My Story, A road less traveled by.
“I'm older than I've ever been and younger than I'll ever be”
There was a plaque on our wall that read, “Only one life it will soon be past only whats done for Christ will last”.
Those words have stayed with me my entire life and are more significant to me the older I get.
Momma once told me that birthday's never bothered her except when she turned sixty. There was something about reaching the age of sixty years old that just seemed to be so “Over the Hill”, so “Final”, “Depressing”, like your best day's are behind you, that it's pretty much over with. And now being in the last few months of my fifty ninth year at the time of this writing, these things cross my mind as I contemplate the inevitable.
I have always had an optimistic view of getting older what with my personal beliefs and faith in God and what the Bible teaches about eternity, I realize that this life, this earthly existence, is not all there is and that ultimately I will be alright, never the less the prospect of dealing with age and all that it comes with makes one think. I asked my Grandma Holt one time, “How are you feeling?” she simply replied, “No use to complain about it”. I loved her casual attitude about things. She never seemed to let anything bother her. We were at her home visiting one day and Dad mentioned the fact that he had developed what they call “Floaters”in his eye. Grandma told him, “Oh that's just those little shade trees”. Grandma had such a wonderful caviler attitude about life. I remember a comment Mom mentioned about her, she said that Grandma would plant a tree in front of her house probably expecting to sit under the shade of it some day. Grandma lived to be just a few day's away from her 104th birthday. She was certainly an inspiration and positive influence to me with her attitude and outlook on life.
“It's not how old you are but how you are old”
Ted Nugent, “Rock Legend” made that statement in an interview once. I liked it so much I used that line in a song that I wrote called “Hittin' my Stride”, an optimistic look at growing older. There is an old saying, “It's not the mountain ahead but the rock in your shoe”. This can apply to a lot of things and certainly with the fact of aging. I believe that “Worry” can be the “Rock” in your shoe that becomes larger than the mountain you face.
The bible mentions and touches in two different places on the subject of the average life span of a man, in one place it states 120 years and in another 70 years.
Given a choice, depending on the quality of life and the condition of the world around me, I believe I would opt for the 120. That being said if I live to be 120 then I am just now approaching the half way point. If 70 then it's almost over. Grandma lived to 104, Dad lived to 87, Mom 84.
The Bible say's “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14
On October 6th 1957 I was born in Kansas City Missouri to George and Barbara Davenport. Full name, George Randall Davenport, My twin brother Rusty and I was born about twenty minutes apart. His full name is John Russel Davenport. I tell people" Before we were born, we were womb mates". I was born first so I got the name "George" after my father. Mom didn't know at the time that she had been carrying twins so after I arrived the doctor told her to just relax because another one was on the way. Unlike today when we know everything about a baby before they are born, no mystery, no surprises. I also grew up with an older sister named Jackie. She was a horse woman. She rode and trained horses on our little five acre farm in south Kansas City. I also owned a little horse during my adolescent years but like most boy's nearing their 16th birthday I became more interested in "Horsepower" than Horses. My brother Rusty and I didn't have very much in common. He excelled in school, sports and extra curricular activity's and was quite popular. I on the other hand did not do so well in school or sports and had just a few friends. My Mother and Dad were Christians and attended Raytown Assembly of God church. My Dad was a good man, not perfect but he did raise us kids to know Jesus and brought us with him to church. He didn't just send us to church. He was a roofing contractor by trade and believed in hard work. He was born in a farm house in Nebraska in the year 1912 on July the 5th, the same year that the Titanic went down. He left home when he was only fifteen. He grew up in the "Depression Era". I recall him telling me how he had “Hopped Trains” and traveled that way several times in his younger day's. He told me of a time when this guy told him that there were some men around that might steal his money at this certain place and said to let him hold his money for him to protect it. Well, in just a few moments that guy slipped around the corner with my dad's money never to be seen again. It was three day's later that someone else offered to buy my dad a sandwich. Dad said that that sandwich was the best tasting thing he'd ever eaten. He learned to be more careful from then on. He did say that life for the most part back then was pretty easy. He always worked hard and from living during that time, he understood the value of a dollar and getting it honest. I believe that his "Life Verse" was IIThes. 3:10 "If any would not work, neither should he eat". He definitely instilled in us a good work ethic. He kept us busy most of the time working around our little farm, mowing the grass, cutting weeds, cleaning out the shed, helping in the garden and also going with him on Saturdays to jobs and roof estimates. He believed if you keep a kid busy working he would stay out of trouble. He believed that old saying, "An idol mind is the devil's work shop and idol hand's are his tool's". Another time years later during the years that I was away from God, I recall dad telling me that It would pay to give my life to Jesus and that how when he gave his heart to God, everything in his life started working out for him. That seed sunk in deep. Mom was from a small town in the middle of Missouri called Glasgow. She was born February 23rd 1931. Mom was a waitress when Dad met her. I guess he liked her service so well that he asked her to marry him and she served him for the rest of his life. My mother was a “Stay at home mom”who never thought it was ever a lesser position being there for her children when we would come home from school. She would always have supper ready for us, always had our clothes washed and always either had a lunch packed for us or had lunch money there to take to school. We never thought anything about how blessed we were growing up. I never imagined life to be any different than always having both my mother and dad. I remember one night when I was a kid, I had a nightmare. I dreamed that Mom and Dad were getting a divorce and I was so heart broken until I woke up and realized that it was only a bad dream. I would feel so sorry for those kids who actually did have parents who were separated and how sad that must be. Some of the fondest memories I have of my parents is when Mom and Dad would kiss and hug each other. It would always bless and warm my heart. I heard it said once that one of the best things that you can do for your children is to love their mother. Another fond memory was when us boys would be in bed and I would hear Dad in the living room laughing at Johny Carson on the television. To hear him laugh reassured me that all was right in the world. I recall one time when Mom was taking care of some children at church or somewhere when she noticed that one of the children was pretending like he was smoking a cigarette. One of the other children said, “Were gonna tell his parents what he's been doing.” The child became frightened and sad but then my Mom said “Oh no we don't have to do that, he is a good boy, he won't do that anymore”. That kid was so relieved and happy to not be in trouble. Mom demonstrated “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy”. Mom and Dad brought us to Sunday school and church and I became more interested in the things of God at a young age. One summer night between 5th and 6th grade, a friend, Rob Smith from church came over to spend the night. We got to talking and we both realized that neither one of us could actually remember a definite time that we got saved so we decided, why not make it official? So Rob and I knelt by the bed and asked Jesus to forgive us of our sins, come into our hearts and be Lord of our lives. It was so nice to have that settled. All through junior high and high school, I lived for Jesus to the best of my ability, witnessing to the other kids in school and inviting them to church with me. There was this one time that an Evangelist called Marven Shmitt held a revival at Evangel Temple in Kansas City for several weeks. I invited a bunch of kids from school to go and a few times we had so many in the car that a couple of us would ride in the trunk! It was fun. I recall a couple of these kids really getting blessed and fall under the Spirit. It was amazing. There was another time when this friend of mine from High school, Dave Stolberg and I would actually get into arguments about God over the phone. I don't know why or how it came to that but this one time I invited him to a Youth for Christ meeting at the school. Ronny Mesker, the son of Al Mesker the founder of the Kansas City Youth for Christ, came to speak and Dave Stolberg got saved that day. That was wonderful. There are a lot of things I would do differently if I had it to do over again but I cherish the experience of having a relationship with Jesus in those formative years. At age 16, I was elected by my church to be their CA president, (Christ Ambassadors). I even served as a camp counselor one week when I was 17 at the Assembly of God Kids Camp in Rocky Mount Mo. I attended Youth camp almost every year growing up. I owe a lot of what I know of Jesus to Youth Camp, my Sunday school teachers, my Pastors and all those Evangelist and Gospel Singers who came through our church and of course my Mother and Dad.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
One of my earliest “Precious memories” is of a time when I was a young child, I can still remember my Mom as she knelt by our bed and prayed earnestly for us boys as tears would roll down her cheeks. I thank God for her and her prayers that did not go unanswered. Another time stands out in my memory of when I went to spend the night over at my friend Chris Whites house. His Dad, Ron White, at bed time, came in and knelt by the bed and prayed for his son and I. Would to God there were more righteous parents like that in the world today.
A couple other early memories that stand out to me back when I was a young boy. Our dog Kimmy, a part Pic-anise and part Chihuahua had developed what I believe was kidney failure. As a result of this she had lost the use of her back legs and would drag herself around with only her front legs. I remember praying for her every night that God would heal her. I prayed every night for maybe a couple of weeks and then one morning, Mom came to my room and said "Kimmy is walking"! She was very wobbly at first but I kept praying for her and before long she was as good as new! About a year or so later she had developed the same condition again. One Sunday when I was in church, I read this Sunday school paper that had the story in it about the Roman Centurion who came to Jesus and told him of his servant that was sick and how Jesus said that he would go and heal him but the Centurion told Jesus that he was not worthy for him to come to his house and believed that he could just say the word and that his servant would be healed. This pleased Jesus because this man demonstrated such great faith by suggesting this and Jesus spoke the word and the servant was immediately healed. After reading this story I went to the alter and asked God to heal my dog. I believed that Jesus could yet again just speak the word and it could be so. When I arrived back home I picked her up in my arms and deliberately squeezed her where she was the most tender. Normally if I had done this before, she would yelp with pain but this time she did not. I then sat her down at the top of the stairs leading into our basement and watched her walk down the stairs on her own and then the next morning I opened the basement door and found her back on the top step again! She had climbed them with no problem. This time God had instantly healed her. I learned two things from this, #1 God is concerned with everything that we are concerned with, nothing is insignificant to him. # 2 God doesn't always do everything the same way.
The “Bum Shack, Best friend, and Billy”
Back in my early years at home, my Best friend, Jeff Shirley and I built a kind of “Fort” back behind the dump where my dad would put all of the old shingles and debris that they tore off of the houses that he roofed. Our “Dump” did not have garbage or trash, just all the old shingles and related stuff that they would remove from the job site. We took metal strips, wood and whatever we could use to build a shack. We called it the “Bum Shack”. We would pretend that we were a couple of Hobo's traveling around the country and would stay in that shack along the way. There were several times that just me and my Cat, Billy would camp out over night in the bum shack. I had a make shift fire place in it made from an upside down tar bucket and a gutter pipe for a chimney. I never cared for camping out in the summer when all the bugs and snakes might be around so I would do it in the wintertime. It was a challenge to brave the elements and survive the cold. It was an achievement that I was proud of. I would bundle up in the sleeping bag and Billy would snuggle inside with me. My Cat Billy, was my loyal companion. He would often ride on my shoulders. Even Dad had a soft place in his heart for Billy. I had to work quite a bit growing up but we managed to have our share of fun along the way too. I remember Jeff would come over to my house and Dad would have me doing some kind of chore and Jeff would just jump right in and help me work instead of going home. I thought, wow, I don't have a choice but Jeff volunteer's to help me. What a good friend! One time Billy went missing for maybe two or three months and I was so sad. I figured he was gone for good and then one day, I stepped out into the garage and low and behold there was Billy! Casually laying there under our car. I was so thrilled to see my beloved kitty back home. I could kind of relate to what the father might have felt like in the story of the Prodigal Son in the bible.
My 1947 Plymouth
One day, when I was 12 years old, I told my Dad that I would like to get an old car while I still could because I thought by the time I would be old enough to drive, there would not be any left around. I actually thought that. Well we saw an old black 1947 Plymouth Special Deluxe four door sedan for sale in a nearby neighborhood. The back doors opened in the opposite direction of the front doors, they call it “Kissing door handles. Believe it or not my Dad only paid $25 dollars for it! And it could even start and run! Dad drove it to our house and parked it up on the back driveway and we just kept it there for over three years. Many times me and my friends would play in it and I would even camp out in it once in a while and dreamed of the day that I could drive it. I absolutely loved that car and couldn't wait until I could get my drivers license. Well when I was 15 years old, this friend of mine from High School, Dan, would ride his ten speed bicycle at night over to my house that summer. We then would load his bike into the backseat, take the license plates off of my dad's car and put them on the plymouth. We lived on a hill so we would coast it down the driveway and then when we reached the street I would pop the clutch and away we would go! I knew it was wrong but I just loved the adventure of cruising in my car at night and I was always very careful not to speed or draw any attention to myself that is when I was driving but then I did something I regret, I let Dan take the wheel. He wanted to get stupid and speed and even farm some yards. That means he would pull on to someones front yard and then peel out. That made me so mad that he would take a risk like that and put us in jeopardy! I just wanted to enjoy a nice peaceful ride in the car and he wanted to act like an idiot but the most scary thing of all was when after I dropped him off at his house, I would drive back home and pull up the drive way to park. After I shut the car off, I would duck down and hope my folks didn't hear me. Then I would peak to see if any lights came on in the house. I never got caught “red handed”but sometime later, my mother asked me if I had been driving my car at night and she told me that my sister Jackie had told her that Lance, her boy friend, saw my car pass by his house one night. I admitted that I did and she said I won't tell Dad but just don't do it any more and then she asked, “Was it fun”? I was SO relieved! Thank God for MERCY! When I finally got my drivers license I thought that I needed to overhaul the motor in the Plymouth. Me and a friend began to get started working on my car. I rented a “Cherry picker”, a hydrolic hoist to lift the engine up out of the car. When I had it lifted about half way out, Dad was pulling passed us in his truck, stopped and said to me, “It will be a miracle if you ever get that thing running again”. I thought, thank you for that “Vote of Confidence”. I'm not sure why he said that but I was more determined than ever to succeed in getting this thing working! I took it all apart and had Perkins Auto parts in Raytown short block the engine. They bore the cylinders and re did the valves, the stuff I was incapable of doing but I did everything else myself to put it back together. It took them a super long time to finish this job and I just couldn't hardly wait to get it going but we finally did. I remember Dan Cockman, my friend from school, said “Well it looks like O'l Perkins finally pulled through”. That Fall, I would drive my car to school. I remember one fellow in the parking lot looked at me and asked,”Where did you get that pot of junk”? I didn't care, that car was my “Pride and Joy” but then, not long after that, one snowy night, a friend invited me to come over to his house. On the way over, I began to slip and slide, lost control and crashed into a telephone pole! The fender wrapped itself around it. I decided since he lived close by, I would walk to my friend Dale Brights house for help. Dale Bright was my Teacher twice in life. In my younger day's, he was one of my Sunday school teachers and then later, in High school, he was one of my Shop teachers. He has been a family friend to this day. On the way over there I discovered a puffy sore spot on my forehead. I must have hit my head on the steering wheel on impact and didn't even know it. I went to Dale's house and later I found out that I broke the telephone pole and I had to pay for it! About $200 dollars! They wanted even more but Dad talked them down on the price. I even got reprimanded for leaving the scene of an accident. I figured I couldn't just wait around there all night so I went for help. Well that was the end of my 47 Plymouth.
