PART ONE – Darkness to Light (cont.)
Henry and Jack decided they wanted a camp in the woods east of Prince Albert, around Choiceland, and called for volunteers for tree felling and woodcutting to build a log structure. Several of us offered to go.
Five or so of us arrived to do the work of trimming large spruce trees by axe. Robert Cannon lent us his new tent trailer, and the church provided food supplies. Robert was returning to the city, while the rest of us would remain for the week.
We immediately began work. I was in decent shape, though I did not look like it. I was smaller and leaner than average, but I was at my age level in the Royal Canadian Air Force 5BX exercise program (top of Chart 4). One of the fellows, Gary Bergen, was somewhat muscular, having done some bodybuilding, but he soon ran out of stamina after only a couple of hours, while the rest of us kept going. Gary sat more than worked. I got annoyed and started scolding him for not doing his share. He remained silent and looked rather strangely at me when I got after him.
Jack Connor later told me Gary had boasted days before to everyone that I would not last a day in the bush. He was quite critical, I was told, of my capabilities as a potential woodcutter. I had known absolutely nothing of this. In light of these circumstances wherein I was getting after Gary, Jack marveled and exclaimed, “You mean you didn’t know?” I said I had no idea. He had a good laugh about it.
Who says there is no God?
A Baptist student worker from Texas, Don Pittman, and I were the only ones who remained for the week, with food enough for six. With double-bladed axes, we worked hard every day. The mosquitoes were so plentiful, we wondered if one blade was for the wood and the other was to cover our backs from mosquitoes on the upswing. I marveled at Jack Connor as he worked with us for a while on the first day. He would be covered with mosquitoes and paid no attention to them whatsoever.
Bears, sometimes as many as three or four, came to our tent trailer in the night, smelling our food supply and gently disturbing the trailer. Sometimes during the day, they came to the area and sniffed around. A Métis who worked there in the bush would holler and chase them away, then turn to us with a toothless grin, as though he had just done something naughty or silly.
I appreciated Don Pittman. In a short time, we had come to share much together. I confided to him that Marilyn Coles was chasing after me, subtly twisting my arm to marry her. I said it would never happen. A few months later, I heard that Don had a good laugh about it back in Texas. Can you guess why?
When we returned from the bush to Saskatoon, Don had to leave for home. We parted in sadness. I tried contacting Don months later, but because of what had happened to me spiritually by that point, he had no heart to be in touch with me. I and a few others were soon to be written off by the Southern Baptists as heretics.
Concerning my new life in Christ, nobody believed or received me in our family except for Mary Kozak and Delores and Fred Molnar, though I had testified to many. But now came another! Archie called me saying he had found the Lord! I was very excited, and so was he.
What a change from the cynical, hardened antiChrist person I knew and whom I had tried to talk to about the Lord! The last time I had seen Archie and Cathie was when they had passed through Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, on their way to Calgary, Alberta, from Toronto, Ontario, after their wedding. They were closed and hard. Now they were in Calgary and we decided to pay them a visit.
We first visited Marilyn’s mother, Laura, and her husband, Les, in northwest Calgary. While there, we called Archie and got directions to their place. It was really easy to get there – they were right across the street! Let some statistician figure the odds out on that one! Archie and Cathie immediately developed a close relationship with Les and Laura.
Who says there is no God?
Now, Archie told us his story. It was a rather strange event. He had gone to see The Exorcist and was terribly frightened by it, so much so that he had nightmares, couldn’t sleep, and was fearful of demons.
One day, shortly after seeing the movie, he and Cathie were driving on a road from Fred Molnar’s acreage just outside of Calgary (Delores was witnessing to them of the Lord). He was contemplating making a decision to commit himself to God. Suddenly, he said, the Lord took over control of his car and his life. He cried like a baby by the side of the road and everything changed. He was overjoyed, Cathie was supportive, vices were put away, their lifestyle changed, and good habits replaced the bad.
