When doctors discovered a cranial tumor in Kelvin before he was five years old, they did not give him much hope to live out a normal childhood. His parents, trusting God and hoping help would come, transported their little boy to Mercy Medical Center where an extensive brain surgery would be undertaken, praying God would spare his life, yet doubtful that he would ever enjoy “normal motor skills.” Even at this young age, Kelvin harbored hopes in his heart that he would one day be a missionary. Those dreams seemed to be worlds away at the time the trip was made to Children’s Hospital in Boston, but Mom and Dad and many others were praying. The surgery not only spared Kelvin’s life, but in time he would be able to walk, talk, eventually drive, attend college and live quite like anyone else.
Kelvin graduated from college, still with a heartbeat for world missions. He acquired a “dummy” he called Zeke and honed his ventriloquist skills well enough that he could entertain folks with his routine with Zeke. He served for some time in New Zealand before coming back to America for further medical attention.
I met Kelvin when he appeared before Baptist World Mission for appointment to serve on the field of South Africa. There was an instant bond between us when I heard his testimony and saw his heart for God’s mission field, and in a short time I had the privilege of becoming his sending pastor after his internship with us for several months at Thompson Road Baptist Church. I gave him the nickname Kelvinator. He drove his own car, lived independently, worked diligently, displayed a commitment to ministry with a love especially for children, and his time at TRBC was an encouraging time for all of us. We learned that people who from birth have labored with serious physical handicaps cannot be sidelined from serving. Kelvin was faithful in our choir ministry, our bus ministry, our children’s ministries including VBS and was always ready to serve. I have no doubt we (I) learned more about ministry in those few months that Kelvin served alongside of our staff and members than Kelvin learned. He was an inspiration every day of the world to all of us.
On September 26, 2010, we had a commissioning service for Kelvin, and he was ready to go to South Africa. His loving and devoted parents accompanied Kelvin to Johannesburg, SA, and helped him to get set up in an apartment and in necessities, then left him there to serve His Savior. Kelvin made an adjustment or two concerning what church/pastor he would end up serving alongside, then began a faithful ministry of soul-winning, serving and visiting weekly an orphanage where dozens of wheel-chair bound boys and girls looked forward to his visits to cheer them and to tell them about Jesus.
In 2015, as Kelvin was serving and faithfully discharging his duties as a servant of our Lord, he suffered a disabling stroke. He was flown home to the states and has since been not only fighting for life but learning to do basic movements in a rehab program. Unless God would miraculously intervene, Kelvin will never be able to function again independently so his time as a “foreign” missionary has ended; but he will always have that missionary heart that beat in his boyhood breast compelling him, as a child with an incredible disability, to desire to serve as a missionary on God’s field, the world.
Some weeks ago, I wrote about a little girl who had the same heart for world missions who now serves in Africa as a missionary with her family. What she did, as a single gal, crisscrossing America raising support to go, was an incredible story that was summarized in a single question she raised when told the field she originally wanted to serve on was closed. She simply said, “Where Can I Go Then?”
Kelvin’s story is not dissimilar. When faced with herculean obstacles that would discourage most anyone from thinking of going to a foreign field as a missionary, Kelvin said, “What Can I Do Then?” Well, it would have been easier to answer Kelvin with this question, “What Can You Not Do Then?” He gave God his all, with impairments and crippled limbs, and he served well as one of God’s choice emissaries. He is one of my heroes today. He is on “R & R” now, wounded in the line of duty, as it were. He’s the Kelvinator. He enriches every life he touches.
As a tribute to TRBC’s missionary to South Africa, I wrote this poem in his honor for his commissioning service; it is entitled “Farewell, Dear Kelvin.”
“To ripe fields we send you, with our prayers you’ll go; Telling folks of Jesus so His love they’ll know. We’ve grown so to love you, love you in the Lord; For your love of children, teaching them His Word. You have served amongst us with a servant’s heart; We are kindred spirits, have been from the start. You’ve shown us Christ’s spirit by your words and deeds; We have seen Him in you, meeting others’ needs. You’ve taught us His virtues by your godly talk; He has loved us through you by your humble walk. So, to the field you go now, Africa the south; Your words will be mighty—as if from God’s mouth. You will reach His littlest, lovingly bring them in; Their lives will be salvaged from a life of sin. And when at the Bema we lay our worn tools down, There’ll be great rejoicing when you get your crown!