One of the “High Lights” of every year was Youth Camp. I remember the first time going to Rocky Mount Missouri to the Assembly of God campground by the Lake of the Ozarks. I was a little reluctant going at first not knowing what to expect. The camp was situated on kind of a peninsula. The camp was surrounded by private little houses on the road that went along the perimeters of the camp. In fact our friends Chris and Rusty White and their folks Ron and Pat had a lake house just below the east side of the camp and the Dorrels, Russ and Chris's Grandparents had the house next door. They always had a dynamic speaker every night and activity's during the day. I remember the very first year that I went. I did not share a room in the cabins but stayed in a big long screened in dorm lined with beds. There was this young man who's bed was across the aisle opposite from my bed who was not a christian. I did not know what circumstances led him to go to youth camp but I felt a burden to pray for him to receive Jesus into his life. I remember praying every night for him. On the final night of camp I saw him go forward at alter time and get saved! That was so wonderful. I never forgot it. It was there at youth camp where I first experienced the Baptism into the Holy Spirit. I do not remember the details or what year it was but I remember that it was one night during alter time. Youth camp was such a "magical time"if I can use such a phrase to describe it. I recall entering the "Tabernacle" and hear them singing that great old song, "Goodbye world goodbye". The dynamic speakers and anointed music would thrill your soul and set your heart ablaze with the love of God. The first few years they had a screened in open air building for the Tabernacle and you could see the boats go by on the lake through the screen window below the platform. It was so cool. Later they modernized the buildings with air conditioning and so forth. It wasn't quite the same but they figured it was needed. One of the exciting things about Youth Camp is that you had the opportunity to meet girls. You would simply find someone who you liked and ask if they would like to sit with you during the service then afterword you could go over to the snack bar and eat together. Many budding romances took place at Youth Camp and many hearts were broken as well. It was such a memorable time. Funny thing, it seemed us kids could go to south Missouri for just one week and come back with a southern accent. That Friday, the last day of camp, we didn't want it to be over. Many of us would come back home with a zeal and excitement about God and later by school time, for many of the kid's,it would fade. I found out early on that we live by faith and not by sight. By faith and not by feelings. We must maintain our walk with God regardless of circumstances or how we feel. Like Paul said in 2 Timothy1:12 “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”We must have a “Rock Ribbed” determination to always stand for God and righteousness no matter what. I know this now but there was a time early in my life that I lost focus and strayed away from what I knew was right.
In 1973 I finally got my Drivers License. Along with my 47 Plymouth, I also drove my Dads Chevrolet Corvair. It was pretty used up by the time us kids got around to driving. This o'l car burned and leaked oil quite a bit. The Fina Gas station over the hill down the road from us sold “Used oil” for about 10cents a can so it wasn't to expensive to keep oil in it. One time me and a couple friends of mine were cruising around in the Corvair and we came up to this double dip part of the road on 107th street where you could speed up and get a real thrill. We actually got airborn for a minute and when we hit the ground this great cloud of smoke came pouring out the exhaust and this loud clattering sound started. It was a Blast. One of my fond memories of that year was when me and a couple friends from school would drive to the Dunkin Donut shop on the corner of 87th & Blueridge for early morning coffee and donuts. My favorite was “Bavarian Cream”donuts. This is where I first fell in love with coffee.
I turned 17 in October of 1974 and by this time, I had a 1967 Mercury Cougar that Dad helped me to buy. Talk about a “Hoopty”, this car smoked so bad that I got pulled over for excessive exhaust smoke. I don't believe that I got a ticket but I knew I had to try and fix it. Well I honed the cylinders and replaced the piston rings, I should have bored out the cylinders. I learned quite a few things about mechanic work from nessessity. If I wanted to drive a car, I had to fix and repair it myself! I saw a lot of kids whos parents bought them nice new cars. I thought, “Must be nice”. But Dad did not believe in “Spoiling” us, and because I had to work on and maintain my car, it taught me to appeciate it that much more and not to expect to have everything just handed to me.
DERAILED In 1976, I graduated High school and over time, even before I graduated, I had begun to give in to 'discouragement' and 'various temptations'. I call this Satan's "One Two Punch" strategy. I was weakened then made vulnerable to suggestion. One thing lead to another and the downward spiral had taken effect. Before long I had settled into a lifestyle that was without God doing my "own thing", going "my own way". It didn't take long for Satan to get busy and make up for lost time. I had begun to smoke cigarettes and drink beer. I didn't smoke marijuana very often until after a friend who smoked it on a regular basis moved in with me. Well you know what happens when you associate yourself with certain people. I thank God that he never allowed me to get to overly involved in destructive things. God was at work on my behalf. Thank God for a praying mother and other saints.
The Bible tells us that "The god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe". This was certainly true for me. Even though I had been raised in a Christian home, went to church and learned the truth of Gods word and had made a personnel commitment to Christ when I was young, over time, living in "Darkness", I had given in to doubt and no longer believed the "Truth". My mind was truly blinded and I was not sure what was what. I recall one of the first times that the Lord began to strongly deal with me, urging me to come back into a relationship with Him. It was the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I had by this time made a few decisions that greatly effected my life and not for the good. I recall this overwhelming sense and longing to give my heart back to Jesus and “come home” but after more ridicule and discouragement, I was distracted again and did not respond to that “Still Small Voice'. Another time a few years later, I was standing out in my yard while this ominous storm was brewing overhead. I remember getting this very strong awful feeling that if I were to be hit by lighting at that moment, I would not be ready to face God. I hurried into the house and that fear subsided but I never forgot that feeling or the thought of going into Eternity unprepared. Then after several years, in a moment of clarity, the Holy Spirit began to communicate to my spirit once again, not with a stern reprimand of condemnation but a gentle voice of love. The Bible say's in Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork”. For the first time in a long time, it all started to make sense to me, it all started to come together. I can't explain exactly how but the Spirit of God began to reason with me like it says in Isaiah chapter 1:18, "Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool". The thick fog that surrounded my mind began to lift and it all seamed to start making sense. Creation with all its complexity's could never in a billion years just happen to come into existence all by its self. The same God that could create a billion times a billion worlds, and everything we know that exist, had a reason for creating me. I came to the conclusion that Jesus was who he said he was and that I would be a fool not to follow him. That night I ask him if I could just start over from scratch, so He hit the “Delete Button” on all my sins and the "Reset Button" on my life when I repented and recommitted my life to him. While I was backslidden, I got addicted to cigarettes. After I came back to Jesus, I threw away a full pack of cigarettes as an act of faith. I had tried to quit smoking a few times in the past and could not. But this time the Lord just lifted the craving for nicotine from me instantly! What a Blessing!
I recommitted my life and heart to Jesus right there in my little house in Raytown Missouri in May of 1981.
I recently found out that the Holy Spirit had laid me on my friend, Jeff Shiry's heart to pray for me, back just before the time I had recommitted my life to Jesus and his prayer was answered! PTL!
These are the words to a song I wrote:
Side Tracked by Randy Davenport
I once traveled down this narrow road with no thought in mind to alter my course
I was just as happy as I could be With a song in my heart I could hear His voice.
There was often trouble on this narrow road But He was always there to help me carry my load.
In His word He promised He would always be, right by my side, He would never leave.
Then the voice of temptation, dazzled me with sensation
I began to listen to the enemy of my soul.
Further and further I drifted, I began to stray
Soon I had forsaken the straight and narrow way
As I gave in to temptation with every sin I'd try
I was overtaken and my soul began to die.
In darkness I did wander, going my own way
Confusion and dissolution followed me day by day
“The pleasure of sin for a season”all so swiftly passed
Never given a reason why they never last.
I took all that this world could offer till I could take no more
But it could never give me the peace I had before
I began to reconsider, I began to realize
The solution to my problem was right before my eye's
Then the voice of the Savior began to say to me
Come and follow and I will set you free.
What about Rock Music?
Growing up in my Assembly of God church, the only music we heard there were Hymns and various Southern Gospel from visiting groups. Also occasionally we would hear artist like Jim Sunderworth or Dallas Holmes. In the mid to late sixties, "Christian Rock" was almost unheard of and what there was of it was very controversial. I remember in Junior High school being completely opposed to "Rock'n Roll music for a number of reasons. I read a book by the name of "Rock'n Roll the Devils diversion" which had me convinced that this form of music was completely sinful. I also used to listen to Jimmy Swaggart, a radio evangelist at the time who came down hard on Rock and Roll Music and was even against Christian Rock music. However, way back before this, sometime in my early childhood, I remember when I heard Creedence Clearwater Revival on the radio doing “Rollin' on the River”and I remember how awesome that song was to me. I even told my dad about it. That was the very first “Rock” song I ever heard that I really liked. Also in the late sixty's, there was a show that came on called “The Monkey's”, a comical answer to the Beatles. They were a group compiled of actors to play the roll of a fictitious rock band who actually went on to really appear and play concerts. My brother, sister and I used to watch them and listen to there music. I never did get the idea that they were evil or anything and later we watched a show called “The Partridge Family” about a fictitious band made up of a mother and her kids based on a real family music group called “The Cowsills”. It was fairly “corny” but was fun to watch. Again I never got the impression of anything sinful about them. My friend Steve Gilbert, who had an entirely different opinion about music, told me one time that when a friend of his heard him listening to a rock song, his friend said “I used to do acid when I listened to that!” My friend Steve simply replied “I didn't”. My Pastor explained it this way, He said that music can be Au-moral, meaning some music is neither “Good” or “Bad”. It can just be about things in life. I agree with this. I believe that there is good and bad in about everything. There are songs that just make you feel good, songs about love and life and some that are just funny like what Ray Stevens or Jim Stafford would do and there are songs that speak of sinful things that appeal to the flesh and it is up to us to avoid music that clearly defies godly concepts and biblical thinking. It's not just “Rock” music but there are “Country” and “Blues”songs that are strait up sinful and some that are clean and pleasant. Larry Norman said something funny one time in an interview, he said, “You know those people that say that Rock and Roll is of the devil? Uhm, maybe Jazz”. Larry Norman was known to be one of the first one's to do “Christian Rock” and he caught major flack from the church at large but he helped to blazed the trail for the thousands of those who followed him and that do what we now know as “Christian Contemporary” music. Later after I had recommitted my life to Jesus in May of 1981 my friend Nathan Young, my childhood friend since I was 12 years old and he was 9, we became friends the year Woodstock took place. Years later he introduced me to some "Contemporary Christian Music", groups and artist like Daniel Amos and Carmen. I also remember hearing about Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill and even back in High School, there was a group called "Love Song" that my friend Steve Gilbert told me about but I never really paid much attention to them or that whole scene. Later, by 1981, the year that I returned to Christ after nearly five years of living in a backslid-den condition, I was still a bit skeptical about the whole "Contemporary Christian Music” thing.
Early on, when I was first starting out doing “Christian Rock”, there was this haunting question in the back of my mind that kept me just a bit conflicted as to the validity of using this kind of music to minister with. It was still somewhat controversial as to it being acceptable in many Christian circles in the early eighties. This question was forever settled in my mind when I saw Resurrection Band in concert for the first time back in 1982 at the Christian Church on the Plaza in Kansas City Missouri. There was this one song that they did called “Alienated” where Glen just did this little smirk during the song that seem to land an arrow into my heart. I can't explain it but it was right there and then that I was convinced that God could indeed speak through this type of music. This was a “Defining Moment” in my life and further more after the concert, Glen preached a hard hitting, In your face, no holes barred, no pulling any punches, sermon that rocked my world. This was inspirational Rocket Fuel to me.
Prompted by the Holy Spirit
I recall two different instances where the Holy Spirit laid someone on my heart like he did with Jeff. One guy I knew named Mike. I remember sensing a particular urgency for him, a very intense feeling to hold him up to God and pray for him. Just a few day's later I learned that he had turned and made a real commitment of his life to God! Similar to that, I remember looking down at my roommate, another Randy by the way, from the upstairs loft in my little house and I remember such a strong feeling of compassion that came over me at that instant and my heart was burdened for him and I prayed earnestly for his salvation and in just a short amount of time, he told me the good news that he too had committed his life to Jesus!
The Lord will often use people to intercede in prayer for others and it's a Beautiful thing.
My friend Gary S. Paxton had a huge collection of Clocks and pictures of Jesus. He said that these two things represented “Time” and “Timeless”, The “Temporary” and the “Eternal”. This concept inspired me to write this poem.
A Poem by Randy Davenport
“TIME AND TIMELESS”
Time and Timeless
All Creation here below,
Mountains, valley’s, the rivers that flow Every creature on land and sea, Every flower, plant and tree
All mankind he meant to be, Every one, you and me
God eternal in whom all things consist With just a word, caused to exist. Almighty God the essence of Love
Creation exhibits His Glory above.
