A Birthing at Moody Air Force Base Hospital

Moody AFB HospitalFebruary 10, 1970 was an exciting day for Cathy and me. We had been anticipating the birth of our second child for 9 months and seemingly were better prepared than we were for our first. John Aaron our first, was born in 1967 in New Orleans during my second year of surgical training. I was very busy with my work and had very poor skills as a husband and expectant father. This was during the era prior to birthing rooms, and fathers were isolated from the delivery process. As a doctor I could have been present in the delivery room, but my attitude was I didn’t want to place added tension on the obstetrician, Dr. Sistrunk. In reality I was more concerned about my own anxiety, and Cathy was pretty much without my physical presence and support during her labor and delivery. I purposed to do better with our second.

I completed my surgical training in 1969, and Cathy and I moved to Valdosta, Georgia where I was assigned duty in the U.S. Air Force as a Major in the medical corps at Moody Air Force Base. The base hospital was small by Air Force standards, and I was the only surgeon which suited me well. There was also only one obstetrician; Major (Dr.) Henry Schilowitz, who was from New York City and had trained there. We had a very good professional relationship, and I assisted him on all of his major surgical procedures.

One of Cathy’s best friends, Flonnie McKoy was also pregnant with her second child and due to deliver in early February of 1970. Flonnie’s husband, Pete was the base veterinarian, and he was one of my good friends. Cathy went into labor in the early morning hours of February 10, and I drove her to the hospital which was about 10 miles from our home in town. We discovered when we got to the hospital Flonnie had already checked in ahead of us and she was a little further along in her labor than Cathy.

By mid-morning Flonnie was taken into the delivery room where Dr. Schilowitz managed her delivery process. By this time Cathy was far along in her labor and requiring significant pain medication for relief. There were 2 delivery rooms in the operating suite and Cathy’s nurse was telling us that they were going to have to move her very soon to that 2nd room. I called Dr. Schilowitz on the intercom and anxiously asked him if he was almost finished with Flonnie’s delivery. He said the baby was delivered with no complications, but Flonnie’s placenta had not separated, and he could not leave her. He said, “I guess you will have to deliver your own baby!” I told him there was no way I was going to do that except in case of a dire emergency. I had lots of experience delivering babies when I was an intern so that was not a concern, but I was not up to the emotional stress of delivering our little girl. I said, “Henry, you let me come in there and deliver that placenta, and you get over to Room 2 to deliver Cathy’s baby.” He laughed and said, “If that is what you want me to do!”

We moved Cathy into Room 2 and I scrubbed my hands to assist Flonnie in the completion of her delivery.  I was greatly relieved when Dr. Schilowitz scrubbed his hands and entered Room 2 minutes before Cathy delivered our baby. I was still in the process of removing the retained placenta when word came from a nurse, “You and Cathy now have a beautiful and healthy little girl!” If I were in a place where crying was appropriate, I would have shed a few tears of relief and joy.

Flonnie and Pete had their 2nd boy whom they named Brodie, and our 1st girl we named Mary Katharine. John Aaron said he was excited to have a sibling, but he had wanted a brother all along. Later I took him to the hospital to see his little sister, and after he poked at her a few times and she didn’t poke back, he thought she would be alright at least for the time being.

Cathy was kept in the hospital for 3 days which helped her recovery process, and I was a lot more attentive to her, both before, during and after the delivery. At least I was learning to be a better husband and father, but was still a major work in progress. The hospital sent us a bill for Cathy’s hospital stay, and the total was $ 7.68 which we were able to pay in full! Years later when Mary Kay was a teenager and causing some stress in the family which is common to all with teens; I jokingly said to her, “I guess you get what you pay for.”

Happy 45th birthday Mary Kay! It is fun for us to remember and tell of your birthing at Moody Field, although you don’t remember any of it. Despite your bargain basement cost to us in the beginning, you are an absolute priceless treasure to your Mom and me. But you sure caused some major stress to your Dad at the time of your arrival!

