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I began atchildhood_birth_ouch the young age of -9 months in 1965 and was violently pushed out of my comfort zone in 1966.  I heard it was a traumatic experience, to be sure… but I just don’t remember anything.  The only thing that visibly remains from the entire event is a birth mark, an ‘innie” belly button, and the continued love of my father and mother.

Although I almost never mention my Northern birth (it’s a Southern pride thing), I do claim to be a true Southerner (and not a Yankee) because I grew up along the Mississippi Gulf Coast since age 2.  I’m a common extra hyphenated American like many, will_rogers_oldphoto2a true ‘multi-cultural’ melting pot.  I’m an Anglo(England)-Irish-Welsh-Dutch-Swedish-German-Scottish-Cherokee American.  A little more (1/8th) on the Cherokee and Irish background.  Some in the family even think we’re related in some way to Will Rogers because our Rogers side of the family came from the same area in Oklahoma.  I guess that might be where I get some of my story telling and funny joke genes from.  But that’s enough about my blood relations and as you know all mankind’s blood is the same.  We all bleed red and are equal in God’s eyes.  And of course the real important stuff in life is not where you’ve been but who you are now in God, the creator of the universe.

My Parents on their Honeymoon
in the Ozark Mountains

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I had to get these pictures in here.  Don’t you just love the old photos of your parents… they look so young, weird, and goofy, but here they have a kind of 1950s cool look.
Their story is she was a Navy Brat stationed in Nebraska with her family and my Dad was just a few years in the Air Force stationed there also.  They met at church, had their first date at a Youth for Christ meeting, got married, had kids, and as they say the rest is history.

My Dad, being an Air Force man, got moved around from time to time but by the time I came about we only moved to Clark AFB in the Philippines during the Vietnam War and then in 1968 to Biloxi at Keesler AFB were my Dad eventually retired.  So I can say I’ve traveled overseas, I just don’t remember it except that my first vague memory was crawling up and down an airplane isle and having strange people look at me from above.

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Indiana – Me at Age 0
with my two older brothers

I’m the one be held hostage… oh I mean being held up cause I didn’t walk yet… the hostage taking came much later in life.

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Me at Age 1
Philippines – Clark AFB
with my two older brothers

Yes, I’m an Air Force Brat.  I grew up around Keesler AFB and have seen it and Biloxi change a lot over the decades.  I even remember Pass Road as a challenge to maneuver, and the stress it caused my parents to drive, due to it being a two lane road and full of pot holes all the time.  I and my family rode out Hurricane Camille in 1969 at a church on Pass Road, and although a child, I do have memories of the stress of the time and of bathing with our clothes on and getting water under the water tower on Lorraine Road along with other hurricane victims.  Other early memories as a child growing up on the Coast was when we got to ride over the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge which tested everyone’s shock absorbers but to a child was like riding a wild horse — up and down, up and down — and I always made the best of it getting an additional bounce off of the car seat.  I always got a kick out of it then and even to some extent today.   But now Katrina destroyed that tradition and someday they’ll build a new bridge but most likely without the up-and-down amusement ride offering for children and some adults.  And now I can say I’ve survived Camille and Katrina — the two biggies.

A Mark Twain, Jerry Clower type of Childhood.

me-1971-hatI had a true Mark Twain – Jerry Clower type of upbringing in the South.  Most have heard of Mark Twain and I hope the same of Jerry Clower, but for those who don’t know Jerry Clower is one of the South’s greatest comedians.  He talked a lot about growing up in Mississippi, about very interesting Southern characters, and told great, colorful stories about the Southern experience.  With my first grade girlfriend’s name being “Tulia” and my best friend as a child being called “Chambo” you kind of get the hint of what type stories I could tell.

More about Jerry Clower from:  OleMiss  Wikipedia  Amazon.com

 Growing up Southern Baptist in South Mississippi and having a minister as a father can also make for some very interesting stories.  For example, the time that our cat unknowingly went to church with us and ended up in the choir loft during the Sunday morning service.  It ended up stepping on toes of the choir members while they were singing!  Needless to say the excitement of the music went to a whole another level that day.  Some might have thought the choir had gotten “filled with the Holy Ghost!” – but it was only a stealthy cat advance.