This God who is timeless made time for me
A Creature of time who was meant to be
His crowning work the praise of His Glory
Till Sin entered in and changed the Story
Sin entered the World and then entered me
I entered the Darkness and could no longer see
And for a time, no longer could hear
His gentle voice calling me near This mortal man with time running out
Lost in the darkness of fear and doubt
Searched for the living among the dead
Sought happiness but found sorrow instead
But the God who is timeless made time for me
Stepped into time from eternity
God the Son became sin on that day
And died on the cross to take it away.
Then on the third day He rose again
And conquered Death for every man
His wonderful words I do believe
His gift of Life I gladly receive.
The one who is Timeless now lives in me
This creature of time for Eternity
This God who is timeless made time for you
Stepped into time for His chosen few
Poured out His life and made a way
The time of salvation, today is the day.
I found just the right church!
Back in 1985 just after I recommitted my life back to Jesus, I knew I needed to find a good church to go to.
I am not one to “Church Hop”. I believe one should get grounded in a body of believers and be a part of and support what they are doing. However I do encourage any new believer to look for and find a church to attend regularly and sometimes we have to try several and let the Lord lead us to the right one. This should only be until we find a church and get settled but not a constant ongoing practice. I heard it said, “There are no perfect churches out there”. NEWS FLASH! You are correct and even if there were, as soon as you joined it, it would cease to be “Perfect”. Shortly after I came back to Jesus in May of 1981,I began to look for a good church to attend.
After visiting a few churches I came to make Sheffield Family Life Center, (Sheffield Assembly of God), my home church. Pastor George W Westlake Jr., who was the senior pastor at that time. He is one of the most knowledgeable men of the Bible I have ever met. He still teaches the Bible on Wednesday nights and travels to various other countys to teach and train pastors. He knows the original languages, Greek and Hebrew of the Bible and has a comprehensive knowledge of the Word of God. He not only knows a lot but is very humble and loving. An Excellent Pastor and teacher. This for me was the obvious place to make my church home. I never will forget the title of the first sermon I heard him preach, it was entitled “What is a Saint” out of Ephesians chapter one.
This is also where my friend Nathan Young was a member. Our friendship was renewed as well with the advent of my recommitting my life to Jesus.
Through the years Sheffield would put on a few Plays. I had the honor to play the role of Jesus in a lot of them. Many times they would do an Easter production and a few times Pastor would do an illustrated sermon but Tribulation Christmas was our “Flag Ship”production that we put on every year during the Christmas season. This play is one of the best evangelical tools that our Church has used through the years. Thousands have come to faith in Jesus as a result of Tribulation Christmas. This was no typical Christmas Cantata, this involved Flash pots, Explosions and Gunfire. It centered around a family who had missed the Rapture and what they went through. It would conclude with a dramatic scene where Jesus comes back at the end of the Tribulation and reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In the early days there was someone who played the part of Jesus but it wasn't long that I was offered the part. I think that my long hair had something to do with them asking me to do it. I was honored to play the role and also it was about the easiest part to play in the entire play. Every other part required speaking parts with a lot of memorization. Not Jesus, he just came on the scene and looked majestic. In the last few years they did have me say a couple short lines like “Satan come here!” just before I would motion for him to be thrown into Hell. One of the funniest things that happened during one of the performances is while I was waiting for Joe Bates, a longtime friend and loyal worker in the church who would cue me when it was my time to appear. He would remind me to get ready, then I would descend down on this moving platform that I would stand on holding a sword. Well this one particular evening Joe didn't show up to cue me. Then I heard the line, “Put down your weapon soldier our King is coming!” this caught me by surprise and suddenly I realized that that was my time to come down the ramp. I instantly forgot about the shirt that I had put over my chest to prevent any cheese from getting on my costume while I was snacking on some nachos and I also forgot to remove my tennis shoes that I had on to keep my feet warm while waiting to go on. Well I came down the ramp with my shirt on my chest and wearing my tennis shoes. When I got down to the stage I immediately tore the shirt off my chest and then quickly went behind the curtain and removed my shoes as I sat on the throne for the Heaven scene. This was very embarrassing at the time but a funny memory I will always cherish. It was the end of the decade and the Century so I had decided officially retire the roll and to turn it over to another to play Jesus. About a couple years later, they came to me and asked if I would reprise the roll of Jesus one more time. Well by then we were in our brand new building and they had been flying Jesus in on a cable and I wondered what it would be like to come in flying like that and also I knew that they sincerely wanted me so I agreed to do it one last time. It was kind of scary at first but I got the “Hang” of it after a while and you know what they say, You regret more about the things you did not do”. I'm glad I did it.
“Two roads diverged in the wood,
and I, I took the one less traveled by
and that has made all the difference”
As far back as I can remember I have always seemed to want to take the "Road less traveled by". The Bible say's "Be not conformed to this world". In context we understand that to mean to not participate in the sin's of the world but I also take it to mean for me personally as to not be like everyone else in thinking or behavior. The idea of being just another cookie cutter assembly line run of the mill image of the ordinary has never appealed to me. I never bought in or surrendered to the notion of "Peer Pressure". That is not to say I wanted to be weird or different in a bizarre kind of way just to make a point but to “Think” for myself and not just go along with the crowd. I have never had much respect for those who follow the crowd blindly like a bunch of mindless sheep or the trends, just because that was what everyone else was into or doing just because that was "The In" thing. That being said, this has not always worked for me as far as being "Popular" but I have always managed to find a few who liked me for who I was and come to find out statistically on average, most everybody will only have a small amount, maybe one or two "REAL” true friends in life anyway.
“I finally hit on something that I could do and that people liked”
In my experience growing up, other than when they elected me to be Christ Ambassador President, I never received a whole lot of accolades, not to many "Pats on the back". I was never good at sports, barely passed in school, not noticed or liked much plus my Dad usually thought that any thing that I was interested in or excited about was silly or a waste of time. So as a result of all that, I never really knew what it felt like to "Hit the Home run" or "Score the touch down" or make the "Honor Roll." To finally get approval and recognition, to be honest, felt really good. I remember what it felt like the first time I performed a song at one of our church" New Years Eve" services many years ago. I sang a "Larry Norman" song "Look into Jesus",funny thing about that was just before I went on to sing this song, it occurred to me that it contained what might be considered “Crude content”. The words in question went like this, [“Gonorrhea on Valentines Day but your still lookin' for the perfect lay”] Suddenly panic hit me. There was NO WAY I could sing words like that to a church audience in 1982! That would be up there with Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit! What do I do? What on earth am I going to do?! So I grabbed a pen and paper and rewrote that line just minutes before I went on.[“You search for peace every day but you still won't change your way”.] When I finished the song there was this huge applause and a friend of mine who doesn't usually give out many compliments, kind of like Simon Cowell from “American Idol” said "That was EXCELLENT!" Well I was on "Cloud Nine". I finally hit on something that I could do and that people liked. I realize that we ultimately must get our approval and self worth from our Heavenly Father but a little encouragement from others from time to time certainly never hurts.
9 I have never been the kind to "Join" things. I recall going with my friend Chris White on a couple of Royal Ranger camp outs back when we were kids. Royal Rangers was a Christian Boys Group sponsored by the Assembly of God Church equivalent to the Boys Scouts. I remember hearing some complaints about my tagging along but not joining the organization. Oh well they got over it I suppose. I will admit that I also use to feel that way about church membership. Ironically it was only when we wanted to receive our Ministers License from our church that we was compelled to officially join.
Back in 1975 I had decided that I wanted to play the guitar. I would look over at my brothers guitar sitting in the corner of our bed room and it was as if it was telling me, “Play me, I dare you”. Well the only musical instrument I ever attempted to play was the Harmonica but now I wanted something that I could play in different keys and express myself musically. I asked my friend Nathan Young to show me some guitar chords and help me get started on learning how to play. Before this time, earlier in life, I had witnessed first hand how my brother attempted to learn to play guitar and I remember how grueling it looked and it seemed like my brother was miserable trying to read that guitar book and struggle with the instrument. Well I decided after seeing that, I did not want any part of it.. But years later, when I would go over to Nathans house and his dad and brothers would sit around the living room and play guitars and banjo and sing, they were having FUN! This was a “Paradigm Shift”for me. I no longer saw playing guitar as drudgery or punishment but FUN! So Nathan got me started into the wonderful world of GUITAR! My sister and brother-in-law bought me a song book with guitar chords in it above the words of the songs and I picked up a couple more music books and learned basic chords and how to actually play them. I kind of became a “Songwriter by default”. I mean that I would try to play a song that I liked but could not figure out exactly how to play it so I would just make up tunes of my own. This was before Youtube where you can just click on and learn from hundreds of musicians. Occasionally you could get together with a person who knew how to play better than you could and gain some knowledge from them but for the most part, you would just have to figure stuff out on your own. I believe that this in it's self was a blessing because I was made to create and write original material which I prefer to do anyway. I figured a song by someone else sounds the best when they do it so why should I do it? The years that I had wandered away from Jesus and the things of God, I didn't do much at all with my guitar but after I re-established my relationship with the Lord, I began to have a desire to write and play music.
My earliest experience of a “Christian Coffee House” was when a guy we met who was kind of a “Christian Hippie that attended our church, took us to a Christian Coffee House somewhere downtown Kansas City, I don't remember where but it was quite a different atmosphere than the typical church thing. There was a stage and tables and chairs all around that had incense burning on them. I did not even know what incense was at that time. They looked identical to those things they give you when you buy Fire Crackers. They called them “Punks”. Well I thought it very strange for them to have a bunch of Punks burning on each table. And then this guy on stage with long hair and beard was playing guitar and singing “Jesus is just alright with me” by the Doobie Brothers and I didn't quite know what to make of all this. It was sure very different than what I was used to.
Years later, my friend Steve Gilbert invited me to go to this place called the “JC Power and Light Coffee House. This was when I saw someone in person for the first time who played guitar and harmonica like Bob Dylan and Neil Young did. It was fascinating. I remember one time when the volume was high on the PA , this guy said that they could hear him in Bangladesh on this system. I thought that was very funny. One evening Steve Gilbert called me and said that that guy that played guitar and harmonica was feeling a bit under the weather and wanted to know if I could fill in for him on one of his sets. I told Steve that I have been working on stuff with my band and couldn't do a “Solo thing”. But after I got off the phone with him, it occurred to me, “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU THINKING?!” There is a “LIVE” audience there! So I called Steve back and said “Yeah Man, I'll be there! I just played a bunch of my songs on the acoustic guitar that we had been doing with the band. It was so fun. It was my first real Coffee House performance!
Later on we discovered the legendary “NEW EARTH Coffee House in Westport, this was the premier spot in Kansas City for Christian Music Artist from well known groups to unsigned local artist. It was located in the basement of this church at 40th and Main in the Westport area of Kansas City, a trendy popular place that the cool people hung out.It was “The happening spot” to be on the weekends. The first few times I played there, I played “Solo”but then the next time I played there, I brought the guy's with me to play and Sheldon Kellovic, the owner of the coffee house and Pastor of the church that it was in was very surprised to see me with a full band and he liked it!
Back when I formed a "Christian" Rock band. I wrote, played and sang all the songs myself. There was this time when a former band mate had joined another band and asked me to join it as well. I never considered it for even a second. The thought of playing back up behind someone else doing someone else s music was awful to me. I was accused of being prideful. Not at all, it was just that I had a body of original material that I felt very strong about and I could not fathom doing anything else. Another time there was this fellow that joined to play Bass for us sometime after Nathan had left. He too had ideas for us to learn and play a bunch of cover songs. I suppose that would have helped us as far as getting more gigs and being more successful and there are those who are happy to do it and there is nothing wrong with those who do but as for me, to do that seemed like "Selling Out". I am not against doing a song that I did not write on occasion but for the most part I feel it more important to do original music that comes from my own heart. I'm not sure why but I have always felt that way perhaps one reason, the Christian rock band that I was heavily influenced by, Resurrection Band and especially it's leader Glen Kaiser. I noticed that all the songs they did were original, most of them written by Glen. Also I noticed that most every band I ever liked did there own material. Of course I realized later that many of them started out playing covers but then again I did not know how or was interested in doing that.
I remember way back when I was little around Christmas time. I had this desire to play guitar so I asked my Dad for one. Well come Christmas morning what did I find? A plastic TOY!
That immediately squelched my ambition to be a musician for years.
Something about how I was not taken seriously about my desire to learn and play guitar totally discouraged me at that point.
Some years later my brother Russ took up guitar lessons. I remember him sitting there trying to learn out of a “Book” struggling with his guitar and stopping every so often to take a break from his "Lesson". It looked to me like torture. I remember thinking about the fact that I was always having to do home work and chores around the house and the thought of doing anything else unpleasant on top of that was miserable. So twice I rejected the thought of playing guitar. It was only when I saw my best friend Nathan and his family sitting around their living room playing guitars, mandolins and maybe a banjo that turned the tide. It was a "Paradigm Shift", another“Defining Moment” in my life. My whole attitude about guitar changed that day. It went from something miserable to something FUN! I asked my friend Nathan to show me how to play. I grabbed my brothers guitar and brought it over to his house and he showed me a few chords. That's about it. The 11 rest I taught myself and looked into a couple of song books with the chords plainly illustrated above the words. Years before all of this, several of us kids from church would go with A J Williams to visit and minister to people in a rest home. We would go from room to room singing and two or three including AJ, would play guitar and banjo. I remember thinking that it would be so cool if I could play some kind of instrument as well. I could not play or afford a guitar but I could buy a Harmonica and it seemed simple enough to learn so that's what I did. Harmonica was the very first instrument that I attempted to play.
