COMMENTARY: Make A Difference!

Last week two men died who influenced my life.
The first was Milton Martin. Martin was a native Texan who became a Baptist missionary to Mexico. Martin served for 40 plus years in southern Mexico and was responsible for the establishment of over 200 congregations.
In 1980, I traveled with Milton, his son Bruce (also a missionary) and Larry Adkisson, a Ft. Worth pastor friend, to the Mexico state of Chiapas, specifically the small town of Challan. Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico, bordering Guatemala.
Larry and I taught a series on the principles of Christian music to the Tzotzil tribal pastors over a three day conference. The meetings were held in a crude structure, which had no running water or electricity. Most of the pastors didn’t speak Spanish, so speaking through two translators was a challenge. The four of us flew 900 miles into the small village by bush plane. I had always supported missions, but I had never seen it done in person. 
Milton Martin was the real deal. He lived the Gospel and his dedication and the dedication of the poor people to the cause of Christ changed my life.
In 1999, I was fortunate to travel back when the Tzotzil honored Martin for his thirty-plus years of ministry to their people. Those experiences changed my perspective on missions. I saw missions in action and it affected both my giving and my attitude toward foreign missions and missionaries.
The second was Dr. Tom Coburn. Coburn died in late March after a long battle with cancer. Dr. Tom served in the U.S. House for six years and in the U.S. Senate for ten years. Coburn was known as ‘Dr. No,’ in the Senate because he opposed fiscal irresponsibility. His successful crusade against Senate earmarks — also known as ‘re-lection tokens’- angered some Republicans, but it removed a practice that primarily benefited incumbents.
Coburn was a passionate advocate for Congressional term limits and a balanced budget amendment. He believed an Article Five convention was the only way to it done. I agreed with the need for a balanced budget amendment and term limits, but believed (and still do) that an Article Five convention was not the right vehicle.
Dr. Tom and I wrote opposing op/eds that appeared in newspapers throughout Oklahoma on our positions on an Article Five. While irritated at me for not agreeing with him, Coburn was never mean-spirited.
During one conversation with Dr. Tom he said, “Steve, it is our only hope (the Article Five) to get it done. The people we have in Washington will never pass term limits and a balanced budget amendment. They spend all their time running for re-election.” He later told me he thought America may have ‘went past the point of no return’ with our ballooning national debt and lack of fiscal responsibility. I hope the good doctor was wrong.
To my knowledge, Milton Martin and Tom Coburn didn’t know each other, but they shared many common characteristics. They were both genuine individuals and lived out their convictions. They were transparent, plain- spoken and neither suffered fools. They both made a difference in people’s lives, including mine. I count it a great blessing to have known both men, who were both believers and now reside in heaven.
Martin and Coburn are great examples to us to make a difference during our time on earth.
NOTE: A columnist whose reflections appear in newspapers across the state of Oklahoma, Steve Fair is Chairman of the Fourth Congressional District for the Oklahoma Republican Party. He can be reached by email at His blog is