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This Old Guitar

This story, like all of my stories is 100% true but a little long. You might want to grab a cup of coffee.

Of course, the beginning of this story predates the 1997 mission trip to Haiti. But, it was there that my old Ovation guitar was struck by the dart from the blowgun of a Haitian boko, or witch doctor. The dart cracked the face of the guitar and altered the sound but we finished the crusade and I brought the guitar home.

The story got around the church and one night, while my family and I were sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner, the door bell rang. I answered the door and there stood Jerry Rankin (he is currently the pastor at Kingdom Point in Georgetown, TX.). He showed me this Seagull guitar and asked me what I thought of it. I told him that I needed to finish dinner.

“No,” he said, “Try it. What do you think of the sound,” he asked as he handed me the guitar.

“It’s fine, Jerry,” I told the long-haired tall skinny guy dressed in all black as I strummed a couple of chords.

“Good,” he replied, “because it’s yours.”

Jerry sort of yelled to the fam that he was sorry to disturb our dinner and turned and left me there in the entryway holding this brand-new Seagull guitar. ​I had never heard of a Seagull. It looked good and sounded good and played just fine. I started playing it and carrying into the mission field.

I had an old case that it fit in but on about the fifth or six international trip that it took, the case got cracked and broken. I don’t know what happened but it came out of the plane looking much different from the way it looked when it went into the plane. Bob and Robbie Cave bought me a Takamine hard shell case that fit it perfectly for my birthday that year.

I took it on ten or twelve trips, to Haiti, to Africa, to Romania. But then people started giving me guitars. I didn’t ask for them at first, they just started turning up and I started taking them on mission trips and then leaving them behind. I gave them to pastors and churches and musicians who would play praise and worship music on them. Then I started asking for them and people brought them to me and the church.

I remember one time, sitting in my office, when a seven-foot-tall Texas Ranger came to the door and asked, “Are you Jim Rowan.”

Of course, my immediate urge was defensive, I was inclined to lie to buy time to figure out what the heck the Texas Rangers would want me for, but I showed remarkable spiritual growth and owned up to the truth.

“Yes, Sir,” I stammered, “I am”.

“Well, I understand that you take guitars around the world for churches to use.”

“Yes, Sir,” I repeated (my impressive vocabulary on display in this conversation).

“This was my Daddy’s,” he drawled as he bent down to come through the door and hand me a guitar case, “that would have made him very happy.”

Tim Long later told me that his friend was only about 6’ 7” but with the cowboy boots and big Stetson on his head, he was taller than the door frame.

I took that guitar to Malawi and gifted it to a Christian orphanage where we had constructed a huge playscape for the kids.

The Seagull spent more and more time not travelling and so, not being played.

My son, Shaun, headed off to college and suddenly he started playing a little and so I took the Seagull up to Stephenville and with him it lived there and then Arlington and then Fort Worth and then Weatherford and then Aletto. He wasn’t really playing it anymore, so I brought it home, to Round Rock. And there it sat, in my home, in my closet. My guitar.

I was getting ready to go to Latvia last month and realized that I didn’t have any more of the guitars that I had been given to take. I have taken 38 guitars across the globe and given them away.

I thought about taking the Seagull, I never play it anymore, but then thought, “No. It’s my guitar.”

That is when I knew that it had to go.

I was being possessive, I was hoarding. And so, I pulled out the Seagull and cleaned it up and polished it and re-strung it. I went to the music store and bought extra strings and a capo and a Super Snark tuner. I bought a handful of picks of varying weights and I got that guitar ready to go. I put Raymond Beatty’s red, white and blue guitar strap on it (Raymond passed about six years ago).

I put the guitar that Jerry bought into the case that Robbie bought and I carried that puppy over to Latvia. And after church in Olienda, I gave that guitar, number 39, to Pastor Oskers Lisus so that he and his wife (she plays) can use it in their church plant as they try to share the Gospel with unbelievers in a post-Soviet era.

I took a bite out of my materialism and possessiveness and I got to bless others, who will use the guitar to bless others. I feel pretty good about that. It really is a little ‘freeing’ to let go.

I asked to put an appeal back in the church bulletin for guitars to take with me on my next trips, Haiti again in November. I can’t give away all of my guitars. That would be crazy, wouldn’t it?

As I was leaving Oskers’ home, he asked me about the white paint on the face of the guitar case on the bottom. That made me smile, but that would be a whole ‘nother story involving King’s Clinic and Dr. Dan and me getting arrested at DFW. And that, my friend, would take a whole ‘nother cup of coffee.

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