An Unexpected Friend, Carl Seestedt (1954-2009)

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Friends enter into our lives in different ways. Many of our friends we have had since childhood, high school or college. Other friends come into our lives through work, church or some other organizations. Other friendships “seem” to come about by accident. Carl Seestedt entered into my life in a very unexpected way.

One day in 2008, Carl received a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. I had known Carl only casually through playing tennis with him on rare occasions. However, when I heard about Carl’s diagnosis, I decided to visit him to show interest in him and to encourage him. He had a great desire to be assured of his salvation in Jesus Christ. I shared some verses with him and he received that assurance. At that time, I offered to do a weekly Bible study with him. He seemed quite pleased with this offer because he had a great desire to study God’s Word.

We spent every Tuesday studying the Gospel of John. Carl was quite enthusiastic to learn the Word of God. Because of his tumor, he would find it difficult to get his thoughts into words, but he made every effort to do so. He was almost always upbeat. He rarely talked about himself and his circumstances, but he continually talked of his love for his wife, Vicki and his two daughters Julie and Jana.

Every Tuesday after the Bible study, we would eat lunch together at Carl’s house. During our lunch we would talk about life and even death. Those were very special times of conversation for me. I soon could understand what made Carl a very special person.

After lunch, I would take him to his tennis lesson which he had with two of his close friends Jack Griffin and Doug Atkinson. During this time, Carl continued to play tennis. Yes, his skills started to deteriorate, but he was persistent. He still had a great time with these lessons as well as teasing his friends while playing. Yes, Carl had a way of living his life to the fullest even to the end.

As the months passed by Carl’s conditioned worsened. We would still get together for a Bible Study, but the tennis time had ended. As Carl was nearing his time to enter into God’s presence, he never lost his interest in the lives of others. His kind, friendly attitude never escaped me.

As I reflect upon my one year friendship with Carl, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to know Carl as a friend. His enthusiasm for life and people was a great inspiration to me. Carl taught people how to live their lives with enthusiasm and interest. Also, I am thankful that as Carl faced death, he taught people how to die because he knew that he would be with his greatest friend Jesus Christ.

 

 

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Remembering Mom: June Solomon Booth (1923-2003)

Mom and I shortly after my birth.

Mom and I shortly after my birth.

June 9, 1923 was a very special day for me. This was the day that Annie Solomon gave birth to the last of the many children that she and Charles brought into the world. They would call this last child June Leona Solomon. June spent the first eighteen years of her life in the small coal-mining town of Patton, Pennsylvania. However, there weren’t many opportunities in Patton; so June followed her married sister, Frances, to Detroit.

Mom as a young child in Patton, PA.  She is the one in the middle.

Mom as a young child in Patton, PA. She is the one in the middle.

The big city was a contrast to the small laid back life back in Patton. She often spoke about working in the Guardian Building and living on Grand Blvd. In time, June would meet Arthur Booth and in 1950 they would become husband and wife. I would be the last child born to my parents in August of 1955.

Dad and Mom before I came on the scene.

Dad and Mom before I came on the scene.

In life, we can choose whom we marry, we can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our mothers. I am very grateful for the mother that God gave to me. She wasn’t a perfect person, but she was the perfect mother for me.

My mother was able to stay home with the three of us because my Dad sacrificed by working two jobs. Mom took her role as mother quite seriously. She took care of all of our basic needs. She always fixed our meals without complaints. She packed my sack lunch with loving care  She took care of our clothes. I still remember her ironing in the dining room as she would spray water on the clothes before she would pass the iron over them.  She also took us to all the places that we needed to go.

Mom did much more than take care of our basic needs. She loved us. She showed her love in how she sacrificed her time for us. She made it a point to give each of us special attention. Often, we would gather around the table with Mom and play Scrabble, Password or Jeopardy. The highlight of my day was bedtime, because Mom would tuck me into my bed and then read a story to me. She started with stories from Uncle Remus or Dr. Seuss.  When I was older she would read biographies and historical novels. She taught me to have a love for reading and history.

My Mom also enjoyed being involved in different community organizations.  She was involved in the Midland Elementary School PTA. She also was a den mother for the Cub Scouts for a couple of years. I still remember her working on the craft projects that her pack would do that day. Mom also taught Sunday School for a couple of years at the Highland Park Congregational Church. I was proud to be in her Junior High class.

