completed without working on Sundays, RG was still deep in debt. He was able to buy some time with his creditors by committing to improve his financial reporting. The surety company installed an accountant named Mr. Frost to reign in the books. What Mr. Frost found was worse than he had originally expected.

Meanwhile, RG had skipped his yearly missions pledge the year before so he was committed to making good with the Lord. He told Mr. Frost that he had pledged $5,000 to his church for missions. Mr. Frost couldn’t believe it. RG was so far behind, even thinking of donating to the Lord was out of the question. Mr. Frost didn’t realize who RG was partners in business with. Unbelievably, the business managed to stay afloat and the missions commitment was paid in full that year. Then, his business hit a breakthrough.

For years, RG LeTourneau had sold the machinery he had built for himself when he got a little behind financially. Although he still considered himself, first and foremost, a road construction contractor, the selling of his earth moving equipment inventions had been a profitable sideline for him. RG’s attorney hinted at the idea of solving his financial woes by going full force into the manufacturing business rather than rolling the dice on the ups and downs of big construction jobs. RG then turned his complete focus to the manufacturing of his machinery inventions. After that, his financial woes were a thing of the past. The following are the revenue results his manufacturing business produced during a time when the rest of the country was plagued with the Great Depression:

Year 1932 – Net Profit: $52,055.61
Year 1934 – Net Profit: $340,275.49 
Year 1938 – Net Profit: $1,412,465.68

In 1935, with the gigantic profits pouring out of the manufacturing business, at the gentle suggestion of his wife Evelyn, they transitioned to a 90/10 split with the Lord. 90% went to the Lord and 10% went to RG and Evelyn. LeTourneau was fond of remarking, “It’s not how much of my money I give to God, but how much of God’s money I keep for myself.” With the money, they established the LeTourneau Foundation to manage the administration of donations. By 1959, after giving $10 Million in donations to religious and educational works, the LeTourneau Foundation was still worth some $40 Million.

In that same year, 1935, RG LeTourneau overcame a lifelong fear of public speaking and gave his first speech at the opening of his newest plant, to which he urged his fellow Christians in the room to do more for the Lord in their businesses. In attendance at the presentation were several area pastors, who immediately requested he speak to their congregation about Christianity and business. This was the beginning of a lifelong commitment to speaking on Christians in business. In later years, with the profits from his business, he was able to purchase airplanes so that he could speak to more and more audiences around the world.

RG LeTourneau was a mighty man of God whose life continues to inspire Christians in Business to this day. To learn even more, read the detailed account of his life, in his own words, in the book, Mover of Mountains and Men.

All but the first paragraph was copied from http://www.giantsforgod.com/rg-letourneau/

The Good Samaritan

Luke tells stories that no other gospel writer tells: the Rich Fool, Divees and Lazarus, The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, The Pharisee and The Tax Collector to mention a few. Two stories on this list are among the most popular stories in the bible–The Prodigal Son and The Good Samaritan. I love telling both. In this blog, I will share the GOOD SAMARITAN.

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

37 The man replied, “The one who showed mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Let me begin by telling you why Jesus told this story. The elitist Jews {Pharisees, Scribes, Priest, Sadducee’s} were very prejudiced. They had contempt for anyone who was not a Jew and actually, they had contempt for many Jews and the tax collectors are a good example. People in America talk about prejudice but they have no idea what this problem in like in other countries. The elite Jews despised Gentiles {us}, they loathed the Romans, and they had more respect for a stray dog than for a Samaritan. They treated Samaritan like they did not exist. They thought more of their live stock than they did Samaritans.

I came in late a few weeks ago and a woman had stopped in the middle of the road right in front of our house. Someone had hit a dog and she was concerned. After pulling into our driveway, I went out to see if I could help. The dog was hurt severely and was in a lot of pain. I carefully dragged the dog to the grass on the side of the road and then went into the house, got my wife’s 38 and went back to put the dog down. I didn’t enjoy terminating the dogs life, it was upsetting but I knew it had to be done. What if the dog had been human, say someone of a different ethnicity? What if had been an illegal alien? Would I have reacted differently? Yes, no matter what race, I would have called 911 and spared no effort to save the person’s life. I cannot imagine thinking of a fellow human as being of less value than a dog.

