Sunday, January 18, 2015
“There is no sin in failing or falling. Sin comes when you let those win and define your life. You have to keep on getting back up and going on.” — Keith McDow
I have failed and fallen so many in times in my own life that I cannot count them. I should have died or been in jail for life many times over, but I didn’t and my jail time was very brief almost fifty years ago, and it did not define me but changed me. I have never given much thought to stopping or quitting because things didn’t go my way. I have been fired from several jobs, almost always leading to something better. I have had multiple surgeries, several life threatening and to this day live with an implanted defibrillator in my chest (I’m on my third one). I’ve been bankrupt twice, sued several times, been beaten and had rocks thrown through the windows of my house for my work in civil rights in Los Angeles. One day, the man who owned the 200 bed mental facility I was managing in Los Angeles, asked me to go flying with him. He owned a twin-engined Cessna and loved to fly out to Catalina for the day. He signed my paychecks, and while he wasn’t my favorite person, I agreed to go. We flew out to the island, landed, had a few drinks and then flew back to the private airfield near Pomona where we were supposed to land. The problem was that this plane had tricycle landing gear and the wheel under the left wing wouldn’t come down. This meant that we had to fly around and around until the gas was pretty much gone and then belly land the plane in the grass between the runways. I was pretty cool about it, but my pilot was under a whole lot of stress. Now in this plane there was only one door and it was on my side of the plane, so I should have been the first one out. When the plane stopped sliding on the ground, my boss climbed over me to be the first one out of the plane. Any landing from which you can walk away is a good one, so I wasn’t mad. Never flew with him again, though. I was once partners with the corporate attorneys for Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and they stole over $30,000 from me and fired me from the company we had founded together. That worked out, too, as they were arrested by the FBI and had to serve thirty years for the fraud they were committing using the business I was helping them to run. Their stealing my money and firing me were what convinced the government that I wasn’t in on the scam. My heart stopped and I was declared dead on February 16, 1996, but was brought back to life by an off-duty nurse who refused to quit (hence the implanted defibrillator). I’ve been accused of sexual predation by a former parishioner, a charge that was dismissed by my ecclesial superiors as the lady was a bit crazy and had done this to several other former pastors. When I knew I was coming to Africa, I decided to test drive a BMW dirt bike and crashed it in a ditch somewhere near the Missouri border in the middle of nowhere. The bike was on top of me and my defibrillator was going off (not a good thing) but a guy in a pick-up stopped. Called 911, took off his shirt for a pillow for my head, got the bike off of me and told me he’d get it back to the dealer in Bentonville. Never did learn his name, but he not only returned the bike but paid for the damage. I have had seven surgeries here in Africa, some in bush hospitals with no anesthesia and two that saved my life. Suffered through six months of chemo therapy for tuberculosis of the skin. I have active skin cancer, prostate problems, am very overweight with bad feet, and diabetes. All of the above were just and are minor inconveniences that do not stop me from serving God and my family. Every day is a gift and every day I do what I can with what I have where I am to try to live a life that becomes the gospel, saves souls, saves lives, and brings a little light into the darkness of poverty, disease, and hopelessness that surrounds me. I think that’s enough.