Some of us, speaking now particularly of Marilyn and me, worked hard with the church. Southern Baptists would joke about how busy they could be. Marilyn and I traveled to Winnipeg in 1974 to attend Gerry McClintock’s wedding, and I felt so relieved to get away and be free of the busy-ness. Tactfully, I discovered, to my surprise, that Marilyn felt the same way. Why was I surprised? She had applied herself with great devotion, enthusiasm, and energy, as Henry’s dedicated “right hand man.” But she also needed a break, and she enjoyed it.
What confusion false professors of faith bring into the mix! My former drinking buddy Gerry McClintock married a Pentecostal girl, Sam, from Calvary Temple in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She had no faith in Christ, though she professed to be a Christian. There I was, a young and ignorant convert, caught in a confusing situation. Gerry, an unbeliever, was my friend, and he was now married to an alleged believer who was zealous that I keep in touch with Gerry for faith’s sake (which I desired to do), yet she was not living a life of faith herself.
I had more respect for Gerry, who was not professing faith, than for her. Sam was very worldly; she wore fashionable, skimpy dresses and her thoughts, conduct, and language were anything but Christian. How is it she married Gerry, an unbeliever, and if she was a believer, why would Gerry marry her?
Being slow to comprehend, I didn’t know what to make of it or what to do. If Sam had either true faith or no professed faith at all, it would have been better than what was. I knew I had to go on without either of them because neither believed or was called to walk the path of truth with me.
When I became a believer, I had to go my way, and my former friends couldn’t understand my religious pushiness (not that it was right). Gerry didn’t understand what was happening and was frustrated with me. He thought I had dumped him as a friend, which wasn’t true. I tried to tell him otherwise, but he didn’t believe me. Over the years, I touched base with him several times, but never he with me.
George Croteau was one of Marilyn’s university friends. He and Gerry, another university student, were engaged, then married. Gerry was quite taken with George, and they seemed to be a happy couple.
We visited them after they married and found they had a fixation and scheme to save money on food. They were down to pennies a day in food costs and boasted about it. But what a terrible diet! There was no mind paid to nutrition value. We would see and hear more of them and witness some sad developments.
I remember my first attempt to work with drug addicts, and that in a Christian context. I brought Bill Duckworth, a young fellow, off the street into the church one evening to work with him. He was high. His father was an alcoholic, though he had stopped drinking. In days to come, we got to meet the family, which was devastated.
For a short while, things looked promising with Bill, as is not uncommon, but he soon fell back to his drugs. I wondered at the power of addiction and tyranny of drugs and unbelief in such people, and I wondered at our powerlessness to help them. Where was God in all this? Why couldn’t we reach such people?
Once when I was preaching against sin, a woman living on social assistance rushed forward, screaming out of fear and torment, and cried out for forgiveness. I stopped for a few moments, while Marilyn took her to a side room to deal with her, then I resumed preaching.
Formality had its way. Not having the Spirit of God, and without understanding, I thought I should continue with “the service” (it may or may not have been the right thing to do). We really didn’t know what to do with her, but in retrospect, I see that she needed deliverance from guilt and fear, if not devils. Marilyn calmed her down after some time, counseling her and praying with her, and the woman went her way after the church service.
I knew other such persons, even third generational welfare people, their parents and grandparents having lived on social assistance. Many smoked, drank, took drugs, and could not function in society. We got nowhere with them.
While we seemed to fail in assisting them, I have learned that there is a time, place, and purpose for every person. It was not their time. God does indeed “visit the iniquity of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him,” as His Law declares. Jesus also said that those in prison would pay every last penny of debt before being released. These were prisoners indeed.
While doing some outreach work in downtown Saskatoon, we met a teenage fellow and his girlfriend, Tim and Donna, former addicts, who came to profess faith in Christ, not by us but by others. In their search for fellowship, they came to our church. They had also visited other churches, and they had attended an evangelistic meeting held by Seventh Day Adventists, wherein the keeping of the Sabbath was preached (as usual), which provoked the young couple to pursue the subject.