Dr. John aka Mary Kay’s Dad

John Aaron, Proud Dad, Mary Kay Easter 1970

John Aaron, Proud Dad, Mary Kay
Easter 1970

 

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Sharing Christ at Home

Wages

Gift of God

Christians in the past often had the notion that sharing one’s faith must be done on a specific night of church visitation using one of several methods of witnessing. That was certainly one form of obedience to the Great Commandment (Matt. 28:18-20) which was common among evangelical churches during the decades of the 1950’s through the 1980’s. During Cathy’s and my journey of faith in some of those years we made many home visits in efforts to lead people to a saving knowledge of Christ. Seemingly our best efforts did not produce much fruit, but a level of spiritual discipline was built into us which we needed and helped us grow spiritually.

The model of personal evangelism began shifting during the early 1990’s to what was called lifestyle evangelism. Believers were encouraged to develop deeper relationships with people whom they might see daily such as a neighbor, a co-worker or an acquaintance; and within the context of that friendship being alert to any opportunities for sharing one’s faith. There seemed to be a loss in the fervency of personal evangelism when church visitation disappeared, because the accountability factor was lost. With lifestyle evangelism one had to have more passion and self motivation to keep the witnessing as a priority. So many are intimidated to remain silent regarding faith and salvation believing they will be thought of as religious fanatics while intelligent and thoughtful people will avoid having anything to do with them. There certainly is some truth to that; however, friendships are made and grow stronger based on trust and loving-kindness, not confrontation and judgement.

The opening of the Free Medical Clinic of the Ozarks in 2008 has afforded Cathy and me the opportunity to share our faith regularly. We serve as chaplains in the clinic and the express purpose of the clinic is to share the hope and spiritual healing of Christ with everyone that comes to the clinic for free medical care and free medicines. We understand these opportunities at the clinic do not relieve us of the privileges we have in sharing Christ in whatever circumstances we are throughout the day.

Cathy is especially alert and sensitive to those who come to our home as either invited guests or service providers whom we have called to help us with maintenance issues. During casual conversations with family or friends, she has the heart and sometimes the boldness to turn the subject to spiritual matters when appropriate. She has challenged me and taught by example the importance of looking for opportunities to see the eternal within the context of the temporal. It has been an exciting adventure to see witnessing doors which God opens unexpectedly. One such case occurred as a result of poor television reception.

When we lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, of necessity we had satellite television because cable service was not available in our subdivision. Internet cable was available through Cox Cable, but we could not take advantage of the savings of subscribing to both services. We were pleased with our television service although reception was poor and sometimes absent during thunderstorms. Upon moving to Branson, both cable services were available to us so we dropped the satellite television service. After about a year of poor television quality in our home and multiple service calls which failed to correct the issue, we decided to switch back to satellite television. I called DirectTV and made an appointment for one of their technicians to install a satellite dish for us.

The young man who came was an excellent technician and installed the equipment quickly and expertly. I asked permission to follow him as he worked, so I would have at least a little knowledge of the equipment. During the 60 minutes he worked, I found out some personal things about him such as where he and his wife lived; how many children they had and how long they had lived in the Branson area. I asked if they attended church, and like so many who don’t, he said, “No, we haven’t been able to find a good church out in the country where we live.” I stressed the importance a church would have in reinforcing any spiritual teaching their children receive at home. While he agreed with me, I suspected he didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ, but didn’t pursue that with any further questions. I simply gave him a card which I keep in my wallet for such an encounter. I told him I wanted him to have this little card if he promised he would just read it before retiring to bed that evening. He agreed he would; thanked me and left for another installation appointment

The two cards above are a single card, and one has to turn it upside down to read both messages. On the back is written what one must do to have a personal relationship with Christ and thus be saved. It is a unique witnessing tool, and Cathy and I have given out hundreds of them over the past 20 years.

