Dr. John Remembers

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The photograph was taken in 1963 when I was a senior in medical school. Dr. Berry Moore Sr., on the left was the operating surgeon and was being assisted by his two sons; Dr. Berry Moore Jr. on the right and me, the tall, skinny one in the middle. To the best of my knowledge, the patient survived!

I am currently the last of the 3 generations of Dr. Moore’s that practiced medicine in El Dorado, Arkansas. My grandfather, Dr. John Aaron Moore began his practice in 1898 and was joined by his son Dr. Berry Lee Moore Sr. in 1934. Dr. J.A. departed this life in 1943 and Dr. Berry Sr. continued in a solo practice until joined by his son, Dr. Berry Lee Moore Jr. in 1957. Their practice of Family Medicine continued until 1966 when Dr. Berry Sr. departed this life. I became a physician in 1964 and continued in training to become a general surgeon. Following 2 years on active duty in the US Air Force, my family and I returned to El Dorado in 1971 when I began private practice in general surgery. My first office was with my brother, but because I had a referral surgical practice, I moved my practice to join a surgical clinic in 1974, and my brother continued in a solo general medical practice. I practiced in El Dorado until 1999, when I stopped doing general surgery; transitioned to a wound care practice and moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas to practice wound care at Washington Regional Medical Center. My brother practiced until 2001, when he chose to retire and give home care to his wife LaNell who was diagnosed with a progressive dementia. On the date of his retirement, there had been a Dr. Moore practicing in El Dorado for a period of 103 years.

The purpose of this blog is to chronical the medical ministry of the Moore family to the people of South Arkansas for that 100 year period. I am recalling stories that my dad (Pop) told me of his years in training and his practice life, before my brother joined him, and the few years they practiced together. From the time I began practice in 1971, the stories I relate are first hand.

In all of these accounts I purpose to show the hand of God in my life and in my family’s life. I want to recount how my life and practice was changed in 1977, when both my wife Cathy and I were born again into the Kingdom. We became radically different, and I began witnessing for Christ through the profession of medicine and surgery into which God had called me. In this effort and through this media, may Jesus Christ be honored and praised!

Where Is Your Treasure?

Treasure Chest

Physicians in general seem to be a special targets for investment specialists, who rightly or wrongly believe doctors have lots of disposable income. The average doctor spends the first 3 decades of his life in training for his professional work, while often living on near poverty wages. Most of them don’t even consider learning any investment strategies. During the early years of post-medical training and then practice many doctors are using their above expenses income to reduce and pay off the indebtedness of those training years.

I discovered soon after beginning my practice in general surgery in El Dorado, Arkansas I was receiving 1 or more phone calls per day from people wanting to sell me something. It ranged anywhere from life insurance to disability insurance and from “great” stock options to an “investment that will make you a lot of money.” I even had one person wanting to sell me part interest in a cemetery. After listening to a few of these well-intentioned salesmen, I began to think I really could become rich! I was forced to have my receptionist screen and block all those types of calls. Fortunately for me at the time my income was just barely enough to pay our bills with enough left over to plan a modest vacation once a year with Cathy and our children.

Early in our marriage Cathy and I agreed to set aside a portion of our income as gifts for charitable organizations and purposed to increase that amount each year as our income increased. We vaguely knew something about the principle of Biblical tithing but didn’t know exactly where that imperative was located in the Bible, except it was somewhere in the Old Testament. As we listened to messages in church concerning giving and studied the Biblical text given, our understanding began to increase somewhat. The significant change occurred in us when we invited Christ into our lives and became Christians in 1977, which was 12 years after we were married.

Cathy and I became convinced and convicted the Bible teaches us all things we possess (including money) are gifts from God, and we are to be good stewards of those gifts in addition to becoming generous (hilarious) givers. There is disagreement among Biblical scholars exactly what is meant by a tithe which is commanded in the Old Testament. We once asked a strong Christian couple who were good friends what they understood about the Biblical mandate for tithing. Their answer was something like this; “We purpose to pay our bills monthly and whatever is left, we give away. We are trying very hard to reduce our monthly bills so we can give more.” Cathy and I didn’t ask them any further questions concerning giving!