It was only years later after being in a band and going "Solo" that the thought occurred to me to try playing harmonica along with my guitar using a "Head Rack" like Bob Dylan or Neil Young. I wish now that I would have incorporated the harmonica while I was doing the band thing but oh well that's the way it went.
Early on, way back around the time when I was seventeen I got my very first “Real” Guitar that by the way, Bless his heart, Dad bought for me. Until then I would use my brothers old acoustic guitar to fool around with. I recall this one time when I got all excited about a little tune that I discovered and thought I came up with it myself. I even called Nathan on the phone and said “Listen to this tune I created”and played it for him. It was not long after that that I discovered I was playing the lead rift of “Lagrange” by ZZ Top. What the deal was, every day in the cafeteria at school, they would play music over the PA system and that was a song that would be playing many times. I had that tune in my subconscious and then I thought I made it up myself. I remember a few times that I would stick the microphone to my tape recorder down inside my guitar and it was like a little amplifier. That whetted my appetite for what would come a few years later with the introduction of Electric Music! Around the early eighties shortly after I returned to the Lord Jesus after several years of being in a backslidden condition, I finally bought my first Electric Guitar! But before that I became friends with a guy from Sheffield Assembly of God, Mark Boyer. He was this tough confident fella, successful, handsome. Not typically someone who would particularly be interested in a guy like me for a friend. However we did have these few things in common, a love for God, music and playing guitar. We were both in occupations that did our business in the out of doors. Him being a Lineman for KC Power and Light and I a Roofer. I used to go over to his house in the city and borrow one of his extra guitars and we would play them together. I eventually purchased my own electric guitar and soon after that I found and bought my first ever effects box called a “BIG MUFF”. This opened up the “Wide Wonderful World of DISSTORTION”! This put me in orbit! Mark and I would get together a lot of nights when the weather man would forecast rain for the following day. We would stay up all night drinking coffee, playing guitars and writing songs. It was a BLAST. 12 There were a couple of times however that the weatherman would get it totally wrong and after a full night of playing guitars, we would have to get ready and go put in a full day of work totally exhausted from the git go. We even wrote a song about that call “Six Potts”, it went like this:
“I never could play a lick of rock and roll till my sixth pot of coffee and the night got old I never understood just how it went that way but when the sun went down we'd begin to play and we were rockin' rockin' the night away yeah we were rockin' rockin' till the break of day.
We'd start out playing a little country with soul then work it on up into some rock and roll, we'd write a few songs that we knew couldn't' loose then work it on down into some rhythm and blues and we were rockin' rockin' the night away we were rockin' rockin' till the break of day.
We'd keep on playin' a little louder and faster then we'd do a thing called “The neighbor blaster” we'd crank up our amps as loud as they would go and play it like that until the Cops would show and we were rockin' rockin' the night away we were rockin' rockin' till the break of day.
We'd turn it down till the cops went away then crank it back up and continue to play, we'd pack it all up and put it away and be crawl-in into bed just at the break of day cause we'd been rockin' rockin' the night away we'd been rockin' rockin' till the break of day”. There were several other more serious songs that we had written as well. We certainly had a lot of fun in those days and that was the start of what would later become “THE BAND”!
One day in the early eighties Nathan and I were invited by a friend to his house in Grandview Missouri to watch them do a band practice. Bill Peck on guitar, Rodney Demoss on bass and Chris Tracy on drums who by the way, joined my band sometime later. They called their band “Ezra”. It looked fun and the thought hit me, WOW! We could do that. I asked Nathan if he would like to start a band with me, he said yes. The thing was, I played guitar and Nathan played guitar and we did not know anyone else who played the bass but we did know of a drummer. Nathan gladly agreed to play bass so all we needed now was a drummer. There was this guy named Pat Fonstock who was playing drums for the youth group at church and we simply asked him if he would like to be in a band with us. He said yes and for the first time I actually had a BAND! Nathan and I came up with a name for the band, "Righteous Brofield". Nathan and I shared a kind of twisted humor that would generate a name like "Righteous Brofield” One of the first 13"gigs"we played was a Barn Party that a friend of mine from the first grade, Jeff Shirley got for us in Emporia Kansas for his church youth group. We played on a flat bed trailer in this barn. It was a Blast! Later, other names were considered and among Pats young friends, the name “Guardian” was what they liked. I was not that crazy about it but since they liked it so much I figured why not? and went along with it. We started practicing right there in the “Youth Chapel” immediately after Wednesday night service before the church would have to close it's doors for the night. It was convenient for us since Pat already had his drums set up we could plug in and be ready to go in about five minutes. Funny thing one evening after service, we were playing my song,”Last Generation” where I went into this prolonged guitar solo with my eye's closed I was in “The Zone”. If you are a guitarist you can probably relate to what I am talking about. I was blaring away feeling like I was flying totally into what I was doing when suddenly I looked and noticed the Senior Pastor, Pastor George Westlake frantically motioning with his arms for us to TURN IT DOWN!! Talk about a “Buzz Kill” I nearly had a heart attack and immediately crashed from the Adrenalin rush I was on. It was soon after that that we relocated where we did band practice.
Sometime later on, we had another Drummer named Anthony Lamonte. He was an excellent dude but he had this kid that liked to cause a rukkas and his mother insisted that Anthony watch him while we tried to do band practice in his basement. It was Anthony that made us aware of the then famous Christian rock band “Guardian” and told us that we would probably want to change the name of our band. That to me was good news because I never was crazy about that name anyway and I had a name picked out that I always liked, “Sojourner”! So I finally was able to have a name for my band that I totally loved. Sojourner means "Temporary Resident", just passing through. That's what we are in this life on our way to our permanent home, Heaven.
Some time later after this, our family was having this big family reunion that went on for a couple of days. I wasn't able to attend the first day but my brother Russ told me that there was this guy there who had long black hair and that he was married to our second cousin, my uncles granddaughter. He was Tony, the lead guitarist for "Guardian"! When I got there I introduced myself and told him "We had to change our name because of you guy's". He told me about their new album,"First Watch" that they had out. I went and bought it after that. It is very good. What was really cool sometime later we had the opportunity to front them when they played at the “New Earth Coffee House” in Westport in Kansas City Missouri. The premier Christian Music Hot Spot in Kansas City back then. For a time, The New Earth was one of the regular places that we played and many local 14and national groups played there every weekend. We had looked forward to this once in a lifetime opportunity to open for a national Christian Band for months. Just before the concert I came down with this terrible flew. I was so sick the night of this concert that I should not have been out of bed let alone out of the house but there was NO WAY I was going to miss this opportunity to play the same stage with a Big Name Group. So I “Cowboy-ed up” and went and did the gig. I was so dizzy, sick and out of it that I wasn't sure how good I actually was doing but one of the greatest compliments I ever got up until that time was from someone there who told one of the other guy's that he liked us better than Guardian!
There was this other time when Bob Kapps from Heart of God Church, a friend of ours that we met for the first time doing a gig on a flat bed trailer in Excelsior Springs Missouri where he ministered in song and his friend preached and our band played. Bob sponsored a concert at a High School in Independence Missouri featuring us and a then fairly famous artist call Jennifer Knapp. One of the songs we did was an anti abortion song that I wrote called “Four thousand Silent Screams”. Just before we did that song, Elizabeth read this little story called “Diary of an Unborn Baby”. It was a tear-jerking drama about this precious little one talking about how she was developing every day and how she was going to someday run and play and hug her mother only to end with the words, “Today my my mother killed me”. This along with my song made such an impact that two young lady's who were scheduled to have an abortion came to the front to pray and canceled their plans. How wonderful.
The first time that I ever went into a studio to record, it was around 1986 or 87 at a place over in Kansas called “Wheatstone Studios”. Nathan had suggested that we make a recording with the band and made the arrangements for us to go in to studio. I remember thinking that we were not ready to do that but he insisted. At this time Chris Tracy was our drummer. It was just the three of us. We did four songs. I'm not sure why, perhaps that was all we could afford to do at the time. It was basically a “Four Song Demo” and it was a very educational experience for me. I remember how long it took just to mich all of Chris's drums just right and I remember when ever we made a mistake while recording a song, we would have to stop and start all over from the beginning. It was later during the second time we were in studio, that they could just cut in at any point of the recording and correct it. This was when we did “Up in Heaven.” This song, at the time, was about as close to a “Hit” that we ever had as a band. It was well received and liked by the audiences at our concerts. We did this one at “New Start Studios” with a 15guy named Gary Shocky that we knew from church. At this time we had this guy by the name of Chuck Chaffin who had joined our band. He was a “Master” on guitar. He added a dynamic professionalism to our group and really pumped some “Adrenalin”into our music. Funny thing with one of the songs we did . We did a kind of heavy blues version of Amazing Grace. I invited a couple of my friends into the studio who are both very good singers. Bob Kapps, Pastor of Heart of God Fellowship in Buckner Missouri and Bill Howard, Head Correctional Officer at Municipal Correctional Institute at that time. I thought it would be fun to have each one of us take a verse and then join together on the last verse together. I sang the first verse then Bob the second verse then Bill the third verse. The funny thing is when Bill came in to do his verse, he forgot to put on the head phones and with just the music that he could hear through the glass, He belted out his part of the song so good that Bob and I just looked at each other and I said “WOW,what are we doing here”? This recording, in my opinion, did not truly capture the essence of the sound I was going for but never the less we finally had a complete project in hand to offer at our “Gig's”. These were the only two recording projects that we as a band produced. They were both on Cassette Tape. It was later after the Band that I recorded my first “Solo” project on “Compact Disc”! That's right, my first CD! During this period shortly after the end of “Sojourner” I was somewhat discouraged because I had dreams of going on and doing more and more things with the band. Resurrection Band went on for about thirty years and the Rolling Stones were still at it since the dawning of time and I also wanted to keep going but that's not how it went. I lost heart about music for a time and even put my guitar away for a while but I could not stand that for long and went on to do what I had started to do in the beginning and that was to go “Solo”. I had a collection of songs that I had written and this other guy that I met by the name of Keith Castor who had a band at the time called “Righteous Gig”who we had played with a time or two at some of the same venues during our band day's. He had a studio in his house and invited me to record there. He soon renamed his group “Ranger Joe”. Can't blame him, that was worse than “Righteous Broffield”. I did my first “Solo” project called “Sweet Mercy”. It was just before our church began to build the new auditorium that I asked Darrel Hill, the church drummer and his brother Jeff, the churches keyboard player if they would play for me on a new recording project. They gladly agreed and I was thrilled. I also got two different Bass players to help with the project. Ray Seals and Joe Sherrick. I even had a guy from church named Mike Miller to do a Saxophone part on one of the songs. It was most Triumphant! The first time that I listened to the playback of one of the songs in the studio, it practically brought tears to my eye's. This was the first time that I heard MY music being played by other professional musicians. This was in the year of 1999. Funny thing, I was in 16Blue Springs at a Christian Coffee House premiering my Sweet Mercy CD. I saw this one guy who came to see me who had an “Up in Heaven” tape with him. He was a true Sojourner fan. I recall him leaving dissapointed because I was doing a different style of music now as a solo artist. I kind of felt bad but what could you do? After some time, another friend from church, a guy by the name of Vinnie Gonzalez who had a singing group of his own and some recording equipment in his basement. He invited me to record there. I recorded a collection of songs and called that project “America Today”. This was a song that I wrote about my view of what this country had become and when I sang it at one of our CGMA Conventions, I got a standing ovation and I believe was the song that helped me to be awarded the “Song Writer of the Year”. Well after a long series of events I kept writing and doing more music with more of a “Country” influence which, by the way was quite by accident. I originally had intended to do more of a “Singer/Songwriter style music” along the lines of James Taylor or Neil Young but kind of fell into somewhat of a “Country Feel”. I recall Elizabeth's Aunt Shirley, she made this statement after listening to some of my songs, “ I like that Country Music”. Well that kind of surprised me but I figured, Hey if it works, don't fix it so I just kind of leaned into it. I can also remember a few times when I was listening to the radio, scanning across the dial and I would notice that on the “Country Station” I would hear music that was clear and clean and easy to understand. Then the thought occurred to me that this sounded like a good type of music to bring a Gospel message with. It didn't have all the “Clash and Crash” of the music that I normally would listen to and also I realized that this kind of music had a much wider appeal demographically. People of all ages liked it and it was certainly a style of music that would be much more accepted in church on any given Sunday. Sometime later I had been introduced to a man called Chuck Watson who had been corresponding with our Brother-in -Law Charley who was doing time in prison. Charley by the way, was part of the influence for our going into prison ministry. Mr. Watson had been helping Charley with some legal paper work. He came out to listen to me sing at a Festival in Lee's Summit. After that, he told us of his son Chad Watson who was a music producer out near Los Angeles California in a suburb called Chatsworth. He gave us his phone number and told us to get a hold of him. We made the contact and made arrangements to go out there and do a “Professional Recording Project”! This was in the summer of 2005. Chad is a world class musician in his own right and can play about every instrument there is, in fact it was many years before when I was a young boy, I had went with my friend Jeff Shirley to his church to see a Christian group called “Simple Faith”. Chad Watson was one of the members! And now years later I get to meet him and record in his studio along with his right hand man Brad Swan 17who plays drums and operates the mixing board. Chad had played with several well known music personality's and toured with the Country Music Legend, Charley Rich and later had toured with Freddy Fender until he passed away. Chad and Brad can do everything you need musically but on occasion, Chad will enlist a special individual, a guest musician who will come in and play a specific part for a project for instance he brought in this one guy to just play a “Slide” on my song “Matter of Time”. I will never forget how I got “Blown Away” by this special guest guitarist. He came to door of the studio where we were in Brads house. I answered the door and there was this interesting little small British fellow that looked like Albert Einstein, He kindly greeted me and I invited him in. Then in a few minutes, Chad showed him how the song went and in no time, he was blazing away on his guitar like I have never seen before! He got it down in about maybe two takes if that. This was none other than the incomparable ALBERT LEE! A World Class Guitar Master who had played for numerous acts and famous people all over the world! He had played for Emily Lou Harris along with countless others and was currently touring with the Everly Brothers. He himself had a #1 Hit years back called “Country Boy”and appeared on stage at the Crossroads Blues Festival with Eric Clapton, BB King, Vince Gill, Sheryl Crow and the list go's on and on! I asked Chad, “What kind of a guitar does he play”? Chad said, “An ALBERT LEE”. He had his own brand of guitar! WOW!
