Wednesday, November 11, 2015


On October 24, 2015 I reached the 65 year old marker. 
It was a great time of celebration for me. My Family, Friends, and Church Congregation went all out to honor and bless me on this occasion. Parties, cards, gifts, emails, ecards, Facebook posts, phone calls all to wish me well. I feel really blessed with good people in my life.. I received well wishes from all over the United States and from people as far away as India, Philippines, Myannmar, Korea, Kenya, South Africa, England, Honduras, El Salvador and more. 
I began preaching The Gospel of Jesus Christ shortly after my 16th birthday in 1966.  That was 49 years ago! I am now in my 50th year of "surrender" to the Will of God for my life. The friends and companions that I have gathered over the years are a huge part of my "compensation" making me truly rich in all those things money cannot buy!
I recalled this morning a dream my Mother, Irene Pearl King Thomason, shared with me while I was a teenage preacher. In her dream she saw huge church buildings filled with large crowds of people and parking lots loaded with cars. These churches were everywhere, but I was not there. Then she saw a huge six lane freeway packed with cars going in each direction. There was an exit from this freeway that led to a small building beside the freeway with a drive through window. Cars were lined up all the way from the exit to this little drive through window where she saw me, handing out food through the window to all the passerbys. 
As I reflect on my mother's dream and upon the past 49 years of ministry, I can see that God has brought thousands of hungry souls to my "window" to be fed The Word of God! I thank Him for the great honor of being able to serve Him in my small way. This does not mean that I am ready to quit, because the hungry are still coming and Jesus said that if I truly love Him, I must "feed His lambs".
So, thanks be unto God for this wonderful life I have had and do now enjoy! Thank God for the wonderful people who have passed  through my life and for those who are with me still!
Onward to the Prize that is set before us!

Ronny D. Thomason
Senior Saint

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Our Time In Kenya, Day 11, Sept. 15th

Day Eleven is our final day in Kenya with a shopping trip in downtown Nairobi, lunch with Don and Becky and an hour and half trip to the airport for our 10:00 p.m. flight to Amsterdam (3 hour layover) then 9 hours from Amsterdam to Atlanta (8 hour layover) and finally back to Jacksonville, arriving around 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Once we got our luggage and got to our car in the remote parking lot, it's battery was dead. The airport service vehicle could not get it started so we had to go back into the airport and rent a car at 12:30 a.m. from Hertz so we could go home and get some sleep. I was so tired that I almost fell asleep several times going home.

The next morning I stopped by the Auto Parts store and bought a new battery and drove back to the airport. Once the new battery was installed the car started with no problems. We returned the rental car and went home to sleep some more.


Our Time In Kenya: Day Ten, Sept. 14th

Day Ten was Monday. We left the Hunter's Lodge and drove into the next town to meet Burning Plow Team Members to pick up their luggage for the trip back to Nairobi. They would be coming by bus. We drove into Nairobi around noon and found ourselves in a huge traffic jam entering the city. It took extra time for us to finally arrive at the Cameron home in the Belozi neighborhood.

After we unloaded the car, Don and I went to the nearest shopping mall and bought a lap top computer for Caleb Otieno to use for More Than Music Ministries and to further his Bible School educatin on the internet. It cost under $400 dollars but well worth it to invest in this young man's evangelistic ministry. He came by later in the day and we presented it to him. He was one happy man!

Monday evening Don and Becky took us to a place called Safari Camp where we ate a meal consisting of all kinds of meat; beef, pork, chicken, turkey, CAMEL and CROCODILE. The venue was safari style out doors with a stage where we watched an African Dance routine and some fantastic acrobats perform. It was very entertaining and they were very good. This evening out under the stars with tons of food and good entertainment was a fitting end to our Kenyan journey. We were glad to have been able to experience it with our good friends of many years, Don and Becky Cameron.

Our Time In Kenya: Day Nine, Sept. 13th

Day Nine was Sunday at Olosinya, the Maasai Church in the Bush

We arrived at our usual 10 a.m. time after trekking through the bush on dirt trails picking up passengers as we went. The weather was perfect for a Sunday morning church service in the Maasai Bush Country of Kenya.

We arrived and entered the worship in progress for a day of celebrating the goodness of God among people who really knew how to celebrate! There brightly colored dresses and suits, their beaded neckwear, all bouncing and leaping in the presence of God.