I saw the whole thing!  I was sitting in a pew toward the front and saw the grey haired Persian make a miraculous appearance walking under the choir loft door.  Then I saw choir members suddenly look down and jump up and back to avoid the darting cat.  As a young boy I quickly got up and chased the cat through the choir loft and around the sanctuary and learned new ways to be inspired by God that day for my quickness got the scrambling cat in 3 minutes flat.  The cat, Smokie we called her, was exiled to the pastor’s parsonage till services were over and promptly returned home afterwards no worse for wear, except that I got some good scratch marks in return.  It is memories like this that makes a very blessed and interesting childhood.


childhood_elem_port2I first awakened to the saving knowledge of the Messiah at the age of 6, as my father, using a plastic multi-colored witnessing glove, stepped me through the reasons why I needed to be saved and how to pray for salvation.  I did and I believe that the Messiah has had his hand on me ever since.

My life has always been filled with ministry, even at the age of 6, due mostly to the fact that my father has always been an active minister and he brought me along.  At this age, my life was filled with church youth group activities which my Dad led, going to other churches to help in different ministries, and attending several Billy Graham events at large outdoor stadiums in our area.  I had always been fortunate to be around and learn from ministries in dynamic evangelism, lay training, and outreach from a young age.

vbs-lOne of the most personally influential ministries upon my life as a child and teenager was the Royal Ambassadors.  A simple explanation of RAs might be they are similar to Boy Scouts but RAs is much more than that.  RAs became my connection to the world of missions and ministry and provided a peer group of boys to become friends with.  I proudly became a member at the age of 6 at Big Ridge Baptist Church and continued as an active member throughout my teen age years at different churches.  As an adult today I still consider myself a Royal Ambassador and still live by and can quote the RA Pledge from memory.

Royal Ambassador Pledge:
As a Royal Ambassador, I will do my best:
to become a well informed responsible follower of Christ
to have a Christ-like concern for all people
to learn how the message of Christ is carried around the world
to work with others in sharing Christ; and
to keep myself clean and healthy in mind and body.

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www.RoyalAmbassadors.org


childhood_dadcomicsOne of my great Sunday traditions with my Dad 
growing up was, after every Sunday morning service, on the way home, we’d stop by and get a
barqcremesodaBarq’s Creme Soda (the older brown colored type they don’t make anymore).  Barq’s being based out of Biloxi since 1898 also made it a local hometown favorite.  We would then arrive home and depending on when dinner was ready He would read me the Sunday comics and then after dinner we would play a game of chess.  My story of playing chess dates back to age 4 when we first played.  I remember my Dad asked me about winning and I said don’t let me win I wanted to win on my own.  Well it took almost every Sunday afternoon for 4 years, until the age of 8, till I first beat him on my own.  I was totally thrilled!  Over time he and I continued to play and also with my brothers.  Needless to say, with all the practice, I was a formidable chess opponent with my own unique non-classical style that gave me, most of the time, a clear advantage.  Today I still have that same wooden chess set we first played with at age 4 and used all those Sunday afternoons.

Some of my other memories of my Dad challenging me as a young child was when I unplugged and disassembled his entire component stereo system at the age of 8.   You can just imagine the butterflies of impending doom and punishment I had inside awaiting his return home that day.  And you can just imagine the look on his face when he saw the disaster.  He just looked over the entire mess, sighed, held in his frustration, looked at me and firmly said that I had to put it all back together again.  Now component stereo systems have an external record player, tape deck, amplifier, reel-to-reel, and speakers and with each comes a specific groups of wires that must be hooked up exactly for everything to work.  While some people might get challenged today with operating a VCR, hooking up a component stereo system even for the experienced was always a challenge.  Needless to say as a child of the age of 8 it was a real and exciting adventure and challenge to figure everything out.  For many days throughout the house you could hear the loud sounds of hums, buzzes, and crackles but I got it done in only two weeks flat.   Not bad for a child of 8!  So from a early age I was blessed with logical thinking skills and a curiosity for mechanical systems and how all things worked, of which I had plenty of time to practice.  I remember by teacher always saying, “if you don’t ask you won’t learn.”  So over the years I have asked a lot of questions from a lot of different people trying to understand, which has given me a true unique set of wisdom and understanding about people, the world and God.

