E. Roger Ammons of The Church of God, was the speaker at the February meeting of the United Club. Martha Bostic opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Alexander Delk offered the opening prayer.
Since February was heart month, Bostic talked about taking care of your heart. She gave out pamphlets on heart health, saying, “The main thing is taking care of your heart, because, you know, it don’t matter who we are, how old we are or how young we are, we can have a heart problem and of course you probably all know about all the signs of a heart attack.” Bostic is a survivor of several heart by-pass surgeries, so she spoke from experience.
Martha Ledford gave the devotional on “Grateful Obedience.” As a background, she explained, “The word Atone means to cover, reconcile, cleanse and forgive.” She said that in the Old Testament the priest went once a year into the Holy of Holies and takes a lamb without blemish to sacrifice on the altar and all sins were forgiven and he did this once a year. Ledford said that in the New Testament, God gave us a Person named Jesus to be the sin sacrifice. She quoted John 3:16 and said, “We can go any time to Jesus or God through Jesus.
Bostic asked Bettie Marlowe from the Cleveland Daily Banner to introduce the speaker. Marlowe said Ammons was also her pastor and “we appreciate him and his wife, Alice.” Ammons thanked Bostic for the opportunity to speak to the United Club and introduced two members of his church, Jim and Hilda Sutton, and three other ministers who had come to the meeting — his son-in-law Lawrence Munoz, a pastor in Georgia; Ray Dupree, director of Bible Training Institute; and Oscar Pimental, an interpreter. “They go to more countries in a year than I’ve been to in a lifetime, he said, “usually around 20 each year, so I’m glad they could be here.”
Ammonds said he has been blessed to have taken a number of trips abroad, mostly to the country of Haiti — “I have been to Haiti 30 times and could talk all day and all night and hardly get started about Haiti.” He said after his first couple trips to Haiti, he could not talk to anyone for two or three days, because “all I could do was weep and 15 minutes in such a country and your life will never be the same.”
Ammons said one country that stood out most in his mind was his trip to the Congo. He said before he left for the Congo, he was told the overseer had reserved him a place in a four-star hotel. But, the food and lodging and the security was going to cost more than $200 a night. “I said, ‘There’s no way that I’m going to that poor country and spend that much of the church’s money.’ He said he had learned, sometimes to have security, that can’t be avoided.
He began to search the Internet and found a Catholic monastery where tourists sometimes stay. Ammons took money with him to pay for the motel, but he found the monastery for much less. There was a wall around the compound and it was across the street from the American embassy.
On Sunday afternoon before he was to fly out on Monday he ventured outside the wall by himself. “I had my watch with me and I was going to time it to walk so far and be sure I could walk back before it got dark,” he said.
But, instead of walking two blocks, Ammons walked about seven or eight blocks. He said he takes precautions concerning his passport — usually have it hanging around his neck and makes other copies and puts them in different suit cases. Ammons said, “Anyhow as I took this walk a small beat-up car pulled up to the curb and a man stepped out and presented himself as an officer and flashed a badge and said, ‘Can I see your passport?’
“Well, lo and behold, I realize that I did not have it with me and I said, ‘I’m sorry, it’s at the St. Anne’s monastery just a few blocks from here.’”
Then the man said, “You’re going to have to come with us.”
Ammons said before he could hardly blink an eye, two huge men — there were four men in the car — jumped out of the back seat and they pulled him in and they took him on an hour-and-a-half ride. “They put a gun to my head,” he said. “They searched me, they took my money belt with the money I brought for the motel and they took my phone and watch.”
He said, “I just knew that my time had come to meet my God and if I was going out, I want to go out in a blaze of glory, Hallelujah.” He said he began to sing, “Amazing Grace,” “and the blessed Holy Ghost began the witness through me and I don’t know what they thought about that.” They asked him to quit singing.
He talked about King David in the 23rd Psalm as he continued his story of the Congo: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me ...”
“To be honest (and go to heaven),” he said, “I was afraid, but the Apostle Paul said to some, whose loved ones had died, and had sorrow even as Christians, ‘We sorrow not even as others which have no hope,’ so my sorrow and fear — it was nothing like it would’ve been if I did not have the assurance all was well with my soul.”
He told the men, “Please let me go — you’ve got my money, my watch, my phone.” But they kept driving and finally threw him out of the car. Ammons said, “I just knew that they would shoot me before they drove off, but thank God they didn’t.
For more than an hour, he walked around traumatized, trying to find someone who spoke English to give him directions back to the monastery. Finally, he found a restaurant. A policeman was sitting on the outside with what looked like an M-16. Ammons said that he figures about 99 percent of the citizens there mostly speak French. A white man approached him who spoke English and French.
The officer at the restaurant knew what was going on, offered no help. The gentleman said he knew where St. Ann’s monastery was and offered to take him there.
“I declined to go with him,” Ammons said, “because I smelled alcohol on his breath and was extremely uncomfortable about going with him — already having gone through an ordeal.
Then an Ethiopian black woman, who had a nurse’s ID around her neck, speaking in broken English and using sign language, told Ammons not to go with that gentleman. She offered to take him back to the monastery and so they walked about 12 blocks to the monastery.
“When I got to the monastery,” Roger said, “people were standing there from several different countries — priests and nuns. And here I am — my emotions going every which way — squallin’ like a baby and at the same time praising and glorifying my God that I was still alive and the Spirit speaking through me..”
Ammons went on to say that when you have experienced the trauma you really don’t realize it at the moment until later on. “I cannot believe that I never got her (the Ethopian lady) name, address, or phone number, but a nun interpreted for me to her as to how much I appreciated what she had done and I wish I had some money to give to her as a token of my thanks, but they had taken all of my money.”
He said he would never forget her and said, “I can’t give you any money but would it be all right if I prayed for you?” He said he laid hands on her head and began to pray for her. “I don’t know when I felt any more powerful anointing to pray for anyone,” he said, “and I would not take anything for that experience. God had given me a testimony and I like to share it any and everywhere I can.
Several from the group responded with questions and comments about the missionary’s travels.
The first door prize, compliments of Steve Robinson of Cleveland Plywood, was won by Kent Gunderson. Ledford won the second door prize from the selection of American flags and other patriotic decor, which is available for purchase with proceeds going to the club expenses and benevolences. Marlowe was asked to offer the closing prayer and the blessing over the meal.
Others attending the February meeting were Ruby Ball, club recorder Shawn Markie, Juanita Poteet, Barbara Tucker, Lily Cunningham, Calvin Davis, Betty Keith, Joe Ben Chase, Peggy Meyer and Paul Denton.
For more information on the United Club, contact: Bostic at 479-9207; Charles or Joanie Lupo 478-5766; or Markie at 476-5426.