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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Conversation with Rick Blythe

John Bradshaw - Conversation with Rick Blythe


John Bradshaw - Conversation with Rick Blythe
TOPICS: Conversations

He is a pastor, he is a church planter. In his earlier years, his life intersected with some surprising things, including the KU Klux Klan. He's Rick Blythe, I am John Bradshaw, and this is our Conversation.

John Bradshaw: Pastor Rick, thanks very much for taking your time. I'm so glad that we can spend these few minutes together.

Rick Blythe: It's been a pleasure.

John Bradshaw: So you're a lifelong minister of the gospel, you've been involved in raising up churches, you are a soul Woody. You've had many experiences and adventures in ministry, and a lot else besides. So let's go back to the beginning of your journey. Where were you from? From where did you spring?

Rick Blythe: From the little town of Piedmont Alabama, about 5,000 people. And it's surrounded by, we call in Piedmont mountains, and it is a beautiful place on the earth. And I grew up there. I was born in one of those houses that, up on the stilts and the dog go under.

John Bradshaw: All right.

Rick Blythe: Unpainted, very poor. I was to find out later that we were poor, not because we had to be but my dad, was a carpenter, and he worked most of his life in Birmingham, and he lived, in Birmingham, and would come home on the weekends. And he lived in a nice apartment in Birmingham, and we lived in shanties. And I was born in a little place, a little suburb of Piedmont called Spring Garden, Alabama. And I just, I didn't realize what I was living in, in the beginning.

John Bradshaw: What were you living in? Tell me a little bit more about that. What was that, that you found that later and said, well, look at this life I've found myself in?

Rick Blythe: Well we were very poor. when I was older, I had to pick cotton, in order to earn my clothes for school, and shoes to wear. Where I went to school, we got out two weeks for cotton picking. And the whole school let out. And we were very upset when it came time, when it got cold, we had to start wearing shoes to school. That is the neighborhood, that is the life that I was living in. And we were very poor, very poor. But somehow I didn't know it at the time. In fact, we used to sit around and talk about the poor people. But it was a very meager existence. But I had a godly, godly mother who married the wrong man.

John Bradshaw: How did she wound up with him, if he's the wrong man? How'd that happen?

Rick Blythe: Well her father was, section foreman on the Seaboard Railroad. And, she had the privilege of riding the train for free. And so she caught the train and she would ride home after shopping. And she looked over one day in a yard, she saw a bare-chested man cutting wood. And he was a very handsome man. And so, she had a pretty hard life herself. She was wanting to get away. So she married him, not knowing that he was a philanderer and had a good work ethic. He didn't teach me that but she, caught him cheating on her. And so I remember the incident. She tells me that she took me in one arm, and my other brother who had just been born in an arm, and she had a bag and she walked five miles to catch a bus. And she went to her mother's. And her mother said to her, "darling, we tried to get you not to marry this man, but you've made your bed now, so you need to lay in it". And she had to come back home. There are just so many things that I remember, but one of them that was, we would wake up as children, we'd wake up and we'd here, Bam! Bam! Bam! And we would get up and we'd run into the room, and my dad would be drunk, and he'd be shooting in the ceiling. And of course we were thinking that, he was harming our mother. And so mother would get up and she would calm us down, and then lay us back down and go to sleep, and maybe be asleep an hour, and we would hear, Bam! Bam! Bam! And so here we, we rise again, screaming and yelling and running in there. And you can just imagine the tension, the emotions, thinking ever hour, your mother was going to be killed. One incident my father was late, because he would usually stop at a bar, and then he would come home drunk or near drunk. Anyway she, the supper was late that night, because she had to reheat it. And when he sat down, it was cold. And I remember he took a fork, and he stuck it in my mother's leg all the way to the bone. And of course all of us kids are viewing this. But in one incident I remember, she wanted to surprise us. So she prepared a pizza, and we'd never heard of a pizza.

John Bradshaw: Right for sure.

Rick Blythe: And she made it from the Chef Boyardee, or Chef Boyardee or.

John Bradshaw: Yeah sure sure.

Rick Blythe: And I can't remember how you pronounce it, but anyway it was from a box, and it had this cheese that it just stunk. So, he came home and she showed him the surprise, and he got so angry. He said, "don't you ever fix any wop food in my house again"? And she got up crying and he hit her so hard, that she had Bell's palsy.

John Bradshaw: Oh.

