Wednesday, October 31, 2018

WOUNDED: NOVEMBER 1st, 1918. In memory of my father-in-law, D.H. Weigle

   At around 9 am French time on November 1st, 1918, a German infantryman pressed the trigger on his MG-08 Maxim machine gun and let fly a hail of 8 m/m bullets.  Moments earlier the Germans either let loose a deadly poisoned gas attack or Dorr's unit believed they were about to.  In any event,  Pvt. D.H. Weigle of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Marine Division rose up just slightly in an attempt to fit his gas mask over his face.  One of those 8 m/m bullets was bearing down upon him.
   Dorr had been born September 2, 1896, the ninth of twelve children of Charles and Mary Weigle.  Their home was near the village of Elizabeth, West Virginia.  In 1970 he showed my wife (his daughter Susan) and I the family home, the church and school built by his carpenter father and the cemetery where his parents were interred.  His formal education ended after the eighth grade and he went to work mainly in farming jobs.  When the U.S. entered the "Great War" in April 1917 Dorr was employed by the Coraopolis, Pa. Police Dept. and was deferred from military conscription.  But there was such an intense pressure on young men to not be "slackers" or "shirkers" that he followed his older brother and enlisted in the Marine Corps.  Paris Island had just been opened and Dorr remembered being one of those assigned to pave the new streets there with crushed oyster shells.
   He demonstrated a high level of marksmanship with the 03 Springfield rifle and was told that his scores on the rifle range would mean that he could remain there and be a rifle instructor.  But he so hated the heat and the sand fleas that he deliberately pulled one or two shots out of the bulls eye on qualification day so that he would not be assigned to stay there.  He later considered that one of the biggest mistakes of his life because it would nearly cost him his life.  He recalled that upon arriving in France it was march, march, march just about everywhere he went.  He received his food in the chow line one day and sat down on a pile of brush to eat.  Noticing that no one else was sitting near him he looked down into the brush and beheld the remains of a dead German.
   On the fateful morning of November 1st Dorr, as a member of Co. E, 5th Marine Regiment, 4th Brigade was in that part of the Argonne Offensive intended to drive the Germans from the town of Landreville.  The machine gun burst of fire that was to hit him must have been fired in an upward trajectory to rain down on the Marines.  The bullet that struck him entered at a downward trajectory and lodged near a pelvic bone.  The surgeons, fearful that he might be paralyzed, left the bullet where it was.  But they did not tell him this fact.  It would be nearly 20 years before he would learn that it was still in him.  After the war he married the lovely, dark eyed Orpha Shankland of Wayne Co. Ohio.  Soon after their marriage he turned down an offer from the Veterans Bureau to pay for four years of college if he would teach vocational agriculture.  He had no desire to return to school.  Another decision that he would someday regret.  He opted instead to learn automobile mechanics and for six years worked at the Canton (Ohio) Motor Car Co. where he serviced the first Chrysler to come to Canton.
   In the years following the birth of their first child, a son in 1921, Dorr and Orpha endured the anguish of three baby girls either being still born or dying soon after birth.  In 1928 Dorr joined the Canton Police Department.  In the early 1930's he used the veterans bonus to buy a 100 acre farm near Greenwich, Ohio.  He and Orpha would rent out the farm for ten years before moving there.  From 1936 until 1942 they welcomed into their lives two sons and a daughter, Susan.  In 1943 Dorr took early retirement from the police department and the family moved from Canton to the farm they already owned. Dorr now realized his life long dream of operating his own farm.  At that time the oldest son, now 22, was serving his country in World War II.
   The most critical moment of Dorr's life, since nearly being killed in 1918, was to happen at the very middle of the 20th century.  Dorr was a man of honesty and integrity but he could exhibit a terrible temper and cursed as a second language.  His two youngest sons often fought so angrily their mother feared they would not live to adulthood.  A friend invited the two Weigle brothers to church and they soon committed their lives to Christ as Savior and Lord. Their lives changed radically.  Early one Sunday morning Dorr said to Orpha, "Get ready.  We are going to church.  I want to see what happened to those two boys."  She nearly fainted!  In the weeks that followed Orpha recommitted her life to Christ and Dorr, the proud, ramrod straight Marine, became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 54.  As a young boy I witnessed his baptism and subsequent struggle to overcome the lifelong habit of cursing.  One of his sons and his daughter would spend much of their lives in Christian School and Christian camp ministries.  His daughter is still very involved in ministry to all age groups at her church.
    Dorr was always an avid hunter and an excellent marksman.  It was my joy as his only son-in-law to supply him with several accurate rifles.   From age 76 onward he was legendary among local farmers for the number of groundhogs he took out of their fields.  He hunted until well into his 90's and kept me busy loading ammunition for him.  Eventually, the years took their toll.  At age ninety he had to have a pace maker.  I conducted Dorr's funeral service in April 1996.  He was just five months short of his 100th birthday.  The honor guard at the cemetery were young enough to be his grandchildren or great grandchildren.  Orpha had preceded him in death by nine years.  The 8 m/m German machine gun bullet was still in him!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


