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    Tale of Two Heroes

    “If you don’t believe me, believe me for my work’s sake,” the surprisingly fit, 80 yr-old fixed me with his clear-eyed gaze.

    But did he honestly expect me to believe his fantastic tales of supernatural intervention during his 30-plus years of missions outreach to the poorest of the poor in India and Africa?  Did he expect me to swallow as fact his divine interventions and messages from angels?  Did he expect me to believe he had been imprisoned, beaten, marked for death and befriended by and nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by the most beloved religious icon of our modern age?

    But as I sat in the small circle of folks gathered to hear Kemper Crabb’s tales, I had to admit something deep down wanted desperately to receive it all with the faith of a child.  If I applied C.S. Lewis’s logic, he had to be a liar, a lunatic or… exactly who he said he was.  Pick one.

    In the coming days I transcribed hour after hour of his teasing, Texas-twang voice, laughing at his frequent, unapologetically bad jokes, crying with him when memories of hardship or dying children—those who, as he said, “seemed to have held on long enough to be loved at least once before they died”—forced him to stop to wipe his eyes and swallow hard before he could continue.  Kemper Crabb

    When he spoke of “The Mysteries of the Kingdom,” those secrets found in the scriptures that he had used as guideposts in his treacherous journeys, secrets he said are only given to those who will use them to further THE Kingdom of Heaven, it made painful sense.  When he looked me in the eye and said, “What I do is not rocket science.  I’m simply doing the things Jesus told us to do,” conviction made it hard to breathe.

    Why didn’t more followers of Christ risk it all to do the things Jesus did?  Why didn’t I?

    The question ripped at my soul.  Why indeed? 

    My excuses stretched as long as a child’s Christmas wish list: family, money (missions are expensive), time, fear (exactly how many shots are required for travel to Africa?), danger (four kids would need their mom to return), etc.

    But as the months went by and my friendship with Kemper and his family grew, doubt was erased.  There were photos of some of the hundreds of churches and schools painted his trademark blue and gold; the newspaper article showing a younger Kemper walking side-by-side with Mother Teresa; his wife of five-plus decades who rolled her eyes at his jokes but still smiled when he addressed her as “Baby;” his grandson who studied ancient religious texts, had accompanied his granddad on missions excursions since childhood and had endured Kemper’s ongoing practical jokes of mysterious, creepy articles showing up on his pillow.

    Now that doubt was eliminated, there was nothing to buffer conviction.  Why didn’t more believers live life like Kemper?  Why didn’t I?

    The guilt built, a familiar voice that invaded my prayer time, writing time and even hammered away as I dealt with our kids or did household chores, “Some believer you are.  The world is dying and you’re making a grocery list!”

    This inner battle continued until one summer night as I sat at the Crabb’s kitchen table in Texas and sipped a cup of hot tea with his wife Tommye.  I asked her how she felt about her husband’s exploits, how she had endured months of his being away without any contact as he traveled roads without names facing danger from nature, human and supernatural enemies?

     She took a sip of tea, smiled calmly and stated, “I was mad at God for years because I didn’t feel called to go with him.  It was lonely, the kids were grown and (though she continued her work as a university professor) I was puttering around our big house.”  Then she related moments when she would feel compelled to pray, to gather friends to pray, when she would receive him back home safe and sound then learn later how he had been saved from prison at the time of their prayers. 

    As this soft-spoken, still-lovely woman shared the flip-side of Kemper’s adventures, I looked around their home—at the tasteful furnishings, family photos, vintage/antique charm peppered with exotic souvenirs from Kemper’s travels—and the accusing voice in my head began to fade. 

    Even with the constant reminder of sharing her life with a true apostle of the faith, Tommye Crabb had learned to embrace the role she was called to play as anchor and haven for her adventurous husband.  As a guest in their home, the charm and peace wrapped around me like one of my grandmother’s patchwork quilts. 

    I too would learn to conform to my Master’s call for my life.  Perhaps the day would come for mission adventures in exotic locales, but that would be by God’s leading, not due to self-condemnation. 

    As I drove cross-country with my son, back to the start of a school year, church duties, grocery lists, chauffeuring and family dinners, my heart thrilled at the thought of Kemper’s invitation to accompany him on a church-planting venture in Panama.  It wouldn’t be as long or demanding financially as a trip to Africa, but it’s what I could work into my life as a busy mom, wife and writer since, like Tommye, I had my own haven to maintain.

    Chana is a wife, mom of four and author. She and her family reside in Southern California.  Her first novel, THE FALL (Rapha Chronicles #1) recently topped Amazon's Hebrew/Old Testament Bestseller Category and hit #9 in Science Fiction/Fantasy.  Chana brakes for homemade chocolate chip cookies, old barns and anytime one of her kids suggests watching "Pride and Prejudice."


    Reader Comments (4)

    Do you still believe him after your trip to Panama? My family has had a poor/sad experience with this man.

    October 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMickey

    Hi Mickey,

    I would love to hear your story. Please correspond through my email address since I check it more often.


    God bless,


    October 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterChana

    Not knowing you and what it would benefit, I'm not sure it would be appropriate to get into it. We just had a conversation the other night (first in about 3 years) about him from a situation that happened about a decade ago...and so I googled him and saw this article and saw your skepticism. I would just say that from our experience your first impression was correct. He may be able to document these wild experiences, but by our experience they are happening outside the hand of God and by some other power or his actions toward us was a deep/dark lapse in character.

    October 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMickey

    I'm sorry to hear that, Mickey.

    Since you do not give any particulars, I really don't have much to go on. I will say, as a Christian of more than 3 decades, I still have my own lapses, whether in faith, or temper or judgement, etc. I would hate to think someone would make a decision about my life and allegiance to God based on one episode. However, I would like to hear your story. I am working on K's biography. How can a biography be well-rounded if only the saintly aspects are known?

    God bless,

    chanakeefer@icloud.com (please correspond to my email address since I check it daily :)

    October 15, 2013 | Registered CommenterChana

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