The crowd Sunday morning at Centropolis Christian Church, 1104 Barnes Ave., discovered Mason’s talents soon after the 46-inch-tall Joplin, Mo., man was introduced by pastor Jim Cain as the service’s guest speaker and singer. It was Mason’s first trip to Centropolis, but he said he felt comfortable at the church.
“All my life I have wanted to sing at either Carnegie Hall or Centropolis,” Mason said. “I got to sing at Carnegie Hall a few years ago, and now I got my chance to sing at Centropolis. My father was a pastor of a small church, so I feel more at home. We actually go to more small churches than big.”
Mason sang several “old time” gospel songs during his program, as well as told stories of his many crusades to Russia.
“We have helped distribute over 4 million Bibles since April of 1992,” Mason said during his program. “Two and a half million of those have gone to Russian soldiers.”
Perhaps Mason’s most riveting story came when he discussed Russian Maj. Gen. Slava Borisov. Mason said Borisov was an atheist, but that changed after a helicopter in which he was riding was hit by a missile during the Soviet War in Afghanistan during the 1980s. As the helicopter plummeted to the ground, Mason said, Borisov called out to God, saying if He was there and let him live, he would spread God’s Word. Out of the 11 people on the helicopter, 10 were killed instantly. Borisov was the only survivor, though he was seriously injured and confined to a hospital bed for several months, Mason said.
Mason met Borisov in the spring of 1992 during Mason’s first trip to Russia. He said one of the first things Borisov asked him was to help distribute Bibles to all the Russian soldiers. Borisov now is retired, but Mason, 75, said their work with the Russian military outreach continues today.
Born in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1937, Mason began his singing career at 9 years old on the “Children’s Bible Hour” radio broadcast out of Grand Rapids, Mich. That program, with which Mason participated for seven years, is still on the air.
He attended Manhattan Bible College in Kansas, now known as Manhattan Christian College. Following his college years, he was the vice president and feature soloist of the Cecil Todd Evangelistic Team’s weekly television program “Revival Fires” out of Joplin.
In 1996, Mason received his “Doctor of Divinity” degree for outstanding achievements in World Evangelism. At 46 inches tall, he received recognition in 2013 from the Guinness World Book of Records as the oldest living dwarf.
Apart from his numerous trips to Russia, Mason said he travels more than 50,000 miles a year across the United States to perform. He said he used to travel 100,000 miles a year, but he and his wife, Judy, have scaled back their trips.
Of the many memories from his life and career, Mason said he remembers a specific one with Judy.
“One of the things I remember is that my wife and I were in Hawaii and we got up early to get coffee,” Mason said. “We went out onto the beach and watched the sun rise over Diamond Head Mountain. That was beautiful.”
The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year.