A Trip Up the Demerara

This is probably the longest memoir I’ve written. I hope you will take the time to read as it is one of my favorite memories.

In 1962 Mom & Dad were assigned as Missionaries of the Church of God (Anderson, IN) to the small country of British Guiana (Guyana), South America. A new church had been started in the Back Dam on the Demerara River. The only way to get there was by ferry. We traveled that route several times learning a lot about the country from what could be seen along the shores. Observation from the upper deck of the S.S. Carr (pictured) revealed a tiny reflection of how fortunate I was. Humility captured my thoughts each trip, constructing piece-by-piece exposures of a different kind of life. An open admission of how deprived these people were, could not be hidden. This was a life I would never live, only observe.

East Indian women squatted on the banks with their body between their legs dunking clothing in the water and beating them with a wooden mallet. Ragged clothes hung between two trees and blew in the wind to dry. Children with only a shirt ran naked-bottomed through the yard chasing chickens, or rolling a rusty bicycle wheel with a stick for fun. A small boy, too young to work with his dad in the rice patties, or Bauxite (aluminum ore) mines, cast a net catching fish for a supper meal. Another child used a spear, or bow and arrow to impale fish. Waving to the captain, he returned the gesture with a toot-toot bringing large smiles. A rough growl, a convincing bark, came from an ugly dog running up and down the shore as we passed. Dugouts filled with harvest from large family gardens made its way down-river to market in Georgetown.

This is the kind of town Linden was in the 1960’s, an underprivileged Hindu town with people eager to hear about a man named Jesus. When the church first started it was held in a bottom house (Pictured). The country of British Guiana is under sea level. Homes were built on ten foot high stilts, leaving the under house open. With the exception of a few older church buildings, the start-up churches Dad worked with were held under these.

There was one problem. The Demerara divided Linden. The pastor, Rev. Daniel Watson, needed a boat to travel not only across the river but also deeper into the Back Dam. How else would he be able to minister and invite others to this new beginning? Dad agreed and contacted Anderson Headquarters to see if they would purchase a new boat.

Once approved a second problem arose. How would we get this new boat sixty-five miles up river to Linden? “There is only one way to move it to Linden,” Daniel said. “I will drive it.” Mom & Dad reminded him of how small the motor was, and that he would have an exhausting day driving it from Georgetown. “I know,” he said. “There is no other way to move it.

Dad had a separate conversation with him that we were unaware of until we got home that night. He laid out an amazing adventure. We were going to ride the first twenty-five miles to Atkinson Air Base, the only airport in the country. The base was also home to a handful of American and British soldiers who were stationed there. Past that point there was a road made of burnt earth. There is a procedure of laying seasoned logs in place covered in clay. There are many layers of each. Once set on fire, the logs bake the clay. This process creates a hard- jagged rock that overtime returned to the dirt and the mud it was originally made from. Because the road to Linden was not maintained, ruts and holes made it passible only to those who had a four-wheel drive vehicle, several spare tires, a lot of time, and strong teeth. This trip by boat sounded like a magnificent voyage. We were excited about the trip and stayed awake most of the night before.

We woke with a great eagerness for our day. Dad arrived early so he could sign the paperwork and accept the new boat around noon. “Where is it?” Mom asked. There were dozens of similar boats coming and going. The mission boat blended with others. “There it is,” Dad said. Pointing toward an armada of small boats we saw him. Brother Watson was recognizable by his safari hat and round glasses. No one else wore a hat like his. He saw us wave, smiled, and pulled up to the docks.

I was disappointed. Shouldn’t this be a little larger boat? From above the large shipping dock the boat looked like a dugout until it docked. I believed being a mission boat it would stand out from the others. Except for the canopy, this one was no different than any number of other boats.

Upon docking we viewed a brand-new, four-by-sixteen foot wooden flatboat painted industrial marine gray. The canopy had a slight contrast but I was not complaining. We would need this covering to keep us out of the tropical sun. The three of us boys said our goodbyes and boarded the boat. Mom & Dad waved from the dock and grew smaller in the distance.

The river’s deep brown color is primarily the result of the massive quantities of silt carried from up-river by the currents. So powerful are these currents, that the ocean retains the Demerara’s brown color for a considerable distance out to sea creating a shoreline of muddy beaches. Georgetown sits at the mouth where the river empties into the North Atlantic Ocean. The rivers width and depth allows oceangoing vessels up to 5,000 tons to navigate up to Linden. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demerara_River)

For a long time we traveled south of that gateway about thirty feet from the shore. Watching the water ripple along side the boat, I was enticed to drag my hand in the water. I didn’t dare. I was reminded of the many tropical dangers that could not be seen from above. I was not about to have my hand eaten off by piranha, or shocked by the electricity from a knifefish, or eel. This short distance from the ocean troubled me. There was no telling what might like to eat me for lunch. There were many legends about different river monsters in this, and the other rivers in British Guiana. Thoughts of danger continued to rear their ugly faces. What would happen if a large ship swamped our boat from its wake and we sank like others in the past? This was a shipping lane after all. I shook that thought off in a hurry.

I could not deny, however, that after an hour this adventure was not very much fun. I sat in a small, wooden, and insignificant craft half way to our destination with a native pastor I didn’t know very well. Conversation was minimal. My two brothers were bored. I could not get out and neither could they. We were speeding down the river highway at 13 knots, or 15 MPH. The view grew monotonous, as all I saw was weeds. Once in a while we passed another small boat going to or coming from market. We waved and said hello. Passing a native shack, we watched and waved at people we would never see again. Bamboo-covered banks overtook higher weeds. A fish splashed nearby. I wished I had a fishing pole, or something to occupy my mind and pass the time.

