Sent:  April 29, 2002

Subject:  The Porter Who Takes No Tips!

Good Morning Ethan & Emily:

While reading a passage in Psalms today about “burdens,” I was reminded of an incident that occurred during my freshman year as I was transferring from Duke to Baylor University.  During my senior year I applied to several colleges, and since I was graduating from a small south Texas high school, I felt honored when I was accepted for admission to Duke University in Durham, NC.  Enabling me to attend was a Navy Scholarship that not only paid tuition but also a living stipend.  Since I was the first Boerne High School graduate to attend Duke, I received a lot of social acclaim for being able to attend such a prestigious university, and everything seemed “grand and glorious”…and certainly with my full scholarship, there were no “burdens” in sight.

But, not long after being at Duke, I knew down in my heart that I had done the popular thing and not what God had in mind for me.  Although I was doing well with my academic studies, after much prayer I decided to return to Texas and attend Baylor University.  My friends and professors thought I was “crazy” to leave, as I made all A’s that first semester…supposedly a rare accomplishment for a Duke freshman.  It was not that I was so “smart”…actually there were many there with much more brain capacity and with years of private schooling so unlike my small public Texas high school background.  Early one after attending my first classes, I realized that if I were to “survive” I would have to study not only to keep up…but also to “catch up” from years of inadequate preparation.  So I ended up studying almost “round the clock.”  Often at night to avoid disturbing my roommates, I sat on a toilet seat in the restroom studying into the early hours of the morning! 

But to receive my scholarship, I had been required to join the Navy…so now I was in a dilemma.  If I gave up my scholarship, I was required to immediately transfer to the Naval Reserve and start attending meetings which, of course, was something I didn’t look forward to.  But with God, all things are possible.  And after writing a personal, handwritten note (can you believe it?!) to the Secretary of the Navy, I received a letter back, relieving me from attending drills, and several years later I was honorable discharged from the Navy (how this happened no one but God will every know!).  In fact, this Navy “time” later added to my Army “time in service” to increase my military pay and retirement.  Yes, God works in mysterious ways to bless us when we are faithful to Him!

I spent many an evening in the Duke Gardens praying and asking for God’s guidance.  I knew what I was planning had serious and long-range consequences, but I felt that if I were to really put faith to the test, this was the time to do it.  I did not have money to fly back to Texas, so my only alternative was to take the train.  I packed up everything I could in several suitcases and the overflow I packed in several other boxes which I tied together with a long cord to loop over my shoulder.  I don’t remember why I didn’t check my bags for placement in the baggage car (maybe that wasn’t possible)…but I ended up carrying everything with me.  So with several suitcases, one in each hand and boxes handing around my neck on both sides, I set out on my long journey back to Texas.  I’m sure I was a sight to behold!…and, no doubt, looked much like a lonely “pack” mule.

After all these years, I can still remember changing trains in Atlanta, GA.  I had only been on a train several times as a young boy, so this was all a new experience for me as a young adult.  I recall stepping off the train and a porter coming up to me offering to carry some of my bags.  I was grateful for the help, but when we got to the other train, I discovered that the porter’s services came with a fee.  What a “greenhorn” I was!  I had very little money with me, but I gave him what he asked for and got on the grain with very little left in my pocket.

Some time after that, we stopped in Mobile, AL, and I purchased a ham sandwich that was the only food I had eaten since leaving Durham, NC.  The next morning we passed through New Orleans, and I still recall so clearly a bellman coming through the train car with hot coffee.  It smelled so good, and I remember getting up or raising my hand to get a cup…only to find out it was not free…and I had to pass it up, as I did not have enough change left to purchase even one cup.  It was a humbling experience, but I am thankful now for these experiences, as they have left my heart very tender for those in need. 

My eyes still tear up recalling these experiences even after all these years.  Yes, it was a stressful time…giving up a full scholarship, leaving a very prestigious university, and going to a “church” school with no promise of any scholarship assistance.  Many thought I had “lost my mind”, and that I was “ruining” my life.  But through it all, I was learning what faith really is…in a very practical sense for the first time in my life.  Just as faith requires “letting go,” so it was that as I got on that train in Durham, NC, it was as though I crawled out on a branch of a tress and then cut off the branch!  As I let God “catch” me and work out His will in my life, I learned the blessings of God’s faithfulness and that He would carry my burdens.

