Thursday, December 8, 2011

She Set the Table for Me!

Auntie Anne and Uncle E.R.

I grew up poor; we had very little, but we didn’t know what we were missing. My dad was a single parent for a few years. An unfaithful wife left him alone with four kids under ten. We managed. We survived. We stayed close together through it all. Dad was the breadwinner and the bread-maker. There was no Friday night pizza tradition for us. It was the time to do laundry at the laundry mat in Grinnell.

Occasionally we made a trip south to Auntie Anne’s and Uncle E. R.’s house. They lived near St. James, Missouri, in what we thought was the most beautiful home we ever saw; it was one of those modern ranch homes complete with large windows overlooking a manicured lawn and flower garden. We had never been around anything so elegant.

We had no fancy silverware; ours was a hodge-podge of several sets. Our drinking glasses were the colored aluminum ones that set your teeth on edge when they touched the rim. Tableclothes and crystal were non-existent for us; we only heard about the rich having such luxuries.

But always, when we visited our dear auntie, she set her table for me. Crystal glasses were used which created rainbows and colorful prisms when placed on a sunny table. Plates were pulled from the china cupboard. Tablecloths and flowers covered the tables along with napkins, coffee cups, saucers, and soup bowls. The table was full of colors and smells.

I often think of this act of kindness and love and wonder how often I “set the table” for those around me who need to enjoy a crystal glass or two. Am I too self-absorbed in my own life to stop and consider the neighbor who is down on their luck and needing some care?

During the summer at camp, we try to set the table for many campers by offering them scholarships so they can attend. For the past several years, Hidden Acres has provided over $40,000 each summer in scholarships for families who need a touch of crystal and tablecloths in their lives.

We are grateful for our churches supporting us throughout the year with their regular gifts from the church budgets. In addition to our scholarships to campers, churches’ gifts allow us to keep our summer costs down. For every camper that attends Hidden Acres, it costs us $40 more than we receive from the registration fees. We had 2,012 campers last year, and lost $80,000+. Again we are grateful for the gifts from our churches which off set this loss.

You will be celebrating most of this month- too much food and too many presents to people who have everything they need. My challenge to you– set the table for someone or for a family around you that could use a touch of mercy and kindness.

Just last week I returned to Missouri to visit my dear auntie and uncle; it was their 70th anniversary celebration and I was asked to conduct the renewal of their vows. It was a thrill for me to be involved and to share the love and care they had shown me 50 years ago.

Kindness and generosity never go unnoticed; look around and set the table!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Long Bus Ride

On Friday night, I get to travel to LaCrosse, Wisconsin and speak at Bethany Evangelical Free Church; I will be speaking to a group of deer hunters and eating chili with them. I am especially interested in being there because this is Dave Martin's former church where he put together a rag-tag group of high school singers and travelled all over the United States winning every national Free Church choir contest. It was this wonderful group of young people whom Dave transformed from the radical 60's and 70's into a crowd of future preachers and missionaries that would serve all over the world in the years after. I am thrilled to return to Bethany and to hear one more Dave Martin story from a member.

The following story is a slice of Dave's life while serving at Bethany EFC.

“The choir was the gas that ran my engine” said Dave. “I loved everything about it: the kids, the travel, and the opportunity to lead young people in their faith. I never turned one kid away, and I never kicked one person out. I came close a few times.”

By 1979, Dave and the choir were known all throughout the Evangelical Free Churches in America. They received invitations to come and sing locally and as they traveled to national conferences.

The choir was loaded up on 3 green school buses in to attend national conference in San Diego. The 115 voice choir had grown and matured, and Carol and Dave had recruited as many chaperones and drivers as they could to help keep the kids corralled and in place on time. Rick and Jackie Perry were one of the couples who went with the group.

As usual, little Bethany church from La Crosse Wisconsin won the national choir contest. The Arlington Height’s leaders were heard saying, “Next year we will have our new youth choir director in place. Things will be different.” They weren’t.

After the conference, the choir was scheduled to spend a day at Knots Berry Farm, before the Sunday morning concert in the Hollywood Evangelical Free Church. Dave was awakened at 4 a.m. that Sunday morning by a phone call from the Annandale Free Church pastor. "Dave, there has been a gas explosion at Jackie’s parents house. Both of her parents were killed along with their baby daughter Jessica, but the small baby boy Jonathan, was blown out of the house while on a couch and is still alive and at the hospital.”

Things changed quickly. Hysteria ran wild amongst the girls; tears and more tears. The young men were stunned. Plans were changed. Flights were scheduled to get Rick and Jackie home quickly. Instead of staying in California with Carol and the girls to visit relatives, Dave would replace Rick as the bus driver to get back home. The service would go on at the Hollywood church, and the rest of the group would leave early Monday morning.

