Sunday, March 6, 2016

Our Family Story...

Part of me wishes I had some fantastic story to tell...a story of adventures on the mission field, a story of winning thousands of souls to the Lord, a story of changing the course of history. That's the story I once dreamed.  That's not the story I was given though.

My story begins August 4, 1963.  I was born to William and Joy Hewett of Greenwood, AR.  I was the third of four children.  We were pretty much an average family.  We had our difficulties and squabbles, but never doubted our love for each other.  We rarely see each other today, but that bond is still strong.

I spent most of my young life in Greenwood, which was basically typical small town America.  We were not poor in the purest sense, but we definitely were not well off.  

I recall in third grade a kid borrowing colors from me pretty much on a daily basis.  After several days of this I finally asked why his parents didn't buy him his own colors.  His response was, "Not everybody is rich like you are, John."

This startled me.  I went home and asked my dad if we really were rich.  Of course, he responded no.  We were far from it.  

I then explained to him what my friend had said.  Dad replied something to the effect, "Well, I guess comparatively speaking we are rich then.  No matter how bad you think you have it there is always someone else who has it worse."


My dad was a very humble but proud man, if that makes sense.  He had grown up under very meager beginnings.  His dad was an alcoholic and his mother very simple.  

They never lived in any one place more than a few months.  They would move into a rental home and stay until they were evicted, then move elsewhere and do the same.  He said he would have the bus drop him off maybe a mile from the house.  He didn't want anybody to see where he lived.

He bragged Grandpa cared for them though.  When he got paid for whatever odd job he had done, he would buy groceries for the family before he bought beer.  

Grandpa died when I was just a few weeks old.  He evidently turned his life around for the Lord a short while before he passed away.  During those last few years, he was in church every time the doors were open and was loved by everyone.  

My earliest memory with Dad was probably me attending a Billy Graham crusade with him in California.  I remember there was snow on the ground and we had to walk quite a way up hill to get to the stadium.  We traipsed through the snow up a long hill only to discover the crusade had been cancelled due to the weather.

This was symbolic of the life my dad lived.  He lived his life trying to prove he was somebody.  There was probably not a more righteous and caring man than my Dad.  Yet, he never could accept that he was good enough to be loved by God.

Growing up, he did not go to church often.  Mom would drag him there on occasion, but mostly he resisted.  He was a godly man though.  He never drank, smoked, or cussed to my knowledge. He thought  us to love and respect God as well.

He finally did start going to church when I was about 17 years old. His spiritual struggle became evident then.  He would go to the altar often praying for God's forgiveness.  He would leave empty though, declaring he just was not good enough. 

He did find acceptance in Christ just a couple years before he passed.  He prayed through night with the pastor and discovered the grace of Jesus.  

Like his dad, his last days were spent on fire for the Lord.  He was loyal to church and went visiting with the pastor on s regular basis, declaring to others the grace and forgiveness of Jesus.  

At age 67, when I was in my early 40s, Dad suffered a massive heart attack and went to meet the Lord.  This was a shock to us all.  

I had just spoken with him the night before bragging that Michael, my oldest boy, had made the all county football team.  The last words I recall hearing from Dad were very befitting of a man who loved his family, "Tell that boy I'm proud of him."

Though Dad lacked confidence, he far surpassed his own expectations.  He spent the biggest part of his adult life in traffic management.  He never made millions, but he was a good father to his children and a good friend to those whom he knew.

He may not have recognized his own accomplishments but he took great pride in the accomplishments of others.  His wife was the most beautiful woman in the world.  His kids could do what they did better than anybody and he didn't mind telling you.  His hometown was the best place to live and his friends the best.

He was a Razorback fan like none other.  No matter how bad a season they had, they were the best in his book.

At his funeral, over 400 friends, family and loved ones packed our little FWB Church in Greenwood Arkansas.  His entire surviving Senior Class of over 40 was there.  As I spoke a short eulogy on his behalf I was able to say words not many can say of their father, "There are no regrets."


My earliest recollection of my mother is when I was about two years of age.  We were at a public swimming pool and I fell in.  I remember watching through the blurry water as I sunk to the bottom.  I could see the side of the pool rising as I sunk deeper and deeper. I looked up and could see Mom reaching into the water.  I grabbed her hands and she pulled me out.

Quite honestly, my mother remembers it a little differently than this.  That is irrelevant though.  The significance of a memory is more about what you remember than what actually happened.

In life my family and I have often been overwhelmed by life circumstances.  We have faced financial woes, natural disaster, and even conflict.  Through it all though, Mom has remained strong.  It's as if she has reached her hands down through the flooding waters of life and pulled us out again and again.

Mom was and still is a very beautiful woman. Her and Dad dated through their senior year and were married that summer.  I remember them arguing on occasion growing up, but I never recall once fearing their separation.  They were madly in love and that love glowed to the end.

More than her outer beauty is her inner beauty.  She is a woman of character and strength.  She is a woman of wisdom and compassion.  She is a woman who's value is 'far greater than rubies'.

She worked when she had to, but was always there when we needed her.   I never went to daycare.  She went to work full time when I started first grade.

From as far as I can remember, my mom has suffered from chronic back pain.  She would go to work all day, come home and fix supper.  At one point or another, she would walk out of the room and I would find her off in a room by herself rubbing her own back, almost to tears.

She still hurts today.  I can still find her off by herself rubbing her back, but she doesn't let it stop her.  She cares for her children and her grandchildren.  She lives through the pain and continues to enjoy life.


My older brother Billy and I were and are polar opposites in so many ways .  He is quiet, reserved, and totally content with life as it comes.  I, as you can imagine, am loud, obnoxious, and bound and determined to 'fix' the world.

Aside from that though we actually share much in common.  We both played trumpet in high school, sang in the chorus in college, and are known for our wit, his a dry sarcastic wit, and mine a more abrasive slap you on the back wit.

Growing up, we shared a room together, worked together, and hung out together.  Well, in hindsight, I hung with him, him being five years my elder....and honestly I don't remember him complaining too much.   

Obviously over time I have found my own identity outside of my older brother.  I am who I am though very much because of his influence and example.

Then there is my older sister Linda.  She is the self-proclaimed black sheep of the family.  Well, she actually married into the Black name her second marriage.

That said, she did always march to the beat of a different drum.  She was a very typical middle child, breaking the rules and struggling to be noticed.  

I actually spent many an evening covering for her various escapades.  She didn't rob convenience stores or anything, but I did have to carry her to bed on more than one occasion after a rather wild evening on her part.

I loved my sister though (and still do).  We all do.  This became evident as she went through marriage struggles early on.  I believe she was shocked at how we rallied to her support during this difficult time.

Linda went through some struggles  as a teen and young adult, but she made it through it. Though she has grown up now and has become an awesome mother and grandmother, she is still the life of the party.  No matter how bad things get, Linda is sure to bring a smile to your face a lift to your spirit.

After me I figure my parents thought they were done.  Six years later though came my baby sister Robin.