After several acknowledgements for those two churches whose teams came to help Burning Plow canvass the area door to door and hearing some of them testify as to what i meant to them to be part of a "Mission" experience. The service was turned over to me and I began to share the testimony of my friend in Honduras, Luis Sorto, whom God had raised up from the poorest of conditions to be a great leader in his country and in the Spanish speaking world. I told them that the same God is calling some of them to rise from obscurity and join the ranks of God's Migthy Warriors. It was a very stirring and prophetic message to these simple people but they grabbed it and pulled it to themselves taking ownership of the call of God in their lives. It was awesome! I am so blessed to be able to speak so powerfully into their lives!

While two goats were being slaughtered for our lunch, we presented 60 Bibles to people who had no Bible. Some were in Swahili, others in Maasai, and some English. The recipients almost stampeded us as we were giving them out. There is such a hunger for the Word of God and Bibles are very much appreciated. Several were not able to get Bibles, so I left $200 with Don Cameron to purchase more Bibles for this church.

Following the Bible distribution, we all went outside for a water baptism service. Because the area is so dry and water is so precious, we had a pit dug in the sand and placed a plastic liner over it to hold the water. Jugs and jugs of water were hauled in and dumped into the pit until it was about knee deep. Then Pastor Vincent got into the water and baptized 7 people. They got on their knees and he leaned them forward or backward into the water. It was minimal water, but it worked! The crowd of people pressed against the edges of the baptismal pit until I thought I was going to be pushed into the water myself. They had never seen anything like this before! There was so much excitement over this event that mobs of people strained their necks to see. It was awesome!

Two of the Burning Plow team were not at Don and Becky's house in Nairobi last Saturday when I laid hands on the team and prayed for them, so I gathered them into the church after lunch and prayed over them as well. They were Vincent Mokaya and Shadrack Maunda. They both were very moved by the prayer I prayed over them and I felt the prophetic anointing as I prayed. This was the top reason for coming to Kenya, to lay my hands on these team members and impart all the gifts and anointings that have been given to me through the laying on of hands from all my mentors over the years. I believe in this Doctrine of Christ very much and consider it a great honor to place my hands on these powerful young Kenyans that God is raising up for their generation!

Following a short time for lunch and tearful goodbyes with lots of pictures, we finally left the Maasai Village and headed back to our hotel for the last evening away from Nairobi.
We had a great evening around dinner with Don and Becky Cameron just reliving the past few days. Truly God is working in Kenya!

Our Time In Kenya: Day Eight, Sept. 12th

Day Eight went much like day seven. We left Hunter's Lodge after breakfast early enough to meet the rest of the team up the highway where we left the road to cross country toward Olosinya. We arrived at the church about 10:00 to find they had already begun to worship and the music greeted us as we drove up. On the way, we picked up several women and children who wanted rides to church.  We had them packed in!

The first morning session was Vincent Mokaya teaching on Water Baptism. I am really impressed with Don Cameron's team of young preachers. They are so good at what they do! Their teaching is not just from the head but from the heart. It is evident that they love people and want to help them understand the Word of God.

After a great time of worship, Don Cameron spoke from Revelation about the White Horse Rider. He said that it is the Church triumphant and that we are now in the end times when there is coming a great harvest of souls. As he was speaking, another goat was slaughtered in the church yard and prepared for our lunch.

After lunch, we worshipped with a full house. I spoke from 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 about "Our Message of Reconciliation---Be Reconciled to God" I prayed for the sick at the end of the service after several came forward to be healed. God was present to heal and I am assured that we will hear testimonies to that fact.

We left Olosinya again around 4:30 and drove back to the Hunter's Lodge where we put in our dinner order with the chef, went back to our rooms to freshen up, and then ate on the patio again. This time we had stir fried chicken with mashed potatoes. It was very good. The chef is a good cook! We turned in around 10:00 tired, but happy.

Our Time In Kenya: Day Seven, Sept. 11th

Day Seven started with breakfast in the Kibo Safari Camp. Following breakfast, the Manager, Charles talked to Don and I about his desire to have freedom for the workers to meet after hours for Christian prayers and devotions. The owner of Kibo is a Hindi from India and will not allow it. So we prayed with Charles that God will change the owner's heart. Our waiter, Jacob, was a nice young man from Mombassa who had a lot of questions about the things of God and we witnessed to him a lot while we were there. We gave him a good tip as we were leaving that morning.

We drove back toward Nairobi and stopped at the Hunter's Lodge.  This is a historic site where an Englishman named Hunter had established the Lodge many years ago but it had become abandoned in the 1950's. Recently a hotel chain purchased the Lodge and remodelled it completely. They opened back last February. We were the only guest that night but others came Saturday.  It was very nice and modern with spacious updated rooms, nice king sized beds, modern bathrooms with hot water. We would learn to appreciate this place to come to each night after a day in Olosinya.