   This November 11th will mark 100 years since the end of the "War To End All Wars", as President Woodrow Wilson called what we now know as World War I.  That title would be laughable if it was not so unrealistically tragic.  In the months that followed, the U.S. government disposed of tons of surplus gun powder (properly called "propellant") by dumping it in the ocean.  It could have been sold to ammunition companies or to the many citizens who were even then learning to load/reload their own ammunition for hunting and target shooting.  But saving taxpayer money was not a consideration.  Following World War II the story would be different.

   Of the more than sixteen million Americans who served in the armed forces in that terrible conflict, one of them, Brewster "Bruce" E. Hodgdon was not about to let his government dump perfectly good propellants into the ocean.  After being discharged from the Navy he wrote letters to government officials up to and including President Truman.  His efforts would pay great dividends, not just to him but to countless Americans.  In 1947 he purchased 50,000 pounds of surplus IMR 4895 rifle powder and the Hodgdon Powder Company was born.  Seventy one years later the many thousands of us who load our own ammunition are indeed grateful.  But let's leave this story for a moment to give you a little historical background.

   Since before the American Revolution the largest manufacturer of gun powder was the Dupont family and later the Dupont Corporation.  This was true when Bruce Hodgdon was just starting out.  By the twentieth century Dupont had transitioned from making black gunpowder to making modern smokeless powders.  By the end of World War II they had developed some excellent rifle powders with names like IMR 4831 and IMR 4895;  The number indicated how rapidly or slowly the propellant burned.  Propellants do not explode when they are ignited by the primer in the cartridge, instead they burn rapidly producing gases which propel the bullet.  Changing times brought changes to Dupont.  Their slogan of the 1950's  "Better thing for better living through chemistry" has been changed to "Better things for better living" because in this irrational age "chemistry" is a dirty word.  But for purposes of this blog the significant change was when Dupont sold off their historic powder manufacturing business entirely to Hodgdon.  Today Hodgdon sells the IMR powders.

   So today Hodgdon is THE name in propellants.  Many thousand of Americans, including me, find great satisfaction in loading their own ammunition for hunting and target shooting and Hodgdon can supply whatever we need.  There are other brands; Hodgdon does not have a monopoly by any means.  But nearly every powder I use, except for one or two, is made by Hodgdon.

   If you came to this Blog from Facebook you are wondering about the Mission Statement of the Hodgdon Company.  Here it is in its entirety:  "Hodgdon Powder Company operates following Biblical principles to honor God.  Our Mission is to provide quality products and services in a manner which enhances the lives of our employees, families, customers and our communities.  In doing so, we will deal with integrity and honesty, reflecting that  people are more important than dollars and our purpose is to bring credit to our Lord Jesus Christ."

   Even if you do not buy Hodgdon products you might want to send a message to them thanking them for their Mission Statement.  If you would like to read a longer history of Hodgdon see the current issue of American Rifleman the official journal of the National Rifle Association. That article tells how Hodgdon propellants are used in non-firearm applications as well.  It may be available online.  Also, if you have questions about loading/reloading ammunition send me a message on FB.  If a member of your family wants to learn how this is done I would love to show them.

   One final word to any reader who may have strong feelings against firearms and ammunition:  the misuse of any product by a few does not make that product inherently evil.  To believe otherwise is to to hold a modern version of the ancient Gnostic heresy.  Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


