Preaching and Singing At The Mission

Gary Hegi, John 1983

Gary Hegi, John
1983

I have posted my remembrance of the founding of The Good Samaritan Mission in El Dorado in 1975. Brother W. O. Miller along with the financial assistance of 5 committed Christian men established the ministry in an economically depressed area of town, and he faithfully preached the Word of God to those who came. His motto which was printed on a sign displayed inside the Mission was, “Wanted, the Unwanted.” Brother Miller was a wonderful encourager and made it known to the men involved with the start of the mission he wanted them to have the freedom to preach at the mission anytime they felt led. I was reluctant to ask if I could preach because those men were such spiritual giants in my eyes and able to deliver a much more powerful message. I never volunteered but always waited for Brother Miller to call and invite me. He would occasionally call and ask when I would be ready to preach again, and I would usually say that I could be ready within the month. I had to coordinate the date for a weekend I was not on surgical call for our clinic. After I had preached a time or two, I told Brother Miller that I had a friend, Gary Hegi who could occasionally join me in singing some special songs and help lead the worship music, and Brother Miller said it would be a blessing to have Brother Hegi join us.

Just a word about my preaching ability. I am confident God did not call me into a preaching ministry, but I had the heart and desire to faithfully teach the Word of God. At the time I was co-teaching with Robert Wike, a Sunday school class of young couples at First Baptist Church. This was wonderful training experience for me as I spent many hours each week studying the Word in preparation for teaching. I was also receiving invitations from local area churches to give my testimony and to preach in some for special occasions such as Baptist Men’s Day and Laymen’s Emphasis Week. I have saved many of my sermon notes from those early years and in reading some of those notes, I am now amazed that anyone stayed awake listening to what I had to say. Perhaps they wanted to find out if I was able to finish what I started. I do take comfort in the conviction God’s Word does not return void, but will accomplish that to which He sent it! What also amazes me is most of the small churches gave me a small honorarium for my efforts! Although I am still not accomplished at preaching Cathy assures me I have improved, praise the Lord!

I don’t remember specifically how many times Gary and I sang special songs together at the Mission, but it was at least 3 or 4 times. The first time Gary came to the Mission and I introduced him to Brother Miller, he was given his nickname which has stuck with me ever since. I said, “This is Gary Hegi,” to which Brother Miller said, “You mean like the prophet (Haggai)?” I said, “Just like the Prophet!” After that initial meeting, whenever Gary was joining me to sing, I would tell Brother Miller that The Prophet was coming also. Brother Miller never failed to say, “I can’t wait!”

Our repertoire included such songs as, “I’ll Fly Away,” “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder, “Amazing Grace,” “Fill My Cup Lord,” and “Are You Washed in the Blood?” among others. I played the guitar and sometimes also the harmonica, and Gary joined also on the guitar when I played the 5-stringed banjo. Gary had sung with several groups in the past and had a much better singing voice and had more songs committed to memory.

One of our more memorable experiences of singing for the folks at the Mission involved the piano accompanist. There was an elderly gentleman whose name I can’t remember who volunteered to play the piano for congregational singing whenever his health would permit. I had heard him on a prior occasion, and one could easily tell he played by ear and couldn’t read music. He was in his late 70’s in age, tall and slender in appearance and had lost most of his hair except the gray hair in the back and his sideburns. He wore a hairpiece that was brownish in color and didn’t match the color of his sideburns. He was neatly dressed with shirt and tie, and when he was vigorously playing and patting his feet, his long white socks were visible. His playing was similar to my preaching in what he lacked in talent and ability, he made up for in desire and enthusiasm.

On this particular Sunday when Gary and I got to the Mission just before the service was to begin this gentleman said he would like to accompany us on our singing. I didn’t have the heart to tell him we would rather not, so I told him the number we were playing was “The Old Rugged Cross” in the key of G. As I began playing the guitar introduction and Gary and I began singing in harmony the first verse of this beautiful song I knew we were in serious trouble. Our accompanist was slowly playing with the proper rhythm, but not in the same key. As we struggled through the verse at the pause before the second verse I whispered to him we were in the key of G. The second verse was a repeat of his playing in a different key from us, but to our credit, we again made it through the verse and I nodded to Gary to close the song. Our friend looked like he was proud of himself to have joined us, and we thanked him for it. We did tell him the second number we had practiced a certain way and would prefer not to have a piano accompaniment. It didn’t seem to offend him. Our singing that morning was something like I have never experienced. Two instruments playing the same song in two different keys, and two hoot owls screeching to sing harmony in some unknown key. I don’t remember what my sermon was that morning, but I imagine it was just about the same quality.