At the rate we were traveling our trip would take approximately two hours. I wasn’t sure if I could take this quest much longer, but I had no choice. Mom had packed a lunch and a few things to eat for the journey. A thermos with cold water had grown warm from the humid sun. Taking a snack, my brothers grabbed theirs and handed one to Brother Watson. I wanted more but knew it was too soon. My brothers learned long ago that if I ate mine early I would sneak, and without them knowing, eat theirs later. We did not need a fight while cooped up on this boat? Besides, What would I do later with all the goodies gone?

 The engine popped and sputtered generating a white smoke to rise from the back of the boat. What was wrong? I watched Brother Watson fiddle with a few levers on the motor. The motor straightened out and kept going for a while. Later the same thing happened. The pastor said a few unintelligible words; the motor sounded like a grinding chain but continued working. I grew worried that we would be stranded in the bamboo where anaconda and poisonous dart frogs lived.

The motor snorted and came to a complete stop. This time it would not cooperate with the pastor. He pulled the starter cord until he was exhausted. He sat down to catch his breath. I asked what was wrong. The answer I feared most was spoken. “I don’t know,” he said. That’s when I discovered we didn’t have any paddles to help us stay close to the shore.

The boat began to drift, not the eastern shore closest to us, but the western shore, on the other side of the Demerara. We were powerless. The shipping lane was in front of us.

Large ships passed on a regular basis. All we could do is pray one would see us in time to correct their course and not hit us. We continued drifting. With regenerated strength Brother Watson began cranking a cantankerous new motor, to no avail. The motor would not start. The tropical wind continued to blow us across the river at its widest point.

A bauxite ship passed at a distance and blew his horn. Was he saying hello, or telling us to get out of the way? We waved. He tooted again. By the time his wake hit the front of our boat it had faded to an inconsequential swell. Thankful hearts were grateful another ship could not be seen in either direction. The mission boat floated like a piece of driftwood captivated by wherever the wind wanted us to go. Drawing closer to an unfamiliar bank we visualized where our boat would hit the shore. We realized it was not a hospitable site. Humans did not populate this part of the Demerara’s west bank. The population here was mostly unseen, sometimes heard, others not. The land was a dense and dark jungle. Any creature you can summon in your mind probably lived there.

Easing into the underbrush and tree limbs hanging over the river we knew for certain this was not going to be an enjoyable situation. Native folklore spoke of an old hag who had a pet snake with a fishhook tail. The snake looked for vulnerable little boys. When found, he cast his hook out to catch the child. Paralyzing venom anesthetized its victim until he could drag him back to the old hag where she ate him for dinner. I knew this story was not true, but at twelve years old, in an unfamiliar country, and stuck in the abysmal undergrowth of a powerful river the tale did cross my mind. I just made sure I was sitting between my two brothers so one of them would go first.

There was nothing to do, but sit, pray, and hope for deliverance. Brother Watson tried the motor. It would not start. Small boats like ours did not travel this side of the river. Commerce was on the other side. What did this mean? No one was coming. The three of us sat in fear of our lives. A two-hour trip had turned into four. Evening was approaching and we were on the remote side of the Demerara with a dead motor, a large river, and shipping lane between home and us. We sat awhile. Brother Watson pulled the starter cord awhile. We sat awhile. Brother Watson pulled the starter awhile. Even us three boys tried pulling the cord a few times.

A short piece of wood floated past our boat. One of us harvested it from the water. I believe God sent this lumber our way. He even painted it white. This was a perfect piece of wood to use for a paddle.

“While you paddle, I’m going to let the motor rest awhile,” Brother Watson said.

Taking turns each of us used what strength we had to move the boat away from shore and toward the east. The boat seemed to be lethargic, as no movement was felt. The only motion was that of the water swirled by the makeshift paddle. The currents took us back toward Georgetown. The headwind was the same that had pushed us across the Demerara. Gauging our progress by watching the shoreline grow in distance, our determination built as we moved one grunt at a time. Needless to say, I was glad I had saved my lunch. While one paddled the others ate.

Another hour had passed. A ship headed toward us. Understanding the need to get out of her way before she reached us, we paddled that board with steadfast courage. She came closer. Our concern grew. Fear of not making it out of her path shook us to the marrow of our bones. She grew larger and wider the closer she came. Standing up, Brother Watson pulled the cord one single time. A chattering started. A wake grew behind us. The forward movement jolted us to our seats. A cool breeze refreshed our senses. The started motor helped us avoid a re-embodiment of driftwood. We were free of uncertainty for the first time since we left the docks that morning. God started that motor just as he had sent the board to move us from the underbrush.

By making it out of the shipping lane in time we were safe. A toot from the ships captain blew in the wind. Waving a final farewell our boat moved toward the eastern shoreline. There was still another hour before we would make it to Atkinson Field. The sun had set and twilight became our guide. There were several inlets covered in bamboo passageways. Finding one that exposed the highway, the mission boat maneuvered through shallow waters until it drug bottom. Tying off the boat to a bamboo. I hopped out and ran for help. The terrain was muddy and slippery but I managed to keep my balance and pulled myself forward one cane at a time. I no longer cared creature might lay in wait for me. I was ready to be free of the confines of that boat.

I climbed up to the road. My brothers were right behind me. A few cars passed along side, followed by a bus carrying more natives than it should. A few more minutes passed when a car pulled over. I was never so happy to see Mom & Dad. They got out of the car and ran to hug each of us. We hugged them just as hard.

