Around the World with Brother Ray Kinslow

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Africa, Antarctica, Papua New Guinea–these were the places where we “traveled” on Wednesday afternoons, courtesy of an elderly gentleman in our congregation. When Ray preached in Cookeville, Tennessee, we became quick friends with one of our elders, Ray Kinslow, a retired professor. Brother Ray—that’s what we called him—had been to amazing places, had fascinating stories to tell, and loved to tell them. He was a widower, and we had recently moved to town; the friendship was a blessing and comfort to him and to us. We shared meals and a trip to a waterfall in Kentucky, . . .

Our son John and Brother Ray

. . . and the children and I shared a special treat on Wednesday afternoons.

John, Bethany, Mary Evelyn, and I took weekly field trips in Brother Ray’s den. Here the walls were decorated with artifacts he had gathered from his trips to faraway places. And here we settled in for our weekly story time and slide show. Brother Ray was not only a world traveler, he was an award-winning photographer and a great story teller. The slideshows were breath-taking, and the stories were even more amazing than the pictures.

While we were “with him” in Papua New Guinea, he thrilled us with his story of his close encounter with a crocodile as he traveled in a small boat. In Antarctica we heard about the National Geographic photographer who was on the cruise. Once Brother Ray was minding his own business in a hotel room. Was it in Europe, South America, or the Middle East? I have forgotten the place, but I remember the story: a strange woman bolted in and hid in his bathroom. It turns out that she was a spy! She was soon followed by authorities who arrested her!

Not only did we travel the world, we got inside stories about World War II history. You see, Brother Ray was one of the scientists with the Manhattan Project. They were the people who invented the atomic bomb. Brother Ray worked on the project both in Manhattan and in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He told us that while in Oak Ridge, he learned about the only person he had ever heard of who was hired because he was illiterate. This man was hired to empty the trash because he wouldn’t be able to read top secret information in the trash cans. He also told us that the scientists who worked on the project were told that the bomb would never be used on people, but that it would be detonated in a remote location while world leaders watched. Thus the leaders would be deterred from being aggressive against other nations. Those scientists wrote President Franklin Roosevelt asking him not to drop the bomb on people.

Brother Ray also told us stories about his youth and college days. He had wanted to preach, and he wanted to be a scientist. In the end, he got to do both. He preached the gospel in local churches in many of the places where he traveled. These Wednesday afternoons were much more than geography; he built up our faith as well.

Ray Kinslow provided us learning and wonder and mentorship. We provided him companionship and admiration in return. Older people love to tell their stories to young people who will listen. What a wonderful way to experience living history. The blessings go both ways. I’m thankful that Brother Ray and his stories are in my children’s hearts.

A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness.
Proverbs 16:31

One of the special blessings of those afternoons with Brother Ray for me was the opportunity to share those afternoons with my children. Having opportunities to watch your children be a blessing to others is another blessing of homeschooling.

Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him,
and fell on his neck and kissed him,
and they wept.
He lifted his eyes
and saw the women and the children, and said,
“Who are these with you?”
So he said,
“The children whom God has graciously given your servant.”
Genesis 33:4-5


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