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Letters from our readers - Issue 85
Encouraging Communication among the Churches of God
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Letters from our Readers

Guide to Israel

I got my Jan. 31 issue of The Journal about 20 minutes ago. I had to write to say thank you [to publisher Dixon Cartwright] for taking the time to share with us your trip to Israel. I was envious when I first read about your trip in the December issue, but then to read a few minutes ago that your guide was Allan Rabinowitz!

I've read his articles in The Jerusalem Post [] for years and have said many times to David that if I ever get back to Israel he would be the guide to hire. Allan seems to have a special understanding and skill to bring the past to life. I'm glad to hear, unlike so many Israeli guides, he apparently is finding work.

Again, thanks to Linda and you for letting us share your trip with you.

Kathleen Hoffart

Hampton, Minn.

Who says there's no significance in numbers?

My 41st birthday on Jan. 15 jogged thoughts about Church of God history I have pondered since attending Garner Ted Armstrong's funeral more than four months ago.

January 2004 is thought to be the 70th anniversary of when Herbert W. Armstrong began to utilize the mass media to preach the gospel.

Though it is true that in that January long ago he began his first use of a dedicated half-hour time slot on radio to preach the gospel, it was not the actual beginning of the use of mass-media evangelistic techniques. The truth of the matter may have more-profound implications than folks may realize.

In HWA's biography, Vol. 1, pages 529-530, in the chapter "The World Tomorrow Broadcast Begins," the section HWA himself entitled "The First Broadcast," he writes:

"In September--very soon after rejecting a salary and being controlled and muzzled by men, the living Christ began opening doors for the mass-proclaiming of His Gospel."

The year he was talking about was 1933. According to HWA, the "real" beginning, the first true open door to preach the gospel, opened in September 1933.

It is interesting to note that HWA did not actively seek to use such mass-evangelism media up to that time. It was some unnamed person who told him about a radio opportunity at station KORE in Eugene, Ore., which HWA quickly took advantage of (p. 530).

I find it fascinating that it is exactly 70 years to the month from the time of the first opportunity unexpectedly presented to the church for mass evangelism to the death of the very last man (Garner Ted Armstrong) in the church to still somewhat effectively use what arguably was the most powerful evangelistic tool of his generation: television.

Now, I am not saying others have had no fruit from such tools. The fact remains, however, that the heyday of TV-radio-magazine evangelism is past--period.

Church cheerleaders notwithstanding, most groups using Big Three techniques emphasize station numbers and bulked-up public-access TV listings rather than responses and an effective use of the money God has given them.

In spite of foibles, flaws and sometimes foolishness, I have no doubt HWA and GTA were specially gifted of God to take full advantage of the most powerful mass-evangelism tools of their generation.

While many talented brethren reside in the church, I have yet to find in 300-plus Church of God groups a person as gifted as they were who is effectively reaching the world with the gospel with the same tools they used.

On another note, Bullinger's book Number in Scripture states that 70 in Scripture means "perfect spiritual order carried out with all spiritual power and significance."

This is food for thought given the current state of the greater Church of God.

Of course, now and for the foreseeable future the growing and most powerful mass-evangelism tool of this generation (which is utilized more and more by The Church of God: The Next Generation) is the Internet.

What we are seeing may be a true shifting of gears in the church, not the end of its powerful preaching of the gospel.

This may be the line that defines the end of God's evangelism plan of using mostly the previous generation's tools and His quickening pace to more powerfully utilize the awesome new next-generation mass-evangelism techniques and tools within His church.

Alan Ruth
Founder and webmaster,
Farmington Hills, Mich.

Temporary crust

Many confuse the Messiah's prediction concerning celestial signs that will immediately follow the great tribulation with similar events prophesied to conclude the sixth seal of Revelation (see Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:12).

In point of fact, a closer examination of the facts in context with prophetic scriptures proves this is not the case.

Joel 2:31-32 records the first instance, wherein the foundations of the heavens and earth are to be shaken in context with the end-time spiritual works of Zion. Here the sun will form a temporary crust and turn black as pitch, even as the moon heats from within to a blood-red thermal incandescence.

