Saturday, October 22, 2016


I was a student at Harding College from 1972-1975.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Harding and have many amazing memories.  One of those memories was of a student who continually ministered and intentionally connected with blind students on campus.  I’d see him walking side-by-side with them to classes, assisting them in the cafeteria, library, chapel, etc.   I have to tell you I was convicted and impressed.  

Fast-forward 15 years.  In 1988 I received a call from an elder, in Colorado, inviting our little Sikes’ family to come for the weekend and speak to their congregation about Cornhusker Christian Children’s Home (CCCH).  At the time I was CCCH’s Assistant Superintendent and gladly accepted his invitation.  Our family travelled from western Nebraska to Colorado, on Friday night.  We spent most of Saturday with the elder and his wife on their farm before Sunday’s speaking engagement.

What I most vividly remember were the guide wires everywhere, so the elder could navigate safely around his 12-acre farm.  “This network of guide wires were strung out just a little over head-high, from the house to the workshop, from the workshop to the pasture and from the sheep shed to the pigpen.  Bells were placed on certain “problem” animals – the rambunctious ram and the over-stimulated steer – to alert (the elder) when he was in harm’s way.”  (Turning Darkness Into Light, Christian Chronicle, 2010)

Our time on the farm with our little children was such a blessing.  It was literally an outdoor playground for all ages with a tree house, rope swing, zip line, sack swing, as well as a petting zoo (with certain animals)!  I discovered later that it was also a place for “troubled youth to come and learn responsibility and Christian values.” 

As I’m sure you’ve now surmised, the elder on whose farm we were staying was blind and had been for many years as a result of congenital cataracts.  On Saturday, after a long conversation with him and his wife, I wandered into their living room and began looking at all the family pictures that covered their wall.  Surprisingly, in many of the pictures I found the face of the young man I had observed, at Harding College, who continually ministered to the blind!  Then, it hit me!  Eureka!   This was his farmhouse growing up…. these were his parents…. his own father…. blind!  

The son’s name is Dr. David Bland, now professor of Homiletics and Director of D.Min. at Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tenn.  The “blind farmer and his wife” -- Bob and Helen Bland.  Bob served as an elder for the Meadowlark Church of Christ in Fort Collins, CO for about 30 years.   David’s experience of growing up with a father going blind did not make him bitter, but better.  His intentional choice to serve the blind while on Harding’s campus opened the eyes of many – including my own – “so that the works of God might be displayed....” (John 9:9) God is good.  Mr. Steve

In February, 2014, I drove to Lincoln, Nebraska, to be with my oldest son to watch the University of Nebraska men’s basketball team play the Indiana Hoosiers. Before the game, a highly reputable Indiana cardiologist, Dr. Larry Rink (who has now been IU’s team doctor for the past 39 years) walked by my seat. I instantly said, “Dr. Rink, thank you for helping save my brother-in-law’s life.” The doctor stopped, shook my hand and asked who it was he had helped. I reminded him of the story that took place (now over 31 years ago) that forever tied three cities together:  Bloomington, IN, Rochester, MN & Indianapolis, IN. 
In May 1985, Dr. Rink was my brother-in-law’s cardiologist and after giving him an echocardiogram, immediately arranged a private jet to transport my brother-in-law (in his late 20’s), my sister-in-law, a registered nurse, a pilot, and me to Rochester, Minnesota. While a team of Mayo Clinic doctors stabilized my brother-in-law’s heart, Boots Young prepared a place for my sister-in-law to stay. It just so happened that a new ministry had begun called “Hands Of Compassion” (HOC), and a room was provided for my wife’s sister during her week-plus stay in Rochester. She was HOC’s first houseguest! 
Meanwhile, I flew back to Bloomington, Indiana with the pilot and nurse, and less than two weeks later, my brother-in-law was transported from Rochester to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, to await a new heart.  On Memorial Day weekend, 1985, the Lord most graciously provided my brother-in-law with a strong and vibrant 24-year-old heart.  The doctors gave him, on the average, three years to live.  However, by God’s grace, over thirty-one years later, my brother-in-law and my wife’s sister, remain alive and well, praising the Lord!
For sometime now we have been praying for Brent Hanson -- for God to heal his heart, or by God’s mercy and grace, give him a new one!  Brent and Becky came to us from northern Minnesota and have stayed at our houses of compassion several times over the years.  This week, Brent and Becky are scheduled to fly to Mayo in Arizona as they continue to await God’s heart decision.
Much has happened since my brother-in-law was jetted to Rochester in 1985:  my older brother, Stacy, came and worked 15 years for HOC; a second HOC house was built; I was hired to begin ministry here in August, 2013; and three days before we arrived, Stacy and Carol moved up to northern Minnesota where he met an EMT pastor in need of a new heart -- Brent Hanson!  God is good all the time and all the time God is good.  Mr. Steve

Sunday, October 9, 2016

I have many heroes of faith -- men and women I’ve personally known and loved, who have lived their lives for the Lord and are now eternally with Him.  They are souls I long to meet again and live with forever!  Of course Jessica and my Dad are part of my great “Cloud of Witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), but there really are a host of others who have deeply inspired me to keep on keeping on when I’ve wanted to just stop, give up, give in, and give over.

Last Thursday afternoon I opened up my mail and perused a bulletin from a congregation my family and I loved and worshipped with years ago in Texas.  Inside was this sentence: “Lois E______ passed away Sunday night at AGH.”  Lois was 102 years old when she died. She and her husband, J.D., were great encouragers to me at a time I needed them most.  When I spoke at J.D.’s funeral, over 15 years ago this week, they had been married four months shy of 70 years.  (Remind you of anyone....i.e. Richard & Margaret?!)

Today is the one-year anniversary of Sam H__________’s death.  I did not know Sam long, but I will long remember him!  Sam and Tracy and their family came to worship with us over a year ago while Sam was undergoing treatment here at Mayo. Many of us remember Sam’s positive attitude of faith -- even after suffering multiple amputations of his hands, feet and legs, while undergoing many other complications and difficulties.  Yet, Sam encouraged us all by his love for the Lord and his family, along with his great passion for praising God in song.  Sam H___________ is definitely one of my heroes of faith.

Embedded forever in my mind is the picture of Sam raising his “stubs” to the heavens in praise of our Lord and King!  Early on October 9, 2015, Sam was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22), where I believe all my heroes of faith to dwell.  Someday we will all be carried away.  I have to tell you that I long for that day!  Blessings to Tracy and her family and to all who long for Jesus’ appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).  
God is good.  Mr. Steve