Holidays and birthdays were always special to Mom. She would decorate our house special on each holiday. She enjoyed hiding the Easter baskets for Easter. She also was right there cleaning out the pumpkin for Halloween. Thanksgiving dinner was always a special treat. To this day, I can still taste her stuffing that would come right out of the turkey.

As for birthdays, she always prepared a big party. One year when Batman was popular on TV, she gave me a Batman party with Batman hats, plates, and cups.  She always invited our rather large extended family to the party as well as my friends.  She made each birthday like one gigantic celebration.

Mom enjoying hosting one of my birthday parties.

Mom enjoying hosting one of my birthday parties.

Mom also had a real gift of hospitality. She always seemed to have some family member at our house. She always welcomed my friends into the house. I never heard her complain about the noise that we made while we were playing.  She never said, “I wish you and your friends would go somewhere else.”

Mom was not always comfortable driving. She didn’t mind Woodward Avenue or Oakland Avenue, but the Davison and the Lodge expressways were off-limits in her mind. One day, Mom made a wrong turn and somehow she was driving on the Davison Expressway entering the Lodge. I was standing in my usual position in the back seat (Remember no seat belts or car seats in those days). I felt the panic of Mom as she asked me what to do?  As a seven-year old, I sure didn’t have the answer. Somehow, we made it off the Lodge Expressway. I never again remember Mom driving on one of the expressways. If she did, I am glad that I wasn’t with her.

The greatest contribution that Mom made in my life was that she taught me about God.  She didn’t read the Bible to me, but she did take me to church and gave me a prayer to repeat when I went to bed. She always told me not to put anything on top of the Bible because it was God’s Word. Because of Mom’s influence, when I was in high school, I started to read my Bible in search of God and how I could be right with Him. By the time, I was a student in college, I had placed my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior.

After accepting Christ, I took Mom to Coltman Memorial Baptist Church which was a small Baptist church on Hamilton near Puritan. The people in the church really loved Mom and she loved them. She would soon accept the Lord as her Savior and she was also baptized.  Being younger than most of the people in the church, Mom would have a ministry of helps to many of the older women in the church. She would learn much from the Word of God as result of the good teaching she would receive.

Mom with the ladies of Coltman Memorial Baptist Church

Mom with the ladies of Coltman Memorial Baptist Church

When we left to minister in South Africa in 1983, Mom found it difficult to adjust. She would miss us, especially as her grandchildren would grow up in another land. Mom would send us cassette tapes of her thoughts and memories, as well as having Dad read a story to our children. This helped the children to relate to family back in the States. We would visit every couple of years. This would be a special time for our children to bond with their grandparents.

In 1996, we would return to the States. Mom was finding it difficult to get out, but she still found a certain joy when we would come and visit her. She loved our three children. With sadness, we would say goodbye to Mom in July of 2003. It has been ten years since I have been able to kiss Mom and say: “I love you.” I probably didn’t do this enough in this life.  However, I thank God that I could call June Booth, “Mom”.

Thoughts about My Teachers (Teacher Appreciation Week)

Please Note: This post was published in my “Growing Up in Highland Park, MI” blog.  I thought some of my subscribers would relate to what I wrote about teachers.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week.  I don’t know if we ever had a Teacher Appreciation Week when I went to school, but I do know that I never showed any real appreciation to my teachers. Why wasn’t I appreciative of the efforts of my many teachers?

Growing up and going to school, I basically lived in my own little world.  My focus was upon myself, sometimes family and a few friends. I never thought about the lives of the teachers that I had throughout my days in school. Teachers were like the furniture in the school. They were a necessary fixture. Yes, many were nice and a few not so nice.  However, I never really thought about them as people. I never thought about the fact that they had personal lives with heartaches, problems, sicknesses, and needs. I don’t think I ever said “thank you” or an encouraging word to any of my teachers.

Today I am typing this post because I had teachers that taught me how to read, and write.  Several teachers poured themselves into teaching me grammar and spelling. I had an eighth grade teacher that taught me how to type. My tenth grade speech teacher gave me my first lessons in public speaking.  Now, as a pastor, I preach the Word of God three times a week. There are many other things that I learned in school, that I use today. Yet, I rarely think about the teacher that taught me the very things that I know today.