From the day of our spiritual conversion we have purposed to become generous and cheerful givers. (II Cor. 9: 6,7). Cathy has had an easier time with this, because she is by nature a giver while I am more of a hoarder (stingy)! We are in complete agreement; however, it all belongs to God, and we must be faithful stewards. For a period of time following our conversion I was convinced the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6:19-21 were directed toward avoiding making retirement investments. Jesus said, “Lay not up treasures for yourselves upon earth where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” During that period of about 7-8 years we did just that. At Cathy’s urging and the counsel of several wise men we trusted, we did change direction regarding retirement funding and began a retirement savings account. It proved to be a very wise decision for us.

Late one afternoon while sitting at my desk completing the day’s necessary paperwork my phone rang, and I was speaking to a salesman from Little Rock. He somehow had gotten through our front desk screening, and he introduced himself and the company he represented. I patiently and politely listened as her told me about a wonderful bond opportunity his company was offering, and he anticipated it would produce unlimited earning potential. When he asked, “What do you think?”, I said we didn’t make investments in stocks or bonds. He continued by asking, “Do you mind my asking what you are doing with your disposable income?” I said I didn’t mind at all his asking and said, “We send it all to heaven.” There was a stunned silence as he tried to process what I had just said, and he responded, “How do you do that?” “Fairly simple. We give it to people who are going to heaven!”

He hardly knew how to respond when he said with somewhat of a chuckle, “That is very noble. My mother also gives to the church.” By his reply I was fairly certain he did not understand anything I had said to him, but I wanted him to grasp the most important reason for our belief. “We don’t give to try to be noble, but rather to be obedient to our God who made us and owns everything we have. We want to please him by being faithful stewards of His money.”

He said, “It was nice to speak with you Dr. Moore. I hope you have a great day.” My prayer for him as we hung up was he would fully process what I said and consider exactly where he kept his treasures. That is where he will find his heart.

Dr. John

 

 

 

 

 

“Do You Have A Brother Named Berry Lee Moore?”

Heart Cath. Lab

Heart Cath. Lab

This question has been asked of me on many occasions and under lots of different circumstances throughout my life. This past week I was asked about Berry Lee (Bubba) in an unusual setting, and the conversation that followed brought me a lot of peace and comfort.

For the past 6 weeks I have been adjusting to one of the health problems of advanced aging for the male members of the Moore family; heart abnormalities. My paternal grandfather, (Granddaddy Moore), my Dad (Pop) and my brother (Bubba) all had coronary artery disease of varying severity, and it ultimately caused the death of all three. Pop had other health issues which combined with his heart disease led to his seemingly premature death at age 63 years. Because both Bubba and I were keenly aware of our genetic weaknesses we became regular aerobic exercisers from our mid-thirties until late in our 70’s. Neither of us were smokers nor did we drink beverage alcohol in any form, in part because those two bad habits are huge risk factors for heart disease.

Recently I have experienced a marked decrease in exercise tolerance which has concerned both Cathy and me. I plead guilty for acting like many physicians in that I have not seen a doctor for my health in at least 7 years, so had no idea what was happening, although I suspected advancing coronary atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). At Cathy’s insistence and the pleading of our children I agreed to consult a cardiologist, Dr. David Churchill in Fayetteville. I had known him and about his excellent reputation when we lived there over 10 years ago.

At our first consultation I discovered I had developed atrial fibrillation (abnormal and uncontrolled heart rate) which was part of the overall problem and totally unsuspected by me. So much for my cardiac self-diagnosis! Dr. Churchill set into motion a series of invasive examinations over the next several weeks, and I was plunged deeply into the modern medical world where I was now the patient and not the provider. I decided early on I would be completely compliant to my doctor’s orders and not become a grumpy and demanding old doctor with heels dug in! Having the loving encouragement and complete devotion of Cathy at my side combined with the concerns and sweet prayers of our children, grandchildren, other family members and friends have made the journey so far a lot less uncomfortable.

