The First Month

I can’t remember any time in my life that was as empty as that first month after Mary Charlotte’s death. From a life full of her care literally 24 hours a day (in responsibility at least) I went to a life with no responsibilities except caring for myself. Literally I had nothing to do many hours a day. There were a few continuing tasks, such as teaching my adult Sunday School class and doing the donation receipting for HAFF, but these occupied only a few hours per week. I got tired of doing puzzles, playing solitaire, and what little reading that interested me at the time. I never did like watching TV, but I did subscribe to a full channel offering by Time-Warner. Some of the programs I liked, such as the history channel, and the discovery channel, but even these had so many ads, including what was coming next which they showed over and over again, until I got sick of it and canceled my subscription.

Several ladies in the church have invited me to dinner on a number of occasions, particularly that first month. Their concern was an expression for God’s love to me and assured me that He had not abandoned me. Among these are Carolyn Faris (see left) and Diane Smith (see right, with her husband Dan).

Church Sponsored Trip to Haiti

For several months our church had been promoting a Work/Study team of adults and teenagers to visit our pet mission, HAFF (Haitien-American Friendship Foundation) — a secondary technical school in the little town of Bohoc, Haiti, about 40 miles south of Cape Haitien, in what is called the Plateau Area of Haiti. We had two missionary families from our church serving there, Barbara and Greg Van Schoyck with Zach and Gabi (see left) and Jim and Barbara Howard (see right) and several of our key leaders, including our present and former pastors, had been very much involved with the mission. We had sent many teams there in the past years. The trip was finally scheduled for April 17-25, and I signed up, with Bob Johns (one of our elders) and his daughter Jenny as the only other persons on the team.

Bohoc Technical Institute is very well equipped for its mission, as Haitien places go, but it has no running water or electricity, so life is somewhat rugged. We had our meals with the Van Schoyck family, and they fed us well. The fellowship was great. My only assignment was to conduct Bible studies for some Haitien men (some of them pastors). They chose Romans and Revelation — two of the toughest books to exegete. We had four sessions, each from 3 to 4 hours, with interpretation by Barb Van Schoyck. Although the men understood some English, Creole was their home language. Barb struggled manfully (womanfully?) to convert my technical English into her limited Creole. But they seemed to “eat it up” and I was glad to be able to contribute something worthwhile.

Visit with Mary Jo in Michigan

Even before going to Michigan for my annual visit with Mary Jo (see right), she persuaded me to accompany her and Margaret to attend the marriage of her lovely grand-daughter, Laura to Thomas Sloan on May 13th, (see left: left to right: Thomas, Laura, Carol, Chuck, and proud grandmother Mary Jo) the third of Carol and Chuck's children to start their own families. This was a lavish affair indeed, comparable with those of Laura's brothers Glen and Alan, which I had not attended.

I was able to use my free ticket to get to and from Detroit, where Mary Jo fetched and returned me to her summer home on Kelly Lake. During my 9-day visit, I went with her to Solon OH (near Cleveland) to visit our old friends Bob and Marilyn Baldwin (see right). Part of that visit involved a boat trip through Cleveland under about forty bridges.

We returned to Mary Jo’s home in time to welcome Will and Judy come from Midland the following day with Emily and Brynn, so that I got to spend all of a half day with my only granddaughter (see left), now nearly one year old. That was the highlight of the visit.

Trip to South Africa

Some time before May first, I had been invited to come to South Africa to help Laura Haas, a lady missionary to the Xhosa people in a huge squatter city called Khayelitsha. We settled on the entire month of October, with my principal duties to teach the Bible to several different groups in the purview of Laura’s work.

Before leaving for South Africa, I taught an adult Sunday School class in September, comparing the creation account from the first chapter of Genesis to the modern theories of creation. The class was a great success, and since there was little competition from other options, most adults attending Sunday School came to my class. When l got to South Africa, I had many opportunities to speak to groups on this subject, and it was just as well received as in my Sunday School class.

Most of my work was with a Black church (which grew out of Laura’s earlier missionary efforts) pastored by a Zulu man named Siegfried, who had learned the Xhosa language as well as English, and had graduated from the seminary run by the Church of England in South Africa (CESA), of which my long-time friend Frank Retief was presiding bishop. I simply took over the regular meetings of two young adult groups (see left) and two older groups (see right), including several pastors. I also spoke to a half dozen white audiences, including the seminary just mentioned, a new store-front church, a large high school class, and a university level YMCA group.

The first three days of my visit I was hosted by Cedric and Tyree Harris (see left), dear friends from our South Africa days. They had me share a birthday party with their daughter and son-in law. The second Sunday I was there Laura arranged a tea at the church, where I could meet my (and Mary Charlotte's) old friends again, and then made these photos of them.

