I retired as an Industrial Arts teacher in June, 1996. Over the years I had students of every color.  Occasionally there was a fight between a black and white student, but no more often than between two whites or two blacks. The school had a good sports program and the black and white students played football and basketball together. Race just didn’t seem to be an issue.

When I was a child growing up in the small Western Kentucky town of Fredonia, I had black friends. We played baseball together. We hunted, fished and just hung out together. One of my closest friends went off to Detroit and went to work. I stayed in Western Kentucky and went to college because I was too dumb to get a job.   🙂  We kept in touch over the years. Race just didn’t seem to be an issue.

 Then, July 1996 came along and off we went to Perth, Australia.  My son who was 18 at the time, went on the church mission trip. The only time he had any negative racial experiences was in the first grade when one of his classmates used a racial slur directed at a black girl in the class. My son punched him out and got in trouble with the principal. He got his butt spanked. I was extremely proud of my son.

 In Perth, the three of us lived with an Aboriginal couple named Wally and Leisha. Over the two weeks we came to love those people. Leisha had been taken away from her parents when she was two years old. The British thought they could provide her a more suitable environment than her family. She was forcibly taken from her mother’s arms and placed in a dormitory with other Aboriginal children

 Wally taught our son to throw a boomerang Aboriginal style. I’m sure he was the only kid in Western Kentucky that had ever had a boomerang lesson from a real Aboriginie. We sensed an uneasy feeling from them when we first got there. As the time passed, tensions eased and we became comfortable with each other.

 As we went to various places; church, The Autumn Center (nursing home), The Aboriginal Museum, we kept seeing posters with the word “reconciliation.” The Aboriginals were making an effort to reconcile the differences between them and the whites. The whites seemed to be set to hate them no matter what.

 At the end of the two weeks of work, the time came to go home. On the last night there was a dinner with all the host families and the sixty of us on the trip. We, of course, took Wally and Leisha. We loved them as our own brother and sister. We sat down at a table with a family of white Australians. They seemed to be very nice people. I noticed Wally and Leisha had not come in. I went to find them, they were outside. When I asked why they had not come in they gave some off-the-wall reason that I perceived as not being the real reason. They were apprehensive of the whites reaction.  I talked them into coming in to sit with us. When we sat down at the table, the “really nice” whites got up and moved to another table. I was livid. My wife was extremely upset.

We sat at the table with Wally and Leisha and had a really enjoyable evening. When those of us on the mission trip had a chance to give a three minute talk, I gave them a talk on the love we shared with our new Aboriginal brothers and sisters. We had just simply gotten to know them and be very accepting of a different culture.

I will never forget the last time I saw Leisha. She gave me a big hug and said, “I never thought I’d be able to say to a white person, I love you.”


We once received a call from a woman in a missions group asking if we had any mission project ideas. I wanted to respond with “just open your eyes and look around. They’re all around you.” But I tried to be nice, and gave the phone to wife Margie.

As a friend of ours said (when I conveyed the story to him), “that’s like sayin sicum to a rottweiler.”

I have discovered, no matter where you live, many people are aware of Christians and the kind of work we do. Also, it seems, in most situations, they welcome us to serve the needs.

I visited a rest home today to explore the possibility of a group providing a service on a Sunday afternoon each month. The activities director was not only warm to the idea but seemed thrilled for us to do such. We begin the second Sunday in August at 3 pm. It was a very simple procedure; not nearly as difficult as I thought it might be.

A man asked me not long ago, “just how do you go about organizing a Christian motorcycle riders group?” One just simply gets the word out to local churches, publish it on facebook, set a time, ride and place to meet, and you’re off and running. No problem.

I have found there are many in churches that want to participate in some type of missions activity. However there are very few willing to organize such, mainly because they think it is beyond their ability to pull it together. That, I can tell you, conclusively and assuredly, is not the case.

If someone will pull together a plan for a project, announce it with a few of the details, people will show up to help. I guarantee it, I’ve seen it happen too many times.