Approximately 6 months later in the evening while serving as chaplain at the Free Clinic, I called a young man whom I didn’t recognize into my office. We shook hands after our introduction, and I said, “Since this is your first visit to the clinic, tell me a little about yourself.” He immediately said, “You know that little card you gave me has been sitting on my dresser ever since, and I look at it all the time!” I then remembered him and said, “You sure did a great job installing our satellite dish, and we’ve had no problem with it. I’m so glad you kept the card, but have you done what it says on the back you must do?” He said, “No I haven’t but I would like to!” I took the Bible from my desk and after explaining the verses from the card, he bowed his head and invited Christ to come into his life and save him. It was a very tender moment. I said, “Let’s call your wife into the room and tell her the good news of your new relationship with Christ. Is she a Christian?” I asked. “No, I don’t think so,” he said.

When his wife came into the room, and I explained to her what had just happened, I asked if she would also like to receive Christ’s free gift of salvation like her husband? She responded, “Yes, I sure would.” She bowed her head and humbly invited Christ to also become her Savior. There was great rejoicing with tears in that clinic room that night, and there was also a great celebration among the angels in heaven according to the Bible. (Luke 15:10)

God doesn’t call us to be great Christians and great soul-winners, He simply calls us to be faithful to tell the good news we have received to those who need Him. It is amazing what our great God has done for us, and what He will do for those who hunger for Him. (John 6:48-51)

Dr. John

The Influence of Chunky Harvey

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Dr. Raymond Francis Harvey

There are some men whom God sent into my life at certain critical periods who have influenced me greatly. One of those men, Bill Gothard was speaking at a conference about the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ at a point when my heart was open to that message, and both Cathy and I were saved. Another influential man was my brother Berry Lee (Bubba) who was the first man to offer encouragement to me as a mentor, and I sat at his feet to learn from 1977 until his departure to heaven in 2009. Not long after Cathy and I were saved, a guest preacher was invited to the First Baptist Chuch in El Dorado, and he preached a series of sermons which moved me, girded my spirit and strengthened my faith. I had been dealing with some personal issues of doubt and frustration in the Christian walk, and his messages spoke to my need. His name is Reverend Raymond Francis Harvey, affectionately known as Chunky to his friends. I had not met Reverend Harvey nor had I heard of him when Dr. Don Harbuck, our pastor invited him to our church. He and Dr. Harbuck had been friends and colleagues for years, and they preached in each other’s church on special occasions.

Reverend Harvey was the Senior Pastor of Greenwood Missionary Baptist Church in Tuskegee, Alabama and served that congregation for over 36 years. Born and raised in Long Island, New York, he received his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. He continued post-graduate studies at Oberlin College in Ohio; Princeton Seminary and Oxford University in Oxford, England. He received an honorary Doctorate from Birmingham Baptist Bible College. His wife Lillian (Dr. Lillian Holland Harvey) had a distinguished career for almost 30 years as the Dean of the School of Nursing at Tuskegee Institute (University) in Alabama.

Doctor Harvey spent most of his professional life serving in Tuskegee, Alabama where he was the Active Chaplain at Tuskegee Institute for several years prior to being called to Greenwood Missionary Baptist Church in 1955. The early years of his pastorate marked some of the most turbulent times in the civil rights struggles in the nation and specifically in Alabama. He led his church and community with dignity and honor in peaceful dissent to the shameful and hurtful practices of segregation, and saw the fruit born nation-wide with the signing of the Civil Rights Acts in 1964, 1965 and 1968.

I was curious when Dr. Harbuck first announced the coming of Dr. Harvey to our church and said his was known as ChunkyI was certain only his closest friends would use that name in addressing such a prominent pastor, and over the next several years after having met him and exchanged calls and letters, I could never bring myself to use that term when speaking to him. I never asked him the origin of the nickname, but  suspect he had it since childhood or early adulthood.

