“The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms”…
As many of you know, our dear friend Herbie Spruill has courageously battled many health challenges over the years. We have just received word that Herbie is in serious condition in the Intensive Care Unit at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, NC.
Just recently I had the joy of spending a half-day with Herbie when I taught at a Leadership Seminar for the “Piedmont Men of Steel” (PMOS) founded by ND Alumni, Woody Lamm. Herbie is a part of Woody’s leadership team. We had a great morning of sharing together and Herbie was his usual positive, thankful, joyful, enthusiastic self. Over lunch we spent time reminiscing about the old ND days that changed the trajectory of his entire life - which has transformed other lives to this very moment!
Herbie in his leadership role with PMOS, manning the tables at the Fish Fry,
and playing Santa at the annual Christmas party.
Please pray for him. We need him around for more years of impact for the Lord Jesus. Even from his wheelchair, he continues to sing people into spiritual conviction and commitment with “I Feel Good!” So right now when he doesn’t “feel so good physically,” we need to intercede for him!
Singing "I Feel Good" at the PMOS banquet, and enjoying fellowship
at our 50th wedding anniversary celebration.
Thanking you in advance for your prayers as Herbie faces this most recent health crisis,
JL & Patt
Ken and Linda Helser
It was the spring of 1970 and we were traveling in our Winnebago somewhere down I-85 south. Could have been Athens for a Saturday afternoon champagne party, or Atlanta for another gig at the Sigma Nu house, right across the interstate from the now infamous, “Varsity Drive In,” but wherever, it’s the however that mattered. The “however” was the always prevalent weed – commonly called, “pot” – that after one high, I never wanted to be straight ever again. Why be straight when you can stay high? So, I took a long toke of dynamite stuff, and passed it to Leo, my saxophone player, pictured in the blue shirt on my right in the reunion picture at the end of my story. He refused and I nearly choked. “Leo, this is good stuff.” With tears streaming down his face he declared, “Sorry Ken. Never again. I don’t need that anymore. I got saved last night …”
That blew my world upside down. I got so mad at Leo when he said the Bible said, “Do not come to me in a drunken state,” that I decided to prove him wrong by reading the Bible for myself. I found an old Bible in the attic from one of Linda’s religion classes at Wesleyan College, smoked a joint, and did some yoga, and then opened up the Bible. I figured if I was going to read the book I might as well start at the beginning and go all the way through. But I could not get past the first sentence: “In the beginning God …”
I was hooked on the most beautiful love letter I’ve ever read. And the one verse that hooked my heart was in Isaiah 55, that to paraphrase says, “Why do you work for that which will never satisfy, and why do you labor for that which is not bread … but listen … hear, and your soul shall live.” I answered out loud, “Hear what?” And deep within a voice came, “Hear God.” For the next several months I wandered from church to church, usually sitting in the back because of my long hair, hippy appearance. My goal? To meet someone who could tell me how to hear God. Finally, on a Tuesday of May 19th, a Baptist preacher who looked like a narc police welcomed me into his office at Florida Street Baptist Church, Greensboro, NC. And for the next two hours he told me story after story of hearing and acting on God’s voice. I was ecstatic. “Can I hear God like that?” I asked. He answered, “No.” He told me that to hear God He had to be the master or Lord of a man’s life. Then came the killer: “Your God is music. You cannot serve two masters.”
That was truly the day music died. I resigned my career, my band, The Kallabash, that day. And I called my mother to tell her that finally her little boy had come home. She cried and said, “I’ve waited 8 years for this day, praying day and night for you.” And I went home to Linda, my wife, and confessed my adultery. My sin. And promised with the help of God that I would be the husband she’d never known, and become a father to our two little girls. The greatest miracle of my life happened that day. She forgave me and has never once brought up my past. Her favorite Scripture is II Corinthians 5:17, that says, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Old things pass away and behold, everything becomes new.”
I had to play out a month of engagements under contract and so it was that on some early evening, with our Winnebago parked by the Burlington YMCA, there came a knock on the door of the man who was running a summer youth program, and had hired our band to play. It was not his favorite thing but was part of his job description. That man knocked loudly on the door, signifying, “Come on in it’s time to start and lets get if over with. I know what you’re doing in there. Smoking pot. C’mon you guys …” He never said that, but his look gave him away. We all knew how he felt about our band. But this time something was different. I opened the door and said, “Sir, can you give us a few extra minutes. We are watching the end of a Billy Graham revival and we will come in as soon as it’s over.” If only you could have seen his face! Shocked, he stuck his head in the door to see for himself if I was telling the truth, and there was Billy, calling with his hand for people to come forward as the choir sang, “Just as I am without one plea, but that your blood was shed for me …”
J.L. told me, with his finger in my face, “Come see me as soon as this is over. I want to know what has happened to you!”