Mom & Dad had spent the afternoon, while we were stranded, driving up and down the road in a panic looking for us. They had stopped and asked if there had been any boats capsize or sink during the day. They asked if anyone had seen three white boys and an Indian walking around the area. Each was anxious and worried that we had been hurt, or worse. A two hour exploit had become and all day calamity.

In the end, this day had been an adventure. Though not planned the way it turned out I should at least say it was daring, and a memory I will never forget.

Rev. & Mrs. Ralph Coolidge (took Mom & Dad’s Place in Guyana. Mom, my two brothers and me. Rev. Watson at the motor.

*****

One year later Dad found out that Reverend Watson was using the mission boat to make personal money ferrying people across the river in Linden rather than for mission use. Dad took the boat from him and gave it to an associate pastor who continued the ministry and grew the church. Since that time other churches have started in bottom houses of other small villages throughout the area.

Note: the country of Guyana is now 40% Christian, PTL!

 

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Cathead Biscuits and Cave Spiders

worldform.com

Photo from: worldform.com

Pushing and grunting did no good. Kicking did no good. Three twenty something year old men could not push a snag down a mountain in northern Tennessee. Though dead, the tree was still standing and we struggled to move it. “Come on, we can do this,” Ash said. The resolve to our purpose of knocking this deadwood off the cliff would certainly be rewarded with a manly feeling of achievement. Commitment to the task culminated in the tree rocking back and forth. Woody debris fell from its sides. With each push and moan the base of the tree became weaker. Anticipation grew. We knew it was going down.

A desperate chittering and clicking at the top of the tree forced us to stop and look up. A frightened squirrel flittered back and forth at the top investigating the demolition. She leaped into the air and displayed a graceful glide down the mountain. What a site! This flying squirrel was one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. The parade was not over. One by one, her pups climbed into view, hurled themselves into the air, and coasted down the mountain to their mom. Not one, not two, but four of these babies put on a show of magnificent beauty.

We stood in awe and humility, astonished that while we loved nature, we had no respect for her. We had nearly destroyed their home. Together we agreed to move on and let the tree stand.

Our first day ended and we hiked our way down the mountain to Mike Ashburn’s Grannie’s house. Grannie’s home was typical in rural Tennessee. Built in the 1940’s it was an old clapboard siding home with a tin roof and neighborly front porch. Her life was set in the old ways, unfamiliar to me. Echoes of hardship grooved a patterned face acquainted with rural life. Her home was small but open and welcoming. I shall never forget the pencil portrait hanging on her living room wall—two old mules, husband and wife. Someone had given it to her to remind her of her husband who had passed many years before. I could tell by the way she talked, she loved that drawing, but not as much as she missed him

Though it was late spring there was coolness in the mountains that would bite you in the butt if you didn’t cover up. We slept on old feather beds covered in handmade quilts. At the end of the bed was a thunder mug to keep us from trekking the darkness to the outhouse. Most enchanting was the fireplace sitting on the floor against the wall. It was not a wood fireplace. I was so tired from hiking the mountain that first day, sleep overcame this unacquainted odor of sulfur from coal. Morning brought a refreshing air about it. While snuggling under the quilts I could hear Grannie wrestling pots and pans in the kitchen.

 Cathead Biscuits - dmataflour.com

Cathead Biscuits – dmataflour.com

Yes, there is a God. Hearing Ash hug his Grannie, I walked into a favorable aroma of fresh bacon in the kitchen. I was ready for an amazing breakfast. With the aforementioned came farm fresh eggs, and cathead biscuits. I don’t remember what kind of jelly she pulled from her pantry but it was homemade and delicious. In case you don’t know why they are called cathead biscuits, it is because they are about the size of small cathead and very fluffy (recipe: http://www.mtnlaurel.com/recipes/766-old-fashioned-cat-head-biscuits.html)

Our purpose for being in Tennessee was to go caving. I had never experienced this sport but was eager to try. Grannie warned us to be careful. “There have been people lost in those caves and never found,” she said. Her caution made us a bit nervous. Still, we were young and stupid and moved on in our manly pursuit.

Photo from: Penterest

Photo from: Penterest

The first cave greeted us with a huge, amphitheater entrance. We entered walking tall and daylight showed our way. The path began to narrow to a point where we had to crawl on our knees. Not too far in, the ceiling started moving. Huge cave spiders crawled upside down. I knew they would not hurt me but it was still creepy wondering if one would fall on my back and into my clothes.

We arrived at a point where the stark reminder Grannie had given earlier made us aware of possible danger. We were able to stand again and walk through eight to ten foot tall cavern trails. Awareness that water had, over time, carved these rugged walking channels brought caution. Yes, we had marked our journey so we would know how to get back to the mouth of the cave, but what should we do if water arrives? This thought initiated our climb to the top of these walls scooting forward with only spread out arms and legs holding us above the floor.

A small opening, illuminated by our flashlight, suggested we climb in to see where it would go. On our bellies we crawled a few feet before I said, “Stop!”

“What’s wrong?” my little brother, Dick, asked.

www.richard-seaman.com

Photo:                    richardseaman.com

“Back up, I am face to face with a bat.” My light shined on a bat, just inches away. I am glad I saw it before I climbed through and knocked it awake. I shudder to think my reaction to that proposition. The response would not have been a calm one, I assure you.