In a conversation with them, Tim asked me, “So why do you keep Sunday instead of the Sabbath?” My reply was a common one: “It is not that we believe Sunday must be the day, but there should be a day of rest set aside each week. Because of the way things are in the world, with businesses closed on Sundays, and weekends free for many people, we keep Sunday. It is a matter of convenience.”
“Oh, convenience! Convenience, eh?” (He was obviously getting a bit high and mighty as a new convert at age 17 or so, likely having heard similar sarcastic rejoinders from the Seventh Day Adventists.) “So, let’s get this straight…you don’t keep the day of the week God commanded to keep. You keep a day that is convenient to you! Hmmm! Yes, I see!”
While I was a bit annoyed with his smart aleck attitude, the thoughts he expressed never left me. One day they would bear fruit.
Henry Blackaby asked me to preach one evening, and the event was posted in the Saskatoon newspaper. James Hominuke, a Ukrainian Baptist minister who ran a Ukrainian Bible printing press saw my Ukrainian name and came to hear me. After the meeting, he asked me to consider outreach to Ukrainians. We met at his shop, he showed us his printing operation and again asked me to join him in the work.
I would have to learn the Ukrainian language, and I wondered if this was not my calling and responsibility as a Ukrainian under God. I came to the conclusion, however, that it was not, and I declined.
One memorable night, a neighboring Baptist pastor, Bill McLeod, came to preach. Henry had asked him to fill in for him. It seems that Bill had been involved in some revival meetings that resulted in humbling and repentance among many partakers. He spoke of how he, a proud man, ended up feeling about two feet tall (motioning with his hand), and how God changed his life. Something in what he was saying and how he was saying it made me feel a longing for more, as though we were really missing out on something.
I saw a contrast between Henry’s proud preaching and Bill’s appeal to simplicity and humility. I wanted what Mr. McLeod described. While his message didn’t seem to have an effect on anyone else at Faith Baptist, it did have an effect on me. I think that in its own quiet, indiscernible way, his message served as a catalyst for my severance from the spiritual dimension I was in at Faith Baptist.
I eventually left Mrs. Korber and found a light housekeeping basement suite closer to the Christian Training Center, the eighteenth home of my life. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Toews, who were Mennonites, were the owners.
Mrs. Toews occasionally brought me a hot meal, without warning, sometimes just after I had finished eating my bachelor preparations. Perhaps she saw that I was a Bible student, living a modest life, and she wanted to help. Perhaps she saw my scarcely-stocked cupboards of Kraft dinners and canned mackerel, and my near-empty fridge with three-for-a-dollar McCain’s frozen cream pies, frozen liver, turnips, and salad vegetables. I thanked Mrs. Toews and consumed her kind offerings even if I had just eaten.
When commending her once, she said to me in her German accent, “Oh, I hef not much fruit, only lots uf leafs.” I interpreted her words to be those expressing humility and thought it good. I would later wish she hadn’t said that.
Why do I count all my past homes? Am I proud of my transiency? Am I egotistic? Do I have this thing about counting things (I certainly have that!)? Perhaps you have an answer; I don’t.
The first was home on the farm; second, Auntie and Uncle Atamanchuk’s; third, home on the farm again; fourth, in town at 807 Main St. South in Dauphin; fifth, St. Vladimir’s College in Roblin for ten months; sixth, home again at 807 Main; seventh, 1993 Elgin Avenue, Winnipeg, with the Palmers; eighth, 742 McDermot Avenue in Wpg, with the Millers; ninth, 122 Home Street, Wpg, with Lydia Kisel; tenth, Fawcett Avenue, Wpg; eleventh, the Martello Apartments on Broadway, Wpg; twelfth, Bannatyne Avenue, Wpg, with Rick Steinke’s relatives; thirteenth, 4810 Eldridge Avenue, Charleswood (first home owned, during which time I had my skiing accident); fourteenth, 20th St. S. in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, with the Garneaus, who saved me in my acute appendicitus bout; fifteenth, Mrs. Kinsella’s basement suite in PA; sixteenth, Vi Allen’s in Saskatoon, from where I was evicted; seventeenth, Resie Korber’s in Saskatoon; eighteenth, Toews residence in Saskatoon.