We recorded several of my songs and I came to this one song called “Prodigal” that I intended to include on this project but was having difficulty with. I just could not seem to get it right after several tries. Finally Chad asked “What else have you got”? I said, “Well I have this song called “Mail Call”. He said “OK lets try that one”. I sang it for him and right after that, he sat there almost stunned and said “That is the Title Song for this project”! “Mail Call” was a song I wrote that was inspired by a poem with the same name that I had read,written by an inmate who had submitted it into the Saved by Grace News Letter that our friends in Raymore Missouri publish and distribute to prisons all over the United States.
Darkness and loneliness fill my cell, with pain and fear to great to tell,as I wait for the mailman to deliver to me, as I wipe away tears so no one will see, I pray so sincere with head raised above. “Please God, soon a letter of love”. I long to gaze upon pages so dear, with riches to bring my loved ones near. Words of diamonds on pages of gold; a message from heaven as their story is told. “We love you, miss you, pray you'll be free” A treasure-filled envelope just for me. Please bring memories of joys I once knew; family, friends and things I would do. The darkness and pain of my cell will prevail, as my name, again, was not called for mail. Arlen Allen Atkinson.
18This was definitely an exciting time for me. It was such a joy to be able to go to California and do a project with such accomplished individuals. I later had Chad do a few other tracks for me and even went into a local studio here in Kansas City with him to record a few several more songs for my next project, “Perfect Stranger.”
Television Back during the time with the band we were able to appear on television a few times on the "Sunday Night Alive" program that our church did on channel 50 in Kansas City that aired for an hour and a half every Sunday night but twice a year they would do the program all night on Labor Day and Memorial Day. I got an idea, "They have a lot of time to fill, why not see if we could get on with the Band". The first time we went on, I didn't want to try to perform live. I wasn't sure if they had all the right equipment for a band and I also wanted to make sure the song was done correctly so I gave the sound man our tape and we "Lip Synced" it! It looked pretty cool. Its funny because the guitars were not plugged in to anything but that didn't matter, IT WORKED! Since this was our very first appearance on the television show and knowing that we probably had a predominately christian audience, I didn't want to go to heavy with the music so I chose to do this fairly mellow song called “Innocent Day's”. Before they showed us doing the song, Phel Bugunu, an associate pastor of Sheffield at the time, interviewed us. It was Nathan Young and myself along with Mark Boyer and Rick McCormick who was in the band at that time. We had a lot of different ones come and go who joined the band through those years. I also appeared by my self a couple of times on the program. I had went to a friends house who had a recording studio and recorded a couple of songs with just my guitar, I then lip synced to it on the program. This worked so well that even people in the room thought that I was singing live.
The next time we appeared on the program we performed live in studio. They prerecorded us just prior to the start of the show then aired our "Live" performance on the program later that night. We recorded two songs. They aired our first song "Jesus is Alive but Religion is Dead" that night in 1996. It was a few days after this that I took a fall from the roof of a house where we were working. My “Crash Landing”.They aired the second song, "Time" a few months later. I put that song on You Tube in the fall of 2010 for the fun of it and to let people see a little of what I used to do. Also because it has a good message.
There were many concerts that we did over the years but not nearly as much as I would have liked but given the fact that all of us had jobs, family's, involvements and other responsibility's I am thankful to have had the experience.
I tell people that I became a songwriter by default. My inability to figure out how
to correctly play a given song lead me to abandon the effort and just make up my own. I found that playing and singing a song of my own making was far more gratifying to me anyway. I kind of think of it like this, playing and singing other peoples songs is to me kind of like being a human Jukebox Box. I have something to say and not to just repeat something someone else has said and besides that, it is very rare that someone else s rendition of a song is as good or better than the original. However I will and do on occasion, a song that is not my own if I like the song and feel genuinely passionate about it.
I met Elizabeth in late 1984. She recently came to know Jesus as her Savior in August of that year and she began coming to church at Sheffield Family Life Center. I recall one of the first times I laid eye's on her.
It was on a Sunday at Sheffield, Me and this other guy both watched her walk by at the same time then we both looked at each other with a grin on our faces and a mutual look of approval. My friend Nathan used to date just about every new girl that came to our church and Elizabeth was no exception. Before that we used to see her come to church bringing about four or five kids with her. My friend Steve told me that he felt sorry for that poor young single parent trying to raise her kids in church. We soon found out that those were not her children but were her nieces and nephew's and some neighbor kids. Nathan took her out a time or two and also to the Skating Rink where they had Christian skate nights. Nathan had to leave early one night while we were there and asked if I could give Elizabeth a ride home. Later I asked Nathan if he had any plans to pursue a relationship with her He told me no and assured me that his relationship with her was casual and he did not have any serious intentions so I decided to ask her out for dinner and a movie. Our first date was not exactly ideal at least not for her. We originally was going to see a movie and then get dinner. Well we went to see Clint Eastwood in that movie where he said "Go ahead, make my day". Where I went wrong was I ate a King size bucket of popcorn and totally ruined my appetite. I asked Elizabeth after the movie if we could skip the dinner for another time because I was so full of popcorn. This bummed her out because she was hungry and ready for dinner. I didn't know or I certainly would have taken her to get something to eat but the upside to this was I had an excuse to take her out the next night.
Elizabeth agreed to go with me on a second date for Chinese food which she had never had before. We kept seeing each other and eventually decided to get married.
We planned a simple wedding and had it at my folk's church at Calvary Assembly in south Kansas City, simple and with no rehearsal. I figured it was to far to make the entire wedding party make two trips all the way from North Kansas City to South Kansas City by Raytown. I figured, how difficult can it be to just walk down an aisle and stand in front of the church for a few minutes? We've all been to enough weddings before to know pretty much what to do. It came off without a hitch Friday 7pm May 3rd 1985.
This was the beginning of a whole new life. Early on I had to adjust to married life, ( I'm still adjusting by the way) for instance I had given Nathan a key to the house in case he were to get there before I did after work for band practice. Well this certainly did not set well with Elizabeth so we had to make new arrangements. One funny thing stands out to me back then. I had this little animal pelt and I had it draped over this pipe that stuck up through the floor by the stair ladder in the upper loft. Elizabeth was going down the ladder and was looking at it and I said "Be careful it might bite you" and just when I said that she noticed the little face on it and she just about jumped out of her skin. Nathan and I got such a kick out of how easy it was to spook Elizabeth with this thing. She called it a "Foal". I think she mixed stole and fur and came up with foal. We would sometimes set this thing in her car seat or some where unexpected where she would find it and she would get freaked out. Elizabeth was so cute about that kind of stuff. What can I say? We did quite a lot of silly things back then.
I went through many "adjustments"in those early times trying to balance time with a new wife and a band. One of the biggest surprises that ever happened to me is the time I came home from work and laying on my couch was this beautiful 1985 Les Paul Guitar. Well there was also this friend of Nathans there who had arrived at our house. She was waiting for the guy's to get there for our weekly band practice so I just assumed that the Les Paul belonged to her but to my amazement I soon discovered that Elizabeth had purchased it for me as a gift! Wow! I was Blown away!
The discovery of “Flavored Coffees”,Video's and Cell Phones
Back when Elizabeth and I first got together, it was the mid Eightys and in my mind doesn't seem all that long ago but when I stop and think about it, that was a pretty long time ago after all, 32 years from the time of this writing. Take for instance, if I were to go back in time from 1985 as far as we have come forward, it would be 1953! Four years before I was born! Thats before Elvis got big! The Second World War was recent history at that point! It's hard to imagine. I remember around the mid Eightys when Pager's were the “Big Thing”. Only a select few owned a “Car Phone”. I remember when “Cell Phones” just started to be available and then soon they got smaller and more and more people started to get them. I remember our first “Flip Phone”, WOW! It reminded me of the communicators that the crew of Star Trek had. I remember wishing I could have a Lazor on it that I could set on “Stun”. Way before I ever had a Cell Phone, I had an Answering Machine to take all my calls while I was on a job or away from the house. I never thouht that I would ever have or need a Cell Phone, It now seems strange to imagine life without one. Back before there were StarBucks everywhere, before I ever knew that there were more way's to enjoy Coffee than Black or with Cream and Sugar, we discovered this place on Armor Road in North Kansas City called “The Coffee Gallery”. This was the first time I had ever experienced “Flavored” Coffee. This fella that owned the place had more kinds of coffee there than you could shake a stick at! It was Incredible! We went there often to try out all of the interesting types and flavors. It was quite a pleasant treat. The man who owned the place informed us that for all of the various flavored grinds, they would require sugar and cream to complete the experience. He would say “You need to Gusy it up”.
Another thing just across the street from the Coffee Gallery was an old Movie Theatre that was also a “Video Rental” place. I believe this was back before the big corporate video places when there were several little private owned video stores back when they first started making movies available on VHS tape. They would also rent video players because most people at that time did not yet have them. It was then around this time period that I was able to catch up on all the movies that I had missed. We became what I call “Vidiots”! I discovered Charles Bronson and all of the “Death Wish” movies as well as a ton of other great flicks that I had missed over the years.
Business I lived in a little converted garage house in Raytown Missouri. I moved there in
1980. I was renting it for a while then the landlord offered to sell it to me so I jumped at the chance to be a real Home owner. I still worked for my brother in law 21who took over my fathers roofing company. It didn't take long to figure out that 21what I was earning was not very much for a young newly wed couple. I took on some side jobs once in a while to supplement what I was bringing in. Elizabeth also worked at a number of jobs. One of her jobs was a Plastic Bottle factory where they manufactured bottles for Shampoo,Motor Oil and such. One day some of the molten plastic splashed up on her face in her eye. She was sure that she would be scared for life. She drove herself to MCI Hospital in Independence Missouri where Doctors flushed it out the best they could with water and after it was over there was no trace of a burn or injury. Gods own mercy was present that day and we were both very thankful. Her coworkers were amazed that there was not a trace of any burn on her face. I kept working for my brother in law and taking some side jobs occasionally. I sometimes could make more money on a given weekend than I would get for an entire week working my regular job. The appeal of making so much more money for less effort began to really seem like the way to go. I had planned to eventually work my way into starting my own business but I ran into a problem that caused that to happen sooner than I thought. One weekend, I got started on a side job. I was to come back the following weekend to finish the job but the following weekend It rained both day's. I now was in a dilemma. I didn't want to make this customer wait another entire week to have his job completed so I asked my brother in law if I could take a couple days to finish this job. He told me in so many words that if I wanted to work some place else, he would have to let me go. That Sunday night I struggled with what to do. I finally figured that the future was working for myself. It was scary but that next morning I called my brother in law and told him that I was quitting my job with him to work for myself and GR Davenport Roofing was open for business. July 1985.
One day in 1996, the day I fell off that roof, we were doing a job over in town. It was on a Wednesday, the day we were to do the Bus route to pick up and bring kids to Youth service that night at Sheffield Family Life Center. I was working up on this narrow portion of the roof near the top when suddenly for no reason that I have ever been able to figure, I fell nearly twenty five feet or more off of the side of the house. I hit the ground chest first, barley missing the narrow sidewalk which probably would have killed me. I broke several ribs, punctured my lungs, broke a clavicle and suffered a head injury. Billy, Elizabeth's cousin who was working with me at the time knocked on the door and told the home owner what had happened. They called 911 and fortunately the job was just around the corner from Research Hospital. I have no memory of that entire day except a brief, fuzzy 22recollection of these men frantically rushing me on a gurney into an ambulance. I recall trying to tell them to be very careful and gentle with me because I thought that any wrong move could kill me. I was unable to articulate words but was only able to let out a moan.
A bit later Elizabeth and my Mother came in to see me in the emergency room. They told me that I lifted my head and told them, “Don't worry, everything is going to be alright”. I believe that the Spirit of God directed me to say that because at that time things didn't' look very good at all. I could have been required to be in hospital for a couple of months but I was only there for two weeks. I believe all the prayers that went up for me is the reason. I lost the memory of the day of the accident and I'm glad I did. I had so many friends and loved ones from church that came to visit me in the hospital. While I was flat on my back, the Lord comforted me with his love. I sensed his sweet spirit right there with me as if I was cradled in his arms. Poor Elizabeth was getting wore out from all the company that was coming in to visit me. I on the other hand with my “short term memory” that I sustained from the fall, every one that came in was the first one! I felt kind of like a “Rock Star”with all the attention I was getting. I recall this one time there that I was feeling the overwhelming presence of the love of God and was weeping. Elizabeth asked me if I was in pain and I told her no I was just feeling the love of God. It took a year to recover to nearly normal. I'm glad that I was ready for Heaven either way.
The way that we got started doing "Prison Ministry" is that Jim Wesley, who used to be on staff at Sheffield Family Life Center, and also a Chaplain out at MCI (Municipal Correctional Center) located not far from where we live and Bill Howard, who was the Head Correctional Officer there, invited us to come participate in the Bible Study that they held in the facility every week. We started attending somewhat hit and miss at first then gradually became more regular in going. We eventually found our "Niche" so to speak. We had participated in a number of other ministry's and they were all good but nothing else felt quite as natural as ministering to the incarcerated. It is interesting how one finds his particular station where God wants him to be. Pastor Westlake said when your looking for a ministry, try different things and see what your best at, find out what is a proper "Fit" for you. Both Elizabeth and I have always felt comfortable and natural visiting Correctional Facility's.