We met our other team members who were staying up the highway at another hotel in town and they led us to the church in Olosynia around 10:00. We immediately went into the church and started the morning service. The crowd grew steadily towards noon. We were blessed by their colorful clothing and the intensity of their worship. James Oduar taught a lesson on "How To Have Assurance of Salvation" the Ruth spoke about "Standing On The Threshold Of An Open Door" about the Shunamite Woman in 2 Kings chapter 4.

While we were in church, a goat was slaughtered out under the trees and cooked on an open fire for our lunch.  Lunch was served about 1:00 consisting of a tiny bit of goat meat, lots of rice and beans.

In the afternoon session, Silas Odinga taught a lesson on "How To Study The Bible"
and I preached "Faith to Take The Next Step"
We left around 4 p.m. to go back to Hunter's Lodge.The dust was so bad and the car got so covered in it that the front passenger window would not work and was stuck in the down position. Don and I found a cardboard box and tied it over the window with rope in hopes that it would keep the monkeys out. It didn't. They got in during the night and ate some apples Becky had left in the car. We dealt with that open window for the rest of the time we were there. Later Don got it repaired for $10.

We arrived at Hunter's Lodge at about 6:00 and cleaned up and had dinner outside in their patio area. I had some steak and mashed potatoes that were very good. We got to bed around 10 p.m. tired but satisfied that we had had a good day.

Our Time In Kenya: Day Six, Sept. 10th

Day Six is our day for relaxing in the Amboselli National Park near the Kenya-Tanzania  border by Mount Kilimanjaro.

We went to breakfast at 6:00 a.m. and then headed to the gate of the Park to be there when they open at 6:30 a.m.  We entered the Park as the sun was coming up and immediately saw heards of giraffe, elephants, birds of all kinds, hippos, gazelles, cape buffalo, wildebeests, jackal, hyena etc. We saw a cheetah with a fresh kill in his mouth. We drove around until about noon and then walked to the top of Observation Hill to get a panoramic view of Amboselli (means "dusty") where we could see the elephants grazing below and Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. The wind started to pick up in the early afternoon and dust began to blow. I was amazed at the number of dust devils all around us. Visibility became a factor so we went back to the Kibo Camp and ate a late lunch, took a nap and then went back into the Park about 4 p.m. We were still on the hunt for lions. It was amazing how much the animal herds had moved since we saw them earlier in the day. It was like a totally different place.  Eventually we discovered that we were getting low on fuel, so we picked up a couple of Maasai guides Peter and Paul who promised they knew where to get fuel inside the Park and also knew where to find lions. So they led us to a gas pump behind one of the resort hotels where we could buy diesel, then they led us to where 5 lions had been spotted. We got to see them for a few minutes before we had to make a mad dash for the exit. The rule is you have to be out of the Park by sundown and the gate closed at 7:00 p.m.  We drove furiously as the sun was setting and arrived at the gate at 6:50 p.m.
We finished out the evening with a late buffet supper at Kibo Camp and then went to bed happy but exhausted. It was truly a great day! The night sky was full of stars. We had a perfect finish to a truly wonderful experience.

Our Time In Kenya: Day Five: Sept. 9th

Day Five began with loading up for our trip to Amboselli National Park area further south.
We had our modest breakfast at the hotel and visited with our Burning Plow Team members as they loaded up the car. Then as we were leaving town, we stopped back by the church to say goodbye to the Pastors as they were returning to their homes across Kenya. It was a wonderful time of loving on them and listening to their impressions of the previous day's meetings. I was blessed to hear how much the Pastor's meeting under the trees meant to them. We had our pictures made with several of the Pastors and their wives, then waved to them as they walked down the street toward the bus stop. It was a great time of loving on them.

Our Team members headed to Olosinya for the next two days to canvass the area around the church using outreach teams who came from surrounding churches. They were to go door to door and also to show the Jesus film in the Maasai language. We will meet up with them before noon on Friday.

We left Kibwezi and travelled south for several hours to the gate of the Amboselli National Park. Just outside the gate is a safari camp called "Kibo" which is styled after safari tents. Each cabin is built upon a concrete floor with enclosed bathroom area and thatched roof but has tent sides that roll down and  zip closed. Out the front door of the cabin was a perfect view of Mount Kilimanjaro. We arrived in mid afternoon but they had prepared lunch for us in the Camp Restaurant which was very nice.  This is a place where people come from all over the world to the game park. We saw Chinese, Japanese, Icelanders, French, Germans etc. It was truly a nice retreat. We ate lunch and went to our rooms for a nap before returning later for supper. We felt very pampered. After supper they had a camp fire blazing and we got to watch a Maasai show/dance where they pulled me out to dance with them. I am sure they thought I was one of those white men who can't jump! The sky was blanketed with stars and the Milky Way was awesome. It was a truly African night.