   Carol Weigle, Chester's wife, answered the phone at Trail To Life Camp on the afternoon of July 21, 1970.  It was Mike Mecurio calling from Canada.  Crying as he spoke he broke the tragic news to Carol that Don, Chuck and Tim were missing and presumed to have drowned.  It was senior girls week at TTLC and Chet and I were away from camp for awhile that afternoon.  We arrived back shortly before the evening meal was to begin.  I vividly recall Carol walking with Chet down toward the lake to break the news to him alone.  She then came and told me that Chet needed to see me.  After he broke the dreaded news to me I got Susan and we went to my parents' home to tell them.  They were not there and I had no idea where they were.  In the meantime I called their pastor and wife, Ron and Donna Lou Merrill.  They were ready to leave on their vacation but instead came immediately to my parents' home.  I made other phone calls and soon there were many people gathered and waiting in the living room.
   When my parents finally came home from visiting someone in Mansfield they were puzzled by the number of cars in their driveway.  I met them at the back door and they sat down on the porch swing.  My exact words were:  "We know that we will all be together again someday but Donnie is now with Jesus."  I have often wished that I would have had someone else tell them because it seemed to me like I had just driven a dagger into their souls.  But later Mom told Susan that she was glad that I was the one who told them.  Everyone there gathered around them and Ron Merrill led in prayer.  One by one more and more people began to arrive; my aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.  Before the evening was over I had to go to the home of Dr. C.O. Butner at Shiloh and get something for my parents to take to help then through the emotional trauma.
    I called a pastor friend in Lexington to break the news to Don's wife Twila.  I have since regretted putting that burden upon that pastor but I thought that someone should do it in person rather than just a phone call.  Since Twila was spending that week with her sister and brother-in-law Bob and Alice Witzky, I should have probably called the Witzky home and asked Bob or Alice to tell her.  Somehow Twila got the impression that Don was missing but that there was a possibility he was alive.
   The next morning Harold Laird, a long time friend of my parents, and Paul Enzor, dad's cousin, arrived.  They knew nothing about what had happened.  They had come to begin the work of taking out my parents' old coal burning furnace and installing a new gas furnace.  I met them in the driveway and told them what had happened and as they were about to leave and postpone the work my mom called out to me to have them go ahead and start work. In the sad days that followed, this project was actually a helpful distraction from all the heaviness.  I was often busy going to get parts and materials for them -- when I was not going to the funeral home to make arrangements.
   Shortly after Harold and Paul arrived Jim and Eva Mae Brundage arrived bringing Twila.  We began to get phone calls from news outlets and the Moody Bible Institute station in Cleveland, WCRF, picked it up on the wire services.  Their announcer Bob Devine dedicated the song "He Giveth More Grace" to Twila that morning.  That afternoon the phone rang again and the news came to us that the bodies had been found.  When I got off the phone and told what the call was about Twila fainted.  It was later that we found out that she holding onto the possibility that Don was alive.  I immediately went to see Atlee Meyers the owner of the funeral home in Greenwich.  He looked up the name of the funeral home in Canada that was closest to where the tragedy was unfolding.  It was Goulet Funeral Home.  I did not tell my family then but I soon learned that Canadian law required that an autopsy be performed on my brother's body.  Mr. Goulet brought the three bodies from Canada to the funeral home in Greenwich.
   On Friday afternoon I took our family:  Twila, Mom, Dad, Susan and myself to the funeral home to view Don's body.  Twila decided to have a closed casket and I agreed.  I feel this was another mistake on my part.  I should have urged her to allow Don's many friends to see his earthly form one more time.  I regret that greatly.  That evening there was a very large memorial service at the camp.  We borrowed many chairs from a local church to seat the great number who came.  Robert Collitt, who had been our pastor when Don and I were boys, was there from Maryland.  My brother had met and become friends with the Chief of the Mansfield Fire Department Leonard Boebel.  That evening Chief Boebel put fire station No. 7 out of service for awhile so that he, fireman Dean Scott, and another fireman could come to the service.
   The funeral the next day filled Bethel Baptist Church at Savannah (their old building) to capacity.  Chet Weigle and others from the camp went the next two days to the funerals of Tim and Chuck in western Ohio and Chicago.  About two weeks after the funeral Twila told Susan she was not feeling well.  Susan said, "I already have an appointment with Dr. Butner.  Why don't you come with me and have him check you out also."  That was the day we all learned that that Twila was expecting a baby.  Susan and I had been invited to move onto a farm that a Christian couple had purchased.  We asked Twila to come and live with us there.  So it was on the cold, snowy evening of February 23, 1971 that Susan and I took Twila to Mansfield Hospital where she gave birth to Aaron Eugene Enzor.
   Doctors had told Susan and I that it did not look like we would ever have children.  But on June 21, 1971, after being in labor for thirty-one hours (!) Susan gave birth to Miles Daniel Enzor.   During the previous winter, before Aaron was born, a carpet sales rep. came to the door one day.  We were getting a small room ready as a nursery for Twila and she had called to have it measured for some carpet.  When the carpet rep. rang the door bell both Susan and Twila went to the door and both were obviously pregnant.  The sales rep asked, "who's the lady of the house?"  They answered together, "I am".  He said, "where is the superman?"  My brother Don would have loved that.

