Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Indian Legacy Passed Down

My grandmother, Edith (Flesher) Willobee, at an early age at the turn of the 20th century, was drawn to India to be a missionary. She went alone in 1907 and joined a small group of other American missionaries from the Pentecostal Bands. Two years later a young man, Ross Willobee, whom she had met in Bible school, followed her. The following year, after they had learned Hindi, they married. Two years later, in 1912, their first daughter was born, Ruth, who became my mother. In 1915 a second daughter came, Hope; and in 1919, in the middle of a great Indian famine, my uncle David was born. In 1921 my grandfather, Ross, died of black water fever. Edith took down the new doors in their bungalow to make a coffin for him. It took days for her to obtain the local chief's permission to bury Ross, a strange and uncomfortable custom to the Hindustani; they were used to either burning the dead (if they were rich); or after a brief ceremony in the middle of a field the poor carried the body to a river bed where it was buried on the shore in a shallow grave for animals to dig up and eat that night. A custom still followed. Three days later my little uncle David died. He collapsed suddenly during play of an unknown illness. Distraught, Edith, all alone, except for her daughters, removed the new window shutters from the bungalow and made a second coffin. Without waiting for the local chief's permission she buried David next to his father. The story continues for decades as my grandmother, after a nervous breakdown, gets out of bed years later and packs up three ox carts and for 5 years establishes Christian churches in Central India.

This past week, our eldest daughter, Trudy Nelson, traveled to India on her second short term missionary adventure there to do some teaching with a group of other ladies from her Baptist Church. Their goals was to teach a group of former untouchable ladies about growing in the Christian life. A recent India national law has allowed the untouchables to leave their low caste, join a religion, and change their life. Here is the link to pictures of her trip to Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. In this picture she wears a sari I purchased during my trip to India in 1982.


After I posted the above, my sister wrote me (after seeing the blog link) and reminded me that today is the anniversary of our father’s death. Benjamin R. Williams (d. October 24, 1989). Such a date to Catholics is a celebratory date, because it is the date that a person goes to his reward, which in the life of a saint like my Dad, is the moment when he “won the race set before him.” Dad couldn’t wait to go to heaven and praise Jesus. It was a driving motivation in his life...e.g. his eventual death. My mother, Ruth (the tallest of the girls in the picture above) was much the same. When we buried Dad, I can remember my mom standing next to his fresh grave and joyfully pointing to her future grave next to Dad and saying to me, “Someday my body will be right there. But I’ll be in heaven.”

This morning at Mass the priest (Fr. John Riccardo...yeah, I'm lucky) was telling us a little about St. Anthony Mary Claret (d. 1870), whose life (and death) we celebrate today, giving us yet another example upon which to model our life. I had forgotten that today was the anniversary of dad's death. As I was hearing about a little about the life of St. Claret and the example he was to us, I thought of my Dad...and how he was saints too, and a great example for us to follow. Then I thought about Ross and Ross, and my daughter's recent trip to India...literally (for a few days at least) Trudy was following Edith's example to preach to the poor of India....Edith’s great motivation.

We have all these role models for us...and it was cool that I thought through all of this during Mass this if my guardian angel was reminding me that today was a very special day for me...because of my Dad.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sonny Sez! Just Released

More Shameless Self Promotion.

My next book, as editor (and manager and gofer), has just been released by Wayne State University Press.

"SONNY SEZ! Legends, Yarns, and Downright Truths" is a collection of 100 fascinating stories, 77 drawings, and 31 track Audio CD. You can reach each of the stories about the strange, the unusual, the fascinating and silly - in less than 1 minute.

The stories were written by local television and radio personality Sonny Eliot, with drawings by Draper Hill, retired political caricaturist from the Detroit News. You can read more about our book, Sonny's interesting stories, see a couple of samples of Draper's wonderful drawings, and even hear a sample of the Audio CD I produced that is included in the book at You can also buy it there too....even an autographed copy.

If you're in S.E. Michigan, you are also invited to two book signings for Sonny and Draper. The first will feature not only Sonny and Sonny Sez! but five other great books coming out this fall from WSU Press:
--- "Amos Walker's DETROIT" by Loren D. Estleman, photos by Monte Nagler
-- "Connecting the Dots: Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg Project"
-- "Life with Mae: A Detroit Family Memoir" by Neal Shine
-- "American City: Detroit Architecture, 1845-2005" by Robert Sharoff, photos by William Zbaren, and
-- "Talking Shops: Detroiot Commercial Folk Art" photos by David Clements.
Read more here:

This first event is WSU Press' annual fall benefit, Thursday October 25, 2007 at 6:00 PM at The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Tickets are $20 or $15 for WSU students and staff (with OneCard) and MOCAD members. To RSVP call 313-577-0300 or send an e-mail to MC, VISA or Cash at the door.

Sonny and the other authors will be there to speak about their books and later sign copies for you.

The second event is just for "Sonny Sez!" at the Grosse Point War Memorial, November 29 at 7:30 PM. The event is free but the Grosse Point Libraries ask that you RSVP at their website: --- once they get it on their Events Calendar (lower, right column).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Media Bias Blatant in Iraq Reporting

I have tried to stay away from the political and war debate, but daily I am upset by the linguistic and logical fallacies that are blatantly reported in the news. You can identify such stories by the emotional slant and choice of words in the headlines and key sentences. Most of the reporting is far form objective fact finding, but rather selective agenda driven political. I have come to totally mistrust a story unless I read the same thing on several different news services, and see it on Fox News equally with CNN. Watching White House press conferences really ticks me off, when the old lady in the front ask a multipart question that is soaked in question begging assumptions that you know the administration doesn't accept. It doesn't matter if you agree with the administration, but at least report what they are saying objectively. Or the reporters that get angry with the press secretary because they don't like the answer they were given, and attack the secretary verbally as if he or she was evil. So, I encourage everyone to read the following report. I just wish more people would think critically about the lack of critical reporting currently poisoning the American culture.

Media Bias Blatant in Iraq Reporting

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Saint Jody McLeod

I'm not sure if Jody McLeod is real, or if this actually happened, but it really doesn't matter. The sentiment is true. I'm glad to add this to my blog, even though it is also posted on hundreds of other sites on the web. Oh, that this was plastered as wallpaper in the halls of congress.


This is a statement that was read over the PA s system at the football game at Roane County High School , Kingston , Tennessee , by school Principal, Jody McLeod

"It has always been the custom at Roane County High School football games, to say a prayer and play the National Anthem, to honor God and Country."

Due to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, I am told that saying a Prayer is a violation of Federal Case Law. As I understand the law at this time, I can use this public facility to approve of sexual perversion and call it "an alternate lifestyle," and if someone is offended, that's OK.

I can use it to condone sexual promiscuity, by dispensing condoms and calling it, "safe sex." If someone is offended, that's OK..

I can even use this public facility to present the merits of killing an unborn baby as a "viable! Means of birth control." If someone is offended, no problem...

I can designate a school day as "Earth Day" and involve students in activities to worship religiously and praise the goddess "Mother Earth" and call it "ecology."

I can use literature, videos and presentations in the classroom that depicts people with strong, traditional Christian convictions as "simple minded" and "ignorant" and call it "enlightenment."

However, if anyone uses this facility to honor GOD and to ask HIM to Bless this event with safety and good sportsmanship, then Federal Case Law is violated.

This appears to be inconsistent at best, and at worst, diabolical Apparently, we are to be tolerant of everything and anyone, except GOD and HIS Commandments.

Nevertheless, as a school principal, I frequently ask staff and students to abide by rules with which they do not necessarily agree. For me to do otherwise would be inconsistent at best, and at worst, hypocritical... I suffer from that affliction enough unintentionally. I certainly do not need to add an intentional transgression.

For this reason, I shall "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's," and refrain from praying at this time.

"However, if you feel inspired to honor, praise and thank GOD and ask HIM, in the name of JESUS, to Bless this event, please feel free to do so As far as I know, that's not against the law----yet."

One by one, the people in the stands bowed their heads, held hands with one another and began to pray.

They prayed in the stands. They prayed in the team huddles. They prayed at the concession stand and they prayed in the Announcer's Box!

The only place they didn't pray was in the Supreme Court of the United States of America- the Seat of "Justice" in the "one nation, under GOD."

Somehow, Kingston , Tennessee Remembered what so many have forgotten. We are given the Freedom OF Religion, not the Freedom FROM Religion. Praise! GOD that HIS remnant remains!

JESUS said, "If you are ashamed of ME before men, then I will be ashamed of you before MY FATHER."

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Evangelical Truth Bites from India

A couple of months ago, while driving back from meetings in New York, I stopped at an Ohio Turnpike Rest Stop. I was driving the Nineveh's Crossing van, which, under the logo, is written: Exploring Faith, Values, and History Through Digital Media. As I returned with my bottled water (I had given up finding anything to eat) I noticed a distinguished Indian man in his 60s or 70s standing near by van on the nearby grass. He approached me and asked what "Nineveh's Crossing" meant. He may have also noticed the license plate that reads simply: "NINEVEH". I explained, trying to provide my audience a brief history of the Old Testament story of Jonah, Nineveh, and the reluctant prophet's adventures. At first the man tried to bate me by implying he was Hindu and I needed to explain things to him.

But there was glint in his eye, he wanted me to rush past the story of Jonah as if he was very familiar with it, and then, when I asked, he told me his name -- "Matthew." I almost laughed out loud, and I surely grinned ear-to-ear. Yeah, right! Some Hindu, named after the author of the first book in the New Testament. Give me a break.

Matthew was smart, engaging, and I figured he was one of the long line of Indian Evangelists (some of which I've known both from here and India) who have mastered that delicacy between passion for the Bible and their Christian faith, and a wonderful respect and dignity for the person they're evangelizing. I did not mind being at the other end of what I figured was a seasoned preacher practicing his trade, here on the lawn next to one of America's great turnpikes. There was a Pauline essence to the scene -- and I let it soak in. Matthew really didn't preach at me, but he asked me a lot of questions about my "evangelization" and I ended up giving him a copy of Common Ground.

As it turns out he lives only a few miles from me here in the suburbs of Detroit, and occasionally I receive from him a letter. If you've ever been in a job with some public exposure, you've probably received letters or large envelopes with multiple news clippings or manic letters ranting about something germane or obscure. A while back we received a large envelope from someone (the sender's names are never included) with photostat copies of headlines and articles going back to the 1950s about everything anyone ever associated with the Catholic Church had ever, supposedly done wrong. Scrawled on the margins were rants against Catholicism. But strangely enough the sender had also included some articles about Judaism and Hare Krishna. We had an interesting chuckle and then threw collection away. Two weeks ago, when TBN aired Common Ground in the middle of the night, the 800 lines started to right at 3:30 AM. (Yes the business and production offices, and warehouse for SWC Films and Nineveh's Crossing are in our home). I finally answered the phone and the caller said quickly: "Why don't you people just praise Jesus instead of trying to get Protestants and Catholics to talk to each other? (CLICK)" Go figure. I have no idea what that meant in a rational world. (The phone rang for the next two days. A lot of orders. for the DVD.)

But, when we get letters from people with names and addresses attached I always read it all, and often, if necessary, answer...until we get essentially the SAME letter...proving that my earlier reply was not read, ignored, or not understood.

But when I get a letter from Matthew, it's different. The envelop (usually a stray Hallmark card's was pink) are addressed to "Bro. Stanley D. Williams". The sticker on the back reads "ABORTION: The foundation on which to build a violent society." (I love this guy's sentiments.) The writing is a flamboyant print-cursive not unlike India and Urdu script. He writes in blue ink on think white, thinly lined paper, both sides, no margins, and his lines overlap slightly. His proofing marks, additions, and embellishments are in red, written between the lines. The pages have all the characteristics of a manic "crazy" conspiracy theory radical. Except they read like classic sermons. And here is a selection:
Beloved Bro. Stan,

Loving power (lightening symbol) greetings to you in the Wonderful Holy Jealous name of our Lord, Master, Savior Jesus Christ.
As a sequel to sending the second letter I read the Book of Jonah. It was edifying....It takes a little violence to inherit the kingdom of heaven here on earth. It is a mystery -- the mystery of truth. As the Psalmist prays intently, pleads passionately: Send out your truth (Ps. 43) and your light and usher me into the 3rd day - the day of wonder. Nineveh was a 3-day journey (across). But one day's journey (by Jonah) created such revolutionary change, just imagine had he gone the full course.

But for us God has opened the way to enter the Holy of Hollies and worship him there in Spirit & Truth in the beauty of holiness. You are meant for that! (Jonah 1:6 The captain of the ship said to Jonah: "Rise up and call upon our God! Perhaps God will be mindful of us so that we may not perish." Ephesians 5:14 "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.")

[SW: It's interesting that the ship's captain prophesied and foreshadowed what would happen in Nineveh and in the Passion of Christ.]

Matthew continues: Save and Compare is a popular marketing strategy here in the U.S. Just apply, extrapolate it to the spiritual market of truth and fables. Compare and Save yourself from this untoward generation. That is Peter's prescription. (Acts 2:40). Note verse 41. As I choose, so I eat, and I am what I eat. We have Angel food and Devil's food in the market - literally!

Mask or Manifest (Eph 5:13)
Perish or Flourish (Gal 1:16)
Perversion or Perfection
Slavery or Mastery
Blackness or whiteness as wool & snow (Isa 1)
Flee from or flee to (Heb 6:18)
Pit (of corruption) or Palace (like Joseph's protocol order)
Lying vanities or True value
Corruption or Correction
Select or All (Acts 3:22)
Shadow or Light
Preach for hire or Preach what I bid thee
1 day's journey or a full 3-day Journey

The choice is ours, purely personal. Let us personalize. God spare you. So arise, let Christ shine upon you and pity you. Amen.
I've often heard Christ's reference to his own death and resurrection, as signified by Jonah's three days in the whale. As Jonah goes into the whale, so Christ descends to hell. Coming out of the whale, and out of the grave brings salvation. But Jonah only preaches for 1 day, and the city repents. Imagine if Jonah had gone the extra days? What would have happened if Jesus had only spent 1 day in the grave, instead of 3. The lesson here is perseverance in the face of adversity, and choosing repeatedly, while in the belly's stomach, what is good.