Marines.Together We Served

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Scourge of the Century

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
14 August 2017

The Scourge of the Century

Four decades ago the world was introduced to a medical terror the likes of which few other global alarms can even be compared. The scourge I’m writing about is HIV/Aids.

Let me ask you: When was the last time you read something about this dreaded disease? I’ll bet you can’t remember. It has virtually dropped off the radar screen when it comes to news reporting.

You may be asking me why I’m writing about this topic if it is no longer a blaring headline news story. That would be a fair and reasonable question. My answer is equally fair and reasonable. It is also direct. The scourge we know as HIV/Aids is still very much alive and well in our world. Please excuse the obvious oxymoron, “alive and well” in referencing this deadly, debilitating disease.

Recently, my wife and I were honored once again to be hosts in our home to our good friends, Dr. Tim and Muriel Teusink. These two Christian missionaries are simply amazing. Kinder, more godly people you will rarely find. They are home on furlough during which time they travel around North America visiting those churches and individuals who support them through finances and prayer.

I became acquainted with the Teusink’s in early 2002 when I took a team of six from our church, the Ripon Free Methodist, to spend two weeks in Ethiopia. Our arrival in the capital city, Addis Ababa, coincided with the opening and dedication ceremony of three brand new medical clinics which would provide much needed health services for this beleaguered city of nearly three-and-a-half million. Dr. Tim Teusink was at the forefront of this advance in medical care.

Our intrepid team was welcomed into the Teusink’s home and embraced as family, even though we had never met. After our two weeks were over, and we returned home to Ripon, as the pastor, I strongly encouraged (as did the others) that our church of 100 souls provide ongoing spiritual and financial support for the Teusink’s missions work. Though I have been retired from church ministry for three years, I am pleased to announce that our church continues to support these folks.

During our recent visit, I asked Dr. Tim if I could interview him for an article for my “Roots in Ripon” column. He readily agreed. So, we sat and discussed his years of medical missions, with a driving question I had of just how he wound up immersed in HIV/Aids. To better understand this man and the reasons he felt God leading him into the field of medicine and missions work, you need to know that he came from a family of Christians who were strong in their faith. His parents wanted to be missionaries, but were unable to pursue this goal. Instead, his dad became a pastor with the Reformed Church of America in Holland, Michigan where Dr. Tim was born. They later moved to Washington State which has been home for Dr. Tim ever since.

Dr. Tim told me two things had a profound effect on him growing up. The first thing that made a lasting impression on him was the doctor who gave exceptional compassionate care to his brother who was suffering from cerebral palsy. The second thing that has had a life-long impact was the strong urging (or “calling”, if you will) by God to follow a career in medicine, but more specifically, on the mission field. This was confirmed years later when he met Muriel (hailing from Canada) who also knew without a doubt that God was calling her to be a missionary. Her parents had also wanted to be missionaries. So, the die was cast for them both, you might say.

“I am not a visionary,” Dr. Tim was quick to state. Instead, he expressed his desire to be faithful in what God has called him to do.

The Teusink’s serve under the mission’s organization known as SIM, formerly the Sudan Interior Mission, first established in 1893. In the 1980s, SIM’s acronym became the Society for International Ministries, but is today better known as SIM. So great was the impact of SIM, that 40% of Africans today claim to be Christian.

In 1984, Dr. Tim was sent to the nation of Rwanda in Africa. It was here that HIV/Aids first became an issue for him, facing the reality of a populace of 25%-30% infected. Routinely performing surgeries, he was acutely aware of the growing concern of this new virus that was beginning to infect and kill people at an alarming rate. Little was known about it, even in the world of medicine. Dr. Tim was a young husband and father, so he grew increasingly concerned with the possibility of infecting his own family due to his constant contact with Rwandans carrying the virus. He wrestled with this problem until God made it clear to him that he was to continue in his medical practice and leave the welfare of him and his family to God’s sovereignty. He continued with surgeries for the next four years, dealing with the nearly daily needle pricks from infected patients.

