Humble Beginnings – Part 1

It all started with a dream—a dream about a television station that would reach the world with the undiluted three angels’ messages; a station that would counteract the counterfeit.

Danny Shelton was troubled about some of the programs presented on a Christian television station. As he prayed that night, he asked, “Lord, why are there no stations proclaiming the truth?” Then he asked the Lord to send someone to build a station that would broadcast Bible truths, and his prayer was answered in a dream and a vision of what was to become a worldwide television ministry.

With the assurance that this was from God, Danny realized he was the one God was calling! That same night he actuated his faith by picking up the phone in the early hours of the morning, and casting the vision of 3ABN to his friends and family. Although this dream was the delivery room in which 3ABN was birthed, it was not where it had been conceived. It started in the heart of God.

The Lord bestowed His dream upon a family that was poor but refused to compromise the Word of God—a family who had a little boy named Danny Lee Shelton. Danny was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth; it was more like a wooden spoon. He was one of five children born into a low-income, job-challenged community in southern Illinois. However, the Shelton family survived because their father and mother, Tommy and Goldie, were accomplished country music singers and musicians. Their group, the Melody Kings, was extremely popular in the 1940s, both on the nightclub circuit and on the radio. Their band could make a couple hundred dollars a weekend, which was a lot of money for a few days’ work! But their money source was about to dry up, because soon Tommy and Goldie both accepted Jesus as the Lord of their lives, and embraced the truth of the Sabbath. After that, it was extremely difficult for Danny’s father to find a decent job that didn’t require him to work on the Sabbath.

It was also a real sacrifice for this dedicated man to go from the popularity of a performing artist to being a trash collector. He purchased a septic tank truck (affectionately called the “honey-dipper”) and pumped out raw sewage. But this career ended as well when he decided to complete a job on the Sabbath, and the truck engine blew up!

Tommy Shelton, Sr., was a hard working man that provided for the needs of his family. However, life came hard and fast, and at the young age of 36 he had a disabling heart attack. To make matters worse, after the heart attack he was stricken with kidney cancer. During this tragedy, Tommy’s family started sending up fervent prayers to God, and He sent down abundant care to them. Tommy received a miraculous healing; the cancer was gone. Nonetheless, these debilitating setbacks left the Shelton clan without a fixed income. Although Tommy was disabled, there were no disability benefits available at that time for him or his family. Determined to provide for them, Tommy refused to quit. Somehow, he knew God would make a way where there seemed to be no way.

Eventually the Sheltons began collecting anything they could recycle—junked cars, scrap metal, and even old furniture. During the  summer, they would team up with their uncle Olen’s family and travel to northern Indiana, where they would work as migrant     workers. They lived among the Amish people, picking tomatoes and other crops. Some years, the kids would be six weeks late getting back to school because they were still out in the fields!

One summer, the two families lived in an old barn, putting up cardboard partitions to divide their family space. Another year, they lived in an old two-story farmhouse with a big front porch—but no running water. They would start picking at 6:00 a.m. and sweat through the hot, humid days of summer, arriving back home by 6:30 p.m. They would take turns bathing in an old washtub, and then gather around, singing about Jesus until they were exhausted and fell asleep. Undoubtedly, Danny’s mom understood the expression, “Don’t throw the baby out with the wash water!” because he’s still around.

Although Danny was likeable, funny, and caring, grade school days were not easy for him. Often he would hear someone say, “Hey, Danny Shelton has on one of my old coats that my mother gave away!” There were times when the kids would invite him to go downtown in West Frankfort to eat lunch, but he couldn’t go because he didn’t have any money. Occasionally he would have a few pennies, though, and would slip down to the five-and-dime for a bag of peanuts.

Then there was the time when the basketball team photo was to be taken and all Danny had was an old pair of black high-top Keds. Their family might have been poor, but Goldie was resourceful. Finding some white house paint, she painted his shoes for the picture! It worked.

On his wedding day, Danny’s parents weren’t able to give him a wedding present. “I wish you the best, son,” Tommy said as he hugged his son’s neck and shook his hand. And that was good enough, because despite his lack of finances, Danny esteemed his father highly for his character. He never took advantage of anyone, and never cheated anyone. And that same godly character was instilled in all the Shelton children.

Tommy Shelton never sent his kids to church; he took them with him. He lived by God’s standards, and expected the rest of the family to do the same. His rule was, “If you can get up on Sabbath morning, you go to church.” Even the neighbors knew that sickness was the only reason a Shelton would stay home!

Before having children Goldie often prayed, “Lord, give me children to use in Your work.” Her prayers were certainly answered. She often said that one of her fondest memories of Danny as a child was of him bringing home literature from the church, then saying after lunch, “Mom, I’m going to give out some literature.” Down the street he would go, singing, “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop,” as he passed out his Christian pamphlets.

Many who might think that it took some extraordinary man to bring about 3ABN’s worldwide ministry may very well change their mind after reading this article. God didn’t need an extraordinary man; He had found an ordinary little boy who loved Him with all his heart. Later He would give him a vision to reach the world, and against all odds, He would make it happen!

In the upcoming months, you’ll read more about the unfolding of the vision, and why 3ABN continues to reach the world with the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14.

Author Hal Steenson