This week I was scheduled for a TEE/DCC (Transesophageal echocardiogram/Direct current conversion) which in simple terms is shocking the heart back into normal rhythm. This was done at the Walker Heart Center, a highly sophisticated heart center in Fayetteville. Cathy and I had been there the previous week when I underwent a left heart catheter (diagnostic) procedure which went well, and this next procedure was to be therapeutic (treatment) and not diagnostic in nature.

The Walker Heart Center is quite large with as many as 20-30 patients having invasive and non-invasive procedures done daily. We arrived 2 hours early for the usual preparation procedures such as health history, acquiring vital signs, placing the intravenous line and drawing blood for the appropriate tests needed. At approximately the correct hour a nurse entered the room telling Cathy she should remain in the holding room because the planned procedure would only take 20-30 minutes, and I would be back in the room within the hour. At this she wheeled my gurney down the hall and up one floor on the elevator.

My gurney was placed in the hallway of the multiple procedure rooms awaiting my designated room, when the nurse announced “we have come up a little early, and there will be another 15 to 20 minute wait here in the hallway.” As I lay in that hallway feeling exposed and vulnerable numerous professional people passed back and forth without ever acknowledging my presence. It was near the lunch hour, and I assumed some were headed to the cafeteria. At one point, my cardiologist passed by, and I don’t think he recognized me because he simply say, “Hi”, and that was the full extent of his greeting. I had the overwhelming sense I was simply a specimen and not a person; more specifically a diseased heart needing a shock. I don’t believe it was a case of self-pity because I don’t think I was treated any worse (or better) than any of the other patients in the heart center. At this point I quoted to myself the wonderful verse from I Corinthians 6: 19,20 reminding me my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and I am not my own! I am to glorify God in my body which is His! My spirit began to immediately lift despite what was taking place around me.

I was then moved into Procedure Room #10 filled with gigantic and highly technical equipment of which I had no professional knowledge. The technicians in the room, although efficient and knowledgable were not particularly personable. An older technician, perhaps in his mid-40’s in age passed by the gurney holding my health record and disappeared into the control room without speaking.

In a minute or two the older tech. came walking over to me and said, “Do you have a brother named Berry Lee Moore?” My initial thought was he was too young to be a contemporary of Bubba, but he might have once been one of Bubba’s patients back in El Dorado. I said, “Yes sir, Berry Lee was my brother and we practiced medicine together for many years.” This man then said something totally unsuspected; “My grandmother was Dr. Berry Lee’s office nurse as long as he lived and I am Marty, her daughter’s son. You Moore’s are just like family to my family!” I was pleasantly stunned by his introduction. Mary Alice Cross was Bubba’s nurse for the entire 55 years he practiced general medicine, and now her grandson Marty was bringing me great comfort in the flood of memories of those years past. I shook his hand and thanked him on behalf of his family heritage, while on the inside I thanked God He just “happened to have Marty in the room” where I was feeling a bit lonely. I could hardly wait to get through this examination and cardiac conversion and back to the room to tell Cathy who God had waiting for me in Procedure Room #10! The accounts of my experiences as a new heart patient are ongoing.

Dr. John

 

 

Remembering Marsh White: God’s Gentle Giant

Christ Follower, Bible Teacher and Evangelist

Marsh White: Christ Follower, Bible Teacher and Evangelist

Cathy and I first met Marsh White in the early 1980’s at Kanakuk Kamp in Branson, Missouri. We had heard there was a former outstanding football player at the University of Arkansas working as a counselor at the summer camp our son John was attending. As we looked out across the athletic field that afternoon someone pointed to a large African-American with 3 or 4 young, skinny campers who were either clinging to him or being carried by him. We were told, “That’s Marsh White doing his thing!” We were introduced to this shy, gentle man who would have an impact on our family in the years to come.

