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Breathing life into history

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By Tom Wilmoth

Jim Hendry enjoys bringing inspiring stories of the past to life.

Having taught history for years, Hendry, along with his wife Shelley and their children, now have His Image Ministries as a tool to present living history programs to audiences locally as well as in neighboring states.

This Saturday, June 14, Hendry will present the true story of Dr. Max Rossvally at 7 p.m. at the Bedford Academy for the Arts. The performance is described as being “a wonderful program to inspire the whole family and dramatically depict the power of one life.”

Proceeds from the event will benefit Bedford Christian Academy.

The story of Rossvally recounts the life of a hardened Jewish surgeon whose life was greatly influenced by a dying Christian drummer boy, injured during the Civil War.

“It’s a very inspiring story,” Hendry said, adding that it reveals “the impact one person can have not only on one person’s life, but all the lives they touch as well.”

Hendry has been in education all of his adult life. He has a master’s degree in secondary education and has completed coursework toward a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. He has taught courses at the upper elementary, high school and college levels.

“Even as a teacher I’ve tried to help students see that what happened then (in history) affects us now,” said Hendry, who works at UPS in Roanoke as a supervisor. He describes himself as “unashamedly patriotic” and hopes one day to make His Image Ministries a full-time endeavor.

The Hendry family has traveled through several eastern states presenting historical programs — from Pennsylvania to Alabama. The family lives in Bedford County, having moved here several years ago because they liked the area.

Hendry said his goal is “to inspire today’s leaders and leaders-in-training” and to “instill a sense of mission and vision.” He said it’s important to remember great men of history and to cultivate an appreciation for national and world history.

Besides Rossvally, Hendry portrays such notable historical figures as John Rolfe, the husband of Pocahontas, who was instrumental in the survival of the settlement of Jamestown; John Leland, a Baptist pastor when Baptists were a distinct religious minority; Patrick Henry, a man of conviction who helped stir reticent legislators to make their earliest moves toward independence; Thomas Jefferson; Gen. Stonewall Jackson, characterized by perseverance and integrity as one of America’s most successful military leaders; Henry Kyd Douglas, who commanded the famed Light Brigade after serving on Gen. Jackson’s staff; J.C. Penney, the son of a poor Primitive Baptist preacher/farmer who by learning the value of hard work and personal integrity built a retail empire; and David Livingstone, an explorer, doctor, geographer and missionary, who lived a life of adventure.

Shelley’s portrayals include hymn writer Fanny Crosby; Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch Christian and concentration camp prisoner during World War II; and Dolley Madison.

Hendry said there’s a lot of study involved in preparing a character’s portrayal. As for Rossvally, he said it’s almost word-for-word from his own testimony. He said it’s important to try to use the words of the one he’s portraying or, through the study of the character, to understand what he would have said. “We try to be as accurate as possible,” he added.

The Hendrys have six children — four boys and two girls — ranging in age from 6 to 15. The children work with them.

From classrooms to banquets, training programs to retreats, Hendry makes himself available to bring historical accounts to life.

As a family, the Hendrys bring to life hymn stories and a living timeline, depicting events or vignettes of history. The Hendrys have a passion for education, having taught in Christian schools, churches, camps and conferences. Through His Image Ministries they hope to encourage and be “fellow helpers” in the truth. Their mission is to see God transform lives through the written, spoken or musical word.