Sunday, July 1, 2018


  This title is borrowed from a 1950's book by J.B. Phillips.  He was a friend of C.S. Lewis and the translator of the first of the popular paraphrases of the New Testament, "The New Testament In Modern English" (1958).  It is largely forgotten now but its literary qualities and forceful rendering of many passages have made it a favorite of mine ever since I bought my first copy as a senior in high school.  I used this title because it sounded much better that the dry, technical heading of "Some Thoughts On The Meaning Of Predestination And Election".   I'm sure these thoughts are not entirely original with me but I did not get them from any book, sermon, etc.  They have come from years of reflection on the Scriptures.
   This little essay should not be construed as a critique of 'Reformed' theology or any other system of interpreting Scripture, even though some may take it that way.  It is not that I believe certain doctrines about predestination and election are completely wrong, it is just that their advocates have not always been careful to clarify some things.  To 'cut to the chase' as they say, I will say right up front that it seems to me that the terms "chose", "elect", etc, are used in Scripture as anthropomorphic words.  'Anthropomorphic' is a word formed from two Greek words:  'anthropos' (man/human) and morphos (the form, essence or nature of someone or something).  Most people are familiar with the anthropomorphic images in many cartoons when animals are portrayed as humans.           Anthropomorphic terms in Scripture compare God to people so that we can better grasp things.  Scripture speaks of the 'hand' of God, the 'eyes' of the Lord, etc.  Just before the flood of Noah's time the Scripture says that God was "grieved" that he had made man.  The King James Version renders it "repented" that He had made man.  Now, of course, nothing takes God surprise.  He knows eternally all things.  (We need to let that sink in for a moment.)  When anthropomorphic terms are used of God they are intended to help us at lest partially grasp things that are ultimately beyond total comprehension.
   So it is with the words 'elect', and 'choose'.  If we are not very careful how we define and explain these terms we make God out to be finite/limited.  God is the Creator of space and time.  That is what happened at Genesis 1:1.  He is not bound by time or space.  There is no time at which those who are called God's 'chosen ones' or 'elect' were not chosen.  To give the impression that there was a point of time in the past when God said "I now choose _____ to be saved and I do not choose _____ to be saved is to put God into time and thus make Him finite/limited.  Hence, the title "Your God Is Too Small".   We can only grasp words like 'choose' and 'elect' in the way that we as humans use them.  At a certain point in time we decide and act.  We are finite/limited.  Before that time we had not made the choice or elected.   
   But now comes the most important part of all.  The words 'chose' and 'elect' must be defined in a way that fits how they are used of Jesus,  He is "the living Stone -- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him" and he is the "chosen and precious cornerstone".  (I Peter 2:4-6 NIV)  If the words 'chosen' or 'elect' are used of Christ the way that some people have defined them (as applied to believers) then Christ was chosen from among a larger group of beings to be the Savior of the world.  This is, of course, exactly what some cults say about Christ.  He is the highest of the angelic beings chosen by God to be the Savior.  Now do you see why we cannot define 'chosen' and 'elect', when used of believers, as "God chose certain ones to be save and did not choose others".  If you apply this definition to Christ you have denied his absolute uniqueness.  Not to mention that you have also denied several explicit Scripture that declare God to be unwilling that any perish and that he would have all men to be saved.  (I Tim. 2:4 and II Peter 3:9)
   Now, we need a definition of 'chosen' and 'elect' that:  1) does not make God finite/limited; and 2) fits the words when they are used of Christ.  We have that definition in Jesus' great High Priestly Prayer in John 17.  Jesus said, "Father . . . you loved me before the Creation of the world"  (vs. 24)  That, my friends, is the biblical definition of what it means to be 'elect' and 'chosen' of God.  It means:  that the believer, like Jesus the unique Son of God, is eternally loved by God the Father.  To go beyond this definition and portray God as 'choosing' in the way that humans choose, is to portray God as crudely arbitrary and to portray Christ as just one of a larger group of similar beings.
    So now when you read these words in Scripture, or hear them used in a sermon, just think to yourself:  "John 17:24"; I am eternally loved by the Father, just as Jesus, the unique Son, is eternally loved.  It is supremely good to give God all the credit for our salvation but to do it in the way that some people have defined 'chosen' and 'elect' is, as we have seen, to portray God the Father and Christ the Son very poorly, even ugly.  Stick with John 17:24 and ignore the theologians.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