Rick Blythe: Sorry.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Rick Blythe: For the rest of her life.

John Bradshaw: Oh my. I'm fascinated by this. You were raised in a home where there was alcoholism, domestic violence, cruelty, cruelty. Many, I don't think the right word is most, but many people, who are raised in that environment, manifest the same dysfunctions, or they're scarred in some way for the rest of their lives. Why didn't you turn out like your dad?

Rick Blythe: Like I told you, my mother was a godly mother. And I was very confused. But I remember years ago, Jehovah Witness came to our house, and they were studying the Bible. I didn't understand what they were saying, but I got a desire to know about God. And I was living with something in my mind, because that time I told you, that my mother went to visit her mother, when she was kicked out the house.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Rick Blythe: She took me to see my great-grandmother, who lived in the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. And she was sitting in a cane-backed chair, there on this old house. And she took me to show my great grandmother. And I remember my mother describing that she sat down beside her, and she said, "let me take that little one". And so she took me in her arms, and she looked at me and she looked at my mother, and she said, "God has showed me this boy will be a preacher one day".

John Bradshaw: Well, how about that?

Rick Blythe: So I had that in the back of my mind.

John Bradshaw: So you knew that you were raised knowing that?

Rick Blythe: I was raised. But I didn't want to be a preacher, I want to be a scientist.

John Bradshaw: Oh.

Rick Blythe: I loved science.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Rick Blythe: And when I was growing up, my hero was George Washington Carver.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Rick Blythe: And my favorite president was Abraham Lincoln.

John Bradshaw: Uh- huh.

Rick Blythe: But I couldn't express that, because my dad was a Democrat union guy. And he didn't want the mention of George Washington Carver or Lincoln. So it was a secret that I kept. So I had this in my heart. But I remember saying when, after you've mentioned this before, but at some point I shot my father. And after that I joined the Navy and I remember saying, and I wasn't married, but I remember making a resolution. I said, "by God's help, my wife would never live in the H-E-L-L that my mother lived in. And my children will never have to fear their father, like I did".

John Bradshaw: See some people, that kind of upbringing will push them in that same direction, others it'll be a bulwark or a barrier, to prevent them from going there. And seems to me like there were people praying for you. I wanna ask you about your great grandmother. Was she a woman of great faith? Was she really a church going woman? What was her story?

Rick Blythe: They were all God believing people. And I don't know a whole lot about my great-grandmother because she passed shortly after. But my mother was a praying woman. My mother and I didn't have, actually my dad's mother, had great influence on me. And she, I don't know what her relationship was to my father, except I believe she may have spoiled him. But she would talk to me and tell me to stay away from drugs, and that God loves you. And my yes, my grandmother on my, actually my dad's mother.

John Bradshaw: Well.

Rick Blythe: Was a spiritual influence on me.

John Bradshaw: Yeah. You mentioned something here, somebody watching us has just said, "well, wait a minute, did he say he shot his father"? So we need to come back around there, and flesh this out just a little bit. Cause it's not the sort of thing you'd just drop and run. So we can understand some of tensions, some of the stress in your home. But to go from that to shooting your dad, walk me through that. What was that about?

Rick Blythe: Well this was many years later, when I was 17 years old.

John Bradshaw: Okay.

Rick Blythe: And I was the oldest of six. There were three boys and three girls. and this tension had escalated to a point. And my dad's mother, my grandmother had died, my grandfather had died and my grandmother was dying, and something snapped in him, and he began to drink very heavily. And I know he was on drugs. And I guess maybe even PCP because, what happened was he had drank himself to the point where, he knew that he couldn't drive. You have to understand we lived in a dry county, so he would have to drive to the Georgia line to get booze.

John Bradshaw: Okay.

Rick Blythe: Okay. I always said the only time the preachers and the bootleggers got together was to keep the county dry.

John Bradshaw: That's right. That's right.

Rick Blythe: So, he wanted my brother during this escalation, he had run away, and he had actually gone for the police, and I was out doing something else, not knowing that there was this thing going on at the home. And anyway, he insisted that my 15 year old sister, who hadn't didn't have a driver's license, drive him to Georgia line to get something to drink. Mother refused because she say, "she can't drive, she doesn't even have a driver's license". And so an argument ensued, and eventually it escalated to where, my dad actually was stomping and kicking my little sisters.

John Bradshaw: Oh yeah.

