Memory Sparked

A friend posted on Facebook a notice of a memorial service held at the First Baptist Church of Union Star, Mo.

It included pictures of the church…seeing them at 3.45am today sparked a memory that caused me to praise and thank God again that He is a good God who has pretty big sleeves – with a few tricks up them!

Not sure what year…1979ish maybe?…this happened…I was staying with my adopted sisters in Union Star.

Debbie Laffoon Long and I went for a long bicycle ride on a Sunday evening. Lost track of time and got back to town just in time for church.

I was more-than-a-bit sweaty and we debated going, but decided we would.

Sat down, pastor began the service…

As I remember a few hymns were sung.

Then the pastor came to the pulpit.

Stared at me (we had met that morning) for a moment or two. Initially I thought he was going to reprimand me for being in the sanctuary in a teeshirt and shorts…and rather smelly ones at that.

Instead he said something like, “The Lord has told me that brother Jack needs to preach tonight.”

It wasn’t a joke.

I don’t remember if I had brought a Bible or had to borrow one.

I have no clue what I preached.

But I do remember…with a grin and a praise…that a woman came to Christ that night.


And I hadn’t thought about that incident for many, many years until sparked by a posted photo.



Don’t Body-Count!

For too many, “successful” evangelism/witnessing/rescuing occurs when someone makes the decision to follow Jesus…and another notch gets cut into our “get-’em-saved” six-shooter…

But the following reminds us that “salvation is of the Lord,” and that “no one comes to the Son except the Father draws him”:

“What is success in evangelism? Is it when the person you witness to comes to Christ?

“Certainly that’s what we want to happen. But if this is success, are we failures whenever we share the gospel and people refuse to believe?

“Was Jesus an “evangelistic failure” when people like the rich young ruler turned away from Him and His message? Obviously not. Then neither are we when we present Christ and His message and they turn away in unbelief.

“We need to learn that sharing the gospel is successful evangelism. We ought to have an obsession for souls, and tearfully plead with God to see more people converted, but conversions are fruit that God alone can give.

“In this regard we are like the postal service. Success is measured by the careful and accurate delivery of the message, not by the response of the recipient. Whenever we share the gospel (which includes the summons to repent and believe), we have
succeeded. In the truest sense, all biblical evangelism is successful evangelism, regardless of the results.”

Donald Whitney

First Draft of the Preface

If you had no clue about my book writing venture, READ THIS FIRST



I am not a “trophy of God’s grace.”

I do not have an “exciting” testimony.

Well, actually, I am and I do!

But so do you if you are a follower of Jesus!

For over four decades I was constantly told I should write a book.

I resisted for the first twenty or so years because I knew in order to be publish I’d have to write 20 chapters of my pre-salvation life and a chapter at most about conversion and growth.

When self-publishing came, I still avoided writing because of the time factor.

Until the proverbial straw broke my back of resistance (more on that later).

So you are about to embark on a look back…not for the glorification of sin, not for the entertainment of sin (because, after all, sin is fun); but – prayerfully – for example, for encouragement, for edification.

But if you picked this up hoping for sordid details of my experiences in crime, Vietnam, drugs etc you will be disappointed. Those things don’t exist anymore, and I need to be careful not to rehearse and rehash that, ah, stuff.

I’ll tell the truth about my 26 years as a child of the devil (if that phrasing offends you, it comes from Jesus); but the ride will be brief.

We’ll slow down tremendously as I share how the Lord Jesus captured my heart without human help.

You will learn a bit about my first years in Christ as a guest of the state of Oregon. You’ll meet a lost-as-an-easter-egg chaplain, and a black inmate who put his hand around my shoulder and discipled me…though neither of us would have used that word.

You’ll meet a couple who read a story in a newspaper which led them to write to a man known as 36403…and I’ll explain why that gesture revolutionized my life.

Stick with the book and read of some amazing “coincidences” that directed me to a now non-existent Bible school shortly after parole.

Then we’ll speed up and observe the reality that God “opens doors that no man can shut, and shuts doors that no man can open.”

How did I get to do hundreds of school assemblies? Host a radio call-in show..Me? How many others have spent – when you add up the weeks – over four years bragging on Jesus in the context of summer camps?

In all this you’ll meet my bride and our four children – two the old-fashioned way and two adopted. You may hear the echo of laughter as well as the residue of tears. An unwelcome guest – seasonal depression – shows up.

We’ll slow again as we take a curve into observations – positive and negative – garnered over four-plus-decades of what is called “vocational ministry.” What’s it like to preach in hundreds of churches? To interim-pastor four churches and to help birth another?

Once I made the decision to try this, my prayer has been and continues to be that when you are done with the book you don’t think, “Wow, this dude had a crazy life” or “God sure gave Jack a bunch of ways to minister” or somesuch.