YOU may be the catalyst of such a project in your church. It is so important we get out among lost people. Do you have any idea of how precious the information contained in you can be to an unchurched person.

So get brave, prayed up, put on your armor, and do it. One more thing, it’s habit forming; it gets in your blood. The more you do, the more you’ll want to do.

Oh yeah, if you can’t think of a project, just look around!


Likoni Baptist Church
Likoni Baptist Church

The first mission trip is the life changer for many. It certainly was for me. There are numerous examples of pastors, evangelist and missionaries that were motivated into the ministry because of a mission trip.

I am such an example. It took over twenty years for the calling to come to fruition, but it finally did.

My first mission trip was to Kenya in 1986. When I first arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, culture shock became a reality. This is not to say Africa is bad and America is good, things are just different. It was, in many ways, going back in time. Life was simpler, quieter and definitely slower. People did not get in a hurry for anything. There‘s no such thing as fast food, all food is slow food.

Typical fruit and vegetable market where most buy their food and where we set up for outreach.
Typical fruit and vegetable market where most buy their food and where we set up for outreach.

Our first experience in a village was Likoni.  Likoni sits on the mainland, south of the city’s center, accessible from Mombasa only by ferry. It is mostly residential, with a population of 175,000 people. The Mijikenda Tribe is indigenous to the area and make up over half the population.  Migrants from other parts of the country, and other ethnic groups, make up the second half.

We had numerous opportunities to sit with people and deliver the Gospel message.
We had numerous opportunities to sit with people and deliver the Gospel message.

The ferry connecting Mombasa Island to Likoni transfers over 200,000 people per day. We found both ports and also on the ferry  to be excellent points in which to engage people. I remember one man asking me “How much is the cost of being a Christian?” The question took me by such surprise; I had to regain any semblance of sanity I may have had in order to tell him “Jesus had already paid it all.”

The Likoni Ferry
The Likoni Ferry

Our first day, Missionary Ralph Bethea, took us to Likoni. We must have looked like a really strange group to the residents. My guess is, they probably looked around for our space ship.

I most certainly do not want to sound like I am mocking or ridiculing the people. Things were just different from what we were used to. Quite the opposite actually; I found them to be a delightful, loving, sharing people. Also, I observed, many are very intelligent and well educated. I once had an interpreter that spoke five languages and was a mathematical genius.

Likoni Baptist Church was a building about  24’ x 36’. It was made of sticks with a roof made of palm tree leaves. The seats were rough cut lumber with no back. I wonder how many Americans would go to church under such conditions. The musicians slapped two pieces of wood together for rhythm.

The people welcomed us into the church family with open arms. Unlike so many American churches, we were made to feel a part of the community and services. Africans are hand shakers. They don’t have to be told to “extend a hand of fellowship.”

With all the other “new” experiences, the memory most intense in my mind, is of the children. None of them had shoes. Their toys were improvised. I saw boys rolling around old tires for playthings. One old flat soccer ball was in the village. It had a cut in it about 3” long. One child had a car someone had made him of sticks.

The children did not have school clothes, play clothes and other clothes. They only had one garment and wore it every day. Children old enough to be in school had school uniforms. We’ve seen school uniforms used in several third world countries. They had no shoes. On another trip to another region of Kenya; I met an older man with no toes. He had walked so many miles in the sandy soil, his toes had been worn away by the abrasion.

I remember thinking, I wish I could bring every American child here and let them experience this. Perhaps so many would not take our way of life for granted. Adults in America are also somewhat spoiled to our lifestyle and do not realize, many people in the world do not have the things we consider simple and readily available.

I still remember the expressions of shock on the faces of the others on the trip. None of us were prepared for this. For most of us, it was our first experience in such an environment.

I remember trying to go to sleep that night. I couldn’t get the children out of my mind. Now, after twenty-nine years the memories still linger.

My Hero, the Pope

Praise God! The Pope made the statement in Santa Cruz Bolivia, this week, “Unbridled capitalism is the dung of the devil.” We have been seeing the results of “out of control, unrestrained, capitalism, ever since TV began advertising sex like sody pop, 30 years ago.

