I remember watching religious themed television on Sunday mornings while other families were getting ready for church. Now this was not cable television but rather three networks and two of them were fuzzy. One of the programs was entitled, A Lamp Unto My Feet, that was produced by CBS Television. The programs had morality lessons based on christianity and I thought that they were great! During my young years, before 11 years of age, we did not attend church…but I was captivated by Bible stories! I would see these wonderfully bound books in the waiting room at Ferrel Hospital in Eldorado, Illinois that had beautiful illustrations and a narrative that was made to order for my Biblical curiosity!
Many years later, grown with kids of my own, I sent a card in from one of the, same, Bible story books…still found in doctor’s offices…and said that I was interested in learning how I could purchase a set of them for Aaron and Johnathon. Little did I understand that a Bible Story book salesman was going to come to my home to high pressure sell me my beloved books!
We had just returned from a Gatlinburg, Tennessee vacation when what did I hear but a knock on my door. When the old German man entered he told me that he believed that it was God’s will for me to purchase a set of books! I, after listening to his sales pitch for 30 minutes, told him that I would think about it and would call him and let him know. He responded that he feared that Satan would enter my heart if I did not buy the books now and that he thought that he should speak with my wife. I assured him that my wife would throw him out if he spoke to her in such a manner as he had to me…and he gathered his books and left.
I later purchased the books and have them to this day! I also noted to the salesman that apparently Satan had not entered my heart!
One of the most exciting experiences that I witnessed during my early years as a christian was the influx of about 40, primarily Jewish Hippies, to our little non-denominational church located on the Royalton blacktop road in Elkville, Illinois. The group was comprised of some from wealthy homes and others from the middle class… and one who was an orphan and who had been homeless and slept on the streets of Chicago.
The hippie commune, which I visited and stayed over night and showered in the corn field, was at the other end of the blacktop.
We were a small church of under 100 parishioners. When the hippies came…they not only found a welcoming and loving congregation and pastor but they discovered a family that they had been hungering for!
This church event was so unusual and unprecedented that people came from miles around to see what was going on in the little…poor church in the village of Elkville! The young people that came became christians and subsequently…’Jews for Jesus.’
Religious leaders in the Southern Illinois area marveled and rejoiced in the manifest witness of Gods outreach and dynamic magnetic drawing of his children to him…while others scoffed and criticized and turned their head and walked sadly away!
The Chicago orphan is my lifelong friend Jeff. He and his wife live in London. Jeff is the CEO of Genistar and works tirelessly to help others. He has enriched the lives of countless people that come from difficult situations and life events! I see their photos and read their testimonies regarding the difference that Jeff has made in their lives and I remember the little hippie boy…my friend….almost 50 years ago….
I spent my career at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. During my over 32 years of service I interacted with thousands of students. Many of these students come from broken homes or are latch-key children…or are battling mental and emotional challenges. There is one overriding theme that is an umbrella over so many of these young people…they are lonely!
Pastor Archer was able to think outside the box when the 40 hippies came to his church. I witnessed tears stream down his face as he demonstrated to them the love of a father figure. The congregants of our little church were salt of the earth Southern Illinoisans. They loved the lonely hippies…they did not think of the hair or the clothes…they saw their hearts!
My first hand witness of God bringing his sheep to someone who would care for them and love them…was a seminal event in my christian experience! I understood that to follow Jesus…was to first get out of the way of what he was wanting to do with his children…and to be his representative to every hurting and lonely human being!