Memoir Pages

 

The following articles were first posted as blog articles. However, in order to arrange them in chronological order, I have now put them on “pages” and linked to them below. There were a few comments, and they have been copied and pasted under the titles.

Retirement Commemoration – 2005

Last Lecture — July 15, 2004

“Certificate of Commendation” – 1999

Dozier Film – 1986

ABGTS Trustees Meeting – 1986

Hayama Seminar – 1978

First Japanese Sermon without a Manuscript – 1970

On Top of Mt. Fuji – 1967 

Baptist World Alliance – 1965

“Ocean Closed” – 1965

Beginning a New Pastorate – 1959

On Jan. 15, 2017, my daughter Kathy wrote, “It sounds like you have been living an organized, methodical life your whole life! I am glad to have had your example of a disciplined life as an example.” Then about an hour later my son Keith commented: “It’s touching to see this and think of all you’ve done since! Fun to see your actual entry and recognize your handwriting, despite how young you were!” Then the next day my daughter Karen wrote, “You & Mom were so young! Wonderful to have records of all of this.”

The Life of a Young Pastor – 1958

Student World Missions Conference – 1956

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Happy New Year 2017

{Here is the text for our New Year’s Greeting. To see pictures with the text, click here.}

Dear Family and Friends,

As the beginning of the New Year, we are sharing some of the highlights of our year in 2016.

Our Daily Life: We enjoy our lively Rainbow Mennonite Church, where Leroy serves as a deacon and June is chair of the Welcoming Committee. We are part of some discussion groups that gives us a good chance to read and share ideas with friends. Being near Kansas City and also the Truman Library, we have many interesting learning opportunities, more than we have time or energy for. Leroy spends much of his time researching and writing his blog articles. June still enjoys her flowers and writing family history stories. In the spring, with the help of Kathy and Tim, she started a new butterfly garden, and is still growing milkweed and other flowers to encourage the monarchs on their trips north and south.

February: June spent two weeks in Silver Spring, Md., with Ken, Naomi (12), and Natalie (6), while Mina was with her family in Japan. She enjoyed baking with the Girls for their birthdays. She also loved being with Keith, Brenda, and with Lauren and her Jeff. It is very nice that our two sons and their families live so close together.

March: Luckily for us, David von Drahle, an editor-at-large of Time magazine, lives in Kansas City, and we had the opportunity to hear him speak three times this year. The first time was at William Jewell College’s Achievement Day Dinner, just after he had interviewed Donald Trump on his airplane for a cover story for Time.

April/May: On April 23 we set out for Japan. We landed in Tokyo and then flew up to Sendai where we visited our beloved Kaneko family. They pastored Hirao Baptist Church during our early years in Japan. A local pastor drove us to the scene where the devastating tsunami occurred five years ago. It is heartbreaking to see the long list of people who perished. Red tulips had been set out and were blooming inside the empty foundations of former homes: a sign that life will go on.

Our friends Ron and Lydia Hankins again graciously shared their home with us during those wonderful days in Fukuoka. A blur of happy gatherings with old and new friends occupied our time for the two weeks we had there.

June enjoyed being with Active Parenting leaders and friends during that time. June taught the first AP group in 1986, and is very happy it is now available across Japan. Leroy’s Toishikai, an alumni group of Seinan students who have kept in touch through the years had a lovely gathering for us. Then the big event was the 100th celebration for the founding of Seinan Gakuin, the school system where Leroy served for 36 years as professor, including eight years chancellor. We so appreciate the precious memories our friends in Japan helped create for us.

We arrived back in Liberty just in time to welcome our Kids and Grandkids from Maryland and Arizona who came for the wedding of Kathy and Tim’s daughter Katrina to Ryan Hlousek. Leroy was honored to perform their meaningful service in a lovely outdoor setting.

June: On the 6th we set out for Maryland, stopping in Indiana to visit Tootsie Lamkin, a friend we first met in 1959 when we moved to Ekron, Kentucky. She was a leader in our church there, besides being a great encourager to a young pastor and his family (us!). In Washington, D.C., we met up with Karen and Carl where she was attending a conference. Then we joined the rest of the family to celebrate the wedding of Keith and Brenda’s daughter, Marian, to Chris Mulligan in a sweet service at Seekers Church near Silver Spring. This was the first time all seven of our grandchildren had been together, so we are happy to have a snapshot of that.

July: We watched both the Republican and Democratic Conventions, and were thrilled to welcome our first woman candidate for the Democratic Party. We went to Rondo, June’s childhood church to attend the funeral of a long-time friend, Connie Baldwin, who was the victim of a tragic car wreck.

August/September: For the second year we were bothered by the oak mites in Liberty and others places close by. We attended a Democratic meeting and began to think of November.