In the first photo (see right), from left to right, Hilary Retief (who has helped us in many ways over the years), standing behind me Drina Binedell (who gave us her apartment for three months in 1980), Arthur Hughes (who visited me in Florida), and Albert Retief (Frank Retief’s cousin, who has been like a brother to me).

In the second photograph (see left) are Colin Holtman (St. James church treasurer for many years), me, Rosie Holtman, and Joyce and Ernest Elmes (Joyce was Mary Charlotte’s principal correspondent and still keeps me posted on South African doings).

The third photo (see right) shows Helen and John Higson, (John and Helen were also close friends from our earliest days in South Africa) separated by Tyree Harris and me, and Tanya and Ian Donaldson (another couple with whom we bonded).

In the fourth photo (see left) are Radie Goatham, Lorraine and Ken Keet, separated by Stella Hofmyer, a lady whose names I don't remember,and me.

I also had many invitations to dinner with many of these folk, with whom we had kept up through Christmas cards and our visits in ‘85, ‘89 and ‘95. It was good to see these old friends again. Laura took very good care of me, providing this comfortable little room (see right) and bath attached to her garage and fixing all my meals when I didn’t eat out. I had dreamed up a scenario wherein I would spend 4-6 months a year helping Laura with her work, but it turned out that a knowledge of the Xhosa language was a must. Even though the young people learn English in school, it is still necessary to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their heart language if they are to understand what it means. Thus my presentations were interesting to them as far as they could understand my English, but I don’t know how much of the spiritual content they got. So my dream bubble burst, and I must seek other pastures.

My friend Albert Retief (see left) had a sports news program on the first Christian radio station in South Africa, established by HCJB World Radio at a Baptist church in a southern suburb of Cape Town. Since the movie "Apollo 13" was then showing in South Africa, he interviewed me about the movie and my part in the mission.

The year wound up with perhaps the closest election contest for president in our history. Florida was the key state, where the vote was so evenly divided between George W. Bush (Republican) and Al Gore (Democrat) that the result hung in the balance for several weeks, finally being decided by a 4-to-3 vote of the Florida Supreme Court favoring the Democrats, and a 5-to-4 vote of the US Supreme Court favoring the Republicans. A Miami TV station made a private count several months later and declared that Bush had won by several hundred votes, but I don't know what criteria they used for the disputed ballots.

Introducing Some of Our Close Friends

You have already met many of our close friends, such as Charles Corwin (who started me in space-film evangelism), and Bishop Frank Retief (who taught me the full meaning of many important Scriptures). Pastor Samuel Reyes (not pictured) is the third of God’s servants who had the a profound effect on my life.

You have also met two of our closest friends, Cora Bowen and husband Lance (who died in 1996). We visited them every time we went to California. Now let me show you Eric Mullinax (with his wife Boo whom you have already met, and their children: Kyle, Heath, and Leigh) (see left) who was our pastor for several years and a friend for more than a decade. As already mentioned, without Boo’s help and advice, I don’t think I could have coped with Mary Charlotte’s illness and death.

Also among those we got to know in Homestead, you have already met our close friends the Kalmeys and the Polks. Meet Martin and Bonnie Price (see right). In many ways they are the most remarkable among our friends. Martin is executive director of ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization), the Christian technical support for Third World farmers and their missionary helpers in more than 140 countries. Bonnie is CEO of HAFF (Haitien-American Friendship Foundation) which I visited last April (2000). 1 do volunteer work for both.

Among the last families to show you is the Meier family: Gary, Kathy, and daughter Leisl (see left). The Meiers are missionaries with HCJB, and for several years have been conducting tours to Quito, including the one I went on. Two other dear friends who have meant a great deal to both Mary Charlotte and me are Peg and Jerry Smyth (see right). They participated in many of the same activities as we did in the church, and Jerry took me to or fetched me from the airport many times.

What Next?

Returning from South Africa, I picked up my Sunday School class and covered the rest of Genesis by the end of the year, comparing the Noahic "world-wide" flood account as recorded in Genesis with modern scientific theories. This brings this update to the end of the year 2000, but much has happened in these last six years that need to be recorded. Not only did I want to cover these six years, but I also wanted to include additional photos of relatives and friends, events such as weddings and local family reunions, and a few other things. I am including the epilogue I wrote ten years ago for the first edition, even though it is a bit lengthy, it still expresses my beliefs as well as I could write them today. And with that, I’ll say, “Bless you if you have read this far. May you experience the same lifetime of miraculous events as those with which the Lord has blessed me."

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