1. John David COX
As you know, my name is John Cox. I was born in LeMars, Iowa, the fifth of six children. Dad was one of two sons of an only son of an only son in a military family. My great, great grandfather was a general in the Civil War, and my dad landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day in WWII. Mom was one of nine children.
My father died when I was 6 years old. We were in the process of moving from Iowa to Rhode Island - dad, who was an electrical engineer, had accepted a new job and was already east when he entered the hospital. The home in Iowa was sold before it became apparent that he would not recover, and so my mother - with six children ranging in age from 1 to 16 - had no where to go except home to Northeast PA where she grew up. We settled in Montrose, a small community north of Scranton.
I spent two years in elementary school there before my mother felt she needed to send me away to school. I think she believed that I would not get a good enough education in rural Montrose, and she heard about a boarding school in Philadelphia for fatherless boys called Girard College, so I began my third grade at Girard. I'll never forget when she left me there, that my mother bravely said good-bye, with no outward sign of emotion, "Do what's right. Work hard. Keep your chin up even when you feel like you can't go on."
I cried myself to sleep for months. I was a smart, eager to please boy and did well in the early years at Girard. We had vesper and chapel services three times a week, with a Sunday service as well, all done non-denominationally. Some of my earliest church memories are of singing Fairest Lord Jesus in the big chapel there with the gold embossed ceiling, and listening to the school headmaster use scripture to admonish us to be good.
More importantly, though, on the positive side was the message from the founder etched in the stone wall in the back of the chapel. Stephen Girard had said this, "My deeds must be my life. When I am gone, they will speak for me." I saw this every week for eight years of my life, and I must admit, it has left an indelible impression upon me.
On the negative side in my spiritual journey, I remember that in fifth grade I had a teacher named Mr. Reese, the first male teacher I had ever had, and the first significant male in my life since my dad had died, and a man that I therefore was most eager to please. One night, in the dormitory, I did something particularly bad for which the punishment was a thing called grudging. When you were grudging, you stood with your nose and your toes against the wall in order to think about your behavior, and that night while the other kids slept I spent over an hour in the hall grudging.
I remember praying. I remember telling God how sorry I was, and pleading for forgiveness. And I remember asking with childish earnestness, "And God, please, don't let Mr. Reese find out what I did." You know how you see things as a child.
Wherever we went as a group, we marched two by two in a line - there were 30 of us in our dormitory section - and we marched in total silence. The next morning, all the sections were silently marching to breakfast, and as my section approached the elevator we were halted while they wheeled a gurney out in front of us. A sheet covered the body, but as they wheeled down the hall I knew in my heart that it was Mr. Reese. Later it was confirmed that he had died during the night, and I believed it was my fault.
Up until then, I had gone to VBS at Montrose Bible Conference when I was home for the summers, and I can still remember Miss Jennings leading us in rousing renditions of Shadrach, Meschak and Abednigo. But, partly because of age, partly because of Mr. Reese, I stopped having much to do with God or church and it wasn't too much longer that I began to be involved with drugs and alcohol. I had my first cigarette when I was ten, was soon stealing them regularly, and began to drink and smoke pot by the time I was 12. I won't bore you with details, but my teenage years were fast, hard, and brutal. I've seen and done things no child should see or do.
Once, in my late teens, when I was working at a gas station in Millersville after school, I picked up an evangelistic tract and read it. In it, it said Jesus knew that I just couldn't believe he was out there, but that if I would just ask him to show himself to me, he would. I remember crying and praying that, but then going out and getting stoned after work and never thinking about it again. At least, not until years later.
I was 18 when I got married, and when my first son was born I was 21. My wife and I were ready to divorce within that first year after he was born. I was out drinking one night and when I called home to have my wife come pick me up she refused, so I began to walk home. I was so depressed, and felt like life was not worth living, that I hung over a bridge along route 30 and planned to drop myself on a passing motorists windshield. As I hung there, God said to me, "I am not done with you yet." Serious - I didn't know it was God, but I knew it wasn't my own thoughts, so I got up over the bridge and got home.
That following Saturday morning, I had breakfast with a co-worker. He said he noticed I was kind of down, we talked a bit and I complained about life, and he asked me what I thought life ought to be like. I talked of love and peace and common decency, and he opened the scripture and began to explain how God wanted things to be. Three hours later, I knelt and gave my life to Jesus.
My wife came home from work to find me playing a Jimmy Swaggert record that Mel had given me to listen to, and said, "After all those years of convincing me that God doesn't exist, now you want me to get all religious again?" She was not happy, but within a few weeks had recommitted her life to the Lord, as well.
Living mostly in Lancaster County - we lived in Kansas for four years at one point - we raised four children:
Ian, married to Jennifer Regan, has a son Abram, and daugther Eva
Joshua, married to Jessica Haugaard, has a son Jalen
Elias, married to Robyn LaRosa, has a son Sylas
Dara, married to John Bachman
In the first years afterward, I read the Bible front to back twice, and was part of a Prayer and Praise group that met every Sunday night for 4 hours!! Those were wonderful times when we talked, philosophized, prayed, cried, wondered, and sang. I grew a lot. We did that for four or five years.
We shopped for churches for a couple years until settling at Manor BIC, and then later became involved with a church planting that is now known as Millersville Brethren in Christ Church.
Out of that prayer and praise group, a couple of young men banded together and we had Bible Study at my house for almost 20 years, every week. Over the years, almost 75 young men under the age of 30 came and studied with us, and I say every kind from the ones who went on to ministry to those who ended up in jail.
I went back to college in the 80's and got my bachelor degree in Business Administration from Millersville University, and then went again in the 90's and received my MBA from Penn State. I have felt that my calling was to be in the work world, not in the professional ministry, but I have always felt called to minister.
In 1985 I began work with Turkey Hill Dairy. Shortly thereafter the company was sold to Kroger Company, and I have worked there since.
1. Cynthia Anne GREIDER
Cynthia is the daughter of Kenneth H. and E. Anne (Heisey) Greider. She is a graduate of Penn Manor High School in 1973. She did undergraduate and masters work at Millersville University in Psychology and Clinical Psychology. She did her Doctoral work at Temple University, and has a PhD in Cousneling Psychology.