Robin was not only the youngest, she was also the gem.  She was musical, academic, and an athlete.  She excelled in basketball and softball, going on to play basketball in college.

Aside from this she was very strong willed.  She was and still is the typical baby of the family, not only getting the attention but demanding it.

This strong will would prove to be to her advantage her senior year in high school.  She developed hodgskins right in the middle of basketball season.  She looked adversity in the eye though and beat it.  What could have taken her down made her stronger for it.


For most of my young life, we spent pretty much every Sunday afternoon at Grandma and Grandpa Caldwell's for lunch.  Mom, her four sisters, and their families would gather together in my grandparents little three room house for Grandmas good home cooking and a good time of being together.  

After lunch us kids would go outside and play while the men sat around in the living room watching and arguing sports.  The women would work busily in the kitchen laughing, talking, and cleaning up.  

Grandma and Grandpa never had much, but they had love.  Grandpa is probably where I inherited my love for kids.  He gave us all nicknames and treated each one of us as if we were extra special.  I remember he called Linda I think Pete and me Pedro.  Grandma was mostly quiet, but always busy serving.

My Dad's side of the family was too spread out to get together quite as often.    We did spend a lot of time at Grandma Ruby's though which was especially fun when our cousins were in from Littke Rock.

I guess the highlight of our year was the yearly visit from Dad's Uncle Buddy and his family.  They lived in California until I was about 14 and would come home to Arkansas for their yearly vacation.  

Uncle Buddy was Grandmas baby brother.  He was basically the hub of the our extended family.  He was a WWII Vet and a wrestling coach.  His kids were a blast to be around.  We would have passed up an opportunity to go to Disney World in order to spend a week with the Canada clan.


It was April 19, 1968 and I was four years old.  We were in the car line picking up my older siblings, Billy and Linda, and cousins, Sherry and David Hicks.  My Mom and Aunt Judy were in front.   The five of us young ones were in the back seat.

When we left the house, the skies were clear and the air was calm.  We had no idea what we were in for.  We would soon experience a catastrophic event that would impact our lives and change our small community in a major way forever.

Of course I was very young so my memory may be a bit sketchy.  The fact is though, this was a defining moment in my life.  As I currently head up the Arms of Compassion Disaster Relief Ministry, our efforts often bring my thoughts back to this moment in my life.

As the wind began to pick up and the sky grew darker, us kids were told to huddle down in the floorboard of the car.  We ignored that directive though and made a game of trying to sneak looks out the window without getting caught.

The sky was a dark green and we could see debris flying through the air.  The winds were rocking the car back and forth.  The noise wa deafening.  I cannot imagine the fear that embraced our mothers. 

What seemed like an eternity was actually only a few moments of time.  The winds eventually calmed down and there was a great calm.  We had no idea what had just happened.  It would become very real very soon. 

As we drove back through town we were shocked at what we saw.  What was once a nice quaint town was now a pile of debris.  Out of the dozens of buildings that once occupied downtown Greenwood, AR, only two remained standing unscathed, the old jailhouse and the post office.

The community of 2000 was devastated.  Thirteen lives were lost.  Over 300 were injured.  Downtown was destroyed.  100 homes were destroyed and 100 more damaged.

My own home received some damage. I recall my uncle pulling our damaged dining room off our house with his truck.  I also remember seeing my pedal powered car in a ditch several blocks from the house.  I remember the many stories of tremendous loss and close calls. 

I guess my most sobering memory though is of playing with a little girl in the park after the storm.  I recall asking her where her sister was. She responded, "My sister is an angel in heaven now.  The storm took her to be with Jesus."  

I do not recall the details much more than that.  I didn't even recall who it was until I looked it up.  In my memory it was the twin sister of Martha, the girl to whom I spoke.  In reality it was her baby sister of 4 months of age.   Martha was the twin of one of my friends growing up.   It is strange how the memory works.

My memories of growing up pretty much begin with that tornado.  That storm defined the future of Greenwood, AR.  In many ways it defined who I would become, because much of who I have become is due to my home town.


In 1969, the year that I started school, the population of Greenwood was about 2,000.  I don't recall much what the town was like prior to the tornado and I don't remember much about the rebuilding efforts.  

I do remember Piggly Wiggly moved into a trailer until they could rebuild.  The Old Jail House became The Old Jail House Museum.  You can go there even  today and see memorabilia from the tornado, local history, and the civil war.  The Post Office remained intact for a while, but relocated as the population increased.  The old post office eventually became the Pizza Barn, a favorite eating spot in town.

Most of the old Greenwood business district was and still is today built around the town square.  Well, in reality the town square is actually a circle.  In the middle of the square they erected a clock tower using the old clock which was salvaged from the old courthouse which was destroyed in the tornado.  

Greenwood was a peaceful place.  We lived much of my childhood in a neighborhood between downtown and the schools.  Funny, even though we were very much right in the middle of town, we bordered the woods.  My buddy, Mark, and I could play football in the back yard or ride our bikes around the neighborhood and then be hiking the woods within a matter of moments.

We would get up at the break of dawn and start our adventures.  We would explore the woods, roam around town, and/or harass our neighbor's all before starting off to school.  Our moms would have to call us in to get us fed and off to school.

On the weekends and during the summer would spend the entire day running around town. We would sometimes go around the neighborhood and collect 'coke' bottles.  We would collect several and take them to the IGA store and return them for the deposit.  Depending on how much we collected, we would then treat ourselves to lunch or a chocolate dipped ice cream cone.

Mom didn't worry about us much.  It was different then.  There was nothing to worry about.  If we needed anything or got in some trouble we could usually find somebody we knew to help us out.  Honestly, there was not much trouble to get into.  If there was crime in Greenwood, I never heard about it.

This was small town America.  We didn't have a mall, a bowling alley, or a movie theater.  I do not remember ever getting bored or complaining that there was nothing to do.  We had each other and found something to do.

Greenwood did have a skating rink.  When I wasn't running around town as a kid, I could usually be found at the skating rink.  If I could come up with the cash, I would skate Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday afternoon and sometimes even Saturday night.  I loved to skate. I would skate until I could hardly stand. 

As I got older, I eventually replaced skating with dancing.  I enjoyed dancing just about as much I had enjoyed skating.  A friend of mine actually owned a disco show and I would run it for him.  We did dances locally and in area communities.


I was ADHD when ADHD wasn't cool.  Not so much the hyper type, but the inattentive kind.  

They didn't know what ADHD was then.  If you didn't get your work done, they simply took you out in the hall, gave you swats, and then sent you back to class.

The sad part is, I was smart.  I would rank in the top 10% of my class every year on the standardized tests. 

When I wasn't running around town, I could be found reading or writing.  I just for whatever reason couldn't focus on my school work.

My parents didn't know what to do either.  They tried everything, from bribery to beating.  Nothing worked.

I believe it was my fifth grade teacher, Mrs Fields, that decided It best to hold me back.  You couldn't blame her.  She had tried me in special reading groups and everything.  Nothing worked.

My parents struggled with this decision, so went to see Mr Turner, the principal, about it.  Though he likely knew nothing about ADHD, his response was very appropriate.

