USS Indianapolis Survivor’s Story of Faith

I was recently teaching through John 4 where Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that if she knew the gift of God and who she spoke with, she would have asked for a drink from Him, and He would have given her living water.  For an illustration concerning the difference between regular old water and the water of life that Jesus brings,  I referred to the World War II Naval tragedy of the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis. The USS Indianapolis war hardened battleship that had participated in numerous battles in the Pacific theatre including Tarawa, Guam, Tinian, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa to name a few. After she was hit by a Kamikaze plane, losing nine sailors, she went back to the states to undergo repair. When she was sea worthy and able to return to the Pacific she was sent to Tinian, transporting (unknown by most of the crew) the main parts to assemble “Little Boy,” one of two atomic bombs that would bring an end to the war. After delivering the bomb, the “Indy” set sail again and was soon after struck by a torpedo from aJapanese submarine. 880 men from the crew would perish in the ensuing events whether from the explosion and damage from the torpedo, drowning at sea or the infamous shark attacks. The 317 survivors clung to life rafts, floater nets or bobbing debris for five days when a sea plane piloted by Chuck Gwinn and another battleship the USS Bassett eventually spotted them and came to their rescue.   Having viewed not a few books and movies on the matter, I often recollect how the stranded sailors were desperate for water and often began to hallucinate. Their extreme thirst would often drive them to drink the ocean salt water which would in turn cause them to drift into insanity. They would see hallucinations of the Indianapolis underwater in ship-shape with functioning drinking fountains. With such refreshment nearby, they would dive under the surface of the sea in an attempt to drink from the fresh water fountain, only to be swept farther away from the group or picked off by a shark. My sermon’s illustration was that anything else that the world has to offer that would take our affections and passions from Jesus is like deceptive saltwater that not only leaves us longing for more, but actually causes our demise and puts us in a place to be deceived and picked off by the wicked one. 

                After the service, one of the women in our church, Denise Miles approached me with a special smile of excitement. “My uncle, Cletus Lebow was a survivor of the Indianapolis sinking. He would be excited to hear that you spoke of the Indianapolis in your sermon today as he is a Christian!” The next week, Denise came to church with her arms full of special envelopes and books. These envelopes contained personal correspondences between Uncle Cletus and her mother Oleta. All kinds of newspaper clippings of the Indy Survivors being remembered and honored with very special city memorials and the Congressional Gold Medal. A book detailing the experience of every single survivor from the war to later in life, pages of special poetry and testimonial was signed and annotated by Cletus himself. Another spiral bound book has the stories of Cletus and other family member’s upbringing. One envelope in the bundle had a hand written letter by Cletus telling some especially hard accounts from the war that have hung on his mind over the years. Some of these events included the horrors being on a recovery crew inside the USS Oklahoma after the attack on Pearle Harbor, witnessing countless landings on the pacific islands, the suicides of civilians on the island of Guam and the Kamikaze attack on their very own ship.

All of these envelopes, bundles and books were graciously loaned to be to peruse and appreciate. They are a wealth of historical gems from a man who loved and served his country faithfully and sacrificially. Yet, out of all the pages some stood out more than others. Pages where Cletus boldly and unashamedly tells of the faithfulness of His God, the Lord Jesus Christ with declarations of “How Great He is!” In the spiral bound book, Cletus tells of how his brother, mother and himself were saved from their sins to know Jesus. Incredibly noticeable differences took place in his older brother Curtis, “something new and alive in Him.” Later, when Cletus was 12 he would receive what Christ had done for him while living in Abernathy, Tx. An entire chapter is devoted in the spiral bound, not to the experience of the Indianapolis (as harrowing as that was), but to the Goodness of His God. The chapter begins, “As far as I am concerned this will not be a chapter in my life but the complete story.  I would not have survived in this world for all these years without the protection for our Lord in Heaven. Thank God. He has been with me, is with me, and will be with me as long as I will allow Him.” He later says, “I know there is life after death, but only if there is life before death. The life of being born again into the Kingdom of Heaven.” Cletus experienced God providing for his family through incredible job openings, miraculous healings from cancer for his wife Joan, deliverance from chronic back pain and of course His deliverance from the deep after his sleek battleship plunged into the water.

Just before the Indy took its journey to deliver the atomic bomb “Little Boy” to the Tinian Island, Cletus had a sense that something ominous was about to happen to him. His mother noticed that he was disturbed and told him that even though she could not join him on the mission, there was one who could. Cletus responded with, “Yes mama, Jesus can go with me.” When the ship was struck and Cletus plunged into the water, He cried out, “Lord, help me!” Cletus recalls, “a bright light appeared and said, “Don’t be afraid.” Immediately a feeling of calm and peace came over me. I knew that I was okay whether I made it back home to Abernathy or home in Heaven and I was no longer afraid… He was in control. I am sure this kept me from succumbing to the almost irresistible and fatal desire to drink my fill of good old salt water straight from the ocean.”

