Monday, October 5, 2009

Back To The Bible 40th

When the Back to the Bible broadcast celebrated its 40th Anniversary, Jean and I drove to Lincoln NE to help celebrate.

It was in 1979, and my memory is that Theodore Epp was still alive, and was sharing the teaching with Warren Wiersbe. I couldn’t find anyone presentlly at B to B who was there in 1979, so my memory has to suffice.

Lincoln was a place to which we had never traveled before. And, since that was WAY before the GPS systems had been invented, we followed the old fashioned map in a Road Atlas.

My first personal contact with Theodore Epp, the founder of the broadcast in 1939, was when I was still at the Moody Bible Institute, as part of its Radio Ministry - sometime between 1954 and 1965.

Mr. Epp had been at the Institute, and spoke to the Student Body. While there, he visited the radio studios.

However, it wasn’t at the studios that I first saw him, but rather, in the Lobby of Crowell Hall, the main building of MBI then.

I had come back from the Sweet Shoppe, I think, having just had lunch. Entering the lobby to go to the elevator for the 10th floor, I glanced to my right as I came in (the elevators were to the left), and seated there in one of the straight backed chairs, was Theodore Epp. I recognized him right away from his pictures.

Was he reading a book? Or looking around? Or talking to someone ? Surely he was on his Cell Phone? (I’m being facetious.)


Rather, he was very seriously looking at small cards in his hand, taken from a memory packet in his pocket, and he was memorizing scripture. He was oblivious of anyone or thing around him. In fact, when I approached him, he didn’t see me until I said, “Mr. Epp?”

He looked up right away and smiled.

He didn’t know me “from Adam”, as we used to say in Mechanicsburg. He just saw me as a fellow human being - and smiled.

I don’t remember a bit of our conversation, or what we each did after that, but I would HOPE that I had enough sense to invite him to follow me to the 10th floor and offices of WMBI.

He started the broadcast all by himself, in the studio of a secular radio station. No music. No announcer. No fanfare. Just Bible Teaching.

There have been two more regular speakers on the broadcast since his retirement - Dr. Warren Wiersbe, and Dr. Wilbur Kroll - who still speaks today.

I seems to me that on our trip for the 40th Celebration, we drove directly west to Omaha, then southwest to Lincoln.

In getting downtown to where the Broadcast was then located, we passed right by the football stadium of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Couldn’t remember the name of the stadium, but the Internet indicates that the Memorial Stadium was build in 1923. Many changes and seat additions since then.

It seems to me that the main celebration for the 40th, was held across the street from the historic site of the broadcast at that time.

Several other Christian station operators were there also, all of them friends of mine from the National Religious Broadcasters. We had quite a get together, renewing acquaintances, and meeting new ones.

I could try to remember some of those in attendance, and two or three do come to mind, but suffice it to say that the celebration was honoring Back To The Bible, not us station operators.

Something I remember now is that this occasion was the first I had heard of Charles Swindoll, and “Insight For Living”. Dick Bott from KCCV at Kansas City, a long time friend told me that this would be a good addition to the WEEC schedule. I said that our schedule was full, but he said that if he could look at our schedule, he could find a time.

Well, I’ve never programmed like that, but I did get a sample tape of Swindoll, and, convinced that it would be a good addition to our schedule, I found a suitable time. Daily at 7 PM. Then too, another longtime friend, Al Sanders, was the announcer on the broadcast.

It’s been at that time ever since.

While at Back to the Bible, we saw the studio where Mr. Epp broadcast from at that time, including his table, chair and microphone. Beside him was where the Choir sang. In the early days of the broadcast, they were produced live.

I was told that in those days, after the choir had been added, Mr. Epp would end his teaching at precisely 25 minutes, to allow time for the last Choir number, and the closing announcements. To be sure he didn’t go “over” in his time, the broadcast recording was started at 35 minutes past the hour, so at precisely the next hour, Mr. Epp would say good bye.

I don’t remember how many days Jean and I stayed in Lincoln, but I DO remember it was at the Holiday Inn, practically on the Airport grounds, north of town.

