The Summer With Pepsi

The Summer With Pepsi

The first time I met Augustus Bizimongu he was wearing a shirt with a Pepsi logo on both the front and back, the last time I saw him he had that same shirt on as he had on all the days that we were in Goma. Thus the name Pepsi seemed like a good choice since I could not pronounce most of his name.

Pepsi was about 19, while neither of us could speak the language of the other we learned quickly how to communicate by drawing in the black sand of the volcano, sign language, and eye contact; it really worked well for both of us.

I knew very quickly that he was a leader that I could give him a task and it would be done. I placed him in charge of a team of twelve men digging a large latrine for the five hundred people who would live on our camp sight.

At the days end he would come out of that ditch, claiming wearily up the ladder from the ten foot deep hole covered in the black dust of the volcano’s ash that was to be home to our five hundred people.

He would be back the next day ready to get back in the hole and finish the task. Somewhere somehow he had washed his Pepsi shirt and again he would be wearing it, the story repeated itself for the weeks that it took to dig the large hole. Never a complainant, always a smile and a motion from me of a great days work and from him that he would be back in the morning sunlight.

As we completed the camp and began to make our preparation to return to the United States, I could see sadness in his eyes, I took his picture, gave it to all of those locals who were in charge of jobs and assured them that he would be a great worker.

On the last day in camp I hid all of the clothes I did not need in order to get home and told him where they were and that they would be his after I left. We said our goodbyes to all of the men and as our truck turned to leave the sight he ran in front and stopped us, he gave me a small brass cup, I gave him a pen the last thing I had that I could spare and watched as tears ran down both of our faces for we would never see one another again in this life. I put my thumb in the air, well done was the sign, well done.

I never received any information about him but have wondered many times if he found a job, a wife and a new life. The Mt. Nyiragongo eruption destroyed the camp in 2002 and much of the city of Goma, leaving some 500,000 people homeless, I hope he was safe; he had suffered so many dark nights, I hope that one missed him.

Yesterday in our church service I took the Lord’s supper from that cup which he gave me some 21 years ago; Pepsi thanks for the Summer of 94, thanks for the friendship, hard work and a job well done, see you in glory. Thumbs Up!

Published in: on March 29, 2015 at 9:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Prayer Not Prayed

Then Jesus said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch and pray with me.”  Matthew 26:38

After a bit He returned and found them asleep.  Have you ever forgotten to Pray?

She met me as I was coming out of the drug store and with wonderful excitement said, “Pastor thank you so much for praying for mom. She is doing great, the surgery went perfect and she will be home in a few days. Thanks pastor for praying for mother.”

I am not sure of my response but it had to be quiet of this I am very sure for the last time I had prayed for her mother was when she had approached me in the hallway at church and asked me to remember her and the surgery in my prayers. I had walked away praying for her mother but in fifteen minutes I was in the pulpit and to my knowledge that was the last I remember of the request until she caught me coming out of the drug store.

 I was so ashamed, I had forgotten to pray. I wonder how many prayers have been left un-prayed. Jesus wanted the disciples to pray, so it had to matter. God does hear and answer our prayer; otherwise Jesus would not have asked them to pray. Maybe Peter would not have denied Christ, maybe there would have been more disciples at the cross, maybe, maybe – but they did not pray. I wonder how many people are sick today because someone forgot to pray, how many still lost, how many in the cemetery? How many homes broken, how many families shattered, and how many lives never serving in His Kingdom because of a prayer not prayed?


Published in: on March 24, 2015 at 11:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

What A Moment Can Do

He wondered if he would last through the night, but then such thoughts often filled his darkened hours and he would in simple faith wait for the morning sun and dream of the years gone by and the events that had changed a lifetime.

Strange how a moment, just a moment in one day could change forever your focus, your direction, and your eternity, like lighting crossing a darken sky that moment had marked him forever. He had dreamed for a life time about coming to Jerusalem for the Passover, saved, done without and now he was there.

