Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mulvane Kansas, My Home Town

I've just returned from visiting my home town of Mulvane Kansas. Mulvane is the place where I grew up. I lived there from the time I was 4 or 5 years old until I graduated from High School. After I graduated from High School I joined the U.S. Army and left town in July of 1978. I haven't lived there since, but with family and friends still there I enjoy visiting. Every time I go back home, I'm reminded of a different time in my life. One of fun, joy, and lot's of mischief. There's nothing like taking a stroll down memory lane, especially when you do it with family and friends. This time my sister and I spent a few hours going back and visiting the ol' stomping grounds and I took a few pictures, I hope you enjoy this small little town. Every time I go there I'm reminded of a simpler time. One where we left the doors unlocked at night. One where the children road their bikes all over town and really all over the country side without fear. A time where the greatest thing to do all summer long was go to the local swimming pool or a nearby creek and take a dip. Then at night we'd enjoy a baseball game or softball game at the ball fields under the lights. Then one weekend of each year in August, "Old Settlers Days" would come to town as it still does today. We'd have a parade, enjoy the amusement rides down town on main street, listen to music on stage in "Main Street Park" right downtown. In the evenings we'd go to the rodeo, enjoy local bands, square dance, ride some more rides, or simply take in the arts and crafts. It's a time to reunite with friends and family. Yes, Mulvane is a special place, and of course it will always hold a special place in my heart. Join me now as I take you on a tour of my home town. Note: Click on the pictures if you want to see full size photo's.

This is my sister Karen and her daughter Katie. I have one other sister, Vicki. I can't tell you how many countless hours we would spend at the railroad tracks. I know it sounds strange to be playing at the tracks and I suppose I was more inclined to play there than my sisters, but the tracks were only a half mile from our house down a dirt road and we would place pennies on the tracks and let the train flatten them. It was lot's of fun. In those days the trains all had a caboose on the end of the train. I can remember anxiously awaiting for the last car of the train so we could wave to the brakeman that rode in the caboose. He never failed to waive back. As a young boy I would dream of someday growing up to be a brakeman so I to could ride in the caboose. To give you an idea of how determined I was to make this happen I remember how disappointed I was during my junior year in High School. The school was holding a career planning day for the Juniors. This day we all took turns seeing the counselors to discuss our possibilities of going to college or attending a vocational school. When my turn arrived to speak to the counselor, I told him I wanted to be a brakeman on the railroad. He was a liitle suprised but he promised to look into that line of work for me. A few days later he called me back into his office and broke the news that he found out that next year they were going to be phasing out the cabooses on the end of trains and eliminating the brakeman's job. I was crushed! Sure enough, even throughout that same year I started seeing trains without a caboose. An era had ended before I ever got started. So much for childhood dreams... looks like I'm joining the Army!

Mulvane is known for it's trains. It was a railroad town in the old days and you can still visit the train station today at the end of the main street down town. It's a museum now, but I can remember going in there when they sold tickets to get on the train and travel off to the neighboring cities. Today there are still many trains that run through and all around Mulvane. Most of the trains are freight trains carrying everything you can imagine across the mid west. Trains are very active and used daily to deliver goods in this part of the country. You can see the wear on the tracks. Look at the picture of the penny on the track and you can see the wear and tear those tracks take. Here in Tennessee I rarely see trains, but in Kansas and throughout the mid west it's very common place. As a matter of fact since we grew up around trains, it was mandatory as young children in our schools be taught about the dangers of trains. In middle school we would all assemble together and watch a film. I'll never forget those films, they were graphic and they
showed what happened to people that would try and jump on a train while it was moving, or what would happen if you played around trains. People were killed or seriously injured and those films stayed with me forever. Even though I still spent time around the tracks, I was always mindful of what those trains could do.

You can see this Grain elevator for miles as you approach Mulvane. Lots' of wheat farming in these parts of the country and the COOP is a very active place during the wheat harvest time of the year in July. My dad used to haul wheat to these grain elevators during the harvest. If he wasn't hauling wheat he was on a combine in the field cutting it. We didn't own a farm but dad worked to make some extra money and during the harvest he would take vacation weeks from his regular job and work long hard hours cutting wheat. Those weeks I remember him leaving before the sun would rise and not coming back home till after the sun set. The combines had lights on them and they could keep cutting even into the night if they wanted to. The harvest was fast and furious. No time to waste. The wheat was ripe and the weather hopefully would cooperate so the combines and trucks could get into the fields. We didn't want rain during the harvest. Farming is a big part of Mulvane and the surrounding counties.