Cletus’ story is a reminder that no matter what our circumstance, our Lord Jesus is worthy to be trusted. We can hope in Him in life’s greatest trials and tragedies. As the psalmist says, “though He slay me, still I will trust Him.” A closing Poem by Cletus is also a good charge to use the gift of life for our Lord’s purposes and glory:


As the Waves rolled over the Indy asleep in the deep

The Lord gave us a miracle to keep

He gave us a chance to serve Him for many more years

And we remember the lost comrades as we shed sad tears

Lord, we thank you for added days

We work to glorify You in all your ways

May the miracle of survival live in each heart

We pray you will guide us to do our part

We give glory and honor to You

And strive to serve you in all we do

Thanks for the miracle of survival from the sea

Thanks for your love and grace and for saving me

  • Survivor’s Reunion, August 7,1995

Faith of My Fathers Part II

Recent delving into my family lineage left me astounded at God’s gracious hand over my grandmother’s family. The first fascinating story (from Faith of my Fathers Part I, which can be read below) wet my whistle for the outstanding historical account that came next.

My fantastic journey began with a voicemail from a friend doing genealogical research. She found that one of my distant grandfathers, Tidence Lane (1724-1806) was not only a Revolutionary War hero, but also the pastor of the very first church in Tennessee.

This news left me reeling with excitement to discover more! I wanted to know Grandpa Tidence.

*Side Note: The name Tidence was taken from his grandmother, “Tidings”.  I marveled from the start that nearly six years before discovering the name of this new relative, I had given two of my children the names Titus Hart (meaning “encourager of hearts”) and Laney Moriah (meaning “path to salvation”).

I found much online, and it amazed me that the church he founded, Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church in Gray, Tennessee, is still thriving today, and even has a Facebook page! Not only does the church still exist, but it shares many similar qualities to the church I pastor here13092147_1196478793725881_7431209730782162832_n in Prineville. BRBC’s health is evident in its commitment to Biblical principles, prayer,
loving one another, fellowshipping (with lots of food) and purposeful world evangelism. They even have a similar purpose statement! I called BRBC to tell them they had a long lost relative, and of our shared heritage that stretches over two centuries! The church put me in touch with their former pastor of 41 years, 84-year-old Dr. Gene Lasley, who wrote a book of BRBC’s


Dr. Gene Lasley kneels at the dedication of the new Sanctuary at BRBC. 

spiritual saga and devoted two chapters to Tidence Lane. We were thrilled to meet each other over the phone and discover our shared interest. One of the first things Dr. Lasley said to me was, “Son, your distant grandfather was one of the godliest men America has ever seen!” He quickly mailed me a copy of his book, “Jesus Led Me All the Way.”


The book and other research revealed that Lane’s story had a preface with the ministry of George Whitfield, the English

Walley, Thomas, 1817-1878; George Whitefield Preaching in Bolton, June 1750

Whitefield Preaching at Bolton, June 1750

evangelist whose “bristling, crackling, and thundering” open-air preaching led to the Great Awakening of the mid-1700s. One man converted and called by Whitfield’s ministry was Shubal Stearns, who also became an ardent evangelist. His demeanor and speech – “musical and strong” – were used mightily by the Holy Spirit to bring about what has been known as “the Great Awakening of the Southern Colonies.”

Lane would write of Stearns, “Mr. Stearns was but a little man, but have a good natural parts, and sound judgment. Of learning he had bought a small share, yet was pretty well

acquainted with books. His voice was musical and strong, which he managed in such a manner… To make soft impressions on the heart, and fetch tears from the eyes and a mechanical way;  and anon to shake the nerves, and to throw the animal system into tumbled and perturbations. All the separate ministers copy him after him in tones of voice and actions of body; and some few exceed him. His character was indisputably good, both as a man, a Christian, and a preacher. In his eyes with something very penetrating, which seem to have a meeting in every glance…” as Lane would soon experience.


During this awakening, Stearns started a church in Sandy Creek Virginia, which was used by God in its first 16 years to plant 42 other churches and send out 125 preachers.  This


Sandy Creek’s second building, built in 1802

church’s story is recognized as one of the “most profound religious movements in American History. Thousands of churches today can trace their roots back to the Sandy Creek Baptist Church.”


