Where were you in 1967? Some of you may be thinking, “I wasn’t even BORN yet!” Back then, I was a baby believer heading to Bible College to learn about this newfound Savior, Jesus Christ. Little did I know what an adventure the Lord was taking me on! Right away, I joined the college basketball team. Every season we played in the College Classic tournament at Cookson Hills Christian School. One of the main reasons our basketball team always looked forward to this event was because we were treated like royalty by the Cookson Hills staff, parents, and especially the students of the homes.
At the tournament, each college’s basketball team stayed in one home. The students who were placed in those homes gave up their beds for us, and they slept in sleeping bags on the floor of the living room where a big fireplace was located. The parents told us that the students were excited about sleeping somewhere different and may I say warmer, too! (This was before God blessed Cookson Hills with all their new facilities.) We noticed at that time, the kids each had four or five blankets and/or quilts on their beds. After the first night, we understood why. The fireplace heat stayed in the living room and very little, if any, reached the bedrooms. In the winter, those bedrooms were refrigerator cold. You could see your breath in them! I have precious memories of appreciation for those comfortable beds and thick covers; as the cool air and cozy blankets were a perfect combination for a great night’s sleep for college kids exhausted from tournament play.
I had the privilege of meeting the Cookson Hills Director (Lawerence Hallum) and the Assistant Director (Ralph Gorman) during those years of tournament play. They told me that they liked the way I played basketball – with a smile on my face. Even when I fouled, I still smiled and raised my hand without any disagreements. I had the honor of getting to know those two gentlemen, as well as several others at Cookson Hills, who were dedicated servant leaders of Jesus Christ. As a young college student without a Christian father, I was very impressed that they were sensitive to the needs of students and families. They were caring and concerned leaders who loved Jesus first.
After my College Classic basketball years, I would go to conventions all over America and bump into these loved ones. They either called me by name or they called out my jersey number, “Hey, double zero! How are you doing?” Then they would give me a warm handshake or hug my neck, most of the time it was both. To feel so important to them always made me feel about ten feet tall. That bond has resulted in a now fifty-year relationship between Cookson Hills and myself. At every church in which I served as minister, we brought Cookson Hills speakers, houseparents and students to share with our congregation. We prayed over them and for them. We watched for ways we could increase our monthly giving (and did), as well as gave love offerings and practical resources to them. We honored them, fed them, and blanketed them with our love and appreciation for what they were doing.
One time in Carlsbad, NM, I had Brother Hallum with his lovely wife, Ellen, at his side speak at our Family Retreat. One evening while the three of us were enjoying fellowship together, Brother Lawerence asked me to pray about coming to Cookson Hills to work with him and with the ministry. After several days of thinking and praying about this opportunity, I felt like the Lord whispered to me, “Not at this time.” With the special bond I shared with Brother Lawerence, I can imagine that answer had to be disappointing. Today, many years later, I serve at Cookson Hills in the Grandparent program. I can only imagine that in heaven today Brother Lawerence is smiling and telling Ellen and Ralph, “He is finally there working!”
It’s an honor and a privilege to come full circle, now serving Christ Jesus at Cookson Hills! To think, it all started in 1967 as a college student playing basketball.