It is because of this close proximity to HIV/Aids infected patients that Dr. Tim has become a recognized authority on this scourge, being named “Missionary of the Year” in 2012 by the Christian Medical & Dental Society. He continues to travel throughout the world, but primarily in Africa, teaching bioethics to medicos and other health professionals as to the best ways to treat those afflicted with HIV/Aids and its prevention.

Please pray for Dr. Tim and Muriel Teusink as they continue to honor God through their life’s work and passion, battling the scourge of the century.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Naval Farewell

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
7 August 2017

Naval Farewell

One of the great blessings of having served in the military for so many years is the association you garner with some of the most outstanding individuals this nation has ever produced. This weekend exemplifies my point.

Late last month Rear Admiral Russell W. Gorman crossed the bar, to use a metaphor written by Alfred Tennyson. He was a month shy of his 90th birthday. To read his biography, or “Bio” as it is referred to in navy parlance, is to take a walk through naval history from the 1950s through the 1980s. He graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York in 1949. One of his first assignments was to Yokohama, Japan where he met Mieko (a.k.a., Eriko), who would become his wife of sixty years.

Though I never got to know the admiral personally, I had heard of him over the years since we lived in the same region of California. Just after he passed away I was contacted by my friend Al Cruz who was put in charge of organizing a Celebration of Life service, and the committal service at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery where the ashes of both Admiral Gorman and his wife Eriko will be interred.

Al and I go back a lot of years. We both served in Vietnam as sergeants in the Marine Corps, though it would be many years later that we actually met. He had gone on to receive a commission as a Marine officer, retiring as a colonel. Our first contact was when we were both with 1st Battalion 14th Marines Artillery out of Alameda, California in the early 1990s. Al wanted to make this a special military ceremony with all the trimmings, so among others, he contacted me to perform the chaplain duties of offering the Invocation and Benediction.

Since this was to be a formal event, I pulled out my Dress Whites, which are more frequently referred to by Navy personnel as “Choker Whites.” And for good reason! The stiff collar must be fastened with metal interlocking connectors right where a man’s Adam’s Apple is located. Since it had been a few years since I had last worn this particular uniform, I had some consternation about a proper fit. I decided to wait until I arrived at the Sunday afternoon Celebration of Life held at the Veterans Memorial Building in Danville.

I was pleased to find a parking place directly across the street and in front of a small restaurant with an outside patio for dining. As I stood by my car, slipping into the choker white jacket, a couple having Sunday brunch smiled and offered a few complimentary words about the uniform. So, instead of wrestling with trying to hook the collar together without benefit of a mirror, I asked the lady if she would kindly do the honors. She agreed, while her husband smiled. Well, it was a tight fit, and the lady was very concerned about hurting me, but after a few minutes she managed to connect all three loops. I thanked them and proceeded to enter the Veterans Memorial Building.

There was quite an assembly of retired military present, both officer and enlisted, along with local government officials as well as friends and neighbors of the admiral. One of the invited speakers was Rear Admiral Tom Brown III. After the program was over I had a chance to chat with him and discovered he had at one point in his career been the commanding officer of the USS Midway aircraft carrier. The Midway is currently a museum, permanently anchored at the pier in San Diego.

The service for the admiral was very nice, and concluded with the playing of the Navy Hymn followed by the Benediction. We all stood while the Navy Hymn was played, but it was strictly instrumental. The words kept running through my mind, and I thought, “There are people here who are not part of the sea services who don’t know the song.” So, on the spur of the moment as I moved forward to offer the Benediction, I decided to sing the first verse acapella. “Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm hath bound the restless wave, Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep, its own appointed limits keep; Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, for those in peril on the sea!”

Farewell, Admiral Gorman! Fair winds, and following seas.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Grandkids Say the Darnedest Things

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
31 July 2017

Grandkids Say the Darnedest Things

A great blessing in our lives is being geographically near all of our grandchildren. Our two daughters and their families live within twenty-five miles of us. Either Isaura or I are involved in caring for these delightful kids each day throughout the week.