He advised them to pass me on.  When my parents asked him what they should do with me then, he responded something to the effect, "Honestly, nothing.  John is a very bright boy.  He knows the stuff.  He's just not doing a good job of showing it. When he is ready,  he will let us know."

He was 100% correct.  I didn't blossom until my senior year in high school.   I believe at that time my GPA was 1.65 and I was way short on credits.  

I transferred that year to a Christian School that used a pace system.  What I didn't test out of I whizzed through quickly.  The self paced system worked very well for me.  I didn't totally complete my credits that year but I got close.  I actually went to college on a music scholarship with a GED diploma.


This low self esteem I developed haunted me pretty much throughout  my childhood and youth.  Consequently, I became the target of many a bully.  

I wasn't your stereotypical bully victim, mind you.  I was a pretty normal kid as far as appearance.  I was well built, smart, and even witty.  Along the way though, I had painted painted a target on my back.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't erase it.  It basically said, "I'm a loser, Pick on me!"

Throughout elementary, I spent many a recess and lunch period sitting in the hallway because of incomplete assignments, watching embarrassingly as the other kids walked by pointing and giggling.  This was completely humiliating.   In my mind, I couldn't do anything.  I was a loser.

This lack of confidence affected everything.  Though I was of decent build and fairly well  coordinated, I did not excel in sports.   I was always the last to be picked when kids were picking teams.  It is pretty humiliating to have even your own friends fighting for you to play on the other team.

When I went to lunch I would look for an empty chair by a group of kids where I could maybe blend in so nobody knew I was alone.   I would do the same when I entered a classroom or got on the bus.   

I would make up stories for my family so they wouldn't know I was such an outcast.  As far as I know, my older sister Linda was the only one who likely knew I was the class nerd.  I could not have handled the embarrassment of my parents finding out.

When I was in eighth grade, there was a particular "bully" that often liked to make me the target of his fists and ridicule.  On one particular occassion this fellow worked me over pretty good.  Pretty much the whole student body gathered around to witness it.  

It ended when someone yelled teacher and we all scattered, including myself. Not sure why I ran.  The only thing I had done was allow my face to be a human punching bag by a kid two years older and 4 inches taller than me.

My face was mangled badly and my body was a bruised and muddy mess.  I went into the bathroom to clean up where I was shortly followed by our principal, Mr Wells.  I was pretty upset and not very respectful, but he understood and managed to calm me down.

He invited me into his office where he tried his best to get me to identify the perpetrator.  I refused to 'rat' on him. He knew who it was and asked me why I insisted on protecting him.  I replied something to the effect, "You  know, he is not always this way to me.  i think if he would give me half a chance we could be friends.". (Not sure what i was thinking)

Finally exasperated, Mr. Wells called the fellow in whom he knew did it and told him, "I know you did this to John.  I have no doubt you did it.  Quite frankly, it makes me very angry with you.  

"For some reason though, he has refused to identify you as the one who did it.  I want you to know, if he would admit that you did it, not only would you be suspended from school, you would likely be expelled.  I would not only call his parents, but would likely suggest they press charges.  You could very well be sent off somewhere.  

"Yet, he has chosen to not only withold your name but has even defended you.  I honestly dont know why, but he obviously sees something in you i dont.  I guess consequentially you get a second chance.  i dont know about you, but this is the kind of friend i would like to have.  I don't know what you will do with this information, but i just thought i would share it with you."  

We left his office that day and i never had trouble with that kid again.  We actually were kind of distant friends and talked on occasion after that. Folks, that was the wisdom of Solomon!


By the time I reached my junior year in high school, my self esteem was at an all time low.  I was drinking and partying to fit in, but I still wasn't satisfied.  

I had a fellow trumpet player named Russell Thomas reach out to me about that time.  He was a couple years younger and usually set below me a chair or two.  

I think he had a kind of warped respect for me because of my lascivious lifestyle.  He was a born again believer and came from a very conservative family.  

He basically took me on as a project.  He was bound and determined to make a believer out of me.  I insisted I was a Christian, but he was pretty adamant that that wasn't likely considering my lifestyle.

I finally caved and went to church with him.  My excuse for going to church was to hit on his beautiful sister.  In reality I knew I was living wrong and I needed Jesus.

Well in early April of 1979 I finally went to the altar and made things right with God.  My life was never the same.

I became a radical Chridtisn overnight.  Instead of hanging around the IGA parking lot trying to score something to drink, I would go from car to car telling my old drinking buddies Jesus loved them.

That little Free Will Baptist Church in Greenwood embraced me beyond measure.  Russell's family loved me and included me like one of their own.  Pastor Larry Cook discipled me in the faith. He took me visiting and to preacher meetings with him on a regular basis.  He would impact my life and ministry in a  magnitude he never imagined.

Russell was probably about 14 years old when he hounded me into going to church.  He was nothing spectacular by the world's standards.  He was a decent trumpet player and a pretty good student.  He wasn't the most popular kid in school either.

I'm not sure, but I figure I was the first person he ever led to he lord.  He didn't end up on the mission field after that either.

That said though, in this one moment in time, he mustered up the courage to hound somebody about Jesus.  I'm not even sure his tactics would measure up to the church's standards of effective witnessing.  He was simply obedient though and it worked.

That little FWB Church averaged about 60-70 in attendance and to my knowledge doesn't average much more than that today.  When I needed acceptance and loving though they were there to give it.  They reached out to this confused lost teenager with open arms and embraced me with the love of Jesus.  Together, that little boy and that church led me to the cross of Jesus.

Understand, I don't figure I am anything fantastic myself.  For whatever reason though, my family followed me in faith.  Well, my younger sister started some time around the same time as me.

Today, my entire family of origin is in church, which makes six.  Billy is leading in worship in a church of over 500.  Linda attends church regularly and accompanies  her husband in his music performance ministry.  Robin has thought for over ten years in a Christian school. 

To my knowledge all my siblings' kids are attending church.  All included, that equals close to fifty directly related to Russell inviting me to church. 

I personally have pastored half a dozen churches over the years, leading dozens, if not hundreds to the Lord.  Over the years I have influenced and ministered to numerous future pastors and missionaries, who in turn have likely participated in leading at least hundreds if not thousands to Jesus.

My son has lead probably more than me to Jesus in his short time serving through young life.  My nephew Nic has preached to many and is currently preparing for the chaplaincy.

Folks, the world measures success by direct immediate results.  Sadly, often the church does to.  By those standards, Russell is simply an electrician that attends church.  Greenwood First FWB Church is no more than a spiritual social club.

God doesn't use those standards though.  He rejoices over the salvation of one.  When we think we are defeated, He is orchestrating results beyond our wildest imagination.

All it takes is for someone to be obedient to the call....for someone like Russell to respond at 'such a time as this'.


Easter Sunday during my senior year was a very memorable day.  Bud and Evelyn now lived back in Greenwood  The Canada kids were all gone for the holiday.  Us Hewetts were visiting.  

We had eaten and were just hanging out.  Lois and a young boy (escapes me who) took her dog for a walk.  