There are more homes to come.
One day Mrs. Toews suddenly fell ill and died. At the Mennonite evangelical funeral, people were encouraged to testify. Several stood up to speak about how Mrs. Toews was a good Christian woman. Finally, I thought I would testify to the humility I thought to have witnessed of her, and I related what she had said to me (“lots uf leafs, but not much fruit”). It went over like a lead balloon. There was dead silence in the room.
It then occurred to me that they took it not as a testimony of her humility, but one of falling short of her duty in the faith, and therefore not appropriate in her memory. I’m really not sure what they were thinking.
But I realized that her testimony was not appropriate. If we are serving the Lord, there ought to be acceptable fruit; otherwise, as Christians, we ought to be repenting, and not just talking or joking about how poorly we do. What kind of reflection is that on our Savior?
It is one thing to count ourselves unworthy, but quite another to count ourselves lacking in fruit. The Lord said that the fruitless, as dead branches, would be taken away and burned. Not that we should necessarily feel confident about our fruit-bearing, as though we accomplished anything in our power.
One of the first things I instinctively knew when becoming a believer in Christ was that there was no need for insurance, be it for life or house or anything else. I had purchased a whole life insurance policy when I was at the Bay, and I discovered it was not to my advantage – that it was, quite frankly, a rip-off. They’ve done their math.
Are insurance companies truly there for safety and wellbeing? To answer that question, let’s ask another: Would they be there if there was no profit in it for them? Of course they are there for their profit, and no small profit at that. They are professional money handlers, experts at making investments and turning profits. They’ve done their math. Those who serve mammon are not there to serve God or neighbor in the pure way of His Kingdom.
Having no other assets or income (the Southern Baptists not providing pay for “the great work” we did for them – like most, if not all, other churches), I cashed in my life insurance. Yes, I took a beating; that is how life insurance works – cash in prematurely and you lose most of what you have invested. They ensure themselves profitable use of the math.
I knew, however, that I had made a mistake purchasing insurance in the first place. I wanted out, needed out, and was glad to get out. I knew that if I walked with God, He would be my faithful Provider and Protector. He would prove to be that, and much more. He made math!
Christian life insurance brokers justify their occupation with words the apostle Paul wrote to his disciple, Timothy:
“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8).
They postulate, “What if you suddenly die? Who will take care of your wife and kids? Wouldn’t it be awful to leave them in such a financial crisis? You need to think of them; you need to think ahead.”
They go on to say, in so many words, “We think everything will go on as it does, but there are no guarantees in life. We need to make preparations and allowances for the unforeseen.”
No guarantees? Does this not apply to insurance companies as well? Just who do they think they are – God? Would I not be placing my trust in them by buying insurance, hoping they will still be there 50 years from now to pay up, if they were capable or willing?
Laws change, companies, governments, and countries change – the whole world changes all the time, especially in this day. So how is it I should have more confidence in men than in the One Who never changes and is ever faithful? The Scriptures on these matters are clear to me:
“Some rely on chariots and others on horses, but we will boast in the Name of the LORD our God. They will sink to their knees and fall, but we will rise and stand firm” (Psalms 20:7-8).
Provided we have an insurance policy?
“For You are He Who took Me out of the womb, causing Me to trust while on My mother’s breasts” (Psalms 22:9).
“I was cast on You from the womb; You are My God from My mother’s belly. Be not far from Me; for trouble is near, for there is none to help” (Psalms 22:10-11).
None to help? Not even an insurance agent?