Even the three pigeons used in the magic show felt the emotions of the day. Throughout all the prior performances, the 3 young magicians and their pigeons had behaved beautifully; but not in Hollywood. The three boys pulled out the birds from their cage, and the birds exploded into the church auditorium. In their confusion and excitement, two birds flew directly into the back wall and fell lifelessly to the floor; there were feathers floating down into the back pews.

There was another evening performance and the plans developed that Dave would take one of the loaded buses and go as fast as he could in order to make it back home in time for the funeral. Dave drove straight through, without a relief driver. The 1700 mile trip was made without any sleep. “There were hundreds of miles that I don’t remember driving,” comments Dave.

Dave continues, “I limped into the Des Moines airport, and was met by a small plane that would take me up to Annandale. Another driver had arrived from La Crosse to finish out the bus ride. I arrived 2 hours before the funeral began. They sat me up on the platform.”

Dave fell asleep immediately. Later, Rick commented, “The deaths of Jackie’s parents and our daughter were devastating, but as we sat in church during the funeral, both my wife and I poked each other and smiled often as we looked up and saw Dave sound asleep throughout the entire service.”

Friday, February 25, 2011

Missed Opportunity

Many of us have encounters everyday that could/should lead to our sharing our faith or encouraging someone in need. I have written a story about my good friend and mentor, Dave Martin. Trust this might spur you on to be ready and available to reach out and touch someone's life today.

The Gideon’s were responsible for the Sunday afternoon service at the Crow Wing County Jail. They contacted Dave and asked if he would like to take one of the afternoon services. He would lead music and preach.

It was a different set up; Dave couldn’t see the inmates from where he was standing in the entry level room. Dave was told, “Just preach loud enough and they will hear you while locked in their cells.” That was easy for Dave. Away Dave went with the music and his sermon, and as he closed he spoke, “If any of you heard what I said, and you want to accept Jesus as your Savior, repeat the prayer after me.” Dave prayed the sinner’s prayer without knowing if anyone had heard, let alone responded to his challenge.

A letter arrived on Wednesday. In the letter one of the prisoners wrote, “I heard you on Sunday and I did what you told me to do; I asked Jesus to save me.” Dave went to visit him the next time there was visitation at the jail. The young man was named Evans and he had been put in jail for stealing something small from a local store. Every time Dave visited Evans, he was always receptive and seemed to have a hunger for his new found faith. Dave was excited to bring this young convert along in his faith.

The family had been down to Minneapolis singing on a Saturday; on their way home they drove past the prison on Highway 10. “On the other side of that wall is where my friend Evan is in jail.” Dave told the girls. “He is the one we have been praying for and the one that accepted Jesus. Isn’t God Good?”

When his family got back to Brainerd, they had supper at Ken and Jen Wagner’s house. The kids were tired after an enjoyable evening of fun and fellowship, but Ken said, “Why don’t you stay and watch the news Dave before you head home?” Dave loved the news, so he was more than willing to watch.

The first news reported was an alert: Prison break from the prison farm near St Cloud. Three prisoners are unaccounted for; one of the three was Dave’s friend, Evans. “My emotions were drained from me. Just seven hours earlier I had said, ‘I really don’t have the time to visit with my friend today’. I will come again another day.” remembers Dave.

Dave was crushed. The story soon came out that two of the older men were the ring leaders of this escape from the work farm; Evans was forced to come because he knew what they were planning. The two were captured within the day, but a day a two later Evan’s body was found floating in the Mississippi River. Nobody ever knew what had happened.

Dave had Evans funeral, but the family was distant and wanted nothing to do with the church or Dave’s religion. Dave recounts, “It took me years to get over Evan’s death. I could have visited him that day as we drove by on Highway 10. Perhaps something I could have said would have helped him during the escape.”

Dave let the memory of this event etch itself deep into his mind and heart; whenever there was an opportunity to minister to someone in need; regardless of how busy Dave was, he dropped his chores and took care of eternal business.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Renewing the Mind: Chuck Swindoll agrees with me!!

I knew someone else thought like me; I didn't know Chuck Swindoll would be the one. Every morning I receive via the internet, three different devotionals; Swindoll, Stanley and Sproul. Below is Swindoll's thoughts for the day.

Personally I don't like the "D" word; Diet which means depriving yourself of tasty things to eat. I do like the word diet which means, "the great foods that I get to eat". One says, "you can't eat this or that food... and while you are at it.... keep track of every calorie you consume"- the other says, "you can eat all these super foods and eat as much as you want- you can have a 'full' feeling all the time." It is easier to stay on track when you don't feel deprived!