I was in the living room by myself watching tv.  Lois'  little friend came running in saying Lois' dog had bit another dog and its owner was following her down the road crazy mad wanting to fight.  

Being the macho teenage boy I was, I went to my cousin's rescue. I stepped outside and saw Lois walking down the road with a half crazed lunatic following on her heels yelling at her.

He wasn't wearing a shirt and was pretty buff looking.  He was likely in his low to mid twenties.  I am pretty certain he was strung out on something.  Regardless, he was crazy angry!

I ran out to meet them and the fellow turned his attention on me.  I do not recall much what was said, but I do recall this fellow wanted to fight.

After a bit, Dad came outside to try and defuse things.  There was no defusing anything.  He just squared up to Dad and said bring it on.

Eventually, two men came walking down the road.  One was evidently his brother and the other big burly guy his father.

Dad yelled up at them, "Would you guys come settle this fellow down before someone gets hurt?"  The burly dad yelled back down, "We're not settling anybody down. We're coming to scrape up the pieces!"

Well, by this time we had attracted  quite a crowd.  Buddy had joined us along with his sons Bobby and Bill, and my brother Billy.  

Of course, Uncle Buddy took over now.  He told everybody to settle down.  I recall him at one point saying, "Fellows, we need to watch our language.  There are ladies present."  (Which he soon forgot). To this Lois responded, "Dad, let's just leave.  These people are the scum of the earth."

Well, that's when it happened.  The original scum guy gave Lois a right hook across the chin.  At that, all chaos broke loose.

Buddy and the Canada boys of course all converged on Mr Scum.  This left me, Dad, and Billy to deal with Big Brother and Burly Daddy.

From here on out the facts are a little blurry.  Of course the facts wouldn't be as interesting as my story anyway.

I jumped on Burly Daddy and pulled him by the beard and somehow ended up laying on my back with him on top of me.  While I was wrestling with him, Buddy was wrestling with Mr. Scum to my side while Bobby and Bill were I believe kicking the guys face in.  

Burly Daddy was just fixing to punch me when Evelyn came running over yelling, "Don't you hit him!  He's a minor!!!"  At that she reached under his armpit and pulled out a handful of armpit hair.

While this was going on, I could see Daddy and Billy duking it out with Big Brother across the road in the ditch.  Actually Daddy was wrestling around with the guy while Billy was banging the guy on the back with his fists.

Well, evidently Evelyn got distracted.  I think she started running around yelling at everybody to break it up. Anyway, Burly Daddy decided to start punching my face again.   Just as he was about to make mincemeat out of my face, Lois came running, jumped up, and planted her heels in his back.  He let out a groan and rolled off of me.

That was it.  It was over.  For whatever reason we all got up and went our separate ways.  At least that's all I recall.

I'm not sure who won.  I'm pretty sure Mr Scum wished he hadn't punched a Canada girl, Burly Daddy had to regrow some armpit hair, and Big Brother had bruises on his back for a while.


Kim planned to attend Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville, TN. I dreamed of going to Hillsdale Christian College in Moore, OK. I was going to be a chaplain.  She was going to be a pharmacist.  

We both had big plans for God.  What we didn't know was, He had even bigger plans for us.  

Through a series of unforeseen events and roadblocks out of our control we both ended up at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, AR.  I was a first year senior.  She was a freshman. 

We met in the girls dormitory  parking lot.  I along with several other upper class men was helping the freshmen girls move into their dorm rooms.  Of course our motives were totally pure.

Kim was smoking hot when I saw her enter the parking lot that day.  Well her and her car were smoking hot.  That old Plymouth Volare just barely got her there.  Smoke was rolling out from under the hood as she sputtered onto the campus.  Not the first impression I figure she had envisioned making her first day on campus.  It brought us together though.

Like a knight in shining armor, I rushed to the rescue of my fair maiden in distress.  Like a preacher who knew nothing about cars,  I quickly referred her to a friend who did.

We didn't see each other for a couple weeks after that though, as she hid out in her dorm room like the shy title girl she was.  We found each other again a couple weeks later though as we both ended up in a small group together at a back-to-school retreat.  

The sparks of romance began to fly that weekend.  We were in love, just didn't know it for sure yet.  We were off and on for a few weeks after that, but were engaged by her birthday on November 13. 

We were married the following summer approximately ten months after we met.  That was over thirty years ago.  I promise you this has been one crazy exciting three decades.

From the beginning we agreed we would go anywhere and do anything God called us to do.  We dreamed that would be many miles and many great deeds.  

We have logged a lot of miles, but not necessarily the miles we dreamed.  We have had success, but not the success we had imagined.  

We dreamed of a career in the army ministering to our men in uniform.  Instead we have served in various ministerial capacities in 10 communities in three states over thirty years..  

There have been disappointments in the ministry, but not failure. We have not reached millions, but through us God has touched hundreds.  

It excites me to see young ministers serving in the ministry that I played a part in their preparation, even if it was a small part.  We have seen ministers blossom out of just about every area we have served.  

No matter how disappointing a ministry has been, God has always managed to plant future ministries in the hearts of young people.  Whereas we have logged about 3000 miles in moves, the impact of our ministry has literally reached around the world through those to whom we have served. 


While we were dreaming big dreams for the ministry we also dreamed big dreams for our family.  We were very specific in our family plans.  We wanted four children, two boys and two girls.

God would give us our four children and more.  His provision though was not according to our plans or even our wildest imagination.   He would provide our family according to His plans and His timing.   

Kim became pregnant within six months from the time we were married.  We were broke and had no insurance.  

I was a fulltime student, interim pastor at a small rural church Just outside Russellville, AR, and worked part time as a delivery driver for Domino's Pizza.  Kim finished business school while pregnant.  It wasn't pharmacy school, but love tends to alter our dreams. 
I believe we grossed less than $9,000 during our first full tax year together.  Logically speaking, we had no business even being married, let alone having babies.

We were foolish and excited though.  We had no fears.  

Kim's mom was not so upbeat about the ordeal.  She tended to be a little bit opinionated, and made her opinion in this instance very well known.  We actually had words and were not on good terms throughout the pregnancy.  

In retrospect her concerns were well based and totally in the interest of her daughter.  God has a way of working things out though, as well He did.

Things went along fairly well for the first six months, then Kim  started having BP issues.  The doctors told her to take it easy.  

We survived that way for a little, but then at about 29 weeks she developed an excruciating headache and drove herself to the doctor, as I was at work.  At the doctor's office her blood pressure read something like 220/170.  Of course they hospitalized her immediately.  

Her mom came and stayed with her in the hospital room while I continued to work and go to school.  By this time I was a security guard at a pickle plant about fifteen miles out of town.

Kim's BP continued to skyrocket and the doctor became very concerned with her health and the health of the child.  The doctor finally conceded there was nothing more they could do.  His solution was of the unimaginable though.  His exact words were, "We are going to have to terminate the pregnancy."  

Kim's mother was the only one there with her at the time.  She  immediately called me at work and told me what the doctor wanted to do.  I agreed that was totally unacceptable.

