Did Omar Meet Velna?

Two months ago I was browsing in an antique store in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and found a rectangular red autograph album with about 30 entries to Omar. I was intrigued by it and read some of the entries from 1885, as the entries started in Marysville, Kansas, but then most came from the people of Conesville, Schoharie County, N.Y.

Omar G. Richtmyer Album
Omar G. Richtmyer Album

On a whim I bought the album and wondered if it would be possible to locate this stranger from 137 years ago. As I walked to my car where my wife was waiting I appreciated how the storeowner had discounted ten dollars off the price. That made me turn around to go back to buy another autograph album (1890) addressed to Velna, sitting beside Omar’s on the same shelf with over 40 entries, and the first ones starting off from Middleburgh, N.Y. When I got home I checked on a map and Middleburgh was only about 20 miles from Conesville and I wondered if these two might have known each other.

I transcribed the album and as I read about Conesville I was impressed by the 200 year-old Richtmyer Tavern and Richtmyer cemetery and hoped this meant I could track Omar’s down. The Town Clerk at Conesville put me in touch with the Town Historian, Kimberly Young, who is a wonderful detective and a wealth of information about the Richtmyer family and their history. Her love of history brought Omar Richtmyer to life and I hope you enjoy stepping back in time 137 years to rural New York.

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William Griffin of the 114th New York Volunteers

114th NY. Vols flag and monument with bronze plaque at the battle of Winchester

William Griffin was sold as a slave for a $1,000 on the auction block in Louisiana but was freed when the 114th New York Volunteers marched through. He worked as Lt Breed’s helper and Lt. Breed kept a close account in the back of his diary as to how much William owed from his salary as he drew a hat and clothing for him from the Commissary. On October 19, 1864, just before the battle of Winchester Lt Breed said, “William, go and fill my canteen for me as this may be the last time you ever do this.”

That day when the Union center gave way and was routed, the 114th N.Y. was told to go out in the center of the field and hold at all costs. They held for 45 minutes, surrounded on three sides by the enemy, alone, at a terrible cost of over half their unit. When they retreated back to the tree line the army had been able to regroup. They were told to counterattack, which they did, but with all the color guard shot down and almost all the officers, Lt. Breed, picked up the regiment’s flag and held it at the fence line. He was shot and killed holding the flag. The Union’s counterattack and they won the battle.

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Martyr’s Walk

Last week I wrote to Dr. Ian Buntain, who is the Director of the World Missions Center, at Southwestern Seminary to ask about a Martyr’s Walk a friend had told about. He confirmed that there was a dedicated walkway with plaques commemorating Christian witnesses who were killed serving the Lord. I hadn’t realized this before and was glad to hear that my next door neighbor, Archie Dunaway, who had been killed during the Rhodesian civil war, was honored in the Martyr’s Walk. He not only sent me the list of the twenty five martyrs but also went outside and took a photo of Archie Dunaway’s plaque which I really appreciated and wanted to share with you. If you are ever in the Ft. Worth area you should consider stopping by Southwestern Seminary and going through this walk.

“Martyrs”: The word was originally translated from Greek as “witnesses,” but it came to refer to people who died because of their testimony. Below is a list of Baptist martyrs who should be remembered for giving their lives in the service of Jesus Christ. The Martyrs’ Walk is dedicated in honor of Myrna and John Hendrick and the Hendrick family.

Dunaway, Archie (1920-1978): Archie was killed by guerrilla soldiers while serving as an FMB (now IMB) missionary in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) at the Sanyati Baptist Hospital Compound. He and his wife Margaret served as missionaries to Nigeria and Rhodesia for 31 years. Previously, he pastored churches in Indiana and Tennessee.

Elliott, Larry Thomas (1943-2004), and Donna Jean Elliott (1945-2004): They were killed in a truck by gunmen in Mosul, Iraq. Larry and Jean served as IMB missionaries for almost 26 years in Honduras and for a short time in Iraq. In Iraq, they were looking for a location to provide clean drinking water. In Honduras, they planted 12 churches.

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Books by Dr. Mark Randall Reviewed by AFA Journal

The two most recent books by Dr. Mark Randall, Decurion, Called to be a 21st Century Warrior and The Bethlehrm Midwife, The Story of Jesus’ Birth, Retold through the Eyes of a Midwife, have been featured in the December issue of the AFA Journal, a publication of  the American Family Association.

