“Murlyn, I’m Scared. Can You Turn On The Light?”

Bubba, Marilyn and Me

My sister Marilyn has been a strength and an inspiration to me for my entire life. Our mother died of advanced breast cancer when I was one and a half years old and because Marilyn was three years older, I depended on her for much of the love and nurture  one would normally get from their mother. She helped teach me to read and write, and often read stories to me at night when it was time for bed. We shared a bedroom in our early years, and because I knew she was older and braver, I would always call out to her if I awakened scared. As a small child I didn’t pronounce her name correctly, and it would come out as “Murlyn.” Later when Pop married our step-mother Athie whom we called Mom she would occasionally hear me call out in the middle of the night, “Murlyn, I’m scared. Can you turn on the light?” She never failed to turn the light on for me and to calm whatever fears I had and didn’t fuss at me for being scared.

Marilyn was also much wiser than I and had a calm reassuring demeanor toward me. I don’t remember her ever being stumped by any question I posed, or being emotionally rattled by a frightful situation. Our Bubba loved trying to scare us at night by turning off all the lights in our home by the main power switch which was in the stairwell to the basement. He would come up the stairs of our darkened two-story home, clomping his feet and talking in a low scary voice saying, “The wicked monster is going to get all the little children and swallow them up!” While we huddled together in our bedroom as quietly as possible I knew if I could hold onto Marilyn she would save me from this “wicked monster.” I don’t remember what caused the monster to give up, but thought it must have been something Marilyn had said or done.

She never scolded me nor spoke a harsh word to me, although I know there were many times I needed correction. She must have had to bite her tongue often! In thinking about that one quality she demonstrated toward me I believe I would have been terrified had she ever been harsh or unkind.

During our teenage years I was not as close to Marilyn for several reasons. She was not interested in sports like I was, and she was spending lots of time with her many friends, and also she was dating. I always checked out the guys she dated to make sure they were suitable for my big sister. When she decided to attend the University of Texas I couldn’t believe she would go to a school which was such a bitter rival of my beloved Arkansas Razorbacks. It turned out to be the absolute best decision for her, because it was there she met a handsome guy from Lubbock named George Berry. They dated for more than a year and were married in El Dorado on July 27, 1957. Although I liked George very much and was certain he was the right person for Marilyn when the wedding was over and I was alone, I remember crying pretty hard. For some reason I thought Marilyn was gone from my life, and I wouldn’t see her very much anymore.

George was blessed with a highly intelligent and sharp mind and earned a doctorate degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Texas. It was always fun for me to tell friends  my sister was married to “Dr. Berry” since that was the name which many people in El Dorado called Pop.

George began his career as a professor in the Department of Banking and Finance at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. After spending seven years there he made a transition into the business world as a financial consultant. Throughout his years in the consulting business George has been highly sought throughout the state of Texas because of his wisdom and skills in financial matters. As a result of his success they moved to Austin in 1978.

Marilyn and George have four sons who are now wonderful men with very successful careers. James, the eldest son is a Professor in the Department of Anesthesia at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and has achieved national prominence in his field. His wife, Elizabeth has her doctorate in Medical Ethics from Rice University and is also a Professor at UT Southwestern. She has authored textbooks in her field and now travels world-wide conducting seminars and teaching assignments. James and Liz have 2 daughters.

Their second son John lives in Houston with wife Pat and they have 2 sons. John graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Business Administration and has become very successful as a financial leasing broker. John and Pat’s strong Christian commitment has brought them through a recent trial of an extremely serious accidental injury to their oldest son, Brad. He is recovering, and the entire family is gaining greater strength as a result of their trials.

Robert their third son is an attorney in Austin and specializes in bankruptcy cases. He has a compassionate heart for people who find themselves in serious financial crises because of poor decisions, and he is making a difference for those who will follow his wise counsel. Robert has not yet married.

Their youngest son David is a physician practicing in Austin specializing in maternal-fetal medicine and was just presented the inaugural award for the most outstanding  physician in Austin. David has four daughters and he and his wife Lisa are strong Christians and role models for their family.

Marilyn and George are active members of Hyde Park Baptist Church, which has been their church since moving to Austin. Marilyn teaches a Sunday School class for senior adult ladies and has done so for over ten years. Prior to this she taught in the children’s ministry.