The trip from Africa and been long and costly but now, now he was in Jerusalem. But the street was so noisy, so busy and the rushing people were shouting with hate in their voices, hate that came deep from within their hearts. He watched the man fall, saw the leather strap strike his back, but he could not move, he was done the cross was too heavy and his body too beaten.

The Roman Solider touched him with his spear and told him to pick up the cross. Frighten, fearful for his own life he did so and even in his healthy and unbeaten body it was a great task to take it to the hill. The soldiers had pushed him aside once they arrived at the place but the press of the people kept him close to the deadly scene.

That moment, those eyes, the words of forgiveness; he knew, he was certain that this man was no criminal, he had done no wrong, and he was the victim of a world gone mad. Simon remember how in the days after how he had thought about all he had seen, the rumor he heard that the man had come out of the tomb and then the moment he heard Peter preach and received this beaten, broken man as his Lord and Savior.

The years had passed but he never went back to Africa, he had met Paul and helped him on his mission journey, his sons had followed in his faith and they too were busy with the church at Rome and Antioch. That is what a moment can do he thought, just a moment, carrying a cross for an unknown man to die on and his life had been forever changed.

The darken night seemed to be breaking; his eyes could see through the dark, his body was not in pain, his legs not week. Then he saw Him standing in the darkness that had now become light inviting him to come and not carry a cross but walk with Him, he called his name, He knew him and together they would walk to a land prepared for him. Praise God for the moment.

Published in: on March 23, 2015 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Always Behind

Well I read on the internet yesterday that the ideal age to retire is 67. There I go, still behind, I missed it; here I am 77 and I am not yet retired. Leave it to me to always be late. I just hope I am late for my funeral.

I have always been behind, that I know how to do really well. Some of you know what I mean; the day I go fishing is the day you can’t pay a fish to bite, but the day before, that’s right the day before they came up and begged to get in the boat. I go to the beach, you can’t purchase a sunbeam, but the week before I paid my full weekly rental it was sunny and beautiful all week, see what I mean, and I am behind.

On retirement though let me suggest something, if you really want to retire make sure you have something you want to do with all of that time. For certain I am old enough and I do draw my social security, but retire, not too interested. Maybe it is because I have a job I really love, why I had rather do what I do for nothing as what most people do for money, I use to hear Dr. Creswell say that and I really do mean it; but if I want my people at church to know it, I will tell them, you don’t have to. Could I live on my social security, well I don’t know, could I, maybe if I stayed behind on all my bills and cut some of my driving out, and did not eat out each day and did not give to anything that I believe in and love, not sure. I know people do and I admire them for being able to do so, but as I said I am always behind so there I go.

Do I think it is fair to draw my social security and still work, well I did pay into social security, in fact I paid a greater percent than most people for pastors are considered self-employed so we pay about 14%, more or less. Also I have paid social security each year since I was eleven. Will I break even with what I have paid and what I draw, don’t know, afraid to figure that up, so I will just not balance that sheet as I said, I stay behind. I have a friend who retired from the army and draws about 6,000 dollars a month plus his social security, I was in the Navy, but like I said I was behind, didn’t spend enough time, didn’t make enough rank, so there you go looking at all that spilled milk, but then I never did like milk so I am ok.

All in all I am a very happy man, gloriously so, God has been better to me than I would ever deserve in that area I am not behind. See you tomorrow, unless I get behind…


Published in: on March 22, 2015 at 8:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Great Attitude

When I met him almost everyone called him Uncle, now I am sure that he was not an uncle to all the people in the community but that was his best title.

As the story goes he became very sick in his forties and the doctors believed that he would not live but a few months so he and his wife decided to divide their large farm into smaller but nice size farms for their children as well as one for his wife.

But God had other times and longer times for him to live, he not only recovered from cancer but became a healthy man who lived long into his elder years. In fact he out lived his wife.

It seemed though that a couple of the children did not do too well with their farms and as I understand it they had to sell out just to get out of debt and survive.

Because of this many of the men teased him about being too quick to give his land away and what a waste it had been, he never responded with much, just kind of grunted and went on about his life; the criticism could live on, and it would but so would he.