My prayer is that throughout the reading, at the end, and in the days, weeks, months and years following you will think “Wow…God and God alone is awesome!”

The “Outline”

Woke at 2am, put this together, back to sleep at 2.45am:outline-non-fiction-book-700x406

May 16, 2019

CAPTURED BY GRACE (outline – very tentative) (disregard rather whacky formatting; hey, it was 2am!)

  1. Introduction
  2. Chapter 1 – Hatched – birth and the early years
  • Chapter 2 – Dysfunctional before it was trendy
  1. Chapter 3 – School
  2. Chapter 4 – Early Crime
  3. Chapter 5 – Military (Korea 2 years, Germany 2 months, Vietnam 11 months)
  • Chapter 6 – Coming Home
  • Chapter 7 – Crimes and stupidity
  1. Chapter 8 – Payday – arrested to be set free (conversion testimony)
  2. Chapter 9 – Doing Time without Time Doing Me
  3. Chapter 10 – Parole and Coming Home – Act 2
  • Chapter 11 – “Minister of Sanitation” – and God’s call to vocational ministry
  • Chapter 12 – Bible School
  • Chapter 13 – WHAT? I gotta raise support? I’ve been robbing people all my life; now you want me to what?
  1. Chapter 14 – Ministry – the early years
  • Chapter 15 – Jane
  • Chapter 16 – “He opens doors that no man can shut”
  • Chapter 17 – The Book of First Jack (isms that I’ve coined over the years)
  • Chapter 18 – The Good Stuff of Ministry
  1. Chapter 19 – The Bad Stuff of Ministry
  • Chapter 20 – If I had it to do all over again
  • Chapter 21 – And, in conclusion

Welcome to “Rough Draft Central”

A couple weeks ago I published a post indicating I was (finally) going to start working on a book.


I’ve been thinking how that is going to happen; and have arrived at a conclusion.

I will make entries here. Thus I’ll have a central location, automatically saved, and open to editing ideas and other input from people like you.

The entries will not be chronological; and may often be “stand-alone” in that a particular post may be a “chapter” in the some-day-completed book.’

You’ll note the title of this blog is “”

If you stay tuned, you will certainly no more about Jack and what I believe about a variety of subjects, as well as what I have observed and learned in over forty years of vocational ministry.

So, again, welcome to “rough draft central.”

Whatcha Wanna Know? A Request for Help and Input!


“Jack, you should write a book!”

Had I a dollar for everytime that has been said to me I’d be able to support a lot more ministries and missionaries.

Forty years ago people told me that because of the details of my testimony. Over the years most have said they still think I should write those details; but they’ve also said I should write about:

  • Ministry in general
  • Youth Ministry
  • Prison Ministry
  • Camp Ministry
  • Support Raising (Deputation)
  • The Joys and Pains of Adoption (Jane and I have two children the old-fashioned way; and two adopted
  • Seasonal Depression

I’ve whined about not having time, being scared of glorifying sin, and other excuses (to paraphrase a military saying, “Excuses are like elbows; everyone has a couple.”

Well, I am going to begin to write.


A few months ago I received a letter from a dear, dear friend. I’ve known her for over four decades. Her husband started a youth ministry from scratch, that grew and lasted decades. His name? Dr. Al Metsker, founder of Kansas City Youth For Christ.

Vidy’s letter:

“I’m always amazed as I read your (monthly) newsletters. It’s mostly the positive and encouraging content of how God is blessing and using you – but also – your writing ability! Does God have a book inside you? Maybe someone needs to be challenged by, for instance, your ministry to prisoners?”

Initially I shrugged her suggestion off as I had all the others. But Vidy’s words kept reappearing in my mind. 

This morning the thought of writing was churning through my head. I opened the Word (I follow a plan) and read Psalm 102 and was slapped by:

Verses 18-20 “Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord: that He looked down from His holy height; from heaven the Lord looked at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners, top set free those who were doomed to die.”

Coincidence? Methink not.

At any rate, I’ve made the decision to write what may well turn into a book.

And I need your help!

Most of you know some of my background…no church background, saved at 26 while incarcerated…Army veteran (Vietnam), alcoholic, drug abuser/seller, thief…paroled from prison in 1977; in vocational ministry since.

Hopefully there are details you’d be interested in learning…hopefully you have questions about the aspect of the particular ministry activities that resulted in us knowing one another.

So here is the request…

Thinkaboutit…then send any and all questions you have to me. You can do that by text (816-261-1881), phone call, email (, of message me on facebook, or comment on this post.

really ask you to invest a bit of time as it will be a tremendous help in me focusing on what people want to know.

Can I count on you?