My time with J.L. in telling him my story and then with sharing how I had no idea where to go or what to do, but that I was determined to follow Jesus, opened the door for me to take his brother’s place at a ministry in High Point to troubled kids, Youth Unlimited. But more than that, J.L. became a mentor and father to me, helping me find the way through the complicated labyrinth of religion and what it meant to be in ministry, to learn what serving Jesus Christ was really about. No doubt, it is hard to get free from the rock and roll lifestyle of women, booze, drugs and no discipline at all, but the hardest thing to ever get free from and stay free from is religion. J.L. set my heart and feet on what his ministry was called then, “The New Directions.” Thank you, J.L., and thank you, 45 almost to the day later, for being the “Rain Man” in my garden, supplying us with a drip irrigation system right out of heaven!
Setting up the drip irrigation system.
Ken is pictured at left with Emily, one of his staff interns, who has a
passion for gardening. Ken, J. L. and Rev. Brian Biggers, their
friend, preacher and partner.
Ken shared a new song that he had just written, and is in
his element at "A Place for the Heart."
KALLABASH CORPORATION REUNION
After leaving my band, The Kallabash Corporation, 45 years ago, on May 19th, 1970, I received from the Lord a great gift. We all got back together for a time of reunion, a jam session playing some of the “oldies” that we could barely remember, and having lots of laughs. At the close of an historic music event that sometimes had us in tears, and at other times laughing like crazy trying to remember the lyrics of Chuck Barrie’s, “Johnny Be Good,” we threw arms around each other in a loving embrace, and I began with, “Hey guys. I’m not going to preach to you, but I might fight if anyone in this group claims to have been a bigger sinner than myself … but I wonder if at our age and the health problems occurred by the way we did life if we will ever see each other again? I just want to be sure you know this. The Bible says, ‘Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved,’ and His name is Jesus.”
We prayed. And it was one of the most real and loving prayer meetings I’ve ever been a part of. What a great grace, and what kindness of God, to let us come back together once more before we leave this earth, to make some music. Share some stories. Laugh some laughs and share some tears with one another. Knowing though I kinda broke up the band to follow Jesus, Jesus had never left us all and cared about our reunion enough to let us live to enjoy it, and remind each one who He is: “The Savior of the world, and The Kallabash Corporation too!"
Love you, J. L.,
A NOTE FROM J.L
As the musical genre of the 1970’s began to change, I realized that I was “out of my musical element” with rock music (my background was classical and folk music). Because he was a converted rock musician, Ken was seeking ways to use his experience in that arena for the Lord Jesus, so I asked him to let us use some of the new “Christian rock” he was writing. He willingly did so and helped arrange and record one of The New Directions albums. We also did some “gigs” together where we featured him, his music and testimony. And God wonderfully used those early days of partnership with Ken when he needed a transitional musical opportunity. At the same time, his musical experience helped The New Directions become more contemporary and relevant to the disillusioned youth culture who were still into the things that Ken used to live for. And now after over 4 decades, we are still friends and partners – this time in drip irrigation and missions! God has such a sense of humor.
The New Directions album "To Be A Child Again" includes songs
written and produced by Ken.
A PLACE FOR THE HEART
Sunrise at A Place for the Heart
So what has Ken been up to since Jesus got hold of him all those years ago?
In 1985, Ken and his wife Linda founded A Place for the Heart in Sophia, NC. Their vision was to provide a place where people in ministry could come away from the busyness of life, to rest and to hear the voice of God, and to guard, tend, and cultivate their hearts. A Place for the Heart exists to teach and inspire generations to live “whole-heartedly in their identity as sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father.”
Ken and Linda, along with their son Jonathan and his wife Melissa, have co-led the ministry of A Place for the Heart for the past 15 years. You may find out more about their ministry at: http://www.aplacefortheheart.org/.
"In everything God has a voice. You can hear Him in everything and miss Him in anything.”
Please be in prayer for Alumnus Phyllis Rudd Mincey, who traveled and sang with the New Directions in the 70s.
Phyllis singing with The New Directions.
Phyllis suddenly became ill this past week, and is on Life Support at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro.
We received this update from our friend Mary McGuire on Phyllis’ condition this morning:
“4:30 am Wednesday: “The plan for today is to gradually turn down the implanted device that facilitates each heart beat to see if her heart will perform on its own. If so, then remove the device. This will be a big step forward. Phyllis has rested and improved a little since Sunday. We pray God has strengthened her heart so it can run on its own."
We will update you as we receive news about Phyllis. In the meantime, thank you for your prayers for her, her husband David, and her family.
J.L. & Patt
Dear ND Alumni,
Patt and I send you our love and greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus. We hope this email finds each of you well in the Lord and continuing to love and serve Him in your spheres of influence.
I am writing you on behalf of your fellow ND Alumnus, John Fraser – also known as "Frase-mon" and "Bass-mon!" As you will remember, he and his wife Jane were active members of the NDs almost since the very beginning, as well as "Damascus Road." They continue to be closely involved with JLPF and Jane serves as our CFO – an invaluable service to Patt and me! From their many years in the NDs, they went on a number of mission trips with us to Haiti, Bahamas and Africa to minister musically and do work projects.