American Family Association (AFA), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1977 by Donald E. Wildmon, who was the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Southaven, Mississippi, at the time. Since 1977, AFA has been on the front lines of America’s culture war. The original name of the ministry was National Federation for Decency but was changed to American Family Association in 1988.

Today, AFA is led by president Tim Wildmon, and it continues as one of the largest and most effective pro-family organizations in the country with hundreds of thousands of supporters.

To read the reviews of Dr. Randall’s books click here.

God Wants Gamers

Do you enjoy video games or know someone who does? If so my new book Decurion: Called to be a 21st Century Warrior is just for you.

Gamers are talented individuals. They don’t see color and have learned to co-ordinate with people from many countries. God wants to use their individual talents.

Join Jay, a skilled tactician and team leader, who is caught up into heaven to audition for the role of Decurion. Under the guidance of a veteran centurion, he meets his ten member multi-national team and learns to use their unique gifts to rescue hostages from all parts of the globe.

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Send Relief

As I read about so many desperate situations in the world today, it is overwhelming to know how to reach out in Jesus’ name. The refugee crisis in Afghanistan and the earthquake disaster in Haiti are just two examples. When my family went with our church to visit Children’s Hope in Jacmel, Haiti about five years ago I thought I had already seen the worst in starvation and economic desperation after growing up in Zimbabwe. But it was shocking to see how in the Western Hemisphere there could be such a need. As we conducted medical clinics and gave out medicines, the inability to help Haiti, was overwhelming. That is why I wanted to recommend a trustworthy agency today. There are many good organizations sending help but one that handles your gift responsibly in the name of Jesus Christ is Send Relief. It not only sends food, but also tries to provide good drinking water by drilling wells, and gives chickens, rabbits and goats so the people can continue to raise food to provide for their families.

I appreciate trustworthy organizations after my first crazy experience in distributing food. This came when I was a high school senior in Sanyati, Zimbabwe. Another Missionary Kid, Jeff Fray, had just graduated from college and returned home to Zimbabwe. There was a drought in Zimbabwe, that was especially severe in the northwest region called Tongaland, after the tribe living there. The Tonga tribe had been living on the banks of the Zambezi and were used to fishing before the former Rhodesian government had forced them to relocate to a barren area of the country.

A grant from the Baptists of the Foreign Mission Board had bought several hundred bags of mealie meal and beans for those starving in Tongaland. Jeff and I made the first attempt for food distribution in December, 1980, in the hospital Land Rover and a 2-ton truck. But, it was cut short by the rainy season and flooding on the roads. We only got about two hours down the road when we found the roads washed out and had to turn around and unload the food at a warehouse in Gokwe. Carrying the bags of mealie meal off the truck coated us in a sticky mess and the smell of soured wet corn meal made us smell like a brewery.

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The Christmas Elephant

As Doug Derbyshire related to Mark Randall (3/2011)

It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was two weeks before Christmas and we were busy making preparations for the Christmas Pageant that we were going to hold in our yard. We were planning to invite all our neighbors in the small Thai village that we lived in. It wasn’t unusual to see an elephant walk down the street with his owner trolling along beside him, carrying bananas and other fruit. The children enjoyed spending 20 baht (75 cents) to buy food to feed the elephant and the owner was glad to be paid to give him food. I had a brainwave when I saw him that day and thought wouldn’t it be great to have a live elephant in our Christmas program. It was amazing how easy it was to haggle with the owner and settle on a price of 1000 baht ($33) for the use of his elephant for that day.

The day dawned brimming with anticipation and Cheryl, my wife, dressed in her Thai finery, walked out on the second floor balcony. The elephant had arrived and with fear and trepidation she stepped off the balcony onto his back. With 40 other church members in tow she was led into town and through the market, passing out invitations to the Christmas pageant. When she returned I realized that something was wrong. The elephant owner didn’t say anything but he had that look. I asked, “What’s the matter?”

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Archie Dunaway – Good Neighbor, God’s Martyr

Two weeks ago I was attending the Southern Christian Writer’s Conference at the First United Methodist Church in Hueytown when I met Shirley Crowder. She was describing one of her several books on prayer to me and she mentioned she had co-authored it with another MK from Nigeria. They had grown up on the same mission station and hospital.

I asked, “Ogbomosho?”

She looked surprise and said, “Most people can’t even pronounce, never mind know where it is.”