   Whatever fruit was involved in the temptation of the first man and woman it was almost certainly not an apple; not in the Middle East that early in human history.  I read once that there was a possibility it was an apricot.  The prohibition against eating from one tree was not arbitrary on God's part.  There were undoubtedly other instructions we are not told about.  Israel was commanded to not eat the fruit of trees they would plant in the Promised Land for three years.  See Leviticus 19:23ff. There are evidently practical horticultural reasons for this.  Obeying God has both temporal and eternal rewards.
   Let us now describe some things I have learned from a lifetime of experience that should be delightfully practical for you.  First, the best apple cider is made when several varieties of apples are combined in the pressing.  True cider apples are nearly impossible to find today.  The cider available today is normally made from the culls of dessert apples and not true cider apples like Golden Russets. To add insult to injury the law now requires most cider to be pasteurized further destroying its flavor.  I saw this coming years ago when I watched dirty apples being unloaded at the cider mill.
    Beginning in 1978 we planted a variety of apple trees with the goal of having the best cider.  We had a good start because there were two mature Golden Delicious trees on the property when we bought it the previous year.  They were the old strain of that apple and they made excellent cider by themselves.  When other varieties were added the best only got better.  We had many loyal customers.  We sold the orchard more than three years ago.  If you have your own apples or can pick them somewhere you can schedule a pressing at Mowry's cider mill in Loudonville.
   We learned after many years experience to immerse our apples in bleach water before taking them to the mill.   Add at least a cup of bleach to a large tub of water and set each bushel of apples in it the day before you go to the mill.  This will make your cider, for all practical purposes, as safe as pasteurized and it will keep fresh much, much longer.  To clean milk jugs to be used for cider you have to stuff your dish cloth inside the jug with some hot, soapy water and swish it around vigorously and rinse it thoroughly.  When dry put the cap, after washing it, on tightly.  You cannot simple rinse milk jugs; they will not be clean enough unless you do what we described.  If there is any doubt about the cleanliness of jugs you should rinse them with bleach water.
   Pour a little cider out of the jugs you want to freeze to allow for expansion.  Frozen cider will keep fresh for a long time.
    The very best apple sauce is made as follows:  NEVER peel the apples.  You are throwing away the good pectin in the skin and the vitamins near the skin.  Quarter the apples and cut out the core and any blemishes.  Put a little water - not too little and not too much - into a large pan and bring the quartered apples to a boil.  When they become very soft and mushy, put them through a funnel shaped colander (sometimes spelled 'cullender').  You can probably find one on the internet.  The sauce will pass through the small holes in the colander and the skins will remain inside to be disposed of.  Unless the apples you use are very tart you will not need to add sugar.  If you do, use fructose available at bulk food stores.  With the pectin from the skins, your sauce will have a much nicer texture and flavor.  Add a little cinnamon to taste.  You have just made the very best apple sauce.
    To make the best apple butter begin by making the sauce (see above) the day before.  If you want a good sized batch of apple butter make five gallons of sauce, but any amount will work if done to the following proportions.  Begin  by cleaning the inside of the copper kettle you are using.  Do NOT clean with anything that will leave a toxic residue.  We always cleaned the inside of the copper kettle with a mixture of strong cider vinegar and salt and rinsed thoroughly.  If you made five gallons of sauce put TEN GALLONS of cider in the kettle and boil it down ONE HALF so that about five gallons of concentrated cider remains.  Slowly add the five gallons of sauce.  Stir continually with an apple butter stirrer as it cooks down to the consistency of apple butter.  If you feel you need sweetener use fructose and a little cinnamon.  Can it in sterile jars while piping hot.  Eat it on homemade bread.  Enjoy the good gifts of God.
   If you live in our area we would be please to come by your place and give you pointers on any of the above.


