By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
OTTAWA — Denny Coates can spin a good tale.
The pastor of Ottawa Faith Baptist Church has written his first book titled “The Woman Who Stayed.” He said the book’s purpose is to provide hope and encouragement to others.
“Thoreau said, ‘Many men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ So there’s stories about answers to prayer. There’s stories about success and failure. There’s stories about aging. How can I know I’m a Christian? All those types of things,” Coates said.
The book is filled with 31 short stories that feature various characters from history such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, biblical history including Jonah and Elijah, and stories from Coates’ personal life. Each chapter includes a short passage of Scripture and a story.
“It’s kind of laid out like a devotional, and I encourage people to read a chapter a day,” he said.
Coates said some feature a “rest of the story” type of twist made popular by radio personality Paul Harvey. These tales often told the back story of a famous person, but waited until the end to reveal the figure’s identity.
“And some of them aren’t the surprise ending. But more than just a story, I tried to look at it in a certain way so that it would be turned to encourage,” Coates explained.
One of the stories is titled “Has-been Fred” and tells about George Frederick Handel, who, Coates wrote, just needed “a little inspiration” to write the “Messiah.” Coates’ favorite story is called “Sparky Was a Loser,” which compares “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schulz with Coates’ own father. Harvey had done a story on Schulz and said that Charlie Brown was modeled after Sparky, which was Schulz’s nickname when he was young.
“He was such a loser. And Paul Harvey, of course, makes the ironic observation that he was such a success. He wasn’t such a loser,” Coates said.
But in reading Schulz’s biography, Coates learned that the cartoonist didn’t handle his fame well. He ended up divorced, estranged from his children and without faith.
“At the end of his life, he looked back over it and he said, ‘What a waste,'” said Coates.
In contrast, Coates tells the story of a young man who, at 12, became a Christian. The man eventually married and raised a family.
“He just devoted himself to her and stayed true to his faith and to his family,” said Coates. “They were married 70 years, and the last 10 years she had Alzheimer’s and he devoted himself to take care of her. He was her caregiver, wouldn’t even think about a nursing home. He would say, ‘Not as long as there is breath in this body.'”
That man, Coates revealed, was his father.
Some stories don’t have surprise endings. Instead, they look at things in a different way so as to encourage, said Coates. One of those stories is about evangelist D.L. Moody.
In his early years, Moody, who was then a young preacher, heard British evangelist Henry Varley speak: “‘It remains for the world to see what the Lord can do with a man wholly consecrated to Christ.’ And Moody responded within his heart, ‘I resolve to be that man,'” Coates wrote.
Moody went on to found the Northfield Seminary for girls, Mount Hermon School for boys and a school in Chicago that would become the Moody Bible Institute.
Later, Varley learned how his message had inspired Moody.
“Varley said he didn’t remember ever making the statement,” said Coates. “I just kept thinking about in heaven, where they’re passing out rewards, how many times will we will be rewarded for something we have completely forgotten and had no idea we had such an impact.”
Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Coates has been involved in ministry for over 40 years. Faith Baptist Church was started in 1985 in a storefront in Ottawa by Coates, his wife Donna, their children and two other families.
“The idea of trying to help and encourage and the idea of trying to use your church to help people, instead of using people to build your church, we started this church with that idea,” he said.
Coates started writing about five years ago when he joined the Black Swamp Writer’s Guild. Nancy Kline, who leads the writers’ group, was previously the religion editor at the Putnam County Sentinel newspaper.
“Back then, she had a column called ‘Thoughts From the Pulpit,’ and she encouraged area pastors to write something. So I wrote a little bit, and she encouraged me,” Coates recalled.
Once the writers’ group started, he continued to write.
Coates self-published the book, which came out in December. The book received a good response from the public, and he’s now working on a sequel.
“The hardest part for me was just inspiration for another story,” he said. “Like I said, it’s not just facts from history. It’s something that has a point to it.”
The book is available for $5 at Coffee Amici in Findlay; Kohl’s Market and Always Blessed Gifts, Ottawa; Touches from the Heart, Glandorf; Ooh La Latte Coffee Shop, Columbus Grove; Pandora’s Lunch Box; and on Amazon.