Editor's note: Tom Heeb, a Chaffee native and brother of Sikeston physician Dr. Max Heeb, recently sent this message from China, where he is missionary. Heeb is serving in the Chinese province where Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was first discovered. Heeb has been in mission work since the 1960s in foreign lands. In China, Heeb cannot be classified as a missionary ad instead serves as an English teacher. The following letter speaks of some of his experiences.
I understand that it is not allowed to share one's Christian faith in an American school anymore, even though our country was originally built on the Christian faith. When I came back to Chaffee, after my service time, Mr. Lewallen, the superintendent, asked me to come speak to the school about my military time. I said I was not allowed to speak about my NSA experience, so he said to share about my Christian experience. So I spoke to the entire junior and senior high school about how I had become a Christian during my time in Okinawa. He even paid me $10 for speaking to the school. That was in 1957. Now things have definitely changed, I guess.
When the Soviet Union began to break up, I was invited to a northern region of the USSR to teach in an English-teaching school in a city of about a half million people. No citizens had been allowed in or out of the region for over 25 years, because it was a military zone. I must have been one of the first foreigners allowed in. I taught in the school for about three or four days and was allowed to share the gospel of Christ; the "Bridge" illustration and other ways of sharing about Chris. The only thing I didn't do was to give an invitation for people to come forward (as Billy Graham later was able to do in Moscow in 1992). The teachers loved my English and treated me wonderfully.
After that, I was taken by a Christian friend, who was an officer in the USSR military, to his home a little farther north. The taxi broke down on the way, so we had to hail down an old truck and sit in the back, to get to his army camp. I was registered as the "Uncle from Ukraine" in order to get into the Russian military compound to be with my friend and his family. (Their little 4-year-old daughter said to her friends, "It's not uncle, but grandfather Tom"). The housing situation was so terrible, even for an officer and his family. I had taken toilet cleaning materials, etc., but they didn't have a toilet. They had to go about 100 meters down the road to a old shack with a hole in the floor! The officer had to go with me each time, in case I met some other soldier along the way who might detect that I couldn't speak Russian, and then know that I was a foreigner.
After a few days, we were allowed to go to the community shower to take a bath. On the way back, my officer friend said, "Don't look, but the missile is on the right!" I am still in touch with his family, even though the man is out of the army and was sent back to his native home in Ukraine, where he supports a wife and four kids on about $50 to $75 a month. Can you imagine?
I usually send a check "to the children" for Christmas to help them out a little.
When I was on the bus, going back to a train station to return to Moscow, a man tapped me on the shoulder. I thought, "Oh, no. The KGB has discovered me." The man said, "Are you Tom?" So, you see, I was the only foreigner in that city at the time and his kids had evidently been in the classes I had taught in the local school. I often have wondered whatever became of the kids who heard me share from the Bible in their school.
Ever try doing that in an American school? Probably not.
OK, this is enough for now. Thanks for listening to my old stories from the beginning of the '90s or before.
Take care and remember to wear your mask to avoid the SARS.
From Old Tom in South China
Once again our Mississippi County commissioners have swallowed camels and gagged at a gnat by putting thumbs down on a potential $300 million investment in the southern part of our county (citing moral reasons).
Am I interested in a casino? Not particularly. But in the proposal by Smith and Company, I saw a 500/1,000-room hotel, a convention center complex, multiple restaurants, a five-mile cable car system spanning the river, an 18-hole golf course, banking services, a mall, an airport, service stations and a 400-acre amusement park!
If all these things were to come about, it would mean not hundreds, but thousands, of legitimate, respectable jobs, not to mention that it would make our Dorena Ferry boat self-sustaining instead of having to depend on continued hard-earned tax monies from our state budget for survival. Furthermore, it could provide an alternative to Tan-Tar-A, Branson, Tunica and other convention center resorts which pull millions of dollars away from our area.
I have not investigated Smith and Company's ability to actually follow through on all these dreams. (What's the point? The project has already been nixed by the seat-of-the-pants decision-making of our county officials.) But Smith Company claimed to already have funding lined up.
Quite frankly, as a civil engineer and a businessman, I think the idea and super expense of trying to create such a project in a desolate flood plain, far from any major cities (or even local housing) is ludicrous, and would have little chance for success. It could work, however, once they got all the attractions built, but what I'm afraid would happen is that after the casino was completed and they realized the disappointing attendance, all funding would be withdrawn for the rest of the proposed project.
But that's really the point, isn't it? It's not my job, nor the county commissioners' jobs to control someone else's risky investments. And as to any moral issues, the Internet can be immoral if someone is determined to use it for the wrong purposes. Liquor and beer is immoral. It's addictive. It causes men and women to blow large portions of their badly needed family income. It causes fights, drunk driving, wrecks, promiscuity, adultery and heartache. But I don't see the commissioners making any effort to clean our county of this disgusting vice.
And what's the worst that could happen if the investment fails? We might have an abandoned relic in an isolated part of our county that nobody ever visits anyway. At least money would be pumped into our local economy during the construction process, and it wouldn't be right under our nose like the prison, which is another camel we've been forced to swallow (and which hasn't provided the economic uplift to Mississippi County that many claimed it would).
I think the river project should be endorsed and encouraged.
Barry W. Horton