“Truth is the daughter of time, not of power.”
Sir Francis Bacon
“Now make your fist into a ball, there you go, okay, I can see that vein now…very good Mr. Tok.”
The nurse in the white coat swabbed my arm with alcohol and then massaged my bulging forearm vein with her gloved finger.
She pulled a very long sharp, hollow needle out of a sterile pouch and quickly stuck it into my bulging vein. The clear plastic tube fitted onto the needle was attached to a clear plastic bag.
And that clear bag started quickly filling with my warm crimson blood.
The needle and the catheter tugged on my arm, stinging me with cold while my chest ached in rhythm with the beat of my heart beat.
Turning my head to the right I saw another fifteen donors laying on tables row on row. Most of them, with the exception of Patrick a brother from MCM, were in their early sixties and had the washed out look of winos or derelicts.
It was early June 1979.
I had gotten the idea of selling my plasma from Patrick in early March 1979. That night Mike Caulk, our pastor, walked up to the podium during one of our week night fellowship meetings with a grim expression on his face
“Brothers and sisters the Devil is attacking the Ministry,” he said slowly.
A low murmur ran through the crowd. I wondered what this attack was, was someone ill? Had there been a fire at one of the ministries? We, all 150 brothers and sisters, waited expectantly and anxiously as Mike looked us over stone faced.
“God, as you all know, told the elders in January that the Ministry needed to replace the old single engine ministry airplane.” [This was a single engine Cessna 210 that flew Bob, the top elders and the Praise Band from used to fly from site to site].
I remembered that fundraising effort clearly.
There had been innumerable bake sales, car washes and door to door knockings where we carried buckets labeled MCM Christian Relief Fund to try to get people to throw money at MCM in the near freezing February weather for the new plane.
We had also staged a walkathon entitled Evangelistic Explosion 1978 to raise money for this new twin-engine airplane, a Piper Aerostar (new to MCM but purchased used).
I actually kicked in about $150 from my stash of $400 from my savings. At this point my savings were down to $ 250. This after entering MCM with almost $ 900 in the bank in November (that is about $ 2,700 in 2006 dollars).
I was barely holding my own with expenses; even working 25 hours in the Pizza joint/week and even with the DOT grant that Dr. Carl had made magically appear.
All of this ran through my mind as the congregation waited for Mike Caulk to continue. He slowly shuffled through a stapled stack of printed papers that lay on the podium.
Then, looking up, Mike cleared his throat and said, “We found out yesterday that a piston cracked on one of the engines in the new plane. And the ministry plane is now grounded.”
He paused and said, raising his baritone voice to an almost shout, “Satan is attacking us in the midst of our success. But God will triumph here and we, his Green Berets, will answer His call. The Ministry as a whole must raise $ 75,000 to cover the costs of replacing the engine by mid April. I am counting on the Auburn ministry to come through in a strong way, as usual.”
I sat with my mouth hanging open in disbelief as Mike outlined a series of fundraising efforts including a special offering and urged us all to give sacrificially that night.
I remembered the all-out effort to raise money for the new twin-engine plane in February; how almost every waking hour, not devoted to school, work, or the normal frenetic MCM activities had been devoted to getting money out of the community and out of our own pockets no matter what.
At that time Mike explained to us how this new larger and faster plane would enable the leadership to spend more time ministering. It would speed the work of evangelizing the world; it would carry more people and more equipment for the Lord. That the plane was a critical part of the plan to bring God’s Kingdom on earth in our lifetime.
But the cost of this new plane had never been mentioned.
I had never considered what this cost meant to all of us and the drain it imposed on our finances. And now this newly purchased ( apparently with no warranty) plane needed $ 75,000 of work to keep it flying.
Even now $ 75,000 to repair an engine is a large chunk of money and equal to $175,000 in 2006 dollars. This seemed a huge sum to all of us in the Auburn ministry.
And it was.
And this amount, mind you, was on top of the money MCM had raised to buy this two-engined plane just four weeks ago to tune of $ 300,000 (or almost a million dollars in 2006).
I remember thinking all of this but the thought went nowhere as I swatted it down.
Did MCM REALLY need a plane?
At the time MCM had about ~30 ministry sites and ~4,000 members. Campus Crusade dwarfed MCM in size yet CCC has never had a corporate plane much less a two engine twelve seater. But no one, including me, thought to ask that question, or maybe dared to ask it.