The messages Dr. Harvey preached over the first 3 day meeting were entitled Not What, But Whom and he used the poem by that title written by John Oxenham to frame his sermons. His preaching was Christ centered, topical, and he spoke with an accent he must have acquired in Oxford, England. I could not detect any hint of an Alabama accent except on rare occasion when emphasizing a particular point, he would use the dialect of an Alabama black. His overall style of preaching was fascinating to me, and I listened intently while taking notes. I wrote the words of the poem and had them printed and framed, and it has been hanging in my office since. When Dr. Harvey returned home I wrote him several letters expressing my gratitude for his timely messages to me and how they had ministered to a need I had at the time. I received a short but beautifully written note from him.

Dr. Harvey returned to First Baptist about a year later in December 1982, and I was able to spend a little time with him in Dr. Harbuck’s office. I gave him a copy of the poem I had framed and again voiced my gratitude to him for ministering to me. The messages he preached on this visit were entitled The Strength to Endure, and were framed by a quotation from Howard Cooke Phillips, an American Baptist pastor. I have these messages on audio tape and occasionally listen to them recalling the power of his preaching.

The last time I heard from him was the following spring on the evening before Easter Sunday when he phoned. In his deep resonating voice he said, “Dr. Moore, this is Chunky Harvey!” He said he had been reading again the framed poem I had given him and wanted to know how I was doing. We had a wonderful visit for about 10 minutes with his telling me among other things, about his wife’s ministry as Nursing Director at Tuskegee and about his son, Dr. Paul Harvey who was an internal medicine specialist in Michigan.

When Dr. Harvey died in 1992 at the age of 74, I was not aware of his departure until I received a note from his son. He said he had been reading some of his father’s correspondence and noted several letters from me. He thought I might enjoy having a copy of the poem entitled The Long Road Home read at his father’s funeral along with a copy of the funeral service bulletin. I loved the poem so much I had it framed and it hangs in our bedroom. The two poems I have framed remind me of my friend Chunky Harvey and how he blessed and impacted my life.

Dr. John

Not what but Whom I do believe,

That in my darkest hour of need

Hath comfort that no mortal creed to mortal man may give.

Not what but Whom!

For Christ is more than all the creeds,

And His full life of gentle deeds

Shall all the creeds outlive.

Not what I do believe but Whom!

Who walks beside me in the gloom?

Who shares the burden wearisome?

Who all the dim way doth illume,

And bids me look beyond the tomb

The larger life to live?

Not what I do believe but Whom?

Not what but Whom?

By John Oxenham

The Value of Praying Before Meals

PrayingCathy and I recently watched an episode of Blue Bloods on television, and at the conclusion of the program the New York City Police Commissioner was seated at the table with his family preparing to have a meal together. As is frequently depicted in the show, he voiced the prayer before the meal and quoted a standard blessing often repeated before a meal and made the sign of the cross. It was a touching scene of a family giving thanks together before enjoying a wonderful meal and family time. Cathy and I agreed how we wished more families would follow that example, and not only pray together before meals but pray together in family devotions.

Such was not the case for Cathy or for me prior to marriage and was not part of our lifestyle for several years after marriage. Our families individually prayed together before a meal usually on Sunday, but that was about it for my own family. We never had a family devotion and seldom talked with each other about spiritual things. Cathy’s experience was similar.

I have previously written about the spiritual impact my brother Berry Lee (Bubba) had on us, and it began shortly after we were married in 1965. Bubba was not one who traveled much outside of Union County, and some of the reasons were because he was so busy with the responsibilities as a husband and father, and because he had such a busy family medicine practice. Cathy and I were very surprised when we received a phone call from Bubba asking if he might come to New Orleans to see our apartment, tour Charity Hospital and just find out how we were doing as newly weds. That didn’t sound like Bubba, but we welcomed a visit and really looked forward to his coming. We didn’t have a clue of his real motive for coming! His purpose was to share Christ with his little brother and new sister-in-law whom he believed were in need of a Savior.