That Dreaded "D" Word
by Charles R. Swindoll

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Okay, folks . . . it's that time again. I'm down to two suits, one sports coat, and only a couple of pants that I can squeeze into. No more excuses. I'm tired of good intentions, secret promises to myself, groans and grunts as I roll out of bed in the morning, and especially those well-meaning comments from first-time visitors at our church: "You look . . . uh . . . different than I expected." I suppose that's better than "You look . . . uh . . . fat."

Funny thing about being overweight . . . it's impossible to hide it. So the alternatives are (a) ignore it and lie to yourself by saying nobody notices, (b) make jokes about it, (c) try to solve the problem overnight—which is tempting but dumb, or (d) face the music and get underway with a long-range plan that works.

For me, it's an intelligent diet (ugh!) mixed with a program of regular exercise and a do-or-die mind-set that is determined to see it through, followed by a from-now-on game plan that is realistic, workable, and consistent.

Personally, I don't need a shrink to shrink. But what I do need is discipline with a big D. (It might also help me a lot to think of rewards other than a strawberry sundae.) You know what I'm getting at, don't you? If I intend to avoid great widths, I need to go to great lengths to make that happen. And if you are put together somewhat like I am, you do too.

So why am I telling you all this? It would be much easier and certainly less embarrassing for me to say nothing, eat little, exercise in obscurity, and start to shrink. I did that once before and it worked. Problem was, when I got down to my desired weight, a rumor spread that I had cancer. Cynthia even got a sympathy card or two. So . . . none of that.

I'm mentioning it because I need to be accountable and we need to be reminded of the importance of our physical appearance. While there is an overemphasis on this in the secular world, for some strange reason, we Christians tend to underestimate its importance. Yet our bodies are indeed the "temple of the Holy Spirit" and we are to "glorify God" in those bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

So, let's get serious about something we've ignored or excused or joked about long enough. As for me, I've got about forty pounds to go. How about you?

Have you looked in the mirror lately? Could the Spirit's temple stand a little attention to get it back where it ought to be?

Excerpted from Day by Day with Charles Swindoll, Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

Since January, 2010, I have changed the way I look at food; instead of filler, I see food as fuel. Thanks to my good friend, Josh Denhart, his advice about eating power foods has changed my life. At the end of 2009, I was a dead man walking around in a 250 pound body that had little zip left in it. I was under motivated, lacked much brain power, and I felt like I looked- fat and lethargic!

Spinach: Can't eat enough of this power food!!

When I changed my mind about food, I began to lose weight. I didn't exercise one single minute over the past 7 months- exercise... meaning walking, riding stationary bike, etc... activities that took you to no place. Throughout these last seven months, I have become more active- but it was productive work-lifting lumber, climbing ladders, walking to the shop to pick up a tool; losing 50 pounds from the stomach generates energy and drive that allows a once fat man to get out and start moving again.

I hope over the next few months to blog a bit about my "changing of my mind" diet. I have become a "food evangelists" who wants others to enjoy their lives again. Good eatin' my friends!

Written by:

Earl Taylor

Director of Design and Vision at Hidden Acres Christian Center, near Dayton, Iowa. Hidden Acres is owned by the Central District of the Evangelical Free Church, and is a summer camp and retreat facility with 660 acres of land and 850 beds to welcome guests.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hidden Acres Tractor Ride

Come Join Us or Tell Your Grandpa to Join Us

The Hidden Acres 1st Annual Tractor Ride will be held on August 23-25, 2010. This Tractor Ride will be a great event of fun, fellowship, food, and riding!

Each day there will be a route to that will take you and your tractor on a scenic tour of Central Iowa’s rural area. Accommodations will include lodge style lodging, meals, and use of the camp’s activity facilities.

We will have you park your tractors for display when you come back onto the camp grounds every day. There will be speakers each evening for you to listen to including Bill Northey, Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture! He will even be out on the route for one of the days! For registration information feel free to call our offices at 515-547-2751 or visit our website at Participants will receive one free T-shirt per registration.

For those who wish not to ride, but would like to attend the Tuesday evening meal and message by Bill Northey, please contact the camp for your reservations.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We Need to Pray

The Riverside Bandshell of La Crosse

There are many things that I have learned from Dave Martin's life as I heard him recount story after story of God's faithfulness in all situations. At every church or in every ministry opportunity that Dave and Carol were given, they gave it their all. Here is just another slice of his life as we remember so fondly his words of encouragement, his tenacity, his vision, and his can-do spirit that was evident in all things he did over his 60 years in ministry.

Sunday nights at the park

“Our little church in La Crosse, Bethany Evangelical Free, had 176 very uncomfortable theater seats. On a Sunday morning we would average around 50 or 60 people the first year I was there. I wasn’t happy or content with that number.” Dave set out to develop some growth.