Rick Blythe: He had just lost his mind. And he had a 25 Magnum pistol with a dum-dum bullets in it. He took that pistol out and my mother was sitting there, and she was holding my two year old baby sister in her arms. And so he took the gun out and he put it down to her head and he cocked the hammer up against her head.

John Bradshaw: Your mother's head?

Rick Blythe: My mother's head. And I had told earlier, I mean the house was like an arsenal. There were guns and billy clubs, knives, it was an arsenal. So I told my sister to get me a gun, because I knew that he was lost his mind. And so I put a gun, he had a gun up on the chifferobe, And when he put the gun to my mother's head, and pulled the trigger back, I came out with my gun and was going to shoot him. But my mother jumped up and jumped in front of him. And I went like this, went around her and I shot him. And you'll excuse me, because at that time, he fell into a chair and he was unconscious, and my 13 year old sister came out of the bedroom. I told them to go inside the bedroom and stay there. But she came out of the bedroom, and she was holding herself like this, and she said, "mom I have been shot". And she said, "no honey, it's your dad". And she put her hands forth, and blood just started coming out. When I found out later I didn't know, but what I found out later is it was a flesh wound. It went through him, clear through him and hit her.

John Bradshaw: Oh.

Rick Blythe: And it struck her spleen. Well when that happened, I just snapped. So I ran out of the house, and I don't know what I was thinking or what I was doing, but I ran out, and when I did my head hit the low hanging of the porch. We had a concrete sidewalk and my head hit that, and I was unconscious. So when I woke up, I was in the back seat, there were three of us in the back. My sister that had been shot was in the middle, and my mother was, they had the bench seats. And when I woke up, there was a rifle in my throat. He was driving with a rifle, pointed to my throat in the back seat. And so he said, "if this child dies," he says, "I'm going to kill you and the rest everyone else".

John Bradshaw: Oh.

Rick Blythe: My brother had gone for the police, so we were headed to the hospital, and the police stopped us. It was this sheriff, and my dad took the gun like this and put it at the sheriff, and he says, "this is a family matter, and if you know what's good for you, you'll let us go". And he let us go.

John Bradshaw: He let you go?

Rick Blythe: He let us go.

John Bradshaw: Well it's gonna be interesting to find out how this resolves, if it resolves. There's a lot more to share. We gonna get to ministry, we gonna get to church planting, we gonna get to the KU Klux Klan, and a whole lot more before we're done. He's pastor Rick Blythe. I'm John Bradshaw. This is our Conversation. Back in just a moment with more.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to Conversations. My very special guest is pastor Rick Blythe, and a moment ago, a moment ago Rick, you were on your way to a hospital, with a gun in your throat, a dad who'd been shot but was driving, a sister who'd been shot, and your mom, the police were just told to back off and they did.

Rick Blythe: They did.

John Bradshaw: So what happened next?

Rick Blythe: Well, we proceeded and we went to a hospital in a little larger city, but the police had been notified. And so when we arrived there, there must've been four or five police cars. And the lights were just going in the sirens. And when we got there, they dragged me and my dad, out of the vehicle, and they took my sister onto the hospital. We were there, but they took her on in to the hospital. And they slammed us up against the police car, did the Macarena, frisked us. And I remember going in, I said, "I don't care if you put me in jail, but please do not put me in the same cell with him".

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Rick Blythe: So, I went to jail. I don't know I was there two or three days. And I learned later that my dad had gotten out, because he told them, that the family was just enjoying themselves, minding their own business, and I lost my mind and I went in there and shot him, and then shot her.

John Bradshaw: Oh.

Rick Blythe: But, he was going to the hospital to be with my sister, so that he could get her, to have the story the way he told it. But they noticed that she was very irritated, very nervous with him around. So they said, "well, Mr. Blythe you need to leave now, because we have to treat your daughter". The nurse said to my sister, "you act very uncomfortable around him". And then she told him the real story. So they put him back in jail. And two days I don't know, my brother came and got me out of jail, and they both survived. The only thing they did to my dad was, to put a restraining order on him. But we found out that he had another family in Birmingham. So he went to live with them. But.

John Bradshaw: So from that time he was, out of your life or just much less in it? Or you saw plenty more of him?

Rick Blythe: I remember he would come back, and he would come to the house and he would shoot at the house. And sometimes in January like this, we would sleep in the barn, because he was harassing us in the house. And it was, it was terrifying. Even after I was in the ministry, he would call us at three o'clock in the morning, and threatened my wife, that he was going to kill our children.