I was with him in the final days of his journey and we shared a lot of great stories about his life and all that he had seen and experienced. One day he decided to talk about his children and his gift to them of the farms and money. I was amazed at his attitude as he spoke about those of his children who had done poorly.

He said, ‘Pastor I am so glad I gave them the land, you see I got to watch them use it and even watched as some lost it, but you know, pastor, others have told me what a mistake I made and how I had missed out on so much that I could have had, but in truth I was blessed by every moment that I watched the story unfold.

It is true that some of them did not do well, but you know I was still here and I was still able to advise and help pull them out of the bad times. What if I had waited until I died, who would have helped them; look at all I would have missed, I got to see what I made be used by those for whom I made it and even if it all did not turn out to the best I was here to provide for those whom God had given to me.’

Uncle, you were a good and Godly man.


Published in: on March 17, 2015 at 11:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Where Are The Stones

She had hated her life, she could not remember the last time she had a positive thought about herself, it had been a long, long time ago, if ever. But this moment, this event was the worst. Being dragged through the street like some kind of animal by this group of men was more than she could take; it was the very bottom of her life.

She knew a number of them and she knew that they had been as guilty as she had but here they were making sure that everyone knew of her sin, and everyone would watch as she was punished. She had been set up, of that she was sure, the men came in just as she and her ‘companion’ was in the middle of their fleshly lust. But it would mean nothing to these men nor those standing watching her being shouted at, spit upon, and cursed to try and make her case, after all she was guilty, not the first time but many times.

They threw her bruised and naked body in front of a man, a man whom she had never seen and asked him to be her judge.

She could see him looking at her then searching with his eyes each of the men screaming for her punishment, her stoning.  He stooped and wrote something in the dusty ground, they continued to shout at him to have her stoned, he looked up and said, “Here is a plan, Let the one without sin cast the first stone at her.”

Then he continued to write in the dust. She could see the men one by one slipping away, she felt no thrown stone. Where were the stones? The stranger covered her with his robe, asked where those who had accused her were and then told her to go and stop her sinning. In all of her sin, in all of her shame, she had met the Master and He had forgiven her. Life for her started over, brand new, no stain, no sin, she had met the Master.

Ivan (Story from John chapter 8)

Published in: on March 16, 2015 at 11:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Mother’s Request

The summer of 1943 in Jackson , Tennessee and Calvary Baptist Church was much like it was across America . The war efforts filled all of our thoughts, hearts, and prayers. While Italy had surrendered, the invasion of Europe had not yet taken place and the Pacific while going our way was still far from over and safe. As we worshiped that20120508-002033.jpg Sunday at Calvary, as usual the church was filled, here and there you would see a service man in uniform, home on leave or from one of the area training facilities, in the sanctuary but most of the young men were gone yet still the church was filled with children, youth, ladies and men too old for the draft. To the side of our pulpit area on the wall was a large American Flag and pinned on many of the stars of that flag were the pictures of young men from our church who were in the service of our country. We would always pray for those young men and sometime the service would include placing a gold star around their picture for word had been received that they would not be coming home. As a six year old I was in the balcony watching with interest all that was happening so I saw the lady come in the back door and walk down the long aisle of the church toward the pastor. We were all standing and singing as she stood at the bottom of the stage and motioned that she wished to speak to the pastor. He slipped down to the front listened to her a minute, looked at something she showed him and then stopping the service and called for William, the church janitor, who always sit just outside the door in the balcony. He asked William to bring in the ladder for the flag toward which he looked was several feet from the floor and it would be needed. He introduced the lady, with all of her tears, told her story that she had heard that we prayed for boys in the service and wondered if we would put her son’s picture on our flag. I still remember as he climbed that ladder and pinned the boy’s picture to the star on the flag, everyone wept as he held it in his hand and prayed for this mother’s boy. Even though I was only six I knew that the war was a great cost and I also knew that a mother’s love was wonderful.