Growing up I remember many great youth and adult choir presentations at church.  I went to a lot of Lay Renewal Weekends at regional churches with my parents and was surrounded by this tremendous ministry led by Grant Shipp.  I actually participated in and trained in the work along side other Lay Renewal workers.  Although I was mostly a bystander as a child I absorbed what was being done like a sponge and it has made a big impact on my life.  It was a tremendous time because I was a part of a really great network of ministers in and around the Shipps from growing up at Big Ridge Baptist Church.  I also have fond memories of Mrs. Shipp personally because she used to baby-sit me and others every week during choir practice.

Till age 16 I grew up in the rural countryside of South Mississippi and the rest of my life I’ve lived mostly in Biloxi.  Having a childhood in the 1970s was a great blessing.  In our area it was a time that most people didn’t need to lock their doors or windows and most everyone was community-minded.  The times back then were much safer for children, which also meant that we could get away with a lot more and not get hurt.  With a bike, a child can go almost anywhere.  And I did!  As my mother’s grey hair can testify, I often ran barefoot and wild through the countryside, the woods, and was often found playing over at a friend’s house.  As I got older, me and Chambo, my best friend, were often found in the woods with our BB guns shooting at squirrels and black birds, or building forts to defend our territory from the boys a mile away, or pulling out crawdads from ditches to play with them.  One of my favorite things growing up was to play in my back yard with MatchBox cars in a city I created over and over again with bridges and houses, all made out of Mississippi clay soil, tree bark, and a huge imagination.

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Our Trailer in the Country
A double-wide enough for a growing family.

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Mr. Strongman
An awesome pose from
my room in the trailer

It’s funny how children remember traumatic experiences so clearly.  I’ll relay one account which I believe foretold of a battle that many of us deal with but as a child I could see it more clearly.  I was maybe 6 years old.  The whole family as sitting in the living room watching TV.  It was one of those old huge furniture sized wooden Black & White TV sets that we had watched one of the later moon landings on.  All I remember is that I was crawled up in my father’s lap and — I don’t know if I was dreaming or awake but I firmly believe I saw satanic eyes coming out of the TV set.  While this might sound simple to some, childish to others, as I look back it heralds a very spiritually significant insight.  I was one of those children who grew up with a TV and in the TV age.  My Dad bought one of the first VHS VCRs (the huge ones) and so I could tape a lot of programs (although we only had 3 channels at best via a outside, pole mounted antenna).  There were two years where I missed a lot of school due to being sick.  Being that we only had a few channels, and you can guess what was on daytime television.  I got hooked on soap operas.  Really!  My soap of choice was “General Hospital” when the original Luke & Laura first got started on the show.  Over the years I had taken on my own personal battles in discipline with the TV.  And it’s not easy.  The TV watching experience itself can be very addicting.  I don’t believe all TV is bad.  I believe it’s a tool and can be used for good or evil.  But in today’s world it’s being used more to spread evil.  And this is another challenge for my generation, that is to clean up the air waves and end the wholesale garbage dumping into our culture.