After we got to know Marsh on a personal level in the ensuing years we learned he had been recruited by Coach Frank Broyles of the Arkansas Razorbacks to play football, and he was the 2nd African-American to play football for the school. Marsh was an outstanding high school football player in his hometown of Bonham, Texas. Marsh said he was living with his grandmother in Bonham, and coaches from TCU were also heavily recruiting him. Two of the black coaches at TCU told his grandmother, “A white coach from Arkansas is coming down here to steal your grandson and take him back to Arkansas.” According to Marsh when Coach Broyles arrived she was waiting on the porch, and when she saw the Arkansas license plate, she ran him off with a broom! Coach Broyles had never received such an ingracious reception. Obviously the coach returned and Marsh went on to have a distinguished career as a Razorback. Following college he was drafted into the NFL to play for several years for the New York Giants before retiring completely from football.

Marsh worked in the summers as counselor to young campers at Kanakuk Kamps in Branson, Missouri while attending Bible college in Dallas, Texas. His heart for ministry involved personal evangelism, Bible teaching and preaching, and the Dallas- Fort Worth area offered many opportunities in every area. His teaching ministry included Southwest Bible Baptist Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary.

In the late 1980’s I received a telephone call from Bill Burnett who was then a Christian counselor living with his family in Van Buren, Arkansas. He and Marsh had remained good friends since football days as Razorbacks at the University of Arkansas. Bill said Marsh was very sick with a kidney disorder in Parkland Hospital in Dallas, and with no medical insurance was in a bad place financially. Bill gave me Marsh’s telephone number and I connected with him to recommended he come to El Dorado where I could arrange hospital care and consultation with our excellent urologist, Dr. Robert (Mickey) Murfee. Marsh came immediately and was found to require a kidney operation which Dr. Murfee did while I assisted him. Marsh was such a large man the operation was physically difficult for us, but Dr. Murfee did an excellent job and Marsh began healing quickly.

He spent the next 2 weeks in our home with Cathy and our children providing loving post-op care, and all of us enjoying the sweet fellowship with him. It “just happened” our youth group at First Baptist Church had a mission trip planned to inner city Chicago, and when time for the trip arrived Marsh was strong enough and agreed to go as one of the chaperones. All who made the trip said they never felt any sense of danger or threatening looks from any of the people in south Chicago because of the imposing presence of gentle Marsh White.

Marsh made many personal mission trips overseas including ministry into Russia, Africa and England. He told me of episodes of smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain into Russia when such an offence usually resulted in imprisonment. On one occasion when standing in the custom’s line for inspection of his luggage in Moscow, Marsh had 2 huge suitcases full of Bibles. He related, “Here I am a large Black man with 2 monstrous suitcases surrounded by white Russians, and I couldn’t have been more conspicuous had I been waving an American flag! Just before I was to be checked, the customs agent who was to check me was called away and the man in the other line told me to “go on” without ever opening my suitcases. Only God could have done that!” Marsh said.

In the ensuing years Cathy and I would occasionally get ministry updates from Marsh and letters of encouragement for our ministry in El Dorado. Marsh moved around so much he was hard to track, but we always knew he was ministering Jesus in every place. We lost track of him for the past 8-10 years while living in Branson, and were not aware of his final illness until we received word he had departed this life. His obituary stated he died quietly on July 13, 2016 in the Baylor Scott White Hospital in Rowlett, Texas, having closed his eyes to this world and opening them to his God and personal Savior.

My remembrance of Marsh White will always be of the gentle giant we first saw carrying a bunch of kids at Kanakuk Kamp and later watching him as he engaged with people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. Whether he was carrying or leading, he was always pointing people to the Lord Jesus Christ, and when he finally saw Him on July 13, 2016 he heard Him say, “Well done my good, gentle and faithful servant. Now you may enter into your rest.”

Dr. John

Trapped on Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is an annual festival in New Orleans which attracts hundred of thousands of people for a week or more of parades, parties and merry-making. Although the basis for the celebration heralds the coming of Lent in anticipation of Easter, the festival has no resemblance of a spiritual event. In fact, just the opposite.

The four years Cathy and I lived in New Orleans while I was taking my surgical training at Charity Hospital, we were not believers in Jesus Christ, and our commitment to even regular church attendance was marginal. Our first year of life in the city we did attend some of the parades and even went down to Canal Street on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) to observe what a huge crowd looks like. We were generally turned off by the drunkenness of the revelers, and the overall rowdy behavior that was overlooked and tolerated by the New Orleans police officers.