Joel 3:15 records a second subsequent celestial event wherein the sun and moon will both fail to illuminate the earth. This is the instant in time referred to by the Messiah that will immediately follow the great tribulation. (Compare Joel 3:15 with Matthew 24:29.)

Lunar conditions are markedly different in each instance. Obviously, if the sun fails to shine then the moon will fail to reflect that light, yet in the first instance the moon is prophesied to turn blood red.

The reader can easily access information on the Internet concerning speculation relating to past lunar volcanic activity by doing a search under the key words "lunar red spots," which have been witnessed from time to time on the moon's surface by astronomers.

Not generally known is that the same internal process governs all spherical celestial bodies, be they stars or subservient orbiting planetary bodies such as our earth and moon.

Celestial quakes of the magnitude referred to in Joel and Revelation can (and will) cause oscillations throughout all of our solar system. A planet or star can indeed both expand and contract in volume relative to its own mass, thereby directly impacting both the distribution and state of the elements forming each individual celestial sphere.

This is why some planets have solid crustal formations and others exist in a gaseous state.

So, yes, given a slight contraction in volume, our sun can indeed form a temporal crust, just as our moon can simultaneously expand in volume and heat from within to a blood-red thermal incandescence.

It is significant to note that the first six seals of Revelation are incorporated within a single chapter whose events will serve to set the historical stage for events of the seventh seal.

It is this writer's belief that none of the events outlined under Revelation's seven seals has as yet come to pass.

However, when they finally do begin to unfold, events of the first six seals will take no more than 18 months from beginning to end.

Moreover, the celestial shakeup of the sixth seal is the very event likely to precipitate the prophesied seven-year international covenant foretold in Daniel 9:27. Because our planet will have reverted to a 360-day solar orbit at that time, the covenant itself will also be defined in terms of 360-day prophetic years.

Joseph L. Coman

Mayer, Ariz.

Reading ourselves into Scripture

In reading Brian Knowles column starting on page 3 of the Nov. 28, 2003, issue of The Journal, "Learn to Get at the Truth," one might ask what truth are we looking for and why do we want the truth?

We are told that we should not judge another man's faith, but we have studied endlessly to establish a set of standards by which we can judge other men's or women's faith, and we then call this set of standards "truth."

Brian says the truth is "often elusive," and the world is "more complex than we had ever imagined."

On the other hand, he may have missed the simplicity of what truth is by becoming elusive and complex about it. An explanation of what I mean follows:

In Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18 the disciples ask Jesus, "Who can be saved?"

As these verses go on to say, salvation is not humanly possible.

These statements would make Brian's statement seem to be an understatement in the first degree.

Jesus goes on the say that with God the things that are impossible for us are possible with God.

This would make salvation and the truth that leads to salvation as easy as getting on the good side of God, so to speak.

Our search for truth does not seem to be a search for truth per se, rather a search for how to become eternally acceptable to our heavenly Father.

John tells us that the true believers will be known by their love for one another.

Apparently the only people most of us can get along with are people like a spouse who can keep her mouth shut and not tell us how hare-brained she thinks our ideas are.

Is this "of the truth" or condemned by the truth? Apparently we not only read meanings into Scriptures improperly, but we may be reading ourselves into the Scriptures presumptuously.

Phil Griffith

Delight, Ark.

Voice in the wilderness

To those who believe that Herbert W. Armstrong was Elijah:

The Radio Church of God was only a small church before Garner Ted Armstrong began broadcasting to the world in 1955. It was GTA who suggested the renaming of the church as the WCG, and it was the voice of GTA that was heard around the world and produced the rapid growth of the church in the '60s and '70s.

GTA spoke about when he got lost on a hunting trip in the depths of Africa and came across an isolated house and called out for directions to the owner, who was working on the roof.

The owner immediately recognized GTA's voice from The World Tomorrow on radio.

GTA is even responsible for having written some of that revered book by HWA called Mystery of the Ages.

The voice in the wilderness of GTA was more the Elijah than his father, but, unlike HWA or GTA, John the Baptist was a Levite and so had a legitimate right to receive tithes.

David Moffitt

North Sydney, Australia.