John Bradshaw: The police never did anything to stop this sort of behavior? He wasn't locked up? There was, or he was just that kind of character you couldn't stop him?

Rick Blythe: I was in a bank, doing some business with my mother, and he said," oh, you're Donald Blythe's son". And I said, "yes". He said, "oh, he was a fine man. I've never met a finer man". And I said, "well, he was some people he was fine to you, but not his family". And he got angry with me. So there were a lot of people that just thought he was the best person in the world. And he was charming and he did have a good personality, but so he had run ins with the police, but he managed to stay out of trouble.

John Bradshaw: Let's get back a little bit. A few moments ago, you told me that one of your personal heroes, was George Washington Carver.

Rick Blythe: That is right.

John Bradshaw: Now your dad, didn't wanna hear anything about Carver.

Rick Blythe: No.

John Bradshaw: Or Lincoln.

Rick Blythe: Or Lincoln.

John Bradshaw: So let's go down that road a little bit. What was it with your dad?

Rick Blythe: Well, I remember in school, we learned about George Washington Carver. I learned about it in the fourth grade, and about Lincoln at the same time. And I just had a love for science. I always had a love for science, and he was a man different color but like me.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Rick Blythe: Who became a famous scientist. And I just, my heart just went out to him. But I couldn't tell my dad because, he was not revered by my dad. And Lincoln, he was the founder of the Republican Party, that freed the slaves. And he had no use for him.

John Bradshaw: Your dad, your dad. Well, this was Alabama.

Rick Blythe: This was Alabama.

John Bradshaw: This is a few decades ago now.

Rick Blythe: That's right.

John Bradshaw: And so your dad, was racist.

Rick Blythe: Yes he was there's no question about it, but he didn't think he was, he did not believe he was. In fact I could have brought it with me but, he had his business card said for God, race and country.

John Bradshaw: Hmm.

Rick Blythe: He really in his mind, thought that he was performing the will of God.

John Bradshaw: By doing what?

Rick Blythe: By keeping the race pure.

John Bradshaw: Where did these attitudes come from for your dad? Where'd he get that? No, one's born with that. It's developed along the way, or inculcated into somebody. What were the influences that, now listen he grew up in that and in that milieu okay. So what was it about your dad, that he was able to gravitate to those kinds of ideas?

Rick Blythe: You have to understand people really think, that most of the Southern people are racist, but we weren't. We were much afraid of the Klan, as the adversaries as the black folks. We were afraid of them too. And so people didn't speak up. But I know Ginger's family, none of them were racist. They never exhibited that. Even his own mother didn't feel that way. But my dad had a hard life, and he didn't have a good family life, because of his father. And I believe that my dad was looking for family, was looking for community, he was looking for a place to belong and to be important. And I really believe that a lot of folks, were looking for scapegoats to blame their poverty on, to blame their issues on. They were looking for scapegoats. And they couldn't explain. Now, this is just my theory, but looking at my dad, I think he was bitter that, he was somewhat moderately successful, but he blamed his position in life on someone else. And I think he lashed out at the black man. He definitely in every sense of the word was a racist.

John Bradshaw: Now he was a member of the Klan?

Rick Blythe: He became early member of the Klan. I remember it as a boy, every Saturday we had to wash the car, okay. And I remember getting in the glove box, and I am begin at first time I knew it, and I began to read Klan correspondence. And there were letters from Chicago, letters from Indiana, there were letters from everywhere. He came to the place, and I actually have a plaque, that it shows he was the Grand Dragon, of the KU Klux Klan for the state of Alabama.

John Bradshaw: You know typically that's, a positive thing to say about somebody. It was quite the opposite, this one, but he rose up through the ranks.

Rick Blythe: Yes.

John Bradshaw: So he held some, position of importance in the KU Klux Klan.

Rick Blythe: Yes he did.

John Bradshaw: So how did you see this manifest on a daily basis? As your dad got about his business? Did this ooze out of his pores, or was it more something that he kept on the down low?

Rick Blythe: Well around me, well, let me give you an example. When he developed lung cancer and he was dying, and so people would come to visit him, and on his front door was a sign that said clearly, "Whites only". When I would visit him, I would sit in his living room, you have a picture of this too, but he always had his robe, Klan robe, hanging up in the bedroom. And I remember one time he said to me, he said, "son, why don't you join us"? And I said, "dad, I'm a minister". He said, "oh, we have ministers, we have doctors". He said, "we have judges".