Ash told Dick and me this cave was very long. No one knew where it came out. Dye was placed in the channels many years before and it turned one of the rivers red. There was still no sign where the cave ended. The suggestion was that the cave traveled under the river and seeped up into the riverbed through an underground spring. We enjoyed the cave for several hours, memories of this one time event were gradually embedded in my mind. We had one more cave to explore but desired a much-needed rest for our throbbing muscles. We went back to Grannie’s for lunch and enjoyed her company while she listened to our adventure.

When Ash told her we were going to the cave by another grandmothers home, this upset her. She raised a second red flag. “That cave is too dangerous. Some have even drowned and washed into the mountain and never been found. There are underground springs that gush through the rock this time of year without warning.” She didn’t beg us not to go, but her voice pleaded.

Okay, so now we have fought off cave spiders and a bat—worried about getting lost in a huge cave that has no end, and now we have to be fretful about an underground torrential river burying us in the mountain for eternity? These are the thoughts I kept to myself on the drive to this cave. I was unsure I wanted to continue this exploration. But, being the man I was, I sucked it up and persevered with the other two manly men.

https-_farm9-staticflickr-com

Photo: https-_farm9-staticflickr-com

The entrance to this cave was smaller and extremely wet. We were still able to walk in. Once inside, the area was small. There was an opening in the wall just large enough to crawl inside. Filled with thoughts of this being my last day on earth, I went last. There was a choice. Go right, or, go left. The right tunnel would take us uphill, the left tunnel would take us downhill. Uphill was chosen. We slow crawled on our bellies through a narrow passage with shoulders rubbing both walls. The floor held about an inch of, “colder than a frog’s butt,” standing water soaking our clothes. The chill prompted me to remember Grannie’s warning. There had already been water rush through here, and not too long ago, I thought out loud. “I’m backing out and getting out of here,” I said. Crawling backwards was slow. I didn’t think I would ever reach the entrance. When I did, I climbed through to live another day. My words must have been what the other two wanted to hear; they were right behind me.

We met Ash’s other grandmother, a beautiful Appalachian woman. We stood outside her home to visit. Our clothes were too nasty to go inside even though she asked. Wet and cold we left for Grannies. We spent one more cold night snuggled down in feathers and covered in quilts. We left for Anderson (IN) early Sunday morning.

This was an adventure I will never forget. Considering the unpleasant thoughts of death at any moment, I never want to go caving again. Once was enough.

 

A Question For Mom and Dad

EPSON MFP image

Meriam Gladys Boze and Edward Lincoln Oldham were married March 26th 1947. This photograph was taken in the living room of Miriam’s home at 1741 Glenmore Avenue, Baton Rogue, LA. The snapshot shows the two of them dancing at their wedding. Conceivably it shows Meriam dancing and Edward just standing there. It is interesting that my parents brought up their three children of the 1950’s and 1960’s to believe, as Christian’s, it was wrong, perhaps even a sin, to dance. Yet, here I see the two of them doing what we could not.

This click of the camera reminds me of a time in 1962 when the two of them took us three boys with them to the mission field in British Guiana (Guyana). While we were waiting on the mission home to be completed we stayed in the second story of an apartment building. Chubby Checker had released his new song, The Twist, the year before on Parkway Records. The radio stations in Georgetown were playing it several times a day. One evening we were listening to the radio (there was no TV in the country, unless you were extremely wealthy) and our entire family started moving to the music. Most of the others were dancing much like Dad in this photo, but at eleven years old, I began dancing The Twist the way I had seen it on American Band Stand back in the United States. I was quickly called out and shamed to tears.

barb-andy-dancing_bw_cropped_5015_edited-4I have only danced twice since that time. Once was right after Barbara and I were married in 1982. I love her to death, but she made so much fun of the way I danced, I quit and never danced again until October 8, 2016 at my son Raife and Caitlin’s wedding in Fredericksburg, VA. I didn’t enjoy one minute of it, and, as you can see from the photo, I dance just like my Dad.

I would love to have questioned my parents about this dance, if only I had known this photograph existed prior to their deaths in 1995 and 2005.

 

 

 

Duck Hunting With Murray

header-mallard_edited-2He said it would be fun. He said we would get in the marsh before daylight and leave early because we would have our limit. I told Julius Murray he would have his limit because I had quit hunting a long time ago. Since I had never been duck hunting I seized the opportunity to get in the swamp with my camera. I would be shooting a different way.

On a cold December morning in 1987 we tromped through the high grasses of the northern Ross Barnett Reservoir. Most of these stalks of weed were taller than me by two feet. Some were tough to push over and in some cases so thick we had to machete them down to get through. The ground became wet bog in some areas but we continued through the mire. Arriving at a small opening I saw an area that was like a small pond. Shining my flashlight revealed fallen trees. Upon our presence, I could hear, but not see, turtles scampering into the water. Clunk, clunk, clunk drew apprehensive nerves toward their departure. Was it really turtles, or something else? Little did they know I would capture them later when they thought we were gone.

The sun was not up. There was faint light from a toenail moon setting in the west. We waited in the dark of morning with a flashlight, a cup of coffee and whispered conversation. Our hands tightened around our thermos bringing a hint of warmth. Quiet broke in shards of stress when movement here-or-there tuned our heart to any strange noise around us. The thought of gators was constant, but I trusted Julius’s skills to keep us safe.

Google Photo

Twilight revealed a light fog encompassed our blind. The long sacred wail of a Loon said a good morning to his mate asking. “Where are you?” Moments later a higher pitched wail lets him know, “I am over here.” Evocative sounds, never be forgotten, will forever establish the tranquility of the swamp and deminish fear.