It wasn't three nights and three days

Raymond Rousseau asked, "Where was Jesus from Saturday sunset until early Sunday morning?" [See Mr. Rousseau's article beginning on page 38 of the Jan. 31 issue.]

And he states, "I can't honestly answer that question."

I can. He was still in the grave. The resurrection had not occurred yet.

Most people jump the track when they read John 19:31: "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day . . . besought Pilate . . ."

They got that from Deuteronomy 21:22-23:

"And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree but thou shalt in anywise bury him that day."

That law never applied to Jesus because He never "committed a sin worthy of death," although the Jews falsely claimed that He did.

If it hadn't been for Joseph of Arimathea, the Jews would have buried Him the same day with the two thieves. But God guided things so that He received a proper burial. He was embalmed with spices and wrapped in linen cloths in the manner that the Jews learned from the Egyptians when they were in Egypt.

This took most of Thursday night, and He was placed in the tomb shortly before sunrise Thursday morning.

He was in the tomb three days and three nights, just as He said he would be. "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

Jesus did not say "three nights and three days."

There is a difference.

Mark 16:9 says, "Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene."

The NASB version has it, "Now after he had risen early on the first day of the week, he first appeared to Mary Magdalene."

That's 100 percent correct. Herbert W. Armstrong moved the comma in an attempt to make the Bible say something that it doesn't.

And Matthew 28:1-2 says, "In the end of the Sabbath [the NASB has it 'now after the Sabbath'] as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre, and behold, there was a great earthquake."

I believe the earthquake occurred at the very same time as the resurrection. Matthew 28:1 says, "As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week," so it must have been just starting to get light. John 20:1 says, "When it was yet dark."

It was sometime later that morning that Jesus appeared to Mary and "saith unto her, touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God" (John 20:17).

I believe that is the very time that Jesus ascended to the Father, and it could well have been the exact time of the wave-sheaf offering.

Harold Koth

Tomahawk, Wis.

So much opposition

It's amazing to me to find out after 40 years in the Church of God what the foundation of so important a doctrine as the nature of God was predicated on. But, then, growing up in the Church of God, I remember it really was never an issue, never really explained or taught, not that I can remember.

Now, after a spiritual revelation that not many Christians have been privileged to understand, I find so much opposition to it.

I have been looking at a Web site that promotes unitarianism. Apart from Ken Westby's and Anthony Buzzard's sites, there is a site called Biblical Unitarians. Some truly fascinating material is posted there.

There's a letter written in 1845 by a young girl to her parents when she discovered the oneness of God.

Also on this site are lectures given on unitarianism from 1818 to 1873. In addition there is a two-part very extensive work on John 1:1.

Joe Barocsi

Waterbury, Conn.

Wedding symbology

A thought struck me yesterday about the festivals that I'd like to share. I haven't fleshed the thought out, but there's enough there that a book could be written on it.

We all take as a given that Passover pictures God's betrothal or marriage proposal to Israel and that Pentecost pictures the marriage covenant on Mount Sinai. Many arguments support this thesis.

If this is true then ought we not to consider the rest of the festivals in the connection with marriage? After all, throughout the Bible Israel is represented as the bride or wife of God and/or of Christ.

The next festival is Trumpets. Traditional Jewish thought is that Trumpets brings in a 10-day period of repentance leading to Atonement.

Repentance is symbolized by cleansing. Cleansing is a type of forgiveness, healing and making oneself clean. The symbolism of washing with the Word of God, the ritual baths, etc., is rife throughout the Bible. This is what the bride does to prepare herself for her husband.

Atonement is the most solemn, sacred day of the year. It is the union with God. On this one day the High Priest enters the inner sanctum of the holy temple. He performs a union, or at-one-ment, between God and Israel.

I don't think I need to elaborate. Christ is our High Priest. He is also our bridegroom. The temple is represented throughout with feminine typology. Israel is the temple of God. Christ is also the temple; by union we are one with Christ.

What follows is the marriage festival, lasting several days, a type of millennial Sabbath rest pictured by the marriage of Christ and His wife. The Festival of Tabernacles, where God shall tabernacle with man, fits the typology well.

