AMHS: 50 Years and Counting

In Celebration of 50 Years

I was born in Apopka, a little town in Central Florida, some 67 years ago and graduated from AMHS (as it was called in those days) in 1960. I’m not sure when the picture above was taken.

My dad was a barber and my mom owned a clothing store. I had two brothers and one sister. My dad and mom have been dead may years now and, along with my oldest brother and only sister, are buried in the cemetery in Apopka. My remaining brother, still lives in Apopka. I was the youngest child born after my brothers and sisters were grown, so I grew up with no siblings in the household. They tell me that when I was born (at home in those days with Dr. “Tommy” McBride at hand) that my mom asked if I was a boy or a girl (she wanted a girl). So, when the Dr. Tommy told her I was a boy, she responded, “Throw him out the window.” My brothers always teased me that the doctor followed mom’s orders and I landed on my head. My first haircut, even though my dad was a barber, did not occur until I was about four-years-old (remember my mom wanted a girl, so she let my hair grow really long and curly). When my dad turned on his clippers, it scared the crap out of me. He clamped down on my head so hard as I tried to get out of the barber chair that he dislocated my neck. We had to drive about twelve miles with my mom holding my head in place to a chiropractor to get my neck relocated. I now see that lots of stuff was happening around my head area. Even though my hair is thinned, I still don’t like to get haircuts.

In my early days, we (mom, dad and me) lived behind the clothing store that my mom owned, Dad’s barbershop was attached. My room was in the attic over the store. When I was around twelve we moved about four blocks away to a new house that mom and dad had built, which was made of cinder block. It still stands today at 140 East First Street. The original house/business was later demolished and a new building built on the spot that was also a business but is now a church building (well, maybe sometimes it is a business also).

My first job was in a Winn-Dixie wearing an elephant suit for a premium stamp company (those were stamps that you got when you bought groceries and when you filled up a book or so you could redeem them for gifts, it was the rage, why I am I telling you this you are all the same age I am). My second job was working as a “grocery stocker” for Al Parton. I also bagged and carried the groceries to the customer’s car. My third job was what was fondly called a “soda jerk.” The “drug store” (Fern City Sundries owned by Larmar’s parents) as it was called also had an eating area (think Happy Days and the Fonz). I worked there through high school. The drug store was right across the street from where I lived till I was twelve. I have two interesting recurring memories of that store. They are not the only ones, but they pop up in my mind every so often. The first was setting at a table reading comic books for free with Fritz. Why I remember that, I have no idea. The other was that I had a difficult time taking some medicine that was prescribed for me. The doctor’s advice to my parents was to crush it up and put it in some ice cream. I think they were color blind. The medicine was green, the ice cream was vanilla and hand packed by Tug or Bill, so the medicine was at the bottom of each bowl and they told me it was lime ice cream left on the “scooper” when it was hand packed. Lying was an unforgivable sin in my household. Years later when I discovered this little falsification, I asked my mom, but never really received a satisfactory answer. Go figure!

My family attended a church (Church of God, Cleveland TN, I don’t think lying was acceptable in the church, but was okay at home. But, that was and still is a typical dichotomy in church life!). I have been “in” the church since nine months before I was born. It was a small Pentecostal church with lots of revivals (those people got saved every few weeks). I made my decision to follow Jesus when I was eighteen-years-old (most likely the best decision, in a long line of decisions that I have made, that I have ever made). Some little prissy girl dared me to go to the altar. I got up from my seat, intended to go out of the church building, but somehow got dyslexia and turned toward the front of the building instead of the rear. I don’t regret that lapse in direction.

After I graduated from high school, I tried to find a better job (of course I had a high school education) but because of the “draft” (of which I was classified 1-A, which meant that in case of war I was the first to be drafted), I could not find suitable employment. When bosses found out in those days your draft status they were not willing to employ you for threat of losing their investment as the government snatched you away. So I decided to join the Air Force (another good decision). I did basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, (with Tommy Hart) was stationed in Topeka, Kansas, Tokyo, Japan, and Honolulu, Hawaii. On the latter assignment, I met my wife, Donna Faith, of 44 years that was the second most valuable decision that I have ever made. She fell in love with me the first time she saw me enter her dad’s church. Of course, she has her side of the story, but her remembrance is tinged by age.

During my stay in Hawaii, I went to night school (a Bible school attached to the church that Donna’s dad pastored). When I was discharged from the Air Force and landed back stateside, I went to an Assemblies of God college in SoCal (Southern California College, now Vanguard University, in Costa Mesa, CA). Donna had moved to SoCal to teach after graduating from U of Hawaii with her Master’s Degree. She was such an influence on me to get educated. I was the first and only one in my family of four siblings to receive a college education. But, that didn’t seem to cure my need for discovery. I went on to get a Master’s Degree and two Doctor of Ministry degrees (one in Biblical Studies and the other Leadership in the Emerging Culture). My friend and mentor (Dr. Russ Spittler: retired from Fuller Seminary) was helpful in making the decision for a doctorate other than a Ph.D. He helped guide me to stay in the local church and bring what I learned home to the folks in the pew. I have spent my life doing just that (with lots of interesting stories).

Donna and I traveled together for about eighteen months after I graduated from college as what was known as “evangelist” in Assemblies of God language, moving from church to church for short ten-day stints. We sang together and even made a record (one of those big old 78s, called a long play album, the kind Elvis made). My family actually wanted me to be a Southern Gospel singer (I wonder where that would have taken me). After the eighteen-month adventure, we settled in a “bedroom” community (Simi Valley, CA) in SoCal (about 100,000 people) to pastor a 400-member church. That lasted for a short period before the power structure in the church got pissed off at me (my mother would roll over in her grave at that language infraction, but then I remember that she lied to me about green stuff in my ice cream) and told us to leave. Donna was pregnant with Jason, our first born, who was born one week after we were exiled from the church. We have two wonderful kids, Jason and Jeramie Joy, both in there ‘30s. Jason loves computers (he works for UPS and has several online businesses, his favorite is Jeramie is a differently-abled child who is a die-hard Laker’s fan, bar none.

I pastored one other church in the Assemblies of God after the Simi Valley event but soon met the founder of a new group of churches (Vineyard Christian Fellowship) in SoCal named John Wimber. I worked for Wimber for several years at the beginning of the Vineyard movement as a researcher and writer of conference materials. I worked for Vineyard Ministries International (VMI). Our family moved from Anaheim to Denver to become a staff member at the Denver Vineyard. After a few years there, we moved to Seattle, WA.

In 1999 I was teaching a workshop in a Vineyard Worship Conference in the WA area when I discovered that I had heart problems. I had open-heart surgery a few days later. On the health side I am also a Type 2 diabetic (inherited from my father, I am told).

Since then I did my second Doctor of Ministry program at George Fox University in Portland, OR and created a publishing company called Harmon Press (named after my dad, That company published my first book, God’s EPIC Adventure along with several other. We are now working on publishing several reprints of books whose words need to be brought back to life. I also work as an adjunct professor at Bakke Graduate University in Seattle teaching students theology and how to begin writing their dissertation. I present these courses online all over the world.

If you are still reading this, I am truly astonished. Just some random thoughts about me, a trip down memory lane.

Here are a couple of links that you might also like to look at with some later information as well as some for just fun, from my blog (

In case you are interested in hearing what I sound like these days.

Some picture online of Apopka

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