Sunday, May 25, 2008


Last Sunday was Memorial Day when we give tribute to those who provided for us our freedom and privileges.
In over 50 years of ministry, I have met many renowned people. Great writers, preachers, governors, even presidents, and Pope Paul VI; to mention a few that I have seen or conversed with. However, one such man has contributed more than most in helping me to become the man I know the Lord wanted me to be. His name is Lawnie Coffman.
I first met him when I was 14 years of age when he visited my home. He was a hero then to me, but more today after all these years. He is only 15 years older than me, but the experiences he had before our first meeting overwhelmed me. He was a war hero and probably the first I had ever met. At the time, I did not know he was Arkansas‘ most wounded soldier in World War II having fought with the famed 35th Infantry Division in Europe.
He took a liking to me and introduced me to a new youth camp he was helping to promote and build. We had many meetings during the next few years.
However, the second most notable meeting was when I was 17, when he invited me to preach my first sermon at his church. It lasted all of 5 minutes, but he kept encouraging me with future invitations until he finally said you are now ready to face the enemy!
When my friend entered World War II, there were 30 men from Arkansas and Kansas making up his platoon. The men took their basic training in San Louis Obisco, CA, and completed their advanced training in Alabama, Tennessee, W. Virginia, N. Carolina, New Jersey, and Bodmin, England.
Throughout WWII, he and the rest of his company traveled across the English Channel to Germany. During this time, he saw two-thirds of his men die, including his company sergeant. This, in turn, led him to become sergeant a few days later.
“I was 21 years old when I entered the service. Now at almost 84, I am the last man of the 30 that started with the first platoon, Company L. Twenty out of thirty (men), I saw them die,” he said, adding that of the others that were left, eight to 10 of those were captured and killed. Four men from a platoon of thirty were the only ones to make it back home alive; my friend said, adding that all of those four have died - “except me.” I always sense his sadness when he talks of these days.
On October 8, 1944, he received a Bronze Star for heroic service and military operations in destroying an enemy stronghold. When the advance of his platoon was killed by intense fire from an enemy machine gun, Lawnie, a member of the rocket-launcher team, and another soldier volunteered to go forward and flank the enemy’s position, while other members of the platoon fired shots.
He and his comrade, in the face of heavy machine gun fire and sniper activity, went toward the German emplacement and fired the rocket-launcher, destroying the stronghold and enabling his company to continue its mission. “I did not mean to be a hero, I just did what had to be done,” he explained.
Perhaps the most unforgettable event of the war for him occurred on November 18, 1944, as the U.S. troops were going toward the Rual Valley of Germany. The tanks were stuck in a marshland about one-half mile from the town, he wrote in one of his books, “The Promise.” Machine guns and other ammunition were firing all around them, he added.
In his most recent autobiography, “My leg of the Race,” he wrote that suddenly something struck him from his right. He recalled his left hand hanging around his neck over his right shoulder. He had been hit by a 37mm shell that was being used to shoot tanks. It had gone through his left shoulder and then exploded 50 yards away. As the blood ran down, it soaked a New Testament Bible that was in his shirt pocket which he had found near where a young military replacement had been killed. This wound left him without any use of his left arm.
“I made God a promise that if he would make it possible for me to get back to a hospital and live, I would spend the balance of my life in the Lord’s work,” This he continues to do to this date.
He keeps on his desk the Purple Heart that is accompanied by two oak leaf clusters, signifying the three times he was wounded in battle, the Bronze Star medal he received for destroying the enemy’s stronghold, and the New Testament Bible that was in his pocket the day he was shot in the shoulder, its pages still stuck together by blood.
Other awards and medals he received while in the Army included a Campaign medal; a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal (with four stars on it to stand for the four major battles in which he fought); four Battle Stars; two Combat Bronze Stars; The Silver Star; a Good Conduct medal; an Honorable Discharge Eagle; and two awards naming him an Expert Rifle Man and an Expert Carbine. (The Silver Star is the third highest military award designated solely for heroism in combat. The Bronze Star is the fourth highest medal given to an honoree for combat battle.)
An article that appeared in The Lorain Republican (France) on October 8, 2002 contained the prominent mentioning of Sergeant Lawnie B. Coffman concerning his leadership in attacking the enemy which helped free the city.
On the 58th anniversary of the battle, Paul Colombies, mayor of Fossieux, France; invited this remembrance: “We must think of those who by their courage and tenacity made history. When future generations ask about the historic consequences of our time, they must never forget those who were heroes. To those, we are forever grateful for our liberty.”
In September of 2004, he was invited to Fossieux and was escorted by the French Ambassador to America, where he was honored by the city as “the liberator of Fossieux,” in the Lorraine region of France.
He has always been a humble man and not one to share much of his military life. His promise to the Lord made that day back in 1944 in the midst of battle, has always been his driving force in fulfilling what he had promised the Lord for saving his life.
He has always been my hero as my mentor and encourager, but most of all, by remaining my friend all these years. In 1997 he honored me again by asking me to write the introduction in his last book, “My Leg of the Race.”
Just as he has been recently rewarded by a city for their liberation, he will also be rewarded as a minister for the hundreds he saw liberated because of his promise to God.
“For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood;”-Isaiah 9:5.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Anne of Green Gables is the queen of Prince Edward Island

