We have taken off on our Las Vegas journey, therefore, it behooves me to make a recap of our Oregon trip we took just five weeks ago. Pastor Roger Napier had talked to me at conference about the “One Minute Bible Studies” seminar; so he signed me up for a Sunday shot. We did the Science Slide Show for Sunday School, I preached an evangelism sermon for Sunday morning service and we went out for a short outreach for the evening service.
Our flight was delayed in Las Vegas so it gave us some extra time to spend with Jesus in Audra while waiting for our flight. We got in late, but I had downloaded the Uber app to my Windows phone looking forward to this maiden voyage with Uber. I watched as my Uber vehicle made its way to the airport on my phone screen. Pleasant, revolutionary and a little cheaper; I can live with that.
Services went well and we had good fellowship with Roger and Heidi. Heidi is English, loves Inspector Morse, and is a blast to talk with. Roger has seen it all; and is still in contact with the original gang of Airmen he got saved with in England. The church did well on the outreach that night; but I experienced a Northwest flashback, everyone politely rejected me. Any evangelical person from the Northwest knows that feeling. I still have a clipped out article from a Chicago native, transplanted to Seattle, describing the “friendly unfriendliness” of Seattle people.
This put me in a retrospective mood; but the folks I was going out with were enjoying the interaction they were having with people as they did the one minute bible studies. They would pray with people and get phone numbers, as did many of the other members of the church. We gathered back at the church after the outreach to many good testimonies. I continue to enjoy describing the outreach as another arrow in the quiver or another stone in the pouch. It is just one of a million ways God is spreading His word through the earth. (Pastor Greg Mitchell’s admonition to me was to not spread this outreach method as a must do outreach because it is the only right way to do it.) A lot more wisdom there than you might think.
We were originally going to do Monday and Tuesday with Pastor Jon Gash in Vancouver, WA; but he had prior commitments freeing us up that Monday and still doing the Tuesday night. We had a nice breakfast with Roger and Heidi and then headed up to Seattle to see some of our church folks from 16 years ago.
The strolls down memory lane can be bittersweet. How do I sum up 12 years of ministry that netted a hand full of people? It was on one of these drives home from a McMinnville conference that God settled some issues between Him and me. Every projection of ministerial success was totally demolished through my Seattle experiences. Driving home, feeling let down by God, (et least my ego did) God spoke to me.
Let me insert a conference sermon illustration just here. Oral Roberts was being interviewed by Merv Griffin on TV. Mockingly, with laughter from the audience Merv questioned Oral about “hearing” God’s voice. “What does God’s voice sound like?” Oral Roberts responded: “You know, Merv”; to a hushed audience. Yes, we all know the voice of God, some of us choose to listen; others choose to ignore.
Having just had my ministerial failure paraded before the conference body I was spiritually limping home. The answer always seemed to be the same in my wounded spirit: more prayer, more study, more discipline, more outreach, more giving and the problem was always me or the people in the church. God’s response to my complaining spirit was “You just love the people I have given you.” Something changed in my life from that day until this moment. God wanted me to appreciate people, more specifically, His people. Doug Begg, our main disciple, took on a whole new persona in my eyes. He went from a man needing to improve to help me build the church, to a friend helping me and he be the church along with everyone else. These words do not do justice to the work God did in my heart; but I was able to enjoy our church from that day forward with a sense of purpose and accomplishment in the things He was doing in our small outpost of Christianity; and the devil has not been able to steal this from me to this day.
Every sight on the drive from Portland to Seattle was beautiful in our eyes. Joan, in particular, seemed buoyant in her expectations of what the visit would produce. We would meet at Jane’s house for Pizza and be joined by the Begg clan. We would spend the night there. We first visited our old house in Ballard. The people who now own it have added a deck along with great looking doors. They got rid of the asbestos siding and replaced it with good looking siding. The house looks great and it was great to see our ideas pressed forward, even to the French door going out to the deck. Our only neighbor still there was Rhonda, the famous mother of Robert and Arron, but she wasn’t home. We then spun over to see if we could find Lorraine Peck. Lorraine was our first convert in our church. She would attend Catholic mass in the morning and attend our services on Sunday night and Wed. Many times it would be her and Joan holding our children while I preached. One Sunday morning she showed up to church. I asked her what was up and she told us she had decided to leave the Catholic Church and come to church with us. She would get baptized and really live a blessed life as she does to this day.