So, the other day Isaura is down in Turlock taking care of nine-year-old Brook, and five-year-old Colson which is part of her weekly schedule. Brooklyne (she apparently prefers to go by “Brook” now) was engaged in one of her drawings, a gift that jumped from my father to her. The grandkids call Isaura “Meema”, so she says to Brook, “You’re a very good artist. What would you like to be when you grow up?” Brook says, “I want to be an artist.” To which Meema says, “That’s fine, but is there something else you’d like to be? Maybe a doctor? You’re a very caring person. You’d be a good doctor.” Brook says, “Nah! I don’t want to be a doctor. I want to be a lawyer.” Meema asks, “Why do you want to be a lawyer?” Brook’s reply is classic! She said, “I want to be a lawyer because I like to argue. And I’m good at it!”

If you knew our Brookie, you’d say, “Amen” to that confession!

This week Isaura and I have Brook and Colson with us through Wednesday. School doesn’t begin until next week, so this works out really well for us.

This afternoon (Sunday), Josh, our son-in-law, dropped the kids off with us. A small suitcase for each, and games were all carried into our home. No sooner had they set foot in the house than Colson wanted to play with his new nerf gun. Well, let me tell you! These are the coolest guns ever! There were, I believe, three nerf guns, plus a new nerf gun, which was the latest model. After tearing open the package I began the process of trying to figure out how the fool thing worked. You see, this newest whiz-bang nerf gun didn’t fire just one spongy projectile. Oh no! Nothing so mundane as that. This gun fires three different types of sponge bullets, all exiting the gun from different portals.

I sat out on the back patio with the directions spread out on the table in front of me. I figured out how to fire two of the bullet types, but was having a doozy of a time trying to load the 10-clip magazine designed for rapid fire. Well, I fussed over this silly play gun for about half-an-hour before I figured it out. I felt ridiculous struggling with this harmless play gun. Rather embarrassing for someone who qualified expert in both the rifle and pistol in the Marine Corps! It was humbling, to say the least.

So, we loaded up the four (or was it five?) nerf guns and prepared to do battle in the back yard. With nerf guns at the ready, Colson, Brook and I stalked each other around the back yard, firing at will. I commented that Brook had hit me several times, to which she said, “That’s because you’re a bigger target, Granddaddy!” It wasn’t said to be mean or insulting. She simply stated the obvious: next to a slip-of-a-nine-year-old girl, and a five-year-old boy I do look pretty big, presenting an obvious target.

After frolicking in the yard dealing out death to each other, I returned to the safety of the home. Even the kids took a break.

We are having guests with us most of this week, so Isaura had Brook help her change the sheets on the guest bed and put out the fresh towels and wash cloths. Then Brook asked Meema if she could make a jelly roll. So, all on her own, Brook mixed the ingredients into the correct consistency for the batter. Now, mind you, Brook has never baked a jelly roll before, either at our home, or at her own home. She did ask Meema to help her roll out the dough, but otherwise she did everything herself. And it was delicious!

But we weren’t done with the nerf guns! Next thing I know Brook has talked Meema into playing war in the back yard. I was stunned and delighted at the same time. Here is my wife of 41 years with a nerf gun that can shoot multiple projectiles standing in the middle of our back yard, feet spread apart, gun held at hip level, facing her three antagonists, dealing out imaginary death to those of us who dared tread on her domain. You had to see this! She was a female version of Rambo! Except the kitchen apron didn’t quite fit the image.

Brook and Colson are sound asleep on the floor at the foot of our bed as I bring this article to a close. We have plenty of beds for them to sleep in, but they much prefer to sleep in our room. And you’ll have no argument from either of us!

Proverbs 17:6 says, “Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly.” To which I say, “Amen!”