Lane (who had “hateful feelings” for Baptists) was curious to go hear Stearns preach. He rode 40 miles on horseback and found Stearns with a book, seated beneath a peach tree speaking with a crowd of people. Lane wrote, “He fixed his eyes upon me immediately, which made me feel in such a manner as I had never felt before. I turned


Print portrays the first service at Sandy Creek

to quit the place, but could not proceed far. I walked about, sometimes catching his eyes as I walked. My uneasiness increased and became intolerable. I went up to him, thinking that a salutation and shaking hands would relieve me; but it happened otherwise. I began to think that he had an evil eye, and was to be shunned; but shun I could no more effect, then a bird can shun the rattlesnake when it fixes its eyes upon it. When he began to preach, my perturbations increased, so that nature can no longer support them, and I sunk to the ground.”


He was born again, he and his family would never to be the same.

His brother Dutton also was saved through Stearns’ ministry, and became an ardent preacher leading revivals among friends and family. Their father had a hatred for the Baptists and was furious at his sons. When hearing that his wife had heard Dutton speak he became so enraged that he struck her, and grabbed his rifle to kill Dutton. Mrs. Lane begged her husband to hear Dutton preach before making the harsh call to kill him. Richard agreed, and would come under such conviction of the Spirit that he would be saved and baptized by Dutton soon after.

Lane became a close disciple of Stearns, so much so, that when Stearns died without children, Lane settled the estate. Soon after, Lane who “possessed great fervor and leadership ability” moved to Tennessee and established a church named after a nearby natural feature, Buffalo Ridge. Even though this was during a time of persecution by the British – those loyal to neither the crown nor the Church of England were executed – the church grew in number. Many sources tell us that Lane, nine of his sons and other frontiersman joined together as a force of arms known as “The Overmountain Men,” men experienced in expedition and hardened from battles defending their homesteads from


Painting by Lloyd Branson, (1855-1926) depicts the muster of over 1,000 frontiersman at Sycamore Shoals. 

Native American attacks. Meeting at Sycamore Shoals, the Overmountain Men moved to attack British Colonel Patrick Ferguson’s forces at King’s Mountain and won with a decisive blow, killing or capturing nearly all of the British. Lane and his sons played a strong part in the battle, and son Isaac was recognized as a hero of King’s Mountain. The battle of September 26, 1780 was a turning point in the Revolutionary war, “setting off a chain of events that would lead to the British surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in September, 1781.”


After the war, Lane put his heart and soul into serving the church at home. It grew and sent him out in 1784 to plant and pastor a church in Bent Creek, where he remained until his death on January 30, 1806.


Tidence Lane’s Grave Sight Near Whitesburg, Tn


Lane’s tombstone reads, “A pioneer Baptist preacher. Tidence Lane organized and became the first pastor of the Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church in 1779. This churches in Washington County and is recognized as the first church of any denomination established in what is now in the state of Tennessee. He served faithfully many other Baptist churches in East Tennessee.

 “Lane laid the foundation of social democracy in the complete autonomy of the local church. He laid the foundations of institutions that shape the destiny of the human race . . . Eternity alone can set bounds to the work of Tidence Lane.” a reflective tribute to Tidence Lane by Dr. Samuel W. Timdell

I would no doubt be correct in assuming that this man of faith and action, who fought so hard for the cause of liberty of a new nation, labored vigilantly in prayer for the future of his children, and that he passionately interceded for the young church in the state of Tennessee. It’s beautiful to be able to look back over 235 years and observe with amazement that God has preserved both in His grace. For in Gray, Tennessee, there is a church faithfully carrying on the legacy of its first shepherd. Likewise, in Prineville, Oregon, there is a young pastor with a small drip of Tidence Lane’s DNA in his blood, who is also a lover of this nation, moderate in doctrine, diligent to disciple believers, zealous for global evangelism, clinging to the hope of the Gospel, and honored to be cut from the same cloth as his newest hero.

*A Thrilling Note:  In my recent research, I found that Shiloh films will be releasing a  movie  the week of this article publication telling the story of the Overmountain men, with Tidence Lane being one of the lead characters! The film is called, “Overmountain Men, the Price of Freedom” and can be downloaded here . Watch the trailer here.



Faith of my Fathers

One doesn’t have to know me for long before they easily deduce that I am a man who devours history. Want to fuel my drive for knowledge on any given historical event? Tell me the matter has to do with U.S. history. Care to stoke the flames more? Inform me the topic pertains to the advancement of the gospel. Want to lose me to hours of research, field trips and conversation to a degree that you will be concerned for my mental stability? Inform me that the historic individuals are not too far off from my home town or family tree, and that we share the same DNA.

My next few Faith Page articles will tell the story of two men I have recently become enamored with, calling them “my heroes” in the most pure non-idolizing way possible. It may be that by God’s grace I am where I am because of these “Fathers of my Faith.”

Nearly a month ago my rockets of research were lit, launching me into an atmosphere of amazement. While my mother and her friend Beth prepared for a trip to Europe to trace some family ties to the Old Countries of Ireland and Denmark, they came across some material in our family line that I found quite interesting, to say the least.

