Mayhem Broke Out


   I had forgotten what it was like to have a half dozen preteens working in the office at one time.  Thirty-five to forty years ago I was used to it.  There was general Dale and Lt. Commander Lori organizing Linda, Danny and Donny.  Dean was asleep in the crib, and Jeni and Jeannie were not even on the radar screen.  The twins were in heaven, and we were doing “mail-outs”.                  I don’t think the kids can remember the first time they sat around the table   and folded, licked envelopes, addressed, and stamped hundreds of letters.  That crew is long grownup, and now grand nieces and friends are getting the hundreds of updates out from our office.  Daniel got the electronic news out on Tuesday; Herb got the printing on the new copier that prints, collates and staples all in one function, Wednesday, Emily Rhodes was the superintendent that directed Janie, Jenny, Jessica, Amber and Janice in folding, labeling, stamping over 600 of the November update for New Iberian Mission Along with about a 175 of our contact postcards, and last Sunday’s Epistle to those that have moved away from the church or were missing last Sunday.  It was Mayhem all over again.  Kids will be kids!

   We have moved from a hand cranked mimeograph machine to a state of the art Kyocera all-in-one copier.  The return labels are all copied on pull off and stick on labels as are all the addresses.  It is a lot faster than the days when each envelope was hand addressed.  The day will come in another fifteen or so years that I will be directing a new generation of mail-out workers to raise money for these kids that will be in ministry or the mission field.  The process goes on and on and on.   

   While they were getting mail-outs out, I was at the jail visiting one of our women, planning the court session that we pray will bring good news come next Monday, standing in line with a money order from the church so she can have spending money to send letters and for phone calls.  I took a member to get his medicine at  Wal-greens and went to Wal-Mart to get medicine for another church member. Loaned gas money to another.  I was busy doing ministry while our helpers were busy doing ministry in mail-outs.

    Each young person needs to donate time to the church to help in this way.  It will not be long till we are working to help them do ministry for the Lord.  You see, I am a firm believer in the apprentice system.  Each child needs to put in their time doing mail-outs so they know how to order their lives.  Agape Christian Church ins a church full of apprentices.  Baptized children serve communion and take the offering during the evening service and in Children’s Church.  As soon as they are old enough to bring their friends to Christ, they are old enough to baptize them.  Our kids begin to sing in front of the sanctuary as soon as they learn to walk.  I was watching eighteen month old Eli jump up and down and turn around during Bible School, singing along with a stage full of kids.  Every once in a while he would get behind, stop, look around, get back in time and get going again.  They pray in public as soon as they can walk and be on stage.  You have to understand, we have never had and never will have a nursery.  As soon as children can sit up in  a cradle board, they can be seat belted into a seat at the table, and Melba puts a washable crayon in their hand and they begin the journey to a PhD.  

   At times, adult members of the fellowship, older teens that get impatient with youngsters complain about the noise of loud radios, machines left on, doors being left unlocked, materials being wasted on dream projects between assignments (kids are hard to keep busy 100% of the time).  I patiently listen to their complaints, and remember those forty, thirty, twenty, and ten years ago that brought the same complaints to my ears, that now brag about the work being done by those that have followed in the shadows, as well as the over-bright-tide of noon of Melba’s and my steps.  No one ever said that education was easy or cheap. Kids will be kids!

  Biblically, we are on solid ground.  The nation of Israel was guided in the transition from the loosely knit era of the Judges, into the kingdom era of kings and thrones and a united nation by a boy given to a heart-broken mama.  A mama that kept her bargain with God and brought young Samuel to be the apprentice to Eli.  Eli trained him to listen for and to God, and to be faithful and honest in telling Eli and all the people what God had said, even when it was bad news. 

   Go read the story of the exodus, watch Cecil D. Demille’s rendition, or the computer driven The Prince of Egypt, and you will see the sub plot of Moses training Joshua to carry on, and indeed, become the next generation that did even better before the throne of God.

   Jump to the New Testament, and watch Paul gather up Eunice’s and Lois’s darling boy, take him to be his son in the faith.  Paul trained him, scolded him, protected him, loved him, counseled him, and depended on him to be the great next generation.  Today, churches everywhere are proud of their “Timothy’s.”  For God’s people, the apprentice system has worked best.  

   Consider the errors of not training the next generation.  We are told at the close of the book of Joshua, that as long as Joshua lived and the elders that outlived him and that saw everything that the Lord had done for Israel, they followed the ways of God.  Then the three centuries of sin and debauchery that followed when no one was training anyone to follow God until Eli took a hold of Samuel.

