The first "crush" I had as a teenager was on Cliff Barrows, a song leader at Youth For Christ rallies. He later became Billy Graham's song leader for many, many years.
On Saturday night we teens would pile on the city bus and for a quarter, round trip, ride to downtown San Diego. Then we walked to 10th and E Street to the gigantic First Baptist Church for Youth For Christ rallies.
We heard speakers from all over America. Some were still in Seminaries, some were evangelists, some missionaries, but the names are still familiar to me now. Robert G. Lee of the First Baptist Church of Memphis, Tennessee; Jack Mac Arthur (the father of John Mac Arthur, Panorama City), Organist, Loren Whitney, as well as singers Ted and Gloria Rowe, and Billy Graham himself.way before he was famous along with his soloist George Beverly Shea and Ethel Waters singing His Eye Is On The Sparrow! Bob Pierce, Robert Bowman, Ted Engstrom, Louis Palermo, The Saints (Later ambushed and murdered in the jungles of Peru), Sherwood Wirt and the famous piano player Rudy Atwood as well as road show men's quartets like the Blackwood Brothers and J. Vernon McGee, who later taught me at Biola. We had the best!
But nobody got my heart rate up like Cliff Barrows. I carried his picture in my wallet all through high school hoping to find someone to compare with him!
I now belong to a group called CASA (Christian Adult Seniors Assoc.) who honor the men of faith of our past.
Cliff Barrows was honored by CASA for the Heritage of Faithfulness award in 1999. He dedicated his entire life to the work of the Lord and the ministry of BGEA. He and his wife, Billy, had a long and happy marriage as I saw on television over the years.
Once it was held at Crystal Cathedral, and I looked around that packed auditorium and thought, "This is like a 50th reunion of Youth For Christ". The audiences from our high school days had all aged commensurately and most of us had white hair, but we all enthusiastically sang the choruses of our youth. And cheer! As each person was honored, we cheered for those who discipled us through our teens and the war years all because of Bill Bright and Youth for Christ and all those others dedicated to God's service.
This past year Howard Hendricks of Dallas Seminary, was keynote speaker, and he stressed the importance of 'staying power' and that Daniel was thrown in the lions den when 80 years old! We have to be faithful and have endurance in the Christian life. His admonition was that there is no retirement for Christians ...Don't quit ... re-commit! He was from a broken home and had been mentored by a man named Walt who only had a sixth grade education, but out of the 13 boys that Walt was mentoring, eleven of them are in full time Christian service!
The black preacher E. V. Hill was honored too, and he also stressed not being retired ... just to be a re-tread! Bill Bright accepted an award for beginning the ministry of Youth For Christ and Campus Crusade. Chuck Smith, was honored, for starting the Calvary Chapel's (now over 900 of them) He said that he owed much of his mentoring to J. Vernon McGee's Through the Bible Hour radio program. Chuck went on to mentor the hippies and beach bums of Huntington Beach, including Greg Laurie, Mike MacIntosh, etc. Out of the 25 largest congregations in the U.S., Calvary Chapel has 9 of them. He mentioned that he always thought that he'd like to do a 5 year Bible Study on radio too, but McGee was already doing that. After McGee passed away, Chuck bought the radio station and now continues to broadcast all of McGee's studies! The Lord works in mysterious ways!
Each year I go to the festival honoring those great men and it makes chills go up my spine as I wonder "Who will they honor next?"
Perhaps it was a silly thing to carry that picture of Cliff Barrows in my wallet, but I knew quality when I saw it! It goes without saying that Christian Adult Seniors Association also knows quality ... and longevity! It is with many thanks to them for making these events possible each year.
Post Script: I e-mailed Bruce telling him that I attended the CASA celebration. He e-mailed back saying that Howie Hendricks had mentored he and Penny during their college years when they attended his Bible Study at College Avenue Baptist Church. He said they had gone to countless Saturday night concerts at the first Calvary Chapel back when it was in a tent in Costa Mesa and heard Chuck Smith doing his mentoring thing way back then. He'd also heard Ethel Waters sing at Hotel Del Coronado.
And the beat goes on!