My mother was given a book the dimensions of a school textbook. It was dedicated to gettysburg-class-editthe history and journey of my mother’s mother’s line, the Crumbaugh family, from Germany to the New World in the 1760s. I grabbed the book in excitement and began poring over the pages. After this brief taste of the book, I began flipping through towards later people and places when I came across the image of eight young men of the Gettysburg College graduating class, 1851. In looking at the men, I spotted a tall, distinguished man standing in the back.


While I hoped I was related to him, I knew I had to be based on his height, the tall hair and the long neck with what had to be a protruding Adam’s apple neatly covered by a tall collar
john-s-crumbaughand scarf of mid-19th century fashion. Sure enough, the name list below the photo showed him to be John S. Crumbaugh, my exponentially great-great grandfather. The photo accompanied four large pages of biography that started the process of fueling the fire of my historical bliss.

A bust along with a plaque describing in length the story of John S. Crumbaugh stands as a memorial at Lancaster Boy’s High School in Lancaster, Penn., where he served for eight short years as superintendent and principal before he heartbreakingly died from a lung hemorrhage at the young age of 27.

John was “the first honor of his class,” the plaque reads, “a man of noble presence, tall, well-formed, erect, calm; with kind eyes that saw everything, but always too wise to act upon everything they saw; gifted with a man’s voice of fine quality, deep, resonant, and6305067_123896729622 sympathetic; a man who would be noted in any assemblage – he impressed us all as the master.” He was, “Not only very active, but physically a very strong man. On one occasion, while principal of the high school, a number of men were talking of physical strength, and one of them, also of the farm and known to be of great strength, said confidently that he could put down any man in the company. Mr. Crumbaugh said quietly that he thought not. They cleared the space, and in a few moments the confident champion was on the floor.” The challenger would be John’s friend Kersey Coates, the future Union soldier in the Missouri Militia during the “Bleeding Kansas” tribulation of the early 1860’s.

As fantastic as some of the tales of John’s strength, stature, gumption and integrity are, I know through reading that their source was in his personal relationship with Jesus. John had some good religious influence around him in that both of his grandfathers were pastors. John studied theology under Rev. John C. Baker and helped plant a Lutheran church in the northwestern part of Lancaster (which according to my studies is still a thriving church today). He soon resigned principalship of the school in order to carry out his original purpose of entering the ministry, and assumed the pastorate of the newly planted church.

Even from babyhood John had a remarkable memory. He would write a speech or sermon of 20 or 30 minutes (which proves that not everything is handed down in our DNA) and have the entire work memorized in about the same amount of time.

Sadly, the untimely death of John S. Crumbaugh left a hole in Lancaster. In a tribute to John, written by a “warm friend and ardent admirer,” Dr. Thomas H. Burrows, “Mr. Crumbaugh was a man endowed by nature with talents of a high order. He was a good scholar, one of the strongest and best men we have ever known, and an executive officer of the first rank. Few men have lived to better purpose, though their working life may have been many times his own.

“He came to Lancaster a stranger in 1851, unheralded and unknown, but he held, in quick succession – for with him the time was indeed “short ” – three of the highest positions in our midst; the foremost place as teacher, one of the foremost as preacher, and supervisor of general school work in city and county. When he died, it was said, and believed, that no other man in city or county was known, and honored, and beloved by so many people. Nor is this at all strange or to be wondered that, being the man he was. He met so many people, he knew so many, he was heard by so many, and what he wrote was read by so many; and influenced so many to better thought, wiser view, and higher purpose.

“His chosen profession as was the ministry. As pastor of “St. John’s” he will be a tradition of the church for many generations. Had his strong life been spared, he would, we think, have become one of the most eloquent and influential men in the Lutheran Church in America. Once in his room we handed him an autographed book and asked him to write his name. He took it and wrote: ‘a man that hath friends must show himself friendly; and there is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.’

“It is a blessed privilege to know men like John S. Crumbaugh. He died as he had lived, a Christian in the best sense of that great word. The memory of his fine personality, his helpfulness, his self-sacrifice, his love of all things pure and good, his undying purpose to work while the day lasted, has in it all the old inspiration, though nearly a half century has passed since his untimely death.”

I am honored to share the story of my distant grandfather with you all. I have been greatly impressed by the strength, hard work, professionalism and kindness of this man, but am also purposeful in giving glory to his God, the One who saved even John to eternal life and called him to be a servant of the good news of the gospel to the people of Lancaster. I would love to travel back in time and meet this man, be his friend, learn from him and even be admonished in the lack of 1850’s character and work ethic that remains in our culture today.