My wife has dolls all over our house, with many in each room. This started years ago as I traveled to various countries of the world. These became the most requested souvenir by her in those days. Then as the children grew up and left home she began to travel with me so she picked out the ones she wanted. Perhaps the two dolls she remembers best were those of Anne of Green Gables which she selected on a trip to Prince Edward Island.
After getting off the Northumberland Ferry, which departed from Caribou, Nova Scotia, we docked at Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island. The 75-minute trip was spent enjoying a chat and a snack, lounging on the deck and soaking up the sunshine and sea air and even some traditional "music on deck” After getting on land again, we were greeted by two young ladies promoting a presentation about Anne. Well, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for the evening, but my wife and another couple traveling with us, out-voted me. I went hoping not to enjoy myself, but to my amazement the cast got my attention right away. It was not long until my laughter erased what resentment I had and before I knew it I was even rotating between laughter and weeping. When it was over I told my wife I was sorry and how much I enjoyed the play. The musical of Anne and Gilbert is presented at the Victoria Playhouse in Victoria–By-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island. Based on the sequel novels to Anne of Green Gables, this new Canadian musical tells the story of Anne Shirley’s journey into young adulthood and her romance with Gilbert Blythe. Forty-four shows and forty-four sold-out houses later, Anne and Gilbert was hailed in the Toronto Star as "a marvel"; the Halifax Chronicle Herald called it "heartwarming, tear-inducing, thoroughly satisfying."
The next day my wife saw two different dolls of Anne and expressed an interest in one,, and then both. They are still in the foyer of our house along with an old edition of a book of Anne absorbed by my wife years ago.
There is now a 13-kilometer engineering marvel called the Confederation Bridge which is a very quick, convenient and dramatic way to arrive or depart the Island. Connecting from New Brunswick, the Bridge brings you to the town of Borden-Carleton and the visitor center/shopping complex at Gateway Village. The Bridge is open 24 hours a day and takes approximately 12 minutes to cross. Tolls are collected only when leaving the Island.
There are many things about the island worth seeing, but for us the stories of a minister’s wife, Lucy Montgomery, who authored the universally beloved Anne of Green Gables, and who was born on the north shore of Prince Edward Island, that prompted our trip. Anne of Green Gables has been translated into 15 different languages and put on film.
The story was inspired by the land, the sea and the people around her. It in turn has imparted an image of the Island that draws 350,000 visitors annually from around the world to Green Gables House.
“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” --Romans 3:22

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The British Museum has more than I could see.

My visit to the British Museum

My wife and I agreed that I could go to the museum while she stayed at the hotel and read. (After nearly 50 years of marriage we have learned what each enjoys and offers one the freedom to do what the other desires).