As we were preparing to leave the Mission at the close of the service Brother Miller in his typical fashion said, “Dr. Moore, you and the Prophet did a mighty fine job this morning and sure blessed all of us. We want you to come back any time you can!” What a Mission and what a man! We did return again and both the singing and the preaching were slowly improving!

Dr. John

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A Mistaken Identity

Dad Young 1970's

Dad Young
1970’s

When Cathy and I first met and began dating, we were living in Atlanta where she had her first job as a 5th grade teacher at John Clancy Elementary School. I was an intern at Grady Memorial Hospital, and we were introduced by the wife of a friend and fellow intern, Dan Moore. Marsha and Cathy were both teachers at that school. For several months I resisted a blind date despite the fact that Marsha had told me how beautiful her new friend Cathy Young was and what marvelous character she possessed. I had known Dan and Marsha for several years prior to moving to Atlanta, and it seemed she was always trying to “fix me up” with a potential wife. She told me that Cathy was “different from the others” that she had in mind for me. When I finally agreed and the date was set, we went on a double date so the initial meeting wouldn’t be so awkward. When I met her at the door of her apartment, I was stunned by her beauty, and my first thought after seeing her was, why had I resisted meeting her for so long? For me it was love at first sight. Cathy was from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and I had never met anyone from that city. Our courtship began in September 1964 and within several months, we both began to believe that God meant for us to join our lives in marriage.

I met her Mom in Atlanta within the first few months because she was attending a national school board meeting there, and I believe her initial impression of me was a good one. It was the following year during Spring Break that I scheduled a trip to Fort Lauderdale to meet her Dad and the remainder of her family. It was then that I was planning to ask him for permission to marry her. Cathy had told me many things about her Dad, George Young. He was a building contractor and owned the oldest contracting business of that type in Fort Lauderdale. His father had started the company in 1912, and together they had built some of the most impressive and beautiful businesses and homes in Broward County. From all she had told me, I felt I had a good grasp on his character and his personality long before our initial meeting. She said there were some physical similarities between her Dad and me, but that our personalities were different. In his type of business, he was accustomed to hard physical labor in the Florida sun. In my profession, my work is always indoors and required no manual labor at all. Despite the fact he had crews of men working for him, he was quiet and introverted, and I am definitely not introverted. He was tall, slender and balding and these were the few similarities we had, but otherwise I didn’t think we looked alike.

Dad Young was so quiet when I was with him early in our marriage, I was sure he didn’t think very much of me. I  thought I could have a sustained conversation with anyone that I spent more than a minute or two with, but not so with him. He was polite to answer any specific questions I had, but we didn’t have many common interests at that point. I knew absolutely nothing about the construction business, nor did I even know the names of many of the tools he commonly used. I was also certain he didn’t know anything about the surgical tools that I used each day. I discovered I was more interested in learning about his tools than he was in learning about mine. Dad’s quietness with me bothered me for a long time until I realized that was just his way, whether with friends or family. I have posted the story of Dad driving with a friend to Atlanta years before, and after riding together for over 8 hours, they each realized that not one word had been exchanged!

After Cathy and I moved our family to El Dorado, her Mom and Dad would visit us 2 or 3 times each year and would usually stay for 5 to 7 days. We made the trip to Fort Lauderdale at least once each year and would have gone more often, but it was more difficult for us because of my surgical practice and the many activities of our kids. Throughout the years of spending time with them and especially Dad, I learned at least 3 significant things about him and from him. First, part of the reason for his quiet demeanor related to the fact that as a child he had a stuttering problem, and early on it was embarrassing for him to speak at all. I never learned how he overcame the affliction, but by the time I knew him, he spoke very clearly and had a masterful understanding of the English language. He often was seen searching his giant Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary which was located next to his easy chair. I never heard anyone stump him on the definition of any word. One of his favorite words was “eleemosynary.” Second, I never heard him say a critical word about anyone or to participate in any gossip that might be taking place in his presence. I have thought about this strong quality that Dad possessed, and realize how essential it is for me and for all Christians to mirror this quality that the Lord Jesus taught us to have. Third, he had a wonderful sense of humor. When Jerry Clower became a popular humorist, I started playing his tapes for Dad whenever we were together, and it was really fun to watch him belly laughing while listening to Jerry’s colorful stories. On one occasion, we were able to go to a live performance of Jerry Clower when he appeared in El Dorado. It was just as much fun watching Dad as it was to hear Jerry’s stories.