“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust and does not turn to the proud, or to those who turn aside to a lie” (Psalms 40:4).
Are not those who think to offer guarantees presumptuous? Is it not a lie to promise, not knowing the end of anything or even the beginning for that matter? What is the beginning? Is it not to profit, to take advantage of fear and insecurity? Are insurance policies an act of faith? Only if directed by God, and He has never directed me, or anyone else I know, in this way.
Here is what the Lord has assured me, without an insurance policy:
“I have been young, and am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his seed begging bread” (Psalms 37:25).
Were they secure because they all had insurance policies, or was it regardless? Must I have magnificent mammon managers magnanimously manipulating money for me? I don’t think so. As you will see, I will lapse into unbelief on this matter later, but recover.
We visited Ted Hafichuk and his wife Donna in Saskatoon once. I recall trying to speak to Ted about the Lord, but he was so opposed, one could almost see the hair stand on his neck at the mere mention of Jesus Christ. He spoke of being forced to go to church as a Catholic kid, hating the unpleasant elements, just as I had. I tried to tell him there was a world of difference between the false and the real, but he would not listen. Time would dramatically demonstrate the dire consequences of his adamant choice.
In a visit with Tim Friesen a year or more after I left him at Homes Canada, I discovered he fell victim to an unwise business move by Homes Canada. Bob Vail also related to me what happened. Bob’s partner, Terry Johnston, wanted to set up a sales lot in his hometown of Chilliwack, BC to show off to his family and friends that he had succeeded in life. Tim and a single Rosicrucian saleswoman working in Prince Albert were asked to transfer and establish the new lot.
Sales were poor, and Tim told me he earned next to nothing for commissions. He did not tell me something else Bob told me, however. Tim fell into adultery with the saleswoman.
It was not without a measure of satisfaction that Bob related this to me, seeing Tim professed Christ, and Bob and Terry were quite cynical of Christian faith.
Tim did tell me something that slightly profited me financially. He knew that Homes Canada was supposed to pay me deductions when I left the company the year before, which they had not done. I wrote Bob and asked for what was coming to me. They sent me a check for nearly $1,000 that, at the time, was quite handy.
Tim had resented me and sided with Bob and Terry in their unjust and humiliating dismissal of me, though Tim and I were supposed to be brothers in Christ. He received the reward of hypocrites.
I would see Tim again, and things would not be much better for him.
An issue came up one day wherein I was forced to take a stand, and this stand was opposite to Henry’s. A fellow student, Lane Koster, son of Len and Ruth, brought some verses to me – 1 Timothy 2:11-15:
“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I do not allow a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. But she will be kept safe through childbearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with sensibleness.”
He had brought up these verses because there was an election happening in the Baptist Student Union, and women were running for President and Director. I took Lane’s verses from there and a lively debate ensued. Expecting Lane to stand with me in the plainspoken directive of the Scripture, I was disappointed. Nobody stood with me but one who had something to lose, the woman holding the Director position, Marilyn Coles.
Henry was quite displeased with me, firstly because I was taking a stance with which he did not agree and one that created controversy, which he did not relish. I also did not consult with him on the matter, because I knew what the Scriptures taught and he chose the opposite position, even having groomed Marilyn for leadership in the Baptist Student Union.
It seemed I was beginning, however unintentionally, to sway his zealous worker and helper away from him. I was very sorry to see all this happen, because I admired Henry. I wanted to be a part of his ministry and be his “Timothy,” as he had proposed. But most of all, I desired that we all walk in the truth and counsel of Scripture. It wasn’t happening. The writing was on the wall.
Just after that time of contention, I entered into a period of a few months of soul-searching and conviction of subtle sins, like being critical of others. I went to many, confessing and apologizing. I was somewhat experiencing the same kind of spiritual ordeal I had undergone before my conversion; however, this time it was on another level. I had no idea I was experiencing the birth pangs leading to a higher dimension.