An Extraordinary Connection to "HemisFair'68"

(Spoken in 2006 as Mike Mallow stood to teach "live"
the class still being taught by Russell on video)

 

There are two verses I'd like to share with you as we begin, sort of to frame the lesson. Ephesians 3:20 tells us that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Jeremiah 29:11 assures us that He has a plan for our future, a plan filled with hope.

When I was a teenager I went with my friend Bobby Slater to HemisFair'68. Bobby was cool -- he had a car. Well, it was his mother's car, but she allowed us to use it that day. We actually went to see the Flying Indians, and we walked around having fun. It was a hot Texas day. We wandered into an exhibit presenting the unconditional love of God, the creator of the universe.

You say, "Mike, why'd you go in there?" Well, it was air conditioned for one thing. And I remember they had a lot of cool mirrors. They were showing a movie, and there were chairs to sit down in. I remember a man who spoke to me about God's love, and the man made that message very real to me. I remember his humility -- a small man in a suit.

I did not come to faith that day, but the man, that exhibit, that moment -- stayed with me, and I thought about it often through the years.

About 5 years later, in 1973, I came to accept the love God had offered me that day in that exhibit. At 36 or so, I was a young pastor, a full-time sales manager at Motorola here in San Antonio, father of two children -- kids so ungrateful they've grown up and gone away. They do that!

I'm driving to work each morning for years listening to a radio program 15 minutes long. And the man speaking blessed me over the years. His voice blessed me, his humility blessed me, the Word of God, of course, that he was teaching blessed me. I loved hearing the radio show.

A few years later when I was about 36, 37, my whole life came undone. The wheels came off of my life. I just came undone, and in anger and discouragement, I resigned my pastorate. The other pastors did not want me to do that, but I did it. I left the assembly I was in so I wouldn't disturb anybody, but guess what -- too late -- I already had, just by what I was going through.

I took my kids out of that assembly, I stopped reading my Bible, and I stopped praying. By chance I wandered into Wayside Chapel because it was a big church and I could hide there. I still wanted my kids to go to church. My kids still wanted to go. My son would get up on Sunday morning and put on his little blue suit and come to breakfast: "Daddy, let's go to church."

So I brought my kids to Wayside Chapel, and I listened to Steve's message. I came to the place, because we were just going to the 11:00 o'clock service, where I was dry and I was hurting. I decided, "you know, my kids need Sunday School." So I left the sanctuary and came into this building and I was looking for their Sunday School rooms, and I heard a voice in the hall I'd listened to on the radio for years and years. And I followed that voice -- not coming out of a radio -- it was a man, a man that kind of surprised me in that hallway. I found my Sunday School class that day, and I started coming each Sunday but sitting way in the back, soaking, and as Russell would say, sitting in the shade.  And over the years of listening I moved forward.


Forward in progress? No. I moved forward to the front of the room. Later I met Dave Player and was in a Focus Group of his and I became friends with him and others, and this became my Recovery Room. And I was taken by Russell as someone he wanted to mentor. He spent time with me, and he shared his life with me, and we would go to the Hickory Hut and eat barbecue and see what all the Focus groups were doing.

And one day he came to me and said, "Mike, it's time to come out of the shade and come and into the Son. It's time to go back to work." And he asked me to lead a Focus Group, and I did that. It was a blessing.

I did that for about a year and a half, and then he came to me and said, "Mike, there's an open pulpit at a church on the south side of town. Would you fill that? So I did that. I would come to Wayside, go to this Sunday School class, go get my kids and bring them to their Sunday School class, go across town and preach at that church, and come back in time to hear the end of Steve's message. I did that for about 2 years, and it was a blessing to me until I took a job in Austin and moved away.

And I remember one day I was flying back from New York City and I was in the Houston airport, checking my cell phone voice mail, and a friend had left a message that my friend Russell had passed.

I remember sitting like many of you, I guess, in the memorial service. I was thanking God for how He weaves people into our lives -- such a blessing -- and thanking God for the grace and mercy of the Lord that He doesn't give up on us, and I was thanking Him that in His mercy a radio voice to me that I came to know and love and to trust -- to provide to me teaching, and from all the people in the world, it would be that voice I'd listened to for all the years -- that He would provide a Recovery Room with people who cared about me -- people who encouraged me. That He would provide a ministry again! Again!! Provide a ministry again!  And to provide something I had not had before: a fresh perspective of the unconditional love of our Father.

I was sitting there listening to all the things God had used Russell for: people he had touched; ministries he had done. Then I learned about a ministry he had done . . . it was an exhibit at HemisFair, one with air conditioning and mirrors. An exhibit with a movie about the miracles of creation; about the God who came to earth, and His grace, and the message of His grace, and the man who humbly and personally spoke to me about His mercy, His grace, and His love. I'd often thought of that moment. And the man told me that God had a plan for each of our lives. He had a plan for each one. I came to realize that God works into our lives miracles of love and grace; in my case, even before I knew Him. God alone deserves all the glory for it.

So that's how I got here today to stand before you, to give witness to God's love, His skill and grace, His ability to reveal His love to us so that we will receive it, accept it, and give Him the glory for it, and share it with other people.

Let's pray.

Our Father and our God, Teach me today and all of us in this room your Word and your way. Father, may you unfold it to your glory alone, and may your will be done around us and within us.

In Jesus name