Thursday, June 8, 2017


   The first week of June 1957; school was out and a very tumultuous freshman year had ended.  Some of it was my own fault, making some bad choices.  But with the spiritual maturity of passing years I can see that, since God's Hand was very much on my life and my future, there was no small amount of satanic attack against me, and against others in that high school.  My dad had a cousin named Keith who had acquired a fair amount of skill in both interior and exterior painting.  It was a second vocation for him, supplementing his income as a railroad employee.   I do not recall if Keith asked me directly or if my dad said something like, "Keith wants you to work with him painting a house on the west end of Greenwich".  I also do not recall if I started at $1.75 an hour or if I got $2 right away.  Dad bought a brush at Sears for me; half nylon and half China bristle, 3 1/2 inches wide. 
   As best as I can recall I started immediately after school was out.  Recently Susan and I stopped to look as that house where my very important second vocation began.  Like many older homes it is now covered with vinyl siding.  On that June morning it was bare, weathered wood siding that had probably not been painted since early in the 20th century.  In those days the paint already on houses was mostly lead base and it would "chalk", that is, slowly erode off the siding.  The paint on this house was totally gone.  Modern acrylic base paints do not chalk; they either stay on indefinitely or peal off if there is a moisture problem on the inside.
   To get me started Keith set up a "stoop" for me to work from.  A "stoop", as painters called them, was make by taking a section of ladder (or step ladder) of any length and building a small platform on the top.  You could then stand on that platform to work.  The paint we were using that day may not have been lead base since I recall reading labels later that summer which said the pigment in the paint was titanium dioxide.  The move away from lead base paints had begun even before it was understood how dangerous lead was to human health.  In the years before World War II painters would often buy a barrel of white lead powder, a barrel of linseed oil, and some turpentine.  They would then mix their own paints.  Red barn paint was made by adding iron oxide to the mix.  The use of white lead base paints established a tradition of white houses.  I can recall no house in those days that was any color other than white.  Paints of different colors were used inside of houses and not on the outside.  Linseed oil and turpentine were used to thin paint.  By the 1950's the paints used on the interior of houses were gradually becoming water and latex base.  In earlier days lead base paints were used on both interior and exterior work.  This would prove deadly to many children in the years ahead as poorer families rented older homes.  Children would sometimes ingest the flakes or dust of lead base paint on the interior of these old homes.
   Keith showed me how to thin the paint just a little so it would spread more easily but not be too thin; it had to "track in the bucket".  I was acquiring a painter's vocabulary.  He poured some into a bucket for me and I went to work.  In a couple moments he walked up behind me and said, "Russell, you can't paint with a dry brush".  In less than three minutes he showed me how to "load and unload a brush" and to apply the paint evenly with a final stroke to take out all brush marks.  I was on my way.  In the 60 years since then there is no other basic, practical skill that I ever learned so quickly and used so often.  Since the siding on that house was bare we applied, over the month of June, both a primer and a finish coat. 
   By July my dad had a week's vacation coming from his job at Westinghouse in Mansfield.  He would spend that vacation working.  A friend, who also worked at Westinghouse, owned a large, three story house on Center Street in Ashland and wanted it painted.  That house is now part of the Center Street Historic District.  Dad and I began work there on a Saturday and at the end of the day he said, "this job is too much for just the two of us".  He called his friend Kenneth "Doug" Ross in New London.  Doug had become a believer in Christ just a few years earlier and had started a Youth For Christ work in New London.  His wife was a teacher and Doug was working as a painter to support his ministry in Youth For Christ.  My dad was on the YFC board of directors for the Huron County area and we attended the monthly Saturday night YFC rallies (as they were called then) at New London high school.  On Monday morning dad and I were back at the Center Street house ready to begin work when Doug Ross and his two sons pulled in with their trailer load of ladders to work with us. 
   My freshman year may have been a year that, in the words of the Prophet Joel, "the locusts had eaten" but when the Rosses pulled in that July morning in 1957 God was beginning to (again, in the words of the Prophet Joel) restore to me the year that the locusts had eaten.  My friendship with the Rosses would prove decisive for this life and for eternity.  After the Center Street house was finished I spent the rest of the summer painting with them in the New London area, even staying at their home and being made to feel like part of the family.  The oldest son Don had been out of the Marine Corps for a year and had spent that year at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.  The other son Neil was ready to begin his senior year at Moody.  They were fun to work with.  They joked a lot.  They were not like some hyper-serious, legalistic Christians I had been around.  By the end of August here I was, a 15 year old boy, earning $2 an hour.  When adjusted for inflation that was probably three times today's minimum wage and I had acquired a valuable, life time skill.  More importantly, I had now been impacted by the friendship of three godly men.  More about this later.