After Dad retired from his business because of health issues, he had lots of time to read and sit on the patio by their pool with his faithful dog, Maude at his side. That spot was visible from the sidewalk in front of their beautiful 2 story home in the Rio Vista subdivision. Friends and neighbors walking by usually saw Dad sitting there and would wave and occasionally stop for a brief conversation. It was such a relaxing spot, that whenever we visited, that was also my favorite place to sit when he wasn’t sitting there. When Cathy and I were in Fort Lauderdale for the sad occasion of Dad’s funeral when he departed in 1983, I was sitting in his chair by the pool in the early morning hours on the day of his burial. An older gentleman that I didn’t know was slowly walking by, and as he looked toward me, I waved to him not thinking anything more than just being friendly. He did a distinct double-take in his look toward me and without waving, he doubled his pace in moving away from the house. I believe he thought that I was George and knowing of his recent death, he must have thought he saw a vision of some type. I can only imagine what he told his wife when he got home from his walk! In pondering the mistaken identity that man had of me, I have often thought I would surely like to have others see in me some of the wonderful qualities that Dad Young possessed. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” I am very grateful for Dad Young’s model to me of controlling that small but powerful muscle, the tongue.

Dr. John

The Spiritual Legacy of Bubba and LaNell

LaNell and Bubba's children and grandchildren Christmas 2010

LaNell and Bubba’s children and grandchildren
Christmas 2010

I have written about the spiritual impact that Bubba had on Cathy and me and also on our children and grandchildren. In several posts I have mentioned the names of several of Bubba and LaNell’s children, but in recent reflections on the importance of family, I realize that the spiritual as well as the physical DNA in my brother’s family are also present in Cathy’s and my family. In thinking about and praying for their children, I am so grateful for each one of them and how important they have been in our spiritual journey.

The first time I saw LaNell, I was a 9-year-old sitting in church at First Baptist, El Dorado. Someone pointed out a college girl singing in the choir and said that she was Bubba’s girlfriend. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had seen, and must surely be destined for a career as a movie star. I got to know LaNell Brillhart and every member of her family very quickly and loved being around all of them, especially her Dad. He was a real character and could tell some of the funniest stories I had ever heard. His stories accentuated by LaNell’s infectious laughter would make for a fun Sunday afternoon.

Bubba and LaNell were married in December, 1950 which was Bubba’s first year in medical school in Little Rock. I loved the few times I got to spend the night in their tiny apartment on West 6th Street, very near the medical school in its’ old location near MacArthur Park. The highlight of one particular visit was learning to play the ukulele that Bubba had given LaNell for a Christmas present. That ignited my desire to play  stringed instruments which continues to this day.

Their first child was born in 1954, during Bubba’s senior year and were we ever excited to welcome Lydia into the world! She was very special on several levels. First, she was named for our mother, who died of advanced breast cancer when I was an infant. She was the first grandchild of the Berry Moore family, and she was my first niece. When Mom, Pop and I drove to Little Rock to see her on the 2nd day after her birth, it was discovered there was a rule at Baptist Hospital that one had to be 14 years old to visit the new-born nursery. Since I was only 13, I had to remain in the lobby while Mom and Pop got to see her. LaNell felt so sorry for me that despite her weakened state, she walked to the lobby to visit and thank me for coming. It was another month before I got to hold my new niece for the first time!

Upon completion of medical school, the family of 3 moved to Dallas where the young Dr. Moore began his internship at Parkland Memorial Hospital. I wasn’t able to visit them in Dallas because the distance from El Dorado was so great and Bubba’s work schedule was so unpredictable, I wouldn’t have been able to spend much time with him. Their only son Andy was born in Dallas, and I could hardly wait to see him and begin showing him how to throw and catch a football and baseball like Bubba had taught me.

Following the one year internship they moved to Mobile for Bubba’s 2 year stint in the Air Force as a medical officer at Brookley Air Force Base. I did get to visit them there on two occasions and had a blast playing almost non-stop with Lydia and Andy. Their next move was back home to El Dorado where Bubba began his family practice with Pop in 1957, the year I graduated from high school. It was in El Dorado their other 2 daughters, Rachel and Becky were born.

