God’s Provisions #106

After Mom’s memorial service we headed back to Dallas. School was starting for our three children, there were two horses, pigeons and chickens to take care of, the girls were into their music lessons, Dirk was practicing with his soccer team, I was teaching a seminar for a Sunday school convention, Chris Phillips, a member of our Bakerville CT church was coming for five days, and two days after he left, the Depuhls were arriving from Christ Camp in Germany for four days on their way to the Christian Camping International Convention in Glorietta, New Mexico – of which I was Chairman.

Yes, it was a crazy three weeks, but the seemingly necessary pace of life kept us focused on current and future events. There was very little time to think about what had happened to us in the previous month. Chris’s visit was therapeutic. He had been a college freshman when we left Connecticut, I was the minister for his wedding, and now he was in the pastorate. The Depuhl’s visit was brain stretching. They had asked Sally Jo and me to come to Germany two years before to help them turn the German farm that he had inherited into a Christian camp. This had been an incredible experience – the old farm buildings were stone, the roof was tile, and they enclosed a large cobble stone court yard. Now they wanted guidance on programming, their brochure, etc.

As for the camping convention – I had delegated everything possible to proven people and they had carried out their assignments incredibly well. Glorietta is the Presbyterian Church’s camp and conference facility. Their staff knew their business, their facility was beautiful and functional, and the hundreds of participants could stay in 1st class rooms, dorms, bring their own trailer or tent, whatever their budget or preference, and we could all eat together in their large cafeteria.

Apart from checking with key people, I was free to be with Sally Jo. During the five days of the convention we were able to spend time with camping friends from around the country, really the world, and meet with people who were interested in our coming to work for them.

It was a wonderful week. I remember sitting in the front row of the auditorium when the photo summary of the convention was completed – and as everyone stood and clapped, I sat and hung my head in tears, tears of thankfulness: the convention had gone well! I had been God’s provision to direct this first International Christian Camping Convention. And the convention was God’s provision to me – I had to see the convention through to a successful conclusion, and did. Meanwhile, Sally Jo, who had watched from the back, was also in tears – tears of pain, confusion and hurt. Camping friends hugged and comforted her.

The drive home was a long one. I remember sitting with Sally Jo in a motel in Wichita Falls, Kansas, at the end of a long day’s drive. We looked at each other – both exhausted – and realized that we had decided to decline every potential job opportunity. Now what? No choice. Get up the next morning and finish the drive to Dallas. It was a long, quiet ride. My mind would go to verses I lived by, that I believe:

  • “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge him, and He will direct your path.” — Proverbs 3:5-6
  • “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” — Romans 8:28
  • “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not lack any good thing.” — Psalm 23:1
  • “Be still, and know I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” — Psalm 46:10

Great verses, but…

We had gone to the convention fully expecting to leave with God’s quiet peace in our hearts, the confirmation of what we should do next. Nothing. “God, where is your guidance, where is your provision?”

We got up early the next morning, drove through horrendous rain (description from Sally Jo’s diary) and arrived home for lunch. It was Saturday, October 31, and as we ate together, we all had stories to tell. But when our children asked about a job, laughter turned to silence. It is tough to tell your children – “sorry, but we still do not know what we should do next.”

At the end of the day we sat down and opened the accumulated mail. In the mail – Deerfoot Lodge, in Upstate New York, was seeking a new Director. I met their qualification requirements. Then my heart sank. The deadline for applying was past.

The Results of Stress #105

  • Perhaps I could have cast more of my burden upon the Lord so He could have better cared for me – Psalm 55:22
  • Perhaps I could have trusted in the Lord more, confident that he would direct my path – Proverbs 3:5-6
  • Perhaps I could have put more of the recent past behind me so as to better press on for God’s high calling– Philippians 3:13-14
  • Perhaps I could have forgiven more completely – Matthew 18:21-22
  • Perhaps I could have more completely been still before the Lord, waiting patiently for Him – Psalm 37:7

Honest, I was doing my best to do all of these things. I had experienced God’s care and provision many times. I had experience in casting my burden, in trusting the Lord, of pressing on through difficult experiences, forgiving when it seemed impossible, and experience in resting in God’s care.