I have been to the Middle East and I can tell you, American’s know very little about racial strife and pure hatred. Jesus told this story because the elite Jews were trying to trap Him with loaded questions and Jesus took the opportunity to address their deep prejudice for the Samaritans, who were their closes neighbor.

A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

The Bandits or thieves represent a segment of our society–the criminally minded. Their credo was–What’s yours is mine and I am going to take it, by force if necessary. These are they who respect no laws and seem to get a kick out of shedding innocent blood. This group is prone to violence, they will beat you up and leave you to die. They have no compassion, no sympathy and certainly no love. You and I love to help people, this groups loves to hurt people. This segment of society ruthless and relentless. They enjoy crime.

I’m not reading between lines, all of this is in the story. Bandits is plural, the Jewish man is singular. The bandits had him hopelessly out numbered so there was no reason to beat the man half to death. They could have easily over powered him and taken his valuables and then let him go but not, they beat him up just for pleasure. No reason to beat him up but it is second nature to an thug.

The second group are the Jewish Religious leaders, the Priest and the Levite. Their credo is, “What is mine is mine and I am going to keep it.” As I say often, this group wants to get all they can; can all they get and then set on the lid so no one else can get any. They don’t want to owe all the land, just every parcel that connects to their land. This group is selfish and satisfied. They are more concerned about comfort than they are conversions. They are driven by the instinct of self-preservation. This is the group who gives advice but not money. They are all talk and no walk.

The third group is the represented by the Good Samaritan. Their credo is–“Whats mine is yours and I am going to share.” These are you good neighbors. The Good Samaritan represents those who care; the compassionate who are willing to take risk for the sake of others. The man gave of his time, resources and even committed to long term care. How refreshing in light of the callous, indifferent and self-centered Jews who passed by a fellow Jew and would not help due to the risk involved.

The number one reason people do not get involved in ministry is their self-centeredness; their inability to put others first. No one will ever become a minister when their primary concern is themselves. A second problem in ministry is fear. Travel was dangerous in ancient times. The same group of bandits who robbed and beat this man half to death could still be in the area, the Priest and Levite were not taking any chances. Folks, there is no such thing as “Risk Free Ministry,” all ministry involves a risk. These two men were lacking in courage: ministry is not for cowards. The Samaritan risk rejection, he risk attack, he took a risk with his investment; would he be thanked by the Jewish community. Would his act of kindness be appreciated. Would he get a thank you note in the mail? Would the man repay him when he got on his feet? 

When people demand answers to all their questions before they involve themselves in ministry, they will never get involved. They may talk about ministry but they will never engage in the act because they want guarantees and there are no guarantees in ministry.

In Luke 10:2, Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” In John 4:35, Jesus said, Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”  This is one of those verses where I have wanted to argue with Jesus, “LORD, how can you say this when no one is interested in hearing the gospel. I am getting doors slammed in my face and You say the fields are white unto harvest.” I never understood what Jesus was talking about until recently. When Jesus sent out the 72 in Luke 10, He sent them with two basic instructions: Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ [Luke 10:9] Jesus sent them to all the towns and villages that He was going to visit so these guys were his “Front Teams.” He gave them the power to heal so they could connect with the people but there real mission was to announce His coming. Ministry would get their feet in the door, Jesus would follow up with the gospel of Salvation. Its a kind of ministry first evangelism.

What are our communities filled with? The answer is hurting people. You will not have to go far to find a hurting person. My next door neighbor spent five years in prison and I did not visit him a single time. I apologized to him a few weeks ago. I am ashamed of myself. You see, I did not know him that well, I thought about visiting him but did not. I have made and effort to get to know him since he came home and now I am deeply ashamed for not being a neighbor to him. I guarantee you that there are hurting people close by but you know so little about them that you are not comfortable offering your help.

I will guarantee that any Sunday School class, small group or congregation who ministers to hurting people will grow. You will reach people with the gospel of Christ if you are willing to get to know them and help them; touch them at the point of their pain. When you think about evangelism from this point of view, you can see the white fields.

So this story contains three segments of our population: the criminal mind, the moral but selfish and the compassionate. BUT there is a fourth group here that is easy to miss and that is the “Hurting.” The beaten man in the ditch represents the hurting world. His being half dead speaks of his spiritual condition, alive physically but dead spiritually. In other words, he can represent lost humanity but he also represents those hurting physically [sickness or injury] and those hurting emotionally.