Monday, July 24, 2017

Jordan Spieth: A Class Act

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
24 July 2017

Jordan Spieth: A Class Act

Admittedly, I am an inveterate golfer. And this past weekend was the holy grail of golf which is the British Open (also known as the Open Championship, or simply as, The Open), held this year at Royal Birkdale in England. This tournament is held each year at one of several golf courses within the British Isles. The most recognized, Saint Andrews in Scotland, is known as the “Home of Golf.”

This four-day event is the desire of all professional golfers. But only those who have earned enough points, or have won certain tournaments are then invited to play at the Open. The very best golfers fly in from all over the world, dreaming of winning this coveted prize. To be the last man standing at the end of the tournament establishes the winner into golf immortality. Your name will be engraved on the claret jug alongside of past champions, such as, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, and now Jordan Spieth, the 2017 winner.

Spieth made a huge splash in the world of professional golf two years ago when he won two of the four major championships (The Masters, and the U.S. Open) at age twenty-one. His victory on Sunday at Royal Birkdale makes him the youngest American golfer to hoist the silver claret jug. And he’s only twenty-three!

For a professional golfer to win even one of the annual four major tournaments (The Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA) during their career puts them into a class of golfers that is practically deified. For a player to win multiple major tournaments means this player has gained a status unlike most any other in sport. For instance, the aforementioned Jack Nicklaus, arguably the greatest golfer of all time (the acronym G.O.A.T. is frequently bestowed on such an individual) won 18 major championships during his career. Only Tiger Woods has come anywhere near Jack’s achievement, having won 14 majors.

The skills necessary to play at the professional level apparently deteriorate during a player’s 30s, because only a handful of players have managed to win a major after turning 40. Jack won his last major at age 46. But then again, Jack is a god in the world of golf. Tiger is 41.

Back to Jordan Spieth. I have enjoyed watching this young man play for several reasons. He is much more like the average guy. He doesn’t crush his drives, launching his tee shots ridiculous distances down the fairway. He has a phenomenal “short game,” meaning his use of his wedges, and particularly his putter, have grown almost to legendary status. But it’s his humble attitude that I appreciate the most about him.  

Jordan took the lead at the Open on the first day, and played great golf for three days, holding the lead into Sunday. Well, because the tournament is in England, there’s a bit of a time difference. So, the first players out on the final day were teeing off at 4:30 Sunday morning here on the west coast. I crawled out of bed about 4:45, made myself a cup of coffee and settled in for a few hours of enjoyment. Since it was Sunday, and I help lead singing in our worship services at church, I still had to shower and shave in time to make our 8:30 service. Jordan was in the final pairing with Matt Kuchar. When I left for church, these two were battling it out. They were almost at the turn (meaning they had finished the first nine holes and were about to play the second nine) when I walked out the door. Now, normally I will help lead in singing, and then sit in the pew with my wife to listen to the pastor deliver his sermon. Then it’s off for coffee and donuts in the fellowship hall, followed by our adult Sunday school class. Then I help with the singing again in the 11:00 service.

Well, the way things were going with the tournament, I knew I’d miss the conclusion (yes, I was recording it!) if I attended things the way I normally did. So instead, I helped in singing in the first service, then left for home to watch the remainder of the tournament, which ended at 10:45. I then drove back to church to lead in singing for the second service and stayed to hear the sermon. Boy, am I glad I changed things up for this!

As it turned out, Jordan was having all sorts of difficulties with his game on the final day. Jordan hit the most horrific tee shot on the 13th hole. When they found his ball, it was not even playable, which meant he’d have to take a penalty stroke. He managed to minimize the damage, dropping only one stroke to Matt, putting Jordan one shot out of the lead for the first time after 67 holes. Only five holes remained, and Jordan’s game was going south!

As the announcers rightly stated, Jordan seemed to “throw a switch”. On the 14th tee, a par 3 hole, he hit his tee shot, nearly getting a hole-in-one. He settled for a birdie, bringing him even with Matt. On the 15th hole, a par 5, Jordan landed his second shot on the green and made the 48-foot putt for an eagle. On the 16th hole, a par 4, he birdied this as well, and also a birdie on the 17th, par 4. Going into the 18th and final hole, Jordan had a two-shot lead over Matt. He parred the hole and was declared the “Golf Champion of the Year”.