John Bradshaw: Hmmm.

Rick Blythe: And I said, "well, yeah, I'm in Seventh-Day, he said, "ah I forgot you're an old Jew". He said, "you're part of the problem".

John Bradshaw: No way. He said that?

Rick Blythe: The Catholics, the Jews and the blacks.

John Bradshaw: Hated them all.

Rick Blythe: Hated them all. And so I realized then that, I was actually a target for his hatred.

John Bradshaw: What was society like, like in your hometown? Segregated schools? Segregated town?

Rick Blythe: I was actually in school high school, when our school was first segregated. The swimming pools were segregated, the everything was segregated. And, but I can honestly say that I never had any animosity, or any hatred. I was ignorant if that makes sense.

John Bradshaw: Nazi Germany, you had certain amount of people there, who hated Jews and wanted them exterminated. And I said that just very matter-of-factly, didn't I? Like it's just an everything day thing. You had this massive people who, just kinda went along with things.

Rick Blythe: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Do you think, I'm not trying to make excuses for anybody, Lord knows I'm not doing it, but do you think in the American South, there was a bit of that, you had a system, and then a lot of people within that system, who for whatever reason could have spoken, could have but felt powerless and didn't speak. Is that what it was?

Rick Blythe: Let me give you a real life example of that. Ginger's parents were very religious, and they were not racist at all. In fact, her mother had a black maid. Her mother was a seamstress, and a very good one. And so she worked all the time. Once a week, she would have, her name was Magnolia. And she would come into the house. She would say to Magnolia, after she fixed the lunch, she'd say, "sit down, eat with us Magnolia". And she would say, "no, I can't do that. I know my place". And she said, "well, nobody will see. We have no problem with it". She said, "no ma'am. But somebody looked through that window and they see this, you'll be in trouble". And she said, "I don't wanna get you in trouble". So this is a real live example, that most people felt that way. But, it was the system like you said, you were afraid, you didn't know. And for me growing up, I didn't hate anybody, I didn't hate anyone.

John Bradshaw: And I wanna ask you why not? So you're a white kid in the segregated South, whose dad is a leader in the KU Klux Klan. I mean, it was in your genes, man. You should have been as racist as the next guy, if you understand what I mean. You ought to have been following your dad to Klan meetings, and I don't know, making crosses to burn on front lawns, but you weren't. And I'm just so fascinated why that this wasn't you?

Rick Blythe: Later on when we grew up, my dad pointed his finger in my mother's face and said, "I intended to have a Klan family, and because of you not one joined". And she said, "thank God".

John Bradshaw: Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.

Rick Blythe: Thank God.

John Bradshaw: Yeah I guess that's true. You have two parents, you're gonna have to take after the one or the other.

Rick Blythe: Well and the other thing is that, I observed who he was, and what he was, and how he was to us. And I said, "I loathed what he stood for and what he did. He taught me what not to be". I just said to myself, "if he treats us this way and he loves us, I never want to be like that".

John Bradshaw: Some people will see it as an example, of what their father is like, it jaundices their view of God, because if this is the father you know, how can you know or trust that Father? You never had that problem? Why was that?

Rick Blythe: Because He was my Father, my substitute Father. I always, I never could verbalize it or explain it, but I just knew that my God was with me.

John Bradshaw: Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.

Rick Blythe: I knew my God was with me, I just knew it. And, not saying that I didn't waiver, and that I didn't turn left on the right road, I'm not saying that. But somehow deep inside, I always knew that God was there. And I believed, I did not believe in chance. I believed in providence. I believe that things didn't just happen, they happened for a reason. And I don't know, it's just something in me. And I knew that what my heavenly Father was, was the opposite of what my earthly father was, if that makes sense.

John Bradshaw: Yeah. Yeah, sure. And just as well you had that. Seems to me that somewhere along the line, there were people praying for you had to have been, and your mother gave you a wonderful example. Thank God for that.

Rick Blythe: My mother was always praying for me. My grandmother in the early years was praying for me. And, I kept having this vision, of my great grandmother saying that, I'd be a preacher one day.

John Bradshaw: Hmm.