We both agreed we would do all that was humanly possible to save my wife and my child. We made arrangements for her to be transferred to Baptist Hospital in Little Rock, about 75 miles away, where there was an NICU.  

I rushed to the hospital and arrived just as Kim was getting ready to leave.  Nancy and I then drove from Russellville to Baptist.  Well, she drove and we talked.  By the time we arrived at the hospital, all was well between us.  We ended up arriving about the same time as the helicopter.  

I was immediately met by hospital personnel and began signing our lives away.  This was pre-Obamacare by the way. 

I recall looking up at Kim's dad at one time and asking, "Should I be reading what I'm signing?"  He responded in his normal matter-of-fact style, "Why?  What are you going to do if you don't like what they say?"  Good point.

Well, while I was signing, Kim was rushed into surgery and Dawn was born at a whopping 3.5 lbs.  She dropped down to 2.75 lbs, had a lung collapse early on, but all in all progressed very well.   

Kim's BP continued to skyrocket for several days until once again Nancy spoke up on her behalf.  She had not seen the baby.  They said they wouldn't take her to the nursery until her BP was healthy.

She seriously feared the baby didn't make it and we were all lying to her.  Nancy finally got her way and Kim was able to see our baby.  She looked at her with all the wires and tubes and knew all was well.  Her BP leveled out immediately.

It was a long recovery for both, but  both eventually got better.  Kim was released after about five days. Dawn was expected to be in the hospital for eight weeks but went home after five.  

When Kim was released she moved in with her parents close by the hospital, while I continued to work and go to school.  It was exhausting but we survived.  

Our bills ended up totaling over $100,000 yet we were only held responsible for a few hundred.  As I said earlier there was no "ObamaCare".  We relied instead on GodCare

That little baby the doctor wished to "terminate" is now happily married, serving God in the ministry, and teaching public school....oh, and with child.  

I guess I could look back and note the pain we went through those many difficult days and wish we would have done things differently.  If we had though, things would likely be different now.  We maybe wouldn't have had that precious little girl that has grown to be such a blessing to so many.  What about the next five God brought into our lives.  Where would they be?  Where would we be?  


We had talked about adoption, but never seriously until after Dawn was born.  The doctors really gave us no other option.  

That was ok to us.  We were kind of excited about "choosing" a child.  We didn't expect to be making that choice so soon though...

The call came just eighteen months after Dawn was born.  It was Kim's Aunt Shirley.  She knew of a single Mom carrying a little girl that needed placement quickly.  The baby was due in just two weeks and the mom was already involved in custody issues over her one year old.  

Abortion had been advised, yet she had decided to give the child a chance at life.  As the due date approached, she knew she could not give the child the care it deserved, so she began searching for prospective families.

I'm not sure how Aunt Shirley came to hear of the situation.  I am guessing she had received a call asking if she was interested.  Her and Uncle Loyd have adopted eight children themselves.  

They have been a tremendous influence in our lives.  When we are particularly put out with one of the children or simply put out though, our signature phrase is, "It's all Aunt Shirley's fault!"

Anyway, we had to make a decision and make it fast.  Honestly, we really weren't' ready.  
We were broke and there would be much expense involved....court costs, lawyer fee, home study, and the medical costs for the mom and child.  I was working a regular full time job now and had insurance, but the likelihood of it covering an adoption seemed rather unlikely.  

We had also only been married  a couple years.  I wasn't even finished with school so we were still living in school housing.  Our home was a three room drafty concrete block shell of an apartment, probably about 300-400 square feet in size.

Well, it's pretty obvious what our decision was.  We went through the facade of praying over it for a few hours and seeking counsel from our friends and family, then called back a little later and told Aunt Shirley we would take her.  

She of course wasn't surprised.  I am sure she knew we weren't ready as well, but I recall her saying somewhere in the process, "Just remember, these opportunities don't come often, maybe once in a lifetime at best."

Once again we were excited and anxious.  We had just two weeks to prepare for our new baby girl.  

We cleared out a spot in Dawns closet and put a crib in it for the baby. The room itself was no bigger that an average utility room.  

We were relieved clothing was not an issue.  If the baby wasn't too big, she could wear hand me downs from Dawn.  

We weren't rich but we had it all planned out.  We even had her name picked out....Emily Renee.

The next couple weeks weren't without obstacles either.  We had the financial aspect to concern ourselves with.  All together we were looking at about $10000 for medical and legal fees and such 

This was also an extremely high risk adoption.  The mother did have second thoughts even up until a few weeks after the baby was born.  

We were ignorant to the risks though.  We were excited about our baby. We were looking forward to bringing her home.  

As it turned out, the costs were not near the obstacle we feared.  John's lawyer cousin represented us, we were not required to have a home study (I know, strange), and our insurance covered the bio mom's expenses as well as the baby.  Our judge was very adoption friendly as well.  God was most definitely in control.

Those two weeks seemed like an eternity, but the day finally came.  It was 6:14 in the morning, December 20, 1987.  The phone awakened us. We raced into the living room, Kim answered and of course it was Aunt Shirley.  

I'll never forget the confusion I experienced when Kim said, "John, I think we are going to have to come up with a different name."  Then she added, "Unless your comfortable naming a boy Emily!?" 

I was ecstatic!  I believe I let out a yelp that even the neighbors two blocks over could hear.  We made him a junior and called him by his middle name, Michael.

Well, we got dressed immediately and headed off on the three hour trip to the hospital he was born in Washington Regional in Fayetteville. When we arrived we went immediately to view him in the nursery.  He was a beautiful big round chubby kid with a head full of coal black hair.  

We then went to the nurses station and asked to see him.  For whatever reason that didn't fly.  Even though the adoption was legal and and our name was on the crib, they said we had no legal right to see the child.

We didn't get to hold him that day, but we did get to see him.  We went back two days later and picked him up.  He was ours!  

There were some legalities we had to take care of.  Things even got scary for a short bit as the mom  vacillated.  All in all, things went pretty well though, considering we had no idea what we were doing, our lawyer had never handled an adoption before, and it was such a high risk adoption.  

Michael was an extremely strong willed independent child.  He always had an air about him though.  He was adored by just about everybody he came in contact with and still is.

There were some difficulties in parenting Michael.  He led us on multiple trips to ER and the principals office a few times over the years.  That was Michael though....and I wouldn't have had it any other way.  

From the time Michael was A toddler and still even today, he has lived life on the edge.  From riding his big wheel down the steep hill in front of our first full time church to to serving mission stints in Uganda and Haiti.

He attended FWBBC first and then ended up graduating from Hillsdale. He answered the call to the ministry and is currently serving as an area director for Young Life in the Dallas area.  He is happily married, the father of my beautiful granddaughter and hoping to add a houseful of kids soon.  

He has spent much time on the mission field, leading other groups as well as serving on his own.  It was through one of his trips to Africa we were connected with Emma, who would become our fifth adoption (another story).

It is amazing how God works these things out.  We could very well have said no to that phone call.  We didn't have the money, time, or maturity.  We could have given up very early, but we didn't.  