Our Time In Kenya: Day Four (Tuesday Sept. 8, 2015)

Day Four was all about the Pastor's Conference in Kibwezi, Kenya.

We rose early on this Tuesday morning and had a fried egg, Kenya's version of tortilla strips, and coffee at the hotel. Then we went a few blocks to the Pentecostal Assembly of God Church near downtown to begin our 9:00 session with the Pastors, their wives and a number of other church leaders. After a time of intense worship, we heard a brief testimony from an older Kenyan preacher named Shadrack. He had been held prisioner in Burundi Prisons for 13 months under false accusations. He testified of torture, attempted murder (using a chamber filled with Malaria ridden mosquitoes). He was preserved throughout the ordeal by God's power. He told of how he won 250 of his fellow prisioners to the Lord during his captivity and how God used the United Nations to free ALL the prisoners in one day including himself. It was a great testimony. Later I gave him a blank journal and asked him to write his complete story.

Ruth spoke after Dr. Shadrack on "The God of What Is Left". She was very anointed and the people were visibly moved by her message. Dr Shadrack told me later it moved him to tears because his ordeal had left him nothing but ashes and now he was able to give the ashes to God! He was truly blessed.

I spoke that morning about the 4 Watchmen for Your Mind: God Is Good; With God Nothing Is Impossible; Jesus Paid It All At The Cross; and Everyone is Significant. I really came hard against the religious spirit that wants to add to the price of salvation above what Jesus paid. I could tell that even though I killed some sacred cows, the Pastors really appreciated the message.

We had lunch on the grounds consisting of rice and beans and bottled water. It was good. We toured the kitchen out back where lunch was prepared on the ground using coal fires and pots sitting on rocks. It was primitive, but clean and well prepared. God bless the ladies who served us so faithfully!

After lunch we split the group in two categories: Pastors and Everyone Else. I took the Pastors outside under the trees in the church yard and Ruth stayed in the church with the rest of the folks. We probably had about 75 people in each group.

Out under the trees I taught the Pastors "What Are The Characteristics of A True Jesus Appointed Pastor?" from John 10:1-10.  I taught for about an hour and a half then opened it up for questions. They asked some hard questions and I answered as lovingly and wisely as I could. One question dealt with Women Preachers. Another asked about "Once Saved Always Saved". One questioned me about how to deal with unforgiveness in a colleague. I summed up my answers by stating that almost all of the controversies in the church could be solved if we would all walk in love toward each other and avoid trying to control other people's lives.  The Pastors seemed blessed by the afternoon session.

Ruth spent her time exhorting and praying for the people. I could hear her really getting after it all the way out in the yard. She prayed with great anointing for several people.

After the afternoon sessions we went to supper out on the highway at a new restaurant/hotel where we were the only customers. It took forever for them to cook our meal but we enjoyed the time together with members of the Burning Plow Team.

Ruth, Becky and I stayed at the hotel to rest in the evening while Don went back to the church for another "Revival" service. He reported that God really moved and people were saved.  Normally I woud have felt bad about missing the service, but after the all day conference with Pastors, I was totally wiped out.

Our Time In Kenya: Day Three

Day Three was Monday, Sept. 7th.
We loaded up Don Cameron's 2003,Toyota Pada 4 Wheel drive diesel with our luggage and equipment to be dropped off at a Maasai village on our way south to a place on the Mombassa highway called KIBWEZI. It was our first real highway adventure in Kenya with driving on the left and real third world traffic.
We stopped for lunch at Hunters Lodge where we will be staying towards the end of the week. I had a salad made of onions, cabbage, bell peppers and a very hot pepper. It was delicious but left my mouth on fire. I was able to lesson the burn with some Oreos we had in the car. We saw several large monkeys while we waited for our Maasai guide to arrive and lead us off road to the Maasai village Olosinya. His name was Meshack. He is the 17 year old son of Pastor Justice in the Olosinya church. It was a good thing we had a guide lead us because the landscape was truly off road, dusty with trails and paths going everywhere and no real distinguishable road markings. It took us over an hour to go eight miles.