God’s Heart for the Unreached

In May of 2014, a friend an I took a trip to Alabama for a world missions conference put on by a well-known pastor and author. In years past, I and others in our church have spent weeks praying and fasting about the lukewarm missions climate in our fellowship, so the purpose of our journey was to glean wisdom on how to move forward. We longed to have direction for how to lead people away from a Christian spin on the American dream and a solely localized method of discipleship. In short, we desired to have our gaze lifted to see God’s heart for the nations.

The church which hosted the conference would be considered a mega-church by today’s standards, but the large buildings and incredible resources faded away when the love, humility and laser focus on Gospel proclamation to every people group was manifested. The encouraging thing about what God is doing in this place is that global missions is not assigned to a group of a few spiritually-mature individuals.

Of this church’s approximately 6,000 members, nearly every one of them is part of the global mission team. They may not all get on a plane and head to a faraway land, but they each have at least one role in the very Biblical mission vision of the fellowship. They have a function of giving, praying or going to take the Gospel to all nations.

While this fellowship would never have claimed to have arrived or have the market on world missions, they are serving all around the world among many unreached and un-engaged people groups. Some of the disciples they are making have even been martyred for Christ’s name, and everything they do as a church comes under the umbrella of making disciples of all nations for the glory of God.

I was one of 100 other pastors in attendance who had the Holy Spirit use the Scriptures to open my eyes toward a more robust understanding of the plan of God to be glorified among all people groups. The re-occurring thread throughout the Bible is that God would be glorified by sending His son to save sinners, and those sinners from every tribe, tongue, people group and nation would one day bow before His throne, worshipping with grateful hearts.

Sadly, up until this point the blessings we have received as the American church have stopped with us. These vast resources have been given to do the one thing Jesus told us to do before His ascension: “Go, make disciples of all nations. . .” Instead, we have taken the status of being the most evangelical, supremely wealthy people group who have ever walked the face of the earth and built up our own individual and ecclesiastical empires. While God can be praised at the significant spread of the Gospel during the last two millennia, there is still a sobering number of people who have never heard of salvation found in Jesus Christ.



Of the seven billion people in the world, there are approximately 11,000 people groups. A “people group”The-Task-Remaining-04-04-1024x1009 is the largest group by which the Gospel can spread without significant barriers to understanding. These people groups are ethno-linguistic groups with a shared identity based on language or ethnicity. Of the 11,000 groups, over 6,000 are considered “unreached people groups,” meaning there are less than two percent evangelical Christians accounted for. Of this number nearly 3,000 people groups are considered “unengaged unreached people groups,” which means that not only are they unreached but there is no
active church planting work among the people. Think of that: 208 million people who have no hope of ever hearing about Jesus! As followers of Jesus who are commissioned to make disciples of all nations, we cannot be okay with this!


The Apostle Paul tells us that God has a plan to reach these people groups: Christ sends followers. Followers preach. People hear. Hearers believe. Believers call. Those who call are saved! The breakdown in God’s plan is when the followers with a given task to preach fail to do the proclaiming.

Millions of people are in desperate need of the Gospel coming within earshot so that they might believe, enjoy the salvation found in Christ Jesus and escape the certain expectation of judgment for sin, yet they have no hope of ever hearing. Even more resounding is that these high numbers of people have been created to extol the name of their Creator and give Him glory that He is due, yet they sit in a rebellious state of idolatry, robbing God of His glory.

I am thrilled to say that it was also at this conference that God answered our heart’s cry to be used by Him. He has already begun to change the culture of our church towards missions through corporate prayer for the nations and through following prayer guides such as Operation World (, Open Doors USA (, and Prayercast ( God has also opened up doors for our little fellowship to preach His name alongside a modern day “Paul” who is hazarding his life among the unreached Hindu and Buddhist people groups of the Himalayas in Nepal.

Jesus said that the Gospel would be preached in every nation and then the end would come. In the final book of the Bible we see a scene of the throne room of heaven where a group of people from every tribe, tongue, people and nation are singing a song of Christ’s wonderful redemption through His blood (Rev 5.9-14).

One day the Commission of Jesus will be fulfilled. While there is different opinion on what “nations” need to yet be reached, the late George Ladd wrote, “God alone knows the definition of terms. I cannot precisely define who all the nations are, but I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned; therefore, the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. My responsibility is not to insist on defining the term; my responsibility is to complete the task. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.”

Brothers and sisters, there is work to be done. May our primary task as followers of Jesus be making and mobilizing disciples who make disciples of all nations, tribes, tongues and people groups for the fame of our powerful, merciful and gracious God.