Playing and singing is definitely right for me also. God often leads you by your desires. A friend of mine, Nick Delavally said in a message "What is it that you like to do?, that's what you are supposed to do for God". Funny thing about that is, the opportunity's of playing and performing my music somewhere would often be the impetus for the direction in which I would go. For example, before we got involved with working in the "Youth Group" at church, it simply started with my desire to play my music for them. Music was also a part of why we began going to the Jail, I thought it would be a good idea to share my songs with the inmates. Joining Mo-Can and then CGMA, later resulted in us meeting Karen and Rodney Stoker who introduced us to Don Castleberry, President of Freedom in Jesus Prison Ministry where we later received our first Ministry Ordination. All these things were a result of a “Chain Reaction”simply started by my desire to play music.
CGMA-Country Gospel Music Association
It was back in the year 2000 that I was introduced to Billy Hale and CGMA. It all started with my desire to perform on the Gospel Stage at the Annual Santa-Calogon Festival in Independence Missouri. I went up and asked someone there, “How does one get to appear here on this stage?” They told me that “You have to be a member of Mo-Can”. I thought “What?”and asked, “How do I do that”? They said pay the $10 membership fee. I thought “OH WOW, is that all?” I can do that. Well I got to know Dan and Kathy Marsh who were members and they told me about another music association that they belonged to as well called CGMA. In fact, Dan was the Executive Vice President of CGMA, he also played the drums and Congo's. Kathy was so friendly, she spoke with me right off the bat as if we had been long time friends. She and Dan were a music duo that went by the name of “Gentle Hearts” and they certainly lived up to their name. Dan told me that the President of CGMA was appearing at a church in town that week and asked me to go. I went and listened to Billy, I can't remember exactly what he spoke about but I remember that it was rich and encouraging. This was not long after I had “pulled the plug”on the Band. I remember how Billy's talk was so encouraging. I shared a song that night and He made me an honorary member of CGMA that evening and even waved the fifty dollar membership fee. That October I attended my very first CGMA convention in Branson Missouri. Funny thing, I didn't understand how things worked in regard to Awards and such and back then I was able to sing every night! Since those days, CGMA has become so well attended that you might be able to sing once during a Convention but back then it was wide open. CGMA has been a very rewarding organization to be a part of. We have been so blessed and have got to know so many good people as a result of CGMA and Billy and Donna Hale.
MCI-Municipal Correctional Institute
In the beginning of our involvement with the Jail Ministry in the early Eighty's, we were basically observers for the most part when we would go into the facility. Bill Howard would give the lesson and we would only comment from time to time in the discussion. I would go with the men into the GED classroom and Elizabeth would go with Betty Howard, Bill's wife with the lady's into the visiting room. It was much later when Elizabeth and I actually teamed up.
There was a time when Bill and Betty turned the ministry over for a while to this other young couple, Lenny and Lisa Conner. Lenny said, “Tonight I will lead the study and next week you will lead it and then the next guy and so on. This is how I got my start in preparing and speaking. Later Lenny and Lisa stepped down and Bill Howard took control again. Then when he finally got ready to leave, he told me in so many words. “I'm turning it over to ya”. WOW! It was kind of like he jumped out of the plane and said you the pilot now brother”.After we were put in charge of this ministry, we no longer had access to the GED classroom where we held the study for the men. As a result of this, the men had to come to the visiting room with me and Elizabeth had to go down into the Pod where the women were. This was not a very desirable situation for her as she had to contend with all the noise of people yelling, guards hollering and big loud industrial fans running. But this was really a blessing in disguise in that it helped her to project her voice and develop her skill for proclaiming the Gospel. After a time, I decided that it was not fair that I had the visiting room and Elizabeth had to go down into the Pod so I suggested that we alternate our nights so that one week I would do the study with the men in the visiting room and the next week, she would come in and do the study with the women in the visiting room. This turned out to be a very good solution.
After we were put in charge of the Prison/Jail Ministry there, Elizabeth had a team of women that accompanied her and I had a few men with me but many times there would be just Elizabeth and myself so she would ask me come and do 24the music for the women and then I would often have Elizabeth bring the message to the men and on occasion I would bring a message to the women. We found that this worked well and we became a ministry team.
We did our weekly ministry there every Monday evening.
In the early 90's we also worked in the Youth Group at the church. We were given a bus route to pick up young people in and near our neighborhood. How we got started in this ministry was that Elizabeth's brothers and their family had moved into our part of town and we were bringing their children with us to church. The youth pastor noticed how we were loading our car and my truck with our niece's and nephew's and some of their friends and bringing them to youth church on Wednesday nights and gave us the use of a small church bus to bring them in and to pick up several other kids from around our part of town. This was the beginning of our assignment with the youth group. We then later was made "Bus Pastors" when they began renting buses to pick up teens from all over the city. The bus had its own driver and we were there to keep order on the bus. This definitely was not my "Ideal" for ministry. We did some good in this work in spite of some disappointments but doing the Jail and Prison ministry has always seem to come natural to both Elizabeth and myself. Working with youth is a great thing. A man in youth ministry was asked the question, "Why are you in youth ministry?" he replied, "It's easier to fix something before it gets broken". Wow, that was a good answer. I guess Elizabeth and I are on the other end of the spectrum, attempting to fix what is already broken.
There is a phrase that has been commonly used in connection with Prison Ministry, “Captive Audience” which leads many to believe that inmates are compelled or forced into attending “Religious Services,”that they are mandated to do so. This however is not the case. Attending any religious service is strictly voluntary and I for one am glad that this is the case. There are many who stay in their dorm or go out to the Rec yard. They have a choice whether or not to attend. Although I am all for everyone to have the Gospel presented to them, I would not feel right about anyone being coerced to attend our services. I like the fact that they come by their own free will. “The Gospel is for whosoever will, not for whosoever won't”.
In 1997 a friend of ours from Bob Kapp's church, “Heart of God Fellowship out in Buckner Missouri, gave us a kitten. We went out to eat with Bob and his wife after leaving his church with the kitten. I couldn't wait to get done and get home with our brand new pet. We called her Abigail. She was the most beautiful cat I have ever seen. She was a Calico with a pink nose. Elizabeth and I fell in love with her immediately. Through the next almost 16 years, she was indeed more than a pet, she was in all intense and purposes our daughter, “Our Little Darlen”. She went through several stages. When she was just a tiny little thing, she could scale all the way to the top of our basement garage wall on the carpet that I put on it for sound purposes in our “Band”room. There was this period that I could start playing with her then stand straight up and motion my hand at her and she would get ready to pounce and then she would jump up to my hand and I would catch her in my arms. We called this “Catch the Cat”. This was before we had access to video as we only had a flip phone by this time. I do believe if we had filmed this, we may have won a prize on one of those Home Video Shows. There was this period that she was in love with Candy Corn and I would flip a few at her every once in a while and she would devour them like there was no tomorrow and then one fateful day, just like flipping a switch, she just quit eating them altogether and never wanted them again. Abby hated Thunder and Rap music. If she heard either one, she would bolt to the basement and hide under the couch. We believe that her fear of Thunder may have began when our friend Dale Bright, the Sunday School-Shop Teacher-Friend of the family, was standing in the doorway talking to us as he was leaving our house that Abby slipped out the door without our notice. It was storming out and we could not find her anywhere. Sometime later we discovered that she was outside under the bushes. We got her back inside and I believe that little traumatic experience put a fear into her from then on. She was precious to us and would sleep with us in our bed sometimes. I asked myself one time,”What is the practical reason for having a cat?” Then it dawned on me, Therapy! She was my little therapist. She was so good for my peace of mind. They say that just petting an animal can lower stress. We had many wonderful years with our precious Abigail and then one day our vet gave us some bad news. He did give us some medicine that prolonged her life and for that we are so very grateful. Then the day came, August 23rd 2013, when Abby was so miserable that we had the vet come to our house to put her to sleep. This was one of the saddest day's in our lives. We both have our request in to God that she be there in Heaven to wait for us. I laid her to rest next to our garden shed in the back yard. “Our Beloved Abigail”
The Glory Road
“Some are called and some are sent, some, just got up and went.”
One day while we were attending the Annual CGMA International Convention in Branson Missouri, a friend of ours, Galen Vanduran that we met there, handed a Penny to Elizabeth and asked, “What do you see on this penny”? Elizabeth looked and said, Abraham Lincoln and a few other things but did not know what else to look for and then he said “One Cent, you are ONE SENT with a commission”. “You will be in fulltime ministry by this time next year”. That seemed pretty far fetched at the time but that was exactly right! It was true!
In January 2007, Elizabeth and I had been invited to be on our friends, Ron and Pat White's Television Show in Tucson Arizona and also to meet with a couple from CGMA, Ron and Opel Erickson who did Country and Gospel Music Programs at RV Parks in the South West. I figured Arizona in the winter time sounds like a good idea to me. I have always wanted to go somewhere warm in the wintertime and other than the time that Elizabeth and I went on a Paradise Cruise with the Gaither Homecoming group to the Bahamas, I have never been able to.
Strange thing happened to us on the way out of town that very first day. The front of our car began to vibrate and wobble. I thought that it was a tie rod or idler arm or something like that. It seemed that the devil was attacking us from the very start to sabotage our attempt to launch out in ministry. We began to pray and ask God to help us and to bless our car. Soon after that, it stopped vibrating and wobbling and it never ever did that anymore. Our Lord did an emergency car repair right there that very day! PTL!
Some months Pryor to when we headed out full time, we had been invited by a friend we met at a Mo-Can Potluck and Gospel Sing, Jeff Potts,a former inmate, to go with him to minister at a facility in Elsworth Kansas where he had done time and was allowed to come back and hold services for the residents. We excepted his invitation and were looking forward to our visit there. Just before we were to go to Elsworth, Elizabeth was scheduled to have surgery to remove a tumor in her throat. She had been having health issues as a result of it and there was a possibility of it being cancerous. The thought of that weighed quite heavily on the both of us for nearly a year yet we continued to pray and trust God. Pastor George Westlake knew about Elizabeth's health issues and recommended a doctor that he knew for her to see which happened to be a former “Mayo” doctor which was a blessing to have a “top of the line” expert to confide in. We were also aware that many times after a surgery like this, a lot of people will loose their ability to talk for a while. Well then came the day of the surgery. It was July the third 2007. Elizabeth, understandably was quite discouraged and was feeling sorry for herself thinking that this is the fourth of July holiday and everyone will be celebrating and she will be under the knife. I came in and said, STOP! This is “Freedom Weekend” and God is going to set you free from this infirmity. About ten day's after surgery, we received the Pathology Report at the Doctors office and it confirmed benign!-[No Cancer]. The Mayo Doctor told Elizabeth that he believed that her results changed due to the prayers that went up for her. This came from a man who knows what he is looking at. She was not required to have anymore surgery after this. Just after leaving the doctors office, we had to pull the car over to the side of the road. We were so overwhelmed by this good news and the wonderful Grace of God, we had a “Melt Down” and wept for joy. This marked the end of one chapter in our lives and the beginning of a whole new story. We did go to Elsworth and we teamed up with our friend to minister at the prison. I did several songs, our friend, along with several inmate musicians did a concert and then Elizabeth preached a dynamic sermon with a voice as strong as ever! At the conclusion of the message, the majority of those in attendance came forward to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Elizabeth was already sure at this point that this was what we were called to do.
Delight thyself also in the Lord: and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Psalm 37:4
There was this time when we were traveling south from Roswell New Mexico heading toward Carlsbad when I noticed this sign that said “Roswell Correctional Center”. Suddenly I had this strong desire to go to that facility. I believe God placed that desire in my heart. I don't remember exactly the timing on all of this but it was some time later on a return trip that we contacted the Warden of RCC and gained permission to come in and hold a service there. I led worship and did a few songs then Elizabeth delivered a message and many came forward to receive Jesus. It was wonderful. In addition to this there was this other time that we were passing through Roswell when we noticed this unusual fixture on the front of this storefront building shaped like a giant coffee cup. It was indeed a Coffee House! Well there was no question about it, we had to stop and have some coffee. Come to find out, the owner and Barista there was a Pastor who held his church services in the back part of this store by the name of Lawrence Sanchez. Funny thing about Lawrence, he is a Hispanic man but he does not speak any Spanish and he grew up in an Assembly of God church! We told him what we do and he invited us to hold a church service there in his establishment. We did and became friends with him and his wife. Funny thing. We told him that we were going to do a service in RCC and he told us that he would like to minister there but was unable to for some reason. We asked him if we could get clearance for him, would he like to come along with us to the prison and he said sure. Well we were able to get him in with us and we also were made aware that they did not have a Chaplain or anyone to facilitate services for the middle of the week so Lawrence asked the Warden if he could come in on Wednesdays to hold weekly services there. He also asked his people at his little church if they would be OK with moving there regular Wednesday evening service to Thursday so he could minister at the prison. They agreed and from that time on they have had a faithful minister and a service every week! How cool is that?