Suddenly, there appeared in the middle of nowhere a little church made of concrete blocks and steel roof about 50' by 100' in size.  There were freshly painted white rocks surrounding the church with a heart shaped formation of rocks in the front that said "Welcome" in English. About 50 yards away was a newly constructed out-house made of corrugated steel. It had a concrete floor with a hole in the middle. Truly a "one-holer" for all to use. We were delighted to see a fresh roll of toilet paper hanging on a wire. We were expected!

After unloading the sound equipment and generator, we held an impromptu worship service in the church with about forty people who just seemed to appear. Then with our guide leading the way, we departed for KIBWEZI a different way than we came. Along the way, we saw giraffes and zebras all around.

On our way to the main highway we came to a dry river bed and noticed a group of women drawing water out of a hole they had dug in the river bottom. It was about twelve feet deep. They had dug it out with two rusted out shovels and were filling old yellow jerry jugs with water and strapping them to donkeys. We stopped and took pictures. They seemed happy that we showed an interest in what they were doing.

Our journey to the highway took us over some rough terrain filled with volcanic rocks, washed out gullies and very little trail. We passed a couple of villages and even a school and small clinic.

We finally arrived back at the highway and gave Meshach some money for gas for his motorcycle.

Our next stop was the town of KIBWEZI.
This is a typical African town built on a crossroads and used as a market center for people to bring their fruits and vegetables to sell. This is where Pastors from all over Kenya are coming for our two day seminar.

We checked into our "motel" which was not too bad for $7 a night. It had hot and cold running water, toilet, sink and shower (all in the same space) two twin beds, and a steel locking door. This place was chosen primarily for its secure parking driveway with locking door. We stayed Monday and Tuesday nights.

Immediately after arriving and unloading our stuff, Don and I and Shadrack Maunda went to a nearby village to deliver a special built wheelchair to a little girl who is crippled up badly. She was very happy to get this new chair that is designed to help straighten her spine. We then went to deliver another wheelchair to a crippled man who had been given a hand cranked bike earlier but was having trouble using it. He refused to trade for the new chair though, so Don later found someone else to bless..

Following an interesting hamburger at a street cafe, we went to the church for the evening "revival" service. It was held at the Pentecostal Assembly of God Church in KIBWEZI. The Pastor is also a Burning Plow Team member.

I preached "Jesus Has Something Cooking" from John 21:9 and encouraged them to come tomorrow hungry for what Jesus is cooking up.  They responded very well. I could tell we were in for a powerful conference.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Our Time In Kenya: Day Two. It is near some large coffee and tea plantations

Day Two fell on a Sunday so we drove out north of Nairobi to a little town called Kawaida. It is near some large coffee and tea plantations. Vincent Mokaya had started a small home meeting for the plantation workers which has now grown into a full fledged church. Most of the church members are $2 a day farm workers.

The church service was our first in Kenya and was such a blessing to us. The people were colorfully dressed and worshipped God energetically. Their Pastor, Vincent led the worship and it was very obvious the he has a true Pastor's heart by the way he loved on the people and how he worshipped the Lord. We were impressed by the people's worship and how the children could quote the Scriptures.

Ruth greeted the congregation and then I preached from 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 about our message of reconciliation to God.  They responded very well. Following the service we ate rice, beans and greens with the people. Upon leaving, we had a problem shutting one of the car doors because the children has flipped the lock shut. But after awhile it was put right. Then we drove down to the coffee plantation where we walked from house to house praying and blessing each home. We went inside about ten homes to pray while a huge crowd followed us. One lady begged us to come into her house and we were able to lead her to the Lord. We spent some time there and had a wonderful experience with these poor, humble and precious Saints of God. We had dinner at a little shopping center food court near the house. The food was very good.   It was late in the afternoon before we got back to the Cameron home. We were tired but very happy.

Our Time In Kenya: Day One

Ruth and I answered the Call to go to Africa on September 3, 2015. As the sun was rising over the beaches of northeast Florida, we took off for Kenya by way of New York and Amsterdam. Our flights were long and our layovers too, but we at least got a good price on our tickets! 8 hours in New York's JFK airport, 8 hours in flight, 4 hours in Amsterdam's airport then 9 hours to Nairobi. We arrived at 8:30 on Friday evening and shot out of their airport by 10:00 p.m. Just in time for an hour by taxi to the Nairobi home of Don and Becky Cameron, our long time friends and missionaries to Kenya.