Growing up we lived in a Mobile Home park outside of town. Munholland's as it was called was a nice little trailer park outside of town. It was like a community of it's own. Lot's of kids to play with and the country life was great. we spend many days at the creek fishing or swimming. Mr. Munholland owned and operated a very nice Mobile Home park. He always took good care of the park and had very strict rules that kept the park neat and clean. Mr. Munholland realizing the dangers of tornado's and the frequency that our area had tornado's he build a couple of Storm Shelters for us to go to in case of a tornado warning. I spent many a night in those shelters waiting for the tornado to pass. As a kid, I remember it was an exciting time. I'm sure my folks felt different, but for us kids, we'd all be huddled up together safely inside the
shelter while the adults of the park would listen to the radio in hopes of hearing some news about the weather. Every family in the park would be in these large shelters and usually we were all in our pajamas because the storms seemed to always hit in the evenings or at night when the weather was cooling off after a very hot day.

There are two churches in town that have special significance to me. The first one is this little Brethren Church. This small little
white church had a bus ministry that would come out to our trailer park on Sundays and pick up the kids. I rode that bus for about two years and it's because of this bus ministry that I became saved. I had a Sunday School teacher that witnessed to me and taught me all about Jesus. He gave me a bible and I would read that bible by flashlight under the covers when I should have been sleeping. One night in my bedroom I prayed and gave my life to Christ. I praise the Lord for this church. You can read more about this church in my previous posting titled "The Church Bus." The other church pictured here is the church that I got married in. The Methodist Church was the church the my wifes dad went to. After we got married, one week later we were both living in Germany. I was serving in the U.S. Army and I came back home on leave to marry my High School Sweetheart. 29 years later we're still happily married. I love her with all my heart. Her maden name was Brenda Francisco.

Just to highlight a few other pictures... Dirt roads are very
common throughout Kansas. Here in Tennessee the roads follow the terrain so you rarely have straight roads. But in Kansas, well it's pretty flat and level ground so the roads are sectioned off by the mile. Most country roads are a mile square. Where my dad lives in the country you can go out of his drive way and go down the road to the left. As long as you keep making left turns you will come back full circle and be back home four miles later. This picture gives you an idea of what these dirt/sand roads look like. Go straight, or turn left, the next road is exactly a mile away.

This picture of the "Arkansas River" reminds me of some great times. I've fished, camped at, canoed, and swam in this river. This river is located just outside of town and the reason I took this picture is because here in Tennessee the rivers usually don't have sand bars like the rivers in Kansas do. The rivers here in TN are usually lined with heavy trees and steep terrain. But the rivers in Kansas are wide and always sandy bottomed. They are also usually shallow due to lack of rain during the hot summer months. Sand bars are common and I can remember camping out on those sand bars while fishing most of the night. The final picture is of down town Mulvane. Mulvane's main street is unique because you can park right in the middle of the street. Main street has changed quite a bit over the years, but it still resembles the look of it's original design even when the only means of transportation was horse and buggy. I hope you've enjoyed the pictures of my home town, maybe in some way they remind you of when you were young.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Church Bus

It was almost time. My sisters and I waited with great anticipation as we peered out the front window of our house. We had just finished our breakfast and we were waiting for the Church bus to come. Suddenly we could hear the faint sound of music off in the distance. It kind of reminded me of the distant sound we would hear when the ice cream truck was in the neighborhood. Even though that truck was on the next street over we knew it was coming our way. So it was with the Church Bus. You see the church bus that came to our Trailer Park to pick us up and take us to Church played songs through a loud speaker mounted to the top of the Bus. This Bus was an old school bus that had been painted White and had the Church name on the side of it. It simply read "Brethren Church of Mulvane Kansas." As the Bus got closer, my sisters and I would run out of the house saying our goodbyes to Mom and Dad. The sound of music filled the air. Great old songs like, "Yes, Jesus Loves Me," or "He's got the whole world in His hands," would be playing as we climbed on board the old bus.

The Pastor was the driver of the bus and he always seemed so happy to see us. I never saw that man without a happy smile on his face. He called to us by name and welcomed us aboard as the old bus went on down the road to pick up more of the kids that lived in the Mobile Home Park. Munhollands Mobile Home Park was located a couple of miles outside of Mulvane in the country and even though it wasn't a long ways from town, it was too far to walk. We rode the school bus to school throughout the week and we rode the Church bus on Sundays to Church. Yes we rode the bus often, but on Sundays it was different. Everyone was happy, everyone was excited to be going to church, and the music just added to the fun festive atmosphere that we were experiencing. It was like saying... "Come on everybody, let's go worship the Lord."