Small Town – Big Ministry


Not long ago, I was at a Calvary Chapel conference in Idaho where many of the attendees hailed from small towns. The guest speaker captured our attention when he said that he, too, was ministering in a small town and understood the challenges we faced. However, when he described his “small” town and began to express how difficult it was to limit your grocery shopping to a Walmart or hold your late-night meetings at an Applebee’s, the listeners began making eye contact with each other and soon a chuckle broke out in the room. The speaker knew something was up.

“What’s wrong? What did I say?” he asked. One pastor’s wife exclaimed, “We don’t have an Applebee’s!” “Or a Wal-Mart!” another shouted. Another from the audience asked the speaker,  “How big is your town?” “30, 000,” the speaker replied.

The room roared in laugher! The speaker was surprised to find that his audience lived mostly in towns with four-digit populations and smaller. Applebee’s? Try Apple Peddler. Walmart? Think Stewart’s Marketeria. If you know what a marketeria is, then you can say you are from a small town. Of course, each person has their own perspective of small based upon the large with which they are familiar.


Calvary Chapel of Crook County

I am now moving toward my sixth year as the lead pastor of Calvary Chapel of Crook County. That’s right, of Crook County – all of it. Most Calvary Chapels I know of claim a town as their focal point, but when you don’t have a lot to work with you’ve got to dream big and aim high. I’m not the founding pastor of this
church, so I didn’t come up with the name. However, if memory serves correctly the pioneer of this fellowship saw not only the town of Prineville, Oregon (population 9,200) as a harvest field for the Kingdom of God, but also the surrounding region of farmers, ranchers and hippies or rednecks who live off the grid (county population 20,978).

Unique Challenges

Serving a 250-member fellowship in the small community of Prineville comes with inherent challenges, especially since for much of my time here I’ve been the only paid staff member. Of necessity I wear many hats. As an elder I oversee the spiritual growth of the church, but I also perform every day, hands-on ministry, much like a deacon. In addition to studying the Word, preparing to preach, making disciples and spending time in prayer, I am regularly leading worship, updating the website, attending to maintenance needs of the building and doing some heavy lifting at moving parties for the folks trying to “get out of Dodge.” God has, however, raised up an incredible volunteer team of people who are actively using their gifts who help share the load as much as possible.

Unique Blessings


Prineville, Or

A unique blessing of living in a small town is that everybody knows everybody and everybody calls you “friend,” not just on Facebook. Take a drive through town and you will see a dozen people you know going about their daily tasks. It really is a wonderful thing and contributes to a “life on life” method of discipleship, and helps to build close friendships and community. It’s also a challenge unique to small- town life. When somebody is disgruntled with you or the church, everybody is going to hear about it, and God gives you an awkward opportunity to love that person when you cross paths in town.

Small-town living also presents many opportunities to serve the community and to develop relationships outside the walls of the church. As I coached my son’s sports teams, the Lord has provided incredible avenues of friendship and ministry to the lost. Almost the whole town comes out to the sports events, and they get to witness the love you have for the kids and the parents.

My small town has invited me to write a newspaper article periodically for their faith page. Though I was reluctant to add another thing to my plate, it has turned out to be a fantastic way to share the love of Christ with the community and to inform them of major world events that are affecting the church. A surprising number of our citizens actually read it.

The secluded Pastor: Many pastors get so wrapped up in being a leader that they almost lose their humanity and their ability to relate to people. They believe that God has called them to lead – not be a friend – and as a result they can become reclusive, leading to feelings of loneliness. I understand where they are coming from.  I have a personality that absolutely loves making and fostering friendships, and must be intentional about never letting that blur the lines. God has called me to lead, and as a result, a few of these friendships have suffered. Afterward, though, I have determined to continue reaching out to the men and families in our church not only as a pastor, but as a friend and a brother.

Make disciples: Some of the closest relationships I have had in this church have come from intentional, consistent, discipleship groups. Ours are called “Core Groups” and meet regularly every week when we eat together, study, pray, spur each other on, and share our burdens and sins.

Raise up elders: When I first came to Prineville, I thought that the elders would be a group of inexperienced, uneducated men with a lack of motivation to serve. Not so! I was blown away by the men God had already appointed here for the task. With the resources we have for discipleship. These men have been equipped for the work of the ministry, and are faithful, available and teachable. They just need someone to encourage them toward the role of a shepherd.

Attend  meetings and conferences: I am a blessed to be a part of the yearly pastors’ conference in Boise and also participate in monthly meetings with other Calvary Chapel pastors in Central Oregon. These men are true friends who have been tremendously encouraging over the years. We have put on retreats together, shared each other’s pulpits and resources, and established and strengthened churches. I’ve also reached out beyond the Calvary family and have enjoyed rich times with other like-minded local and regional pastors at their conferences and gatherings.

