The Open Hands Way to Live

Open Hands Africa: It's all about relationships but isn't that always so?
Open Hands Africa:
It’s all about relationships but isn’t that always so?


Elmer’s Open Hand

I’m here in the dead heart of Africa.  It’s a country we’re calling (for now) “Dido.”

DeDe and I have been here nearly a month and I’ve thought about Elmer Conner daily.

Elmer Conner was one of my Lake Charles (Louisiana) heroes.

A spiritual mentor and encourager during my years at Dry Creek Camp.


He always greeted folks with, “Comment ca va?”

That’s French for how are you?

As in Como-sa-va.

Elmer also liked to say, “c’est bon.”

As in “This is very good.”


Where we are now, Dido, is often called “The Dead Heart of Africa” and is in  the Francophone part of the world.

French is the trade language (along with Arabic). You’ve got to look under a hot rock to find an English speaker.


Thanks to growing up on the edge of the Cajun country (and folks like Elmer) I know some French.

Most of it useless here.

Such as,

C’est la vie.

Such is life.

Laissez les bon temp roulez.

Let the good times roll.

Probably banned from Missionary lingo.

Que sera, sera.

Whatever will be, will be.   Thanks Doris Day.

Jolie blon

Pretty blonde, pretty blonde. I know how to sway to the song. I’m a McNeese Cowboy.

Tete Dur

Hard Head.   I’ve known plenty.


None of the above is high brow Parisian French.

I could use some good French lessons here.


However, the best lesson Elmer Conner taught me had nothing to do with French or Africa.

I could take you to the exact spot. It’s the near the coffee pot in the Dry Creek Camp cafeteria.

I’d been told that Elmer, an extremely successful contractor in Lake Charles, had a unique philosophy on finances, generosity, and faith.

I introduced myself to him and asked him about this.

He put down his coffee cup and held up an open palm. “Son, when God begins blessing people with wealth, He’s doing it so we can  bless others.”

Elmer Conner used his free hand as if placing money into the open palm, then clinched his fist. “The problem is that we have a tendency to close our fist, thinking these resources are ours, not God’s. There’s a two fold problem with this: First of all, we can’t bless others with a tight fist.”

Elmer smiled. “Secondly, if we close our fist, God’s not able to keep pouring the blessings in our hand.”

He opened his hand. “God wants us to live with an open hand.”

It was one of the simplest and best visual lessons I’ve ever heard. It became what I call “Open Hand Living.”

It led to our personal missions organization we now call, “Open Hands Africa.”

I can attest that Elmer’s way of approaching blessings works.


After that night at Dry Creek Camp, he became a dear friend and relentless encourager in my life. DeDe and I were the recipient of great visits with Elmer and his sweet wife Betty.

I watched how they used every possession they had, including their hunting and fishing camp in the marsh, as an asset for God’s Kingdom. Many men came to know the Savior while spending a weekend fishing  with Elmer Conner.

He was a fisher of men.

He was a soul-winner. It’s a term kind of out of style today.


Solomon wisely says in Proverbs, “He who wins souls is wise.”

Elmer had that kind of wisdom.  His Open Hands Living will be a part of my life until I draw my last breath.  I hope I can clearly pass it on to my grandchildren.


Open Hands Africa
Open Hands Africa

Elmer is one of four Lake Charles men who mentored me during my fourteen years as manager of God’s work at Dry Creek Camp.

All four of them are now with the Lord.

They were each a man’s kind of man.

I view them as granite faces on my spiritual Mt. Rushmore.

Truett Kirkpatrick, Steve Spencer, and David Moore, and my friend Elmer Conner.


Each of them poured some of themselves into my life.

I am forever grateful.

As a way of saying thanks, I’m still trying to pass it on.

Thanks Elmer. Merci beaucoup.




  1. Good article, Curt. Wise words. We are fortunate to have those mentors who have unique and memorable ways of passing on God’s wisdom. Pay it forward…

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