Taking a break from the writing of this blog seems to have been a commonplace ever since I began writing back in July of 2013. The story should not have taken that long to tell, however, I have found with the schedule I have and the unexpected events that have come along, it has taken a while for me to get all of this down on paper.
2015 was a most eventful year for us, both professionally and personally. We spent the first part of the year making preparations to start a new preschool at our church. For the last eight years, my wife, Jeannie, has been the Director of a local church preschool here in Asheville. When the sponsoring church decided to sell their building, they began looking for another church who would be willing to incorporate the preschool. After meeting with them and conferring with our church body, we made the bold move to relocate the staff and existing enrollment of children to Grassy Branch.
It was a huge endeavor, but after much blood, sweat, and tears on the part of many at our church, Grassy Branch Preschool opened its doors in the summer of 2015. Everything has gotten off to a great start, and it is such a blessing and joy to see our place come alive with all of those wonderful children coming through our doors.
On Mother’s Day of 2015, my 95 year old mother experienced her first heart attack, and since then she has made several return visits to the hospital because of erratic blood pressure, low sodium levels, installation of a pacemaker, and most recently, treatment for bronchitis. At her age, any of these events could have led to her entrance into the pearly gates, but her spiritual and mental attitude are as strong as a tank and her resilience is like a Timex watch….she takes a “licking” but keeps on ticking. We know that she has defied the odds, and God has blessed her with a long and fulfilled life. By no means are we ready to let her go yet, but she has had “the talk” with all of us, and she knows she is totally willing to stay but ready to go should her time come.
For someone who has never had any major illnesses or had ever been to the hospital, my mom’s health situation this past year has served as our family’s “wake up” call. She had me late in life, was almost 60 when I graduated high school and was in her 70’s when her grandchildren were very young. I remember asking God to let her live long enough to see her grandkids grow up, and now all of her grandsons are in their mid-to-late 20’s. We know that the time we have with her is precious, and we are trying to make the most of every opportunity that we have to spend with her. As of this writing, she seems to have made it through the storm and is doing very well. Thanks to all of your for your thoughts and prayers for my mom.
I also spent the last part of the year preparing for and running my first marathon. Ever since I started running in the summer of 2010, I have run several 5K’s and even a few half marathons. The more I ran, the more the desire to try a marathon increased. Having just run a half in June, and with my legs feeling pretty good, I felt that I had the perfect opportunity to train and run my first marathon. I registered for the Charlotte Marathon on November 12, and issued a challenge to the members of my church. For every mile that I was able to complete, I asked them to pledge a dollar amount, with the proceeds going to Ebenezer Gospel Mission.
Our church has been supporting Ebenezer since the 1960’s. Founded by Chacko Mani, Ebenezer is a Bible College in Kerala, India, who trains Indian pastors to minister in their home country. Ebenezer trains missionaries to plant Christian churches throughout India, ministers to thousands of children through their “Kid’s Klub” program, and builds fresh water wells as part of their community enrichment program. After issuing the challenge to our church, the response was overwhelming, with over $2300 in pledges on the first day!
Running the marathon was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. It truly was a test of endurance, and I am so appreciative to my wife Jeannie, to my son, Jonathan, and my daughter-in-law, Emily, for being there at the finish line to greet me. I also appreciate my good friend, Tim Turner, who met me on miles 21 and 22, and gave me that extra “push” to get me to the finish line!
Now that all of the busyness of 2015 is behind me, I am looking forward to finishing the story I began in the summer of 2013. I ended last spring with a series of posts detailing how I received a dossier of information from the Army pertaining to the disappearance of my father in the winter of 1965. In that dossier were affidavits from four soldiers who last saw my dad on the day he disappeared. I took on my own personal investigation to find the whereabouts of these four men and discovered that two were deceased and two were still alive – one in Ohio and the other right here in North Carolina. I sent letters to the two men asking them to respond to me if they had, indeed, served with my dad in Germany. The very last post relayed the conversation I had with George Whyel, the soldier who lived in Ohio. I ended that post with the sentence: “I would now turn my attention to the last name on my list – Charles Duncan – to see if he might hold any of the answers to my questions.”
I posted that on March 15 of last year, and it was there that I unintentionally left everyone hanging. I am working on some new articles that will complete the cliffhanger and lead on to some of the beautiful things that came out of that whole investigation.
I want to thank all of you who have been loyal readers of this blog. I have truly been humbled by your encouraging comments and the stories of your journeys with your own fathers. Each one has given me inspiration, and has only served to confirm my initial desire to even write this blog – to let you know that you are not alone, and that there is a Heavenly Father who has been there and will always be there for us on this exciting journey of life.