So the elders cracked the whip and we went into high gear fundraising mode.
I did not really have time to take part in the fundraisers; I never had any time but I was going to have to make time it seemed.
Marty told the sight single brothers in our shepherding group, “I expect the single brothers to lead the way here, the Auburn Ministry has committed to send in $ 5,000 (the equivalent of 15,000 in 2006) for this need.” He looked over the glasses that had dropped down his nose, sighed and continued, “And I am counting on each of you to bring in at least $200; we single brothers are the spear point of God’s Army.”
And this money had to be raised by by mid-April; a date that was less than four weeks away.
Now with my savings down to just $ 250, and my time, as I have already told you, stretched to the breaking point, I did not see how I could make this happen.
I had already crimped my studies for the marathon of fundraisers to buy the plane in February and my grades showed it. And to make my quota ($ 300) for the special needs offering for the plane I had thrown in $100 from my dwindling bank account.
I would flunk out of school if I was not careful, or be unable to pay my bills, or both.
But one night, just after this fundraising pep talk , Patrick, my roommate, let me in on his secret and it seemed like an answer to my prayers.
And that is why I was laying on a clinic table watching two pints of my blood drain into the bag. The bag was full now.
My arm really hurt now and I was chilling.
“Okay honey,” said the nurse who walked up and fingered the two pint bag of my warm blood,“I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
She unhooked the bag from the catheter but left the needle and the tube hanging from my arm.
She put the bag containing my blood in a centrifuge that sat on a counter a couple of feet from the table I lay on. Soon it started whirling around with the sound of a rusty mixer. In about two minutes the red corpuscles of my blood had been separated from the yellow/clear plasma in the bag.
She drained the yellow plasma out of the bag into a clear bottle, wrote on a label attached to it, and then brought the bag containing my red blood cells back to the chair. Then she re-attached this blood filled bag to the catheter still hanging from my arm. She lifted the bag onto a pole and the blood, minus the removed plasma, starting draining back into my arm.
The cold blood hurt my arm as it streamed back in my body. It continued to hurt.
This part always hurt.
The rules of the plasma bank were that you could give plasma once per week. It paid $ 25 per drain. That was equal to $75 in 2006 money.
But Patrick and I were gaming the system.
For there was one blood/plasma center in Auburn and another one in Opelika, a town about 15 miles away. Patrick had a beat up Chevy and on Monday we would hop in his car and donate plasma in Opelika and then, on Thursday, we would walk to the center in Auburn to donate plasma.
So we doubled the amount we could earn despite the prohibition on more than one plasma donation per week.
In two hours total I could earn $ 50 per week ($150 in 2006 dollars).
But there was a drawback.
I started getting sick.
I could not recall having been sick enough to take to my bed since I was a little kid. I had begun doing this in March (three months) and ago I started being sick a lot.
First it was a bad cold, which I could not shake; that turned into bronchitis, then it was the flu. Then there were the headaches and I also found myself tired all the time.
But my plasma brought in about $ 200/month; the equivalent of $ 600/month in 2006 dollars.
This was equal to what I earned in slinging pizza in a month so it doubled my income. I banked some of this extra money replenishing my savings account; but about half of it went into the ministry offering plate or for the special needs offering that popped up regularly.
Like the plea to fund the repair to MCM’s twin-engine plane in April described above.
Or the plea the next month (May) to purchase a $ 200,000 meeting house for the new MCM planting in Argentina where apparently God had James Thomas speaking fluent Spanish after one week on site.
Well, we found out in April of 1979 that Auburn had once again exceeded its special needs offering goal by a huge margin and that MCM had been able to replace the blown aircraft engine.
Mike Caulk seemed very pleased and relieved.
For my part I had thrown about $ 300 into the special offering for the plane, easily exceeding my required fund-raising quota of $ 200; most of this coming from my plasma money.
The entire ministry had been flogged for cash so that Bob and Joe would not have to fly commercial. I had literally been drained for some of this money.
Well, my grades and finances reached their nadir during Spring term 1979 as I barely eked out a “2.0” C grade average. But that was enough, at least, to hold my term to term tuition DOT grant in place.
My engineering scholarship was gone forever with two consecutive terms of grades below the required B average .
With my work schedule, my rigorous engineering course of studies and my ministry efforts I also found myself permanently exhausted. And donating four pints of plasma a week was not helping me either.
I was sick and tired all the time.