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 five 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 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 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. I was also receiving invitations from local area churches to give my testimony and to preach for special occasions such as Baptist Men’s Day and Laymen’s Emphasis Week. I have saved most of my sermon notes from those early years and in reading some of those notes I am amazed 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 how many times Gary and I sang special songs together at the Mission, but it was at least three or four times. The first time Gary served together at 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 the initial meeting whenever Gary was joining me to sing I would tell Brother Miller 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 my 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 which 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 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 performance 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 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!
I have a lot of fond memories of visiting the Mission at the original building, the white wood siding one. Was it a converted house? I also remember how much joy Berry Lee had sharing about what he saw God doing over there. I feel it was Brother Miller who was out with Berry Lee witnessing in the neighborhood one day. Berry Lee told Brother Miller that sometimes, when thinking about all God has done for us, he felt like dancing for joy. Brother Miller not only agreed but proceeded to do just that!
I always took notes during the sermons. I still have them packed away somewhere. Who knows, I probably have some notes from your sermons too!