Their first home was a very small 3 bedroom house on Melrose Street. The Harry Wadsworth and Dr. Charles Cyphers families lived on that street and with several other families combined, there were at least 15 children of all ages in that neighborhood. One had to be very careful trying to navigate his auto down Melrose Street, since there were always three or four children running in the street, chasing a bug, a butterfly, a fly ball or just plain running away from their parents!

I was a student in college and medical school during those Melrose years, and when I came home during school breaks, Bubba and LaNell’s house was my favorite place to spend time apart from home. Christmas was always a fun time for me as well as their kids. I always went to their home at 11 or 12 PM on Christmas eve to help Bubba assemble the myriad of toys for the kids. We usually had to hurry because all of them, especially Andy would awaken at 3 or 4 AM ready for Christmas to begin. I felt sorry for Bubba, because I could go home and sleep for 3 or 4 hours, but he was awake for the entire night and the next day. In addition to the Christmas excitement, he had a medical practice to manage and was getting continuous calls from patients who had some immediate needs.

I really loved playing with all of their kids, and they always had some new and exciting toy I had never seen. I also liked being called “Uncle John,” although Bubba teased me about that title, because early in our life we had a “drinking Uncle John” (Graham) who was well-known for his alcoholic lifestyle. The title to me was one of endearment, and Bubba told me that when Andy was a little boy he once said; “Dad, I’ll be glad when you grow up to be a big man like Uncle John. Maybe you can go to medical school like him!”

LaNell and Bubba taught their children the Word of God and modeled that Word to them with their lives. As each one of their kids matured, it was easy to see the life of Christ in them being poured out for the sake of others. Even though their personalities are unique, each one is soft-spoken, kind, loving and gentle, and they mirror many of the wonderful qualities of their Mom and Dad. Bubba spent the last 6 years of his life providing total care for LaNell in their home. She had developed a progressive dementia, and despite his being physically able to continue his medical practice, he gave that up to lovingly make certain she could remain at home with him. Following his death in 2009, Andy took his Mom into his home, and he and his wife Ginger loved and cared for her until she joined Bubba with Jesus in 2012.

Lydia and her husband Joey Caraway live in Little Rock, and their kids who are now adults, will soon be starting their own families. The Caraway’s have been faithful members of Calvary Baptist Church. Andy and Ginger have remained in El Dorado and are active members at Immanuel Baptist Church. They each have grown children from previous marriages, and their children have the same loving hearts as their parents. Rachel and her husband, David Uth live in Orlando, Florida where they are active members of First Baptist Church. David happens to be the Senior Pastor of that wonderful, Spirit-led, megachurch. Their 3 children are adults and each is making a spiritual impact. Becky and her husband Tim Rogers live in Ooltewah, Tennessee, just outside Chattanooga. They moved there from El Dorado several years ago and along with their 2 daughters, are impacting that area through their witness for Christ.

In the picture above taken during their Christmas reunion at their parent’s home in 2010, all of the children were present with their spouses, but several of the grandchildren were not able to attend. Bubba and LaNell were very proud of all of them and rightly so. They all walk with God and are living testimonies to one of Bubba’s favorite verses in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Dr. John

Ollie And The Meat Cleaver

Brother Mose (Meat cleaver to his left)

Brother Mose
(Meat cleaver to his left)

Whenever our family gets together and stories of old are swapped, Cathy usually requests that I tell this one. In writing the story, it loses some of its’ flavor without the sounds and hand gestures necessary to convey the full impact of what took place in our kitchen about 62 years ago.

One of my best buddies and inseparable companions during our pre-teen and teenage years was Eric Richardson. We hunted, fished, camped out, water-skied, rode in Eric’s Model A, worked on my motor bike and usually spent the best part of every summer day together. Eric’s grandfather and father owned and operated Richardson Oil Company and they gave Eric and me our first summer jobs during the summer of 1955 as  general handymen for the company. We probably didn’t accomplish much meaningful work, but sure had a great time and even got paid a whopping sum of 50 cents per hour! I still have the first check I ever received as an employee. It is, of course a cancelled check.

I have previously written about Brother Mose who worked for our family, and just how much I loved him. I can say for certain that Eric loved Brother Mose almost as much. We enjoyed all his funny stories and songs and loved teasing him about his snaggle-tooth, of which he took no offense. When we had a little extra money, we would buy a cigarette or two from Brother Mose for a nickel or a dime. That was an exorbitant price to pay because a pack of cigarettes at that time sold for 25 cents, but we dare not go to the store to buy a pack, because the store owner would surely tell our parents. We knew our secret stayed with him, partly because it was profitable for him, but more importantly he didn’t want us to get into trouble.

