On a cold morning in February, 1944, Earl, his brother Johnny, friends Lamar and Michael (name changed) had just finished picking the strawberries in Mr. John’s patch.
While Lamar’s Mother was washing and packing the berries the boys made their way to the east side of Mr. John’s house so they could sit in the sun and warm up. (Mr. John’s strawberry patch was about five miles north of Lakeland, Florida, on Knights Station road, about ½ mile west of the Kathleen road.)
Lamar got to the warm side of the house first, and sat down under a window. Earl came next and knelt down in front of Lamar, with Johnny to Earl’s right. Michael, remembering the shotgun, entered Mr. John’s house, went to the window, yelled stick ‘m up, and pulled the trigger.
The blast of #6 birdshot knocked Lamar off the bricks on which he was sitting. Neither he nor Johnny was injured, but Earl fell over, with blood poring from his wounds.
Birdshot lodged in his head and chest. His left lung collapsed. All but two of the birdshot are still in Earl’s body, with two of them lodged in the first tissue of his heart. Earl was left blind, and paralyzed on his right side.
Years of medical care, and “physical therapy” from family members and friends enabled him to regain the ability to walk, although with difficulty. Earl struggled with the deepest depression for years. Church members, family, and friends offered prayers continually. He eventually emerged from the depression, determined to be active again.
For 29 years he ran kiosk in the county courthouse.
After retirement from the courthouse, Earl was restless and bored with just sitting around the house. Unable to watch television, Amateur Radio became his primary contact with the outside world. He particularly enjoyed talking with a new friend, Roy Johnson in Ocala, Florida.
But Earl was still unsatisfied, feeling that he should be doing more for the Lord. He prayed about it a lot, and one day he thought, “why not have a ministry over ham radio.”
With Roy’s help they had their first broadcast on January 26, 2003. Seven ham operators checked in on that first broadcast. Since then over 1,000 ham operators have signed in to the broadcast, which occurs Monday through Friday at 2:00 PM EST over frequency 7.280.00. Earl’s call sign is KA4LQY. They call themselves the Ambassadors for Christ Amateur Radio Net.
In the one hour broadcast as many ham operators as the time allows sign in with a prayer request, a word of Scripture, and sometimes with a personal testimony.
After 50 years, I had a very emotional reunion with Earl in November, 2007. During my visit I sat with him during the broadcast. It was a personal blessing for me to watch him offer prayers and encouragement to the 25 ham operators who were able to sign in during the one hour broadcast. I was never more proud of anyone.
My buddy Earl, now 75 years old, although blind and paralyzed, is still serving his Lord.
About three years ago Earl was able to locate Michael and telephoned him. To Earl’s question, Michael responded, “I don’t remember what happened.” Earl responded, “Well, I remember, you shot me. But I forgive you.”
Since then Michael has visited Earl at his home, and they have renewed their friendship.
Earl said, “The bitterness was just like a cancer eating away at me, but when I forgave Michael it went away. I was just felt clean, inside and out.”
Earl now lives and broadcasts from Panama City, Florida, where he lives with his wife of 19 years, the former Lee Zinna, an artist and art teacher.
Click on box to the right of title to view photo of Earl Lipham broadcasting. Submitted by Lamar Hunt, lamarhunt.comcast.net 352-687-1559