The interest shown by most of the students I lectured at the Tyrannus Halls in India in 2001 gave me the idea of preparing a much more complete and formal series of illustrated lectures covering the essential areas of God’s creation — the origin and development of the universe, of the earth, and of life on earth.
I actually began the preparation for these talks in early 2002 and spent most of that
year in research and writing. I had already been given or bought a
number of books that treated these subjects, and I found three videos
that illustrated much of them — two from Moody Science Films
and the other a new release by Focus on the Family. Among the books I
purchased was a second-hand copy of the text for the freshman year of
college biology, covering all phases of the subject — organic
chemistry, molecules, cells, organs, plants, animals, the fossil
record, and environmental disciplines. The book was very well
illustrated, so I asked Will, now a dean at the University of
Arkansas, if he could get me a set of transparencies professors use
to present their subject. He could and did — 800 of them, not
for the older book I had but for a new edition to be published in the
fall of 2003. I had the dope on the very latest developments in the
very fast-growing subject of biology. From my physics and astronomy
books, particularly those of Christian astronomer Hugh Ross, I had
plenty of material on the origin and development of the universe and
of the earth.
I organized three two-hour lectures for the average person, and three tutorials that went into much more detail so that anyone who wanted to could do so. These tutorials were never used! Each two-hour period was alternated between 20-minute portions of a video and about the same amount of time for lecturing, using the transparencies (only a relatively few of them).
By the late summer of 2002 I had most of this preparation pretty far along, so I began to seek prospective audiences. It didn’t take long to discover that there was little interest in this country — most people thought they knew all they wanted to about these subjects, but I did get my Bible study group at Diane Smith’s home to be my test audience. They all assured me that they were intensely interested.
where do I go for others that might be interested? I thought of my previous successes in lecturing in South Africa, so I e-mailed several of my friends there, describing in some detail what I proposed and asked for their support in getting me invited to their churches. Enough of them responded favorably that I made the commitment to go to South Africa for 60 days — from mid-February to mid-April 2003, and purchased my air tickets.
Laura Haas wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as I expected her to be, and told me she had several
visitors during that period that would use her guest facility, and I
would have to find some other place to stay. This turned out quite
favorably as a very nice couple, Mark and Jeanne Westgate, (see photo
below at end of this topic) had an apartment on the back of their garage (see left)
which they rented, and would make it available to me after the first
of March. Between Laura and Cedric and Tyree Harris (see right), I
had a home for those first two weeks. I rented both a car and a
cell-phone for the whole time, which turned out to be a very wise
The first opportunity to put on
my show finally occurred about the middle of March at the Meadwridge
Baptist Church (see left), which was arranged for me by my OMF friend
John de Kock (see below at end of this topic). This went on for four weeks (see right), the last week
being for questions and review. These people (about 40) were the most
interested group I had, and they posed some very good questions.
Although I had visited St. James Church (see left) (where I was a member nearly five years) and talked to several
of their pastors, they had such a full schedule that they couldn't
give me one day a week. However, quite unexpectedly, I was invited to
take three nights in a row in the week following Easter, since the
church activities shut down that week to accommodate the spring
vacation at school, when many people went on holiday. Nevertheless, I
had good attendance all three nights — the largest group I had
— and they seemed to enjoy it as they kept coming back.
Although I had a somewhat disappointing number of opportunities to show my seminar, nevertheless I am glad I did it, as I shall almost certainly never get a chance to return to South Africa. Next to the last night there I had a party for my friends (above left) Albert and Hilary Refief, (left to right)Mark and Jeanne Westgate, John and Naomi de Kock, and John and Helen Higson. Laura gave me the final send-off. I don't expect to see any of these dear folk again in this life. It was a fun trip, and I believe the Lord got lots of glory!
The previous autumn Martin Price had urged me to join ASA (American Scientific Affiliation), which I did. ASA was having its annual convention in Denver in late July 2003, with an emphasis on astronomy. I decided to attend the convention, and got the idea of driving to and fro, visiting Will and Judy in Little Rock AR, Mary and Paul while in Denver, Mark and Cristina in Chicago, and Mary Jo in her southern Michigan summer home. From there I drove north to Midland to see Emily and her family. It was then that Emily confided to me of the break up of her marriage to Mike Rohde, which resulted in a divorce that fall. This turned out to be a 5,400-mile trip, with me driving alone all the way.
We had buried Mary Charlotte’s ashes in the spring of 2000, but I had not visited the grave site since. So this was included, (see left, with Mary's mother's grave to the right) along with a visit to old friends Bob and Mary Ann Muhlig in Birmingham on the way. It also gave me a visit with Tina and Thomas Montgomery. Thomas had had a stroke but seemed to be recovering, but like Mary Charlotte eventually succumbed (in 2004).
The visit with Judy and Will (see right) was pleasant enough, but I don’t
remember the details. I stayed only a few days. While driving from
there to Denver, I fulfilled a long-standing desire to visit the
Focus on the Family facility in Colorado Springs. The ASA convention
was great and I attended all sessions that had to do with astronomy.
I was amazed at how much had been discovered concerning this vast
universe of ours, which I already knew was more than ten billion
light-years in diameter.
I had a very nice visit all one
afternoon with my daughter Mary (see left), and with her and
husband Paul Aguilar (see right) for breakfast the next
morning. Mary and I also had lunch with Paul's daughter Alicia, who
was still living at home.
That afternoon I drove to Rapid City SD to see the Mount Rushmore four presidents. I also saw the much larger but unfinished Crazy Horse monument that I didn't even know existed.
My next stop was a very pleasant visit at the home of Mark and Cristina (fondly called "George") (see left), after quite a time finding it. It was good to get caught up on their lives — they have both been employed ever since they married, and are now at last looking forward to children, of whom the first, Agatha Rizen Mitchell, was born in August 2004.
I took off the next day for Mary
Jo's (see right) summer place on Kelly Lake, 50 miles west of
Ann Arbor. Mary Charlotte and I had visited her almost every year for
ages and I continued the practice now alone. Mary Jo had had a colon
cancer operation in January 2001. The first anniversary physical
seemed okay, but the one in January 2003 showed spots on her lungs
and liver. So she had been on chemotherapy all the first half of the
year, but without much benefit.
Realizing she didn't have much more time to live, Chuck had organized a local Balch family reunion (see left) for the time of her birthday (and my visit):(left to right, rear Valerie, Alan, Glen, Alison; (front) Mark, Carol, Mary Jo, Charles, Laura. It was great to see so many of them again, including Laura and her fiance Thomas Sloan (not shown), whom she married the following year. (I attended the wedding.)
I made the trip home in two days, stopping overnight with my friends Boo and Eric Mullinax (see right) in Chattanooga. Boo had been invaluable to me in caring for Mary Charlotte after her stroke, and Eric had been my former pastor — great people, both of them! 5400 miles in a little over four weeks — quiite a trip for an 89er!
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