People often tell us what a blessing we are to these children.  I promise you, Michael, as well as his sibblings, has been and continues to be a blessing to us and those around them.  We are not the blessing.  Our children are the blessing.

After Michael, we didn't really want to stop.  Our first two children were such a blessing, we wanted our quiver full.  

Life dictated otherwise though.  I graduated and was commissioned as an officer in the army reserves. We spent a few months at Fort Benning, GA, then we moved to Memphis for me to attend seminary.

After about eighteen months in Memphis, I decided the chaplaincy was evidently not my calling.   He took his first pastorate in Mansfield, AR.  We went from there to Charleston, AR Then Batesville.


I was I guess about thirty, Dawn and Michael probably eight and six respectively.  That would make Kim about 27.  I had been actively involved in the ministry for about eight years.  I had pastored one church and most recently served as youth pastor at another. I was at a crossroad in life, searching for my next step in ministry.

We were also considering growing our family some more, so hoping out next move would be a long stay.  As we know, God's plans are not always the same as our plans…

I did some deep soul searching during that time as I had before and would many more times in the future.  I told God when I answered the call to ministry I would go anywhere he led as long as He led the way and provided for me and my family while we were there.  I received an invitation to try out for a pastorate one evening from a church in the south.  This wasn't really Deep South but further south than I was accustomed.

I visited the church a couple weeks later and it was love at first sight.  I felt the love of the people when I preached and they felt the spirit of the Lord as they listened.  We moved into the parsonage about a month later.

It was literally a dream for the first six months.  The church was out in the country with the parsonage right next door to it.  Our yard was about five acres with trees everywhere.  The parsonage was nice enough and roomy, and the people were just wonderful.  They showered us with gifts and acts of kindness daily.  Our kids hit it off with the neighborhood kids too.  We thought we had found our permanent home.

Well, the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.  As pessimistic as that sounds, there is much truth to it....especially in the ministry.  If you don't believe me, ask Peter and Paul.

It was very simple, so we thought. We had spoken to DHS and were in the  process of being approved for foster care.  We simply needed the church's approval to bring foster children into the parsonage.

Our hopes were to do foster care for  a while and eventually adopt again when the right children came along. This is how we imagined God would complete our family.

We had planned this for a long while and now seemed like the right time. We were very happy where we were and planned to be there for several years.

We really hadn't thought about needing the church's approval to do foster care. It seemed like a very natural thing for a Christian to do and a church to support.  I mean, how could the church object to us bringing hurting children into our home?  

The caseworker who happened to be African-American suggested it though, so to appease her, we brought it before the church. I think she knew what the response might be.

I preached my message that Sunday morning, gave the invitation, then made the announcement.  The response was not what I expected. The congregation was dead silent. They didn't appear all too happy either. 

I could not imagine what the problem was. You could have heard a pin drop and the mood of the church was as cold as ice.  I stood in bewilderment as I awaited the response.  Finally, one of the deacons stood up and said, "Brother John, I think the board might need to meet with you tonight. "

I was stunned.  These people had been our friends.  I had hunted with them, eaten with them, and visited them in the hospital.  They had been nothing but good to us. Something was wrong though and I did not have a clue what it might be.

That was one long afternoon.  My ministry and family's future were both apparently at stake.  Kim and I did a lot of praying that day.  Before church that night we even called the kids into the living room and prayed a hedge around our family and ministry.  We would do this several more times over the next couple years.  If I learned only one thing at that church it was that there is power in prayer.

As I met with the board that night, I still had no idea what was going on.  The meeting lasted several hours.  Most of that time was spent with me fielding potshots and questions that appeared to have nothing to do with why we were meeting.  

They complained about my preaching, how I mowed the lawn, and how we kept the house.  On numerous occasions I had the urge to walk out, grab the kids and my wife, and be done with it.  

Something kept me there though.  It was as if God had His hand on my shoulder holding me in my chair.   He was very clear in His intentions.  He wasn't done with me there yet.

Remember, I still had no idea what this really was all about.  I finally got my fill of the whole inquisition. I stood up and said, "All right guys, let's cut to the chase.  Why are we here?! "

They stuttered around for a little while after I asked that, then the chairman finally let the cat out of the bag.  He said, "Brother, we all admire what you are trying to do here.  We have nothing against you helping these kids out.  I guess our question is, can you specify what nationality is placed with you?  Do you know what I mean?"

Well, at this, a light went on.  It became very clear what the problem was.  I responded, "I am afraid I know exactly what you mean, Brother. You are referring to race, not nationality. Yes, I figure we could, but not with a clear conscience."  To this he responded that it would probably be in the best interest of us and the church that we not do foster care.

I was shocked.  I was not raised around this kind of prejudice and had never witnessed it in this manner first hand.  

This deacon would later explain to me that he normally explained the situation to potential pastors.  For whatever reason he had not when he called me.  The fact is, had he, I would not have even considered that pastorate.  It seems apparent God wanted me in that small town.

Before I proceed, I might point out that at this point I felt this chairman of the deacon board was my number one enemy.  He turned out to be one my most loyal friends and ally. He would lose his leadership in that church in his defense of me and my family.

The next morning I rose up early and drove to Conway Arkansas to visit my good friend and mentor David Joslin.  I explained to brother David the situation and told him that I planned to leave the church.

He prayed with me and said before I left, "John, just a few days ago you were excited to be a part of this ministry. You seemed certain that it was God's will for you to be there.  Were you mistaken?  Do you still believe God called you to that church?"  I responded, "Yes, I do."  Brother David then replied, "I don't reckon God changes his mind, do you? "

Well, needless to say, we stayed. We did not do foster care and I did not bring my black neighbors into the church.  A preached long and hard about prejudice and compassion over those long months though. I felt as Jeremiah must have felt as he preached 

As we closed out that board meeting, I explained to the Church, "When I stand before God on this issue I will have a clear conscience. When they stood before him on the same issue I feared his judgment for them. "

We lasted for two years after that but it was not without incident. I was falsely accused of various acts on numerous occasions. They were constantly on the attack and we were constantly on the defense.

After about two years though we came to an em passé.  The attendance had dropped and key members were withholding their tithes and offerings.  I started driving a bus to help offset a pay cut.  I was determined not to leave until God made His intentions clear though.  His intentions became clear when the church went back on some promises they had made to me concerning my kids when we came.  

I'm not going to use up the space to explain the issue here.  It was very important to my kids and our future at the church.  I remember when the vote was tallied the chairman of the deacon board turned to me, his face was as white as a sheet, and he said ashamedly, "Brother John, I don't know what else to say to you except, we lied to you and your family."  I responded, "I am confident everybody present knows what that means.  I have no choice but to resign."

We borrowed a camper trailer and moved into the back yard of one of the other members.  We didn't know how long it would be, but we were prepared for the long haul.  I continued driving a school bus and Kim went to work in the school cafeteria.  

It was a tight squeeze for our family of four in that small trailer.  We actually set up a tent to keep our clothes in and to use as a changing room, but it still was cramped.  We managed though.