   When our country was young as a Republic, we were a nation that believed in apprentices and pride in your craft.  Today, the youngest hired employee comes on crew at minimum wage.  That is often exactly what a man or woman that has worked there for years is making.  Some see a great amount of fairness in that fact.  After all, remember the parable that Jesus told about the employees that were hired early morning, at noon and in late afternoon; all hired for the same amount per day.  Evening pay time came and those that had worked for eight hours and those that had worked for one hour were all paid the same.  You remember how the ones hired early morning felt cheated.  They had worked all day long, and suffered the noonday sun and long hours, and got paid the same as those Johnny-come-latelys did.  Jesus was clear that no one was cheated; all got what they were promised.  This parable deals with eternal life of believers; some come at childhood, others in midlife and still others in old age; all get the same amount of heaven.  But, as you read the rest of the New Testament, you find they may not get the same number of crowns, or that their works may not stand the fire as well.  God will be very fair in eternity, as always. 

   Now, back to our country; in the days of old, apprenticeship was very much alive.  A father had a son that showed a talent toward being a blacksmith; he would talk to the village smitty and make a deal to apprentice his son to the smith.  That would mean that the father would pay the smith for teaching his son for a year; the amount was not large, but enough to cover the things the lad would mess-up in that year he was learning. 

   If the kid was good at learning, the second year he was taught for free; the understanding was now he would be of some value to the smith.  For the first time during the third year of apprentice the lad was given a small salary for his work; he was called a journeyman.  He invested in his own tools, and by the fourth year he was ready to go to work as a tradesman for another smith, or in some cases, for the smith that trained him.  After years of work he would become a craftsman and was ready to strike out to one of the new frontier communities that were springing up, rent or build a building, forge, and put up his sign: Village Black Smith. 

   Most likely by this time he could shoe horses as well as make the horse shoes; he was a learned wheel right and could repair wagons and buggies.  The village smitty also was a fabricator of iron for the new cities being built on the frontier of America.  He made hinges for gates, doors, and every iron metal thing in the growing America.  There were no Wal-Marts, K-Marts, or Johnson’s hardware back in the 1800s. 

   Strangely enough, the smitty invented his successor.  Let me tell you the story of Charlie Daniels. 

   Charlie came west from Illinois in a covered wagon near the beginnings of the Gay 90s. He was a full-fledged craftsman blacksmith at this time.  He also had learned the trade of being a barber, was a school teacher and a very knowledgeable minister of Jesus Christ.  Charlie was the well trained man that every frontier town prayed would be on the next wagon west, and that they would stop off in their town and put up their sign and settle down.

   Charlie stopped in that farming community of Clovis, New Mexico and began to put down roots.  He began Sunday services in his home, set up Clovis’ first blacksmith shop, cut hair when he was not busy beating iron on his anvil that he had carried all the way from Illinois. 

   Clovis grew rapidly and before long a newcomer was offering to buy him out.  Charlie sold, that is, everything except his anvil he had bought from Illinois. Charlie moved on west to a new town that was the center of the Apple orchards of the Manzano (apple) Mountains to the north, and the pinto bean country near Clanunch to the south.  That town upon which he stamped his print was Mountainair, New Mexico.

   Charlie literally became th builder in this frontier town.  He was the blacksmith, barber, grade school teacher till they built a building and hired a teacher from Albuquerque.  Charlie was a natural inventor.  He developed loading machines for grain and bean elevators in Mountainair, a railroad town by this time.  Years later a hardware store opened in town, and factory made items were on sale. Things such as hinges were now so cheap; he could not compete with hand made ones. They were cheap metal, and would not be family heirlooms and last a hundred years or more as Charlie’s would. But folks began to buy at the hardware store. Charlie saw the handwriting on the wall.  The other fact was automobiles, and every man became a shade tree mechanic and needed tools.  Tools he could use to fix his motor car, home and multiplying pieces of machinery that seemed to be parked everywhere. So Charlie became an inventor of tools for the emerging Plumb Tool Company. A brief Goodsearch on the web shows they are still in business today. 

   His Powergrip® tools were all the rage until a competitive company came out with Vice grips®.  Many of his other tools were patented and very popular over America in hardware stores.  These stores sold tools and gave know-how to the man on the street, and the ability to buy affordable tools and do his own repairs.  Look in our shopping malls today, the gigantic stores that specialize in home repairs with material and tools.  Charlie was one of the transition men, from the days of the apprentice to “Pluming for Dummies.”  

