God's Lightning: A Seminar on Prayer
You may wonder why we speak of the lightning of God's power in the midst of a civil war in Lebanon and how we came to be there. During the war we experienced much of the devil’s lightning and thunder in the mortars and artillery shells and rockets which were fired by the thousands during the 12 years of civil war we experienced.
Maxine and I met at Olivet Baptist Church in Honolulu, Hawaii, in October of 1945. She was a civil Service employee working at Hickam Field in the paint and dope shop repairing the fabric-covered parts of airplanes and helicopters and I was an inspector of maintenance on C-54 aircraft of the Air Transport Command stationed at the other end of Hickam Field. We were both mission volunteers. She felt called to missions as a teenager in her church at Angus, Texas, when a missionary from Africa came and spoke about the needs of the people there. I had felt my call to missions in July of 1943 while in the Air Force stationed at Laredo, Texas, where I met some young people who were getting ready to go to a missionary “boot-camp” in Mexico. Both her parents and mine were very supportive of our decisions to spend our lives sharing the Gospel with people who might not otherwise know about Jesus and salvation through His Name.
Not long after we met, we both made our commitments public in an evening service at the church. We had both been serving in a group which went to Ala Park in central Honolulu to hold street services and pass out tracts and talk to people about the Lord. In that way we had been serving as part of a team; but in February of 1946 I asked her to marry me so that we could work together as a team throughout our lives. She agreed and we were married on May 12, 1946, (Mothers' Day that year!) in Olivet Baptist Church.
We came back to the mainland in June. I had to go back to Fort Dix in New Jersey near my hometown of Livingston to be mustered out of the Air Force and she went back to the Corsicana, Texas, area to be reunited with her family for a few weeks. In July she came by bus to New Jersey to meet my folks and to be reunited with me. She had been accepted at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and I had been accepted at Wheaton College near Chicago, but neither school had accommodations for married students. While we were in Hawaii we had heard about a Christian college in Brownwood, Texas, named Howard Payne. We contacted them and found that there were many apartments for rent in Brownwood because an army base nearby had just closed down! We applied and were accepted and took the bus to Texas so that I could meet her family.
While we were staying with them, her Dad mentioned that he had a Model T Ford which needed some repair. We looked at it and received his permission to repair it and drive it to Brownwood. We fixed it up and loaded up, but only got about a mile and a half from home before the engine overheated, stalled and stopped. We had to walk back home and get Daddy to hitch up the team of mules to come get the car and pull it back to the house. We decided we could not make the car road-worthy in time to get to school on the opening date, so a friend took us and our suitcases to the bus station in Corsicana from which we traveled to Brownwood in time to enroll with the help of the GI bill which provided tuition and $90 a month for living expenses.
After our first year in college, Maxine was pregnant, so we returned to her parents’ home and helped them around their farm. David, Jr. was born on Nov. 8, 1947. During that year Angus Baptist Church, her home church, called us to be their pastor. We continued to minister there for two weekends each month for eight years including three years into our time at Southwestern Seminary. The following September we returned to Howard Payne and I returned to classes while Maxine was full-time wife and mother. The following year she, too, returned to classes and took extra hours to that we could graduate together. In those days some classes were taught on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and some on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. We alternated days so that one of us was able to take care of the baby. In our senior year some of our required classes were offered only when both of us had to be in class at the same time. With permission from the two teachers involved, we were allowed to bring David, Jr., who was now four years old, with us to class. He looked at books and scribbled notes and kept quiet, so we were all happy.
After graduation (we were first and second honor graduates in the class of ’53) we moved to Arlington, Texas. I went to work at Chance Vought Aircraft in Grand Prairie and she stayed home with David Jr. (“D. J.”). The next fall I enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and she went to work at Chance Vought. We now had a ’41 Ford sedan. We drove from Arlington to Grand Prairie to let Maxine go to work, then to Fort Worth where I left DJ to go to First Grade on the west side of town; then I drove to Southwestern Seminary on the south side of town. It was a fifty mile trip each morning and again each evening, but the Lord provided all our needs.