 I did the things most kids
do growing up including
Dixie League Baseball

 

 childhood_baseball1c

grapesbasketI grew up on enough land in the country to be dangerous at raising chickens, maintaining a small vineyard, and planting a small crop of almost anything I wanted.  I got to try out all sorts of things like corn, watermelon, pumpkins, and a wide variety of vegetables.  There is nothing like fresh eggs in the morning and nothing more satisfying than good sweat, hard labor, getting dirt under your fingernails, giving the patience and the attention to detail needed to weed and water the crop, and finally in seeing and personally benefiting from the fruits of one’s labor. 

teen-14thBD2One of the most heart wrenching emotional memories that sticks with me is when I was 14.  The back acreage burnt down also burning down the vineyard.  I rebuilt the trellises and spent over a year and a half nurturing the vines back to health.  In the first year, of course there were no real grapes.  Toward the time of the second year’s harvest I could see that the grapes were going to be full but limited.  Then my Dad sold the country home and we moved into Biloxi.  I never got to taste the fruit of over a year and a half of intense supervision and labor.  I understand and have no ill will toward my father for this but at the time, being 16 years old and growing up on this land from age 4, it was, needless to say, a very traumatic experience.

I grew up going to public schools except for a few years at a Christian school.  The photo at right is from a field trip to see the USS Alabama Battleship (seen in the background) based in Mobile, AL.

 childhood_triptoussal

teen-fbcbiloxiAt the age of 11 my Dad moved us to First Baptist Church of Biloxi where I called home till my early 20s.  In a sense I can say I grew up at FBC Biloxi.  Being 11 and just moving into the large youth group there I became a part of many of the activities from Chapel Choir (our youth choir) to Royal Ambassadors and Sunday and Wednesday night Youth Group meetings.  Being that I had a knack for logic, understanding how systems worked (people and mechanical), and had a deep desire to help, I ended up running and organizing First Baptist’s large two-story gym for many, many years under the supervision of the youth minister.  It wasn’t too long after my being 13 that I took on fixing all of the roller skates, stocking the Coke Machine, mixing Christian music on the PA system, cleaning and organizing the game areas and was well known around the church as ‘the man’ in charge of the gym.  I even had my own set of keys, hence you can imagine the level of responsibility and trust the staff placed in me.  My family also gave a lot of time and effort in ministry there including my mother who was the church librarian for many, many years.

Photos from a Youth Choir (Chapel Choir) Tour

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No, I don’t have any pictures of us singing cause I was in the choir.

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Somebody took my camera, now who?
A quick and candid shot of me

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On the Bus to Florida

“I remember somebody brought along a bunch of Barq’s Root Beer since they didn’t distribute Barq’s in Florida at that time.  They broke it all out one day and served it to all on the bus. Ah!  What a taste of home.”

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Good friends I hung out with

Business is Good!

grit-paper2mIn my early teens I began my first businesses.  I bought and studied a repair manual for bicycles and became the area’s Mr. FixIt for kids for miles around.  Around the age of 14 I became a salesman and even had a Gulf Coast wide delivery route selling the family-oriented, national newspaper called Grit.

In my early teens I began my first businesses.  I bought and studied a repair manual for bicycles and became the area’s Mr. FixIt for kids for miles around.  Around the age of 14 I became a Mason Shoe salesman and even had a Gulf Coast wide delivery route selling the family-oriented, national newspaper called Grit.

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I learned more than I earned and the value was in the experience and in meeting people.  This early habit became a unexpected, deep and meaningful benefit to my life and later emerged as my work ethic.    As I got older I often chose work and business opportunities more for the learning and people experience that I would gain.  This allowed me to grow in the knowledge and understanding in a multitude of types of businesses, organizations, people and situations and allowed me to gain a deep maturity, wisdom, and skill set that far surpassed my age.

This takes me up to the age of 16.

Here are some other family photos:

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Photo of my Great Grandpa
I took with my first camera (age 6)

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Another photo of me at age 1 in the Philippines camping out in the back yard with my brothers.

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My mother’s dad, my Grandpa
(an old navy man) holding my oldest brother as a child.

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Photo of the ship he served on in the Pacific during WWII.

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Grandpa Rogers served in U.S. Army Air Corps based in Europe during WWII.  He was a turret gunner on a B-17 bomber.

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My mom holding my
oldest brother, her first child.

© Copyright 2006  David Rogers  All Rights Reserved.

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