We hadn’t prepared for this Seattle trip so we didn’t have her address; but we knew she lived around the Philadelphia Church which she attended; so we headed for NW 24th Ave. We parked the car, walked 10 paces to the corner to see her coming out of the church. She heard us shouting “Lorraine” but after 16 years had trouble placing us until we crossed the street and drew near. Just a little piece of heaven on earth. We went to her apartment and talked while she waited for her sister Willie and husband her were showing up to celebrate her 80th birthday the next day. When she found out we were gathering at Jane’s house for pizza, I was blessed to hear her say how much she would want to be a part of that.
We spent the rest of the afternoon with Lorraine and then headed across town through the University District down Rainier to Jane’s house. Jane, Unique, David and we would see Chris the next day. We would miss Sabrina; but the best part of the homecoming was that Jane was saved. Yes, we ministered, drove and did whatever we could for her during our time in Seattle. She and Joan would be best of friends but she never got saved. Now she was and what a glorious time of fellowship. Doug and Karen would show up with brother Ronnie and their daughter Stephanie and her children. Stephanie’s daughter Kylee was the spitting image of her mother that we remember from as a little girl in our church. Doug is still Doug and Karen seems to have gotten younger. They are part of the Everett church. Through the night of fellowship Doug would give me one more piece of information that blessed me. Our church would eventually dissolve and Lorraine would stay in the Ballard area and Doug’s family and Barbara would move onto the Everett church. Barbara would make the best of friends there while Doug continued his journey as a man of God. What Doug told me was the church had picked up a convert along the way that they brought to the Everett church with them. It was Oswald, the Zambian song leader of the Everett church. Just brings smiles to my life thinking about how God works. We would stay up till two, the Beggs would go home, we would get some sleep and return to Portland the next day.
A statement is made in evangelical circles to the effect that it is all worth it for one soul. It’s a great saying until you have to give it all for one soul. This visit showed me that it truly is all worth it for one soul. The sense of pleasantness and thankfulness that pervaded our car as Joan and I made our way back to Portland made our 12 years in Seattle worth every second of it.
We got to Jon Gash’s church a little early so Joan and I started doing “one minute bible studies” with people around the church. The church gathered, a victorious church, I gave a little evangelism exhortation and out we went. It was Pastor Gash’s enthusiasm (filled with God) that made the night. He would pray with people and get phone #’s. I would pray with some young people who knew someone in church. Joan would pray with people and so would others from the church. We came back to give our reports and yes; there was victory in the air. We would go to MacDonald’s with Pastor Gash and his wife Jacqui. Jacqui gave us her testimony and heard the testimony of another one of Pastor Gash’s young men. The biggest blessing happened the next day when Pastor Gash texted me that he had done a one minute bible study with someone who prayed a prayer of salvation with him.
We left Vancouver that night and made our way to Veneta; outside of Eugene where Joan’s brother Chris and Heidi had set up a camper for us to stay in while we ministered in Springfield and Albany. We would not really see Chris until the Monday following our 5 days of ministry. Chris’s main memory of us (he is my age) was after having two children his wife became pregnant with twins. Joan was set up to help when the twins came; but instead we abandoned them (he does this much more dramatically) and went to Zambia. There is a beautiful comfort in their lives, not perfect, but comfortable. Chris would share church stories, children stories and career stories. He has turned a small run down house into a mansion. Heidi has a happiness about her that is endearing. Joan and I noticed all of this when they came down to San Diego for Joe and Laura Michelle’s wedding. I like to think that this is true for Joan and I, marriage just becomes better and better as the years go by.
We would preach for Troy and Kristine Johnston in Springfield Wed. and Thurs. My memory of the Johnstons was their playing some music at a conference in McMinnville. There was some music I heard when I was first saved from a band named “Servant”. It had a powerful female vocalist. I have never been able to find any history of the band in the limited searches I have made but Kristine reminded me of that sound back then as she belted out the songs while her husband wailed away on the guitar.
We did the slide show with a great group of young people on the front row. That night I started setting up people’s phones for the “one minute bible studies” right away continuing after service. Pastor Johnston allowed me to give a little prep talk for the next night and I was blessed that he actually took a love offering for us. The next night was a blast. He has some evangelical couples in church that are just naturals for the “one minute bible studies” and they did not disappoint. Many studies, many conversations with many salvation prayers. Pastor Johnston would state that he hadn’t had witnessing encounters like this since he first got saved. There really is something different about the outreach. There is a simple honest question: Would you please do a one minute bible study with me? There is a simple yes or no response. The word goes forth and between the honesty, the yes and the word there is a different kind of dominion established.