New Chapel needing benches
I am writing you this email to ask for your financial support for John to go to Kenya with Patt and me in April over Easter. As many of you know, John continues to support himself as a contractor and builder. But that whole industry has been in depression for several years. Across America, thousands of builders have gone out of business due to the depressed housing market. Many that are still viable are literally "holding on by their finger nails."
When things were slow for John last year, he went to Haiti to build houses for Samaritan's Purse for five weeks. He wanted to stay proactive for the Lord even though business was slow. Now, I need him to go to Kenya with me to finish some building projects there among the Samburu Tribe. I had another key carpenter signed up to go who had to drop out at the last minute – which left me in a bind to complete these building projects. As I prayed about this need, the Lord impressed on my spirit to ask John to go. He responded prayerfully and enthusiastically. He has a current passport and is willing and eager to go. However, because of the economy, he needs financial help to do so.
Therefore, I am shooting this email to all of our ND Alumni to ask for your financial support for John – hopefully quickly and as generously as possible! Whether you can give $500, $100, $50, $25, $10 or $5 – every dollar will help send John to Kenya with us for this special Easter Outreach. So please go online and send whatever you can as quickly as you can.
As you well remember about our ND days, we never spent Easter at home! We were always on some "cutting edge" place singing, witnessing and sharing about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus! I have continued to do the same across the years. This Easter will be no different. Patt and I will be conducting a large "Tribal Women's Conference" in Northern Kenya for the Samburu, Rendille and Turkana tribes – which will be another historic first! Thanks for being a part of it through your prayers and giving.
And many thanks for your prayers and partnership with John for this Easter trip to Kenya!
Because of His Resurrection Love & Power,
JL & Patt
Hello to all the NDI Alumni. I have a story about our Holy Land trip in November 2012.
We were just finishing a day of touring in and around Jerusalem, when our tour guide asked J.L. and me to wait in the lobby for a few moments before going to our room. She said that the head of the bus company that was taking us around, who was also the owner of the hotel, wanted to meet us. It was a customary thing to thank the tour leaders for choosing them for their transportation and hotel needs.
Very soon we were introduced to a tall, distinguished Arab, Hani Abudayeh, the head of NET (Near East Travel). He welcomed us to the Ambassador Hotel and expressed his appreciation for our business. We told him how smoothly everything had been going. The conversation continued like this:
“Where are you from?” he wanted to know.
“North Carolina.” We replied.
“North Carolina? I am a great patron of your state. In fact, I’ve contributed a lot to your state’s economy.”
“How in the world is that possible?”
“Well, my oldest child graduated from Davidson. My next one graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. And this one, my son, graduated from Brevard.”
“You have got to be kidding! That’s quite amazing that all of your children have gone to schools in North Carolina.”
We talked to the son for a few moments, asking about his major, how he liked going to school in our state, etc. And then J.L. asked Mr. Abudayeh, “How in the world did you decide on North Carolina schools?”
“Oh, their mother is from North Carolina, in fact, our son here was baptized as an infant in a Lutheran church in Burlington.”
“BURLINGTON?!!” we exclaimed. “But that’s where we’re from! If it was a Lutheran church, it had to be Macedonian Lutheran!”
“Yes, that’s exactly what it was! And you’re from Burlington?!”
There were the expected exclamations like, “What a small world!” “What are the odds…” “Who could have imagined…”
“My wife, Carmen (maiden name, Black) will be coming here this evening, so please come by the lobby on your way down for supper. She’ll be happy to see people from her home town.”
Sure enough, she/we were quite delighted — and Carmen recognized J.L. right away! Although she was not in the New Directions’ singing group, she was in school with many of you who were in those first groups: Dan Apple, Susie Bright Eberhard, Wally Kernodle, Steve Collins, Patti Garber Long, etc. So we had a grand time reliving the thrilling days of yesteryear! She had been to one of the recent Williams’ class reunions so some of you will remember her.
Just a few more bits of information. After she graduated from Williams’ High School, she got a teaching degree and taught in Manteo for 3 years. Realizing that she wanted to get some further education, she went to Washington DC and got a master’s in International Studies (I think that’s right). That’s where she met this Christian Arab and the rest, as they say, is history. Carmen and Hani spend half the year in Israel where his family has a home on the Mount of Olives, and the other half in Rome, where NET is expanding its business.
She was leaving in a few days to spend Thanksgiving in Burlington with her mother and we promised to try and at least have coffee while she was here. But we ended up with just a phone conversation as she was trying to pack a lot of North Carolina-family-visiting-time into the Thanksgiving weekend.
Who knew?! God is amazing, isn’t He? As J.L. says, another one of those “sovereign serendipidies”!
I’ve enclosed a picture of her and me in the hotel lobby. Alas, the one with J.L., Hani and their son did not turn out…probably because I took it…
Many blessings in this new year!