A capitalistic democracy may be the best governmental system in the world. However, if left to the notions and morals (or lack of) by it’s purveyors, it will run astray. The results will be catastrophic.

Today we see these entrepreneurs of immorality corrupting our society with pornography, drugs, and other societal problems that are degrading the quality of our people at an alarming rate.

America is quickly approaching the status of “third world.”  As the morals of a people are in  a state of decline, the levels of motivation, determination, incentive and a desire for betterment of the society are impaired. There is no” break even” state for a society. It is either in a state of improvement or decline.

America, in the interest of  freedom, allows not only the immoral practices but in the name of freedom, allows those practicing  these endeavors to influence our very impressionable people. Americans are being brainwashed by the capitalists and haven’t got a clue of their vulnerability.

The pope realizes as many of us do, that free enterprise must be controlled or we will end up with a world full of Sodom’s and people with the same sense of morality as Noah’s neighbors.

Karl Marx saw the short sightedness of free capitalism over 150 years ago. He predicted that, like previous socioeconomic systems, capitalism produced internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system: socialism.

Capitalism, by it’s very nature, leads to greed, selfishness, jealousy, materialism, and even hatred. Look at the present conflict between the liberals and conservatives in America. I have in my 68 years never witnessed hatred at the level as it now exist in the name of politics.

The Bible does not specifically teach a communal social structure, however, Acts 5, certainly implies such. Paul was certainly clear in 1 Tim 6: 10 when he wrote “the love of money is the root of all evil.”

So, Pope Francis, keep up the good work. However, the world won’t like the truth.

There is a bonding that happens on mission trips.  New families are born. God has a special way of connecting people.

Mission Trip?

A cold night in the winter of ’85-’86, wife Margie was reading and said to me, “here is something you might be interested in.” So, I had to re-focus my brain to her and intentionally listen. The Caldwell-Lyon Association was organizing a mission trip to Kenya. At first I wasn’t particularly interested but later, something touched my inner self and said, go.

In January of 1986 I went to a meeting at the C/L Association building. I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive being around all those serious minded people. I went to church but didn’t take it very seriously. It seemed like a good thing to do since I had a nine year old son. Church was a much better way to raise a child than any of the alternatives. It was just common sense.

Before long I was signed up to go to Kenya for two weeks in July of 1986. What had I gotten myself into? Another mess, the story of my life; you know, the ones where you start wondering why you agreed to participate.  The  Director of Missions, Harold Greenfield  called meetings once a month for orientation and get acquainted with the others. That turned out to be a fantastic idea, it was definitely best to know each other before the trip. Also the spiritual essence was invaluable.

At one of those meetings, Bro.Harold ask if anyone had any problems or issues they needed to discuss. I said, “I’ve got a problem, I just don’t feel like I’m good enough to do this.” An older preacher sitting next to me laid his hand on my shoulder and said, “I can assure you, none of us are.”

Before 1986 I was not a particularly spiritual person. I still wrestle with the supernatural. I approach the gospel even now from a perspective of logic and reason. Obviously there is a God, the God of the Bible. There is no other logical explanation for our existence.  It is simply the most believable of the alternatives.

So, off we went to Kenya in July of 1986. I was one of the very few that had been out of the United States. That was only to Mexico and Canada, I’m not sure if those count. The first few days nearly killed me, having to be around all those men living in a world I wasn’t use to. Then I began to see things happen I could not logically explain.

I actually heard men pray from the heart, not just memorized rhetoric. I saw God working in a way I would have never thought possible. We ran out of printed material (in Swahili, the language in Kenya). We were told the press in Nairobi couldn’t ship more until the next week. We prayed hard for an answer. The next morning a truck load of tracts showed up at our hotel; we were back in business.

We were told of a village that practiced voodoo and witchcraft. We prayed for that village one night. The next morning we went to the village. Seventeen people accepted Christ and I gave the witch doctor a Bible printed in Swahili.