We had somehow communicated our enjoyment of “offbeat” or “unique” eating experiences so they took us to a vegan pizza place called “Pizza Research”. Troy told me that when his brother in law took them here he was prepared to hate it; so he enjoined me to not make the same mistake. It was great. We even had a bonus with a leftist waiter who was disgusted with the panhandling youth of Oregon using their “begging” cards for you to put money on their accounts if you don’t have cash. We had good fellowship and Troy got me to agree to golf with him the next day.
Actually, it didn’t take much, I thrilled at the opportunity. I got into golf when my Dad’s commanding officer at Mare Island ordered all of his officers to learn to play golf. I got swept up into the moment and landed a job at the golf course. I would work there for the next 4 years while playing golf on the high school golf team. I would tote my clubs around after high school for the next 26 years only playing a few times. I would finally sell them one our departing yard sale going to Zambia thinking I would not be playing golf there. Well, we moved into a house with a golf course right across the street. I slowly started playing again and even got Joan to start. We had some cool golf dates in Africa. Again I would sell my clubs as we were moving to Prescott where my understanding was that sin was illustrated in sermons by referring to golfers. Well, I landed right in the middle of a nest of secret golfers.
I will insert a sermon illustration just here. We were playing golf and at the tee two of the guys got calls from their wives. One guy was talking, put the phone on the ground, took his shot, and picked up the phone not missing a beat. The second did the same. EIEIO Old MacDonald had a farm, and on that farm he had a wife, with a yak, yak here and a yak, yak there. I’m sorry just couldn’t help myself.
Since leaving Prescott I have played about 4 times so the score was a little less than desired. I did drive past a short par 4 by 30 yards having missed the people on the green. Troy beat me but I will live to play again.
That night we took the back roads to Albany where we would preach for our Wickenburg compatriot, Pastor Dave Fink and his wife Michelle. The Albany church has always been a special church for anyone connected with Wickenburg. It was pioneered by Dale Sams, followed by Gerry Eckhartd, followed by Wally Mencavich and finally Dave Fink. Three out of the four being Wickenburg guys. Dave and Michelle are great people. Dave was able to come to Zambia with his son David where David would lead my three girls to their bungee jumps over the Zambezi River. They had just gotten out of a school into a downtown building that required a massive amount of work, so he had me do a Friday slide show, Saturday evangelism, and Sunday sermons. Rain would thwart us Saturday afternoon so we just switched our evangelism to Sunday afternoon.
Sunday morning I preached a sermon out of Habakkuk. I have a sense of something being there that relates to why I am doing what I am doing. Another time I will try and put this into words; but it was great to preach something that was swirling around in my spirit for a while. We had a great time. What I enjoyed about Pastor Fink was him seeing the “one minute bible studies” as something they could use in the city events that were coming their way. I just preached “you can’t keep a good man down” and that is how I look at Pastor Fink and his wife Michelle. We would have a great outreach that night. I would end up at a skater part doing the studies with groups of skaters. One young guy apologized saying he was medicated. He explained to me how most of them had access to the legal marijuana. Colorado and Oregon are paving the way for our own little drug paradise. Joan and one girl would have a great encounter with a woman gardening. Once again just a great time of reaching out to a city.
One little fun event was a visit to Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant. Joan and I wanted to treat Dave and Michelle to lunch so we “yelped” and found Novak’s only to discover that Michelle loved it and Dave endured it. I should point out that Dave was a hot dog man. When he came to Zambia with his eating preferences I was genuinely worried about how he would handle life. He did great. The crowning finale was taking about 30 of us to a small restaurant after football (soccer) and basketball. A small restaurant in the market is a roofless set of 4 concrete walls with a small fire in the back to cook the nshima, chicken and vegetable sauce. To see Dave eating with his hands and actually enjoying it was one of the more amazing transformations I have seen in my life. Well, he did well at Novak’s also. Even the coffee was good.
We would spend Monday with Chris, Heidi and the kids. His son Ian had won me over with his engineering skills exhibited with his homemade knives. We would visit Windows book shop a must visit for any Christian. We had a great dinner together and I even got to share the slide show with the family that night. His children gave me some honest feedback. One point Ian made was that many of his friends would block out the truths presented in the slide show. There is something to chew on there. Many thanks to the family.
We headed to Portland. I dropped Joan and the luggage off. Turned the car in off site to Enterprise. Roger gave me a ride to the airport and home we went.