Thursday, February 5, 2009

Old Friends


A couple of weeks ago I received a call from my friend Neal. His wife Tillie has had heart surgery, and Neal had decided that he should move from the ends of the earth in eastern Oklahoma to a retirement community near Oklahoma City. He felt that they needed to be nearer their doctors, and emergency medical care. He had made arrangements for his son to come and help them move.

I have known Neal for 10 years. He moved to this area after he retired. He bought acreage in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma where he and his family built a house. Neal would have been a great homesteader, as he is very self sufficient. He actually went to New Mexico as a young man to try and claim a homestead. He didn't get the homestead, but he did find Tillie. He and Tillie were instrumental in starting La Vida Mission for the Navajo people of northwestern New Mexico.

The property of La Vida Mission was once an abandoned trading post. In this one-room trading post, the little mission was born. School was held for six students in the crumbling, mice-infested building by Neal and Tillie Scott, who lived in the school building with their two tiny sons, Steven and Tom. Each day Tillie drove the rutted reservation roads to pick up her students, then returned them to their hogans at the end of the day.

Neal and Tillie started their married life with a passion for missions and decided that they would follow wherever God led them. During over 30 years of ministry they worked in many places including Jamaica, Mexico and Africa. Neal was a printer by trade, and he managed printing presses in many places. Tillie was a school teacher and always found ways to help others wherever they were. She always had a special place in her heart for kids, from those Navajo Indians at La Vida Mission where her mission work started to the kids of Africa. Her and Neal adopted two children from Africa and brought them back to the U.S. when they retired.

Even in retirement Neal still had a passion for missions and helping others. He was a local volunteer fireman and helped those in his community however he could. He spent several months after Hurricane Katrina helping in a relief distribution warehouse in south Louisiana.

When Neal called me that Thursday, there was a sense of urgency in his voice. He said, "I hate to ask you this, but I didn't know who else to ask. I feel strongly that I need to get Tillie to the retirement village this weekend. She has had a small stroke, and the doctors say you never know if there will be another one. My son won't be able to come for few weeks. Would you be able to help us move this weekend."

I told Neal that we would be over Sunday morning to help them move. Daddy and I got up early Sunday morning and were at Neal's place before 8 o'clock. When we looked at what needed to be moved and then looked at my pickup we began to wonder if we could get it all on. I knew that if anyone could it would be my Daddy.

Tying The Load

We were able to put in my little S-10 pickup, 2 beds, a large dresser, bedding, chairs, clothes, kitchen appliances, and a microwave. We were also able to find places for a number of cases of canned food they had. We definitely looked like Okie's and Arkie's. It made me think of the Grapes of Wrath or maybe the Beverly Hillbillies. As we left for the 200 mile trip to the retirement village, we had to stop at the first gas station with air to pump up the tires on my little truck. There was way more weight on the truck than it was designed for. We took it easy on the trip over, because the 4 cylinder engine had a hard time going more that 55 mph. As we drove, Neal kept me entertained with the story of how he and Tillie met, and the early years at La Vida Mission.

Moving Neal

After about 4 hours we pulled into the Summit Ridge Retirement Village. Neal and Tillie were moving into a small but nice 1 bedroom apartment. Even though they won't have the room they are used to and the wide open spaces, they will be so much safer with people nearby to help if there is a medical emergency. There is a beautiful church right across the street from their apartment.

Neal Unloading

While we were unloading the pickup and moving things into the house, I called the Summit Ridge Retirement Village office to find out where an old friend lived. I knew that Norma Wolters was living there and wanted to visit with her while were were there. I was surprised to find out that she lived in the duplex next door to where Neal's apartment was. Daddy and I were able to spend a few minutes with her before we had to make the long trip back home.

Norma and I

I first met Norma when she was teaching school at the B.J. Rowland Adventist School in Mena. When the school opened in the late 70's she was the first teacher. The school was a one room schoolhouse with grades 1-8. My brother and sisters were students of Norma's. She retired the year my daughter Cynda started school at that little school. It was great to see Norma and do a little reminiscing.

The next morning, Neal and Tillie were going to drive into town to get some things at the grocery store. Before they had gone two miles they turned around and went back to the apartment because the roads were icing up. Before long they were completely iced in.

Icy Mena Street 2

I was so thankful that Neal and Tillie were in a safe place where help was available if they needed it. Their place out in the woods was completely iced in, and there would have been no way to get help if they needed it. I think that God nudged Neal that Thursday and impressed him that he needed to be in a safe place before the ice storm hit. I believe that God is concerned with every detail of our lives, and that if we listen he will guide us.

It was great to be able to help an old friend and to feel that he had the security of being in a safe place. It was also nice to visit an old friend that I hadn't seen for a number of years.

I like the lyrics of the Chris Eaton song "Old Friends".

Old Friends -- we'll always be
And Heaven is a perfect place
At the journey's end
And I'm looking forward to that day
Cause we're old friends

You can listen to it here.


  1. You are such a great story teller. How wonderful that you could help friends that have helped so many others themselves. Yes, God does take care of our smallest needs, doesn't He? Thank you for sharing about your friends, and the way God provided for His faithful servants!

  2. You are a friend in "deed" as well as words, Richard. My trip to Oklahoma with my kids last November was into such an area as you describe... sort of the back side of nowhere; beautiful, but really isolated. I'm glad your friend ans his wife are in a safer place.

  3. Summit Ridge, I know that place all to well.

    Sounds like you had a nice trip though

  4. Nice post today. Love the videos. I have a childhood friend of more than 40 years and we are still going out together. :)

  5. You are such a kind man and good storyteller. Love to meet you one day!

  6. Such a lovely glad you were able to help a friend in need.

    Yes, I do believe that God nudges us now and then!


    ps Thanks for your visit to my blog the other day!

  7. I loved reading that story too. How wonderful that you were able to help them move to a safe place. They sound like wonderful people who have done so much for others.I hope Tillies health improves.

  8. I loved reading this story! I am so glad he listened to God. Too often, I hear Him, but I am too busy being selfish to listen the first time. I love that you were able to help him with your pickup! I love that your Dad helped too. I wish I lived closer to you because I just KNOW I would love your family...even if you don't have an opinion on purses...

  9. So good to read this...brought tears to my eyes...such kindness for other people...that's how life is meant to be....

  10. i have to admit that I was so stunned to see the word...Mena, Arkansas that I was too shocked to read much more.

    I had an aunt, maiden name Butler who lived just outside of Mena.

    I spent my entire early early years in and out of Mena and Ashdown.

    Oh my if you know any Butlers then we have friends or family in common.

    Oh my I haven't been back in so long. I went through the 1st and 6th grade at Ashdown.

    Wow what memories. I have tears in my eyes just remembering my parents and aunts and uncles.

    They are all gone what a small world it truly is.

    And for Pat up there I now live in Oklahoma at lake Texhoma. Oh my this one got me.

    I hope you have a lovely weekend!!:-)

  11. What a nice, if a little bittersweet, story. I do believe what you said about God's timing. My dad, who still lived in NE arkansas passed away in early december. He was oxygen dependent, pretty much house bound, and getting anywhere was a chore. I was talking with my stepmother since all the ice and power outages and we both agreed that God had his hand in the timing as taking care of my dad in those circumstances would have been an impossible situation.

  12. Neal & Tillie are my Uncle and Aunt. Tillie is my dad's only full sibling. My dad has been hoping to hear from the Scott's after their move, but has heard nothing yet. Could you pass word to them to call my dad (Victor)?
    My wife & I took my parents out to Heavener to see the Scott's in November 2002.
    Thanks, David