Rick Blythe: And it just haunted me, it haunted me. And it wasn't what I wanted. But when, after I shot my father, I joined the Navy. And mind you, my mother was a Sabbath keeper, a believer, didn't fully understand how to keep it and so forth, but I had become, I read all the books of the Worldwide Church of God, and I learned about the Sabbath, but because of all this, it was like I was running away. So I ran to that, I joined the Navy. Now, let me tell you how providence works. I joined the Navy, I went through bootcamp, I, learned electronics. I have the equivalent of associate degree in electronics. And so I was able to get choice duty. So they sent me to the Naval Electronic Laboratory Center in San Diego, California. And so we were working on, covert laser communication between ships, and one day the project manager came in and he said, "we're getting a new boss". And he says, I said, "what is he like"? And he said, "well, he's a good man, he's smart. But he will refuses to work on Saturday, and he's a grass eater". So he turned out to be a Seventh- Day Adventist. And he used to bring me into his office to do filing. And I resented it because I said, "I'm a trained electronics and you're having me do filing". but he was giving me Bible studies the whole time I was in there.

John Bradshaw: Hmm hmm hmm smart man. There's plenty more here to hear to from pastor Rick. God continues to be in his life today. We wanna talk about church planting ministry, and COVID 19. We'll be back with more in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to Conversations, where my special guest is pastor Rick Blythe. Rick just a moment ago you were in the Navy, and somebody was giving you Bible studies. Did that progress?

Rick Blythe: It did.

John Bradshaw: Yeah? What happened?

Rick Blythe: Well, his name was Kirk Davies, and he asked me if I would like to go to, an evangelistic series.

John Bradshaw: Oh, fantastic.

Rick Blythe: And he handed me a flyer, and I'm thinking in my mind, I'm just not ready for this. By this time I was smoking, and drinking and, my wife was trying to get me to go to church, and she, I think she was about ready to leave me, because I don't know because of everything that had happened in my life, I was just adrift. It was just adrift. So anyway, I said to him, I said, "well I'll ask my wife, and if she wants to go, we'll go" thinking she would never go, cause this is a Saturday thing, a Sabbath thing.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Rick Blythe: So I go home and I show it to her. And the next meeting was, loose marriages and easy divorce.

John Bradshaw: Oh.

Rick Blythe: So she said right away, "sure". And I'm thinking I had no option then.

John Bradshaw: Yes that's right.

Rick Blythe: So we ended up to going, actually a lot of churches in San Diego. So we actually ended up going to two-and-a-half series, and we were baptized at the end of the series.

John Bradshaw: Fantastic.

Rick Blythe: Now, when it came to Ginger's baptism, she was balking a little bit. Well, it turns out that she was there was no issue, it's just that she was afraid of water, she didn't know how to swim. So she was afraid to be baptized. I would, I thought she had never accepted, but she had said that, "I was so anxious to get you in church. I'd go on Wednesday if that's what it would". Well of course she ended up being the real rock, and the one really steading me in the Lord.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, thank God for that. God knew what and who you needed. You found your way to ministry. So tell me about that little journey, and where you landed in ministry.

Rick Blythe: Well, I knew that I was gonna have problems, with the Sabbath in the Navy. I had no problems when I was there, who my boss was a Seventh-Day Adventist, and so they kept me there six months longer than, it's almost unheard of. But my next duty was to Guam. And so I went to Guam, and I knew, that my pastor, Dr. Robert Stallacker came to our house, and he prayed with us. So I went to my commander there, who was in charge, and he told me that, well actually I told him I said, "you have a problem". And he said, "What? I have a problem"? And I said, "yes". And I said, "I'm a Seventh-Day Adventist" And he said, "I won't work on Sabbath, unless it's a life emergency". And so he sent me to the chaplain. And the chaplain, who was a Protestant would not help me. Eventually we had a change of chaplains, and this was the Catholic chaplain. And he helped me

John Bradshaw: which is interesting, isn't it?

Rick Blythe: Very interesting.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Rick Blythe: Well anyway, what happened was is that, eventually I was taken before the commander, and I was standing for court-martial.

John Bradshaw: Hmm.

Rick Blythe: And he said, "you have to work on Saturdays". And I said, "I cannot". And he said, "well go on, I'll give you my decision". So he calls me back a little later and he tells me that "we're gonna put you in supply," and supply was down in the basement. And I said, "oh no, this is a Joseph experience. They've put me in the catacombs". And so I went down there, but I was able to turn that whole supply system around. And one day petty officer came to me, and he put down some boots and supplies, and he said, I said, "what is this"? And he said, "well, this is your part of our trip". And I said, "well, I won't be partaking of it". It was what do you put Pillsbury?