As the fog lifted we hunkered behind tall reeds and watched hundreds of duck and geese fly above and around us. Julius raised his gun and followed each bird in his gun site. When he didn’t shoot I questioned him. “We cannot fire until 6:00 o’clock, it’s the law,” he said. Hearing others fire their guns reminded me I was proud to be his friend, and of his integrity to remain silent until time. I continued to snap photos of the wonders around us, including the turtles.

a_mixed_flock_of_ducks_and_geese_fly_from_a_wetland_area_edited-1Did these birds have a Timex, or what? The big hand struck twelve and they vanished. There were one or two honks from Canadian Geese in the distance, but in a gun site looked like tiny fragments of dirt blowing through the air. Being the patient man that he was, Julius waited another hour only to be disappointed. There were no birds close enough to bring home for dinner.

Julius was right. I did have fun, but he did not get his limit. I got better shots with my camera. We went home with no duck and the promise of beautiful morning photos waiting to be developed.

If  you’d like to hear the sound of a loon check this out:

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=tightropetb&p=sounds+of+loons#id=3&vid=36e32f289d44a870ad2eb79965d35c6b&action=view

When Chaos Arrived

What was that? Dad turned to hear a furious noise behind him. With limbs breaking and leaves crackling his anticipation grew. The closer the noise the more anxious he became. This was, after all, his first time. He didn’t know what to expect. Grunting grew to point that he felt as if the animal was going to attack him. Dad heard each hoof hitting the ground and the dogs continued their incessant barking. The animal feared for his life and ran as fast as he could.

Dad raised his gun. All he needed was for it to appear in his site. The louder the confusion between man and beast, the more intense and passionate he became.

Deep bulging sounds—panic in the air—chaos was about to debut. The noise stopped. Where was he? Dad eased his gun to left, nothing. Questioning his whereabouts he moved back to the right, nothing. He took his eyes off the site to look around.

The dogs got louder and Dad wondered if he had missed his objective. Chaos burst through the Colorado Spruce and ran toward Dad. He turned his gun for a perfect shot. His finger was on the trigger. He lowered his gun. The Elk ran a new direction.

Bugling Bull (male) Elk Yellowstone National Park Wyoming near the Madison River ** Note: Shallow depth of field

Google Photo

Dad had hunted in the Louisiana woods his entire life, but never like this, or for the largest land mammal in North America. He had just moved to Denver to pastor the South Denver Church of God. The men in the church invited him to go Elk hunting. They took him to the license bureau to apply for a hunting license and Elk tags. He was told that to get a tag you must first sign up, and then wait on the lotto drawing. If you were lucky you might get a bull Elk or cow licenses. If you didn’t get either, you got to stay home, or at the camp while the others hunted.

Dad was excited when he received his tags in the mail. He hadn’t won a bull tag. There was not a cow tag inside either. His tag said he could hunt both. When he told the men of the church of his luck they were amazed. One of them told him they had lived in Colorado their entire life and never won both tags. They patted him on the back and assured him he had won the Lotto.

When hunting day came he was taken up in the mountains and placed on a big flat rock. He was told to, “Sit right here, be still and wait.” He would soon hear the dogs and they would run the animal toward him. “When you hear all the commotion, get ready.”

Dad did as he was instructed and sat patiently. Even with the bull Elk in his site he could not pull the trigger. He stood in awe of his beauty. The display of power and dominance impressed him with an indescribable reaction for the animal. In view of vigorous muscle, huge antlers, and breathtaking presence Dad lowered his gun.

When Dad told us this story he said, “He was too beautiful to kill.”

elk-2Google Photo

Do It Over!

As with many native pastors in the 1960’s, Pastor Oscar Lupe didn’t have a baptism tank at the church he pastored in Buxton, British Guiana. He used the one 18.3km away, at John Street Church of God in Georgetown.

After arrival at John Street, the front right pew was moved to the other side of the church and the unnoticed doors were pulled open from the floor. Under the wood boards was a concealed baptismal tank full of water. Brother Lupe, as we called him, entered the church with those who wanted to be baptized and placed them in pews toward the front for perfect viewing of each other.

Oscar was older and was the only Church of God pastor who wore a clerical white-collar. He asked Dad (Edward Oldham) to do the baptizing because he was too old to get down the steps to the water.

EPSON MFP image

Dad was happy to oblige. Pastor Lupe stood by the side of the tank, with his hands folded behind his back, and watched each person get baptized. After several men and women ascended the steps there was one last woman to be immersed. Dad raised his hand and said; “In the  name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit . . . “ He placed his hand over hers and lowered her into the water. Being an extremely heavy woman she fought going under. The buoyancy of the water allowed Dad to hold her on her back. But he could not get her to go under the water. She fought the decent like a cat with her claws out. Dad held her in his arms while she paddled around the pool uncertain of life. Her hair was soaked and matted when she stood up, wiped her face and began praising the Lord.

“Do it over,” Pastor Lupe said. “You did not go under. You have to go all the way under.” The woman looked at Dad and they tried it again. “Do it over,” said a stern voice a second time. “You have to be submerged all the way.” The woman looked at Dad and they tried it again, and again, until it was done right. Then everyone praised the Lord!