I explained we had some friends, the Dunaways, who were missionaries from Nigeria who had transferred to our Sanyati Mission in Rhodesia, which also had a hospital and I grew up next door to them. She mentioned how a missionary from Rhodesia came to Nigeria, Lolete Dotson, after the Dunaways had moved from Nigeria. It’s a small world where you know the same people from two small stations. She remembered all the Dunaways’ children but I only knew Mark and Martha as the two older children had already left home when they were at Sanyati. My sisters and I enjoyed going next door to play Monopoly with the Dunaways as Mark made up different rules, like the fact all the fines paid to the bank were put in the middle of the board and if you landed on the corner you could collect all this additional money, which really helped when one was in trouble. We went by “Mark’s Monopoly rules” for years.

I saw on Martha’s Facebook on June 15th, that it had been 43 years since Archie Dunaway’s death at Sanyati. I remember Archie Dunaway as a good man, a quiet man, whom the people loved as he wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty, doing the hard jobs on the station right alongside them, whether it was trying to keep the boilers working, the electric generator running for the hospital, or fix the two ambulances which frequently broke down on the rough dirt roads into town. He showed God’s love for the people by fixing broken machines. Even though his hands were rough and frequently grease-stained, he could be surprisingly gentle when he pursued his hobby of planting flowers and trying to raise them in a harsh, hot climate. He turned a barren anthill in the front of his house to a raised stone covered patio, surrounded by terraced flowers, and shaded with trees. This was the place to be for the weekly meetings and meals by missionaries. Margaret, his wife, was a nurse and also ran the midwifery school, as she enjoyed helping deliver some of the 2,000 babies born each year at Sanyati Hospital.

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A Rat in the O.R.

A rat sitting on the operating table
A rat sitting on the operating table

Have you ever had something come along in life and snatch your joy away?

While working at a new job in a rural hospital overseas I had a hard time trying to get used to the new scrubs. Instead of a top shirt and bottom pants, it was simply a surgical gown which they explained with the extreme heat you needed a little ventilation. However since I was about a foot taller than everyone else at the hospital even their largest gown only came down to my mid thigh and there was a slit up my leg that almost exposed my underwear so I had much more ventilation than I wanted. The first time I sat down in the doctor’s lounge waiting on a surgery to start I couldn’t decide whether to cross my legs, keep them together or tug my gown down. I was also a little embarrassed as I sensed many in the room were staring at my hairy legs. Among themselves they had never seen such hairy legs and arms before, and I felt conspicuous as there seemed to be a lot showing that I couldn’t cover up. It didn’t help when I caught a whispered comment, “I didn’t understand evolution at school, but I get it now.”

Feeling out of place and trying to hold my gown down I was concerned when I saw a rat run across the lounge into a corner behind a fire extinguisher. Nobody seemed concerned and didn’t stop their smoking or talking. I mentioned to the chief surgeon, “Should we do something?”

He nodded at a medical student who went over there and kicked the extinguisher startling the rat to run into the on-call room so everyone was satisfied.

The chief went on, “You’ve got to watch that rat. He’s a lot of trouble. The other day I was doing an appendectomy and heard a crash on the back table. Looked back, and there was that rat, running away with the appendix flapping in his mouth. It was very embarrassing because you know how we must present to the families the results of our surgery– the gallbladder, stomach, colon, – to prove it was a real surgery. Well, we didn’t have anything to show them and we sure couldn’t explain what had really happened. Pathology was also very unhappy that they didn’t receive a specimen, so keep your eyes out for that rat.”

I did. Every time I heard a loud crash while operating I spun around looking for that rat. It made me jumpy and took away the joy of surgery.

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Targeted Prayer

Deer hunter taking aim

It was a cold January morning during deer season when about three dozen hearty souls gathered at the church as part of their 30 days of prayer.

I had been asked to give a testimony for one day and I was nervous as I walked to the front

I said, “Our pastor has asked me to speak on broken relationships.”

I took a deep breath, and picked up a gun case from off the front row.
Normally at 6 am people are barely able to keep their eyes open, this morning I felt everyone’s eyes clued to me as I unlocked the case and pulled out a rifle.

“I have found the perfect answer for this,” as I cradled the gun, taking care not to point it at the front row.

I had everyone’s attention, nobody was asleep now.

“Targeted Prayer!” I shouted.

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