Though we were expecting to continue like this for a while, it appears God knew our limitations.  We were at our next church in Guymon, OK within six weeks.  Guymon was not only accepting but also supportive of our family plans.  He has perfect timing for everything.

You know, in so many ways I could look at those three years of my life as a waste and my ministry there a failure.  Much good did come out of it though.  For one, I learned no matter how bleak things appear, God is in control.  We faced some hard times there, but God always pulled us through.  Also, no matter how much you feel a failure, God brings some good out of all our good intentions.  

Several of the young from that church have moved on to other places and ministries.  At least two of the young men are now in full time ministry.  The ones I have spoken to are far removed from the prejudice of that community as well.  No matter how much you feel you are speaking to deaf ears, there is likely some who listen. 

My kids went through a tough time themselves, but were exposed to something they otherwise would never have known.  They are both stronger as a result.  They
developed through this experience a love for their fellow man no matter his race or creed they might otherwise have never known.

I wish I could say I stood strong throughout this's hole  ordeal....that my faith never wavered.  The fact is I did waver at times though.  I questioned God,  I questioned His church, and I questioned my faith.  At times, I fear my trials did not reveal the strength of my faith, but instead it's feebleness.

I weathered the storm though.  I endured to the end and God blessed me for it.   I am who I am now very much as a result of the trials I went through hen.

God has implanted in me a great hatred of prejudice and racism.  He has given me a love for those different from me and a compassion toward those less fortunate.  Much of this drive was planted during and nurtured through this experience.  Thank God for Star City, AR.M


Once in Guymon, we immediately began efforts toward expanding our family again.  Michael was12 and Dawn 14 when we completed PRIDE training for foster care.  We cared for one baby for several weeks, then a couple older children for a bit before we learned of Nathaniel.

Nathaniel was about 10 months old when he came into our lives.  He was born into foster care.  His mother was raped at I think at about 15 years of age and was in foster care for several months before giving birth to him.  

He spent the first few months of his life with her then was placed in a seperate placement.  All indications were she was a very caring person.  She just couldn't deal with the responsibility and emotional trauma of raising him conspidering the circumstances surrounding his conception and birth.
It was a fairly traumatic experience when we first met him.  He was just ten months old but weighed close to thirty pounds.  

He was a blank page emotionally.  His only movement or expression was when he seemingly got excited he clapped his feet together.  

We loved him at first sight but it was scary.  We had no idea how he would develope.

Of course it was a process to make him ours, but everything moved fairly quickly. We had already been approved as foster parents so there was not a lot to do there.  His mother had already signed her rights away and his bio father of course was not even given the option, as he was in prison.

The Guymon Church was awesome!  They embraced him like he was their own.  

Brother Red, our song leader, would sit in front of him at church and harass him, trying to get a response.  Honestly it didn't take long until he get him to respond.  Nathaniel would see him and smile from ear to ear.   

John  followed Red's lead and would have screaming contests with him.  He got pretty good at it. I have not totally forgiven him for that one.  

One of the Deacons, Bill Dawes, insisted on shaking his hand every time he saw him.  We were at the church for about a year after Nate came into our lives, before we moved on.  By the time he was two or three he was insisting on shaking hands with everybody in the congregation before church started.  He became to be known as our little man. 

He still meets that criteria today at 16.  He has developed normally.  He has some academic issues and some minor issues with his motor skills.  He plays basketball though and refs soccer, and is learning to play the guitar.  He likes to hang out with his dad when he does his disaster relief ministry and such. He is also a regular and dependable usher in our church of around 300.   He is known for his politeness by preachers and Christians throughout the state of Oklahoma.  And he's still a hand shaker. 

I'm not sure where Nate is going in life.  It probably won't require a great amount of academic prowess, but I am sure of this, He will touch lives.  By the way, I still think of him as my little man....even though he is now about 5'10" and growing every day.


Nathaniel was two years old when we moved to Tahlequah where we now live.  Dawn and Michael were both teenagers.  

John was content with the three we had.  Not so much for me.  I wanted that little girl I had been promised!

Whereas in times past you went to adoption parties and such to check out the kids, now you could do it online and had the pickings of the entire country.  I looked at several children, but kept coming back to one particular child who happened to share my Daddy's birthdate.  That child was Alexis, a special needs child in Portland, Oregon.

Alexis was 2 1/2 years old when we got to know her.  She had been through one failed adoption, but had been with the same foster family since birth.  She was removed from her biological mother immediately following delivery, as she tested positive for meth.  

Alexis was a meth baby.  At 2 1/2 she was nonverbal and barely walking and would not be potty trained until 6-7 years of age.  

She was born with abnormalities in her hands and arms, as well as a cauliflower ear and profound hearing loss in both ears.  For whatever reason, I fell head over heals in love with her.

We contacted the state of Oregon and let them know we were interested.  We were one of three families they were considering.  It was nerve racking as we awaited their decision, but we finally did get their call after several weeks.  By this time Daddy was fully on board and she would eventually become a major Daddy's girl.

The first time we met Alexis was when we drove up the driveway to her foster home in our rental car just after we got off the plane. As we pulled into the driveway, she stood on the deck of her home with her foster mom smiling from ear to ear.  

Remember, she was nonverbal and had only made indistinguishable sounds to this point.  Her first discernible word in her life was as I stepped out of the car and began walking up the driveway. Alexis reached out her hands and said very distinctly, "Ma."

We spent a week getting to know Alexis in Portland then returned home with her as ours.  She has had much to overcome, but has steadily progressed forward from the first moment we met her.  

She has had hand surgery, several ear surgeries, and eye surgery.  She has participated in physical, occupational, and speech therapy.  She has struggled against social and other anxieties.  But she continues to triumph through it all.

She is a very typical autistic child,  She has overcome much though.  She is walking and running with some limitations, and even rides a bike.  Though her comprehension lacks, she reads pretty much at age level.  

She still has emotional outbursts, but not near as many as she did at 2 1/2 years of age.  She can be sorely bashful and yet talk your ears off at the same time.  She obsesses over some of the strangest things, yet can remember even the smallest details years down the road.

Alexis too is an overcomer.  When we first brought her home, she could not even look a person in the eyes.  She would have frequent meltdowns in crowds and strange situations.  She was an emotional basket case.  

Over the years though we have seen her grow though.  She never ceases to amaze us.  She signed up for basketball this year and has been practicing without incident. 

The real shocker came recently when she signed up as greeter at church.  She obsessed over her upcoming turn for weeks.  She met our guests with a smile and a handshake....and without incident.

Alexis continues to grow and develop.  We always worry, is she going to stop maturing at some point?  But at this point she matures a little more each day.  

She has a tremendous heart.  When she learns that somebody is sick, she checks up on them regularly and prays for them daily.  She also likes to make cards for those going through hard times.

We don't know how much further she will develop.  This one thing we do know, even if she were not to develop a day beyond where she is, she will always be a special young lady who is sure to touch your heart....if you give her a chance.