After graduating in 1956 with a B. D. degree I was accepted into the graduate program for Th.D. studies in New Testament and Greek at Southwestern. Maxine was still working in aircraft manufacturing, but now at Consolidated Aircraft in Fort Worth; however, the long hours on her feet on a concrete floor was making her very uncomfortable. We decided that she should try to find a teaching job for the time I would be in graduate school. In August of 1956 she still was unemployed, but we saw an ad in the paper for a position teaching 7th and 8th grade in Keller, a few miles north of Fort Worth. We made an appointment and drove up there to see Mr. Simpson, the Superintendant of Schools. I waited in the car while she went into his office for the interview. He said that he could hire her if she was willing to take extra education courses on Saturdays at North Texas State University in Denton. She agreed and signed the contract. Then he said, “I understand your husband is a preacher and a student at Southwestern Seminary. We are now without a pastor at First Baptist in Keller. Do you think he might be willing to lead our Wednesday Bible Study and prayer time next week?” She said, “I don’t know, but he is right outside in the car. Let’s ask him.” Of course I said, “Sure. I’d be happy to do that.” After that prayer and Bible study, they asked us to return the next Wednesday. Then they said they had an open Sunday coming up and asked if I could come and lead the singing and preach. We were now going to Angus every Sunday, so I asked if we could put it off one more Sunday and give us time to talk with the people at Angus and arrange for someone to fill in for me the week I would be preaching at Keller. They agreed. After preaching and singing at Keller, the people said they wanted to call me to be their music and youth minister. The business meeting was set for Sunday evening. They asked me to preach that morning and evening as well. They asked us to go out to the car while they held their meeting. After a half-hour or so, the chairman of the search committee came to the car and announced, “The church has unanimously called you to be our full-time pastor.” I almost fainted! We had not expected that. We spent a few days thinking and praying about it and then accepted the call and resigned from the church at Angus. Thus God beautifully provided not only a teaching job for Maxine, but a full-time pastorate for us close to Forth Worth. Oh, the beautiful and bountiful grace of God! We served there for four years until we were appointed by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention to be missionaries to Lebanon where our assignment was to help establish the new Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut and to teach there. We arrived in Lebanon in March of 1960 after 22 days at sea on the USS Excalibur including five days of no progress in an Atlantic hurricane. I was sea-sick all five days, but Maxine never did get sick. She was a better sailor than I was!
For the first two years we lived in an apartment in Beirut spending eight hours a day in language study, four hours in the classical version and four in the colloquial version of Arabic, five days each week. On weekends we visited in the churches in Beirut and sometimes out in the villages. On holidays and vacations we traveled to the historic places in Lebanon including Tyre and Sidon in south Lebanon and Byblos, north of Beirut, and the magnificent Roman ruins in Baalbek in the Beqaa Valley. Often we traveled three hours north and east of Beirut to the fabled cedars of Lebanon sometimes in the snow of winter and sometimes in the mild summers for picnics at 6,000 feet above sea level.
Many people do not realize that Lebanon is a mountainous country. The Lebanon and the anti-Lebanon mountain ranges run north and south with the beautiful Beqaa Valley lying between them. The mountains rise quite steeply from the Mediterranean Sea-coast. Along the coast semi-tropical fruits like bananas, oranges, lemons, dates and others are grown while higher up in the mountains grapes and apples and pears and cherries flourish. We enjoyed fresh fruit in season all year long. Because the mountains are so close to the sea it is possible to go snow-skiing in the mountains in the mornings and water-skiing in the Mediterranean Sea in the afternoons!
In 1963 we decided that we were far enough along with language acquisition and cultural adjustment that we could have another child. Jonathan was born at the old A.U.B. hospital in Beirut on January 16, 1964. While we were “home” on stateside assignment in 1966 we adopted our one and only daughter, Jeanne, who was born on March 10, 1966.
In June of 1967 D.J. was back in Lebanon with us for a summer visit but we were all evacuated by plane to Ruschlikon, Switzerland, when the “Six Day War” broke out. Maxine and the children came back to Beirut after one week; I stayed on during another week to complete my training to be the first director of the Baptist Radio Recording Studio in Beirut which was located in the basement of the seminary just down the road from our house.
In 1975 civil war broke out in Lebanon and lasted until about 1993. We were there until 1987 when the U. S. government ordered us to leave. We moved the seminary to Cyprus and tried to get permission to stay there permanently but the permission was denied. After packing and sending all the seminary property back to Lebanon, we could not return because our passports were no longer valid for Lebanon, so we came back to the states for a final furlough and retirement.
This background should help you understand why we are using the wartime illustrations for each session of the seminar.