It was acceptable to experiment a bit on Sunday nights; Sunday morning was off limits: Dave set out to make their Sunday evening better attended through some innovative programming.

The early 70’s was also the beginning of a revival that swept the entire nation: The Jesus Movement. It hit La Crosse also. The Christian Ladies Club began to swell, and it spilled over into Dave’s Sunday night service. With Carol on the piano, and Dave leading music, there was life in the church, and the women of La Crosse loved what they found at Bethany and brought their entire family. People were getting saved every Sunday night, “In spite of me, people were coming to know the Lord. I couldn’t keep up with all the new conversions and the counseling. Everything was moving very fast.” Dave recalls

“After a while, I knew I wanted to try to get our Sunday evening service broadcast live on radio. I contacted the local station KTY: they were willing to try this new format for three or four Sunday evenings. This was another one of the keys of the Sunday night growth; after a short period on the radio, the station manager knew he had a hit program.”

It wasn’t long before the Sunday night crowd of 40 grew until all 176 seats were taken.. Dave declared, “We need to move outside for Sunday nights.” The church board couldn’t argue with Dave; their little church was busting at the seams each and every Sunday night, so they let Dave go ahead with his plans.

Along the Mississippi, there was a park with a band stand and permanent wooden benches. Dave knew this would be a great place to set up his Sunday evening extravaganza. Dave had already had experience with live TV performances, and he knew the results of broadcasting from back at church; the radio station manager agreed to come to the park with his equipment and broadcast the summer evening service.

“The first week we had a good crowd, but as we continued to broadcast, more and more people would show up. Some would not leave their cars, but would park along the Mississippi River, and listen to the evening service on their car radios.” Dave caught on, and would announce live through the radio, “All of you folks listening across the river on the Minnesota side, blink your lights if you can hear us." They heard and they blinked. Dave told the audience, “Sing for the folks across the river… the louder the people sang, the more the cars blinked!”

It was a chore to get set up. Every Sunday afternoon, Dave would take one of his girls over to the church. Dave’s van would be backed up to the lower level and the Sunday school spinet piano would be wheeled out and hoisted into the van. Dave had a system where he needed just one girl, usually Ruth or Bethany to drive the van into place. Dave would lift one end onto the van, while the daughter would put pressure from the back. Dave would then lift the other end up and roll the piano forward. The opposite would happen at the park.

Before long, one of the head men of the church could see that this event was beginning to cost the church a few dollars to put on, so he began to complain. He took his complaint all the way to Superintendent Smith who had recommended Dave to the Bethany Church. “We don’t know what to do with this Dave Martin whom you sent to us. He is bankrupting the church with his $35 expenditure to have his evening services broadcast.”

The superintendent replied, “Arnold, you let him do this, and if necessary, I will pay the $35 myself.” This seemed to quiet the frugal, shortsighted elder.

The evening services swelled. There were over 600 people coming from miles around to this new type of old style tent-type of meeting. The Enthusiastics were regular singers; the Martin girls sang, Carol played the piano, Dave preached and did chalk drawings. Sunday mornings picked up too.

Over the years, the church exploded to over 600 people. By 1976, a new church was built to hold the enlarged crowds.

By 1978, the Sunday evening church in the park was a mainstay in the community. For 7 years, there had not been a rain storm that would cancel the event, until the last month Dave was in La Crosse.

“It was pouring buckets late that Sunday afternoon and early evening. The service was to begin at 7, and it was still raining at 6:30. People were calling and asking, “Is it cancelled?” Dave was adamant, “No, we will have it. We need to pray.”

“At 6.45 the sky parted, light came down, and we unloaded the piano from the van. The evening service was on, and the crowd showed up.”

Dave left La Crosse that year, and the service in the park fizzled. People still remember those great nights and talk about the blinking of the car lights across the river. God is so Good.... to WE!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hidden Acres Missions Trip to Mexico

We have talked about this for years; on Saturday, our vision of sending summer staff on a post-summer camp mission's trip became a reality. Nine counselors and Katie Northey our program director loaded up the van and headed south: they will be joining another former counselor, Sam Hanson, who with his wife and her family run an existing camp 7 hours into Mexico. Hidden Acres staff will come along side this camp and provide staff for 2 weeks of summer camp.

As we sent them off, we encouraged them to "make us proud" and to remember who they represent. We also reminded them that the success of this adventure will determine the future of Hidden Acre's mission's trips. We are already planning to partner with the Free Church in Congo to help them build a camp. It is our prayer that we would be able to send another group of counselors next July to Congo to help them run their camps.

For those who have taken a short term mission's trip; it is life changing experience and you understand the value. Pray for safety and for a fruitful ministry for these 10 young people. My prayer is that each of them will catch a vision of future ministry opportunities for their lives and that because of this trip, they would recieve the "call".