Ivan Today’s Daily Devotion

Published in: on March 15, 2015 at 11:05 pm  Comments (1)  

My Son – Vann

In the great flow of life you have so very many glorious moments and somehow with age those moments blend together to become one great drink of a very lovely flavor. You cherish that tall glass of life from which you sip more readily as life grows older for that act recalls the sweetness of life.

But now and then a moment comes that has such a unique flavor, such a joyful taste that with all the mixing of life it still flows with its own special taste of life. Such a moment happened to me on Wednesday, March 14, 1962. I was in the navy stationed at Parris Island Marine Corps Base in South Carolina. My son Vann was born.

About six o’clock on that Wednesday night of March he came marching into my life and brought to me that unmatched flavor. I have had the joy of being a part of the lives of six children: all of them precious and each one a distinct personality from the others. Five of them are what I shall call chosen, maybe I chose them are they chose me I am really not all together certain. Each one valuable and each one loved with all of my heart. But Vann, Vann came as a gift, a gift from God as part of my own body and life.

I remember the first moment I saw him, the first time I changed him, the first night of sleep after he came home and a million other moments. Tomorrow that baby of so long ago turns fifty-three and I weep to realize how much I love him and what a wonderful young man he has become. A great husband, wonderful father, and a splendid son; if God gave you money and said go purchase you a son, Vann would be in the bag the moment you left glory.

He is a man after his Father’s own heart and my heart as well. For I know that he believes with all of his heart and life that God is his father. I am pleased that he achieved far beyond his father and that I can say without hesitation; my son is a man of honor and a servant of God. Happy Birthday son, thanks for being that special drink in that individual glass that will never lose its flavor.

Dad; March 14, 2015

Published in: on March 12, 2015 at 11:05 pm  Comments (2)  

Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye – Jim Sells

I never have been good at saying goodbye; one church member told me when I had resigned from the church that I was a very good pastor but a lousy goodbye. I believe he was right.

I understand the scripture and believe with all my heart that Jim is with the Lord, that through his faith in God he is now blessed to be with Him in glory. Yet, I really did not want to say goodbye.

I have shared the same emotions with both of my parents, three sisters, brother-in-laws, and two nephews and countless friends and fellow church member, but I have never learned to do it gracefully and with full peace.

I had only know Jim since he returned to Byrdstown, even though we are the same age, just four days apart I did not know of the joyful years of his basketball stardom, his young life as a husband and father, just these last years of settling into the closing time.

Jim had a will and mind of his own, he could be stubborn and even quarrelsome, but through it all we remained friends and prayer partners. We did not always agree, but we always shared a mutual love and respect and a firm desire to serve our Lord.

He had a passion for lost people, a desire to tell everyone about Jesus, to make sure that all heard the wonderful story of God and His love.

When the call came on Monday I drove to his home with hurt in my heart, I did not want to see what I was going to see and I did not want to say goodbye, some might even say I was angry, maybe I was, not at anyone just that life has to close.

Thanks Jim for your love, prayers and dreams, our family of faith will care for the love of your life, Patsy, until glory, yes until glory, goodbye.


Published in: on March 11, 2015 at 11:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

We Need More of His Tribe

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. First Thessalonians 5:11

Born with a sight problem that little was known about in his generation the educational system had just overlooked him and left him to forever be behind. In the third grade the teacher called him dummy and told him not to bother to come back to school. He didn’t.

When I met him he had already achieved a degree of success and was serving our children’s home as a house father. By today’s standards he would never have been given the opportunity to serve, but because of different requirements in those days he was chosen.

I knew very few men in my service with the home that could calm a child down, get his attention, and over the long run build a self-value in the child like he could. Take the boy that most of the world would throw away place him in this man’s home and in time you would harvest a man of character.

His secret? I think he knew what it is like to be thrown away and he was determined that he would discover the ‘gift’ that each person has and help that person discover it for themselves. He knew how wonderful it felt to have someone believe in you and he passed it on to others. As someone has said he had walked in their shoes so he knew how it felt. We need more of his tribe.

Published in: on March 10, 2015 at 11:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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