The Fruitless Pastor:

Don’t let times of ministerial barrenness or doubt get you down. Remember, Elijah believed he was the last man standing, when behind the scenes God had prepared 700 faithful men. When Elijah slipped into the depths of despair and feelings of failure, God was compassionate but then told him to get up because there was work to do!

I can testify that God is in the business of using the puny and pitiful to accomplish powerful things for His purposes!  Being a small town does not mean that God has small ministry plans for you. We are currently in the process of seeing God work in an outstanding way concerning local discipleship and world missions among the unreached people of the Himalayas, but it hasn’t come without the consistent, heartfelt laboring of prayer. Press into dreaming the dreams of God for your community through regular times of corporate prayer and fasting, both individually and as a church. These times at our church have been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined!

Small town ministry brothers, if your desire is to be about the business of making disciples for His glory, a work is happeninyou need g, so don’t grow weary and don’t lose heart. A harvest is coming!

How a WWII Balloon Bomb Tradgedy led to Gospel Advancement in Indo China

Rory and Rad on ponies

Myself (left) and my cousin Radley on our ponies, not far from Bly, Or.

I grew up on a cattle ranch on the other side of the hill from a town called Bly, Oregon. Through the years I would get vague accounts of a tragic incident that happened many years ago
on a hill rich with hunting and fishing called, “Gearhart Mountain.” A recent NPR podcast had sparked my interest in the
historical event and set me to begin researching even deeper what had occurred seventy years ago in my backyard.

Archie Mitchel Edited

Pastor Archie Mitchel

On May 5, 1945 Bly Oregon was the site of the only fatalities of World War II on the mainland United States due to enemy attack. Archie Mitchell, pastor of the Missionary Alliance church in Bly had done what many small town pastors had done in my youth on a Saturday morning.  He rounded up the kids from the church and took them on an outdoor picnic and fishing adventure. Squeezing 5 kids into his sedan along with his twenty-six Missionary Alliance CHurch Byyear old pregnant wife Elsie they set off to the hills for an afternoon of fun. As they arrived, the children piled out of the car and began to run and explore, Elsie not far behind keeping watch, Archie left at the car to pack the fishing poles and picnic basket by himself.  As the kids went into the tall pine trees they discovered an object partially hanging from low branches, partially resting on the ground and they beckoned Pastor Archie and Elsie to come see. Just as Archie Mitchell kidsshouted, “Don’t touch it, let me have a look first” the object exploded, shooting shrapnel in all directions including into the group of curious children, the mother and her unborn child, and the neighboring pine trees. Archie was knocked down, but quickly ran to
the injured. The fire consuming Elise’s dress was quickly extinguished by Archie at his arrival. Elsie used her final breaths to whisper something into Archie’s ear Herald and News Balloon bombbefore she was gone. All five children ranging from ages 11-14 were killed in the explosion.
History would later make clear that the explosion came from a technically elaborate balloon bomb that had made its way Balloon Bombacross the Pacific Ocean along with thousands of others in an effort to strike terror into US citizens, and distract them from the war effort with domestic emergency work as they tried to combat flames consuming natural resources. The balloon had found its resting place in the Forest of Gearhart Mountain while others made it to farther distances such as Montana and Wyoming.

I was visiting home this past spring break when I decided to take a trip through Bly stopping aRodgers Blyt the Missionary Alliance church, visiting with local folks and then on to the site of the explosion. The site of the blast has a monument with the names of the victims inscribed, and pine trees that were present at the tragedy still have fragments of shrapnel pock marking the bark. Citizens of Japan have even visited the monument and have left flowers and expressions of sorrow for the ravages of war and the innocent ones who are affected.

Rodgers Mitchell Monument Tree

A tree just next to the blast zone, peppered with shrapnel marks.

Mitchel Monument

The Mitchell Monument

I read a few more articles regarding the incident, hearing the last names of children that were well known in our small community, when I came across a special page on the Missionary Alliance website dedicated to Pastor Archie Mitchell. It was in this article that Archi rose in my book from the place of “unfortunate man involved in horrible tragedy” to “an Epic Hero of Christian Missionary work.”

I have written articles in the past explaining the current state of world missions. How that out of some 7 billion people in the world, nearly half of that number is what is considered “unreached
people groups” having less than 2% of their culture “born again Christian.” It is estimated that nearly half of that number, some 1.75 billion people are considered “unengaged un-reached” meaning that in the two thousand years since Jesus said, “go unto all the world and preach the gospel” there has been no active gospel spreading work taking place among that indigenous people group. This is where the story of a small town preacher who would invest in the lives of the children of his community gets even more interesting!


