Saturday, November 14, 2015

“You should be thankful for the journey of your life. You only make this journey once in your life time.” ― Lailah Gifty Akita

  On this day, I was born in Ft. Warren just outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Four years later on this day the Prince of Wales was born but we don’t exchange gifts.  I have lived in six states (Wyoming, Texas, Louisiana, California, Arkansas, and Massachusetts) and two countries on different continents.  I have attended fourteen schools, colleges and universities (three high schools in two different states) with degrees in Education, American Literature, Theology, Philosophy, and Ethics not to mention almost getting a Ph.D. in British Literature (all but the dissertation). I have flunked out of one college and been inducted into national honor societies in two others (go figure). I got married so young my mother had to swear officially it was all right (State of Texas law in 1965). I have been married over fifty years, have three grown sons, two daughters-in-law, and three grandchildren (proud of them all).  I have been in jail, suffered with alcohol and drug problems, fought for civil rights, worked with addicts and the mentally ill, twice declared bankruptcy, taught in elementary schools and universities, became a Christian in my forties, was ordained a minister in the United Methodist Church (much to the dismay of many of my colleagues), served as a pastor in seven churches, traveled to five continents and fifteen countries, and have known criminals, Nobel Prize winners, had lunch with the leader of the 300 million Orthodox Catholics in Istanbul, and shared moldy rice with an old blind man in his hut in the bush near the Serengeti National Park.  I have had more surgeries than I can count (missing two organs) and have two more scheduled (was declared dead at least once and given only a one in ten chance of living for two years in 1977).  I have swum across the Amazon river, climbed mountains in California, sailed an America’s Cup yacht off the coast of  the island of St. Martin, been on seven safaris in the Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks in Tanzania.  My wife and I have “sucked the marrow out of the bones of life” to quote from the film “Dead Poets Society.”  I have known horrible pain, incredible joy, love that I could never deserve, almost unbearable sorrow, and most importantly, the forgiveness of my sins through the death and resurrection of my Lord Jesus, Christ.  As I begin my seventy-first year, I am serving my eleventh year as a missionary in Bunda, Tanzania, and am a bishop in the Methodist Church in Tanzania (see picture at right and the one directly below).  My wife, son John, and I have labored for the Lord and through the incredible efforts of friends, supporters, and the pastors, lay pastors, and members of the church here have built a mission, Maisha Na Maji (living water), and have helped to change the face of Christianity in East Africa.  It is enough to have filled several lives, but all I see is today and what we need to do tomorrow.  I will continue to serve God, the poor, the orphans, and the children of Tanzania until God calls me to His home not made with human hands.  My health is not good, but that is not an issue as I stay faithful to my saying, “Here am I, send me.”  My spirits are high, I am surrounded by loving family, friends, and fellow Christians both here and back in the United States.  There is so much more, but I am not writing a book, simply noting some of the high and low points of my life, all of which have made me who I am today.  I do not look back with regret but forward with anticipation.  I pray that you do, too.
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