Thursday, May 29, 2003

Hebron Crossroads 6-01
By Jeff Gill

Memorial Day may be behind us, but the work of remembering and appreciating is always ahead. If forgetting is an everyday affair (and trust me, it is), then we have to put the mental brand of elbow grease into the effort required to remember and preserve what we treasure.

I’m telling you this to explain why I want to tell you all about Max Hoffner. He died just before the “holiday weekend” at age 85, and since he and his wife had been very quiet, intensely private people over the 40 plus years of their marriage, their family asked if I would do the funeral. They had lived in Millersport and Baltimore, and now Mary Hoffner is in a rehab center and not able to get around, even for the funeral.

Outside of working hard for many years, the one thing the family knew was that he had fought in World War II. Max was involved in the Baltimore VFW, but even among those friends, no one had much idea of what he had done or where during the war.

His brother-in-law, Lawrence Coyle, and Vivian Dernberger at Henderson-VanAtta-Johnson in Kirkersville, both went the extra mile as we followed what little clues there were, and it was literally less than an hour before the memorial service was to start when the crucial fax hummed into the funeral home office.

Reading it, we saw that Max Hoffner had enlisted in early 1943, and served until he was discharged in 1945 after a hospital stay with a serious illness caught from the grim field conditions he experienced in New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and in the liberation of the Philippines.

But what really caught our eyes was the entry for decorations: in the South Pacific, he received three Bronze Stars, and in the Philippines, one more.

Four Bronze Stars.

Many of you will not be surprised at all when I tell you that no one there, including his VFW buddies, had any idea Max had four Bronze Stars. One said, “hey, I’ve got three, and he coulda said he had one more than me plenty of times.” But as the man in charge of the honor guard detail said, to nodding heads all around, “those that saw combat, don’t talk about it; those that talk about it a lot, probably didn’t see as much as they think they did.”

Right now, around 1,500 vets of World War II are dying every day; that same day, we laid to rest Lucille Montague of the Northbank next to her beloved husband Eddie (and 20 feet away from Max), who died 12 years ago and was a vet himself. So let’s also assume about 1,500 WWII widows each day, as well.

If we heard that in some foreign land, a mysterious force or a heartless mob was destroying 1,500 or 3,000 irreplaceable books in a dwindling library each day, how would we respond? We’d probably say that if the destruction couldn’t be stopped, we should at least see to it that the contents, the stories in those volumes, were preserved. Even if the culture or the context were unfamiliar to us, the idea that a story would be lost forever would move us.

There are stories that we can listen to right now, and they may live right down the block; our hearing, our willingness to listen, may be all that keeps that episode, that particular tale alive.

We can’t stop the march toward the final muster that generations before us are making, but we can make sure that their report is passed back “up the line” and becomes a part of the record of our times. Don’t pry: but make it clear that you’re interested, you’re willing to hear what a veteran or a veteran’s spouse has to say, and I guarantee that someday you’ll hear a story that you’ll never forget.
And then, perhaps, you’ll have a chance to tell it around the Hebron Crossroads.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and a storyteller outside of Sundays as well; if you have a tale, tell it by e-mail to or call 928-4066.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Notes From My Knapsack – June 2003 "The Church Window"

Reaching into my shirt pocket, there were no cards. The business-style cards that Frank DeVaul prints up for me, with the church name, contact info, and the Disciples chalice in red making a Lakewood contrast with the blue print, were not to be found.

No problem, I thought: time to dip back into the box on my desk where they go, a few hundred at a time from the package Frank brings me. But when I went back to the box, it was empty as well.

Turns out it is time again to order new cards, a benchmark more noticeable than an anniversary or other arbitrary event. It seems I’ve handed out over 1000 cards saying "Hebron Christian Church" with our phone and e-mail and web site URL. That’s about one a day since I started as your pastor.

Granted, some have gone into doorframes or under windshields and likely went unread. No doubt many were received with a smile and tucked in a pocket to merrily go their way into the laundry. Some may have been tucked into address books or daily calendars, or even tacked to the corner of a home computer terminal.

Whether finding their fate as bookmarks or grocery lists on their blank backs, that information and the symbol of our common commitment to the centrality of the Lord’s Supper has traveled all around this area. . .and beyond.

So every time I go to reprint them, I wonder: what changes should I make? How can this simple tool be sharpened? Am I making the best possible use of this opportunity to point people to our community of faith?

No doubt, these are little things, these "business" cards. But every little thing goes towards a greater thing, which is our opportunity to share the Good News entrusted to us, in our time and place, to share with others. How many "little things" bring each new believer, any new member, into the life of faith?

And how would our message be magnified if all of us, in whatever we do as part of this church, tended carefully to the little things in our care?

In Grace and Peace, Pastor Jeff

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Local VBS programs:
Heath Church of Christ; June 9 to 13; 6:00 to 8:30 pm;
"Treasures of the Nile"; age 2 to 6th grade
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel; June 16 to 20; 9 am to Noon & Friday closing pgm. at Noon;
"Seaside With The Savior"; age 4 to 6th grade.
Licking Baptist Church; June 16 to 20; 6:30 to 9:00 pm; nursery to adult.
Jacksontown UMC; June 23 to 27; 6:00 to 8:30 pm; "SCUBA!" age 3 to 8th grade
Hebron Community VBS at Hebron Christian w/ Hebron UMC;
Music Camp July 21 to 24; 6:30 to 8 pm; pre-K to 5th grade
Marketplace 29 AD July 25, 6:30 to 8 pm; July 26, 9 am to 4 pm
Hebron Church of the Nazarene; July 28 to Aug. 1; times and ages TBA

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Land of Legend Barbershop Chorus in worship, June 29

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June 9 is Commencement for Lakewood High School; also on that day, we’ll have off to sunny Camp Christian for Hocking Chi Rho these five:
Alan Cook, Susan Jones, Chris Jones, Josh Walters, and Tracy Wildermuth.

Mail should be sent to them by June 11 at the latest (June 8 isn’t a bad idea) to:
Camper Name
Camp Christian
Magnetic Springs OH 43036.

Same address for Phyo CYF Conference, June 29, with:
Brittany Bradford, Crystal Damron, Josh Halter, Shawn Jones, and Whitney Mason.