It was Magic Time in 1974

by Mac Overton

GILMER, Texas -- For a young convert who had been baptized only in June 1972, it was magic.

I was baptized by Bill Jacobs in deacon Henry Anderson's baptismal tank at his home on University Avenue in Little Rock, Ark.

About a year and a half later, in January 1974, I was accepted on the recommendation of Pastor Bill Cowan as one of the original "January freshmen" at Ambassador College, Big Sandy.

That was an achievement in itself. Students were expected to work, and I got put on the gardening crew, working at the ranch in fields behind the Piney Woods. It was fun.

Terrified students

I had worked on newspapers, and John Robinson, journalism-department head and managing editor of The Worldwide News, then based in Big Sandy, met me and asked me to join the staff.

Then the fun really began. I had heard about how rough JR, as he was commonly known, was. Most students were terrified of him.

But I learned that, while he expected the best and did not tolerate incompetence, he also gave the best.

And it was great to be somewhat of an insider.

Pitcher of health

JR often protected his student staff from the sometimes Hitlerian tendencies of other faculty members and administrators.

Sometimes he would tell us to do something that might require us to bend the rules a little, like the time he got thirsty on a Friday afternoon and sent two students, Scott Ashley and Scott Moss, to the faculty locker room to get a pitcher of beer.

Though they got some questioning looks, the faculty and administrators there didn't say anything.

One of the students told them, "We're on a mission of mercy."

John often told us, "If you get in trouble, I'll back you to the wall."


Stayed in touch

We also learned things about the inner workings of the church and some of the leading personalities that the average member, if he or she was lucky, would never know.

I formed friendships at The Worldwide News, where I worked for two years until graduation in 1976. (I had a prior college degree.)

Among those friendships, which continue to this day, are Dixon Cartwright, Klaus Rothe, Scott Moss, Scott Ashley, Ellis Stewart, Sheila Dennis Graham, Janey George Milligan, Tom Hanson, Linda Moll Smith and David McKee.

Most of us have stayed in touch, and that helped when many of us (though scattered) joined John and became his shock troops (like the Jesuits are called the pope's shock troops) when he founded In Transition (predecessor of The Journal) after the Tkach doctrines of 1995 that split the church.

Invisible rubber bands

One prominent WCG evangelist told someone that "we thought the local minister had John under control, but, the next thing we knew, he had reassembled his old Worldwide News staff and was taking on Pasadena."

(This included Dave Havir and Clyde Kilough, who left the WN two weeks after I came to work there.)

At John's funeral a few years back, his then-pastor in the United Church of God, Darris McNeely, said that "when John painted his face blue you had better get out of the way," an allusion to William Wallace in Brave Heart.

And our lives are still interconnected.

By something invisible

As Linda Moll Smith often says, "we're all connected by invisible rubber bands."

Thanks to John and the Worldwide News staff, Ambassador wasn't as good as I expected.

It was better.

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