October: Leroy’s Uncle True Cousins passed away, and we drove to Huntsville (near Houston) for the funeral. It was good to be with his wife Esther and to visit with Leroy’s cousins and many of their children and grandchildren whom we had never met. Then we headed toward Tucson, where we spent a week with Karen, Rob, and Carl (9). Highlights were: some time with Karen; June baking cornbread and cake with Carl, who really enjoys cooking; and visiting Rob’s wonderful art room where he teaches in a Tucson high school. His students had done beautiful work which he had on display around his specious room. On the 18th we met Karen and Carl at his school, had a treat with Karen at her favorite Starbucks, and then headed back to Missouri, where we continued in our campaigning efforts for Hillary.

November: We enjoyed having Kikuko Fukuoka, our long-time friend from Fukuoka, visit us—and we enjoyed visiting an Amish community together. On November 8 we cast our ballots for what we thought would be the first woman President. June thought about her Grandmother Ethel and others who had worked so hard to win women even the right to vote. Needless to say, we were shocked by the results.

December: We had a fun Christmas Day with Kathy and Tim and their wonderful children. Katrina and Ryan came from Springfield and David from Rolla, Mo. Katrina and Ryan graduated from Southwest Baptist University in May. She is now a teacher at Carthage, Mo., and he is a counselor for business students at Missouri State University in Springfield. David is in his second year at Missouri University School of Science and Technology where he is an electrical engineering major.

We look forward to being cozy under our new blanket, warmed by the love of our children and grandchildren, whose names you see on it. Our hearts are also warmed by your friendship, and we pray that 2017 will be a year of peace and good will for you and yours.

Love,

Leroy & June

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Swords into Plowshares

[The following is the manuscript for the short (8 min.!) sermon I gave Sunday, Jan. 13, at Rainbow Mennonite Church. The Bible readings to which the message was related are Isaiah 2:2-4, Matthew 5:38-45a; Romans 12:17-18.]

We have been blessed this morning by the stories our fellow church members have shared about their journey to and/or for peace.

I was asked to share along the same lines, but I don’t have much to say in that regard for when I was still in high school, partly influenced by Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, the 18th century German Pietist, I decided that because of my faith in Jesus Christ and his teachings as found in the Bible (such as what was read this morning) I should be a pacifist. And that has been my position for more than 55 years now.

Considerably before my 18th birthday I responded to what I believe was God’s call to become a Christian minister, and I was so employed after my first year of college, when I was still 17. Thus, I received a ministerial exemption from the draft and was never subject to the possibility of entering military service.

It was only in the early 1970s, though, that I became significantly aware of the Anabaptist tradition of pacifism. That was largely through reading Arthur Gish’s book The New Left and Christian Radicalism (1970). Through the years I became more and more an admirer of the Anabaptists, partly, but not entirely, because of their position on pacifism. That admiration culminated with my becoming a member of this church, and a Mennonite, in July of last year.

The Scripture reading this morning from the prophet Isaiah about turning swords into plowshares is a particularly apt one for Mennonites, who have historically been primarily an agrarian people. I can identify with that, too, for I grew up on a farm, and the Seat family in Missouri were mainly farmers ever since they migrated to the state around 1820.

Less than two years ago, in April 2011, I saw a very impressive sculpture on the top floor of the Court House in Liberty, where I live. It is the “Plowshare Sculpture,” done by Arlie J. Regier and presented to Clay County in 1990. Little did I know then that the following year I would be a member of the same church as Arlie.

This Tuesday is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, and a week from tomorrow is the national holiday celebrating his birth and life. I have recently read the essay about King titled “The Inconvenient Hero.” That essay was written by Vincent Harding. Many of you probably know of Harding, an African-American who was born in Harlem in 1931: he is a scholar, a writer, an activist—and a Mennonite.

Two years ago, in May 2011, Dr. Harding was in a panel discussion at the University of Arkansas. The topic was “Turning Swords into Ploughshares: The Many Paths of Nonviolence.” The other two panelists were the Dalai Lama and Sister Helen Prejean, whose story is told in the 1995 film “Dead Man Walking.”

When he was in his early 20s, Harding was drafted into the army. In his talk at UA he explained how he “was taught how to slash out another human beings’ bowels.” He went on to say, “I kept hearing the song ‘Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.’” But, he lamented, he and other soldiers were being trained “to cut their guts out because that is what your government tells you to do.” “At that point,” he said “essentially I became a conscientious objector.”

While King is best remembered for his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, he became more and more vocal in his opposition to the war in Vietnam as well as in his advocacy for those living in poverty in this nation.

On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, King spoke at the Riverside Church in New York City. Harding is said to have been the ghost writer for that powerful speech, which was titled “A Time to Break Silence”—and he was talking about breaking silence regarding opposition to the war in Vietnam.