The second year we decided to go to the French Quarters one night with our neighbors with whom we shared a duplex apartment on the West Bank in Gretna. Jerri and Bob Herold were a couple originally from St. Louis and about our same age. They did have 3 small children with whom we quickly bonded. We were newly weds and had no children. This particular night we wanted to go to Pat O’Briens, a very famous and popular piano bar. This entertainment venue featured group singing, Dixieland jazz music and, of course lots of liquid refreshment which was not too objectionable to Cathy and me in those days. We seldom ever went to such a place, but this was a special occasion with our neighbors.

The crowds on the back streets of the Quarters that night were not oppressive, but as we neared Pat O’Briens we noticed a large crowd had gathered outside the door and what appeared to be a gigantic crowd inside. A horse-mounted New Orleans’ policeman approached us; looked directly at me and said, “You folks look like nice people and my advice is for you to turn around and go home!” At the same time we watched as 2 mounted policemen rode their horses up into Pat O’Briens in an effort to break up the crowd inside which had become rowdy and dangerous.  As frightened people began spilling outside, the four of us made a hasty retreat and headed for home! That was our last visit ever to Pat O’Briens.

Cathy and I had still not learned our lesson concerning the French Quarters because the following year in 1967 when Cathy was pregnant with John Aaron, our first child we made another sojourn on Mardi Gras to experience the crowds. In looking back the only explanation for our getting on Bourbon Street was immaturity and stupidity on my part! As we began attempting to move forward, I quickly realized we were trapped in a massive crowd which had to move in unison or couldn’t move at all. There were people in the mob ahead of us who wanted to move toward us, and this stopped any movement whatsoever. It was at this moment I knew if one of us happened to stumble and fall, we would be trampled to death because it would have been virtually impossible to stand back up. I had never experience such anxiety and fear as at that moment.

Standing directly in front of us were 3 men whose faces we could not see, but we knew they were members of the notorious motorcycle gang Hell’s Angels. Their black leather jackets had the logo of the organization on the back. The one immediately in front of me was huge, weighing at least 275 pounds and had a shaved head  long before that style became popular. He was an intimidating man even from the rear. Fortunately I could raise my hand enough to tap him on the shoulder, and when he turned around he gave me the worst scowling face I had seen and said, “What do you want?!” In as polite a tone as I could muster I said, “Sir, will you please help us? My wife is 5 months pregnant with our first child, and we are very scared she might fall and be killed. Can you please get us out of this crowd?” It seemed like an eternity while he looked at the two of us, looked down at Cathy’s enlarged tummy, and finally said, “Stay right behind me.” He put both his fists on his chest and extended his elbows outward so as to appear like a giant bettering ram while shouting the words, “Get out of my way!” He repeated the words several more times. He was wide enough for Cathy and me to move directly behind him.

I don’t know how it was possible, but that enormous crowd parted just wide enough for the 3 of us to move forward for about 50 feet until we reached a side street, probably St. Peter’s Street which intersects Bourbon. There were lots of people on that street also but enough space so we could quickly exit to safety. We made our way back to Canal Street and safe walking, having never been able to thank our new Hell’s Angel friend.

The Bible speaks of angels being large, fierce creations with supernatural strength, and whose only purpose is doing the will of God which includes protecting His children. Cathy and I are firmly convinced we encountered one of “Heaven’s Angels” that afternoon in the French Quarters, and he saved our lives. I never again looked on that organization as an enemy of mine. Also Cathy and I learned our lesson well, and resolved to never go again to the French Quarters during Mardi Gras. In fact since becoming believers 10 years later, we have no desire at all to see the French Quarters at any time.

