Monday, January 26, 2015

My guest blogger today is my one of a kind friend Ray Jeske. If you are at all interested in what's happening in the Cornerstone multi-site effort at our Montrose Campus, set to open at the Regal Cinema on Medina Rd. on Feb. 15, check this out. Thanks, Ray!

"Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth . . ."

So yesterday morning I arrive at Regal Cinemas in the Montrose area of west Akron, Ohio about 8:30.  And what a sight awaited me!

A little army of cheerful workers.  Giant color-coded plastic containers like a Tupperware party at Paul Bunyan's house.  Boxes.  Tables.  Brand new skirting.  Cables.  Walkie-talkies.  Toys.  Microphones.  Speakers.  Extension cords.  Laptop computers.

People working in pockets, teams, over here, over there.  Lobby.  Theatre 3.  Theatre 9.  Kids area.

A kind of chaos, yet peaceful.  Fun.  And Pastor Charlie, brooding over it all, clipboards in hand, calling it forth, naming everything, bringing order.  "Beautiful.  OK.  We'll get there.  Good idea.  Write that down.  Who's got the list?  Anyone seen the power cord?  No, the other power cord.  Can you carry this box to Theatre 3? They need it.  And this table?"

Then gather together in theatre, uh, the sanctuary.  Q & A.  "Any problems on your teams?  Someone write that down?  Good.  Don't forget."

Then devotional.  Isaiah 61.  The Spirit of the Lord is upon us. That we might be oaks of righteousness.   The planting of the Lord.  That He might be glorified.

First ever service of sorts.  Tithes and offerings.  Making history.  Ground floor.

Admonition.  Reminders.  Keep inviting.  Let's fill this place.  Holy Spirit brooding over it all.  

"Now let's pack up.  Everyone their detail.  Bring to the storage room.  We've got to get it down to 20 minutes by the 4th time we do it on our opening Sunday.  Don't worry if there are problems.  Just our first time.  We'll get there.  Now ready.  Go!"

First time.

Twenty-two minutes and 30 seconds!

Cornerstone Church.  Montrose Campus.

The King is coming.  Regal Cinemas, indeed.

Kudos to the entire Cornerstone Akron family that is making this act of multiplication happen.  Your sacrifice and willingness to just plain work hard cheerfully is inspiring.

More stories like this and the Living Water Massillon multi-site plant to be shared at this Saturday's Leadership Summit.

And a chance to meet and hear from some of the next generation leaders from The Called.

Be sure to communicate to Bev the names of your team members, and keep inviting the next generation.  Like Charlie would say, "we'll make it work."

Much love,



Sunday, January 11, 2015

Band of Brothers

Howard Moomaw, Jim Bailey, Jim Mason

Talking in the lunch room where they eat together every day, Jim Mason reached out and laid his hand on the others' arms. "Looking at us, most people would just think we are simply three old men. But we are more than that. We are three veterans, three brothers, loving each other."

More than that. I would guess. These guys are part of a vanishing breed. They are men whose love of God, family, and country have defined and distinguished them through more than nine decades. All three served with honor in WW II and were decorated for that service.

Howard Moomaw, the group dubbed "baby" of the three, is 91. Jim Bailey, the senior leader of the crew, is 100. Jim Mason is the middle man at 93. Over the years, all three have shared their stories with a bit more reticence and reluctance than now---all of them humble and passing the honor to others. But in these days, they share with more urgency because they know they are the last of the firsthand witnesses to the horrors of world war, personal witnesses to the cost and worth of freedom. Younger generations must know it.

Howard was an Air Force man, a meteorologist. No great surprise he enlisted in the Air Force, as he was always interested in flight. He watched the first flight of the USS Macon in 1932, a rigid airship built and operated for scouting and served as a flying aircraft carrier. In service for less than two years, in 1935 Macon was damaged in a storm and lost off California's coast. Less than 20 ft shorter than the Hindenburg, both the Macon and her sister ship, the USS Akron, hold the world record for helium-filled airships.

World War II brought great advances in meteorology as large-scale military land, sea, and air campaigns were highly dependent on weather. He was part of the team supporting the American effort against the Japanese in the China-Burma-India theater of operations. The special operations weather teams in India have been much honored and heralded because of their contribution to the successful outcomes in that period. Besides the obvious forecasting of weather necessary for missions, another significant duty was forecasting the temperature of the tailpipe of a plane for takeoff. If the temperature was high, the plane required a longer stretch of runway for takeoff. If the tailpipe temperature was cold, liftoff would be quicker.

