Links Daily Devotional

From Washington to Sydney to the Ends of the Earth

“Go into all the world and disciple all nations…” (Matthew 28:19)

Six of us had landed in Honolulu when Milt and Karen Richards said our trip to Australia might be over. Their six-month-old son, Andrew was seriously ill. He’d been vomiting. His fever had been rising and he had an ear infection. They feared the worst.

Milt was downcast. He’d been working on this trip over two years. He didn’t want to return to Washington, DC, where we lived. Nor did any of us. But we were all committed to doing whatever was best for little Andrew.

To worsen things, Jim and Joy Millen, our third couple got word their son, Greg, had been in a school bus accident.

This trip is over, I thought. 

“We’re almost halfway there,” Milt said. “Karen and I want to keep going. We want Andrew to see Lynn Murray, our doctor and trusted friend in Sydney.”

I was torn.

I never wanted to go to Australia in the first place. Milt had been as tenacious as a hungry tiger in asking me to join him. For two years, he’d said, “The Aussies will be responsive to someone like you who’s played the PGA Tour.” I was calloused to his plea. I felt like a has-been in professional golf. They would not listen to me. And it was a 12,000-mile trip just one way. It made no sense.

I’ve reflected on Milt’s life. It came to me—Milt Richards was Australia’s first Links Player.One morning, about a year before we landed in Honolulu, Milt and I had been at a breakfast with three of our elders and mentors—Dick Halverson, Doug Coe, and Marine General Merwin Silverthorn–in downtown Washington, DC. Milt somehow had convinced them I should accompany him on his soon-to-come trip Down Under. Doug loved the idea of Milt and me going out by “twos,” like Jesus sent out his disciples. As I left that morning I began to think the unthinkable, Maybe God does want me to go.

Sometimes the Lord has to give a sign to an unbelieving, stubborn disciple, which I’ve qualified as for years.

Thirty minutes after our meeting, I arrived home in College Park, Maryland.

Before noon I received a telephone call from Dr. Hugh Fraser from Sydney, Australia. “Are you the one who wrote the article about Gary Player in Decision magazine?”

“I am,” I said, thinking Milt had put this man up to calling. Funny, because I was excited to talk with him. I’d never had a telephone call from Australia.

“We want to invite you to come and talk to us about what you do with golf players like Gary Player.”

“Are you a friend of Milt Richards?” I asked.

“Who is he?”

“You do not know him? He’s an Aussie who lives near us in Washington.”

“We have not met. I got your name from staff people of Billy Graham’s organization.”

I almost fell off the chair.

Within a few months we were in Honolulu praying for little Andrew and Greg Millen, asking, “Lord, what would you have us do?”

Milt and Karen decided: Take Andrew to Sydney. Lorraine and I go with them.

Jim and Joy decided that Jim should go back to Pennsylvania to be sure their son Greg was all right and, God willing, rejoin us in Sydney.

Dick Halverson had taught Milt and me to pray Matthew 18:19, “Again, truly, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

We prayed in agreement for Andrew’s healing. When we arrived in Sydney, his symptoms worsened. After speaking with Dr. Murray, Milt and Karen rushed Andrew to the hospital. We stayed back and continued in prayer, claiming Matthew 18:19. “Before we could get Andrew into the emergency room, his symptoms began to improve,” Karen told me recently. “By the time we got him into the room he was sitting up, and playful. The Lord had healed him.” A few days later, Jim returned with good news: Greg was uninjured in the accident and, though shaken, was doing well.

I do not have time or space to write what happened during and after that trip. Except two things: First, through Milt Richards, someone who loved God and used his love for golf to link others to God and each other, we met Graham Lawrence. Graham, a young pastor and more of a rugby and footballer than golfer, seemed like a most unlikely person to start a ministry to golf pros and amateurs. But Graham was a faithful man. God’s man. And over the next four decades the work to Australian golfers would grow like an old oak. Slowly, almost unnoticed, deep and wide.

Second, in November 2015 a group of us traveled to Australia and spent time with Graham and his wife, Sandra. We saw firsthand how they had raised up a cadre of younger men who will step up and grow the work into the 21st century. Some of you who read this devotion may travel to Australia sometime in the near future and have the opportunity to meet these friends.

Last week Lorraine and I went to Milt’s funeral. It was a sad time for many of us. We had lost a great mate.

One of the speakers was Andrew, now 41. Instead of sadness, I felt overwhelming joy as I listened to Andrew speak of his love and memories of his father. And then I shed tears at the words of his younger brother, Ryan, who also spoke. Since returning home, I’ve reflected on Milt’s life. It came to me—Milt Richards was Australia’s first Links Player. He understood probably better than most what our mission is to the golfers of the world.

Jim Hiskey
February 21, 2017
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