   In the 1950s I was on the ministerial search committee that drove from Socorro to Mountainair on a Saturday morning to talk to Charlie about becoming our preacher at Socorro Christian Church.  George Howell was the chairman of that committee; he owned the Socorro Hardware on California street.  We hired Charlie, and he moved his much younger wife and the son of his old age to Socorro to become our preacher.  He was nearly blind, drove in the middle of the street and everyone in town knew his car and drove around him.  When his wife would send him to the grocery store, she sent him early.  She knew it would take two or more hours until he would return home.  He had to talk to everyone about Jesus.  He was still the old- time blacksmith that did everything by hand.  Charlie often held his Bible upside down; he used it only as a prop; he had the book memorized. 

   Charlie gave me several hand-made tools, powergrips and the like, that went the way of most of my earthly treasures.  He was our minister at Socorro when Melba and I packed up and went to Joplin to Ozark Bible College.   He challenged Melba to make sure I memorized the Bible; I am still working on that. 

   What has happened to the village smith has happened to our churches as well.  There are the super large boxes in or near the malls that have everything you need for a Christian life.  You can go to the gym there;  they often have a daily newspaper printed by staff on the church premises.  There is often a gigantic book store, and often a Starbucks, Subway sandwich shop, and many other services.  These mega churches are as necessary as are the Home Depots, Wal-Marts, Office Max, and other super stores in our community. 

   It is still nice to walk into a Johnson’s Hardware on West Picacho and explain that we need to do a job and what do they recommend?  The guy in the work apron all of the sudden has nothing to do, but find just the right tool, material, to do your job and to help you with it.  They escort you to the
cashier that makes sure you were courteously treated and that all your questions were answered.  You pay a few pennies more per item and walk out to your car that is right by the front door, no walking a quarter of a mile across a parking lot.  You drive away thankful for a neighborhood store. 

   Now don’t try that at Wal-Mart.  The clerk may not even speak your language.  However, in the United States there is a move back to the friendly and knowledgeable service-oriented store that is as large as a whole city. Stop by Home Depot and see apprentices in training.  They are trying to get it right, along with others that have seen the light.  They are training the clerk to be knowledgeable and helpful. 

   The mega churches are following suit.  They realize the thing that their million dollar offerings cannot buy is friendly, neighborly, actually concerned attention of a neighbor sitting next to you in church.  Many have traded their Bible Schools for home-centered small groups. A return to Acts two, where the new church in Jerusalem that went from 3,000 to 5,000 then to a multitude including a multitude of priests from the temple.  They meet in the temple and house to house in small groups so each could fellowship together (Acts 2:44-47). These small groups are personal and close knit.

   The Apostles were stretched to a limit, and had to appoint deacons to tend to ministry for the elderly.  In Acts 6:2ff, “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait tables.’” 

    This December the first at the evening meal time, we will all have a chance to evaluate our church as to friendliness, courtesy, helpfulness, knowledge of the Bible and how to be of service to everyone that comes through the door with a problem, heartache or spiritual need.   We are the neighborhood church were everyone is known and everyone is prayed for by name. 

   Just as I had a office full of tweens doing mail-outs this week, we had adults working at learning to do their job in the church.  The music teams meet and work, Emily and others are working on church records, and there are new members that are coming in to be church apprentices.  Bob and Donna will be getting back from West Virginia, and Bob will be over his knee operation and will be able to set up a couple of afternoons a week to transport folks to the bank, to shop, to the pharmacy, to other places,  and we will orchestrate the trips so many of you will get your rides at the same time.  This is a change that will have to come in 2008.   Herb must have more time to tend to the spiritual leadership, the education of our folks at Agape, the ministerial work with Spanish American Evangelistic Ministries, and the many jobs with New Iberian Mission Association

   That is why I am pushing our apprenticeship program from infants that are old enough to have a crayon put in their hand, as they are strapped to a cradleboard and chair at the table, to our senior citizens that are learning that here they are the church, they don’t go to church.  

   Yes, at times it will be mayhem, as we strive to teach the “ropes” and organize the pandemonium.  We will have lights left on and toner wasted. We will step on each other’s toes, but we are training craftsmen for the next century.  The worst mayhem, pandemonium and expense comes if  we don’t train this generation.