Dr. John

PS: Cathy and I believe God spared our lives by His mercy that day even when we did not know Him nor acknowledge Him as Savior. (Romans 5:8)

“These Teeth Never Have Fit Right”

Uppere Plate

I have always enjoyed the interpersonal relationships I had with many of the men for whom I provided medical care. My Dad (Pop) was a great story-teller, and I used to listen to his stories for hours at a time. I have recounted some of them on this blog. Growing up and later having a medical practice in a relatively rural area afforded me access to many men who enjoyed hearing and telling interesting life stories. I tried my best to not have any patients waiting in my office to see me while I was encouraging patients ahead of them to tell stories unrelated to their medical issues. Certainly not all of my story telling friends were patients, but friends I had met along the way who were not looking for a doctor. Because most of the hours of each day were spent either in the hospital or in my office, most of my accounts come from those settings.

I had done a surgical procedure on a gentleman who was retired from a supervisory job at the local oil refinery, and who was a well-known fisherman. He had spent many years fishing the local lakes and rivers during his leisure time while employed, and now in retirement he was able to fish 3 or 4 times a week. During the office visits he made in his surgical recovery period I had the opportunity to ask him about any previous or current “fish stories.” Probably the funniest fishing story I ever heard came during one of those post-op visits.

“James” had a regular fishing partner named “Roy” with whom he fished every Saturday morning for years. James owned the flat bottom aluminum boat with a 25 horse power motor in which the two of them fished. They would choose the lake or river to fish during the week, and by 8 AM on Saturday morning they would be at their favorite fishing spot for that particular body of water.

James said “ole Roy” had a habit when they arrived at their usual spot of taking out his upper false teeth plate and placing it on the metal seat between them. He said he did that to “rest his mouth.” He would then proceed to fish for an hour or so until there was a lull in activity. At that point he would say, “I guess it’s time to have a snack” and would reach around to get his upper plate; secure it in place and proceed to eat a candy bar, apple or whatever snack he had brought. James said he had watched Roy go through that routine “for years” when he decided one morning to pull a prank on him.

As they reached their designated spot Roy took out his plate as usual and placed it on the seat. When he turned back around to start fishing James took out his own upper plate, placed it on the seat and put Roy’s dentures in his shirt pocket. They fished for a couple of hours until Roy said, “Let’s have our snack. The fish don’t seem to be biting right now.” Roy took the plate which he did not recognize was not his own and placed it in his mouth. James said Roy rolled it around 2 or 3 times and even tried with his index finger to get the plate properly seated, all to no avail. Much to James’ chagrin he watched as Roy took the plate out saying, “My dentist never has gotten these teeth to fit right”, and sailed the plate out into the lake. James said as he saw his own dentures sink, he said to Roy, “I guess we go to the same dentist, because these teeth have never fit me right either”, while throwing the plate in his pocket into about the same area of the lake! They both had a good laugh about their sorry fitting teeth and were glad to finally do something about it.

James still chuckled about the expensive lesson he learned that morning and admitted it took him several years before he had the courage to tell Roy what he had done. He said it didn’t matter to Roy because he had already made up his mind to get rid of those teeth. James said, “I wish I had known that sooner, I would have even thrown them for him and saved myself a whole lot of money!”

Dr. John

 

The High Cost Of Peace and Contentment

 

 

Zimbabwe Farm- Before

Zimbabwe Farm- Before

Zimbabwe Farm- After

Zimbabwe Farm- After

Spiritual lessons are most often learned in the crucible of life and many if not most are painful and difficult. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church told them the contentment and joy he experienced while serving in the Roman prison from which he was writing, was learned by having a lot (of stuff) and then having nothing. In a culture which today measures success and happiness by the amount of stuff one has, Paul’s formula for contentment is most often rejected as foolish (Phil. 4: 11-13). In the time frame when Cathy and I were dealing with plans for retirement and thoughts related to how much money we might need, I met a most unusual person with a serious medical problem. I was about to learn a wonderful lesson on peace and contentment.

A lady who was in her 80’s was brought by her daughter to the Wound Care Clinic seeking advice and treatment for problems with her lower extremities. Both ladies were very polite in their demeanor and pleasant in their personalities. They spoke with considerable accents, but their English was excellent. My first question to most people whom I meet in Branson is; “Where did you come from?” Their answer was, “We moved from California.” I didn’t doubt their truthfulness but asked, “Are you originally from California?” knowing their accents were not Californian! “No, we lived most of our lives in Zimbabwe.” I had never met anyone in the states from Zimbabwe, but I had conversations with a few pastors from that south African country while on 2 separate mission trips to South Africa in 1999 and 2003.