© All Rights Reserved – Andy Oldham

A New Goliath – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series we discussed the Israelites and their fear of the Philistines who wanted to subject them to their will. We also discussed David, and the panic he encountered when chased by King Saul who wanted to kill him. You can find Part one here: https://christiangrandfather.com/2016/07/28/a-new-goliath/

goliath

In 2013, there were some 2,100 Christians killed across the globe for their faith. In 2015 that number rose to at least 7,100(Not all ISIS). 3  In 2014 “ . . .the Islamic State (ISIS) . . . published a new edition of the propaganda booklet Dabiq, which is again signaling its primary enemy – Christianity.  This “terror groups desire is to conquer Rome and ‘break the cross,’” This aspiration is much like that of the Philistine’s who stood in defiance of God and petrified the Israelite army. “Their goal is to pave the way for the appearance of their Mahdi, the Islamic Messiah.” 1 Just this morning ISIS has announced they will begin attacking London and Washington D.C.

I am by no means a theologian so I am not trying to go so deep that I lose both you and me. I only share what is in my heart, and in the hearts of those around me. I left you with the following questions:

Do we have right to be afraid? As did David, should we stand against those who want to kill us?

“The Philistines were mentioned in the Bible as far back as the time when God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. The Philistines were the mortal enemies of the nation of Israel for hundreds of years. When the Israelites had finally settled into Canaan, they had to contend with the Philistines.

These two nations constantly fought against one another. One of the major reasons as to why the Philistines and the Israelites constantly have strife with one another is because of their religious beliefs. The Philistines primarily believed in Dagon (god of fertility) and the Israelites believed in Yahweh, or God. These two gods were nothing alike and this religious difference played out in the lives of the Philistines and the Israelites in forming their cultures and shaping their lives.

Another major reason as to why the Philistines resented the Israelites is because they had conquered so many people when they entered into Canaan under Joshua’s leadership. The Philistines were a powerful and warlike people, and they didn’t like the idea of having the Israelites being strong. So they constantly challenged the strength of Israel and many times they wanted to subject them to their rule to prove they were better. God also let the Philistines remain in the land to test and punish the Israelites whenever they strayed away from worshiping him. The Philistines defeated the Israelite armies on many occasions and they even managed to get some of the people to turn away from worshiping Yahweh.” 2

America has been a strong nation over the past 240 years. Our strength was formed on the foundation of Christianity. Those who hate us are challenging its very foundation. We see around the world Christians been beheaded and killed in other ways. They desire to come to America, and are already here in small cells preparing to attack when they feel it is time. This is our New Goliath.

My first inclination is to say, “YES” we have a right to be afraid. I believe most of us would agree this would be our first thought. We defend our fear by saying God created us with this innate characteristic to protect ourselves from harm. It is part of our human nature. If we see a tornado headed out way our emotion is to get to safety and protect ourselves. If someone wants to hurt our children we immediately run to their protection. Fear is a part of human nature. When Goliath comes for us are we to be afraid? When this huge enemy comes against the foundations of our world are we to grow fearful of what will come?

If you are old enough, do you remember the days of uncertainty; post WW2, in the 1950’s and 1960’s when everyone was building bomb shelters? We had atomic bomb drills in school. When the alarm sounded we immediately climbed under our desk, folded up into a ball and waited for the end of the world. Children were genuinely afraid and were relieved when the alarm sounded a second time to tell us to go back to learning. We were preparing ourselves for war.

Like David, if we did not have a human nature of fear we would not need these passages to remind us. The key is to overcome this mortal nature with one of a spiritual walk with out God. The Bible is full of passages where we are instructed to have no fear. In fact there are so many I struggle to decide which ones to use. We all agree with these. I believe most of you are like me in that while we agree with these scriptures we do so with a disingenuous heart simply because we have never had anything, or anyone really stand against us and threaten our lives. This New Goliath is now doing just that.

Through out the Word of God we are given example after example of how to handle fear. These examples have One thing in common, they trusted God. I imagine Abraham had fear sparked in his heart when God told him to sacrifice Isaac. His fear was quelled by his faith in God. Daniel was thrown into a den of hungry lions. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace. Elijah was deathly afraid of Jezebel, who threatened to kill him, so he ran. Their own Goliath challenged each of these men of God. Paul and Peter were thrown in jail for their faith and their lives were threatened. Stephen was a layman just like you and I. He was stoned and killed for his faith. God delivered each of these men.

And fear not them which kill the body,                                                                                                                                                                                                 but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him                                                                                                                                                                        which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.                                                                                                                                                                Matthew 10:28(KJV)

We have a hard time understanding what it means to rely on God and put our trust in him. This is why so many gloss over the scriptures that tell us “do not fear.” We battle within our hearts with what it means to not fear when the foundation of our world is crumbling. We struggle with allowing God to be in control.

These Scriptures are there for our benefit. They are God’s Word for us to place in our heart and develop a faith in His security. Instead so many of us do not embed these assurances and move forward in our own strength. When we lose sight of these promises, our worries build an intense scenario that does not exist in God’s Word. When we apply the Word of God daily He will ensure our safety.

We need to be like Job; he had a fence around him so high satan could not penetrate it. How did he have that hedge of protection? Through prayer, worship and obedience to God. How can we build this hedge for ourselves and our family? One prayer is the first brick. Another prayer is another brick on top of that one. Worship is another brick. Obedience is still another on top of these. If in our lives we are constantly laying brick we begin to realize that we are building the same hedge of protection around ourselves, and our family. Our confidence grows. In this way we begin to see that when we take God’s at his Word and do not fear, we are growing in the same confidence the saints of old had in their lives.

God is faithful to his Word. When we develop our hearts and minds to capture God’s strength we learn to depend on Him and His Word. When we have our confidence in Him, we do not have to fear. We know that this Goliath is only one of many that will be defeated by the Almighty.