Without any bit of reservation, I can say that God was faithful…then…and every day since.  My years at Baylor were wonderful years, and I had opportunity to be on the youth revival teams and meet many friends who loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him.  Academically, I never felt slighted by leaving Duke, and in fact, on my graduation I was designated a Fellow of the National Science Foundation after submitting extensive research proposals.  There are many National Science Foundation grants, but to be a “Fellow” is one of the highest academic honors you can receive for graduate studies as the designation came with not only tuition and research funds but also a monthly stipend for living expenses.  God was…and is…so very, very good!

My dad would have liked to help me financially but he was struggling to maintain his business and could not help me.  And because he did own his own business, I never could qualify for any grants.  But I did take out student loans, and one day not long after being at Baylor I heard about a summer job selling Bibles door to door during the summer for The Southwestern Company.  I did this for two summers, and one day I hope to write about some of the “amazing” things I experienced.  Just to mention a few: the first summer I traveled all summer selling my books on a stripped down $5 bicycle that I purchased in a second hand store.  On another occasion, I was picked up and taken to the Police Station because I did not realize a permit was required in one of the small towns I was in, another night I was stopped by the state highway patrol for being out on a major highway without a light on my bicycle (basically this bike had nothing but two tires and frame!), another time I found myself on a very dark night surrounded by people out on a back country road which would not have been a problem if it were not that I had several thousand dollars of deposit money in a little cream-colored suitcase I carried!  Another interesting experience was having a lady at the end of my first summer offer to help me deliver my Bibles in return for the family Bible she had ordered.  I agreed because I was not old enough at that time to rent a car.  But what I didn’t know was that this woman was having an affair with another man in her neighborhood and that her husband had supposedly purchased a gun and the rumor was that he was out to kill her!  So there I was…the Bible salesman…delivering Bibles with this man’s wife!  I also accepted help from one of the young people in the church I was attending who volunteered to help me deliver the bibles and books I had sold.  What made this interesting was that his mode of transportation was a very unique dune buggy.  You should have seen us driving through neighborhoods with Bibles stacked high in the back and with a set of genuine Texas longhorns attached to the front of the buggy!  Embarrassing and hilarious…all at the same time!

During these summers, I was cursed, shouted at, snapped at by dogs, and with doors closed in my fact…but I also met some of the most genuine and wonderful God-fearing people I have every met.  And some were so very friendly.  One evening I knocked on a farmhouse door, and the elderly couple hollered:  “Come on in, sit down, and have supper with us.”  On the table was a huge pot of butter beans with a ladle hanging over the side.  With the beans we had fresh tomatoes and probably biscuits and collard greens (my memory is a little hazy now, but these were popular at that time out in the country).  I ate so much that as I was peddling back into town that night, I could not lean forward as my stomach was packed so tight.  Home cooked meals were far and few between, so I “loaded up” as the opportunity arose.  After eating, I remember this couple saying:  “Well, young man, what are you selling?”  As I best recall, they purchased a Bible study book or dictionary from me.  And this is how it went…the work was very hard, and I worked from sun up to sun down knocking on doors selling Bibles, children’s storybooks, and medical books.  Sometimes I would get so far out into the countryside that I would leave my bike alongside the highway and hitch rides back into town.  One time a van full of “hippies” picked me up.  Oh, these were definitely interesting times for a young man like me from south Texas!

I guess the highlight of everything was coming home after that first summer.  I remember so distinctly walking into the garage seeing my parents on the back steps and my running up to them to show off the $3,000 check I had been carrying in my pocket all the way on the plane back from Nashville, TN.  That was more money than I had every seen, and back in 1965 that was a lot of money!  My mother and dad had been worried about me being alone that summer and out on highways riding a bicycle, and I will never forget that coming home experience.  We were not especially a “physically expressive” family, but Dad reached out and grabbed me with a hug I will never forget…and this remains one of the best experiences and memories I have even to this day.  

All this to say:  Just like that porter in Atlanta, God is always available and “on duty” to help us with our burdens and problems.  Not just to help us…but to take them from us.  The Psalmist has told us:  “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you.”  (Ps. 55:22).  In the 146th chapter, we are again reminded:  “The Lord lifts the burdens of those bent beneath their loads.”  And Jesus Himself said:  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  (Matt. 11:28).

He is our God…but a God who is also a servant “porter” who is always willing to take the “baggage” we pick up and carry thru life.  And best of all, His services are free…and He takes no tips!

Yes, what a wonderful Lord we have!  Many around us every day are weighted down with problems and challenges and looking for help.  Love them by telling them about the BEST “Porter” of all.

I know I started out to share one experience and I ended up wiring a “book”, but the thoughts and remembrances just kept rolling out, and I wanted to share them with you. 

Have a wonderful day.