Ecclesiastes, which is read on the Eighth Day, summarizes the previous tabernacles' festivals by saying there is nothing better than for a man to live joyfully with the wife of his youth all his days.

Finally we have the Eighth Day, a new beginning, a new creation when God makes all things new again. It is when the new heavens and the new earth appear and when the new Jerusalem descends from heaven.

This reflects back to creation in Genesis 1, when God began the creation on the first day of a new week, the same as the eighth day.

What is the birth of a child but a new creation? What is the natural result of the union of man and wife but the birth of a new child, with life replicating itself?

Thus in the annual festivals we see the life cycle of a man and wife: the betrothal, covenant, cleansing and preparation, union, marriage festival and birth of a new child. The Bible is full of images, and this is surely one of the most vivid.

John Sash

Eldon, Mo.

In memoriam

The rapid growth of the church beginning in the 1950s and 1960s has resulted in a large number of ministers who have completed their part in the gospel story. Of course, The Journal needs to report these deaths. Many of these loyal ministers played a role in our conversion, were friends or at least were well known to the membership. Although we are separated by years and distance, we grieve with their loved ones in their passing. Surely they will be missed.

However, as The Journal reports their passing it is beginning to look like an obituary instead of the News of the Churches of God. May I suggest that The Journal place the obituaries and condolences in a special memorial section instead of spreading them throughout the paper. The loved ones will then have a summary of accomplishments, condolences and happy memories in one section that they can clip out and save.

Those of us who are unaware of the passing will easily be able to read about the person and send our condolences to those we knew in past congregations. The Journal would then have free space to report the news on the churches and continue to debate issues.

The real strength of The Journal is that it provides the opportunity for anyone to present his view regardless of whether it differs with the official position of the church he attends. To my knowledge, all of the derivative churches of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) deal with disagreement by disfellowship. You will never see in their publications a letter that says that they disagree with the official decision. Only The Journal provides the only opportunity for open debate.

My personal opinion is that if the churches opened up their publications for debate, at least for noncritical issues such as voting, they would strengthen and increase their membership.

There is a big difference between honest disagreement and disloyalty. We need to remember and mark the contributions of those who have served so well, but we also need the open debate that The Journal provides. With a memorial section we can do both.

Jack Demirgian

Downers Grove, Ill.

The Journal agrees in principle with Mr. Demirgian. Perhaps the only disagreement is that The Journal believes the deaths of some longtime and widely known Church of God members merit their own headlines in the news sections of the newspaper.

On a related note, the "Obituaries" section of Connections is available in every issue for readers to send brief reports of the deaths of friends and loved ones connected in some way with the Churches of God. Although Connections is the advertising section of The Journal, no charge is made for the printing of obituary notices.

Devil, beast, false prophet, problem

In the past I believed the coming beast and false prophet would be men who would die in the lake of fire. Human flesh cannot burn forever, and men will not be tormented forever.

Please read the King James Version's Revelation 20:10: "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."

Explanations of this verse focused on are and substituted the word were for a seemingly correct interpretation. Were allows for the interpretation that the beast and false prophet died. The Greek text does not have a verb, as the italic letters in the King James Bible indicate.

The problem is the last phrase, "shall be tormented." If you read only the KJV you could assume that "shall be tormented" implies "he," referring to the devil. The Greek text, with no manuscript variation, says "they" shall be tormented. Please read the New American Standard Bible or ask anyone who reads Greek.

If the beast and the false prophet are men, then there is a problem. A man or men shall be tormented forever.

What is the solution? The devil is not a man. If one of the two other beings is a nonhuman, then the word they makes sense.

Revelation 17:8: "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition": The beast is not human.

If the false prophet were human, "they" could refer to the devil and the beast. The false prophet could be a nonhuman if Revelation 16:13 depicts the culmination of the activity of an evil being who has demonized all false prophets. If this were true, then the King James translation of Revelation 20:10 would be correct.

Demonized avoids the KJV "demon possessed." The Greek text uses the past participle. Possessed is not in the text and may lead to misunderstanding.

Bill Bartholomew

Fresno, Calif.