Some years later, we went to Nashville Tennessee where we were invited to be a part of a prison crusade at Metro-Davidson Prison. We were doing “One on one” visits with inmates who were confined to their cells. Elizabeth spoke with a young man who was in isolation at the time. She began to share the love of Jesus to him. He told her that he was an atheist and that he did not believe in God and that if he did exist, he was as “mad as hell” at him because his mother suffered so much before she died. He then in anger went on to use a lot of profanity and such and for a moment Elizabeth thought , well I might as well move on to the next cell, this guy is obviously not interested but yet she was compelled by the Spirit to look beyond his fault and see his need. She yielded to God and began, with compassion in her heart, to speak to this young man. She told him that she was very sorry but that God loved him and that she wanted to pray for him. He allowed her to pray for him and then he said, “Oh well you might as well leave me a request form for a bible to read”. A few months later we returned to this facility to do another prison crusade. This same young man, now out of Isolation and back in 28Population, came up and introduced himself to us and asked if we remembered him. We said “Oh yes, will you be coming to the afternoon service”? He said, “I will be there”. He did come to the service and sat in the middle near the front. When the invitation was given to receive Jesus, he was the first of many on his feet to commit his life and give his heart to Jesus! PTL! I recall another time when we were at a facility in Florida. We were allowed to do “Dorm Visits”where we are able to visit a little with the residents and invite them to come to the services. I felt compelled to come over to this one young man over by his bunk. He told me that he had been very discouraged because he had not been able to see or speak to his children for a long time. He showed me some pictures of them. I said that I would like to pray for him. I prayed and then invited him to service and he came that evening. Later when we spoke with him again he was completely different. His countenance was bright and he was cheerful and bold to proclaim his faith! God had definitely did a work in this young mans heart!
There was this other time when this little guy named Moses who introduced himself to us before a service, reported that he had received Jesus in another Crusade that we did sometime earlier and that he had never been the same since. These are the kind of things that really blesses your heart and lets you know that you are doing the right thing. We have established several close relationships with some Chaplains and inmates along the way. Lea County Correctional in Hobbs New Mexico is one of the first prisons we have had the privilege to minister in. In the first year of our journeys, which by the way looking back was quite remarkable in that we were out for nearly two months straight on the road and God provided lodging somewhere every single night except one where we stayed in a motel in Tucumcari on our way back home. I did not think to much about it at the time but later looking back at that entire first trip, it truly amazes me of Gods provision! We also were able to attend every Country Gospel Music Association Convention that they had that year except for the one in Canada. I never imagined that we would ever be able to do something like that. That year, we had the “CGMA” Convention in Carlsbad New Mexico. At this particular convention we were introduced to a fellow named Ernie White who he and this other guy did a local radio show in town. It was quite unusual because Ernie was a Christian and his partner on the show was an Agnostic but they got along well and this made for some interesting discussions on the program. Well we were invited to be on their program to introduce ourselves and tell of our ministry out on the road. We soon learned that Ernie did ministry at the prison in Hobbs NM. He invited us to go with him that night and that is where we met Chaplain Wayne Brazil, and later his wife Naomi. We also became acquainted with several Christian leaders and musicians there. Hobbs is now one of our regular stops on our mission trips every year. This is where we met an inmate who used to be a Muslim. He was so kind and polite to us and would bring us water.He shared with us his testimoney and asked us to share it to others. He told us that his wife had fallen very ill with kidney failure and was in the hospital and was not expected to live much longer. This broke his heart. He prayed to Allah but with no results so in desparation, he asked a Christian minister if he would pray for his wife. That man told him something very startling. He said “No, I will not pray for your wife, YOU pray to Jesus for your wife”. This angered him very much but in desparation,he did cry out to Jesus to heal his wife. Later he called the hospital and asked to speak to his wife, there was a long pause and then the lady on the phone said, “Your wife is not here”, he thought, oh no, she must have died. But then the lady on the phone said, “Sir, her kidneys began to work on there own and we sent her home”! He told us that he is not a Muslim anymore, he is a Christian! On another of our visits there, Elizabeth felt compelled to deliver a message on the infilling of the Holy Spirit. We usually, as a rule, remain on doctrinal subject matter that the “Church”, as a whole agree on, speaking on those things that tend to unite rather than on things that divide but she felt strongly compelled to speak on this because what they needed was“Power”. We all need it to successfully live a victorious christian life and for those especially living in prison with all they have to deal with on a daily basis. At the conclusion of the message a few came forward to receive this Baptism into the Holy Spirit. We later learned that for a time a new ministry was launched from that facility to minister even to the civilian population outside of prison! We believe that this was in direct correlation with these men who were filled with the Holy Spirit! PTL! Another time in Wisconsin at Green Bay Correctional, Elizabeth brought forth a message on the Holy Spirit. The next day a couple of inmates testified that after the service, they received this infilling back in their dorm later that night! One of the regular precious volunteers who allowed us to come in with them on their regular ministry time testified to Elizabeth that she asked the Lord for this gift and that she began to be overjoyed and started to speak what she called a little “Jibberish” that she later realized was a “Prayer Language” that had begun to develop. She thought at first that this might be a one time thing but later that day as she was driving in her car, she just began to praise and worship the Lord and began to speak in this Language again and she realized that this is an on going gift that never has to cease. The inmates noticed a change in her and a boldness and a joy that she had never had before. She testified that she entered a brand new level in God!
We first met RC Hodge in Minnesota at a CGMA convention. He was a new guy to the organization who happen to be an ex offender and a Singer/Songwriter. A Dynamite Talent with a golden voice and a bunch of top of the line original songs on a CD. We hit it off and became friends. He lived in Branson for a while then 28later moved up to Wisconsin near Green Bay in a place called Appleton. He told us that he could not go into prisons himself but wanted to help assist those who do and invited us to come and stay with him and his wife and introduce us to his former Chaplain, Joseph Baker and see if we could do ministry there in Green Bay Correctional. We made the connection and we gained another wonderful friend and partner in ministry. Chaplain Baker was a product of the “Jesus Movement” of 30the early Seventies and introduced us to a local Christian Coffee House there in Green Bay where many known artist appear along with up and coming artist. Glen Kaiser has even played there on several occasions. I was able to do a few of my songs on a couple of “Open Mike Nights”. It was beautiful!
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto thee. Mathew 3:23
There was this time a few years earlier that we were on the road headed to Roswell from Lovington New Mexico. We had a possible opportunity to do a church service in Roswell when we received a call about an opening at the prison that same evening. We thought about it for a minute and the fact that we would receive an offering from the church which by the way, we really needed at that point, but we had the impression that it was much more needful for us to minister to those inmates so we passed on the church and decided to do the prison. On our way, I had just passed the only restroom at a rest stop and Elizabeth said that we should stop. I realized that this was a good idea so I did a U-turn and came back to the rest stop. While I was waiting for Elizabeth I noticed this elderly woman taking her dog for a walk. I spoke to her and told her what Elizabeth and I do and about us going to minister at the prison. She introduced herself and told me that her and her husband had been missionary's for many years and that they had been going over the border of Mexico to minister to people there and that they have been to many other country's to some of the remotest parts of the world to bring the Gospel to them. After our visit we said goodbye and I got back into our car with Elizabeth then just a minute or so I got a knock on my window that kind of startled me a bit. I rolled it down and it was that same woman. She said “The Lord told me to give you this” and handed us a One Hundred Dollar Bill! What an unexpected Blessing!
Grants New Mexico
It was when we were ready to leave Carlsbad New Mexico that Elizabeth suggested that we go to Grants New Mexico. Our friends Galen and Peggy Vanduran told her of a church in Millan New Mexico, a town connected to Grants New Mexico that would probably let us minister there and gave us the phone number of the Pastor. His name was Jimmy Cox and his wife's name was Sequara. Well this, on the surface seemed very impractical. We were in Carlsbad in the southeastern part of the state at that time and Grants was in the north western part. These two towns were about as far apart as you could get and still be in the same state and not only that but was in the opposite direction of where we originally intended to go. We phoned the Pastor and he invited us to come and minister at 31their Wednesday afternoon Bible study. I thought oh man, is this really going to be worth traveling all that way? Well we did make the trip and did the meeting then one of the lady's suggested that we stay and minister on Sunday. Elizabeth told her that we would have to ask the Pastor. Well this lady assured us that we could do the service and that we could stay with her at her house. I was thinking to myself, Oh great what are we going to do from Wednesday afternoon till Sunday morning in this little “One horse town”? Well this little gal turned out to be quite a mover and a shaker! She had us running everywhere. We went to the Nursing home facility there in town and also to the little Rescue mission feeding station and over to meet some other people there in town. She kept us quite busy during our stay. The amazing thing was, Elizabeth shared with her that it was prison ministry that we were mostly involved with, then to our surprise the lady told us that there are about six different prison facility's right there in Grants/Millan! REALLY?! Well now we knew why we were so compelled to go there! The lady took us to the Detention Center for us to introduce our selves and offer to come in and minister to the inmates. Well at first we felt about as welcome as a “Muddy dog at a church wedding” but then suddenly something in the atmosphere happened and “Click”, they all were practically stumbling over each other asking how could they help us. I don't remember ever experiencing anything quite like that before. It was a “GOD THING”! FAVOR! They got on the phone and found out that there was a Prison Volunteer Training taking place that very Friday in Los Lunas NM. Our host even said that she would like to take the training as well and offered to drive us there! Now it usually takes some time after you train that you are allowed to go into a prison facility. We did take the training and figured it would be good for the next time we came to town. Funny thing, immediately after the service on Sunday morning, we received a phone call from the Detention Center and they said that we could go in right away! WOW! That was unbelievable! With no time to get any lunch, we went directly to the facility. There were six or seven different pods each housing quite a number of inmates all around the circumference of the building. We were allowed in to each pod for only twenty minutes at a time. I did a couple of songs each time then Elizabeth would deliver a different message in each separate pod. Many of them prayed with us to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior! It was a Whirlwind Mini-Crusade! Then immediately after this we had to rush sixty miles west to Gallop New Mexico to a church that was having a Music Program where Pastor Jimmy Cox got me on the schedule to perform that evening. After it was over with the Pastor of the church said “I understand that you haven't had an opportunity to eat anything today” then offered to take us out for Mexican food! I was ready to “Tear it out the Frame”! What an Awesome wonderful day that was.
During one of our visits to Grants we took Prison Volunteer Training for the state of New Mexico held at a local church there. This is where we met Pat and Grace Chauvin. They had settled in the Grants/Millan area to minister to the inmates in the various prisons there. They had come off the road from traveling all over the country ministering in prisons. It was quite amazing to meet a couple with such a similar calling as ours. They lived in a Fifth wheel trailer pulled by a heavy duty pickup truck and were currently stationed behind the Assembly of God Church where they attended. We ministered there on a Sunday and the Spirit of God really moved in the services. Pat and Grace helped us to get into the the CCA Women's Facility with them and also put us in touch with a couple of other local volunteers who helped get us into Western, the largest Prison in the area.
Another time when we were in the Grants/Millan New Mexico area, Elizabeth called a local church in the area to see if we could come and minister. Sister Connie Archeleta the Pastor spoke to her and said, “Let me pray about it”. Well you know what usually happens when you get a response like that, NOTHING. But not long after that, Sister Connie called back and said “YES, the Lord told me to have you to come.” We have been very blessed by our association and friendship with her and the people of her congregation from then on.
The old Navajo woman.
During one of our visits to Grants New Mexico, we ministered in the Nursing Home facility there. The place, ironically, was called “The Good Samaritan Home” which was appropriate because Elizabeth brought a message about the Good Samaritan. After the message, she gave an invitation to receive Jesus. There was this little ninety seven year old Navajo woman who lived there. She could not speak or understand English. She attended the meeting that we did and heard the message. She did not understand the words that Elizabeth spoke but the Spirit of God communicated to her spirit. And then she asked the man sitting near her who was there visiting someone else, who by the way, knew and understood Navajo, to tell Elizabeth that she wanted to pray to receive Jesus. The man agreed to interpret for her and Elizabeth led this old Indian woman in the sinners prayer! The Holy Spirit transcended the language barrier that day!When we returned to that nursing home a year later, we heard that the old Navajo woman had passed away then we met another woman there who knew her and testified that the old Indian woman remained faithful to her commitment until he dyeing day!
There was this one time when we were doing a crusade in the Jenkins facility, in Millen Georgia. There was this young man who could not read or write who gave his life to Jesus at one of our services. We had brought bibles and other reading material for anyone who wanted them. This young man came up and took a bible with the idea and the hope that he could read it someday. He prayed and asked God for the ability to read it. Later that night after lights out, there was this ruckus that broke out back in the dorms. The officers first thought that it was a fight or something but soon learned that there was an outbreak of rejoicing and amazement among the inmates because this young man suddenly could read his bible!
In another crusade we did in Texas, during the alter time, one man there came forward for prayer. He requested prayer for his family but asked Elizabeth and the other volunteer to please be very careful not to touch his shoulder because he had a torn rotor-cuff and he had been experiencing severe pain for quite sometime. Elizabeth said “Yes we will pray for your family but can we also pray for your shoulder?” He said “Oh yes”. They did and in a few minutes he was able to raise his arm without pain and praise the Lord! He later, with his former bad arm,waved goodbye to us as we left the service that day.
One of the very first facility's that we visited in Florida was a place called Tamoka, a facility near Deltona FL. We came in with a guy named Roger Olsen and a group of volunteers that he was a part of. We met Roger a couple of years before in Branson Missouri in a Christian owned establishment where we were having our late night jam after our nightly CGMA meeting. He told us that if we were ever in Florida that we could possibly come into a prison with him. Sometime later, we phoned him and told him that we were planning on breaking new ground in Florida and asked if his offer was still good. He said yes and that we could even stay at his house while we were there! We went into our very first prison in Florida! The group that we came in with turned the service over to Elizabeth and myself. The other volunteers and residents seemed to really enjoy us and even requested for me to do another song after the service. Roger then introduced me to this one young man and put me on the spot to pray for his deaf ear! I was a bit shocked but without hesitation I commanded that ear to be opened and clapped my hands up by it and then this young man said “I can hear with it now”! I will admit, I was as surprised as he was. We should not be though, when we step out in faith and simply obey the Lord who delights in doing good things for us.