I have very fond memories of that church bus and the rides to and from Church. I attended the small little Brethren Church for almost two years and the entire time I went to church, I went by riding the church bus. I was about 10 or 11 years old when I started going to church. My folks didn't go to church, but they always encouraged my sisters and I to go as often as we wanted to. I made many friends while at church and I learned a lot about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I learned about many of the great bible stories like Daniel and the Lions Den, Moses and the Ten Commandments, and one of my favorite stories was about Shadrach Meshach and Abednego. Now that's a cool story. But I suppose the story that touched my heart the most was the one where I realized that Jesus died for me. To think he was crucified for me, to save me from a place called Hell. He loved me that much. Now that's amazing.

I remember the night I gave my life to Christ. I believe I was 12 years old, maybe 13 I'm not sure. I was reading my bible by flashlight under my covers while in bed. I was supposed to be asleep, but I just could not quit reading. I was reading a "Good News" bible that my Sunday School teacher had given me. Until he gave me that Bible, the only bible I had was the little "new testament" bible that we got one day in school. To me, reading that King James New testament bible was like reading Greek or something. It made little sense to me and I just couldn't seem to follow it or understand it. Many of the words I'd never seen before or knew what they meant. It was very confusing and I lost interest very quickly. But this "Good News" bible made sense to me. I could read it forever! I hated to put it down it was so good. This bible helped me to understand what Jesus did for me as a sinner. I suddenly became convicted of my sin, I knew that I was lost and when I died I would go to Hell because I hadn't given my life to Jesus yet. I feared going to sleep because I knew that if I died I would go to hell. The thought of this scared me. I wasn't sure what to do, but I knew enough to know that I needed to pray to Jesus and ask Him to save me. And that's what I did. I got out of bed and I knelt down beside my bed and I folded my hands together and bowed and prayed like I never have before. I confessed that I was a sinner and I pleaded with God to save me from Hell. I told Jesus that I believed he died for my sins and that he rose from the dead and that he now lives. I confessed that I do believe this and that I wanted the eternal life that Jesus promised. Please save me Jesus, please!

I cried and was overwhelmed with joy and happiness. I was freed from all fear of death. Hell no longer was something for me to fear. Eternal life with Christ Jesus in Heaven was mine. There were many tears of joy and happiness that night alone in my bedroom. From that day on I was never afraid to go to sleep again. If death came in the night while I slept, I knew where I would go. There's nothing like the comfort of Salvation... nothing like it.

There's much more to this story and the steps that I took, some good and many bad, in my life as a Christian from that day forward. But the main reason for this story is to share the impact that that old church bus had on my life.

You see... I was one of those kids that you see in church today. You know the one's. The one's that ride the bus and come to church without any supervision. Their parents are not there and someone else in the church always has to keep us quiet or make us sit with them because we just haven't learned to listen or be still like we should in church. We're the ones that get up and walk to the restroom in the middle of the service or we like to sit in the back with our friends and draw or giggle or talk when the preacher is preaching. We're the one's that you wish would just stay home because we act like we'd rather be some place else anyway. We're just so disruptive sometimes and it seems that were learning nothing. But what you must understand is this... "The word of God permeates the soul and convicts the heart through the work of the Holy Spirit." When it's time (God's time) everything that those kids heard and learned will come to mind and the weight of it will overwhelm them to the point they know they need a Savior or die lost and condemned to spend life after death in a place called hell. If you didn't plant those seeds by allowing those kids to come hear the Gospel and learn by watching other Christians live their faith, well they wouldn't stand a chance would they? You see... rarely will you get to see the fruits of your labor with the Church Bus kids because when we get in high school, get our first car, get our first girlfriend, or hang out with buddies that don't go to church (Keep in mind most of our parents don't go to church either and that's confusing enough for us) most likely as in my case and many others, we quit coming. We fall away from the church and we live like we know we shouldn't. But what you need to know is this... the Holy Spirit will convict us every time we sin and the longer we live this way the more miserable we become. The best thing you can do for us is... help us, teach us, mentor us, show us, pray for us, tolerate us, and love us as God loves us. Give us the bibles we need and don't have. Share what scripture means when it doesn't make any sense to us. One day, maybe one day, we'll be your Sunday School Teacher, we'll be the Church Bus Driver or Bus captain, we'll be the worship leader or maybe even the Preacher! Only God knows what awaits us and what he has planned for us. All I know is this... If I wasn't able to come to church by bus when I was a kid living in that old trailer park outside Mulvane Kansas, I might still be lost! Thank God for that Bus! Thank God for that Church and those wonderful people that taught me and reached out to me. Those folks have no idea of the impact they made on me and that was 35 years ago. Wouldn't it be tragic if today they didn't have a church bus ministry there anymore and the reason why was because they just didn't feel they were effective in their ministry. They never saw the fruit of their labor so they gave it up. Maybe all they saw was the hassle, maybe all they experienced were the headaches and the costs. But what they don't know is that this kid, yes this one, has been saved and will be spending the rest of his life in eternity with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and it was through their ministry that this came to pass.

Thank you Jesus!