Nevertheless…I went crunch sometime in the fall of 1981

  • Having lost my job and been unable to learn why
  • Having to be part of a family that suddenly had its focus of time and energy stripped away
  • Having to give up our recently completed home at the ranch
  • Having to walk away from the Sky Ranch secretary and business manager who were good friends
  • Having to talk with all manner of people about “it all”, which was good, but exhausting
  • Having been with my mom when she died
  • Having turned down excellent job opportunities because neither Sally Jo or I believed them God’s will
  • Having to go to our church, where five Sky Ranch Board members attended – and many others who knew what had happened and did not know why
  • Having the responsibility for the Christian Camping International Convention in New Mexico in two months
  • At some point I realized that my blood pressure had gone way up and I had to go on blood pressure medication
  • At some point I realized that, at least weekly, when in bed with my eyes closed, our bedroom would turn on its side and I would have to open my eyes to get re-oriented
  • At some point I realized that, at least weekly, I was not seeing my physical environment like it really was, but rather as a picture distorted and stretched out – like some Salvador Dali paintings. At the same time I realized that, most often when driving, I would feel like I was in a tunnel – and the area around my tunnel was very dark and closing in on me. As I drove on, gradually the true world would return and I would be OK.

I pressed on, for the above did not prevent me from living a “normal” life.

Both Sally Jo and I came to realize that, due to our investment of time and energy, and the contributions of many family and friends, we would not have left Sky – apart from a “clear message from God”. Being asked to resign became that clear message – but it seemed to be a senseless, painful way to receive this message. We had good reason to believe what had happened was meant for evil, but how could God work this for good? Genesis 45:5, Romans 8:28

After hours of discussion, Sally Jo and I wrote out what we believed would be the type of ministry where we should be serving. What we wrote was a very different situation from where we had been serving.

Our desire to live In Partnership With God was never in question.

But when?
But where?

Chuck, Your Mom Has Had A Heart Attack! #104

On my way home from another futile attempt at finding out what I had done that had brought about being asked to resign, I walked by a store window and saw a belt that matched our daughter, Carla’s, cowboy boots. When I called Sally Jo to get Carla’s waist measurement, she told me the news: “Chuck, your mom has had a heart attack. Come home quickly. I have booked a flight for you.” I went in, bought the belt, and headed home.

Within a few hours I was in the plane, my mind spinning. My mom, who was deeply involved in a variety of ministries herself, rejoiced in how the Lord was using me in His work in wonderful ways. She was very aware of the powerful impact recent events were having on our family – mom and I had talked on the telephone many times. It was a shared, painful bewilderment. I had a long flight home.

When told about mom’s heart attack, it was not a total surprise. Twelve years earlier, when mom was 60, my sister was with our parents when she had her first and second heart attacks. As quickly as possible mom was scheduled for triple by-pass heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. Six weeks after the surgery our mom, very weak and frail, sat proudly at her daughter’s wedding.

For the next twelve years mom, though very active, was not physically strong. Dad, a physician, and mom had agreed that if she had another heart attack, or a stroke – no heroics. When I arrived home (Wheaton, IL) Dad told my sister, who had flown in from California, and me how he and mom were playing with grand children in their swimming pool when mom collapsed. Though he remembered their promise, he could not help himself – he could not just watch his wife die. Quickly the ambulance arrived and, on the trip to the hospital, it was necessary to re-start her heart three times.

Mom went into a coma and, after several days, my sister reluctantly returned to her husband and three children. Eight days after the first heart attack the neurologist told us there was no way our mom could return to anything like a normal life. Her brain was dead. I remember standing in the kitchen with dad and my two physician brothers, who lived in Wheaton, and making the decision: “stop the IV medicine”. Eight hours later she died. The next day Sally Jo and our three children arrived from Texas. My sister, her husband Lee, and their children arrived from California.

The memorial service was an incredible experience. The church sanctuary, which seated 400, was full, with people standing along the sides and in the back. The children’s choir filled the choir loft.