During one short period of time, Pop had hired a cook and housekeeper named Ollie. I don’t know who recommended her, but she undoubtedly was very efficient and was also a pretty good cook. Ollie was slender in build, quick in her movements and short-tempered in nature, especially with Brother Mose. She couldn’t seem to tolerate his slow but steady pace while working and seemed to think that he must be lazy and not very bright. The little songs he was always singing or humming must have added to her impression that Brother Mose would try to get by with as little work as possible. If for no other reason than she didn’t like my pal Brother Mose, I didn’t care much for Ollie. She usually didn’t have time to talk with me and would answer any questions I had for her with either a short yes or no. She was more interested in getting her work done than in having a relationship with me or with any of my friends. I suppose that was a good thing for Pop and Mom, but Ollie just wasn’t much fun for us.

One day when Eric was at our house, and we happened to be near the kitchen, we overheard Ollie open the back door and with a loud voice call out to Brother Mose who was quite a distance away in the back yard, “Mose, get yo’ lazy self up here in this kitchen and sweep and mop it right now like Miz Mo’ has told you.” Mose responded in his usual slow and polite manner, “Yes’um, I’ll be right there in jes’ a minute.” Eric and I couldn’t stand hearing her mean voice and seeing her attitude toward our pal, and Eric started by saying, “Ollie, did you know that Old Mose has epilepsy, and when someone yells at him and threatens him, he sometimes has a seizure?” I picked up on this spontaneous (but untrue) story by saying, “When Mose has a seizure, he doesn’t know what he is doing, and he gets violent and strikes out at the closest one to him.” As I was talking, Eric spotted the meat cleaver that always hung in the kitchen by the sink and continued to enlarge on our concocted story. He said with a straight face, “Once when a housekeeper in this very kitchen yelled at Mose, he suddenly had a seizure and grabbed that cleaver right there and buried it in the center of her forehead right between her eyes! She died right where you are standing.” Ollie said she didn’t believe this story and asked, “If he killed that lady why didn’t he go to prison?” We said that Pop loved Brother Mose, and when he got to the house, he testified that the woman died of a heart attack and he signed that on the death certificate so there was no investigation. Ollie said, “You two boys are just telling a big story that ain’t true, and I ain’t got time to listen to no more of yo’ lies.” We both said she had better listen and keep a close eye on Brother Mose. The trap had been set in her mind, but we needed to let Brother Mose in on the scheme.

Eric and I slowly made our way to the back part of our large backyard where Mose was raking leaves, and we asked him if he would like to make an easy 50 cents? “I shore would. What are you two boys up to?” We told him all he had to do was when he went into the kitchen and Ollie started fussing and complaining to him, he needed to grab the meat cleaver and act like he was going to use it on her. He said he could do that and Eric and I each gave him a quarter.

Within 5 minutes, Brother Mose made his way into the kitchen where Ollie was working at the sink with her back to the door. As soon as Mose entered the room, Ollie began her usual tirade, “I don’t know why you took so long getting here, and you ain’t done what Miz Mo’ told you. Where you been all this time? You know what you supposed to do.” As she turned around to face Mose, he had the cleaver in his hand and according to him, all he did then was show it to her and say, “Here’s what I’m gona’ do!” Mose said that her reaction was instant as she squatted down with both hands raised into the air as if she was about to receive a deadly blow to her forehead. She screamed out, “Ohhh Lawd Jesus, hep me.” She then burst out of the back door in a dead run and ran half-way up our long driveway before she stopped. As Eric and I heard the commotion and came into the kitchen, Brother Mose was doubled over, hold his sides in laughter. He said that Ollie had “run off.” Eric and I went quickly up the driveway to tell Ollie it was all a big joke, and Mose wouldn’t ever hurt her, so it was safe for her to return to the kitchen. We were afraid she was going to report us to Pop, or even worse, to the police.

Ollie never fussed or complained to Brother Mose following this incident, but I don’t think she ever truly trusted him. I believe she kept her eyes on him not knowing whether he might really have epilepsy, or some other strange malady. Within a month or so, she turned in her resignation to Pop saying she had gotten another job. None of us were particularly sad she was gone, and I never told Pop this story. If I had told him, I think he would have had a big laugh over it, and especially the part about the death certificate.

Dr. John