Dr. Bacchiocchi's series on inerrancy

Is it possible for you to E-mail me Dr. B's article in the Jan. 31 issue, or is it copyrighted? [See "Christianity as a Battleground: Bible Criticism vs. Belief," by Samuele Bacchiocchi.] He addressed a number of subjects excellently. Good presentation material at my Akron Fellowship.

Ron Masek

Strongsville, Ohio

Dr. B's errancies explained

Areas of discrepancies in the Bible that Dr. Bacchiocchi references in his concluding article on biblical inerrancy can be explained. [See "Dr. Bacchiocchi Concludes His Inerrancy Series," The Journal, Jan. 31.]

A careful comparison of 2 Samuel 24:24 and 1 Chronicles 21:25 shows David paid 50 shekels of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen and 600 shekels of gold for the land, the site, the property other than the threshing floor, and the oxen, for a total of 650 shekels.

A comparison of 2 Samuel 24:9 and 1 Chronicles 21:5 shows there are 800,000 valiant men who can draw the sword and 300,000 nonvaliant men, or men lacking virtue, who can draw the sword, for a total of 1.1 million men drawing the sword in Israel and 500,000 men in Judah, of whom 470,000 can draw the sword.

The interlinear Bible edited by Jay Green translates as "staffs" or "staves," plural, in Matthew 10:9-10 and Luke 9:3, and as "staff," singular, in Mark 6:8. The comparison of these texts in the interlinear Bible indicates one staff can be taken, but not two or more.

And nowhere do the Scriptures say Jesus died on the 15th. The synoptics indicate Christ died on the first day of Unleavened Bread. The authors knew the first day of Unleavened Bread is the 14th (Ezekiel 45:21). The Sabbath, the 14th, began to grow light (the Greek meaning of Luke 23:54) because darkness was leaving the land (verse 44). Luke calls the 14th a sabbath (an annual sabbath, the first day of Unleavened Bread).

David Rydholm

Olympia, Wash.

Approximating the original

Regarding the articles on "inerrancy" by Samuele Bacchiocchi in the Nov. 28 and Jan. 31 issues of The Journal:

Inerrancy has been, and surely will continue to be, a hotly debated issue as we approach the end. I'm sure most readers of The Journal have transcended the idea of trying to think of translations as being without error.

1 John 5:7 is an example of deliberate error that was acknowledged by many throughout history to be error.

Nevertheless it made its way into early English Bibles, including the King James.

Dr. Bacchiocchi's point is well taken. Too many are arguing over head counts, populations and genealogy lists when the important pragmatic issues are, generally speaking, easily apparent.

There is a wealth of Greek manuscripts to compare for the New Testament to make approximating what the original must have been (in most cases) fairly easy.

The Old Testament is not as easy. We have all heard the Masorites were strict (or obsessive-compulsive, depending on your point of view) in copying the Hebrew texts.

Nevertheless, the Sopherim had the Hebrew texts before the Masorites. So I would draw a parallel to using a photocopy machine. The photocopy machine will make accurate copies of what it has. If the material has errors to begin with, the photocopy machine will simply duplicate those errors as often as a copy is made.

Wily Elder

Miami, Fla.

Understanding Global

In 1993 I thought Gerald Flurry's "attacks" against the Global Church of God seemed to be a selfish reaction to men who were of higher rank and could possibly take from the PCG [the Philadelphia Church of God, founded by Mr. Flurry] his members.

However, that was not true! Mr. Flurry explained why there was a split in 1998 for those who really want to get to the cause and skip past the effects.

There were personalities involved, no doubt, but Global stated from its beginning that it would be a "collegial" form of government, which was a departure (off the foundation) from what Mr. Armstrong taught.

Many men coming out of the Worldwide Church of God appeared to not want to have to "bow down" to other men like Mr. Flurry, men they considered their peers or lesser, so it was a compromise to attempt to get everyone working together. It was a characteristic that is natural and prevalent since the death of Herbert W. Armstrong.

