The Calvarymen Quartet was formed in 1985 by Jim Evans, Roger Hughes, Doren Keeler, my wife, Teresa, and me. Shortly after, Gary Coy and Chuck Howe II joined us. Roger Hughes and I were the best of friends, and started our first quartet in high school, called The Young Disciples. We did everything together: hunted and fished together, went to church together, worked together, and even lived 1 ½ miles apart, as the crow flies.
In 1989 my family, as well as Roger, went to Alaska to visit our pastor friends Gary and Karen Stephens. While there we hunted, fished, and helped Gary and Karen build a new church facility for their small congregation in Angoon Alaska. The trip was wonderful and could not have been more perfect.
Roger, myself, and our good buddy Gene Dedmon returned to Alaska in 1992 to meet Gary and Karen in Toak Alaska. Gary, being an airplane pilot, flew us to an abandoned gold mine. For two weeks we enjoyed a perfect trip, leaving us the desire to return again.
Then in August of 1995 Roger, myself, and my brother-in-law Tom Barney, flew to Fairbanks Alaska to meet our preacher buddy for another hunting excursion on Prudhoe Bay near the North Pole. Roger and I flipped a coin to see who would drive the supply truck and who would fly in the plane with Gary. Roger won the toss and said, “I’m not riding in that truck down that bumpy road. I’m flying — you’re driving.”
Long story short…Tom and I made the trip to our designated meeting place. While waiting, we set up our camp, fished, and began to enjoy the scenery. The following day news came that there had been a plane crash at Atigan Pass in the Brooks Range. The realization set in that Roger and Gary had been killed. Now the task was to drive ten hours back to Fairbanks Alaska. It was a long miserable trip home. The hurt and pain was unbearable, with long sleepless nights of guilt that Roger and Gary had lost their lives and Tom and I were safe at home. The struggle continued for some time.
The Thursday before the plane accident, we had our last singing as The Calvarymen-as we knew it. The service had been recorded, and the last frame of the video shows Roger taking off his bass guitar, handing it to a young, aspiring Scott Keith, and then walking off the stage…three days later, Roger was home with the Lord. Two weeks later, the Lord blessed by sending us Scott to be our new baritone and bass player: a fellow History teacher with me, who just happened to live less than a mile down the same road I live on. Everyone rallied around me, surrounding me with love and quiet support.
Three months later, realizing Roger and Gary would want me to go on with life, I started bow hunting again. On October 18, I fell out of my tree stand. Crawling to my four-wheeler, going in and out of consciousness-driving a mile through very woody terrain, I got home and dialed 911. I had broken my back, arm, fingers, and collarbone. Since my spine was damaged, critical surgery was required to repair my back, to avoid the danger of permanent paralysis. Almost a month later, through God’s grace and healing powers, I left the hospital. I wore a body cast for the next several months. During this time, The Calvarymen never missed a service. For the next year, a sneeze, a chuckle, or just a quick breath was a killer. Once again, time became a healing process.
The quartet suffered another blow when our bass singer through the 1990’s, Don Gardner,lost his 25-year battle with Lymphoma. Again, the pain was unbearable, yet God’s grace was there.
Then, in July 2002 I was diagnosed with Melanoma. This totally took me by surprise. I knew Melanoma was skin cancer. I thought all you did was cut it out, go on, and everything would be fine. That was not the case. My cancer was stage four and in my lymphatic system. The surgeon told my family I had just 6 months to 2 years to live.
For the next year I was very ill. During first month, I took chemo 5-days a week, followed up by radiation treatment. The skin on my neck and shoulder literally melted off. Then for a year, I gave myself Interferon injections in order to fight off the deadly disease.
During this, I learned the only One who could be beside you at 3:00 in the morning, when you could not sleep, was the Lord Himself. I learned to have compassion. No matter how much you care, you cannot understand until you have walked in others shoes.
There were PET scans, CAT scans, and blood work—first every three months, then every six months. And on August 1, 2010, I celebrated 8 years of no sign of cancer!
I’ve told you all of this so you will understand what I am about to tell you: You see, God blessed me with a Christian mother and father who taught me about a Savior who loved me enough to come and die in my place on an old rugged cross some 2000 years ago. If I can just have faith and trust Him, I would not have to know true death or separation from God—ever. He would give me everlasting life.
If as a little boy I could understand to trust Him and He would take care of me through all eternity, it just made perfect sense to me that the Creator of the Universe could take care of little things like the loss of loved ones, the pain of injury, and the disease of cancer. He has showed me continually, through all of these things that His Grace Will Supply All Of My Needs, and that truly “His Grace Will Lead Me Home.”