I am sure that I am not alone in taking teachers for granted. Teachers are a group of people who are always giving out, but they don’t get much in return from those to whom they give so much. As a parent or a student, it would be great to give a word of encouragement to a teacher. You can be the source of refreshment to a teacher who may truly be thirsting for someone to care about them.P.S. I originally wrote parts of this post after hearing that one of my teachers had committed suicide several years ago.  It woke me up to the fact that my teachers had real needs, but I was too self-centered to think about them as people.
P.S. I originally wrote parts of this post after hearing that one of my teachers had committed suicide several years ago.  It woke me up to the fact that my teachers had real needs, but I was too self-centered to think about them as people.

Going Home-Maria Teresa Standridge’s Testimony

Maria Teresa Standridge-A woman who loves God and others.

Maria Teresa Standridge-A woman who loves God and others.

What does it feel like to hear from the doctor that you have only a few months to live?  Maria Teresa Standridge recently received this news from her doctors in Italy.  Maria Teresa has served the Lord with her husband, Bill, for nearly sixty years in Rome, Italy. Though she is eighty-eight years old, she is still serving the Lord. They have been an inspiration to me because of their faithful service unto the Lord even into their eighties.

I have been given permission to share Maria Teresa’s thoughts about her impending death.  Please take time to read this beautiful testimony of God’s peace in the midst of facing death.

I’M GOING HOME! BY MARIA TERESA STANDRIDGE (ROME, ITALY)

“Mr. Standridge, bring  your wife to the emergency room immediately for a blood transfusion. The levels in her blood are very low. We have already informed your doctor. ”

I had just finished blood tests in a medical center and things seemed really serious. I did not expect anything like this, even though, for a few weeks, I had been feeling pretty weak and with little energy. We went straight to the emergency room of a large hospital in Rome, close to home, and soon I was lying on a bed with a needle stuck in my arm and a nice bag of blood, which was followed by two more, transferring its liquid, drop by drop, into my veins.

Since then I have been on a rollercoaster of news and surprises, hospitalization, other blood tests, and also samples of bone marrow, that led to a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia, to which doctors have added the unpromising  adjective “terminal” .

So today, without any particular pain and, apparently, still in good health and with a good measure of strength, I find myself thinking in a very practical and realistic way, of my “going home with the Lord” when He wills. Perhaps very soon.

How have I reacted to a story like this?  Honestly, surprised and almost in disbelief.  But, even so, with HIS peace.

A few years ago, when I was invited to do Bible studies in a Conference for women, I said with a laugh that, given my age of more than 85, (soon I’m going to be 89), the organizers would do well to also get a “spare  tire” in case I had to decline the invitation. But honestly, given my health that I thought was disease-proof,  I said it jokingly as if I were actually immortal.

Today, the jokes are over and the reality is different. It is a reality of a certain sadness (I’d be lying if I said otherwise), but also very calm.

Sadness because leukemia is a reality that speaks of separation from Bill, the only love of my life, with whom I have spent more than 56 years, and have had the joy of serving the Lord, in a kind of spiritual and also intellectual symbiosis.   I shared a passion for the Word of God, the commitment of raising four children, and the responsibility of helping many to learn and grow in biblical faith.

Bill and Maria Teresa Standridge-Married and serving the Lord together for over 56 years!

Bill and Maria Teresa Standridge- Serving the Lord together for over 56 years in Italy!

I know that after my departure Bill will feel a bit as though he was “mutilated”, but I know that his love for the Lord, His Word, and the Italians, will support him and help him serve as long as he has the strength.

Of course I do not like, either, the idea of ​​leaving our four children, three daughters-in-law and also a son-in-law, who love me and twelve grandchildren (one married) and two great-grandchildren, each one more lovely than the other. But the moment of separation will come.

But my joy is that all have trusted the Lord as their Savior and are therefore in his hands.

But now, let’s talk about the reasons for my peace of mind.

I came to know Jesus as Savior and Lord when I was 20 years old. Since then, the grace of God has surrounded me and the unmerited favor of the Lord has wrapped and protected me.

I know I’m saved, and my faith is based on the promises of God’s Word.  One that comforts me in particular is the letter of the Apostle Paul to Titus: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7) What more than that could you want or hope for?

Then I had the honor to receive from the Lord a clear call to serve full-time, I went to Bible school, I had teachers of great value, I have experienced the extraordinary time of evangelistic fervor and spiritual growth in Italy after the end of World War II. I was a part of  the beginning of the new period of political freedom in Italy that gave us permission to start youth camps, summer schools, conferences and all kinds of activities that the Lord has blessed. I threw myself headlong into every new evangelistic project.