So the split wasn't all Dave Pack's fault. Nor was it all Raymond McNair's fault, Larry Salyer's, etc., or probably not the fault any other minister involved at that time. Global was simply not a true form of God's government, and God backed Mr. Flurry's statements up, and I believe it was God Himself who allowed Global to be smashed in 1998 to drive home the point about deviating from what Mr. Armstrong taught.

Other groups have deviated from a top-down government, but they also admit they are not holding fast to all that Mr. Armstrong taught. Global attempted to say they were holding fast, but it appears they were deceiving only themselves, and God revealed their flaw in government to all and humbled them before a no-name minister like Gerald Flurry.

So Global was simply cursed from the start and Gerald Flurry just pointed it out over five years before it was shattered into the mess you see today.

Now Mr. Flurry was building (top-down government) on the foundations established by an apostle, Mr. Armstrong. John Bowles has stated that concept of building on apostolic foundations so eloquently in his booklet Just What Is an Apostle? (

Please get a copy and read it, and you can apply it to everything that happens from now to the end. (I am not a member of his group.)

If you deviate from what an apostle taught, it will eventually catch up with you. If you point your finger at personalities, then I believe you have missed understanding the lesson we all should have learned.

Donald Raymond Wheatley

Via the Internet

Class of '65

Recent reminiscences of the passing of David Jon Hill reminded me of the 1965 Feast of Tabernacles at Hayling Island, England, when Jon gave a series of fascinating, absorbing sermons on the history of Feast observance in ancient Israel and Judah and related it in our time to how rare it was (and is) to keep the feasts with understanding, and how few the times in earth's history when the days have been properly kept.

For more than 1,500 people that day, those sermons cemented a love for and dedication to the feasts of God that lasted decades and that, for many, continues to this day.

Jon also gave a moving sermon on the Last Great Day about the hope of the resurrection, personalizing it down to the "least" member of the congregation, how we would step into the God family one day, glorified, and share eternity both future and past. In his unique style he opened our eyes to the Christ who wrestled with temptation--and could have failed--when the whole plan of God and eternity hung in the balance, and that God made a truly supreme sacrifice.

These were life-enhancing, quickening sermons of the like most had not heard before. I remember other mind-expanding sermons of that '65 Feast from the likes of John Portune, Ron Dart and Jon again about the plan of God and our personal part in it.

Jon remarked more than once how he hoped he'd be waving his little flag in there somewhere.

I'm sure he will. The church had some excellent speakers back then and seemed strong and cohesive, sure of its direction.

Another example of the human and humorous side of Jon Hill was when he would make announcements at the '65 Feast for "all you James Bond 007 golden boys" (this was at the height of the James Bond phenomenon) to meet with him after services to take care of security. These were AC students delegated to attend to security on site, and we had a good laugh at that description.

I still remember his first wife, Audrey, getting her young son, aged about 10, who sat next to me during service, to apologize to me for being slightly noisy during the sermon. I was only a very young man myself at the time so it didn't bother me any, but it showed the friendliness, togetherness and respect we had for each other back then.

Good times. Great memories. I look forward to one day seeing Jon and the others who have passed away recently--and swapping much laughter and reminiscences.

Stan Heaton

Preston, England

The Southern Gospel in all the world

Early last year you published an offer of free Southern Gospel tapes from Michael Mayfield of 326 Williams St., Jasonville, Ind. 47438, U.S.A.

When I wrote to Mr. Mayfield, he was kind enough to send me by airmail all 16 Southern Gospel tapes that he had made. I'd like to thank Mr. Mayfield publicly and assure anyone keen on Southern Gospel music that the tapes are well worth obtaining and have been a great blessing to all who have heard them.

Thank you for publishing his offer.

Brian Lloyd-Davies

Bangui, Central African Republic

Mr. Mayfield has several tapes available but has limited funds to duplicate and distribute them. The Journal suggests that, when writing for a list of the tapes, you include a self-addressed envelope with a 37-cent stamp affixed. When ordering tapes, keep in mind that Mr. Mayfield has stated that his cost for duplicating and shipping each tape is about $4. Still, he has said, "I will not put a set price on these tapes. If God doesn't provide, then this ministry will end." Write Mr. Mayfield at the address in Mr. Lloyd-Davies' letter, or phone him at (812) 665-2827.

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