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Mantle Ministries

Mantle Ministries Stirs Excitement about America's Christian History
By Deborah Deggs Cariker, Assistant Editor

BULVERDE, Texas - He might well be a super hero. Sometimes he does wear a cape; other times, a hood. And then, there's his sword. Historian and evangelist Rev. Richard Wheeler, 55, dons many costumes to bring the message of Jesus Christ to homes and families across the United States. Whether he's George Washington or Davy Crockett, Christopher Columbus or William Wallace, Wheeler turns history - the oft times boring stuff of grade school fame - into one tale after another of eye-opening, jaw-dropping excitement, proving that God keeps His mighty hands in His-story.

When this former youth pastor shows up for class, it's not your average public school history lesson. No teacher I ever met wore a dagger and chain mail to class, or brought his musket and three-cornered hat. Wheeler, or "Little Bear" as he has been known since his Royal Rangers (Christian scouting) days, has some twenty costumes he gladly wears, assuming, too, the personality and sometimes even the accent of the person he is recreating. For more than 24 years, Little Bear has traveled 48 states to share the all-but-lost stories of America's Christian heritage.

Little Bear and the ministry he brings are somewhat like the rare books he reprints - a harkening back to a godliness that we've lost, or at least, are losing as a nation.

"Uncovering this vintage, lost and forgotten manuscript in an old, crusty, dusty, off-the-beaten-path, used bookstore was somewhat like stumbling across a time capsule compiled for the benefit of generations yet to make an appearance on the scene of time and space," he wrote in the foreword of Gaining Favor with God and Man. "This book represents, in retrospect, the acknowledged purity in Biblical standard, Christian character, and noble achievement believed to be attainable, with the help of the Lord Jesus Christ, only a few generations ago."

This book had a solid impact on Little Bear, who "sensed a tragedy in the loss of precious time for impacting our youth with the legacy of the godly virtues and marked excellence in character so vividly chronicled in Gaining Favor with God and Man, compared to the ego-centric mediocrity and shifting standards that have replaced the God-breathed, Judeo-Christian heritage. Is it any wonder that multitudes of our present day youth have not the foggiest notion of the precepts involved in being of service to God, their nation, their neighbor, or their family, but only unto themselves?"

This unique kind of sermonizing kicked into high gear in 1978 when Little Bear recognized the Lord leading him and his family into fulltime ministry. Wheeler and wife, Marilyn, have been married just over 30 years at this writing, and have three children: Noelle, Aimee, and Joshua. Noelle and husband, Joshua Goforth, have two young sons: William Reid, the subject of daily email prayer requests when he was born 16 weeks early, weighing in at 1 pound, 4 ounces, and baby Richard Bradford. This homeschool-on-the-road family has a priceless testimony of living, working, playing, and ministering together across the country. You don't have to have a mobile ministry to pick up some pointers.

"We look for every opportunity to have family time together involving work, `play,' and heart-to-heart exchanges - like father/daughter or father/son breakfast times - with our two grown children who still live at home," Marilyn Wheeler said, detailing some of the ways her family maintains its closeness. "(Together, we enjoy) meals, entertaining out-of-town guests, Sunday worship, camp ministry trips and also occasional time-off in the Colorado Rockies building a cabin, and family video times."

Little Bear's family lives within walking distance of married daughter, Noelle, and her family, as well as Noelle's in-laws.

"(The Goforths) have become like close family members to us, and we often get together," Marilyn Wheeler explained. "One of our fondest and most meaningful times together has been the Wheelers ministering with Josh and Noelle, joined by Walt and Sandi Goforth and all the children at my husband's `Little Bear Outdoor Adventure Camp' in Westcliffe, Colorado."

Camping and children and Little Bear just go together. Prior to '78, Little Bear spent time in Royal Ranger summer camps ministering to children. It is obvious in his seminars that his heart is for children, not just reaching them, but also reaching the ones who need to be their teacher and protector.

"I did a lot of historical stories like Chief Joseph, John Colter, and Jedediah Smith," Little Bear explained. "I would use an historical story to teach a Biblical principle. Then, I began to understand the providential perspective of the Christian history of America."

Here, the Lord began some fine tuning on this "retarded gopher skinner" who, as a child raised in Los Angeles, longed for the Old West-type of lives he now portrays.

"He was further inspired by a book written by his Bible school professor, Marshall Foster, called, The American Covenant: The Untold Story, and Peter Marshall, Jr. and David Manuel's book, The Light and the Glory and its sequels," explained Marilyn Wheeler. Little Bear highly recommends those books.

Little Bear began to read, study, and learn more about the Christian heritage of our nation.

"I was inspired to put together other costumes around the providential stories of God, just like I did for my mountain men, Indians, soldiers, cowboys and gunfighters," he explained. "My repertoire now encompasses everything from William Wallace in the 1300's to World War II."

The Lord led Wheeler to target older hearts starting about a decade ago. This refocusing came after Little Bear's own heart took a jolt from a group of third-to-sixth graders who confided they were watching R-rated movies. The shock was enough to make Little Bear feel like a failure, but the Lord put the blame where it should be: parents. With that lifted veil, Little Bear broadened his sights.

"We have to give our children such character that they won't compromise," Little Bear told a group of more than 100 parents and children at a Conroe, Texas, seminar. "Teach them to be holy! Daniel (in the Bible) and William Wallace were those kind of people. You must be a man or woman or child of principle. We have to purpose in our hearts to have principle and holiness."

