In the beginning...


One day I was sitting at my desk in the early fall of 2005 when a call came in from Kay Meyer, Executive Director of Family Shield Ministries in St. Louis. She asked if I would be available for her annual dinner and auction to be held in March of 2006. “Sure,” I said.  We then began to talk about the theme.  A number of years before, at the church my wife and I attended, I had done a dramatic presentation of a centurion.  The concept worked for Kay. The program would be called “My Hand Held the Hammer.”

I called Wayne Meyer, the director of the Passion Play at St. John Lutheran Church, Ellisville, MO and asked to borrow a centurion costume.  He said that would be no problem.  I would pick it up the week before the performance.

Earlier that year, in January of 2005, I was contacted by Lutherans for Life and asked if I would be the entertainment for their national convention to be held in St. Louis in November.  “Sure,” I said.

madmapAt the LFL convention, Dr. John Pless, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, talked to me about a group of students he was taking to Madagascar to give them a mission field experience.  He wanted me to talk with Rev. Matthew Harrison, Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care to see if he would fund the trip so that I could produce a video and Power Point program for the students to take to churches and raise funds for the work in Madagascar. “Sure,” I said. Rev. Harrison agreed.

Plans called for departure on February 23, 2006 and return on March 4th.  This was going to be great.  It was great until one afternoon Kay Meyer called me to solidify some of the details concerning my appearance at the Family Shield Banquet to be held on… ARRGH!!!!... March 3rd, 2006.

If you haven’t been keeping track, I kept saying “Sure.”  The Family Shield banquet would be on March 3rd at the Viking Conference Center in St. Louis.  On March 4th, at 1:20 AM, I was supposed to be boarding Air France flight 905 from Antanarivo, Madagascar to return to the St. Louis at 7:30 pm, some 30 hours later than takeoff. ARRGH!!!! And, 24 hours after the Family Shield banquet was to have started.

What does a quarterback do when he drops back into the pocket and the offensive line falls apart and 9,000 pounds of blitz is headed his was: SCRAMBLE!

I told Kay that I had a small scheduling problem but “it’s nothing that can’t be fixed.”  I called the Dr. Pless and told him I needed to leave Madagascar two days early.  I called the travel agent and changed my tickets. (That costs and extra $1,200.) I called Wayne Meyer and said I needed to get the costume sooner that originally planned.  When I went to get it, the costume didn’t have a sword. 

No sword!  How can one be a centurion without a sword?  On February 18th I bought a Roman Gladius sword on eBay.  It would be delivered on February 22nd, one day before my departure. original-sword-copy

The sword arrived and it was marvelous.  I carried it around the house.  When the mail man delivered the mail, I pulled it from its scabbard with great speed and abandon.  Fortunately, the mail man didn’t see me.  Had he been an intruder he would have been in grave trouble.  As it was, all he delivered were bills and then I wished he had been an intruder.

Whenever I travel overseas I always hate to leave Mary, my dear wife.  As we walked out the door for the drive to Lambert International Airport I turned and looked my beautiful Roman sword as it lay on the couch. “I love you,” I whispered. I nearly cried at the separation.

Let me explain something.  For a guy a sword is like… well maybe I can’t explain it but a sword is really something.

Later that night, as Air France flight 301 was making its way across the Atlantic from Atlanta to Paris; I looked out the window into the darkness of the night.  I’m not saying I had a vision, maybe it was lack of sleep or something like that, but out there on the horizon was my lovely Roman sword beckoning me.  It only last a second, but the moment was very powerful.

We arrived in Antanarivo around midnight local time on Friday, February 24th.  Our day would begin at 5:30 a.m. the next morning at a Bible study at a local church.  If you have ever traveled overseas, jet lag is a strange thing. When we arrived at midnight local time, it was only 4:00 pm in the afternoon my time.  Whose time? There is no such thing as time when it comes to jet lag.  It’s all about the body clock.

Well, anyway, Saturday was a killer.  About 2:00 p.m. that afternoon it was like someone turned the switch off to my brain.  My son Aaron, who travels with me and takes still photographs, had the same experience.  By the time we got back to the Costello Hotel (by the way it comes with complementary rats about the size of a Yorkie Terrier) all we wanted was BED!  I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.  It was around 10:00 p.m.

2:00 a.m.  BAM! The eyes are open. The brain is functioning. Why am I in bed? Where am I? Oh no! It’s jet lag!

I think what woke me up was one of the seminarians chasing a rat down the hall trying to kill it with a shoe.  He didn’t get it.

award copy webI had traveled enough to know that if I just kept still I would fall back to sleep. Ha!

costellohotel    It was on this ceiling that I saw the “Spiritus Gladius” mounted on a backboard.

I looked at the ceiling, dimly lit by a security light across the courtyard.  Then it happened.  Remember I told you about the sword on the horizon as I was on flight 301? Well, now the sword was on the ceiling.  It wasn’t in its scabbard though.  It was mounted on an oak backboard. It had the words “Spiritus Gladius” (Latin for sword of the spirit) screen printed on the backboard.  It had a plaque on it with a pastor’s name and the years he was active in the ministry. Oh wow!  Why not take one of these swords, mount it on an oak backboard and give to a pastor when he retires?

In Ephesians 6, St. Paul talks about putting on the whole armor of God, “and take up the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God.”

“Man oh man,” I said to myself, “That’s great!”  Hey, wait a minute.  That’s kinda like giving a General in the army a gun when he retires.  Why not give one of these to ever seminarian who graduates to remind that they “are not in a battle against flesh and blood, but against the power and principalities of darkness?”

Needless to say I didn’t go back to sleep.  I couldn’t wait to get back to St. Louis and build my first “Spiritus Gladius.” 

Speaking of getting back to St. Louis… Aaron got sick along with several of the students with an e-coli infection.  He was going to travel with the students to southern Madagascar and then spend an extra day in Paris.  The doctor advised that I should bring him back to the States with me. (That was an extra $1,200 on the plane ticket.)

We arrived in St. Louis around 9:00 p.m. on Thursday March 2nd. Twenty hours later I would begin my show for Family Shield Ministries.  Remember that thing called jet lag?  Well it happens coming home too.

I don’t really remember doing the show.  I do remember that we bought a new furnace at the auction. (That was an extra $1,200.  What is this thing with $1,200? Oh well.)  I also remember getting home and running to my sword. I didn’t kiss it while Mary was looking but I did fondle it.

This story could go on forever, but that’s how it all began.  And how did it begin? “Sure,” I said.SG FRONT PAGE

ark-of-the-sword-bannerOver the next year I would build that first sword, build an ark to carry it in, buy other stuff on eBay and begin a Roman centurion costume, buy a lot of leather an make a number of pieces myself and then do my first live performance of Julius in Nokomis, Illinois.

God has taken me on a strange journey.  The road has been filled with turns and pot holes, hills and flooded bridges.  But, on the horizon I keep my eyes on His “Spiritus Gladius.”

“Ok you powers and principalities, you’re next on my list.”

This is Julius now.  Put your mouse over the image to see the Julius of 2006.


© 2018, James Likens, St. Louis, MO.  All material contained herein is  the sole property of James Likens and Operation Outreach: TAKEN AWAY.   Permission to use any copy or images on this site must be obtained in  writing from the owner.  To contact him CLICK HERE.







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