My university studies prepared me to have a ministry of writing and my heart led me to make available to the Lord every capacity that He had given me.

Over the years I learned to study and nourish myself in the Word of God, I understood the importance of furthering knowledge in His truth, and rooted my faith in obedience to what it says. Without a good supply of this type of knowledge, the Christian life can become very severe and be very flat.

I confess also that I have made many mistakes for which I had to ask forgiveness from the Lord, from my loved ones, brothers and sisters, and I realized that forgiveness is the key to the Christian life.  It is essential in both the human family and that of God.

He who does not forgive others has understood little of the love of God, but those who practice the confession of their sins to God and asking for the pardon of all they have offended, know that the blood of Christ purifies them and allows them to walk in the light (1 John 1:8-10).

After so many years of walking with the Lord, I realized that “in me, in my flesh, Maria Teresa, dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18), but whatever I did that is good is what he has done for me and in me (Isaiah 26:12).

During a conference in Isola del Gran Sasso, Daniel, one of our sons, in a meditation stressed the fact that after the resurrection, Jesus bore in his body the marks of his suffering and death for us. The disciples have seen his scars and know that, with his resurrected human body, Jesus ascended to heaven.

In the vision of Revelation,  John later saw Him as a “lamb, standing, which seemed to have been sacrificed” (5:6) and I, with myriads of believers (and hopefully with you) will behold for all eternity those signs of the price paid by Jesus for our salvation.   Those signs will inspire us to worship Him in perfection.

This wonderful thought humbles me, but also fills me with great gratitude.
With love, Maria Teresa  Rome, March 2013

Do you want to have the same my certainties?
Write to:Association of Evangelical Truth
Via Pozzuoli, 9 – 00182 Rome – Italy
http://www.istitutobiblicobereano.org | assverev@tin.it

Dr. Winston Wreggit (1908-1992) My Childhood Doctor

Dr. Winston Wreggit and his wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth's parents served as medical missionaries for several years in India.

Dr. Winston Wreggit and his wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s parents served as medical missionaries for several years in India.

There are many treasures that we receive from our parents after they leave us. One of the treasures that I received from my Dad is a 1925 Polar Bear Yearbook (Highland Park, Michigan). Looking at the pictures of life during my Dad’s time as an older teenager is quite interesting.

While looking at the Senior Class of 1925, I saw a familiar name, Winston Wreggit.  I looked at the photo. and I recognized that this is a photo of our family doctor for all the years that I lived in Highland Park (1955-1977)! My mind couldn’t help but go back to my many visits to Dr. Wreggit’s office at 79 Highland Avenue, which was located across from the Bell Telephone Company building.

Winston Wreggit's senior photo in the 1925 Polar Bear Yearbook
Winston Wreggit’s senior photo in the 1925 Polar Bear Yearbook

My Dad knew Dr. Wreggit from his high school years. For this reason, Dad felt a special connection to Dr. Wreggit. Dad knew that Dr. Wreggit would take good care of his family, and he had the utmost confidence in him.  Because of this confidence, I would never know another physician for the first twenty-seven years of my life.

A visit to Dr. Wreggit began with opening the door of what had been a first floor flat. Entering the door, we (Mom and I) would be greeted by Dr. Wreggit’s nurse, receptionist and office manager (all in one person!). The nurse would then direct us to the waiting room.  This room was rather spartan in its looks, but I liked sitting in one of the straw chairs.

A former patient (Kennedy Baughman) in front of what use to be Dr. Wreggit's office.
A former patient (Kennedy Baughman) in front of what use to be Dr. Wreggit’s office.

The highlight of the waiting room was the Highlights magazine. I would enjoy looking through the magazine, especially finding the hidden objects in the picture. Later on, when I was older, I probably picked up the Time magazine or some other magazine.  I don’t ever remember that we ever had a long wait.

After some time, our kind nurse would call us into one of the rooms that Dr. Wreggit used to see his patients.  One of the things that amazed me were all the file folders. There were file folders on the desk, as well on top of his cabinet. Everything seemed to be a bit cluttered, but I am sure there was some organization in it all.

While I looked around, Dr. Wreggit would enter the room and greet me with his deep bass voice. Then he would open up his file and perhaps say: “It is time for your tetanus booster” I don’t know why but it seemed like every time, I would see Dr. Wreggit, he would give me a shot.