ALeperfter two years of recovering from the explosion that rocked his world, taking his young wife and unborn child, as well as a
substantial part of the young ones in his church, Archie Mitchell would marry a woman named Bette Patzke, a woman whoDr indo china lost a sister and brother by the same bomb. Two days before Christmas, Archie and Betty sailed to what was then called Indo-China where they served for two terms at the school for Dalat, Vietnam. During their third term in 1962, while serving in a leaper hospital and finishing up a midweek prayer meeting, the doors were broken through by Viet Kong soldiers pointing weapons at the missionary workers. They demanded the workers and doctor Ardel Vietti come with them. Archie was able to reason with the soldiers that the doctors and workers would leave peaceably if the mothers and children could stay in safety. The Betty Mitchellsoldiers obliged Archie’s request. Betty and the children remained working among the leprous. The Mitchell children would be raised among the lepers and eventually come back to the states to continue their education.  Archie and the other doctors who were taken by the soldiers were never seen again.

In April 1975, Betty and six other missionaries were taken captive by the Viet Cong.  They were held captive for nearly 10 months where they battled illness and rough treatment but were eventually released. Betty Mitchell has continued in various forms of missionary work, including in North Carolina with the Dega people who are a Vietnamese tribal group that had resettled in the States.

Rev Jaffray

Rev. R.A. Jaffray

The Alliance weekly from April 10, 1920 writes of an earlier pastor, “Rev. R.A. Jaffray accompanied by his wife [Minnie], [who] recently made a trip into Indo-China (Annam [now Vietnam]) covering about six weeks. They hoped to be able to open the first chapel in Saigon [now Ho Chi Minh City] and to make a tour into the utterly untouched country of Cambodia, where there is no work at all. Mr. Jaffray writes: “Here are 1 million souls for whom Christ died, and, after 1,920 years, not one of His messengers has gone to them with the story of free salvation. May He help the Alliance to give them a chance ’ere the Lord return.” Jaffray would be arrested by the Japanese during the invasion of Indonesia, placed in an internment camp where he would die from illness and malnutrition on July 24, 1945, less than a month before the Japanese surrender.

Upon hearing of the Mitchell’s life of sacrificial gospel service, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would have been like to lose a wife to an Asian enemy, remarry a relative of victims from that same tragedy, and soon after tell their family and a hurting and bitter community that I will be taking my new family to Asia where I will lovingly serve the lost and hurting, the people who would eventually go to war with the United States in a separate conflict. I can only imagine the encouragement and pleading of friends, family and community members to stay in the United States and continue ministry work here locally and safely, as it was needed as well.

Jim Elliot

Jim Elliot

CT Studd

C.T. Studd

It’s the same pleading Oregon wrestler Jim Elliot received when He was told to forsake global missionary ambitions, that America needed good preachers too! His reply was, “He is no fool who gives that which he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” He was soon after martyred along with five of his friends by the Alca natives in Ecuador. The extremely wealthy and well educated C.T. Studd, member of the Cambridge seven cricket team, was reprimanded for his choice to leave a comfortable life for gospel service in China would say, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

John Stott

John Patton

John Patton who would go to the New Hebrides Islands and lose wife and child while ministering among the cannibals would be told by and elder in his church, “John, you’ll be eaten by cannibals!” to which he replied, “Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.”

I am stirred to radical global and missional action by this local hero Archie Mitchell, his family and his legacy. A legacy that goes back to the true and better hero, Jesus Christ who left the comforts of His throne in heaven and the rich fellowship of the Father and Spirit to dwell among men who hated Him and spitefully abused Him to the point of death that the world might be saved. May we too lay down our comfort, status and lives for the salvation of Christ Jesus to be known among all the nations.

Time to Get my Blog On!

For the past two years I have had the privilege and rare opportunity to write a periodical article for our local newspaper’s “faith page.” To be honest, when the prospect was presented to me I was apprehensive for many reasons. First, I by no means consider myself a professional writer, and second, I thought I didn’t have the time.  These concerns collapsed in front of a nearly extinct chance of proclaiming Christ and declaring His glory through a public avenue. I have found that as I go to the task of writing, the Spirit of God has brought the subject and the words, most often dealing with my personal connection with world events, global missions and local discipleship. I have felt a blog would expand the audience of these writings. Many times, my articles have to be trimmed down to fit a certain space within the paper, or things are edited to meet the reader criteria, and I am not able to put with the article all of the pictures I feel would really help the story or article come to life.

In addition, my God has opened up doors of Biblical proportions for world missions this last year, and I believe He has placed a call on my life to be a sounding piece to awaken, spur on, and fuel His people’s heart for the nations of the world to know the saving gospel of Christ Jesus  so that He may be glorified.

This, ultimately is the purpose of my page. To by the grace of God move a people to have a care for the great commission and a passion for the nations, so they might know His ways of salvation, enjoy relationship with Him, fear Him and give Him glory. I pray my site bring this to pass in you.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.  (Matthew 28.18-20)