Floyd "Lammie" Lammersfeld has seen the 1938 movie, "Boys Town," starring Spencer Tracey and Mickey Rooney, saying it is a good representation of what Father Flanagan's Boys Home in Boys Town, Neb., was like.
He knows because he lived there as a boy.
Lammersfeld, president of the Fellowship of Tennessee Evangelists and a full-time evangelist based in Gleason, Tenn., was placed at the home for boys with one of his brothers after living in several homes for orphans in Chicago.
Their mother had died of cancer at age of 32 and Lammersfeld and the boys were told their father was killed in World War II. Their stepfather did not adopt the boys and did not assume custody. Relatives discussed taking in the boys but said they would have to be separated.
The boys resisted. So the brothers, ages 11, 13 and 16, were designated as wards of the state.
John Peter, the oldest, soon struck out on his own and joined the Marines. Lammersfeld, the youngest, and Harley eventually were placed at the Boys Home, then known as Boys Town, which was much better than the other orphanages they had lived in. Harley did not adapt and after several months ran away.
For Lammersfeld, Boys Town was the first place since his mother's death where he felt he belonged. He learned about the Catholic faith there, since the home was sponsored by the Catholic church, and he served as an altar boy and completed confirmation.
After graduating from high school, he left the home. The first years on his own were difficult, Lammersfeld said. He lived "the rough side of life," he said. He became interested in rock and roll and joined several bands as lead singer, performing in Michigan and Illinois.
But at 21 years of age, he felt restless, he said. When some friends asked him to go with them to Tennessee, he agreed. While there, he visited a revival service at First Baptist Church, Gleason, and "met Jesus as my Savior," Lammersfeld recounted. The year was 1963.
He thought then of his brothers and wondered where they were and if they had such a faith. Soon he felt God calling him to preach. He served as a staff member of three Tennessee churches before resigning to enter full-time evangelism.
As the years passed, he felt an increasing spiritual burden for his brothers. He began to ask people he met at various revival meetings to pray that he would be able to locate them.
This spring he was asked to lead a revival in Chicago, and began to sense that God was answering his prayers. He hadn't known where to start looking, but God impressed him to look for his brother while there. He went through the Chicago telephone listings, calling each family with his mother's maiden name, Bakajan, and, after calling just three or four families, realized he was talking to his brother.
It was May 24. It had been 44 years since they had spoken. They spent a few minutes trying to get reacquainted, learning basic facts about each other. Bakajan admitted he had located Lammersfeld several years ago and had called, leaving a recorded message. Lammersfeld never received it. And Bakajan never tried again, misinterpreting the lack of response as a sign his brother didn't want a relationship with him.
Lammersfeld asked Bakajan and his wife, Grace, to attend one of the services at Fellowship Baptist Church in South Chicago Heights. The couple agreed, although they were Catholic.
That afternoon, three hours before the service, Lammersfeld stepped out of his camper on the church parking lot and saw a couple sitting in a car. The two brothers recognized each other and soon were embracing.
That evening, Lammersfeld preached "like I always do," he said, but he was praying for his brother and his wife since he felt they had not made a profession of faith. Lammersfeld's wife, Carolyn, who was sitting with the couple, was doing the same.
At the end of the service, when Lammersfeld asked if anyone had prayed the sinner's prayer he had led, Peter and Grace raised their hands. They were the first two people to move to the front of the church. "They knelt alongside me," Lammersfeld said, and assured him they had just met Jesus.
With great joy, the two brothers continued their visit after the service.
Lammersfeld learned Bakajan had been hesitant about trying to contact him because he thought his two younger brothers were angry with him because he had run away from the boys' home. Lammersfeld assured his older brother he was not angry, explaining to him that when a person becomes a Christian, nothing in the past matters.
They parted after making plans for the Bakajans to visit their newly found family in Tennessee.
Now Lammersfeld is looking for Harley, the only other member of his immediate family still alive. Lammersfeld expects the search for Harley, who has had no contact with any other family member, to be harder.
The reunion with his long-lost brother has strengthened Lammersfeld's belief in prayer. "God still answers prayer. Whether it's in a day, or a year, or 44 years, He answers prayer."