These are just two examples of answered prayer I witnessed in July of 1986. My life was changed forever. We saw over 5400 people pray to receive Jesus on that trip.

Prayer became a very important part of my life. I am still skeptical of the supernatural. However, I’ve seen too many things happen that just simply cannot be explained any other way.

One pastor said, “we can preach a lifetime in our churches at home, and never see this many salvations.”

Wow, this is real! I had “gotten saved,” and joined the church of my parents on Easter Sunday of 1955. Thirty years later, that became real. Before, I just hadn’t gotten the point. Had  I, like so many others,  been a victim of my peers and other acquaintances.

Mission trips change lives.  One night standing on the beach of the Indian Ocean, I was talking with a young preacher named Tony. That day we had gone to a market to share Jesus. The missionary had an old Chevy Blazer with the top cut out. We had microphones, speakers and an interpreter. We called it, “Have Pulpit, Will Travel.” From the back of the truck we preached. That day was my turn to “preach,” something I’d never done before, so, I did. I found myself saying things to the crowd I didn’t even know I knew. Figure that one out.

That evening, Tony said to me, “Van, you did a pretty good job with that today. Have you ever thought you might be called to preach?” I replied, “that could never happen!” He ask “why?” I said, “I’ve only got one sermon.”

His answer to that statement, I will never forget! “There’s only one sermon.”

As the years went by, the more I realized how true that statement really was. Christ crucified and resurrected. That’s it. That’s the one. That’s the only one! Everyone deserves to hear that sermon.

Everyone in this village became believers.
Everyone in this village became believers.
Muthini Baptist Church
Muthini Baptist Church

Four years later we began services at a homeless mission. I’ve lost count of the mission trips and countries since then. My wife and I were commissioned missionaries in 2003. In November 2008 I answered the call as an evangelist.

Mission trips change lives. I remember sitting in a Bible study class with a friend going to Russia. I told the class, “take a good look at him; he won’t be the same when he comes back.” A few months later, he reminded me of what I’d said and verified that it was true.

Mission trips change lives. I’ve often wondered when I had an idea, if it was God’s idea or mine. So, I’ve adopted the philosophy, if an opportunity presents itself, I must at least assume the probability, God is in it. I know, my life has been dramatically changed because of mission trips and I’ve seen other’s lives changed as well.

Try it, if you are willing to take a chance of becoming a different person.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Real Men

Real Men

Sooner or later I’m sure someone is going to say to me, “I really expected you to be younger, taller and better looking.”  They will question why someone with my attributes would write a blog with the title, “Real Men.”

Perhaps it would have been best had I done this 40 years ago. Considering there was no such word as “blog” then, blogging may have been a little difficult.  The world had problems then, if “Real Men” had stood against, the world may not be in the shape it’s in today. Forty years ago there was discipline in schools, people voted for the candidate, not against the other one, and people attended church.

I have a sermon called “When Good Men do Nothing.” It is based on a quote by Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke. He said, “When good men do nothing, evil triumphs.”  Good men have not been being real men for far too long. We have allowed evil to triumph.

Under the guise of free speech, the porn industry has flourished. Camouflaged as recreation the drug business is thriving.  Disguised also as freedom, TV has advertised sex like soda pop. We humans cannot control ourselves. Order cannot result from chaos and right now, we are in chaos.

So, what is a real man? Size and arms of steel don’t make a real man. A real man accepts responsibility. He provides for his family and does his best to hold them together. He respects his wife and expects respect from her in return. Ephesians 5: 22 “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” This is a two way street. No real man would ever physically or verbally abuse his wife or vice versa.

A real man rears up his children in the ways of the Church/Bible/teachings of God. Proverbs 22: 6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I am a product of this scripture. When I got wild and crazy, God pulled me back.  I am thankful beyond description; my parents raised me in a Christian environment and church.

A real man disciplines his children. If they are not disciplined by the father, the courts will discipline them later. Recent statistics show that one in every one hundred Americans is incarcerated. It’s the fault in many cases, of the fathers.

