Not all of the entanglements around the 2002 TEC were handed to me. I managed to manufacture more than a few of my own.
The most embarrassing of my personal gaffes, to me, was my failure to schedule preachers accurately. For instance, I handed any critic who wanted it a chance to shoot at me and, unfortunately, at Richard Jackson a well defined bulls-eye.
Again, I reveal my hero admiration for certain people. Richard Jackson is one of them. Before I was tapped to be BGCT Evangelism Director I was part of a group brought together at the Baptist Building to beg Richard to take the position.
I am a good begger. I told Richard of what he means to all of us. I recounted things I heard him say over the years, so accurately he interrupted to express his amazement. The things I remember, I remember very, very well.
Richard Jackson should have been president of the SBC. He was probably elected to that office at least once but denied the right to serve by skullduggery. He is the greatest evangelistic baptist pastor of his generation. He remains effective in evangelism to this day.
I called Richard early on in my tenure and asked him to preach for us in San Antonio. He agreed. I called his office at the Jackson Evangelism Center and asked for a promotional picture, which his assistant sent me.
Then, I scheduled Richard to preach for us on Tuesday morning. The one thing I did not do was make certain that would fit in his schedule.
I got a call.
"Rick, I teach at Truett on Tuesdays, all semester," Richard patiently explained.
"I am so glad to hear they are using your abilities," I fawned.
"I have to be in Waco on Tuesdays," he continued, leading me to think with him.
"I totally understand," I replied.
"So, I cannot be in Waco and in San Antonio," he added, connecting the dots for me.
"Listen, no hard feelings but I have this commitment. Just use me some other time down the road," he finished. As good as his word, over the years since my faux paux, Richard and the Jackson Center in Brownwood have helped me in a hundred ways.
I get used to the feeling of egg on my face. The self-inflicted egging is the worst.
By this time I had decided I would have to get way out of the box and stay there for good. To think outside the box is one thing. To act out there means, among other things, you are removed from the comfortable packing of the box.
If you cannot attract the mountain, you must go to the mountain, as I distort the old saying to say.
I started a weekly email newsletter and advertised it through the monthly pastor’s mailouts from the Baptist Building. I also wrote a one sheet report called "Revival Sweeps Texas" at practically no cost to be included in that mailing. Response was immediate. My electronic newsletter grew to over 2,000 recipients each week. This was the active use of the web, rather than the passive act of establishing a webpage. In addition, I did not need to go through our IT group to get this done. God bless them, they seemed to appreciate my willingness to do something on the web without creating problems for them.
I was in one of those inevitable luncheons in the Building one day. A brother who would rather not have his name in this memoir (for some reason, he believes he still has a life/career) sat down next to me, put his arm around my neck and said, "You are the only one in this building I hear from regularly."
The fellow on the other side of me heard him (he also still has a career) and said, "No, you are the only one I hear from at all."
I visited churches, called pastors and networked. I wanted things to be so easy for People In the Real World (PIRW), they could archive one message from me and have a reliable means to retrieve that message, hit reply and contact me directly. I also answered my own phone when it rang, much to the amazement of callers and to the chagrin of my assistant.
"Will you let me do something?" she would ask.
I was going to win Texas, minister to all ministers, defend the faith and prove approachable.
So, quickly, I began to die. I lost ten pounds, gave up sleeping altogether and just basically committed slow suicide.
God sent the clusters of headaches to stop me. I sat beside the Highway 35/67 just where it comes off the Trinity River Bridge during rush hour on Valentine’s Day, 2002. I had carried a massive headache for months, refusing to slow down. Now, I found myself there, blind quite literally from the pain, vomitting repeatedly and unable to function. Cars sped by at rush hour speeds. I could feel and hear them but I literally could not see.
Two black angels saved me.
I did not get their names. I don’t know how long I was there, on the side of the road, quite helpless. My middle son tells me I called him, somehow, and he sent my wife and one of our deacons from Midlothian, the great healer-deacon, Deb Justus, to find me.
Before they could arrive, I felt this hand on me and heard a deep bass voice ask, "Mister, what can I do for you?"
I was half in, half out of the car and there was a large puddle of vomit next to the door. He did not need to ask me if I needed help.
The two black angels were going by me, headed the other way, when they noticed I was in distress. They navigated the traffic, turned around and came back to me.
I was able to make out the black hand on my chest. He was a large man. His friend was calling the police and Emergency Vehicles.
"Just wait," he said. "We’ll get you some help."
The Emergency crew came, messed with me, transported me to Methodist Central Hospital, where a neurologist was called. He listened to my symptoms.
"You are in the midst of a cycle of migraines," he told me. "All we can do is get you through the pain cycle."
I was admitted and put on a huge regimen of pain medicine. I would lie there for some days.
I never saw the angels again.