NICKELSVILLE - The example James F. Aker is setting is one
almost everyone would like to follow - to live to be 104 and
still be able to run up stairs.
For the past 80 years, Rev. Aker has been an
evangelist, preaching in churches of almost every Protestant
Faith in 38 states and two foreign countries. This week he's at
Nickelsville United Methodist Church.
His voice today is as strong as it was when he
was 30, and his footsteps don't falter as he walks I through a
typical "busy day" schedule, which might include
addressing an assembly of local high school students, having
lunch with a group of church leaders, and holding services later
in the evening.
Wearing glasses is his one concession to aging.
His hair was snow-white during. his 90s, now has started·
turning black at. the. temples. His original teeth are still
sound and white.
He attributes his longevity to the service he's
performing to the God he serves. "I started preaching in
1891, but it wasn't full time," he said. In 1895 he held
his first revival on April 12, and fully intended to make it his
life's career. He was married in 1904 for the first time, and
shortly afterward, decided he would leave the ministry in favor
of a job that would afford him more money to buy the things he
wanted for his family.
"That was a mistake," he concedes
He developed inner ear problems, and was told by
the doctors he probably wouldn't live. A mastoidectomy, almost
unheard of in that day, was the only solution offered him, and
"My wife told me God was punishing me for
leaving the ministry, after I had sold everything I owned except
the mattress that we placed on the floor to sleep on," he
At that point his father insisted· that he have
the surgery, and he agreed. "My face was black and swollen,
and I had to do something. I promised God if He pulled me
through and let me look after my family, I'd preach anywhere I
was ask me to go," he said.
For sometime, following successful surgery, he
had to walk with crutches to keep from losing his balance, and
his family hid the letters requesting him to come and preach.
"But I found one of them, and I determined
to go. The first week I preached. I threw away one of the
crutches, and the second week I threw away the other. I've never
used a cane or a crutch since." .
A recent check-up at his doctor's office showed
he has the heartbeat of a 30year-old and the blood of a
40-year-old man, he said.
"My doctor can't believe I can stay so well
so long," he laughed. "He asked me where I came