One day Hannah and John were on one of their periodic walk and talks.  They were discussing heaven.  

John pointed out, "You know, Princess, in heaven we won't be like this.  We will both be whole."  She questioned him, "What do you mean by whole, Daddy."  He answered, "I won't be so clumsy with Parkinson's anymore and you will have legs."  She stopped and pondered a moment, then replied very thoughtfully, "You know, Daddy, I think I am pretty whole just the way I am."

That is the kind of attitude she has had from day one.  

We learned of Hannah while John was attending an Adopt US Kids Summit in Washington DC.  He was in a crowded hotel lobby with over 1000 attendees scarfing down a standup sack lunch around little round tables.  One lady moved over and gave him the one spot apparently available. She was a social worker from a local adoption agency.  

She shared Hannah's story with him and how desperate they were to find a placement for her. They primarily placed healthy white babies and some healthy minority children, but they had no prospects for a child like Hannah.  

Hannah's biological mother was 14 when Hannah was born.  She had come to this agency for help pretty much at the last minute.  They agreed to find a home for her child, but had second thoughts after she was born.  

She was born without the Tibia (shin bone) in both legs, six fingers on one hand and no thumb on either, and both elbows fused.  She needed to be placed in a home that would have access to the needed medical care and she needed to be placed fast.  The home needed to be pretty much adoption ready.

John called me and shared Hannah's story.  We began making calls to people who had expressed interest in adoptions of us.  None either met the criteria or had the desire for a child with such issues.  

Most people don't want "damaged goods".  They want only the healthiest, happiest, and prettiest babies.  In so many ways Hannah met that criteria.  Oh well, their loss. 

After John returned home from the summit, we continued praying for and trying to find a home for this precious child. Remember, our family was complete we thought.  We had prayed for four children, two boys and two girls, and that's what we had been given. 

After several attempts at finding her a home we began to realize it was to no avail.  It was after one of these failed attempts that John looked at me and asked, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"  I responded in tears, "I fear so."

We made the call and began the process.  Like Lexi, this was an intrastate adoption, but it was also a private adoption, so we had to deal with two states and a private agency.  It was twice the paper work as well as the expense.  

The agency waived its normal fees but we were responsible for paying the foster care expenses as well as the court costs and such.  Maryland promised us a $13,000 grant to reimburse our costs.  Due to a legislation change though we never received the grant.  God provided though....through the graciousness of family and friends.

We went over as a family to see and get to know her at about 6 weeks.  I flew back by myself 3 months late, spent a week with her in her foster home and brought her home.

Hannah went through multiple surgeries over the next several months. She had her amputation at about nine months.  She also had several reconstructive surgeries on her hands

She was walking by the time she was eighteen months.  She  was running competitively by the time she was four years old.  The past four years she has qualified for the National Junior Disability Championships and medaled there.  She has dreams of participating in the 2020 Paralympics.  

She also plays able bodied soccer and basketball.  Her soccer coach admitted recently when he first saw she was on his team he was apprehensive.  He then exclaimed through tears he would pit her against anybody on the team in talent, determination, and knowledge of the game.  She may not cover the field like the others, but if an opponent sells her short and tries to force themselves past her, they're liable to end up on their butt. 

Did I mention she reads on an adult level and writes with a pencil between her fingers.  She is eleven and in seventh grade.  You know what, come to think about it, she is pretty whole just the way she is...


As you recall, our plans were for four children, a well balanced family of two boys and two girls.  We had been blessed with just one.  

I was 46 and Kim was 44.  We were no doubt we thought.  

Michael was attending Hillsdale when he decided to serve as a short term missionary in Uganda.  He teased before he went over that he planned to bring back a little black brother for Hannah.  At least we thought he teased.

Almost immediately Michael began to write, email, and message us about a little boy who had stolen his heart.  Emma was found abandoned on the streets oF Kampala at about 18 months of age.  He had no record of origin, no birthdate, no birth certificate.

Well, as you might have deducted, we fell in love with Emma as well.  We cannot tell you why.  He was very shy and non expressive.  There was and is something very special about him though.

We contacted the orphanage director and he said Emma was available for adoption.  He also told us of another child, Ephraim, that was adoptable.  Jacob and Sarah Myers teamed up with us to adopt him.  

We estimated the adoption expenditures for both children to run over $30,000, including travel and administrative costs.  It would end up being more than that but that was a good estimation. 

That was a lot of money for a couple preachers to raise.  We didn't know how, but we knew God would supply our need though. He did too, never a second too early nor a second too late.

As the time approached, we began to stress a little.   We knew we were receiving the call any day.  When we got the call, we would have to be in Uganda for court within a few days.  If we didn't ,we could lose our babies.

We had raised about $15,000 to cover legal fees and such, but had not covered our air fare yet.  We needed another $15000 and we needed it fast.

We went to church one Wednesday night with intentions of making it a matter of public prayer.  John was met by a lady before church.  Her husband had died recently and she wished to make a donation.  She wrote out a check for $15000 that night.

We flew over soon after that to get our babies.  The men stayed about a week then left us ladies to fend for ourselves.

It was the roughest two months of my life.  We lived on our own in a third world country that really did not value women nor children for that matter.

That precious little boy was well worth the hastle though.  He has been through so much.  He has come so far.

Emma has adapted fairly well.  He still has some attachment issues.  Much of what he faced and experienced we will never know nor does he.  It's very clear though by his nightmares and various issues, he went through much.  

Emma was four when we brought him home.  He is nine now.  He still has a bit of an accent which I hope he never loses.

He is active in church and in sports.  He loves electronic games and Legos.  He was saved and baptized a couple years ago.  He is very smart but he hates school.  He dreams of being a police officer engineer astronaut and a professional soccer player.  Pretty typical nine year old boy.

What is untypical about him is his servant attitude and his determination.  He seriously works and pushed himself physically like a man.  He is the first to help his daddy to tie his shoes or crawl out of his chair when his Parkinson's is flaring.


We are both fairly certain there will be no more.  We have reached out a little immigrant friend of the family who is having her second child at eighteen.  We also have a precious little grandchild and are sure to have many more.  Our hopes are to focus our love and attention on them.

We read in Romans 12:1-2,

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (2) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

I was asked to speak on surrender.  From the beginning we set out to live a life of total complete surrender to God. In our minds this meant great things were going to happen.  John was going to win thousands and I was going to be by his side.  Together, we set out to change the world.

To be quite honest, by our own standards, we have been complete failures.  We have not won thousands.  John hasn't even pastored one church for more than four years.  We have seen maybe dozens saved, but definitely not hundreds, let alone thousands.

But we are ok with that.  Somewhere along the way God changed our plans to do something great for Him to Him doing something good with us.

James 1:27 says, "Pure Religion and undefiled before God and the Father is to visit the orphan and widow in their time of affliction."

No, we have not changed the world in some mighty way, but we have touched the lives of these six precious children.  They have most definitely changed our world and are sure to change the world for many others in years to come.

We surrendered doing something great for God to instead allow Him to do something good through us.  What good thing are you willing to surrender yourself to do for God?

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