My next questions to them was, “What caused you to move from Zimbabwe to California?” thinking perhaps they had children living there and wanted to be closer. What they told me shocked and deeply saddened me.

In the early 1980’s the nation of Zimbabwe was undergoing tremendous political upheaval. There was a revolution for control to take back farmland owned and controlled by whites for many years. The leader of the revolution was Robert Mugabe, a fierce guerrilla fighter. When his forces prevailed and he became president, he began a massive land reform by which the beautiful and productive farms owned by whites were nationalized and turned over to native Zimbabweans. In previous years the farms were so bountiful, the country was known as “the breadbasket of Africa.”

One fateful morning with no warning an armed militant group appeared at the door of their farm and also the door of their daughter and son-in-law’s adjacent farm. They demanded both families immediately evacuate their homes and farms by order of the new government of Zimbabwe, and each were presented some official looking papers which seemed to validate their demands. They were told they could take the clothes they were wearing and a few valuable possessions they could individually carry. The shock and horror of such news caused such immediate emotional reactions the son in law of my patient suffered a heart attack and died that same afternoon.

In recounting the events of that painful day I could tell it was still difficult for them to relive those experiences, so I stopped asking questions. Despite their great losses I did not discern lingering bitterness or hatred in either of them. They had both seen their lives rebuilt and re-directed through God’s power. Following their move to California my patient’s husband lived another 10 years and died when he was in his late 70’s from a chronic medical problem. The daughter had re-married a few years prior to her father’s death. Her husband was originally from the southwest Missouri area, and the family decided to move here to build a new life. They were both active in a strong local evangelical church and were sharing the love of Christ through the church’s ministries and in their personal walk.

Since the day I heard their story I have often wondered how I would handle similar circumstances. None of us are immune to sudden cataclysmic life changes upon receiving bad news, but no one really knows how they will respond. The unexpected appearance of a law enforcement officer at your front door at 3 AM to tell of the fatal car accident; the phone call from the doctor’s nurse telling you the doctor needs to see you immediately for your biopsy results; or the early morning appearance of armed government officials on your farm banging on your front door. While there is still calm weather with clear skies, I must be refreshed and reassured by God’s unchanging Word to know He alone is sovereign and nothing catches Him by surprise. He has promised that though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with me; His rod and staff will comfort me (Psalm 23). In the midst of any storm He has said; “I will give you beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness that you might be called a tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3)

That morning in my medical clinic I met 2 trees of righteousness who witnessed to me the reality of God’s promises to them, and in my hearing and observing God was greatly glorified.

Dr. John

PS: Tragically for the country of Zimbabwe, many of those lush farms which were nationalized during the 1980’s were poorly managed and maintained by inexperienced and ill-trained farmers. A large number are no longer productive and have been abandoned.

 

Watching “The Rumble in the Jungle”

 

Ali-Foreman

Muhammed Ali – George Foreman

With the recent death of Muhammed Ali there have been a tremendous number of articles written in the media along with televised comments from a wide range of people regarding their remembrances of this boxing champion. His reign in the boxing world occurred during an era when professional boxing was at its’ peak in popularity and before the rise of televised mixed martial arts fighting.

Although I never participated in boxing I have loved watching boxing matches dating back to the mid-1950’s when Pop and I frequently watched televised boxing together. It was a time I especially loved, because it was something we regularly did together, seldom missing one of the Pabst Blue Ribbon Fights on Wednesday night or the Gillette Friday Night Fights. This was before the introduction of color television, and we would either choose the “black trunks” or the “white trunks” as our favorite for any particular fight.

As far as I can remember Cassius Clay (aka Muhammed Ali) never had one of his bouts televised on a public television channel. As his popularity rose quickly when he became the heavyweight champion, one had to pay a high fee to watch his fights on closed circuit which were transmitted to theaters and large auditoriums and not through cable television. which had not been developed.

