BYE, BYE FOR NOW
As I write this, it is a beautiful July morning holding the promise of a classic summer day — a good one in which to slow down a bit and think deep thoughts. This will probably be my last general letter as president of FBH International. By the time the next one is due, Bobby Halek will be standing in my spot. So, this is a poignant moment for me.
As I look back, most of my memories are of special people I have met because of this ministry. I could easily fill this page with their names. That might be meaningful to me, but wouldn’t be all that interesting to you (apart from seeing your name there). What might make for better reading would be some of my interactions with listeners.
Though I grew up on a farm and have always appreciated animals, I can’t say that I ever had much of a sentimental attachment to them, so when Rosemary called to ask us to pray for her bird, I was a bit flummoxed. It had never occurred to me to pray for critters. So this Toronto listener gets the credit for stretching me in that regard.
- I recall a woman who lived in northern Ontario. Her children had been playing with the radio on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday morning when she turned it on, she heard Family Bible Hour and jotted down the phone number. She called on Monday to talk about her struggles and ask for prayer. We are still in occasional contact, though her circumstances have changed.
- Dereje, a young Ethiopian listener, contacted us to pray for his brother who had severe health problems to which he eventually succumbed. But Dereje maintained contact with us for many years, though we lost touch when he ended up in a Kenyan refugee camp. He has now immigrated to Canada and still checks in from time to time.
- Harvey was a Maritimer who began a voluminous correspondence with me, including photos of his artwork and his grandchildren (the two great passions of his life). He shared so much of his life with me that on one of my trips East, Debbie and I visited him in his home in Amherst. That was an experience worthy of a whole letter in itself.
- Tony, in England, used to listen to the program over TWR’s short-wave service in Europe. Now, though that service no longer exists and in spite of the cost, he phones the office every few months to encourage us and to ask for prayer for himself, his sister and an astonishingly wide array of family and friends (with an equally astonishingly wide array of problems).
- Anne-Marie belonged to a cult for many years. When it disbanded, she was totally lost. She listened to the program in the US and we had many long conversations going over the gospel. I encouraged her to trust in Jesus, rather than in the cult leaders who had let her down. As far as I could tell she actually did come to know Jesus, but she struggled with her past.
- Another American who contacted us was named Don. He desperately wanted to be a Christian, but had convinced himself (or been convinced by someone else) that he was not part of “the elect.” So he felt there was no hope for him. We had several sad and frustrating conversations. Nothing I said convinced him that God would receive any repentant sinner. He would say “I want to believe what you’re telling me, but I just can’t.” Eventually he quit calling. I still wonder if he had ever accepted that God’s grace was available to him.
- Over 25 years, it was inevitable to have some unpleasant contacts as people took issue with something that was said (or not said) in a program. I won’t raise any of those specifically here, but I do remember one unusual interaction. A man (whose name has slipped from memory) sent us an email in which he said “I think you might be one of us. I’ll be able to tell by how you answer this question. Which would you say ‘I go to meeting on the Lord’s day’ or ‘I go to church on Sunday?’” When I told him that those connected with the ministry might use either expression, I never heard back. I suspect that he considered us part of mixed multitude with whom having fellowship would be inappropriate.
Now that I’ve started, I can hardly stop. One dear old saint in England sent me a note in which she commiserated with me on the death of my wife! I think she confused me with someone else but, more than that, she indicated her willingness to engage in correspondence with me with a view to letting it go wherever it would go. After receiving my letter indicating that my wife was still quite alive and hinting that I was probably 35 years younger than she was, she sent an apology and I never heard from her again.
OK, I really am going to stop now. Thanks for listening. More importantly thank you for supporting FBH International and encouraging me along the way. Twenty-five years is a good chunk of a life and I’m glad I’ve shared at least part of it with you!
PS: Perhaps we can keep in touch even after I’m not “the president” anymore.