Many years later, when John and family moved from California (and Focus on the Family) back to Chicago (and Moody Bible Institute), they drove all the way, with their furniture being taken by truck.

The end of one of the 5 or 6 days they traveled brought them to Lincoln NE, and the Holiday Inn. Our granddaughter Molly, unaware of our previous visit to Lincoln, listened attentively to Tonya talking to me, when I related that we had stayed there years before.

Molly was dumbfounded when she heard just one end of the conversation, and asked her mother, “What did Grandpa say about this Motel?” Tonya told her about our previous visit. Apparently Molly decided that they couldn’t go anywhere that Grandpa and Grandma hadn’t already been to.

After leaving Lincoln, we drove west to Cheyenne WY to fill up with gas. A remarkable thing to me was that, on May 1, snow was falling on Cheyenne. Amazing.

Some details of the rest of the trip are a little hazy to me, so I MIGHT be combining one or more trips together.

Going north from Cheyenne (I 25 wasn’t built yet), we ended up at the Mount Rushmore National Park, southwest of Rapid City SD.

Black Hills, the Bad Lands and Mount Rushmore are in this area.

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial to four presidents was breathtaking! Though we had been there before, it was still awesome. The first time, we visited inside the building. This time, we just marveled at the sight. It could be seen from some distance away, through gaps in the mountains.

Driving through this part of the country, we had to stop on the road to allow buffalo (or bison) to cross the road.

We had heard of the “Bad Lands” for many years, but couldn’t imagine what they were like.

We found out.

We drove east from Rapid City to Wall SD, visited “Wall Drug” seen on thousands of signs along highways in the midwest and west, then took off southeast to enter the Bad Lands.

Here’s ONLY a part of Wall Drug.

Here's the promotional bit:

Wall Drug
Wall, South Dakota

For some classic road trip Americana, there's no better place to stop than Wall Drug in Wall, SD. It's more than a drugstore; it's an insane shopping experience right out of America's wild West. The 77,000-square-foot building is six times the size of an average drug store and stocked full of wacky Western wear. You won't miss it, because Wall Drug has more than 250 signs advertising its location along I-90. The tactic works -- Wall welcomes 2.2 million visitors a year, more than the entire population of South Dakota.

From there, we entered The Bad Lands, with desert, cliffs, mountains, animals, etc.

Here’s the OFFICIAL welcome to the Bad Lands:

Greetings and welcome to Badlands National Park.

Badlands contains some of the most spectacular vistas
and scenery in the world. It’s geological and
paleontological resources provide insight into climatic
history and biological diversity during the
Eocene/Oligocene periods. The area in and around the
Badlands also contains places of spiritual and historical
significance for the local Lakota community.

The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is a must see with our
award winning video and many new and exciting
books in our bookstore run by Badlands Natural History
Association. We hope you also take time to visit the South Unit of the park where
the White River Visitor Center offers a glimpse into the Native American influence and culture.

Take time to enjoy our Night Sky program at the amphitheater and
enjoy one of the most spectacular night skies in the country.
While you spend time at this special place in this special land, take time to view
and listen to the magnificence and splendor of the Badlands. The natural resources and beauty of the area have been preserved for you and for future generations to experience the rich heritage of our natural and cultural history.

And, some pictures from the Internet:

I don’t remember how long we were gone on the initial trip to Lincoln, but we saw some incredible sights. I wish I could remember more.

Isn’t it great that these trips and experiences allow me to “ramble on” in describing them?

(You don’t have to agree. We’ll still be friends! Just don‘t tell me.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the walk down memory lane of Back to the Bible. Dr. Epp was my grandfather. I love reading about others memories of him. :)
Allison Pierce

Grandpa Mike said...

Thanks, Allison, for your remarks.

I thought a lot of Dr. Epp, and heard many, many messages by him.

Grandpa Mike

Anonymous said...

Dr Epp's radio ministry was instrumental in my salvation. I was a student in Liverpool UK and accidentaly tuned in .This was in Jan 1970. Fond memories.