I am not a doctor so we will not address the sick or injured; I am a pastor and I can address emotional pain. First of all, this man is the victim, not the perpetrator. He did not do anything to deserve getting beat half to death. He just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. The bandits had the element of surprise and the numbers. They beat the life out of him and he is left to die in his own blood. I see him as semi-conscience, like being under gas when they cut out a wisdom tooth. You can see, hear, think but you can’t respond: you are virtually helpless. When he saw the Priest coming, he probably thought, “Great, here comes a man of God, He will certainly help.” But the priest, after seeing the man, crossed to the other side of the road. He didn’t even want to take a closer look. He kept right on going. Truth be known, he probably accelerated his pace. He didn’t care. He had no compassion. It was not his problem, he had sermons to prepare and services to attend.

Then along came a Levite, those who maintained the Temple. This man was a full time employee of the church, surely he cared. He did go take a look at the hurting man but then he too passed by on the other side. He didn’t want to get involved: it might make him late for church. We are so focused on going to church that we have forgotten how to be the church. A large percent of Baptist think attending services is church. It’s not, it is a part of church but helping the hurting is just as important or more so than being on time for the service.

Let me ask you a question; a soul stirring question: What hurt the beaten man the most, the clubs of the robbers or the indifference of the priest and Levite, his Jewish brothers? Some are hurting physically but there are many, many more that are hurting emotionally and spiritually. I have had a broken heart on more than one occasion. I know what it feels like to get your heart broke. Usually, it takes a major disappointment. You fell in love with someone and thought they would be your soul mate only to find out, they did not love you in the same way. You had a trusted friend or so you thought but this friend betrayed your trust. You search for your biological parent and fine them, only to be rejected a second time. I know two women personally that this very thing happened two. Can you imagine the emotional pain of your own father telling you: “Don’t come back, don’t call and don’t send cards. I never want to see you again.” Mothers can do it too. A young man called his estranged mother on Mother’s Day because the pastor challenged everyone to reach out to their mom and appreciate them. When he got home from church, he called his mom to thank her for giving him birth. She said, “Don’t ever call me again. I do not want to see you and I do not want to see your children.” A teenage girl was running the checkout in a dollar store and her grandmother came through. The young lady waited to see if your grandmother would recognize her, she didn’t. As a last resort, the young lady said to her as she began to leave, don’t you know who I am? She looked at the girl with a blank stare and said, “You sure look familiar.” The girl said, “I should, I am your granddaughter.”The woman said, “Oh my goodness, you have really changed, I didn’t even recognize you.”

When someone who is suppose to care doesn’t, it hurts. The priest was suppose to care but he didn’t and so was the Levite. Our insensitivity toward the hurting is mind-boggling. There is a broken heart on every pew and we ignore them. We are afraid to get close, to get involved. We keep people at arms length just in case they may need something. If we only cared about the hurting.

We have this idea that hurting people wear a sign that says “Notice me, I’m hurting.” It is true that some hurting people are hurtful. They are bitter, cynical and are prone to strike but most hurting people are silent. They don’t moan and groan, they don’t demand attentions. They really don’t do anything to call attention to themselves.

Think about this hurting man for a moment. The robbers took his clothes so he is lying naked in his own blood. A part of him does not want to be seen or noticed. He feels the shame of his nakedness. I’ve been there, I know what it is like to want to be noticed and yet not noticed. Many hurting people withdraw because they don’t want their hurt exposed. Their pain is very personal. They cannot reveal their pain without making themselves vulnerable. You may be living in the same house with someone who has a broken heart and you haven’t noticed.

Many years ago I heard the story of a woman who thought she would surprise her husband by going to the restaurant where he was in a habit of eating lunch every day. He was there and so was a group of his buddies. He was also surprised but he didn’t respond like a loving sensitive husband. He scolded her for coming. He even told her in front of his friends that she had embarrassed him and that she was never to do it again. It was years before she had to the courage to share this painful story with a friend. Is that the kind of story you want to share: I don’t so. I have some stories that I don’t want to tell.