For years to come, the golf world will be talking about the incredible finish Jordan had to win the Open. But, what makes this young man so enjoyable, is that Jordan is a class act. His comments after receiving the claret jug were not about himself at all. Instead, he thanked his caddie, Matt Kuchar, the fans, the groundskeepers, the more than fifteen hundred volunteers, and the officials. That’s class!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Get Down to Business

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
17 July 2017

Get Down to Business

The news is full of reports about how the Health Care Bill, a.k.a., the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a., Obamacare needs to be scrapped, rescinded, done away with, repealed or any other term describing elimination you wish to choose.

Republican Congressmen have been caterwauling about the disaster Obamacare would visit on the American people. And they were right. It is and has been a disaster. I even read the original draft (all 1100 pages) of the ACA back in 2009. It was brought before the House of Representatives October 29, and was known then as the Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962 – House Resolution). President Obama and the Democrats had just assumed control of the presidency and the Congress after eight years of President George W. Bush and the Republicans. Within the first year in office, the Democrats crafted and enacted a health care bill. On December 24, the Senate passed an alternative health care bill known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In early 2010, the House abandoned its reform bill in favor of amending the Senate bill, known as the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Opponents of this bill began referring to it as “Obamacare,” fully intending that the term would be used as a pejorative.

My point is this: The Democrats managed to bring a health care bill up for vote in Congress, and succeeded! And all this occurred within the first year of Obama’s presidency. Republicans have vowed since 2010 to repeal Obamacare, and present to Congress a much better bill to be implemented once Obamacare is no more.

I say, Hooray for the Republicans! So, where’s this bill you’ve had eight years to work on? Excuse me if I’m a bit flummoxed by the excuses coming from the leaders of the House and Senate (Ryan and McConnell) as to why the bill is not ready. And you’re telling me and the American people that you can’t rally enough Republican support as a party on the hill to pass what is currently being proposed?

May I remind the Republican gentlemen and gentleladies of Congress that we the people of these United States voted you folks into office to do the work you’re supposed to do on our behalf so we who vote and pay taxes shouldn’t have to be troubled with such matters as health care. You all promised to bring a new health care bill up for vote once you gained the House in 2010. You reaffirmed that promise once you gained the Senate in 2014. Now, in 2016, you have an admittedly unconventional president, who, nevertheless, is a Republican. So, what’s the problem here? Whining, hand-wringing, and the making of excuses will not be tolerated. We voted you in to do the hard work. Now, get to work!

This all brings me to my final point: There is a dearth of leadership within our government. The Republicans are embarrassing themselves through Congressional ineptitude, functioning as though they are the minority party. The leadership within the Democrat party is no better. The difference is, the Democrats always act as though they are in charge, especially when they are the minority party, as they are right now. In fact, I would point out that it has sunk to a new low. There’s not a one of these leaders from either party that is demonstrating true leadership at a time when it is desperately needed. Statesmanship is completely absent within the Halls of Congress. You may wish to respond with a comment such as, “But Chuck, not all the members of Congress are poor leaders!” And I would, on the surface, agree with you. But those who are attempting to lead well are being silenced by those who are in the Washington DC “Beltway Club.” Some of these congressmen have spent decades inside DC. It’s the, “Good ole boy club.” They have learned to play the game. They scratch each other’s back to the degree that if you don’t play the game the way they have it set up, you simply will be ignored. You may be pure in your desires to bring change, but if you don’t go along, you’ll be a one-term Congressman. And the electorate, the voting public, is left wondering where their champions have gone.

All leaders, particularly government elected officials, should memorize Solomon’s prayer to God from I Kings 3. Beginning in verse 7, it says, “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart.”

Lord, please give us such leaders today! Leaders who will put the governance of the people first, not seeking vainglory for themselves. And dare we lift our heads to ask you once again, please, God, bless America?