   The summer of 1958 saw the country in a recession and there were not too many people asking to have their house painted.  I did a little painting with my dad's cousin again, but spent a lot of the summer working on farms for 75 cents an hour.  At the beginning of that summer the pastor of our church resigned to take a full time position with Youth For Christ International.  Who was called to be the new pastor?  My new friend, six years older than I, Neil Ross.  In August he asked me to be in his wedding at Newport News, Virginia.  I gladly accepted and rode to Virginia with his brother Don and his brother-in-law Mark.  Mark's wife, Neil's sister, had to stay in Ohio with a new baby.  When Neil and his wife Jane began their ministry at our church in September I often spent Sunday afternoons at their home playing LP records on their new stereo.  That fall I began dating a girl I had known since the first grade.  God was now putting everything together to bring my life to where His Spirit was calling me.  Susan began to pray for me and by March 1959 I made my commitment to the Lordship of Christ.  If I am asked when I was 'saved' I really cannot say with certainty but that spring was a decisive turning point of my life.
   What would I do next?  I had learned that when Neil was a sophomore at New London High School he had heard about what was then called Toccoa Falls Institute.  Now called Toccoa Falls College it was then a Bible College, an academy (high school), and an elementary school all on one campus.  Neil believed God was calling him there and his junior and senior years of high school were spent there.  In the fall of 1958 Neil's parents had left New London and moved to Toccoa Falls to be on the staff there.  Now, near the end of my junior year, I knew that Toccoa was were I should go to finish high school.  When I told my mom she said, "Russell, we do not have the money to send you there".  I explained that I still had some money in the bank from painting and that in the summer ahead it looked like I would be painting again.  Neil's parents came back to Ohio from Toccoa for the summer.  Doug Ross had lined up several houses to paint.  I had all the work I needed that summer and was now earning $2.25 per hour.  I was buying all my own clothes and shoes, a new stereo, and in general helping my parents out by paying for as much of my own expenses as I could.  I did not have quite enough to pay for my entire year at Toccoa but my parents were able to come up with the rest.
   Let us fast forward to the spring of 1963.  Susan and I, not yet married, were both attending Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana.  I was sharing an upstairs apartment with two other guys and the family who owned the house mentioned that they wanted some painting done.  I worked for my rent the last couple months of the school year.  While I was painting one day a man across the street came over and was watching me.  "I have a friend who would probably want to talk to you" he said.  A day or so later a van pulled up and a man in white painter's clothes walked over to me and said, "I'm Bud Vandermark".  He looked at my work and said that he would like to hire me full time.  I explained that I would be returning to Ohio for the summer, that Susan and I would be married in August, and that we would be returning to Winona Lake by the middle of August.  He said, "when you get back here contact me".   Just as God had used painting to bring the Rosses into my life He was now bringing into my life a man whose painting skills were equaled by few if any in the entire United States.  I can say that as one who has now painted for 60 years.  I do not believe that Lester "Bud" Vandermark of Warsaw, Indiana ever had an equal in his art and skills in both interior and exterior work.  What I learned working with him the first year of our marriage was more valuable than any trade school education.  By observing Bud work I saw the extensive preparation work that was done before you even wet a brush; preparation work like you would do before painting a classic car.  I saw how to "cut in" straight lines.  No masking tape used - ever!  Neat!  Neat!   Neat!
   In the years since, as a Christian School teacher, I do not see how our family could have survived economically without this second vocation that God gave to me.  When I worked with Bud we worked in some of the finest homes in the Warsaw/Winona Lake area.  In this area, since 1964, I have had the joy of also working in and on some of the finest homes; those of doctors and other professionals.  None has been more of a joy than all the work I've done at the home of my dear friends Jon and Nancy Krieger.  This home was built in 1960 by the late Richard Tappan whose family founded the Tappan Company in Mansfield.  It is an architectural and construction masterpiece of quality; spacious without being ostentatious.  Jon went to be with the Lord in March and Nancy has it listed for sale.  We are praying that the new owners will use it for the glory of God the way Jon and Nancy have.
   Paints are no longer called "paints".  PPG, the giant of the paint industry, now calls them "architectural finishes"!  Susan goes with me to most jobs today.  She moves drop cloths and spots "holidays".  Her assistance is invaluable.  I may not have been born with either a Bible or paint brush in my hand but the chances are good that, if the Lord does not return first, I will die with either a Bible or a paint (sorry, architectural finish) brush in my hand.  That first year that Susan and I were married we made Matthew 6:33 our life verse together.  While doing interior painting with Bud one day the next spring the owner of the house was talking with me and I explained to him that as a Christian heading for some type of ministry I wanted to be like the Apostle Paul who said, "You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions." (Acts 20:34)  ". . . we worked might and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.  We did this . . . in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow".  (II Thess. 3:8&9) 
   Thank you for helping me celebrate this 60th anniversary!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