Cathy and I had the privilege of serving with Marilyn and George in the International Congress on Revival during the decade of 1995 to 2005. We travelled extensively in Europe and in Ireland as part of a ministry of encouragement to pastors and their wives. In our first year together in the ICR ministry, we went with the team to Israel and experienced God’s power released in each of our lives in new and fresh commitments to Him and to others. Since that shared experience in Israel, the close relationship between Marilyn, George, Cathy and me has grown even closer and stronger.

In His Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5, Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” –“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Marilyn has been letting her light shine since she was a four year old while turning on the light for her little brother, who was scared in the dark and afraid the light may never come back on for him. She has been letting her light shine for her husband, her children and grandchildren so they may become all God wants of them. She is shining the light of her life for the sake of a group of elderly ladies, so that in their latter years they may experience Jesus in a new and fresh way. She is indeed an inspiration to everyone her life touches, and will freely admit, it is because The Light of the world lives within her.

Dr. John

The Ministry of Foot Care

Foot washing

When I was a young and enthusiastic general surgeon in our hometown of El Dorado my medical colleagues gave me several responsibilities reserved for the newest and most eager surgeon on the staff. One of these involved assisting several aging surgeons with their operative cases. One surgeon in particular had been doing major operations for over fifty years, in spite of the fact he was a general practitioner and was not certified by the American Board of Surgery. His eyesight was failing, he was quite shaky with his surgical technique, and I considered him a danger to the patients who had trusted him for their surgical care for years. I resolved then I would voluntarily stop doing major surgery at a much younger age than this doctor and certainly before I became shaky and unstable. Consequently when I was in my late fifties in age I began considering a transition out of general surgery yet still maintain an active practice in a different area.

In 1997 a company responsible for establishing wound care clinics approached me about the opening such a clinic in El Dorado. In addition to providing medical treatment for the healing of chronic wounds the clinic would provide hyperbaric oxygen treatments to enhance the healing of certain types of wounds. I agreed to be the co-director of the clinic with one of my surgical colleagues, Dr. Moses Menendez. I spent about 10-15% of my practice time in wound care with the plan one day I would transition full-time into wound care and stop providing operative surgical care.

When Cathy and I returned to Arkansas from Florida in 2000 following an eight month adventure in opening a church-based medical clinic, we moved to Fayetteville to be near our daughter Ginny and her family. It was there I began a full-time wound care practice in the Washington Regional Wound Care Clinic. I was one of four medical directors of the clinic, and the only one who didn’t have a surgical practice. The nursing director and founder of the clinic was Diane Gallagher, and she was the most knowledgeable wound care nurse I have ever known. I learned a great deal of practical treatment information from her and appreciated her compassionate care of our patients.

One of the benefits I learned early concerning wound care was we saw our patients regularly and often. This gave me the opportunity to know each patient on a more personal level than my surgical patients. In addition to their physical problems patients would often open other problem areas of their lives, such as the emotional and occasionally the spiritual problems they had. This gave me the opportunity to witness the healing power of the Lord Jesus, and to pray with the majority of our patients.

I worked in the Washington Regional Wound Care Clinic for five years, and was offered the position as Director of Skaggs Wound Care Clinic in Branson, MO. For Cathy and me the attraction to Branson was our daughter Mary Kay, her husband Dave Janke and their daughters, Rebecca and Sara Beth lived there. We moved to Branson in November, 2005.

Since I was the sole director of the Skaggs Clinic I had much more freedom in the management of the clinic. Although it was not a requirement all of the nurses and personnel of the Skaggs Clinic were committed Christians, and we considered our work a ministry and not just medical employment. Prior to beginning my service I had asked and received permission from the hospital administrator, Bob Phillips to pray with those patients who desired prayer. The staff of the clinic began each day with a brief devotion and prayer for our patients and for each other. We asked God to make us the eyes, ears, and hands of Jesus to minister to our patients. As a result many doors of witness opportunity opened to us.

It was not unusual to observe patients praying to invite Jesus Christ into their life while being treated in our clinic. One such patient was referred with horrendous wounds of his feet as a result of diabetic complications. He was in great emotional distress with a fear of losing both his legs and his life. On his second clinic visit he opened his heart to the saving power of Christ and prayed for forgiveness of his sins. There was great rejoicing by him, his wife and our entire staff that day! We treated him twice weekly for over a year, and although he required partial amputation of his feet, his legs were spared amputation. During each visit we discussed with him how he might grow spiritually and regularly prayed with him and for him.