The first time we visited Death Row, it was at Angola Prison in Louisiana, one of the largest prison facility's in the United States. We came in with a friend who is a part of Jimmy Swaggart's ministry in Baton Rouge, a former inmate himself who had been a member of the notorious gang called the Latin Kings but was now a born again believer and a very accomplished minister. I was not allowed to bring in my guitar. This disappointed me but like a wise man told me once, “Blessed are the flexible for they won't get bent out of shape.” This was a long hallway with cells all along one side next to each other with bars in front and a wall across from 34them with big fans and TV screens but no air conditioning. I sang a couple of songs “Accepello”-with no musical accompaniment. I hate to sing without music. But I sang “Lifer's Hope”, a song I wrote that I had hoped to sing on death row someday and now I finally did! The words are,
“I spent most of my life on the inside of these prison walls And here I will spend the rest of my days until death comes to call. I heard a message there's more to this life than what we can touch see or feel And I heard of a place where treasures laid up Where thieves can't break through or steal. God came to earth and became a man, Took all of my guilt, took all of my sin, Died on a cross and then rose again, for me. I spent all of my life on the inside of these prison walls And here I will spend the rest of my days until death comes to call. The first face I'll see when this place I leave is the beautiful face of Jesus, The first face I'll see when this place I leave is the beautiful face of my Jesus.”
Elizabeth preached boldly and loud then afterwards we came up to the first cell on the left and asked the inmate there if he was able to hear the message from there. He said yes then Elizabeth asked him if he would like prayer for anything and he said yes, he asked for prayer for his mother who had been sick then Elizabeth said to him “You know the Word in your head but do you know Jesus in your heart”? The Spirit of conviction came over him and then Elizabeth asked if he would pray to receive Jesus into his heart. He agreed and then she told him to just put his head forward toward the bars. She placed her hands on his head and I and another volunteer held his hands and she lead him in a prayer to accept Jesus into his heart. We had no idea just who this man was. We later learned that some of the officers present was a bit nervous because this was none other than the Infamous Derrick Todd Lee, a ruthless serial killer of many woman who often times would mock and ridicule religious volunteers and could quote scripture better than most. He was known to “Chew you up and spit you out”but that did not happen this time. Most of the time when we visit a prison and do services, we don't know who are the “Taker's and who are the “Fakers”. We often do not know for sure who was for real and who was not. We leave the results up to God and by faith trust that our efforts are not in vain. Ironically we were back in Baton Rouge about a year or so later when a news report came over the television in our motel room. Derrick Todd Lee had passed away in prison due to a heart attack and was never executed as scheduled. There were reports of many of the victims family's who were disappointed because they wanted to see this man get his due justice. They went on to tell how bad of a person he had been but they never said anything else about him. We spoke with our volunteer friend there in Baton Rouge who had often seen him several times after we had been there. He reported to us that Derrick Todd Lee had an encounter sometime during his last years on death row and that he indeed was a changed man before he died!
Our first time in Florida after Tamoka Prison we phoned the Raiford Maximum Facility and spoke with the Chaplin who granted us permission to come do a service for them in the Chapel. Now Raiford is the largest prison in Florida and includes a Death Row. We were not able to go visit with those on death row at that time but we learned that the Chapel services were available to them through closed circuit television! Outside of these two facility's,we didn't really have a great deal of success in Florida but God had a plan in store.
Later the following year, we were doing a Prison Crusade with Free at Last Prison Ministry out of Baton Rouge Louisiana with a few from Freedom in Jesus Prison Ministries out of Levelland Texas in a federal Prison in Yazoo City Mississippi. This is where we met Scott Heburn! He is a former offender who was invited to join this crusade. He is from Live Oak Florida and he and his wife had been doing prison ministry by themselves for a long time and wanted to see what it was like going in with a team. Ironically we got there a little late and Scott needed to leave a little early. We almost never met. The reason why we were late was that our car got hit the night before in the parking lot of our Motel. At 12:30 that night, we got a knock on our door. It was a lady who worked there. She said “Your car just got hit”. That really bummed me out especially because that was not the first time something like that had happened to us. Well we went out to see how bad it was and found that it was still drive-able. It had been hit by a man driving a Penske moving Truck and that he was staying at this same motel! We had a Police officer come and we filled out an accident report. The policeman went and spoke with the man who had driven the truck but the man flatly denied hitting our car. Well we took a copy of the police report and I took several pictures of our car then took several pictures of the Penske truck that was parked there also. There were black marks on our car and white marks on the truck and it was pretty obvious what had happened and also the fact that the lady who worked there told us that she watched this guy having a struggle maneuvering this big moving van truck around in the parking lot. Well we barely did get to Yazoo City in time to meet Scott but thank God we did and he told us “If your ever in Florida I can hook you up with some prisons”. Well that sounded good but we've heard things like that before. We were scheduled to go back to Raiford that coming year so we got in touch with Scott and he jumped on it and scheduled to come in with us there and he also set up other prisons all over the northern part of Florida for us to go into. I call him the Chuck Norris of Prison Ministry. He was definitely true to his word.
That ordeal with the Penske truck turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The fact that the man driving it chose to stay there in that same motel instead of heading down the road and the fact that we could still drive the car and did not have to be towed to a shop was a good thing. I sent a copy of the Police Report, an estimate from the Body Shop and all the pictures of both vehicles to the Penske Company but kind of figured that they would just ignore me since I had no official judgment but they sent us a check for $1400.00 dollars! That Penske Company is a fair dealing outfit. Sometime before this, we were in a prison in Texas with Freedom in Jesus Ministry doing another crusade. Our friend Bill Corum and a friend of his that I had never met before came down to join the crusade with us which was awesome in its self because Bill and I had spoke several times how we wanted at some point to join forces together. He came with his friend Rick Stangl. Well Rick saw Elizabeth and I in action and he took to us right away. He loved us! Well we got to talking and Rick ask me “Where do you I live?” I told him Raytown Missouri. He said “So do I”! I said “REALLY?! He said “Yes I live at my Auto Shop there on 350 Highway”! I said, “You mean RICKS AUTO CLINIC”?!! Oh man I have driven by that place for years and never knew anything about it!” He said “Yes that's my shop'! We lived not much more than two miles away from each other for decades and we finally meet 700 miles away in Texas! OH MAN how crazy is that?! We are now the best of friends and he is our EXCLUSIVE CAR GUY! God totally blessed us with a partner in ministry and an excellent place for all of our car needs. Rick is an amazing guy. He has built orphanages in other country's and has done all kinds of other missionary work. God can hook you up with some quality Brothers for sure. PTL.
Friendship with a “Legend” Some time ago before we headed out into full time ministry we had began a friendship with Gary S. Paxton and his lovely wife Vicki Sue. Every year in Branson Missouri, Elizabeth and I would attend the annual CGMA International convention. Gary would often make an appearance there on one of the nights of the convention. He would share a bit of his testimony and then sing his legendary gospel hit with such an anointing, “He Was There All The Time”. This would always be followed by a thunderous applause and every body on their feet. We briefly met him during the convention in passing but later,what happened was, we attended a church service at a place in Branson called “The Sanctuary” with a couple of friends we met through CGMA, Bud and Linda Lynn who are also awesome people. This so happened to be where Gary and Vicki were attending at the time. The subject matter was on writing letters and corresponding with prisoners! I told the Pastor that I had written a song about that called “Mail Call” and offered to let them hear it. I was not able to play it live for them for some reason. Maybe because it would have taken to much time to get my guitar or that I didn't have it with me so they just played my CD. Well after the service, Gary approached me and said “I would like to try and help you with your ministry”. He invited us up to his house where we then got acquainted with “Miss Vicki”. We struck up a beautiful friendship with the both of them and were majorly blessed having them in our lives. I quickly grew fond of Gary because he was SO different than anybody I had ever met. Like I said previously, I have never been all that impressed with the common run of the mill types and as far as “Different”, Gary was OFF OF THE CHARTS! It was refreshing to listen to a guy who was so revolutionary in thinking. He was without a doubt a Genius in his own right and had been a phenomenal success in the field of music, writing and producing. Yet he was not without his shortcomings and failures. He was a very complicated individual with many personal issues but over riding all of this, He had a fervent love and a passion for the Lord Jesus Christ and would share his faith with about any one who would listen. I had the unique privilege to really get to know him on a personal level. Gary and Vicki loved us and he often would suggest that Elizabeth and I move to Branson so that we could work together on projects. Gary said that Elizabeth was the best woman preacher he had ever heard and that she was better than any one on TV. One of the cute things that happened, Vicki told us that many times people would approach her and try to get to know her so that they could get to Gary in an attempt to get their music recognized or promoted some how. I replied, We got to know Gary so that we could get to you”. Vicki always gets a kick out of recalling that. There was one time while staying at there house, Gary was asked by this Famous late night Radio Talk Show called “Coast to Coast with George Noory for an interview over the phone. He originally rejected the idea. He thought that they would only highlight his former career and all the things he used to do before becoming a christian and probably not let him talk about Jesus. I told him “No Gary, these guy's are very fair dealing and that you will have the liberty to speak about anything you want”. “I have heard other interviews with christian personality's on their program and they were free to say anything they wanted with no problem at all and besides that, just think, you will be heard by more people in those few minutes than what most people will in their entire life”! Well he reluctantly agreed to do the interview. When it came time for Gary to go on, Elizabeth and I stayed in the bed room and listened to it on the radio. We both prayed for Gary and when he got on there it was as if somebody threw a switch and suddenly Gary was LARGE and INCHARGE! It was fantastic! He shared about his Hit's, how he got started, Branson Missouri and His relationship with Jesus! It was SO COOL! One time Gary asked me to show him some of my songs. I played a few for him including one that I considered the goofiest song I had ever written in my life but I figured this guy who was known for his wacky sense of humor and several novelty “Hit”songs of his own including “Ally Oop” and “Monster Mash”, could possibly appreciate a song like this one. It's called “Rubber Pompadour” inspired by a friend who showed me a Rubber Elvis Mask and when a friend of his wore it while singing at this Gospel Concert. Wouldn't you know, he LOVED it and said “We have to record that!”. He wanted to try and get us a “Hit” to help finance our ministry. He told me that “If people hear and like something funny that you wrote then they will be open to listen to a song you wrote about Jesus.” God bless him for that and believing in me so far as to make this attempt. Well we did record it and later, a friend and associate of his, Rick Renfro made a video with Me and Elizabeth in it and put it out on YouTube. So far, it has never gone anywhere but that experience was “Priceless”. Gary was one of the most energetic and ambitious elderly persons that I have ever known. He always had several “Irons in the fire” and would be into some kind of project. Up until the very end, he had many plans for future recordings and even an elaborate project for building the worlds first “Trucker's Hall of Fame” and adjoining Motorcycle Exhibit. He became sick with various medical issues and went home to Jesus in June of 2016. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die”. Ecclesiastes3:1&2 Getting to know Gary with all of his multifaceted complexity's will be something that I will never forget and a relationship I will forever treasure in my heart. For me, Gary S Paxton is and will forever be “A LEGEND”. I remember, before we launched out, we told Gary and Vicki about our plans to possibly go into“Full Time” Ministry. They were two of the first to believe in and support us! We are still good friends with Vicki Paxton and often stay at what I call, “The Hotel Paxton” --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
More of my “Friendship with a Legend”
It was around the first of the century, 2001 or so, Elizabeth and I became a part of CGMA, The “Country Gospel Music Association”. That's where we met Gary and Vicki Sue for the first time in Branson Missouri where the CGMA Headquarters is. Billy Hale, the President of CGMA would invite and feature Gary S. Paxton to share a testimony and sing his hit song, “HE WAS THERE ALL THE TIME”. This was a major part of the Annual International CGMA conventions for several years. This is when I found out that he was the guy that also co-wrote the hit novelty song, MONSTOR MASH! One sunday Elizabeth and I decided to visit this church in Branson that some other friends from CGMA invited us to. The subject that they were talking about was writing and corresponding to prison inmates. I was very excited about this because I had written and recorded a song along those lines called “MAIL CALL”and I asked if they would like to hear it. They said yes. I would have played it live but it would have been a bit awkward to try and hook up the guitar and such so I just gave the sound man my CD and he played it for the congregation. Well this was the church that the Paxtons attended and they were there and heard my song. Gary came up to me afterwards and said, “I would like to help you with your song”and invited us to come to his house! It wasn't long before we became friends. Gary would love to talk and tell of his life experiences. I found it very facinating and would just sit and listen to him and occasionally I would get a word or two in myself. He was what they call “Eccentric”. Most people didn't quite know what to make of him but I found him to be unique and very interesting and he had a real love for Jesus. He told me fasinating things of his early childhood in Coffeeville Kansas and how he had been adopted and his early years in music and how he was discovered and the tours with Dick Clark and his early hit songs and how someone beat him nearly to death with a pipe. That made me sad to think that anyone would do such a horrible thing to somebody. That injury along with his early drug abuse left him with a number of physical and mental issues but inspite of all of that he went on to write so many hit songs, Secular as well as Gospel. He told me about his conversion to Christ and his association with Bill and Gloria Gaither too. He asked me to show him some of my songs so I played a number of them for him and then I thought , knowing how he liked weird stuff, I would play this crazy song I wrote about an Elvis Mask for the fun of it called,”RUBBER POMPADORE”. Out of all the songs I showed to him, that was the song he was most interested in and said that he wanted to record me singing it. He thought that it could be a good novelty song that might go somewhere like “ALLY OOP”, “MONSTER MASH” or one of his other quirky songs that he had done well with in the past. I was very excited about this. He later had a friend of his, Rick Renfro, who worked with him to make a Video of me doing “Rubber Pompadore”.It never went anywhere but we had a lot of fun trying it out. I was so very honored when Gary told me that I had two kinds of songs, “Good Songs and Great Songs”. To be told that by a “LEGENDARY MULTI-GRAMMY AWARD WINNING HIT SONGWRITER”, was the greatest compliment I had ever received.