Cathy and I had the privilege of knowing and hearing some of the best preachers in the world as a result of our involvement in The International Congress on Revival (ICR). We joined in the work of this particular ministry in the early 1990’s as a result of our friendship with Brother Bill Stafford who was the President of ICR.
Brother Bill assumed the leadership of ICR upon the death of its’ founder, Brother Manley Beasley in 1990, and despite his demanding schedule as a Southern Baptist evangelist he was fully vested in ICR. He invited me to join the board of ICR which was meeting annually in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Brother Bill’s hometown. It was at the initial board meeting I attended Cathy and I met Wayne Barber and his wife Diane. Wayne was Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church, a large and growing Southern Baptist church in which Brother Bill and wife Sue were members. Other members of this church which we later met were Kay and Jack Arthur, founders of Precepts Ministry; Costel and Mia Oglice, Romanian missionaries for Precepts Ministry; Dorie Van Stone, Precepts missionary; John Ankerberg, prominent Christian apologist; and Dr. Spiro Zodiates, one of the world’s prominent Greek Biblical scholars. There were many sweet and dedicated Christians who regularly attended Brother Wayne’s church, and Cathy and I loved being in that atmosphere!
I was on the board for 2 years before Brother Bill convinced Cathy and me we would have ministry opportunities in making the overseas conferences which were primarily held in western and eastern Europe. There were also meetings in those days in Australia and in South Africa. While I was on the board we added Ireland where conferences were held for 2 separate years.
Our initial attendance of a conference in Austria was in February, 1993, and we were able to take Mary Kay, our older daughter and new husband Dave Janke along with our younger daughter Ginny, who at the time was regularly dating her future husband John Luther. We all met in Innsbruck, Austria for a 3 day rest period before the conference in Salzburg, Austria began. It was in Salzburg we first heard Brother Wayne preach, and he was on the schedule for at least 4 sessions. There were 5 other preachers present in addition to Brother Bill, and the quality of preaching and worship was outstanding. From this initial ICR conference we attended, Cathy and I only rarely missed going overseas with the team and considered those meetings each February as spiritual highlights of the year.
Several years after our initial conference Cathy and I were able to invite our good friends Brother Tommy Freeman and wife Sharon to accompany us to an ICR conference which was again held in Salzburg. I have written 2 earlier posts concerning my love and appreciation of Brother Tommy, and the impact he has had on my spiritual growth. (Church Visitation with Brother Tommy, Oct. 2012; and The Prairie Grove Revival, Oct. 2015). Brother Tommy’s personality is one which is intense and focused, but he does have a good sense of humor. He had never met Wayne Barber nor heard him preach prior to this meeting.
Although Brother Wayne was an outstanding preacher he had a mischievous sense of humor, which could sometimes catch people who didn’t know him off guard. Wayne was a physically large imposing man who was 6′ 8″, weighing approximately 275 pounds, and his size alone commanded attention. He always had a huge smile with beautiful white teeth, and always acted as if he had never met a stranger.
By this time my brother-in-law and sister, George and Marilyn Berry from Austin, Texas had joined the ICR team, and we were all meeting at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta for our overseas flight to Austria. We met George and Marilyn first and introduced them to Brother Tommy and Sharon whom they had never met. Over the next 10-15 minutes we had a lively conversation recounting stories of our children, mutual friends and people from El Dorado, Arkansas with whom we had fellowship.
Coming down a long concourse we spotted Brother Wayne and Diane walking toward us. All of us except Brother Tommy and Sharon recognized them. Wayne had a huge smile on his face revealing a hideous pair of Bubba teeth! He bear-hugged all of us, and when we introduced Brother Tommy and Sharon, he bear-hugged them as well! None of us mentioned the teeth, but as I hugged Wayne I told him, “Brother Wayne you have never looked better!” After a few minutes Wayne and Diane excused themselves and moved back down the same concourse to greet other attendees.
When he had gotten out of voice range Brother Tommy asked, “John, did you say he was pastor of a large church in Chattanooga?” “Yes,” I said, “one of the largest churches in the city.” “Surely he must have a dentist in the church who would help him with his teeth problems.” “What problem is that?” I asked, while keeping a straight face. “Oh John, did you see those teeth of his? They would be a huge distraction while he is preaching.” “Brother Tommy, when he preaches he doesn’t open his mouth very wide and no one pays much attention to his teeth. Everyone in his church loves him and think he is a great preacher.” Brother Tommy continued, “John, somebody needs to help him with those teeth because they are only going to get worse. I think as a member of the board you ought to try to help him.” I didn’t comment further and didn’t say anything more about Wayne’s teeth.
Later in the day before our flight departed Brother Wayne visited with us again and had removed his fake teeth revealing his own perfectly white teeth. Nothing was said about the teeth, but Brother Tommy said privately to me, “John, I’m going to get you! You really got me on that one.”
Brother Wayne served the Lord at Woodland Park Baptist Church for several more years after this and then moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to pastor Hoffmantown Church until 2011 when he and Diane returned to Woodland Park. Although we were no longer serving in the ministry of ICR, Cathy and I along with Marilyn and George Berry were privileged to hear Brother Wayne preach again in 2013 at The Cove, which is Billy Graham’s Training Center in Asheville, North Carolina. George and I each carried a set of Bubba teeth, and at our initial reception with the Barber’s we grinned widely! He loved it.
Ironically Brother Wayne departed this life on August 29, 2016 at The Cove where he was scheduled to be the conference speaker. He had developed a form of ALS a few months prior, but was trying to finish his course well. Cathy and I, along with Marilyn and George praise God we got to know and love Brother Wayne. (Bubba teeth and all)!