   In July 1957 Chester Weigle married Carol Morrow.  Their love and marriage is the beginning of Trail To Life Camp.  Chester ("Chet") grew up on a farm south of Greenwich, Ohio and Carol had grown up just north of Greenwich.  Her parents had leased their land to a local businessman who put in a sand and gravel operation.  Carol's dad, Herb Morrow, got to work for this business on his own property.  The sand and gravel business ceased operation not long after Chet and Carol were married and left behind a beautiful 12 acre lake where the sand and gravel had been extracted.   Chet had just completed 3 years at Ohio State majoring in vocational agriculture.  By the spring of 1957 he had come to a crisis of decision and was persuaded by his pastor's wife (Flo Collit) to train for ministry at Grace College and Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana.  Flo and her husband Robert had been ministering at an independent church in Greenwich for 8 years and had discipled several young people.  By the fall of 1957 several of those young people, including Chet and Carol, were heading off to various Christian colleges.
   While at Grace College Chet and Carol and 2 other couples got the vision for a camp on Carol's parents' property at the north end of the 12 acre lake.   I first heard of this plan in the summer of 1958 when I was at Chet's parents' house in Greenwich.  They had just sold their farm and moved into town.  Chet and Carol were home for a few days from Indiana and Chet was sitting at a drawing board sketching the plans and the layout for the camp he envisioned.  The heart of that vision was to reach for Christ kids who could not afford to go to camp in the summer.  That was my introduction to what would become Trail To Life Camp.  The next summer (1959) Chet and Carol came home from college long enough to install two swimming pools near New London to raise money to begin the camp the following summer.   When camp first opened for two weeks in August 1960 there was a kitchen/dining hall that was adequate but not impressive.   The six cabins were made of slab wood with black plastic roofs.  The camp had been advertised by Chet taking a stagecoach pulled by horses to the local schools in the spring.  There was a week of junior camp followed by a week of senior camp.  The first three years of camp had a western/cowboy and Indian theme.  The camp operated entirely by donations and campers were only charged one dollar for insurance.  A Christian man from Elyria "just happened" to come by the camp in those early days.  This resulted in a large number of young people coming from that area in the years ahead.
   I began helping in the summer of 1961 when the number of campers required us to add 6 Indian style teepees to the six cabins.  That year was also the beginning of the Canadian canoe trip for the 10 or so top campers of senior week. In the fall of 1961 Mansfield Christian School opened.  Chet had by then graduated from Grace College and studied 2 years at Grace Seminary.  He agreed to become the first principal of the new Christian school in Mansfield.  This would involve many people, younger and older, from the Mansfield area in the camp in the years ahead.  There was no camp in the summer of 1963.  When camp reopened in 1964 the western theme had been replaced by the military theme which continued until the camp closed in the mid 1980's.  Beginning in '64 the camp was "boys only" for a few years until there were 4 weeks of camp - junior and senior boys; and junior and senior girls.  In 1966 we built better cabins and in 1967 we built the lodge/auditorium.  In the 70's a new and much better kitchen/dining hall and more modern restrooms were built.
   In the spring of 1970 I had a growing concern about the safety of the campers as they canoed and swam on the lake at camp.  It turned out that my concern was probably the Holy Spirit trying to tell me that danger was definitely ahead.  But it did not happen at camp, it happened on the Canadian trip that year.  The entire story is told in Duane Miller's book "Survivor".  This was the greatest tragedy in the 25 year history of the camp.
   Many of you who read this know that my wife Susan is Chet's sister.  We were heavily involved in the camp ministry until our first child was born in 1971.  After that our involvement was very limited.  After the tragedy of 1970 the Canadian trip was replaced with a Pennsylvania mountain trip for a few years.  The top girl campers had been given the Pennsylvania trip all along and that continued until the camp closed.  Eventually, the Canadian trip was resumed for the boys.  Now, everyone on that trip wore life jackets when in a canoe!   Since I had little involvement with the camp from '71 until it closed in the mid 80's I will pass over that era with few details.  Why did the camp close?  By the 80's Christian young people in college had to work all summer to afford college so many of them no longer had time to volunteer to help at the camp as many of us had done in the early days.  Also, even though a small charge was by then made for each camper, finances and inflation were a growing problem.
   Chet was hoping that Mansfield Christian School would take over the camp and operate it as an extension of the school's ministry.  When this did not happen, and no other group or individuals stepped forward to take over the camp as a ministry, the end had come.   In the middle of the school year of '86-'87 Chet resigned from Mansfield Christian School to care for his aging parents.  His mother died in May and in July he and Carol moved to South Carolina to be near Chet's 2 brothers and their families.  Chet's dad, my father-in-law, spent winters in South Carolina with Chet and Carol and lived with Susan and I each summer for six years, until he was unable to travel.  The camp property was sold to a lady who has since allowed it to grow up to weeds and trees.
   Many lives were changed for eternity at that place (and on the outbound trips) and the sacrifices made by Chet and Carol and many others are still bearing fruit for the glory of God.