After boarding one of London’s famous black cabs, I advised the driver where I wanted to go. I was taken back and a bit surprised when he said, “Are you sure you want to spend your week in that place? I have lived here all my life and never been there.”

I could hardly understand that because the British Museum is the oldest, and one of the largest museums in the world. I silently questioned, where else can you see some of the greatest treasures of all time under one roof? I had read that you can see at first hand The Elgin Marbles, The Portland Vase, The Lewis Chessmen, The Sutton Hoo Treasure, to name only a few of the wondrous collections awaiting the visitor. The temporary exhibition of the Treasures of Tutankhamun, held by the British Museum since 1972, was the most successful in British history, attracting millions. Having been to the Cairo museum in Egypt, I wanted to see some of the items which I did not see there. Needless to say, I was later fascinated by the Egyptian Mummies and other finds from Tutankhamen’s past. I was also totally inspired by the superb exhibition of prints and drawings available no where else in the world. I was told to allow plenty of time for the visit because the British Museum is a vast storehouse of treasures. I gave a whole day which was not near enough and realized what the cabbie meant where he said a whole week.
All through the day I kept wondering how this storehouse began and where many of the items it preserved came. After some research, my questions were answered. In 1753 the Government of the day bought the collection of Sir Hans Sloan, a wealthy Doctor who practiced in Chelsea. The collection consisted of over 80,000 curios including fossils, plants, coins, medals and prints. This unlikely assortment formed the beginning of what has become certainly the biggest, and probably one of the best museum collections in the world. An act of Parliament established the British Museum as the world's first public museum. The Cottonian Library formed by the Harleys, Earls of Oxford, was immediately added to the collection. In 1757 George II presented The Royal Library to the museum. In 1823 George III conferred on the museum the right to a copy of every book printed. This right continues to the present day.
Today, the British Museum is home to no less than six and a half million objects and has ninety four permanent and temporary exhibition galleries. An Education Department provides a wide range of services for adults and children. Other departments are Coins and Medals, Egyptian Antiquities, Ethnography, Greek and Roman Antiquities, Japanese Art, Medieval and Later Art, Oriental Antiquities, Pre-Historic and Romano-British Antiquities, Prints and Drawings, and Western Asiatic Antiquities.
My wife and I talked into the night about what I saw and was kind to listen. Before slowing entering into my sleep, I can remember her words, “Whew, I am sure glad you spared me all that walking.”
I can only imagine what heaven will be like. The holy scriptures describe it as a beautiful place. As I grow older I know I will enjoy that which the good Lord has arranged for us.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

C'Mon Now. You can't be Jesus!

He said, “My name is Jesus.”

I was boarding a plane in Nashville , Tennessee for a trip to Mexico to present books and Sunday school material we had printed into Spanish to a denominational convention.

As I entered the aisle of seats, I looked down to see where I would be seated. Immediately I saw I would be sitting next to a long haired bearded fellow who was looking out the window.

I said to myself now Alton you are not prejudice, why are you thinking “I thought that went out in the 60’s.” Finally, I sat down as he continued to look outward. Well, I was looking this guy over pretty good. His hair was well kept and his beard well trimmed and the suit better than the one I was wearing. However, I could not get his lifestyle out of my wondering mind.

As the airplane started it’s takeout and ascent into the sky, he looked over at me and without thinking I reached out my hand to shake his and said “my name is Alton Loveless!” His response to me took me back suddenly when he said, ‘How are you Mr. Loveless? My name is Jesus.” Now I have been surprised before, but never like this. Then He saw my composure had changed drastically and said, “No my name is Randy Brooks and I play the part of Jesus Christ in a passion play near Ft. Worth .” That guy could not stop communicating with me about his part in the production and the person of whom he played. He witnessed to me all the way to Texas where I changed planes.

What a lesson I was taught that day. A Minister to good to talk to a person just because of the way he looked. Until that day I had never been that way before. I have learned that none of us look alike, but all of us have a soul that needs to be redeemed. Our race or dress may be different but to the Lord there is none.

Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.