My dad was a real man. He taught me to work. He had me out on plumbing and electrical jobs from when I was about ten years old. That may be considered child abuse in today’s mucked up world. He taught me respect and consideration for others. He praised me when I did something right and corrected me when I did things wrong.  He set an example for me that few fathers do. He was the best friend I ever had. If I could be one tenth the man he was, I would consider my life a success.

A real man respects authority. The law is the enemy of the criminal but the friend of the honest citizen. I’ll be the first to admit how I hate to see a blue light in my rear view mirror, but the police have the responsibility of enforcing the law.

A real man pays his debts. Included in this is to never over extend one’s self. Easy credit has ruined many people, and in turn destroyed families.  My parents taught me, if you can’t pay for it, don’t buy it. Many people in America today want it all and want it now. It just doesn’t work that way. Before you can have, you have to do without. The appreciation of earthly possessions is greatly enhanced when one earns those things.

This list is just a beginning but I’m sure you get the point. If real men are iron in the blood, America is anemic. If men don’t step up and accept the responsibility of real men, current problems will only multiply.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “A people that value its privileges above it’s principles soon loses both.” January 20, 1953

PGR Tampa 067

Uncle Charlie (They are still Heros)

This is a military issue New Testament from 1943.
This is a military issue New Testament from 1943. Have things changed in 72 years.

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. My hero was Uncle Charlie. Charles Jackson Young was my uncle by default.  He married my aunt, my mother’s sister.

Uncle Charlie lived in Evansville, Indiana, until I was about ten years old. Then he moved to Springfield, Ohio.  At the time, Ohio might as well have been on another planet.

He and my aunt came to visit, usually about once a year. Uncle Charlie being there was better than Christmas. Sometimes I got both Christmas and Charlie at the same time.

Uncle Charlie fought in World War II. To me, at 10 years old, WW II may as well have been a thousand years ago. I often asked him questions about his war years but he always changed the subject.

Finally I grew up. Then I began to realize how horrible those years in Europe must have been for Charlie and thousands of other American men. They were fighting a war they did not start. The Hitlers and Tojos start the wars, then the good guys have to end them. Uncle Charlie was one of the good guys. Winters in Europe are like winters in the northern US and Canada. Our soldiers spent two or more of those winters outside in the ice, snow and bitter cold.  I am amazed more of them did not freeze to death.

Uncle Charlie was in the invasion of Normandy. The Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June 1944 through  August 1944, resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. Code named Operation Overlord, the battle began on June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day, when some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region. The invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history. Uncle Charlie was there.

Estimates say over 4000 American soldiers died on D-day. Thousands were wounded or missing. When I think about what Uncle Charlie must have experienced that day, I can understand why he didn’t want to talk about it.

In August of 1944 Uncle Charlie and thousands of Allied troops completed the liberation of France and the war was near an end. The following spring, on May 8, 1945, the Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. A week earlier Hitler is believed to have committed suicide.

Uncle Charlie retired and moved back to Kentucky in the early 70’s. He insisted on helping me build my house. The older he became, the more hyper he was. One time I was ripping a sheet of plywood and I was not  moving fast enough to suit him and he jerked the power cord through the saw blade.  Another time I was decking the roof and got into a patch of sawdust, I began sliding and could not have stopped without someone on the scaffold to catch me. Who do you suppose that might have been? Charlie kept me from falling 2 stories onto a pile of concrete blocks.

One subject Charlie would talk about was religion. He was a believer in Lord Jesus as Savior and God as the Creator.  I’m sure he’s in heaven. I look forward to the day we can have another talk.

America has had many heroes.  Uncle Charlie was one of those. America still has heroes, in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other parts of the world. Let us never forget, freedom is not free. Many have given blood and life so we can be free.

Uncle Charlie before shipping out to Europe. Early 1944
Uncle Charlie before shipping out to Europe. Early 1944

Isaiah 40:28-31 28 Do you not know?  Have you not heard, The Lord is the everlasting God,  the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles,  they will run and not grow weary,  they will walk and not be faint.