Being merciful, Dr. Wreggit wouldn’t begin with the “shot”. He would first take my blood pressure. Then he would say: “Please take off your shirt.” With his stethoscope, he would begin to probe my chest.  Then he would probe my back. As he was probing, he would say the words that I can still hear in my head: “Take a deep breath, let it out.” Then he would say: “again” several times.  After this he would check down my throat and pronounce me healthy.

The next part was the hard part. I saw the needle in his hand. He would swab the target spot on my arm with something clear. It didn’t seem to help with what was coming. He would inject me and I tried to show courage and not cry. After the shot was given. he would reach up to the top of his cabinet and grab a box. As he opened the box, I could see that it was full of suckers. I grabbed one and off I would go, another satisfied patient.

There were a couple of occasions when I was sick that I didn’t go visit Dr. Wreggit. He would come and visit me. This just seemed natural in those days. Dr. Wreggit would come into our house with his black bag filled with all the instruments that he needed to sort out what needed to be done. He would go through the same basic routine that I experienced at his office. Those words: “Take a deep breath and let it out” were repeated. He would tell my parents what to do for me and then he would leave.

After leaving Highland Park, I never visited a doctor for many years. However, in 1983 Sharon (my wife) and I needed physicals to get a visa to move to South Africa.  I told Sharon about Dr. Wreggit. Dad still went to Dr. Wreggit; so it was only natural that we would go to him though he now had his practice in Southfield.

This would be the last time, I would ever see Dr. Wreggit. He was in his mid-seventies and though he looked older than I had remembered him, his voice was still strong.  He gave us our physicals. I heard for one last time those words: “Take a deep breath and let it out.”  As we left to pay, he told us that we owed him nothing.  For some strange reason this didn’t surprise me. My Dad had told me how generous Dr. Wreggit was with his services.  He charged my Dad seven dollars per visit until he quit his practice in the mid-eighties.

Like so many people in my life, I never really knew the real Dr. Wreggit. I saw him as a kind, and committed doctor, but I didn’t know the whole story until I was preparing to write this post.

What motivated him to practice medicine in order to help others?  Why would he treat many of his  patients for only what they could afford or for free?  In Dr. Wreggit’s childhood, he made two very important decisions that would rule his life. One decision he made was to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior as a result of the ministry of the well-known evangelist, Billy Sunday. He would continue to follow the Lord and serve Him for all his life. He was a faithful member of Highland Park Baptist Church.

A second decision was made at the age of ten years old. Dr. Wrigget was near death as a result of spinal meningitis. As he was lying on his hospital bed in old Grace Hospital, he made a promise to God that he would help other people as a doctor if he would get better.  God answered his prayer. Dr. Wreggit would practice medicine almost until the day he died.

Since my childhood, I have had a few other doctors, but none of them were like Dr. Wreggit.  Here was a man who cared about others.  Not only that, but he cared about a little boy growing up in Highland Park. This is the reason whyI have included him among those whom God used to influence my life.

P.S. Here are a few more photos of Dr. Wreggit.

Dr. Wreggit served in the US Army during World War 2. He was an army surgeon in New Guinea. He reached the rank of Lt. Colonel
Dr. Wreggit served in the US Army during World War 2. He was an army surgeon in New Guinea. He reached the rank of Lt. Colonel.                    

 

Dr. Wreggit and Elizabeth at their son's (George) wedding.  George followed in his Dad's footsteps as a doctor.
Dr. Wreggit and Elizabeth at their son’s (George) wedding. George followed in his Dad’s footsteps as a doctor.
Dr Wreggit at a reception in honor of forty years of service at Grace Hospital.
Dr Wreggit at a reception in honor of forty years of service at Grace Hospital.

 

Remembering Dad (Arthur T. Booth (1906-1993)

Dad and me (1957)

Dad and me (1957)

January 5th is a day that I never forget.  It is my Dad’s birthday.  Twenty years ago, I was leaving with my family to return to Portugal.  Dad and Mom were at the door of their house waving goodbye. Little did we know that this would be the last time, we would see Dad.  He would die later that year at eighty-seven years of age.

We don’t choose our Dad, but I am thankful for the Dad that God gave to me, because Dad was a very unique person.  His uniqueness was seen in many different ways.  Those who knew my Dad would say something to the effect: “There is only one Art Booth.”

