It all began with my most elementary education, being raised in the home of my grandparents who attended the Cole M.E. Methodist church in Brockway Township, St. Clair county, a few miles distant from the town of Yale, in the State of Michigan, and my beloved elders decreed that attendance at that particular church was mandatory. I learned to live with that requirement as I learned to love my grandparents. I was sent there to make room for my newborn baby sister when times were really tough. It was 1932 and the “Great Depression” was beginning to wreak havoc across the land.
Not many of my closest neighbor’s kids attended church, but I knew most of those who did because we all attended the same school which was directly across the road. We attended Sunday School in the basement and to the best of my memory, all we heard were the ages old stories from the older Testament. With my boyhood “pals” we would sit in the back rows of the church during regular services and to my shame, my fondest memory was hearing my grandfather snoring in the midst of the morning service. My most disappointing experience was hearing our Music ministry leader declare that I would never learn how to sing. That guilt trip lasted for many years. I was however, the gifted monologue speaker who could recite paragraphs that most could not even pronounce, thanks to my gifted grandmother.
There was no money for me to even think about attending college, so when I heard about the WWII “GI Bill of Rights” and it covered everyone who was in the service prior to December 31, 1946, I got excited. My 17th birthday would occur on August 28th of that year. As a result, I quit school and joined the Army Air Corps on September 24, based on the assumption that I could pass a GED exam.
That was easy and I would begin my “career” where all of us in the Air Corps begin, at Lackland AFB, TX. When I enlisted I was told that I would be sent to a “trade” school after basic training, but then they cut back on such training and I discovered I was being sent to the Philippine Islands. And that was our destination as we sailed out of the New York harbor on January 10, 1947 - heading East to go West, the first of many of life’s lesson I was about to learn.
We would pass through the Panama Canal - and stop for three days for some minor repairs to our transport, the USS General Pope. Onward - and now headed West, we would also stop in Hawaii and enjoy a day on shore leave. Now I began to realize, what I had chosen to do and its significance in my life. As we reached Hawaii we could view the hulk of the USS Arizona that the Japanese had sunk on December 7th. With others, I went on a bus tour to see the “sights” and on our way, we passed by Schowfield Barracks where my beloved Aunt’s brother was stationed on that fateful day.
The war was getting closer than ever to me and I began to wonder and worry about the fact I might be meeting our former enemies during my tour of duty. That became even more real to me when we learned that half of us would not be going to the Philippines, but would be debarking in Japan. I began to fear even more about my future.
Our "bed" arrangement amounted to tiers of cots, eight high, and I wound up on the top. At first, it seemed like fun, but I began to toss and turn and worry about my future in the land of the enemies we had feared during the war years. One night I could not sleep and so I carefully crawled down and went up on deck. Careful to stay out of sight of the guards who were probably looking for people like me, I found a place that was out of their sight and was amazed by looking into the sky. From East to West, from North to South, it was pitch black, except for - it seemed, billions of stars and the planets I could recall from my high school Science class, plus hundreds of shooting stars and what I assumed to be, comets blazing above the horizon. In Michigan, we used to marvel at the Northern "lights", but this scene was far more exciting.
It was then I either heard a voice or it was my vivid imagination taking over, but it sounded like a voice saying, "This is My universe, taste and see. I know every substance by name, the date they were created and when they are due to expire. Just as I also know the numbers of hairs on your head and all of those who have inhabited your planet from the beginning." And that was it. Did I imagine that? It was real then and it is real, today, and the longer that I live, the more real it becomes.
To this young lad who was at one moment, frightened about my future, he climbed down from his perch, climbed up to his bed, and went sound asleep.
We would be reaching Japan in a few hours and as I look back on that experience, it is as if our Creator had noted my fears and was assuring me that He was as interested in me as any part of the universe He had opened for my eyes to see. If it was a stage play, it turned out to be Act One in a long running play in which He would eventually become, the leading actor.