Howard has a quick and winning smile, and laces his stories with humor. He said their assignment was publicly known as CBI--within the ranks they called it "Corned Beef Indefinitely". This was because cows were considered sacred in India, and beef meals were very hard to come by.  Howard said one of his most memorable experiences was on a day when they flew from India towards China, and the plane was very high and very lost,  with limited fuel. The pilot finally found a hole in the under cast and saw the Yangtze River. They were 100 miles north of where they needed to be, dangerous for multiple reasons, and were overwhelmed with relief and gratitude to be able to follow the trail of the river. "By the grace of God, we were able to finally land after a couple of hours," Moomaw said. He said the relief upon landing safely was so great that all the men who were smokers immediately fell on their backs on the ground, lit up, and smoked fast and furiously.

Jim Bailey was in the 1308th Engineer Corps, Regular Army. from 1941-44. One of his adventures was being on a ship that was chased by a German submarine clear to the South Pole, where the sub had to drop pursuit because of submerged ice. The three men laughingly agreed that eating on a ship was always a challenge. Soldiers sat on benches to eat at long tables. The seas frequently were rough, and tipped the ship, causing the food trays to slide. But the soldiers weren't picky. They would just resume eating whatever food was in front of them when the ship righted itself.

Jim was in a storm so severe that all the food and water was ruined. They drank small amounts of rain water they were able to gather and went very hungry until they pulled into port in India days later. A most memorable experience for him was walking one night alone in France when he met a German soldier face to face. Jim could speak German, and in the dark, the Nazi solder (whom Jim said was really just a kid, only about 15) didn't realize he was talking to an American soldier. His compassion was stirred and he walked awhile side by side with the young man, the young man unaware he was walking with the enemy.  Jim was kind to him. He had lived in the prison stockade with captured German soldiers, and they were "like brothers to me." After a bit, the two men just said "goodnight" and parted ways.

Jim Bailey entered the military service as a solid Christian, and God used him in many ways.  In France, he was in charge of German prisoners of war. He found many of them were hungry for God, and that Hitler's prohibition against worship had starved them. He decided to have church for them. The prisoners were not permitted to gather in groups of more than five. He handled that by having them sit in groups of five or less with a few feet separating them. One of the German prisoners had been a preacher before the Hitler regime, and Jim got him preaching again.

Jim Mason is the "convener" of the band of brothers. He was Army, 101st Airborne, enlisting in peacetime 1939. He says one of the most emotional memories of his time in service was the first time he was on the parade ground after enlistment. He says that when the band played, "Stars and Stripes Forever" as the soldiers stood at attention, he was so proud and grateful to serve his country that he felt like he "grew six inches that day."

Jim was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed, and saw planes flying so low he could see the rising sun logo painted on the sides and even a pilot's goggles. That experience led him to Officer's Candidate School, and then he entered the war on the European front. His most memorable experiences are tied to the Normandy Invasion and D-Day. He stood so close to Winston Churchill "he could have untied his shoelaces" as Churchill wept, and encouraged the men who were preparing for the D-Day invasion that "the hearts and prayers of the whole free world are with you."

Jim dropped into Normandy on D-Day, June 7, 1944, and, with the soldiers he could gather up, defended the area around Carentan, France, helping liberate that area. He served right where the events of the movie The Longest Day occurred. On June 21, he was wounded in 11 places, and was eventually sent to England to recover.

All three men share a common commitment as deeply devoted Christians. Jim Mason has a transforming experience a short while after his return from the war. He spent his lifetime as an ordained minister, serving in many communities long after retirement, starting in Kentucky as he was in seminary and ending up in Ohio. He can't help but exercise his pastoral heart, and has a sense of responsibility and care for the other residents. Jim Bailey was a Sunday School teacher for years, and was a Christian businessman in the Outer Banks for years. Howard Moomaw continued the car sales business his father had begun in 1933. His son is now the 4th generation to run the business, known for it's integrity. The men were faithful family men, Jim Bailey's wife and Jim Mason's wife preceding them to heaven. All three men have the love and respect of all who know them for the commitment and character that emanates from each of them.

"Thank you" is not enough for the lives they have lived, and the examples they continue to be. This Band of Brothers are all my heroes.