We came to Kenya as members of Burning Plow Ministries Board of Directors. This is a Missions organization founded five years ago by the Camerons. I first met Don and Becky Cameron in the mid 1970's in Rockwall, Texas where I was pastor of an Assembly of God Church and Don was a local Pharmacist/ Businessman. It wasn't long before we became life long friends and ministry partners. We travelled to Haiti twice and later met in India for missions work. This will be my first time with them in Kenya.

That first evening in Nairobi we had a late supper (bar b que chicken) and quickly went to bed very tired. We awakened Saturday morning to the songs of African birds outside our window and a couple of rude roosters. Becky had prepared a nice breakfast for us and our first cup of Kenyan coffee with powdered hazelnut creamer.  Not long after breakfast, members of the Burning Plow Ministries Team began arriving with their wives and children. Caleb and Maurine Otieno, Silas and Phanis Odinga, James and Helen Oduar, Vincent and Peris Mokaya. We enjoyed hearing their testimonies and getting acquainted with their ministries. Caleb has a ministry called More Than Music which reaches youth in the high schools through music and teaching in Christian Foundational Doctrines. His ministry is so effective that our church in Jacksonville, Cornerstone, bought him a motorcycle last January so he can reach more schools. Silas is Don Cameron's right hand who helps with Foundations Classes throughout Kenya. Vincent is also helping with the classes and outreach while also Pastoring a church near a coffee and tea plantation north of the city. I laid hands on each of the guys and prayed over them and Ruth prayed for the wives. We ended our meeting with communion followed by a group picture on the front steps. It was a very rewarding time that I had looked forward to very much. I am a firm believer in the doctrine and practice of laying on of hands.

Saturday evening we went to a place in a nearby mall called Java House and ate an early dinner. I had fish and chips. We were tired so we went to bed early but very happy to be in Kenya.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ronny and Norma Thomason 45 Years Ago

45 Years ago, March 26, 1970 I married Norma Joyce Pratt. 

We enjoyed 33 years of blessed marriage until she passed away on Sept. 4, 2003. Below is something I wrote years ago about our meeting, courtship, and wedding. I hope you enjoy this brief trip down memory lane.