Dad worked two jobs for most of his life and he didn’t really retire until he was eighty-four years old (three years before his death.)  He made sure that we as a family had everything we needed including a mother who could stay at home with the children.  Through all those years, I never heard Dad complain about working and taking care of us.

Dad may have been busy with work, but he had time to take me to all of my Little League Football games.  He also would take me to a nearby field and hit baseballs to me.   I can never forget the many times we went to see the Detroit Tigers play.  He especially liked to take us to the giveaway days, like Free Bat Day or Free Ball Day.

Dad also was never too busy to make us his “famous” pancakes on Sunday morning.  I still  remember the taste of his pancakes with Log Cabin syrup poured over them.  Dad also on occasion would make popcorn.  He didn’t believe in Jiffy Pop or a popcorn popper.  He made his popcorn in a saucepan. After finishing one batch, he would pour the contents on the kitchen table and we would fill our bowls.  This was a real treat.

Dad specialized in doing the little things that made others happy.  One year for Christmas, Dad looked all over Detroit for a football game that I wanted.  Later in life, when Sharon and I would come to the house, he always made sure there was Dr. Pepper in the fridge for Sharon.  Our daughter loved strawberries.  Dad made sure that there were fresh strawberries in the fridge.  He showed his love with deeds of kindness.

When I was studying in Seminary, Dad went to the trouble of buying me a 1970 Plymouth Fury III.  He drove it all the way down to Chattanooga, TN and then flew back to Detroit.   When the car was totaled (no fault of my own), he once again came down to Chattanooga with another big car.  This time it was a baby blue 1972 Chrysler Newport with a white vinyl top.  As you can tell, Dad loved big cars.

Our yearly family vacation with Dad was a great adventure.  Dad treated our vacations like “The Amazing Race.”  Dad would choose a destination and we would drive long distances each day to get to our destination.  After seeing what we came to see, Dad would say “It’s time to go.”  I think we might have spent two hours at the Grand Canyon.  For Dad, it wasn’t the destination, it was the driving to get there. Dad loved to drive.  Because of all those trips, Dad gave Wayne (my brother) and me a love for travel to this day.

Dad never was one to talk a lot about himself. He was a man of action who kept moving and kept busy.  If he wasn’t busy, he was napping or watching Big Time Wrestling.  I did learn a few things about him.  He ran track in high school, and he almost made the 1924 Olympic track team.  He managed an A&P for awhile.  He also knew and worked for Garwood of the racing boat fame. However, I never really knew my Dad.  I should have asked questions about his life, instead of living in my own world.  I missed out in learning some important family history as well as some local history of where I was raised in Highland Park, Michigan.

Dad never sat me down and had a deep conversation, but I did learn a lot of lessons by watching him. He taught me the importance of never getting into debt, as well as the need to work hard. I also learned generosity towards others.  He also taught me that if something needs to be fixed, duct tape is the answer.

Was my Dad a perfect dad? Of course not, but he loved his family. He provided everything
we needed. He also would go out of his way to meet many of our wants.  He also encouraged me to go out and fulfill my goals.  The Bible says: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139:14)  God’s plan for my life was to make Arthur Booth my father.  I thank God for the Dad that he gave me. Dad is greatly by all those who knew him.  He was one of kind!

Dad and Mom

Dad and Mom

Perry Mayton: A Faithful Pastor (My Father-in-Law)

Perry Mayton (1919-2003)

Perry Mayton (1919-2003)

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

(1 Corinthians 15:58) Every time I read this verse, I can’t help but think of my Father-in-Law, Perry Mayton.  He lived out this verse in his daily life before his family, and every person who knew him.

Perry Mayton was born January 3, 1919 in the small city of Harriman, Tennessee.  God was preparing Perry’s heart to serve Him through two tragic events in his childhood.  His dad died when he was six years old and his mom died when he was a teen.  These tragic events would help give Perry a compassionate heart as he ministered to people throughout his life.

Harriman was a city filled with gospel preaching churches.  As a result, Perry accepted the Lord as his Savior during his teenage years.  For a few years he didn’t grow in his faith, but God was preparing him for future ministry.  After leaving the army, Perry began working in one of the mills in Harriman.   During that time, he met his future bride Iva Olmstead.  In 1948, they married.  Soon after the wedding, Perry believed that the Lord had called him into the ministry.  He demonstrated this calling by his faithfulness in serving the Lord for over fifty years.