A physician in another town once asked me how I was able to adjust to the transition of having all the responsibilities of being an “important surgeon,” to just being assigned to “cutting toenails” in a wound clinic. I told him it was very easy because those toenails were attached to a very important person, and occasionally while cutting the toenails the person would allow me to witness to him. Most of my surgical patients were asleep under anesthesia while I was working on them.

When Jesus was in the Upper Room with His disciples on the night before His crucifixion, He offered an example of how they were to serve others. He washed their dirty, grimy feet and included the feet of Judas, the one who betrayed Him. He told them, “As I have done for you, so should you also do to others.” There is something very humbling to have someone sit at your feet and wash them.

My Bubba mentored me for twenty-five years concerning our medical practices and the spiritual skill of foot washing. It was God who gave us the desire and the skills to practice medicine to the best of our abilities, and He also commissioned us to be witnesses for Him within the scope of our practice. Whether a person needs his gall bladder removed or his feet washed and his toenails trimmed, he needs the saving and healing power of the Lord Jesus. I was honored for the past forty-eight years to be an agent for the administration of all of the above.

Dr. John

Cousin Annie and Southwestern Bell

Cousin Annie's Phone

Cousin Annie’s Phone

Isaac (Ike) Wilson was my Pop’s best friend, and I loved it when he would come to our home for a visit. Both men were master story-tellers and their repertoire seemed endless. They could remember the names of people with whom they had connections, and some of their stories dated as far back as twenty-five to thirty years.  Usually I wouldn’t say a word but would sit, listen and laugh. I think having an audience of just one spurred them on. Most of their stories I had heard often, but they could add some different twist and still make them funny.

We were related to the Wilson family through Ike’s mom, Annie. Her maiden name was Sheppard, and they could trace their ancestry back to the Three Creeks community in South Arkansas, where the Moore and Sheppard families were original settlers in the 1840’s. Annie’s mother and my great grandfather were siblings, so Annie was called Cousin Annie by our family. When Pop was in a playful mood, he would call Ike, “Cud’n Ike.”

Ike did not inherit his joking and outgoing personality from his mother. Cousin Annie was quiet, thoughtful and very serious. When she was told something she accepted it as fact, and was lovingly known by many as being gullible. She became the object of numerous pranks mostly from family members. Ike had learned early not to tease his mother too often, because it bruised her spirit, and he would get into trouble with her. Others in the family however, were not as thoughtful. Dr. Jack Sheppard, a distant cousin had the reputation as the number one practical joker in the family. He and his brother Dr. Julius were general practice physicians and both were well-liked and respected.

One morning when his patient schedule was slow he placed a telephone call to Cousin Annie and disguised his voice to give her some much-needed information concerning her telephone service. At the conclusion of the conversation, Cousin Annie thanked the caller and promised she would follow his timely advice. She had no idea she was talking to Dr. Jack.

Ike was at work that morning and was planning to have lunch with his mother. She had lived alone for years following the death of her husband, but had very good neighbors in addition to her only child, Ike who checked on her frequently. She never felt alone and was fortunate to have such excellent neighborly and family support.

Upon arrival Ike noticed something very strange on the table which held her only telephone. The receiver was off the hook; it was wrapped in a damp towel and lying next to the base of the phone. Ike said, “Mother, what in the world have you done to the phone? If anyone tried to call you they would only get a busy signal, and you would never know they called.” This was years before call-waiting and voice mail. Cousin Annie said, ” Oh, Ike don’t worry. I’m just following the advice of the President of Southwestern Bell who called this morning.” “Well Mother, just what was his name and what did he tell you?”  “He said his name was Mr. Smith and wanted to warn me about something about to occur today. He said the company was having a system clean-out, and would blow out all the lines so that the phones would work better. There was a good chance all the carbon and soot in the lines would blow into my home as a result. He recommended I take the phone off the hook and wrap it in a large damp towel. He was trying to save me a lot of unnecessary house work, so I thanked him for his concern and did exactly what he recommended.”

Ike didn’t tell his mother she had been pranked again. Instead he told her, “I think the clean-out is already over, so I’ll just remove the towel and put the phone back on the hook.” Ike immediately knew the perpetrator of the call. Only Dr. Jack could think of such an outlandish prank knowing Cousin Annie would fall for it. She was grateful for the advice she received that morning from “President Smith” and never noticed even a speck of dust or soot from the system clean-out.

Dr. John