In the early spring of 1969, I was conducting weekend youth revivals with two of my friends, Ricky Pfeil and Michael Riggins.  We all three attended West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas where we had launched a college campus ministry known in the Assemblies of God as Chi Alpha.  My freshman year was the first year of this small campus ministry, but we had built it up to about 30 students from this secular university.  On weekends, the “Evangelistic Trio” as we called ourselves, would travel around the Texas Panhandle preaching in Assembly of God churches.
My first recollection of Norma Joyce Pratt was at one of these youth revivals in the Assembly of God Church in Stinnett, Texas (just north of Borger, Texas).  I was preaching on a Saturday night and a car load of teens had driven up from Panhandle to attend the meeting with their Pastor, R C Hopper.  I was sitting on the platform about to preach when Norma was called to sing. I remember looking down at my Bible the whole time she was on the platform, but very aware of her. I thought she was beautiful and could sing like an angel.  While looking down at my Bible, I did notice her shapely legs as she walked by, I immediately rebuked myself for such “unspiritual eye-wanderings”.
Just a couple of weeks after the Stinnett encounter, the “Trio” was invited to sing at a Youth Rally in Borger, Texas.  The group from Panhandle was there also and after the rally we bumped into them at a local restaurant in downtown Borger.  Pastor Hopper was all excited about their church building and insisted that we stop by to see it on our way back to Amarillo, which we did. Norma was in that Volkswagen but I have no recollection of her that night. She remembered it though.
R C Hopper invited our “Trio” to minister at the Assembly of God Church in Panhandle in May of 1969.  On Sunday morning, I was sitting in a Sunday School class when Norma Joyce came bounding through collecting Sunday School records for the Sunday School Secretary.  She had her hair in a pony tail and got my attention real good.  After the service I asked Pastor Hopper about her.
That very Sunday evening we were closing the service.  I had preached and Mike Riggins was doing the altar service.  Ricky was playing the piano and singing while I leaned on the piano to watch the altar activity.  The youth of the church were all standing across the church facing the altars praying and seeking God.  I watched them attentively when suddenly my eyes fixed on the girl standing in the middle.  It was Norma! I heard the Lord say in my spirit, “This is the one I have chosen for you to marry”.
I was so shocked by this declaration from the Lord that I did not believe it was really from Him.  The three of us (Ricky, Mike, and I) had made an agreement that we wouldn’t defile our ministry by dating the girls we met in the churches.  So we left town with me musing this over in my heart.
In the weeks to come, our trio broke up and went our separate ways. I continued to preach on weekends and work at various jobs to get enough money to go back to college in the Fall.  I also kept going back to Panhandle to visit my new friends, RC and Cecilia Hopper in their upstairs apartment behind the church.  He would play his guitar and sing me songs he had written.  I was really attracted to them and they showed me hospitality.  During these visits, some of the other teenage girls in the church would “drop by” the Pastor’s apartment. It wasn’t long until they were showing up at churches where I would be preaching and would sit by me at Youth Rallies. There were three of them.  I would always ask them where Norma was and she was always at home.  I knew in my heart that I needed to pursue Norma but I wasn’t sure how.  I believe to this very day that the Lord helped me do what I did because everything worked well to get her attention and to eventually win her heart.
One day in June of 1969, I was visiting Kathy Anderson at her mother’s beauty shop and I noticed a customer sitting under the hair dryer.  It was Norma.  When she was ready to go, we all went to the Dairy Corner for lunch and then I offered to take her to the farm.  She accepted my offer and we drove out to the farm which was about 5 miles west of town.  When we drove into the farm yard there was a lot of activity.  Vernon was washing his car, others were scurrying about. It was a bee hive of activity.  Only then did I learn that that was Vernon’s wedding day!  Some of the young men working at the farm gave me some mean looks so I just let Norma out and drove away.
A week or so later, I bought a travel alarm clock and wrapped it up and mailed it to Norma for a graduation present.  Then I sent her a letter in code asking her to be my friend.  Each letter of the note was from a Bible reference.  She said it took her and her mother a long time to decipher the note, but they both were impressed.
In August I went by to visit her at the farm and to meet her parents. Her Dad was more interested in some weather balloons floating by than the boy that came to see his daughter.  It was a very awkward time, but she consented to go with me to the Ice Capades the next week in Amarillo.
I picked Norma up in a purple 1960 Chevy Impala that blew a thick cloud of smoke.  It was the only time I ever drove that car.  It was huge, so I placed my plaid sports coat on the right side of the front seat so Norma would sit next to me.  She didn’t.  We went first to the Chinese Restaurant in Amarillo on Paramount Blvd.  Neither of us had ever eaten at a Chinese Restaurant. It was a great experience.  We laughed a lot and had a good time.  Then we went to the Ice Capades at the Civic Center.  We enjoyed the show, but she would not hold hands with me.  After the show we went to the Rose Gardens at Amarillo College and walked around in the gardens.  Then I drove her home by way of the mail box on the highway where we stopped to look up at the stars which blanketed the sky.  I told her that those stars belonged to my Father and she could have them if she married me.  She laughed.  I took her home and returned to Amarillo very much in love with her.  She remembered that night vividly the rest of her life.  In 1996 she wrote the following poem about that night:    
Forever Young
With him I am forever young
The star-light evenings glow
With stars in past forever bright
“mail-box” nights only we know
Some days I wonder-fear creeps in.
If ever I’m alone, will I be just one more-old?
Together we have so much past
Together we are ageless
Together we must stay- must stay-
Without you, I am pageless
No further writing of my life
If you will not be in it
The final page- the final door
“Growing old gracefully” is what it’s called
but what about the others
whose “graceful” time was torn from them
torn from the graceful arms of lovers?

Norma Joyce attended West Texas State University in the Fall of 1969 and lived at Brown Hall, right across the street from the Library.  She was persuaded to attend meetings of Chi Alpha, the Student Fraternity that Mike Riggins and I started the year before.  We had “pledge week” to start off the new school term.  This was a get acquainted effort for the freshman class students to be welcomed into the fraternity.  We would write their names on paper and put them in a hat.  The upper classmen would draw their names out of the hat.  Whoever drew the Freshman’s name, became their “Master” for the week. They would have to carry their Master’s books, and do small chores of a Christian nature.  I drew Norma’s name out of the hat.  By the end of the week we were inseparable.  Everyone had so much fun that we all decided to do it again for a second week, so we wrote the Freshmen’s names down and put them in the hat.  I drew Norma’s name again!  Amid cries of “cheaters” and “draw again” we insisted that it was honest and the Lord’s Will.
For weeks to come, college took a back seat to my pursuits of Norma’s hand in marriage.  Our courtship included W.T.S.U. football games, Chi Alpha activities, going places on Sunday to preach. I would preach and she would sing. Finally, one day in early November while we were studying in the Library, I wrote on a legal pad “Will you marry me?”  “She wrote back, “If you will let me study, I will marry you”.  I was the happiest boy alive.  I was 19 and she was 18.