I don’t care what counselors say or other professionals: the number one problem in marital relationships is the refusal of one or both partners to listen to and be sensitive to the others pain. People go see counselors because no one at home will listen. No one will listen because no one cares. The fields are white but it takes caring people to see them and to enter them. Oh, the folks we could reach, if we only cared.

Saved For A Purpose

When I was 15 years old, I was horsing around at the supper table one night and my mother got fed up: she said, “Son, if you are going to act like a horse, why don’t you go to the barn and spend the night with them.” Being the smart mouth that I was and thinking about my brand new sleeping bag from Army Surplus,  I said, “That is a good idea, I think I will.” My baby sister [10 years younger] cried to go with me. It was in late November and rather cool but I let her go. The loft was full of hay but we had a second loft over the feed room, adjacent to the crib which was full of corn. About the time we got situated in the sleeping bag, Holly said, “I’ afraid of the dark, I want a light.” I climbed over to the big loft and pulled the string that cut on the light. The light was hanging from the rafters. The wiring was very old and some parts of the wire were showing. I crawl back into the sleeping bag and we both go sound to sleep. Right at mid-night, I woke up and saw a bright light and felt an intense heat. When I turned, the big loft was in a blaze, no more than 6 feet from where we were laying.

I’ll tell you how close our encounter was: Holly had a puppy who was a sleep at the foot of the sleeping bag but I my only thought was getting Holly to safety, I pulled her out of the bag, went over the corn and kicked out the wooden window, jumped to the ground and then had her jump to me. I moved her away from the barn and that’s when she said, “Where is my puppy?” I head for the barn but before I can get through the window, we hear the little fellow howl in pain. It’s cry of distress lasted only seconds and we knew it was too late to save her puppy. Daddy worked evenings and he was just getting home from work. I knew I was in for a beating: all his hay and corn were in the barn. Soon after his arrival Mother was up and of course, she was overwhelmed with joy that her two children were safe. By this time, the sky was light up from the burning barn filled with hay and neighbors started pouring in from all directions.

Long story short: Daddy didn’t beat me. He didn’t even fuss. He realized, as did mother, that we almost went up with the barn. He and mother were relieved that we were alright but mother and I could not go back to sleep. After all our neighbors had gone home the fire was smoldering, Daddy and the others laid down to get some rest but Mother and I sat up all night talking. Neither of us could sleep, we were wide awake. The near death experience woke us up literally. 

Word spread rapidly about the fire. The kids at school teased me. I told them the fire was caused by a shortage in the wiring but they said, “It was a shortage in your cigarette.” I had been known to hide behind the barn and blow smoke rings but I didn’t know how to inhale but I was not smoking the night of the fire. My pastor walked up to me at church the next Sunday, he said, “Jack, God saved you for a reason.” I tried to brush it off but I never forgot his observation.

I was saved when I was nine but I floundered from then to about age 15, the fire and several other things woke me up. I tried very hard from this point on to live for Jesus but I was young and not strong in my witness at all. By the grace of God, I was able to clean up my language and to stop doing some of the stupid things I had done for attention.

By the way, the next week at school, one of my teachers who had heard about the incident said, “Jack, God saved you for a reason.” That’s when I knew this was no coincidence. I struggled with that inner voice for two more years but I was willing to even consider devoting my life to the gospel ministry. I was very afraid that God was calling and very reluctant to listen. Now, I am thankful that God is patient.

Mike

Years ago, I heard Harold Morris give his testimony on Doctor Dobson Focus on the Family. Harold published one book, Twice Pardoned, before his death. Harold died of throat cancer. After hearing it on air, I ordered the cassettes. I can remember the jest of the story but I’m sure some of the details are wrong. It has been a long time since I heard or read the story. Let’s treat it like a parable.

Harold was an all state athlete in the State of Georgia but between high school a promising college career, he started hanging out with the wrong crowd. One night they planned the robbery of a liquor store: in advance, they set this Harold up as the fall guy. He was the driver of the get a way car. He sits in the car with engine running, they go in and rob the store plus they murder the clerk behind the counter. With in a couple of weeks, they are all picked up and they all have the same story–the driver was the trigger man. Harold Morris spends the next 20 years or so in a Georgia Correctional Facility for a murder he did not commit.