John Bradshaw: Oh yeah, sure.

Rick Blythe: It was pilfering.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Rick Blythe: And so I never said anything, never turned anybody in, but from then on, it was amazing. The pilfering stopped. And what happened was, is I saved our division, our area, I saved $5,000 in a quarter, and the same commander who was going to court martial, court martial me, brought me before him and gave me a commendation and a promotion. So I was Joseph who came up, no, no, don't get me wrong.

John Bradshaw: No, no.

Rick Blythe: I'm not commeros, but it was a Joseph experience.

John Bradshaw: Sure it was.

Rick Blythe: And I came up, and they promoted me and to make a long story short, they brought me in and they said, "we will give you another promotion, and guaranteed you, your Sabbaths off, if you'll sign up another four years".

John Bradshaw: And did you?

Rick Blythe: Well, what was taking place otherwise, Ginger and I were, we'd always say that we were Uncle missionaries, at Uncle Sam's expense, because we had become very involved in the Agana Heights Church on Guam, and the pastor who helped us asked me to preach for him. And so I did preach for him. But you got to understand, Ginger and I both very shy people. I know it's hard to believe.

John Bradshaw: It's, it's hard to believe, yeah.

Rick Blythe: But we are. And so I did it with knees shaking. And after I preached the sermon, he came to my house with a box of catalogs, and he said, "I'm writing a telegram, to recommend you to study of ministry, to the college of your choice. And I have kinda said to the Lord, 'well, if there's a place near where I grew up,' because we hadn't been able to spend much time with our family, I will consider it". So, the first catalog on top was Southern Missionary College, Collegedale, Tennessee. Ginger came down the next morning and I said, "do you wanna go to Southern, to study for the ministry"? She said, she had already told me, "you're a grown man and you need to work". But she said, "sure, let's go". We sent our furniture 10,000 miles, and stored them here in Chattanooga Tennessee, had no job, hadn't been accepted, had no apartment, had no clue, but we said, "we're gonna do this". And the very day that we found an apartment, I got a job at Southern and was accepted. The, extension on our storage ended the very day, and we had our furniture the next day.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, yeah, God's hands has been all over that, hasn't it?

Rick Blythe: Yeah. That's the providence that I would say.

John Bradshaw: That's right, that's providence. So you've been involved in pastoring churches, church planting. You relatively recently planted a church, in your childhood hometown? Let's take a couple of minutes and talk about that.

Rick Blythe: Well, with a group here, Tunnel Hill Georgia, we raised up a church when I was in college. Then I raised up a church that's West side, and you've done meetings there.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Rick Blythe: And then I had a dream, 40 years ago, "Lord I wanna raise up a church in my hometown". And I knew I couldn't do it through the regular system, so I took a sabbatical, moved in with my mother, and started meeting in our living room. And finally we outgrew that. We rented an old parts store. We outgrew that, we rented a building across the road for fellowship. And then we saw a piece of land for sale. We rented that. We bought that and we built the first stage, the fellowship hall, and then we built the sanctuary on it. And the very Sabbath that we had paid it completely off.

John Bradshaw: Amen.

Rick Blythe: Beautiful church. We've paid it completely off, and the Sabbath of the mortgage burning that Wednesday, 2011 tornado came through and completely destroyed it.

John Bradshaw: Hmmm.

Rick Blythe: But by God's grace, we were able to rebuild that church. and by November, we were back in our building, prettier and more beautiful than ever, with a full concrete basement as a storm shelter.

John Bradshaw: Yeah beautiful.

Rick Blythe: And, so God, and it was in a county where we had no work before. So that was the third one, but I wanted to move back to my hometown. And people said, "you're crazy. There's no church there". And I said, "there will be".

John Bradshaw: There will be. And you'd be praying about that for 40 years.

Rick Blythe: 40 years.

John Bradshaw: Isn't it incredible to see God work that out?

Rick Blythe: And it was miracle after miracle. And of course Desmond Doss, was the steps on of my who's now the pastor, and he became interested in it. So it was Desmond actually was a charter member of our church, and financially helped us to set it up.

John Bradshaw: Well, how wonderful.

