The best nickel ever spent

By: Major Frank Duracher

How much would you give, in cash, for a child to be won to Jesus? A million dollars? A thousand? A hundred?

How about just a nickel.

That is how much it took for Dewayne to take interest in learning scripture verses, which eventually led to his salvation. Because of that nickel, Dewayne’s testimony became the rest of a Salvation Army story.

Go back with me to Lawton, Okla. in the early 1950s. Dewayne and his family lived in a humble home near downtown. The family did not have much, so there were times when they sought and received assistance from the local Salvation Army corps.

Dewayne’s mother worked hard at home to take care of the struggling family. Making ends meet seemed impossible at times. Dewayne’s father was an alcoholic, that that did not help matters. When Dewayne’s father died, things went from bad to worse. His mother married again, but by now the ten yar-old boy had a stepfather who was a bootlegger.

The stepfather, Henry, took the boy under his wing—hoping to make him an eventual partner in the outlawed business. There were many times when Dewayne and his stepfather crossed state lines into Texas to procure alcohol, transporting it illegally into the dry counties of southwestern Oklahoma. To do this, they often had to take the dusty backroads to avoid the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Dewayne even remembers the secret hiding place where dozens of bottles of liquor were stored right there in the family home.

“We had some loose boards under the carpet, in the floor beneath the console television,” Dewayne recalls today with a sheepish grin. “The police knew my stepfather well — knew he had the stuff stashed away somewhere on the premises, but they never discovered that secret hiding place!”

“There was even a fifth of whiskey laid in the roof gutter which was hidden from view of anyone on the ground,” he adds with astonishment.

Such was the legacy planned for an innocent boy — a future partner in crime, a life dangerously close to the oblivion of sin… were it not for a nickel.

Before too long, Dewayne was invited by a friend to Sunday School at The Salvation Army Lawton Corps. Captain and Mrs. Lonnie Knight were the corps officers, and it was Captain Lonnie’s idea to offer a nickel every Sunday to anyone in the Junior Boys’ Class who would learn the scripture verse for that lesson.

Recite the verse by memory; get a nickel.

It sounded good to Dewayne. Back then, a nickel still went pretty far, and he was a bright boy. He easily committed the verse to memory and received his shiny new nickel. In fact, he received many nickels over the course of months of Sunday School that followed.

“I credit that first nickel with keeping me attending Sunday School at The Salvation Army, and changing the course of my life,” Dewayne now testifies. “With an alcoholic father, I might have become an alcoholic myself. And with a stepfather ‘training’ me to a life of bootlegging, I surely would have ended up in prison before too long!”

But because of Christ and The Salvation Army, that did not happen, thank God. Instead, little Dewayne followed the allure of a single nickel, which would soon lead him to a new name written down in Glory.

Not to mention a lifetime of service to thousands throughout his adult life. For you see, Dewayne became intensely interested in memorizing scripture for his own edification. He got involved in music, corps cadets, and other activities at the corps. And not long after giving his heart to Jesus, Dewayne felt the call to officership in The Salvation Army.

It has been a career shared by Dewayne and his wife, Milly, for over 40 years. Along the way, their children grew up to love The Salvation Army; some of them becoming Salvation Army officers themselves, still serving today.

Until now, we only knew this lad as Dewayne, a poor Oklahoma boy going the wrong way. But we can all thank God for that first nickel, and the man that boy became… Major Glenn Dewayne Fite.