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Second Baptist Church of Houston

 Three moonwalkers in one day!
Photo Credit:s Mine
Program Cover for Second Baptist Church Service
Program for Second Baptist Church Service
Second Baptist Church Service Program Cover
 Second Baptist Church Program
On July 8th, 1990 moonwalkers Charlie Duke and Jim Irwin offered their testimony at a Baptist church in Houston, Texas.  I attended this event along with my girlfriend's 8 year old son Toby and my friend Mark Shelton.

First of all let me state that I am not a Baptist.  I am a life long Catholic. In 1990, I really didn't know much about Baptists.  Mary my girlfriend did have a Baptist upbringing and she warned me how grueling this service was going to be.  Mark informed me that at the service if they tell people to come up to the front, I shouldn't go.   Okay, so this would be an alien experience for me.  It seemed worth it for an opportunity to meet Duke and Irwin.

We left early in the morning at around 4:00 AM.  That would put us at the church by 8:00 AM for the start of the proceedings.  I drove and the vehicle that we took was my red Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z.

We found the church without any difficulty.  We parked and went inside.  We were invited to have breakfast.  They said what they were serving was kolaches.  I got really excited.  I have a warm spot in my heart for kolaches due to my Czech ancestry.

When I saw what they were calling kolaches I was sorely disappointed.  These were not the Czech pastries like my mother baked.  These were “pigs in a blanket”.  Little sausages wrapped in dough.  That bordered on sacrilege for me.

Irwin spoke in a small room.  I was thrilled to be able to have an opportunity to listen to him.  He talked some about his experience on Apollo 15.  He also talked about his search for Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat inTurkey.  All of this was fascinating to me.

His talk about the search for Noah's ark was particularly riveting.  He told the story about how he nearly died there.  A rock hand come rolling down from above and hit Irwin in the head.  He was knocked out and lost a lot of blood.  Fortunately he was rescued and lived to tell the tale.

At the conclusion of his talk, Irwin said that he was going on another trip to Turkey to search for the Ark.  He was going that summer in fact.  He extended an offer for anyone to join him who was interested.  Wow, that was interesting to me.

After his testimony, Irwin sat at a table in the foyer of the church so that people could meet him.  I was pleased with that opportunity.  He was only the third man who had walked on the Moon that I had met.  Toby and I introduced ourselves and got a couple of autographs.  My autograph was in a book called “Home Planet”.

As I milled about the foyer, I noticed that there was an unexpected moonwalker in attendance.  Alan Bean from Apollo 12 had showed up just to tell Irwin hello.   That was a most unexpected bonus.  I felt like I had just one the lottery.    I introduced myself to Bean and talked to him a little bit about his art.  I told him that his painting titled “Helping Hands” was my favorite of the ones that he had done.  He reached into his pocket and gave me his business card.  On the card was a small image of “Helping Hands”.  Bean said that he still had the original in his studio and often looked at it while he painted.  Bean autographed my copy of “Home Planet”.

We were also able to meet Charlie Duke, Apollo 16 moonwalker.  He was friendly and graciously autographed my “Home Planet” as well.

Mark, Toby, and I went into the main sanctuary of the church.  This place was huge.  I had never seen such a place.  It seemed more like a basketball arena than it did a church.  The theater seating did however afford a good view of the focal point of the church.

I prepared myself for that grueling service that Mary had warned me about.   Everything was so different here; I thought I could suck it up and make it through.  The service started and I was shocked.  I was shocked because it was anything but a boring, grueling service.  This was quite the multimedia extravaganza.  It was like a Broadway musical.

On the stage, fog started pouring forth.  A person came out bearing an American flag.  How was that person dressed?  The person was adorned in a space suit.  With great symbolism the astronaut planted the flag on the stage.  This was grueling?  I would have to keep my eyes out for when the torture started.

After the astronaut, young woman appeared on the stage.  What were they doing?  Could that be construed as dancing?  Surely my eyes were deceiving me.  Mary had assured me that Baptists don't dance.  It was quite an opening for a church service.

After a number of speakers, Astronaut Duke got up to give his testimony.  He was really passionate.  He spoke with great sincerity and humbleness for a man who had walked on the Moon.

At the end of the service the call was made for people to come to the front of the church to dedicate their lives to Christ.  I smiled at Mark to acknowledge his instructions that I should remain seated.

The service was over and it was time to head back home.  What a great day this had been!  We met not only two moon walkers but three.  That was one fourth of all the men who had walked on the moon.  It was unreal.

We got back on the freeway, and promptly ran into road construction.  The signs with the construction were very confusing.  Somehow we vectored off in the wrong direction.  We wound up out in the middle of nowhere.  There was no map in the car and we were lost.  We were someplace near Tomball, but had no idea how to get back home.

We noticed a Vietnamese man on the side of the road selling shrimp.   This was in the middle of the boonies.  He was the only man that we had seen for miles.  We stopped to ask directions.  He had a very thick accent, but understood what we were asking.

The man was most animated in giving us directions.  He was so animated that as he spoke saliva came spraying out his mouth, dotting the outside of the car and the car window.  We thanked him for the directions.  He started up again repeating the directions, just to make sure that we understood them.  This was beginning to get entertaining.  Finally we were able to break away and head for home.

About half way home we pulled off the freeway and into a gas station.  The car was running low on fuel.  I was also very tired and needed a break.  I opened the driver's side door and it clanged into a cement post that protected the gas pumps.  The doors on Camaros are pretty long and hit had a good deal of momentum when it hit.  The post put a substantial ding in my car door.

It wouldn't do any good to get mad about the ding.  Instead, I noted in my mind that every time I saw that ding it would remind me of the day that I met one fourth of all the moonwalkers.

The story doesn't quite end here.  Remember how Jim Irwin invited people to go with him to search for Noah's Ark?  Well I wrote Colonel Irwin a letter.  I told him about meeting him at the church and how interesting his talk was.  I told him that I thought searching for the Ark was really interesting and asked if he could send me any more information on the trip.

A few days later at about 8 O'clock in the morning, my telephone rang.  The person on the phone identified themselves as Jim Irwin's assistant.  I was surprised.  I had not written my phone number in the letter to Irwin.  They had found my number through information.

Irwin’s assistant told me that the trip was leaving the week after next.  It would cost $3000 and they wanted to know if I would like to come along.  My jaw dropped.  I would love to have an experience of searching for Noah’s Ark with a man who walked on the Moon.  Two weeks though, just was not enough time for me to get prepared.

I told Irwin’s assistant that while I appreciated the offer, I just could not accept it on such short notice.  I asked her that if there ever was another trip by Irwin to search again, that I would like to be included.  The assistant assured me that they would keep my contact information.

My brain was numb.  I had an opportunity to take a trip with Jim Irwin and I passed it up.  I thought I would need to take some rock climbing classes so that I would have better skills on the mountain.

The day after Irwin’s trip to Turkey began, on August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I didn’t know what the situation in Turkey was, but it was better not to have to fear for my safety.  Turkey borders with Iraq so that would have made me nervous.   I was disappointed that I was not on the trip but I knew this worked out for the best for my mother.  It would have put an enormous amount of stress on her to know that her son was that close to a war zone.

My hope to go on another adventure with Jim Irwin never materialized.  One year later on August, 8th, 1991 Jim Irwin passed away due to a heart attack.


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UPDATED : February 20, 2007
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