Rick Blythe: And I have a whole nother story about my connection to Desmond.

John Bradshaw: I wanna ask you about this though. The pandemic has been sweeping through, and causing all kinds of damage, and you got it, you got COVID 19. I know you were sick, we were praying for you man. We were praying for you hear at It Is Written, so explain that, describe the experience.

Rick Blythe: At the end of June and July, I got COVID, and I ended up in the hospital, in and out for three weeks. I was very sick. And just before they put me on a ventilator, they gave me Remdisivir and convalescent plasma. And then the next day I just turned around. But, I said, "Lord, if this is my time to go, just let me be the best witness I can". I said, "Lord," and so I would joke with the doctors and I'd say, "let's say is there anything you need"? I said, "I need my COVID water". Well, I was drinking tonic water, which is quinine in it.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Rick Blythe: And then I said I wanted my COVID water. And this one aid, she said, "I won't be here tomorrow". Well, then she showed up the next day and I said, "why are you here"? And she says, "because you just cheer me up".

John Bradshaw: Fantastic.

Rick Blythe: She said, "here you are on the death bed," But I asked God, I said, "God just give me a positive spirit, and let me be a witness. If this is my time to go, let me go out with a laugh".

John Bradshaw: So you realized in the middle of this thing, it could have taken your life.

Rick Blythe: Oh. I really felt I was there, I really thought I was there. And I said, "Lord, if it's Your will, let me go out smiling". And but yes, yes. My biggest concern was for my family, my wife and my children. But yes, it was a terrible thing.

John Bradshaw: Well, you doing great now.

Rick Blythe: Yes. God brought me back, because He has something in mind for me.

John Bradshaw: No question. You may have other churches to plant.

Rick Blythe: Do we have time for me to read my verse?

John Bradshaw: Absolutely.

Rick Blythe: There's a verse here that just, it's kind of the theme of my life. And it comes from Jeremiah 1:4, "Then the word of the Lord came unto me saying, 'before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee.' Then I said, 'ah Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak for I'm a child.' But the Lord said unto me, 'say not, I am a child for thou shall go. That where I shall send thee, and whatsoever, I command thee thou shall speak. Be not afraid of their faces, for I am with thee, to deliver thee,' saith the Lord.' Then the Lord put forth his hand. He touched my mouth and the Lord said unto me, 'behold, I have put my words in thy mouth".

John Bradshaw: That's right.

Rick Blythe: And then just this one other, in Jeremiah 29:11, "for I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you, an expected end".

John Bradshaw: Yeah it's a beautiful verse.

Rick Blythe: And then New King James says, "to give you hope for your future". This is what I believe is God's direction, but it's not only hope for you and me, but it's hope for everyone that's watching.

John Bradshaw: That's right, that's right. God's given us hope, hasn't He? We don't deserve it?

Rick Blythe: We don't deserve it.

John Bradshaw: But in Jesus we've got it. Thank God. Let me ask you this. You can look back over a lot in your life. It's a miracle your life didn't go in a whole different direction, but instead God had His hand on you, moved you into ministry. You've influenced hundreds and thousands, and thousands of people. You've raised up churches. You're not done yet. What does Jesus mean to you?

Rick Blythe: I also served as a missionary, to the Marshall Islands. And I learned there in the mission field, that there are folks there that don't have a lot, and they're searching for Jesus. They're searching for something other than, what's on this earth. Jesus means everything to me. He means everything. I remember I told you one time, I said, "John, I knew you when you were a nobody".

John Bradshaw: Yeah, I'm still a nobody.

Rick Blythe: And you said "I'm still a nobody". And I said that to say this, that in this world we are all nobodies.

John Bradshaw: That's right.

Rick Blythe: But we are special. We are special all of us in Jesus. We are special in His sight. And we need to let everyone know, that it doesn't matter where they come from. The cotton fields of Alabama, or the slums of New York. They are special to Jesus.

John Bradshaw: That's right.

Rick Blythe: Jesus means all the world to me.

John Bradshaw: Pastor Rick Blythe, thank you. This has been a real joy. Thanks for being such a blessing, I appreciate it.

Rick Blythe: It's been my joy, my pleasure.

John Bradshaw: Thank you, and thank you. I know you've been blessed. Thank you for taking your time. He is pastor Rick Blythe, and I am John Bradshaw, and this has been our Conversation.
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