Howard and Sam Dig For Gold in Tennessee

Howard Claude in 2004

Ron and Gidget lived in a trailer park on Nolensville Road in Nashville, Tennessee called Claude Country Village. It was the owner and namesake of Claude Country who introduced me to the Marcinkos. But before I tell you more about Gidget and Ron, I want to set the scene and show you this village where they lived and give you some background that only the owner of the trailer park could give. This is a story about many people but this particular chapter is about two men from Arkansas seeking their fortunes in Tennessee. One was a born-salesman named Howard Claude and the other was founder of a rising star in retailing; a man named Sam Walton.

When I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, I commuted past a large trailer park that most people barely noticed. Virtually invisible to bypassers, the residents lived in mobile homes tucked back in a holler with a bluff behind that overlooked about forty acres of land. I asked many people who drove along Nolensville Road daily, “Have you ever noticed a trailer park near the corner of Old Hickory and Nolensville Road?” They would invariably say, “There’s a trailer park there?”

There was a rumor a big box retailer wanted to buy the land the trailer park sat on, and I wanted to know what would happen to the nearly one hundred residents if they had to move to make way for a new development.

I finally noticed the park in 2004 because I read the Tennessean daily, and the business section was reporting that Walmart was looking for a new location to build a Supercenter. Land in Nashville over the past few decades had become like gold but the terrain is very rocky and hilly and often very difficult and expensive to develop.

Over months of considering different large tracts of land, the news came out that Walmart developers were considering purchase of a mobile home park on Nolensville Road. City Council Member Parker Toler had already made some enemies with his aggressive push for development of a Target and shopping center on a wooded knob near I-65 on Old Hickory. Now he was quoted calling the little trailer park on Nolensville Road a blight, a clear set up for removal and development of this land for a large retailer.

In addition to Claude Country, a bar called Eddie’s Southside Bowery, and a Phase One Used Auto Sales flanked the entrance and were included in the assessment by Toler, that this area was drug and violence infested and needed to be removed and businesses developed and tax base improved.

One day driving by the park I decided to pull in and talk to the owner and find out if the park was indeed for sale. [following the new model of, where readers pay 99 cents to finish a good story, you can tape four quarters to a postcard and mail to me if you want, or just click below and read free].

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Hole in our gospel

The hole in our gospel.
Richard Stearns. Thomas Nelson.

2010 ECPA Christian Book of the Year Award

CEO of World Vision says Christians have a huge hole in their lives.

The hole is an emptiness that comes from rich followers of Jesus ignoring the plight of the poor locally and globally.

Stearns details his own journey toward filling this hole by becoming aware of the world and the teachings of Jesus to serve the poor. The former head of Parker Bros. and Lenox Inc. left the for profit business world to run a not-for-profit that helps feed, clothe, and educate children worldwide.

Says Americans must highly engage lives, money, and talent in fighting the “horsemen of the apocalypse”: hunger, disease, exploitation, armed conflict. Unlike many Evangelicals, Stearns believes poverty is explained by something more complex than choices. He says systemic injustice, deficit of education and knowledge also lead to poverty, and lifting cultures from these injustices requires a multi-pronged approach, such as Millennium Development Goals, advocated by UNICEF, Bill Gates, Jeffery D. Sachs, and Bono.

I would inject here, however, that William Easterly’s book, White Man’s Burden, should be read and digested along with the discussion of Millennium Goals and Jeffery’s Sachs’s book, The End of Poverty. Easterly’s work challenges he “planners” who think they can develop huge world goals and ignore the local “on the ground” element of culture and micro-economies within countries and regions.

Back to Stearns’s book: It’s an accessible book that will make it in the hands of Evangelical Christians who may not pick up one of the many ABA books on the world hunger, water, malaria, and AIDS crisis. This is a magnum opus for the leader of the most recognized aid organizations in the world.

The writing style is both passionate and motivating, and readers of Rick Warren, Jim Wallis, N.T. Wright will find Stearns synthesizing thought from these theologians as well as economists and missionaries. The book is biographical, motivational, journalistic, but in trying to be all those things, the impact can be less forceful than a single genre approach.

But for a leader of an international organization, the book is surprisingly no holds barred with an edge of prophetic voice in the wilderness, crying out to rich Americans, “Repent and help your world neighbors.”

At the Willow Creek Leadership Summit this year the book and small group guides were being passed out, so I asked for 8 of them, so we’ll be ready to provide this resource to small groups at Garnett Church whenever a group is ready to work through the study. In fact, I’d like for one group to go for it and “pilot” the study and lead the other groups in doing the book and activities. Let me know if you’d like to do that in your group.