The key is to grow in confidence by FOLLOWING. We prepare for battle in the same way those saints before us have done; we allow God to lead; we follow. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” James 4:8. This is how we prepare to meet Goliath. When we follow after God’s lead, . . .the eyes of the wicked will fail, and escape will elude them; their hope will become a dying gasp (Job 11:20).

In Part 3 I will address the question: What can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:57-58 (ESV)  

References:

  1. Newsweek, 10-14-2014)
  2. http://amazingbibletimeline.com/blog/philistines/)
  3. https://churchpop.com/2016/01/17/the-number-of-christian-martyrs-tripled-in-2015/

 

A New Goliath – Part 1

goliath 3I have thought and prayed over this for several months. There is something we all share in common. There is something weighing on all of our minds and hearts. With the exception of a few Christian bloggers, few are discussing it.

I like to take just a moment to remind you of two familiar stories about David. In 1 Samuel 17 we see the Philistine and the Israeli Armies on opposite hills in a face off. The Philistine champion was named Goliath. He stood nine feet and ten inches tall (For most of us we brush over that as if he is only the size of one of our professional basketball players and don’t take the time to comprehend just how tall the was. Next time you are in a home improvement store, go to the molding aisle and pick up a piece of 10 foot molding and stand next to it. See just how big Goliath was). When you are fitted for your armor you are given that which you can handle with the greatest of ease. In Goliath’s case his sword was longer and heavier than most, his spear was longer that he was tall, and the head of the spear was cone-shaped weighing about eighteen pounds. His armor weighed in at over 250 pounds, more than the average soldier can pick up on a good day.

“Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelite’s were dismayed and terrified.” 1 Samuel 17:8-11

 Please read that scripture again. This time read it out loud, with emphasis and sarcasm in your voice. This is what the Israelite army heard, not once, but for forty days both morning and night. They went to bed hearing it, and woke up hearing it.

Notice how Saul’s army was feeling—dismayed and terrified. If you look these two words up in the Hebrew, they simply mean, shattered, broken, greatly afraid, and trembling excessively.

Now I ask, if you were taunted twice every day how would you feel? You are waiting and hoping someone, anyone but you will answer the call. No one does. You hear murmurs among the others saying, “We can’t fight him; he’s way too big for any of us.” Pushing each other saying, “You go–No you go!–I’m not going!–I want to go homeWe are all going to die! The Philistine’s knew they would beat you with Goliath’s strength and you knew it too. The foundations of your world are being destroyed. Fear has you hypnotized.

Well, we know how the story turned out don’t we. God sent a lad named David with a slingshot to defeat this huge tormentor and end his relentless persecution. David trusted God and did not fear the enemy.

So Jonathan told David saying,“Saul my father is seeking to put you to death.

Now therefore, please be on guard in the morning,

and stay in a secret place and hide yourself.

1 Samuel 19:2

Goliath was David’s first victory in battle. Many others followed. Now he faced a new enemy that frightened him. King Saul was God’s anointed king. He knew that he was beginning to lose his anointing and that someone would take his place. He believed it would be David’s older brother, Eliab. When Saul became jealous of David and assumed he wanted his throne he sought to kill David.

Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch until morning so he could kill him. Michal, David’s wife, also Saul’s daughter, let David down a rope so he could escape. In the morning Michal told the messengers he was in bed sick. When they checked, they found what they thought was David covered up because they could see his hair; actually it was goats hair made to look like David’s hair. When Saul heard this he sent the messengers back to the house to bring him in the bed so that he could kill him. He was furious for his daughter’s deception. (1 Samuel 19:11-12)

He tried to pin David to a wall by throwing a spear at him. David escaped. (1 Samuel 20:33)

Saul continued to pursue him, to kill him. There is controversy over how long this pursuit lasted. Some say eighteen months while others say fifteen years. The time doesn’t matter as much as David’s panic. David lived in constant fear. He continued to run like, as we say in the South, a scalded dog.

You know the rest of the story. Saul is confronted by David, who now was holding a piece his garment. David sliced off a piece while Saul was relieving himself to show that David meant him no harm. In fact, David bowed before Saul in honor of the anointing of God on this king. David saved Saul’s life more than once.

These are two different stories of David. One is as victor, and one the foundations of David’s world are crumbling. He lived in fear. Have you ever been in either, or both, of these circumstances? Have you ever felt like the foundations of your world were crumbling? Did you know what to do and how to handle it?

In the Lord I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
“Flee like a bird to your mountain.
 For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.
 When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”  Psalm 11:1-3

goliath 4We have a New Goliath on the loose¾He stands and taunts us every 83 days with another killing somewhere in our world. He is huge and stands in the same defiance of the True God that the Philistines did. You’ve heard of all these evil killings and the hatred that has developed over the last several years; especially the killing of those who will not follow Islam. In particular Christian believers.

I don’t have to go into a lot of detail to make my point. You know what is happening and if you are like the Israelite’s—like David—like me—you are scared. You just don’t know what to do.

If you read the news, ISIS is NOW going to kill Christian’s in their places of worship. In fact a Catholic priest was murdered this past week in France while holding mass. Nuns were used as human shields to protect these cowards while they fought off the police.

The foundations of our world are being destroyed before our very eyes.

David asked a very important question in this Psalm 11. “ When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

The authorities say ISIS is already in all fifty states of our union. They will begin to attack us on a regular basis. So what can I do as a Christian? What can the body of Christ do when the foundations of our world are crumbling?

This is Part 1 of this discussion and what has been on my heart and mind for months. In Part 2, I will discuss some of the answers. I would like you to ponder the following questions and have your comments ready for my next post.