Chi Alpha went to the Amarillo Blood Bank one day to donate blood.  Norma and I donated our blood and then went downtown to Cizon’s Jewelers and picked out our rings.  I went back later and picked them up and signed for the loan.  It was my first debt.  We announced our engagement Thanksgiving Day at Grandma Hazel’s house in Panhandle.

I continued to go to college and Norma signed up for a Medical-Receptionist course at The Amarillo Career Training Center located on Polk Street.  I remember dropping her off at school one day during the noon hour. As she crossed to the other side of the street and walked toward her building, something came over me and I yelled across the street, “Norma Pratt, I love You!”  I could see her smile and it was worth all the stares I got from people on the street.  We never forgot that moment.
As we got closer to our wedding day, I began working from 3:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. as a school janitor. It was very difficult for me because it kept me from being with Norma in the evenings. She was preparing for the wedding and I was stuck cleaning schools.
When we were able to be together, we went looking for an apartment to live in after we were married.  We looked everywhere, but everything was more expensive than we could afford.  Finally, my Dad found us a duplex not far from his house for $50 per month.  Even back then, that was an amazingly low rent. It included water.  It was a one bedroom with a detached garage. It was right next to a Baptist Church parking lot and right off of the freeway going north out of Amarillo.
The day before the wedding day, Norma’s dad and I moved a huge refrigerator from the farm to the duplex. Once we got it unloaded and in the house, it wouldn’t work. We spent a few tense moments trying to fix it and finally got the refrigerator part going, but not the freezer.  We later exchanged it for a smaller version that worked.  Norma and I spent some time moving pieces of furniture into the duplex that we gathered from box cars, basements, attics, etc.  We did not have much furniture, but we did not have much room for it either.
As we were leaving that last day before the wedding, Norma let go of the screen door just in time to break my glasses.  I did not have time to do anything about it, so I gave them to my mother. She was to go have them put in a new frame. Instead, she took one of her horned rimmed frames and had them squeeze my lenses into them. I did not wear them during the wedding ceremony, but had to wear them to drive.

Our wedding was in the First Assembly of God Church in Panhandle, Texas with R C Hopper officiating.  It was on Thursday, March 26, 1970.  The day before Good Friday.
It snowed the night before and was windy and snowy the day of, so many people did not come from Amarillo.  There was around 50 people there and it was a nice wedding.  The reception was held at the First National Bank’s Heritage Room.

We left that evening after the reception in my dad’s blue 1964 Ford Galaxie 500.  It was all painted up and decorated with toilet paper and streamers stuck on with Vaseline. We headed West with $60 cash in our pockets.  Our first night was at a Best Western Motel in Clovis, New Mexico.  We got the “honeymoon suite” which was just a room with a king size bed. We had a very romantic evening in spite of being extremely tired.
Our first full day of being a married couple was spent driving from Clovis to Carlsbad, with a brief stop in between to wash the black shoe polish and Vaseline off of the car.  We arrived in Carlsbad in time to order in Pizza, relax a bit, and then go to a Good Friday service at the local Assembly of God Church. They looked at us kind of strangely when we told them we were on our honeymoon.
The next day, Saturday, we went to the Caverns and took the tour, then drove on to Lubbock, Texas.  We called Norma’s folks and learned that it had snowed some more and was going to snow again soon.  We decided to drive the 120 miles to Amarillo and arrived there around mid-night.  Before going home, we stopped at a 7 Eleven and bought some orange juice and something to snack on.  When we got to the house, Norma dropped the sack containing the orange juice and my billfold. It became a sticky mess.  She was upset until I changed the subject by carrying her over the threshold.  That night, there had been no heat in the duplex, so our home was ice cold.
The next morning was Easter Sunday, so we thought we had to go to church.  We got all ready to go only to discover that the car had a flat tire and a snow drift behind it.  I changed the flat and shoveled the snow and we went off to church.  Unfortunately, our delay made us late to church.  When walked in, everyone turned and smiled at us with that look that says, “We know why you are late, you newlyweds”.  We wished we had just stayed home.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Aaron and Stephanie

This week we celebrated the birthdays of two of the most important people in my life, Aaron Thomason (my son) and Stephanie Thomason ( Aaron's wife). These two special people have brought me so much joy and happiness through their loving relationship, their devotion to Jesus, their two precious children (Ethan & Marlee), and their love shown to me in a myriad of ways. I am so proud to be a part of their lives, to have them as leaders in the church I pastor and to be able to watch them shine for God's Glory!