During his visit, he took us for a meal at Commander’s Palace, and just before I was about to begin eating he said, “Wait; we haven’t done something very important. We need to pray.” I was 26 years old and had never been at a table in a restaurant where someone prayed aloud before the meal. To say Cathy and I were uncomfortable at what seemed like the longest prayer ever uttered, would be a huge understatement. I felt like every eye in that exclusive restaurant was upon us, and they were thinking what religious nuts those folks must be. We did love Bubba but were relieved when his visit was finally over, and we could get back to “normal.”

Following our spiritual conversion more than 10 years later, Cathy and I understood more clearly the absolute necessity of prayer; individually, together and with other believers. We believe that prayer whether at home or in a restaurant, is a personal matter and should never be done to impress others or elevate our spiritual status. It is simply a matter of showing gratitude and praise to the One who has given us all we have.

Soon after our conversion we began praying together before every meal and holding hands while praying. In the beginning we felt a little self-conscious, because this was a marked change from the past, and we still thought others might see us and believe we were attempting to showcase our spirituality. The first confirmation we received we were doing what God desired occurred while attending an advanced Bill Gothard seminar in Denton, Texas.

Bubba tried to convince us prior to attending the best place to stay for the event was on campus at North Texas State University. The conference was being held in their large gymnasium, and they were offering couples to stay in the dormitory suites at a considerable reduction in cost from staying in a motel. That especially appealed to Bubba. Cathy and I discussed the options and decided to stay at a Holiday Inn which would provide us more privacy and luxury than a dorm room, no matter how nice the college setting. The big disadvantage was it was a 15 minute drive from the NTSU gym. We had no idea if any other conference attendees were also staying at the Holiday Inn, but the motel was full.

The morning of the start of the conference we were in the coffee shop having our breakfast and noted the restaurant was full. We remarked there must be some other event in town to have so many people in this motel, including lots of children who we knew were not attending a Bill Gothard meeting. A couple approached our table and asked if we were attending the seminar, and we were surprised they would even suspect it. We were not wearing our name badges. They asked if they might ride with us because they had flown to Denton from Charlotte, North Carolina and did not have a vehicle. We got to know Gary and Virginia Cooper well over the next several days of riding  back and forth together, and then having some meals together. We asked them how they picked us out of a large crowded restaurant, and their response was, “We saw you praying together before the meal and suspected you might be attending the seminar!”

God used that “chance meeting” of the Cooper’s 2 years later when a couple who was well-known to us from El Dorado but then living in Charlotte; called me one morning. The husband tearfully told me he and his wife were having serious marital problems and were on the verge of divorce. He asked me in desperate tones, “Is there anything you can possibly do to help us?” I told him Cathy and I knew a couple in Charlotte who might help, and I would put them in touch. I called the Cooper’s and they responded quickly by connecting with our friends and becoming a critical source for reconciliation. The marriage relationship of our friends was slowly stabilized with the aid of the Cooper’s, and they are still together 30+ years later. The Cooper’s were also instrumental in encouraging another set of friends who lived in a town neighboring Charlotte. He is a physician classmate, and he and his wife needed encouragement in attending a Bill Gothard seminar held in Charlotte. Their experience with the Cooper’s and at the seminar strengthened their marriage and changed the dynamics of their home.

Over the years we have had many people who were strangers, come to our table in a restaurant and quietly say, “I saw you two praying together before you ate, and it meant a lot to me.” We have never had anyone say, “I wish you wouldn’t make a public display of your religion.” God uses our witness for Him in so many ways unknown to us, but occasionally he sends someone like the Cooper’s to reinforce His words: “In all your ways acknowledge Me, and I will direct your path.” (Prov. 3:6)

Dr. John

PS: Bubba and LaNell never stayed in another college dormitory despite it’s reduced rate.