Probably all friends have an influence on everyone’s life and life decisions, but it seems that these are the first two to have as much influence as they did, maybe the biggest influence on the biggest turning point in my life, going from medicine to ministry. I will never forget Willis Moore and Gary Stringer! They brought much joy to my life during what could have been 3 semesters of hell for me. In feature photo I’m center, Willis left & Gary right.
After I got settled into my dorm with a stranger roommate and my very difficult class schedule and a new independent daily schedule and necessities like laundry worked out, I felt alone and a little lost in a huge unknown world, even a little scary at times. Then I hesitatingly went to the Baptist Student Union, BSU, to check it out and see if anybody there was even a little bit like me. And wow! I fit in immediately and was welcomed like no where else on that big campus. I’m not sure how soon I met Willis and Gary but being locals, they felt right at home and just took me in. Maybe it was pity, but I think Christian love and we very soon became buddies, along with the one girl, Gloria who was actually Willis’s girlfriend, but a friend or buddy to all of us. Willis was an OU Geology Professor’s son and Gary the son of the local Baptist Association Director, called Associational Missionary then.
Willis and Gary got me involved in the Freshman Council of the BSU and participating in both fun and spiritual activities. We traveled together to a BSU Convention and the World Mission Conference in Fort Worth and then in the summer of ’59 between Freshman and Sophomore years we drove Willis’s VW Bug from Norman, OK to Seattle, WN where we all three served as “Tentmaker Summer Missionaries” with the tentmaker part referring to Paul who paid his own way as a missionary making tents. It was an opportunity of a lifetime for me to both work and earn money (full time Supermarket Checker) plus do ministry in an area Southern Baptists called a “Pioneer Mission Field,” meaning there were not many Southern Baptist or other similar evangelical Christians. I got missions in my blood for sure by the end of that summer.
During that Fall Semester (my last), Willis planned a trip in his VW Beetle again to see a last year Freshman who had left OU to return to his home state of Mississippi for school and again the three of us traveled across country, a little shorter distance this time, to see our old friend, stopping for a night at my folks house in Camden, AR with Dad trying to entertain us with an old-fashion Swinging Jenny like when he was a boy. And they got their first whiff of a paper mill which was the biggest industry in Camden.
We did lots of BSU things together but also other things like I double-dated with Gary in his Dad’s car to a movie theater in OKC and then we somehow got in a ditch on the way home. Glad Gary was driving! 🙂 His Dad had to come rescue us. And I’m sure there were other things I just don’t remember 60 years later! 🙂
After I changed schools to Ouachita in Arkansas, Willis and I stayed in touch by mail but Gary was just not a letter-writer and did not answer my letters nor keep me posted on his future, while Willis did until after graduation and he and Gloria were married. I mostly just got their Christmas Newsletters after that and they lived in Hawaii. Then when Willis and Gloria were divorced, I lost all contact with both of them as well as Gary.
All My Photos with Willis and/or Gary
A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.~Proverbs 27:9
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