There are several things that stand out in Perry’s life and ministry.  One thing that always impressed me was his tireless service for the Lord.  During most of the years of his ministry, Perry also had to work a day job.  This meant that he would work all day and then take on the demands of a pastor during the evening and Sunday.  I never heard him complain because he found great joy and peace in serving the Lord.

I was also impressed with Perry’s knowledge of the Word of God.  He never had much formal Bible training, but he knew the Word of God.  He understood the doctrines of the Bible as well as any person who had formal training.  He loved to study His Bible.  His passion for God’s Word is expressed by the Psalmist in Psalm 119:16: “I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.”

Perry also had a compassionate heart towards others.  He showed concern for any person in need.  He had a special compassion for the lost.  A few times, I would go with Perry when he did his weekly radio broadcast.  His passion for the lost was clearly seen as he would plead for the lost to repent of their sin and turn to the Lord as their Savior.  He had the unique gift of having both the heart of an evangelist and a pastor.

The fourth thing that impressed me about Perry was his great spirit of humility before God and others.  I never heard him talk about any of his accomplishments.  He did God’s work and didn’t think about the praise of men.  He sought to please God alone.  This humility was obvious to any person who had Perry as their pastor.

The greatest impact that Perry had upon my life was through his daughter, Sharon. Perry did a great job of preparing his daughter for being a wife and mother.  Sharon understands to this day what it means to minister in a local church.  Her father also taught her how to love the Word of God and minister to people with a heart of compassion.

Our Wedding (June 22, 1979)

Our Wedding (June 22, 1979)

Perry was quite well-known in the Harriman area because he had been the pastor of several local churches.  I never heard anybody say a bad thing about “Brother Perry”.  He was beloved by the people in his churches and he loved them.  He would continue to minister via the radio and preaching in churches until his health kept him from doing what he always loved.

On September 1, 2003, Perry would enter into the presence of His Savior.  The funeral visitation was a great testimony to his over fifty years of ministry.  The line to greet Perry’s widow, Iva, went outside of the doors of the funeral home. Many people told us how God had used Perry in their lives.  The outpouring of love was a testimony to Perry’s faithfulness in his service to the Lord.

Yes, Perry is missed by his family, friends and many of those to whom he ministered; however, his testimony lives on in the lives of many people.  The words of Matthew 25:23 apply to the life of Perry Mayton.  “His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant;”  Perry has finished his labors here on earth, but his legacy lives on through his family and many others who were blessed by his ministry.

Aubrey Oberlin: In the Everlasting Arms

Aubrey Joy Oberlin

What can you learn from a six-week old baby?  I would have never thought about this question until I met Aubrey Joy Oberlin.   I met her for the first time a bit over two years ago. when I heard about her plight. She was born with a genetic disease called Junctional EB (Epidermolysis bullosa).  This disease was painful as it affected all parts of her body.   Her parents, family and friends did a great job of loving her and taking care of her for her six short weeks of life.  Aubrey’s life on this earth ended on November 17, 2010. However, she is far from being forgotten.

1. The first lesson that I learned from Aubrey is contentment. When I visited Aubrey, she always had her eyes opened.   I knew she had trouble breathing and she was in pain, but in all my visits I never detected a complaining or angry spirit. Her eyes were saying: “Could you please help me. I don’t feel well.”   Her eyes convicted me of how easily I complain when things don’t go my way.  Though she didn’t say it with words, her eyes showed me a form of contentment that I need to experience more often in my life.  “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

2. A second lesson that I learned from Aubrey is my need of dependence upon God.  “I just want to hold her one last time.  Aubrey loves to be held!”  As I heard these words from Aubrey’s grandma the day of Aubrey’s entrance into God presence, I couldn’t help but feel sorrow and compassion for a dear family who would never again be able to hold their beloved daughter in their arms.  It also brought to remembrance a verse in the Bible that has brought comfort to many people: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms:” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

Aubrey’s loved ones had a great desire to hold her in their arms and show their great love for her.   Likewise, Our Heavenly Father loves us and longs to keep us close unto Himself.   His arms are all-powerful arms, yet His arms are also tender.  His arms bring great comfort and protection through whatever trials and pains that we face. His arms will never tire in holding us.

