Prayer need: Our new colleague (who is in this story) J.D. Hull is completing his first week in South Sudan. Pray for him and his language mentor, Robert Lane. Also, pray for “new blood” to join our strategic work in South Sudan and its borderlands.
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There’s always a need for new blood.
“I figure in five years we’ll all be in his shadow.”
-Ronnie Van Zandt speaking of Steve Gaines 1976
The band needed it.
We all need it.
This story shares why.
This is probably the only missions blog that will quote Ronnie Van Zandt.
Ronnie, for those of you not from our neck of the woods, was the leader of the Southern Rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd.* I hope they don’t pull my missionary card for speaking of Skynyrd.
Skynyrd became famous for their anthem, “Sweet Home Alabama” as well as their show-stopping sixteen minute song, “Free Bird.”
“Free Bird” is still a staple for senior class songs at Louisiana graduations. Hopefully, they play the shorter version.
I’ve been to several funerals where “Free Bird” played in the background as the mourners filed by the casket in the unique processional of our culture.
This bird will never change . . . .
This story is not really about a song or group.
It’s about New Blood and how we all need it.
I’m simply using a story to make a point.
After the initial success of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the early 70’s, the band’s quality and performances began to suffer. It was due to a multiple of reasons, primarily drugs, alcohol, concert cancellations, and constant band fistfights.
One of the band’s early features was their unique lineup of three guitars. During the group’s nadir, they only featured two guitars.
Band vocalist and leader Ronnie Van Zandt began searching for a third guitarist.
At the same time, the maturing band leaders began cleaning up their act and realizing they needed new ways and new blood.
There it is again: New Blood.
Cassie Gaines, a member of the band’s backup singers (The Honkettes) begged Ronnie to let her brother Steve try out as the third guitarist. Steve Gaines was scraping along in Miami, Oklahoma in a career seemingly going nowhere.
Van Zandt grudgingly invited Gaines to join them on tour, telling the other band members, “If he’s no good, we’ll just take him out of the mix.”
Steve Gaines wasn’t good.
He was great.
This led to Van Zandt’s famous quote, “We’ll be in his shadow in five years.”
Skynyrd’s output in the next two years featured a sizzling live album, “One More from the Road” followed by the critically acclaimed studio album, “Street Survivors.”
The band had its groove back and all of the original band members pointed to Steve Gaines. “He was so good, he scared all of us into playing better.”
However, Van Zandt’s “in his shadow” prediction never came true.
Steve Gaines died in a plane crash near the Louisiana-Mississippi line in October 1977 and along with his sister Cassie and Ronnie Van Zandt.
The band’s plane, flying from Greenville, SC to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ran out of gas. Their latest album, “Street Survivors” had only been released the week before.
The man that brought new blood to the band with his playing, writing, and singing, was gone.
But he left a legacy.
A lesson is about new blood.
How new people, with their talents and fresh insight, can stir an organization on to the next level.
I’ve seen it over and over.
Sometimes we call New Blood a catalyst.
A change agent.
New blood can also serve as a kick in the seat of the pants.
Something we all need from time to time.
I’m privileged to be part of two new blood stories.
Today’s story is in Africa.
In tomorrow’s blog, we’ll share the second new blood. It’s a Dry Creek story.
The two stories symbolically link my Louisiana and Africa lives.
First, join me here in Africa.
Jonathan Hull, or as I call him, “JD” is a new member of our Chadan Engagement Team.**
JD is 23, fresh out of Liberty University, skilled in technology, and full of fresh insights.
Like Steve Gaines, he’s brought new blood to our band, I mean, team.
It’s been my lifelong observation that every team needs new blood to keep growing.
Because a team is always either getting better or regressing.
There is no such thing as a plateau.
There are only two scenarios.
Or slipping backward.
As a mentor, our most important job is to walk alongside that same new blood and get them ready to take on the mantle of leadership.
It’s called “Showing them the ropes.”
It’s what I’ve tried to do with JD Hull.
To give them time to learn, grow, and see how it’s done. This is called mentoring.
Sometimes it’s called MAWL as in:
That last one is the hardest to do.
I’m walking this same journey now with New Blood JD Hull.
Hopefully, I’m teaching him.
I know this, with his talents and insight, he’s also teaching me.
Making me want to be on my A-game every single day.
New Blood. A young missionary in Uganda, Africa.
New Blood. A lanky Okie guitar picker named Steve Gaines.
** Chadan is our region of service. It includes South Sudan, southern Chad, and their borderlands.
Engagement is the process of researching unreached people groups and working with both African and American churches to share the Gospel.
Presently, our “Engagement Team” consists of DeDe and me and JD Hull. Will you pray for new team leadership and more new blood.
DeDe and I finish our term in October. This will leave only JD on the team. Pray for “new blood” to join him.