I don’t remember having read that speech before doing so this past week. I also found myself a bit chastised, for among other things King said, “I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors.” Of course, I was already living in Japan at that time; but even though I was opposed to war, and especially the war in Vietnam, I had never considered doing that.

Just twelve days after his noteworthy speech at Riverside Church, King preached at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Please listen carefully to the ending of that marvelous sermon (and this brief meditation). King declared,

I have not lost faith; I’m not in despair because I know that there is a moral order. I haven’t lost faith. Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. I can still sing “We Shall Overcome,” because Carlysle was right. No lie can live forever. We shall overcome because William C. Bryant was right, truth crushed to the earth, will rise again. We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell was right. Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future. We shall overcome because the Bible is right, you shall reap what you sow.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to go out to transform the jangling discord of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. With this faith, we will be able to speed up the day when the lion and the lamb will lay down together. And every man will sit under his own pine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, because the word of the Lord has spoken.

With this faith, we will be able to speed up the day when all over the world we will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at Last, Free at Last, thank God, almighty, we’re free at last.” With this faith . . . . Men will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not rise up against nations; neither shall they study war any more.”

May it be so!

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“The Long Walk Home”

The Long Walk Home is a 1990 film starring Whoppi Goldberg and Sissy Spacek. Friday evening June and I watched it for the second (or maybe the third) time, and we thoroughly enjoyed it again.

The film is set in Montgomery, Alabama, during the 1955 bus boycott in that city. The title of the movie comes, of course, from the fact that Odessa, Whoppi’s character, and all the African-Americans in Montgomery refused to ride the buses after the Rosa Parka incident, so for many of them every way involved the long walk home after work.Image

The movie is partly about the growing sympathy for the African-Americans in Miriam, Sissy’s character, for whom Odessa worked as the maid (like those in “The Help”). That, of course, caused tension between Miriam and her husband.

As we were watching the movie, I asked June why we didn’t have more knowledge of, and interest in, the Montgomery bus boycott when it was going on. But we were college freshmen then, and we had other things on our minds–like each other. (The fall of 1955 is when we stated dating.)

If you haven’t seen this film, or seen it recently, I would highly recommend it. It is perhaps especially meaningful to watch right at this time in memory of Treyvon Martin, the black teenager in Florida who was recently shot and killed.

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“The Orthodox Heretic”

Parker Artz, an outstanding student at William Jewell College, spoke in Chapel there last month. Thanks to Parker, whom I have the privilege of knowing personally, I learned about the Irish theologian Peter Rollins.

Rollins (b. 1973) is lecturer and theologian/philosopher who is associated with the emerging church movement and postmodern Christianity. He is also the founder of the experimental collective Ikon.

A couple of days ago I finished reading his thought-provoking book The Orthodox Heretic (2009), and just today I started reading his How (Not) to Speak of God (2006). I have just purchased his book called Insurrection: To Believe is Human To Doubt, Divine (2011) to read soon.

The former book is a collection of 33 parables/stories followed by a commentary. They all have a bit of a different twist from what Christian writers usually say. For example, Rollins’ 13th chapter is “The Prodigal Father,” an interesting twist where it is the father that goes missing; it deals with the problem of people who feel abandoned by God.

“The Unrepentant Son” is a bit of a different “take” on the parable of the prodigal son. Rollins writes, “Religious groups have always loved repentant sinners. After all, there is nothing quite like parading a repentant sinner in church for inspiring the faithful.
“But what if Jesus had an infinitely more radical message than this? What if Jesus taught an impossible forgiveness, a forgiveness without conditions, a forgiveness that would forgive before some condition was met?” (p. 147).

With so much emphasis on story-telling in preaching now, The Orthodox Heretic should give preachers, youth workers, and other speakers some good stories to consider and perhaps to use.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything that Rollins writes, but I highly recommend his thought-provoking book.

 

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“Thurgood”

This evening June and I watched the delightful one man play “Thurgood,” made for HBO in 2011 and released last month on DVD. Laurence Fishburne does a wonderful job portraying the life story of Thurgood Marshall (1908-93), who was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1967 to 1991.

Marshall, pictured on the left, was the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court. Before serving on the Court, he was best known for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

On the front of the Supreme Court Building are the words, “Equal Justice Under Law,” and according to the movie that was Marshall’s lifelong quest for the African-Americans in the U.S.

As this is Black History Month, if you haven’t yet seen “Thurgood,” I would highly recommend that you try to see it this month, or whenever you can manage to do so. It is well worth seeing at any time.

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A Good Word for Paul

This morning I have posted “A Good Word for Paul” on my The View from this Seat blog. The link is http://theviewfromthisseat.blogspot.com/2012/01/good-word-for-paul.html

Today, January 25, is the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, and the decisive vision of Paul is graphically depicted in this painting of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610):

 

 

 

 

 

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