One particularly expensive and disappointing match for me was his first fight with Sonny Liston in February,1964 in which he won the heavyweight championship. I was a senior in medical school and had very little extra money available for expenses and certainly none set aside for boxing matches! Jim Weedman (also a senior med. student) and I paid $25 each to watch the match on a closed circuit screen at Robinson Auditorium hoping to watch Sonny Liston demolish the brash talking Clay. Clay scored a TKO on the seeming invincible Liston in the 7th round when Liston couldn’t answer the bell for that round. In today’s economy, that $25 is equivalent to $190!! Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammed Ali shortly after becoming heavyweight champion when he joined the Nation of Islam.

Fast forward to 1974 when Muhammed had lost his heavyweight crown because of his refusal to serve in the military. Now at the top of the heavyweight boxing world was the dominant fighter George Foreman. He was huge, menacing and mean with knockout power in both hands. Muhammed Ali appeared to be past his prime, but was proclaiming wherever anyone would listen he “was the greatest boxer who ever lived.” I was always hoping some fighter would knock out “The Louisville Lip” as he was often called.

Our family was on vacation in Fort Lauderdale in October of that year visiting Cathy’s family and enjoying the warm weather of South Florida. On the return trip home in our car we decided to stay overnight in Montgomery, Alabama, which was approximately half-way to El Dorado. We arrived in Montgomery about 5 PM and were getting settled into our motel room when I read in the local newspaper about the heavyweight championship fight between Foreman and Ali that night. It was being held in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Republic of the Congo). I noted in the advertisement the fight was entitled “The Rumble in the Jungle” and was being shown on closed circuit television in a downtown auditorium. I asked Cathy if she would mind if I took John Aaron, who was 7 years old at the time and go to the auditorium to watch the fight. She said, “You can take John and go, but don’t count on us girls to go with you. We’re staying here to rest and watch a movie on TV.”

The fight was scheduled for 7 PM Montgomery time, so John and I got directions from the motel to the auditorium and set out. We arrived about 45 minutes before fight time, and a large crowd was gathered outside. The crowd was mostly grown men aged 40 or more, and I estimated the racial mix was approximately 65% African-American. I was more than a little uneasy, because this was only 6-8 years past all the tremendous racial unrest in Alabama, and Montgomery seemed to be a city where lots of demonstrations and riots had occurred.

I stepped up to the counter to purchase a ticket and told the agent, “One adult and one child, please.” He said abruptly, “There ain’t no child tickets.” “You mean I have to pay $25 for a 7-year-old?” I asked. “If you want to take him inside you do.” I grudgingly shelled out $50 for our tickets, which were general admission, since there were no reserved seats. I found 2 seats as near the aisle as I could about half-way down front. I looked around at the guys close to us for a man who appeared might have some compassion for a Dad and young son, in case of any unexpected event. I believed I spotted at least 2 large men near-by who fit the profile, but I didn’t introduce ourselves.

The fight began on time and I don’t believe it was any louder ringside than it was in that Montgomery auditorium. Our crowd which numbered about 350 seemed to be split about half for Ali and half for Foreman, and continued loud and raucous cheering the entire fight. As all boxing enthusiasts know, Ali knocked out George Foreman in the 8th round because he used a defensive technique he called the rope-a-dope. It was designed to cause Foreman to wear himself down with multiple punches at Ali’s forearms and hands. In typical Ali bragging fashion he said after the fight he learned that technique from Stepin’ Fetchit an African-American movie actor of the previous 2 decades. He always seemed to have a funny poem or quote to punctuate each fight and this was one of his best. I still wanted to see him knocked out because of his anti-war sentiments.

John and I made it safely back to the motel about the time the girls finished their movie, but I believe we had a better time than they did. I just had to keep putting it out of my mind how much we had to pay for our “good time.” I definitely would do it over again, because John and I were watching it together sort of like Pop and me.

Dr. John

PS: What really saddens me about Muhammed Ali is his final destination. The Bible clearly teaches those who are not for the Lord Jesus are against Him, because the god of this world has blinded their eyes. All who have not received Him as Savior and Lord in this life will be condemned into eternal punishment forever. All the accolades of men will not change the result of one’s choice regarding Him.