I leave these questions with you?

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

  1. Based on these two verses of Scripture, Do we have right to be afraid?

2. As did David, should we stand against those who want to kill us? Why, or Why not? How can we stand against them?

3. What can the righteous do?

Arrested ~ My Side of The Story

Arrested - police_officer_arresting_young_man_cg4p9736339c_thI watched as the khaki and brown uniforms walked from the other side of the cafeteria. The officers stopped every few tables as if they were asking where they could find someone. The students pointed in my direction. When they got closer I stopped conversation with my friends and directed their attention toward the police. The County Mounty arrived at our table.

“I’m looking for Andy Oldham, and . . .” He said.

I only heard my name called, as it seemed the only one important to me at the moment. Why was he looking for me?

“Are you Andy Oldham?

“Yes sir.”

“Stand up, turn around and place both hands behind your back.”

“What did I do officer?”

He didn’t answer my question.

“There, they’re not too tight are they?” The Madison County Deputy asked.

“No sir, but what did I do? Shouldn’t I be told what I am being arrested for and read my rights, or something?”

“You’ll find out soon enough, and your rights will be read downtown,” he said.

*****

     The week before my arrest was Prank Week 1969. This week of scheming to see who could play the best trick happened on the campus of Anderson University at the beginning of the year. No one could get hurt physically, mentally, or emotionally. Since I have always enjoyed playing jokes on others, and having them played on me, I was looking forward to my freshman year in the dormitory at Dunn Hall.

Eric Borlin, my roommate, played his joke on his girlfriend, Jane, without realizing it. He didn’t mean it as a prank, but we loved it. Like a lot of men, Eric’s hair was dark brown but his mustache was red. To make them match he colored his mustache with brown shoe polish.

Around 10:30 one evening, a lot of guys were sitting around the fireplace when he and Jane came in to the Commons after a date.

“Hi Mo, hi Andy. What are you guys doing?”

Mo Hodge started laughing first Dennis Harrington chimed in. Sometimes I am a little slow, but this time I caught on before many others.

“Hi Eric, what’s that brown stuff around Jane’s mouth?” Mo asked.

When Eric got upset, or overly excited, his saliva filled his mouth and he would hold his hand under his mouth so he wouldn’t get drool all over his shirt. That’s exactly what happened. Eric began sucking slobber back into his mouth while looking at Jane.

“What’s around my mouth Eric?” Jane asked.

Holding one hand under his mouth he ushered her outside. “Come on let’s go.”

I can imagine the conversation they had over a large brown ring around her mouth. Of course, since she didn’t stay in the dorm, they had to go somewhere to clean it off before he took her home.

*****

    The girls in 1969 had a dorm curfew, boys did not. Late one night, several buddies of mine, and I, made our way to the girl’s freshman dorm and checked it out. We had been joking all week with some of the girls and told them we would get you before the week is over. After finding a couple of the girls cars we drove downtown to the Anderson Herald dock and acquired several bundles of old papers. We snuck back to the dorm, opened the bundles and wadded up all the papers. We stuffed as many papers in the car as we could and shut the doors. There were several bundles left over so we put them on top of the car.

When the girls didn’t comment on what had happened we were surprised. Prank Week ended and several weeks went by with no discussion. We were puzzled but knew we couldn’t ask or they would know we had played this dastardly trick.

Arrested - cop-flashlight-33872

   “My Dad is the Director of Security on Anderson’s campus,” I said. “Let me call him.”

“You will get your one phone call when we get to the jail, son. “

He took me, and my three buddies, and led us by the arm toward the front door of the student cafeteria. Hundreds of our peers stopped eating and stared in amazement. A group of my closest friends followed us out of the building. When we got the front door the Indiana policeman turned around and told them to stay there and not to follow.

“Duck your head, son,” he said, as he placed each of us in the backseat of the patrol car.

“I still don’t know what I did,” I said.

No response from the officer seemed appropriate for him, once again.

Two per car, I looked at my friend and he gazed at me.

I whispered, “Do you know why we are being arrested?”

He shrugged his shoulders indicating he was just as puzzled.

The car moved forward and east down University Boulevard, from the cafeteria. We turned right on Nursery Road, and right again on E. 5th Street. Yes, we were headed in the direction of the Anderson City Jail. Anxiety swept over my soul as we approached College Drive. Wait! We were supposed to turn left here, not right. Did this cop know where the jail was? Turning right again, and back onto University Boulevard, we were headed right for the cafeteria. Needless to say we were, now, totally perplexed.

The sergeant let us out in the same place we had been put in the cars. About that time these four girls, and about one hundred acquaintances, came running out pointing fingers and laughing. Unlocking our handcuffs, the cop said, “There has been a mistake. You are not the criminals we were looking for.” And, “Oh, by the way, you have been pranked.” He walked over to the girls and got a huge hug from each. He turned and smiled at us, got back in the driver’s seat and drove away.

I guess you know by now who played the best prank and it surely was not us guys. After several weeks the girls let us in on their secret. Even as conniving and careful as we were that night they were watching our every move from the third floor window of their dorm. They saw every piece of paper we stuffed in the car. While watching they planned their revenge. The next morning one of them drove the car to the recycle company and collected a little pocket change.

Weeks before my arrest, these college age juveniles were pulled over by this Madison County cop for running a stop sign. As girls will be, they laughed and giggled and used their child-like charm to make friends with him. When they needed a prank, he came through for them. Boy, did he ever.

I have to smile. After all these years, this was the best joke ever played on me. I will never forget. I have to stop and thank God for the humor in my life.

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