Frankly, when Little Bear speaks these convictions, he often does so at the point of tears, and with such earnestness that he compels his audience to change. His conversational manner coupled with a life-and-death urgency captures children and adults.

"We have the sin of tolerance in America," he told the Conroe audience while clothed in his William Wallace costume. "The strength of our nation is our boys. If they're weak, America is gone! Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego weren't what they were when they got to Babylon. Their parents had already made them what they were."

As this one-of-a-kind traveling historical evangelism passed the two-decade mark, it now is easy to see how the Lord fashioned a unique blend of Wheeler's biblical seminary studies, Christian conviction, and theatrical training to remind it of its great godly history. Mantle Ministries wants to awaken dozing Christians and pass the mantle of America's true heritage to future generations. The Wheelers do this, traveling most weekends throughout the calendar.

In 1988, the family branched out from the live presentations to republishing books that honored God's original intent for America, and documented godliness in our Founding Fathers. Of Plymouth Plantation was the leap of faith in January of that year, published as The Plymouth Settlement.

"The Plymouth book was the first book we published by faith," explained Little Bear. "We published it with some inheritance money Marilyn received. We did a 3000 book run; that was 15 years ago and now (it's) about 30,000 books later!"

The list of rare books now republished is lengthy, dozens of them, and each treasure, originals to the 18th and 19th centuries, contains morals and integrity and godliness not found in more recent books. Mantle Ministries does not "revise" the books to modern language, but retains the original flavor, challenging young minds that often are fed simpler fare. Several years ago, Little Bear penned his own work, God's Mighty Hand: Providential Occurrences in World History, an anthology of the accounts of God's miraculous interventions through history.

"As a Christian historian, I am intrigued that most historical writers do an excellent job researching events and recording facts, yet altogether miss the truth that God's mighty hand forged the chain of events people call `history," Little Bear wrote in the preface of the book. "This is because they are not born-again Christians, and their perspective is earthy, not heavenly. . Unfortunately, we Christians receive the bulk of our history lessons from secular historians."

If you read Little Bear's books - God's Mighty Hand as well as his rare reprints - or visit one of his seminars, you may wonder how you missed out on so much history. You just might wonder why no one ever taught you what Wheeler located in out-of-print books, journals, and diaries. You probably won't like the answer.

"For decades, secular historians and teachers either have been ignorant of God's intervention in history, or they have intentionally banned this truth from their writings and classrooms," he reported. "It is only natural that secular historians remove what they themselves do not believe."

Natural perhaps, but nauseating. The more Little Bear found this special tapestry God wove together as He intervened in past "human" His-story, the more he wanted to light this spark in you to be able to discern God's handiwork in modern times. And you won't find him making any apologies for his honesty in buckskin (or chain mail). Little Bear tends to hit the nail on the head. Try reading his booklet, Warning! Public Schools Aren't for Christians. Where other Mantle Ministry offerings are the curl-up-in-a-lap kind of reading, Warning is a sledge hammer.

"My goal in this booklet is to compile a list of Biblical passages and prove by the use of Scripture that a godless school system is abhorrent to the will of God," he wrote, knowing full well that some might think this the work of a fanatic. Little Bear has no intention of letting you passively squander your children's training time. He's on a mission, and you are the target.

Little Bear has trained and encouraged his own children with what he has learned over the years. Read Daughters of Destiny, compiled and edited by oldest daughter Noelle Wheeler Goforth to see how he's actively passing the talent and the mantle. The book has its own sweet tale, the story of a faithful and obedient daughter and the blessing that shone from her submissiveness.

"The book reminds us of the time in her life when she persevered, despite a major disappointment, to honor her father," Marilyn Wheeler said of her oldest child. "Briefly....her dad gave her the assignment to compile into one book, her favorite stories from numerous 18th and 19th century books we owned in our own heritage library on virtuous womanhood. At that time her father recognized a void in meaningful inspirational reading material for young ladies, encouraging them in the virtues of godly womanhood. Once she had nearly completed the project the first time, she experienced every novice's nightmare - her computer crashed and she was not computer savvy enough to have anything backed up in any way, shape, or form."

It would have been easier to quit, but quitting meant disobedience.

"Months later, after she `recovered' from her devastating disappointment, her father once again encouraged her to resume the book project," Marilyn Wheeler explained. "This was a providential story in itself, because through her obedience to her father, she completed the manuscript a second time, and by his suggestion, together they contacted a gifted graphic artist to design the cover and complete the page layout. And the rest of the story is a wedding story-Joshua and Noelle Goforth's wedding story."

Doesn't God just give you chill bumps?

In 1993, Mantle Ministries also began reprinting rare fiction stories, like the Elsie Dinsmore series for girls, originally written in the 1860s.

"It is our opinion that the (Elsie) books are in a class far above the majority of fictional literature presently available for young impressionable minds since the Word of God, including His salvation message and Biblical principles, permeate the pages of the heroine's daily experience," Little Bear wrote. "We can assure you that `Elsie's' character has a way of capturing your heart, and challenging your life to live Godly in Christ Jesus."

Bring Little Bear to your church or homeschool group to challenge you and your life. Call ministry administrator Steve Ringer at 830.438.3777 or sending an e-mail to info@mantleministries.com. You can visit "Little Bear's" website for a complete listing of home educational resources, speaking itinerary, and information concerning Mantle Ministries.

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