Aubrey did love to be held in the arms of those who loved her.  She felt the love and comfort from those loving arms.  As I thought about this,  I realized that at times I haven’t longed to be held by Our Heavenly Father.  I choose to go my own way.   Yes, His arms are reaching out for me, yet I often resist those loving arms.   May I learn to rest assured in the arms of Our Loving Heavenly Father, even as Aubrey rested so comfortably in the arms of those who love her.

3. A third lesson that I learned from Aubrey is priority.  Being with Aubrey during her last day on earth was very difficult.  She would labor to breathe.   This went on throughout the day until finally later in the evening her heart stopped beating.  Aubrey showed me that truly I need to remember to place the things of God first in my life.  Life is brief.  Every day is a gift from God. Will I live each day for God’s purpose and His Glory?  If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

4. A fourth lesson that I learned from Aubrey is gratefulness for God’s salvation.   As I would speak to Aubrey’s loved ones, I was glad that I could share Bible verses about Christ’s love for the world and how he died on the cross for our sins. Aubrey never had an opportunity to believe (because of her age), but the Bible does make it clear that she is present with the Lord.  David expected to see his baby in heaven.   “Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?  But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12: 21-23)

Two years ago, we said goodbye to Aubrey.  She is now in God’s presence.  I can’t always understand the ways of God, but I am thankful that I had the opportunity to get to know Aubrey.  She was an excellent teacher while she was with us!

P.S. For further information on Epidermolysis bullosa please see: http://www.debra.org

Goodbye Mike Bartnikowski (Thank you for everything)

My visit with Mike in 2011

Today, I received sad news.  I learned that Mike Bartnikowski had passed away on Thursday.  He will be greatly missed.  While I was living in Highland Park, Mike was a great influence in my life during my teenage years.

The first time, I ever saw Mike was while I was a student at Ford Middle School from 1966-69.  Mike was a seventh grade teacher, and I would see him walking down the halls with his class.  I never had Mike as a teacher; so I really didn’t know him or even speak to him.  He did appear to enjoy teaching and seemed to have had a cheerful disposition.

I met Mike when he started to work at Ford Park in the summers.  I spent a lot of time at Ford Park even as a young teen because there wasn’t much else to do.  I would play shuffleboard with the old men, play some table games, and play a lot of tennis.  It was during these summers that I was able to develop a friendship with Mike.

Mike treated me as an adult though I was only a young teen.  He would listen to what was going on in my life and he would share things that were happening in his life.  I remember that he was quite excited when his daughter, Barb, was born.  I didn’t really appreciate Mike’s friendship and kindness until later in my life.

One of the things that Mike greatly enjoyed was playing war games (mostly board games).  Mike and I would spend time each summer playing some of these war games at the park.  Eventually Mike started a war gamers club that met at Hackett Field House every Saturday morning.  He loved the competition.  It was a great way for several of us to pass the time on a Saturday morning.

Mike also enjoyed playing practical jokes.  One evening at Ford Park, I was playing tennis when I heard this voice over the loudspeaker say: “Mark Booth, your mother is calling you!”  Many of those playing were laughing as I ran off the courts to see what was up.  Mike then comes up to me laughing because he had pulled off a brilliant prank.

After I graduated from Highland Park High School in 1973, I never did see Mike again until last year.  Like many people, we were able to get reconnected through Facebook.  I enjoyed spending a couple of hours with Mike and his wife, Barb.  He talked about Ford School, the teachers in the school, some of his students, and he also wanted to relive his prank that he played upon me forty years before.  I am glad that we had that chance to get acquainted again.

During my last visit, Mike was surprised that I was a pastor of a Baptist Church.  I shared how God had used him to greatly influence my life.   I reminded him how through his advice, I was able to convince my parents to transfer me back to Highland Park High School after a very miserable ninth grade at U of D High School.  This decision enabled me to eventually finish college early.  If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met my wife, Sharon.  I wouldn’t have gone to South Africa and Portugal.  My two sons wouldn’t be in Portugal now.  I could just go on and on.

During my high school years I didn’t know how God was working in my life.  I thank God for having an adult friend like Mike with whom I could talk.  I am thankful that God used Mike to change the direction of my life even when I wasn’t even a believer in Jesus Christ.  I am sure Mike didn’t know until my visit last year how important his role was in my life. Yes, Mike will be missed by many, but I will not forget Him.  God is still blessing me by having placed Mike in my life.

P.S. Here is an article about the Wargamers Club that Mike started: