AN OLD PREACHER GETS THROWN BACK ON THE “POTTER’S WHEEL”
Starting the New Year we need to look carefully at the past! As many of you know, I am now 91 years old and have been in active ministry more than 70 years. Looking forward, 70 years is a very long time, but looking back it is the blink of an eye. Either way, it means I have lived through major events in American and Church history. I was born in 1930, during the “Great Depression” and among other things vividly remember the 1941 Sunday-morning attack on Pearl Harbor. When Newscasters broke into the church programs that day with news of Tokyo’s surprise assault, neighbors started running house to house, cars were stopping in the streets, some were weeping publicly. World War II was no longer across the ocean; it was upon us! Many had sons stationed in Pearl Harbor. In that moment, American life changed. Men were called into military service. Weddings were cancelled. Adolph Hitler declared war on us before we did on him. His screaming tirades became a familiar sound on the radio. President Roosevelt and England’s Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, gave us reassurance. We prayed anxiously during the events that followed and the “D-Day” invasion of Normandy. When that day ended more than 4,000 young men were dead. These and a thousand other frightening events of World War II still ring clearly in my mind. Immediately, numerous American ships were torpedoed near the Florida beach where I now live. It was here that bodies of young American sailors washed ashore. This began a series of German submarine attacks in which more than 400 American vessels were torpedoed on the U.S. coastline. This scary fact was kept from the American public. One painful memory is of a tiger shark being caught off the coast of Miami with a human hand inside. It was fingerprinted and identified as a young American sailor. Many of these memories are painful; others are joyous. I think about the truck loads of German Prisoners of War I saw passing our house daily in Miami. These men were happy, laughing, thankful to have been captured. They were the fortunate ones--and knew it. They cleaned our streets and I was sometimes close enough to them to see their joy. Prison life in the U.S. was much better than battle-life in Europe. There was no television in those days but we never turned off the radio: Anxiously, we listened to every newscast. The war was all around us; we had family members fighting in Europe and the Pacific. The War in Europe finally ended–May 8, 1945–with nearly half a million American soldiers dead. I will never forget when the announcement came over the loud speaker at my High School that Germany had surrendered, students began leaping to their feet, shouting and throwing books in the air. Others burst into tears. Fathers were coming home! Families would be reunited! That night thousands of celebrants flooded into downtown Miami and were dancing in the streets. Biscayne Boulevard and Flagler Street were cordoned-off for the big party. People were laughing, crying, singing, some were waving flags and others holding up beer bottles. On the sidewalk the Salvation Army Band played hymns, their choir sang, and one of their officers preached to a non-listening crowd. Thankfully, those happy memories are still alive in my mind. I can never forget them. Here is an amazing fact: Exactly 50 years later–Armistice Day, May 8, 1995–I was returning to the U.S. from Kazakhstan. I had accompanied Derek Prince as part of his Ministry Team and also addressed the Graduating Class at a local Mission School. Flying over Germany and looking from the plane window, I saw beautiful farms, green pastures, and a serene countryside. There were no smoking ruins, bombed-out cities, dead cattle, and slaughtered people. Nazism was dead! The sight before me was tranquil. I thanked the Lord that the cause of righteousness had won the War. Peace prevailed. Immediately, I thought about the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi criminals and the sentencing of the International Gangsters who caused such international tragedy. They were executed by hanging and we daily saw photographs of the event. Photos of Concentration Camps with starved corpses, stark-looking survivors, and other unspeakably horrible conditions, were also part of the news Memory can be an astonishing thing! It instantly took me back to 1948: I was walking to the bus stop early one morning and looking up, in the air above me, saw a vision of myself preaching. It was photographically-perfect–and only one second long. Instantly, it was gone. Terrified, I stopped in my tracks. I knew what it meant: I had been “Called” to the Ministry! My future was sovereignly– radically–changed. In the blink-of-an-eye, my career was re-set into something I did not want . It was not a happy moment for me. I intended to serve God but expected to fulfill my own career. I had only one talent–Botanical Science–and planned to become an explorer in the jungles of South America. I had already corresponded with Dr. Charles Alexander, one of the world’s leading botanists and orchidologists in San Jose, Costa Rica, who encouraged me to come. Botany was not only a talent: It was the love of my life. I had nothing else. My green-house was filled with orchid plants from around the world. When I saw the vision I knew my plans were dead. I would never see the jungle. Cars were whizzing past me but I did not look up. “No! No!” I wept. “Lord! No! Not me!” It is impossible to describe my sense of tragedy. Botany was not just an interest; It was my life. I had nothing else. When I was sixteen years old I won a First Prize–Blue Ribbon–for my educational exhibit at the International Orchid Show in Miami. My display featured native orchids of Florida. I knew scores of their botanical names: Oncidium luridum, Cyrtopodium punctatum, Epidendrum conopsium, and many others. Friends in South America shipped me plants they had taken from the jungle. I will never forget opening a carton of Cattley Maxima plants from Ecuador and seeing their beautiful blooms in the box. This was my only talent! Standing there with traffic whizzing by, I had not been asked to preach–I had been commanded to do so. Slowly I resumed my way to school but told no one what had happened. One month before Easter I suddenly knew I would preach my first sermon on that day. The message was frightening. Without realizing it, I had received a “word of knowledge” (I Corinthians 12:8). I told no one but God revealed it to my pastor and the following Easter Sunday, my church, the Miami Primitive Baptist, licensed me to preach. That night, frightened and shaken, I preached from Romans 8:28; soon afterward I began traveling, preaching to other congregations. Later that year I became pastor of a wonderful congregation in Atlanta and on Christmas Day, 1949, returned to Miami to be Ordained. Now, many years later, I have been to Latin America many times, preaching from Argentina to Mexico--but have never been in the jungle. I AM THROWN BACK ON THE POTTER’S WHEEL Years passed and in 1973, on a flight home from Israel, the Holy Spirit commanded me to begin a Gospel Mission in Haiti. That was soon done and a few years later I was sitting alone on one of Haiti’s mountainsides, looked down, and at my feet was one of Florida’s rarest orchids. It was a tiny Oncidium varigatum. Touching it lovingly, I had a “flash-back” to the Miami-Vision; In effect, it seemed to say, “I am a temporary plant. The Kingdom you are serving is eternal. You made the right choice.” Other memories rushed back: That historic morning in Miami I was told that my ministry would be divided into two parts: A pastoral ministry would come first. That would be followed by one in which I traveled. There was a secrecy about the second part that troubled me. My pastoral years were blessed and good. I was happy and contented. Then in 1977, almost thirty years after my Ordination, while I was pastor of a wonderful congregation in Atlanta, my family crashed into incredible darkness. My beloved wife Laurie was in a tragic automobile wreck. Everything in life turned black, up-side-down, and we swam through bloody seas of grief. She was 40 days in the hospital and was finally sent home--but unable to lift herself out of bed or walk. Slowly, she recovered. At the same time insomnia plagued me like a bear. In the daytime I wanted it to be night; at night time I wanted it to be day. Medication made me worse. I walked for miles trying to escape my pain. With no help, in time I became suicidal. More than once, I drove my car out the Stone Mountain Freeway, floor-boarded the accelerator, took my hands off the wheel and screamed at God: “What are you going to do about it?!” Amazingly, He kept me alive. Other times I walked for miles. One morning I was a long way from home. Suddenly, I heard the Lord say: “Here in the city of Atlanta you will meet your Ananias.” The message puzzled me and I quickly ignored it. It meant nothing to me. Soon afterward, desperation drove me to volunteer as a Counselor at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. I hoped that being with other men in crisis would help me escape my own. The Chaplain, who knew nothing of my motive, assigned me to a young inmate, a former armed-gangster, whose lifestyle had terrorized many. He was born into a family of professional criminals and continued their example. That suddenly changed when he was captured, arrested, and sent to prison. The year before we met, God sovereignly moved into his life, he was born-again, delivered from drug addiction, suicide, and filled with the Holy Spirit. All this had occurred in the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Penitentiary. In all my years of ministry I had never met anyone else like him–a spiritual aura rested on him. He told me facts about myself that no one else but God and I knew. He explained scriptures that I had read privately and wondered what they meant. I had no schedule for my visits but he sometimes knew in advance and would be waiting for me. These strange happenings he claimed were “words of knowledge,” (1 Corinthians 12:8). In spite of my 30 years in ministry I knew nothing about his kind of spirituality--but I secretly wanted what he had. Several months passed with my visiting him every week. I became desperate to know the Lord as he did–but I had a serious problem: He prayed in “tongues” which my Primitive Baptist mind-set denied was real. All the while, my crisis increased. Depression hounded me like a wolf. Finally, one day in the Visitors Room my mind fell into a black hole of depression. With Mafia Inmates watching, in utter despair I dropped my face on the table. There was no desire to survive left in me. Tom never explained but quietly laid his hand on my head. I heard him say, “Brother Charles, ‘The Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road as you came has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’” Those were the exact words Ananias spoke to Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:17). The message God announced during my morning walk that early morning had been exactly fulfilled: Tom was my “Ananias.” It must have seemed strange to the other prisoners and their wives in the Visitors Room: The inmate was praying for the pastor. The one in the white shirt, tie, and dressy suit, was receiving ministry from the one in prison-garb. A few minutes later, unchanged, I left the prison still gripped in suicidal depression. The Holy Spirit waited until I got home. As I fell across the bed He seized something evil in my body and began to jerk it out. Until that moment I did not know an alien-spirit was there. Mentally, I felt like a huge oak was being jerked out of me. Its roots were wrapped around my bones. The struggle became violent, reaching the intensity of a blur. A minute later the “thing”slid out like an eel. In that instant all my death-wish was gone. Unknown to me, I had been exorcised of a demon of depression and suicide. Perhaps there was a dozen of them. No words can describe the freedom I suddenly felt. It was awesome! Instantly, I was bathed–caressed–in oceans of incredible love. I felt the Holy Spirit pouring–pouring–pouring–pouring–into me. How long the Presence was upon me I do not know. Like Moses, I was baptized in the "Sea and in the Cloud." “Whether in the body or out of the body,” I could not tell” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). I am certain that I did not move but it seemed that my body lifted from the bed and became suspended in space. No sense of gravity touched me. My dimension was absorbed into another which had no bounds or limitations. My “dark night of the soul” had ended forever! Weeping had endured for a night but joy had finally come in the morning (Psalm 30:5). The following lines are inadequate but are my best description. Read them reverently: Earth receded! It disappeared! Heaven opened on my eyes– My ears with sounds angelic rang– Heaven came down my soul to greet And Glory crowned the Mercy Seat! There, I bathed my weary soul In seas of heavenly rest, And not a wave of trouble rolled Across my peaceful breast ... The long-range effects were phenomenal. For two years I never read a newspaper, watched T.V., listened to radio, or sang a secular song. Nor was that achieved by self-discipline. Such effort was unnecessary. I wanted nothing to interfere with my new love for Jesus. Old attitudes instantly changed; others disappeared totally, never to return. Many denominational errors that had gripped me from youth vanished. Suddenly I knew Jesus still healed. Like it or not, I knew the gift of tongues was God’s method for crucifying our religious ego, vanity, and intellectualism. There were many other benefits but it also identified us with the Universal Body of Christ. Other languages like English, Russian, Chinese, identify us only with the local church. While I was more motivated to love the church than I had ever been I saw the greater reality of the Kingdom of God. It was superlative! The Kingdom was all-encompassing! I later discovered that in the Gospels, Jesus spoke of the Church only three times. In contrast, He spoke of the Kingdom some 130 times. Best of all, the Kingdom had finally come to me and for the first time I was experiencing its power. The old preacher had been thrown back on the potter’s wheel! ____________________________________________________________________________________________ Tony Morrongiello Passed Away My wonderful friend and the 23-year Treasurer for this Ministry, Tony Morrongiello, passed away Christmas Day, 2021. He had been hospitalized several weeks with heart problems. Tony is survived by his wonderful wife Barbara and a host of loving friends. Growing up on the streets of New York, Tony is an American success story: Childhood was spent in crowded tenement-buildings in the city’s “dark side.” At a young age he was stung by the death of both parents. That did not stop him. As a youthful Italian he was determined to succeed in the “American Dream” and become a contributor to mankind. His mental-gifting was mathematics and this attracted him to the Banking industry; he began here in a menial way in the daytime and studied economics at College night school. Tony’s “gift made room for him,” Proverbs 18:16, he rose quickly and in time became Vice President of the American Express Bank, Wall Street, New York. In that incredible post he was responsible for billions of dollars. Much of his responsibility, he explained to me, was to Latin American Governments. Tony’s life is an amazing success-story.
When he retired from the Bank, he and Barbara moved to South Florida, united with our church, and became faithful members. They were not only attracted to the Bible’s teaching about the miraculous “gifts of the Holy Spirit” but personally experienced them. The night before I asked him to serve in my ministry organization Tony suddenly sat up straight in bed and announced to Barbara: “Charles is going to ask me to serve on his Board as Treasurer!” That happened the next day. He had what scripture calls a “word of knowledge.” 1 Corinthians 12:8. But, best of all! We were not just friends–we were brothers–and in all our years of working together, we never had one quarrel or conflict. It did not happen! Here is my “salute” to this wonderful man: He gave me and this Ministry the same watchful, loving, prayerful eye, that he gave some of the biggest bank-accounts in the world. No one else will ever take his place in my life and love! Thank you Tony! You are loved, greatly missed, by all of us at Charles Carrin Ministries. You and Barbara loved us, prayed for us, gave your time to us! Best of all! Everyone of us will see you again! We too will be there! — Charles Carrin