In memory serves me correctly, Harold was converted to Christ while in prison and paroled around age 40 with one condition: he had to work 5 years at a Georgia Institution for boys. An orphanage for boys more or less. He served as the coach.

There was one child in the facility that had outstanding ability and the Harold picked up on it right away. The kid was a sprinter and he had speed to burn. These kids were allowed to compete in the Georgia High School state championship and the coach was so excited about the prospect of carrying Mike to the State Finals.

At this point, the coach ran into a problem; the state tournament was on a Thursday which was parent day at the facility. This happens after the Harold had been there three or four years so he knows which parents show up and which one’s don’t.

He asks Mike about going with him to the State Track meet and Mike says emphatically, “Coach, I can’t go on Thursday. It is visitation day and my mother has promised to come see me.” The coach tried everything but Mike would not budge. Finally in frustration, the coach said, “Mike, I’m going to tell you the truth. Your sorry mother is not coming next Thursday or the Thursday after that…she is not coming period and you know it.”

These words of pure truth crushed Mike’s hope, he dropped his heard and went to the locker room to change. Never ran track again and never spoke to Harold again. Harold’s final summation went something like this, “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t regret telling Mike the ugly truth.”

Folks, you can’t be brutally honest with a child when it comes to the character of his or her parents. It is easier to help a child than it is to fix a broken adult.

 

The Land of Cotton

I grew up on a small farm in the 50’s and 60’s. Daddy had a small cotton allotment of about 13 acres. His ambition was to farm but after WWII he couldn’t make ends meet so he surrendered to public work. The US government was building an arsenal in Tullahoma, Tennessee equipped with wind tunnels for missile testing and several other things. Long story short, they were pouring a lot of concrete at the sight and a man by the name of Bill Brewer got Daddy on as an apprentice. His first job was pushing concrete in a wheelbarrow for 35 cents and hour. I think Daddy worked two years as an apprentice before he became a certified finisher which became his trade for life.

Although he scratched out a living to feed nine mouths by finishing concrete,  Daddy could not give up his dream of farming, so he worked all day and tried to farm evenings, nights and weekends. Finishing concrete is hard work and coming home to a cotton field cannot be pleasant. Daddy thought he could get most of the work done through children. When you put kids in a cotton patch unsupervised; you are probably not going to get much production unless you beat them a couple of times a week. We had two generations: the kids born before the war and the ones born after. So in the last years of our cotton farming, it was just me and my sister Joy. We did a horrible job of chopping and our cotton was always run away with grass and cockleburs. We were not that good at picking either. I never picked 200 pounds in my life. I picked 190 when I was about 13 and pulled 350 pounds of bowls that same fall but that was  my last year to pick all day: from that point, I had to weigh up, especially when daddy could hire pickers. One fall day, it was just Joy and myself picking and we had an old 51 Chevy truck. The front fenders make great seats and the hood made a great card table. We weighed up about 3:00 in the evening and then decided we would play a couple of hands of blind rook before Daddy came home. We got all engrossed in the card game and the time slipped away. The next thing we know, Daddy slips up behind us and hits the side of the truck. We jump off like we had been shocked and Joy started berating me for not watching. Our punishment was that we had to pick until dark.

Hey, one other cotton patch tale on Joy. We were picking for our uncle Crutcher one fall and his son Joe was up in the cotton catching the sacks and emptying them. My brother John was weighting. After he weighed a sack, he would pitch it to Joe. When he pitched Joy’s sack it traveled more quickly than usual and hit Joe in the head: that is when he realized  Joy had put a big rock in her sack. Trust me, rocks will not gin out. Neither does it help to soak your sack in the watering trough.

The good news came in 1965. It was called a cotton picker. Our neighbors brought a brand new 3010 diesel John Deere [wish I had one just like it] and they got a one row picker attachment. They could pick 4-6 bales of cotton per day. Daddy sold them our allotment and our cotton picking days were over. Then it was not long until they came out with herbicides and the chopping came to an end. I hated chopping. I was not crazy about picking but chopping was hades. There was a little money floating around during the harvest but none during the hot summer months of chopping. I can tell you two things that can ruin any childhood–cotton fields and peach orchards. Peaches are harder to raise than cotton.

