It took St. Clair resident Jack Henderson 26 years to write and publish his book, “The Journey of Life.” However, the main reason for that extended time frame is that the manuscript was lost for about 25 of those years.
Henderson, 88, a retired minister who remains active in his church, St. Clair Southern Baptist, as a Sunday school teacher and volunteer, had the book published through LifeRich Publishing earlier this year. It centers on what Christians believe is the most important decision an individual can make — to trust Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.
“I’ve sat and listened to sermon after sermon,” Henderson said. “And I’ve heard the plan of salvation presented in many, many ways. Sometimes, it takes a mastermind to figure out what’s being said. You don’t need eloquent words or complicated phrases.
“I just thought, especially today, the message needs to be made more plain and simple. You need Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. It’s not complicated.”
The book is written from a 12-year-old boy’s point of view. Henderson got the idea when one of his own sons was 12, and he started asking questions about God and what it takes to get to Heaven from a biblical perspective.
That son is now 38 years old.
“I started writing the book back then,” Henderson said. “I wanted to exercise his train of thought. But, I lost the manuscript. We found it in some boxes last summer.”
He said when he started writing it again, the text “just flowed.”
“I truly was inspired by God,” he said. “The idea is to present God’s plan of salvation in as simple a way as possible.”
Biblical Christians believe that faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior is the only way to heaven, and that the Bible specifically lays out that plan.
The title page of the book uses Hebrews 11:1 as an introductory verse.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
And Henderson himself quoted Acts 16:31 when talking about the purpose of writing the book.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
“The Journey of Life” contains 10 chapters and is a short read at under 100 pages.
“‘The Journey of Life’ is a unique and refreshing account of the most pivotal and miraculous time in Hebrew history,” said James Plymale, director of missions for the Franklin County Baptist Association. “Written from the perspective of a self-told story of a fictional character as he lives as a child through the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt to the conquest and possession of the land promised by God to the Hebrews, you will think you are walking through these times yourself.
“As you read this story, you will be inspired and challenged to know and trust God on the journey of your life, no matter your stage of life.”
Henderson himself said he was saved while driving a cattle feed truck.
“I was by myself and probably about 28 years old,” he said. “I had been battling pneumonia. I was so sick I could have died. My fever was excessive.
“I got to thinking in the cab of the truck. If I died, I knew I would go to hell. I didn’t want to go to hell. As I was driving along, I knew what I needed to do. I decided that night to truly trust in Jesus Christ.”
The Bible states that personal faith and trust in Christ is what is needed for salvation.
“As I started to write the book, I wanted to use it to help others find Jesus,” Henderson said. “And I want to draw Christians closer.”
Henderson said his mother, Frances, planted the Christian seed in him when he was a child.
“She talked to me about God,” he said. “She prayed with me.”
Henderson said his mother also was a born-again Christian.
His mom died while Henderson was in the Navy. His father, Charles, died shortly after that.
Henderson was born in Hannibal in 1925. Just before he turned 16 years old, he joined the Navy.
“I spent my 16th birthday in boot camp,” he said.
He served for four years in the Pacific, the first couple of which were during World War II.
“I was on a ship that carried oil to other ships and bases,” Henderson said. “I worked in the engine room.”
He said he does not like to discuss his Navy days.
After the service, he returned to Missouri and relocated to St. Louis, where he earned his General Equivalency Diploma. He took college classes at both Missouri Baptist University and the University of Missouri in St. Louis, mainly because “I was interested in learning.”
He did not earn a college diploma.
Eventually, Henderson became a teacher in the Lonedell R-XIV School District and taught eighth grade for 14 years. While he was a teacher, he became an ordained Southern Baptist minister.
He pastored at Prospect and Oak Grove Baptist churches and started the Anaconda Mission. He pastored churches for 26 years.
He attended seminary at Southwest Texas.
Following his retirement as a teacher and pastor in the late 1970s, Henderson drove a tour bus for Mid- American Coaches for 14 years.
“I drove people all over the country and Canada,” he said, adding that his favorite place remains Missouri but that he enjoyed the West and the mountains.
He was a charter member of St. Clair Southern Baptist Church, and has taught Sunday school there from the start.
Henderson and his wife, Mary, have been married for 40 years. They met at Oak Grove Baptist Church. They have seven children.