Monday, July 10, 2017

No Place Like Home

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
10 July 2017

No Place Like Home

Home Sweet Home! That is such a true statement. About an hour ago Isaura and I walked in our front door after ten days of romping and playing across California, Nevada and Utah. We even clipped the edge of Arizona on our drive from Delta, Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada. What a beautiful drive! Nevada and Utah have one thing in particular in common. Both states have specific high population areas. The rest of the state is open and fairly barren. For awesome scenic beauty, there are parts of eastern Utah that are simply breathtaking. Then there’s the drive through the southern part of Utah that brings you through some fantastic mountains (a spill-over of the Rocky Mountains).

Our time spent with family was priceless. But the biggest treat for me was watching Alyssa, our nine-year-old granddaughter, rise up early three mornings in a row to help hold the super-sized milk bottles for the one and two-day-old heifers to nurse from.

So, on Tuesday we pulled out of Delta for the roughly five-hour drive to Las Vegas. We had booked tickets for Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater for the 2:30 show. We arrived in Vegas about 1:20, quickly settling into our hotel room at Bally’s. We then walked to the V Theater for the show. It was a delightful performance with Popovich using most of the 30 dogs, cats, birds and mice he has rescued from animal shelters. It was non-stop activity on stage with several assistants helping keep things moving along. Alyssa loved the show! Popovich was in the lobby afterward to sell his books and CDs. We bought one of the CDs for Alyssa, and I took a nice picture of her with him in his clown costume.

It has been some time since I was last in Vegas, so either my memory is failing me, or the raunchiness of sex for sale has gone to new levels of depravity. There are no areas in the Vegas Strip that are safe from the sexual perversion that oozes from every casino, and ditto for the fleet of stores and entertainment facilities that feed off the lust we humans seem to have for money and sex. If it had not been for the International Barbershop Annual Competition held in the Axis Theater, located in Planet Hollywood next door to Bally’s, you simply could not have gotten me to go there.

I had to call into question my being there at all in the midst of the raw nakedness evidenced on the sidewalks, not to mention the performers in the casinos. But then to have my wife and our nine-year-old Alyssa there, too, made me stop and rethink the wisdom of bringing her along. I suspect I’ll be mulling this over for some time to come. There were, however, several street preachers positioned on the curbside using loudspeaker systems to proclaim God’s Word from the Bible. I had to admire their tenacity. That’s a rough place for ministry, but they were persistent in proclaiming God’s righteousness, and calling sinners to repent from their immoral behavior. It was an amazing contrast to witness.

My time in Vegas was spent either resting in my hotel room, finding a decent place to eat that was close by, or rehearsing with the VoCal chorus in preparation for our performance on Friday afternoon. We seventy stout-hearted souls put all of our effort into giving our best performance. As I mentioned in my last column, we were going up against 29 other choruses. Well, as it turned out, we fell well short of our hoped-for score. When all the choruses were done on Friday, we placed 26th of the 30. We can take some consolation in the fact that very few choruses even make it to this level of competition, and furthermore, a chorus from our district, the Far Western District, took first place, receiving the coveted gold medal. We are very proud of the Santa Fe Springs, California chapter, Masters of Harmony, for winning first place.

As for the quartet competition, it was tight because the top ten quartets are just that good. These ten were left standing from the original 55 which started the competition on Thursday. The gold medal winning quartet, Main Street, is from Florida. Listening to these ten quartets competing down to the wire on Saturday night was such a treat. The musical quality and presentation on stage is worth the price of admission – literally! Afterward, Alyssa and I joined several of the VoCal chorus members down in the hotel’s food court for some chocolate ice cream! Yum!

On Sunday morning, we attended a church service with other barbershop singers along with friends and family in the inner sanctums of Bally’s Hotel and Casino. Then it was time to drag our suitcases down to the car and drive home.

It was a hectic ten days, but we sure had fun, especially with Alyssa. Next year our International Barbershop Competition will be in Orlando, Florida. Now won’t that be fun!

But, when it’s all said and done, there’s no place like home!

Psalm for the Day