Pulpit Committee’s and Trial Sermons

I was ordained to the gospel ministry by Calvin C. Inman and the Sardis Springs Baptist Church is August of 1970. I was licensed to preach in March of 1969. I am 66 years old and have preached on one “Trial Sermon” [what we call it with a preacher auditions for a job]. It was way back in 1975 at the Harris Chapel Baptist Church in Cherokee, Alabama. I preached on Sunday morning and again on Sunday night. I remember it well because the power went off during the night service. In terms of getting a call to a church: I have only dealt with two pulpit committees. Two of my sons in the ministry was on the first. Samuel Franklin Wallace was the chairman of the first if my memory served me correctly. Hugh Fitzgerald was the chairman of the committee at Danville where I have served for some 37 plus years.

Two or three committees had expressed some interest in me just after Seminary but none of them were really serious. An old preacher friend, Charlie Thompson had recommended me to a church in Florence but they said I was too young; I was 24 at the time. When Sam called me a couple of months later, I was discouraged and one of the first things I told him was…”Mr. Wallace, I am only 24 years old, I’ll be 25 next month.” He said, “We know how old you are.”

The Danville Committee came to Cherokee on the day that I had planned to resign but when I saw visitors, I did not resign that morning; I waited until the evening service. Hugh and committee waited for all my folks to leave and then he ask be if we could talk. I think I said something like, “It will not do any good but we can talk.” I was very direct and a little shocked when I realized that Hugh was more direct. He said, “You act like you are mad, what are you mad about?” I said, “Well for one thing, I planned to resign this morning and then you all showed up.” Hey it was a sparing match. Hugh finally said, “It is pretty clear that you don’t want to be our pastor but would you consider filling in for us until we can get one?” I agreed to come on Sundays and preach Sunday morning and Sunday night. He agreed that they would take care of Wednesday night.

On the first Sunday in April, 1979, the family and I rolled into Danville in that old Chevelle Station Wagon with the woodgrain paneling on the side; it was one sharp buggy. My kids would love that old car. Hannah was almost five, Joe David had just turned three and Hope was about to be one. I never preached a so called trial sermon at Danville. We kept coming each week to fill in until June got tired of living with her mother. That is when we really got serious about doing something one way or the other. I told the LORD that Danville was not the right fit for me and I really did not want to come. I don’t think anyone would have grieved in Danville I had not come. Only two people really encouraged me and one of them didn’t last long. He left a few years after I came. It took me a few years to realize that God knew what He was doing and that He had called me to pastor rural churches. Once I accepted His will, things got a lot better.

Danville is a very settled community. They don’t get stirred up easily. I tell people that I have been able to stay here because the people are so tolerant. That coupled with the grace of God. When folks ask Hugh why they had kept me so long, he would say: “We never expected much and Bro. Jack is the closet thing to nothing that we’ve ever found so we decided to keep him.” I miss Hugh, the way we argued in the early days, who would have dreamed that we could become close friends.

One Too Many Jokes

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I became friends with an old retired preacher. He loved to tell jokes and could remember them, hundreds of them. When it came to remembering jokes, his mind was like a steel trap. He had to use notes for his sermons but he needed no notes for his jokes. He was serving as an interim pastor at a small church in Southeast Morgan County, in a little village called Eva. He had a guest speaker from Samford University. In the old days, they sent their ministerial students into local churches to preach. Back when Samford was Howard College, they called it H-Day. This young man had studied and was primed to preach.

Preacher

My old retired preacher friend felt a need to introduce him and while he was at it, he decided to tell a joke which lead to another and another until he had taken 15 minutes of this boys precious time. The kid was agitated and annoyed with the old fellows jokes. He came to the pulpit and began…There was a big bull out in the pasture and he began to feel his oats, so he began bellowing to the top of his lungs. There was a lion in the forrest beside pasture and he heard the bull bellowing proudly. The lion followed the sound, found the bull and ate the bull. Then the lion, feeling the pride of his kill and the fullness of his stomach, began to roar at the top of his lungs. A hunter was near by and when he heard the lion roaring, he followed the sound, got a bead on the lion, dropped the hammer and boom the old Lion lay dead on the ground.

The young preacher said, “The moral of that story is, when you are full of bull, keep your mouth shut.” A few months later the old preacher thought it was funny and would tell the story as a joke but he did admit that it was not so funny the day that it happened.