Billy Graham and his crusade soloist, Bev Shea, close friends of my parents, came to participate in the service. We sang the great hymns of the faith with tears streaming down our cheeks. Bev sang the verses of “How Great Thou Art” and we all joined in on the chorus. Billy told how my mom had made more ministers and missionary husbands happy than perhaps any other woman in Christendom – by giving their wives sexy night gowns. You can imagine the laughter. He then told he had come from being with his wife, Ruth, who just had a hip replacement. As Ruth was taking her first steps down the hospital hallway, wearing a beautiful night gown and robe my mom had given her, a man whistled at her. With laughter Billy said: “I do not think it hurt her a bit!” The church’s pastor then told about mom’s relationship with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am confident the non-Christians present had never been to such a celebration: A life truly lived In Partnership With God.

After the service our family went to a large room where we were asked to stand in a receiving line. The people coming by remain a blur…except for the many girls from foreign countries who were studying at Wheaton College. In tears, some sobbing, they said “what will we ever do without our American mother?”

No job. No understanding of why. A struggling family. And now, no mom.

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him” — Job 13:15

Poland Report!

To “In Partnership With God” people and family – POLAND report

Sally Jo and I, plus 5 other church members, are back from our short term mission trip to Poland – leading/ teaching an English Bible Day Camp for children. We both knew the still small voice that said “go”. Several human factors played into this selection by God…and our decision to go. Probably the greatest was that we were being asked by the Lutheran Church in Mikolow, Poland to do what they could not do – teach the Bible and run a day camp in English. Children want to learn English – and to have fun at a day camp. Other factors: Sally Jo and I have experience teaching children, know a bit about camp activities, have traveled in foreign countries, and are in good health.

The final factor: Sally Jo was chosen to be chairman of the Mission Committee at our church – a church which does excellent work within the Albany area, but has little personal relationship with foreign missionaries and has never had a short term foreign mission trip.

We were originally told to expect 30 children – then came the word…we are up to 57. We upped the supplies we were taking and were ready when 72 arrived that first morning, including 20 teenagers which Sally Jo taught. This program was sponsored by a church with an average attendance of 125 in a country that is 98% Roman Catholic – and was under communism just 21 years ago.

We arrived in Poland with with detailed lesson plans – and over 200 lb of teaching, craft, and athletic supplies. With Sally Jo’s coaching and prodding we had prepared carefully, but perhaps even more important was the preparation of the local church! Incredible people! Their PR was obviously excellent! They had rented a 24X36’ tent complete with pine tables and benches primarily to “house” the craft program. There were eight good translators eager to work with us. We arrived at the church on Saturday, and church members had planned every minute through Sunday 9 days later.

On Monday morning at 9:00 the program was to begin in the beautiful, 200 year old sanctuary with singing and an introduction to the Bible lesson. We had been warned: the kids would be arriving about 8:30 to play with the Frisbees, various balls, and to talk, and they did. At 9:00 everyone was there, eager to learn, to participate. Our pastor, who was a team member, is a great guitar player – for kid’s choruses. Each morning, and again at 3:30 he, Sally Jo, and a translator led the singing…mostly in English. But how about Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah, Praise ye the Lord – in Polish!!!

A few highlights:

  • After each group of 8 finished decorating cupcakes (almost un-known in Poland), placing and lighting their candles …the 8 sang the Polish equivalent of “Happy Birthday” to Jesus – totally the kid’s idea.

  • When acting out the story of the Prodigal Son, one little boy, with a sign around his neck saying “pig”, after being fed by the prodigal son…jumped up and laid down on a bench and said “now I be roast pig for the party”
  • The kid’s intensity as they worked on their craft projects: Christmas tree ornaments, place mats, book marks, banners – which they took home, plus 15 murals put up in the entrance to the church. Each reinforced the day’s Bible lesson.
  • About ½ the kids coming on Sunday morning, wearing their matching t-shirts, to sing the choruses learned during the week. It was moving to look see smiles in the congregation – a few trying to do the motions for the songs with the children.

As we prepared to leave, one of the translators said “This week I have had a revival in my heart”. We left knowing we had planted and watered many seeds. We left a greatly encouraged church that will follow up on these children.
We left with tears – theirs and ours! It was a great week!!!

Thank you for going with us in spirit…and for many of you, in intercessory prayer.