PART ONE – Darkness to Light (cont.)
By God’s appointment, George Lynn happened to be back in town the week I was convalescing. He visited with me for a few hours, and we argued over Catholic doctrine. He was upset while I was not, and with my intellectual arguments, which I learned from The Faith of Millions, George was stumped. I was not angry with him this time, and at the end of our visit, I asked that we pray together. He consented, and later confessed that he had been humbled because he was not the one to suggest we pray. He went away crestfallen, knowing I was happy and determined to go back to the Catholic Church, fully persuaded of its authenticity and authority.
All was not done, however. Until getting ill, I had been reading through the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, a few chapters each day, and at this point I was beginning Paul’s first epistle, the one to the Romans. In that week, having plenty of time, which was quite unusual for me, I red all of Paul’s epistles.
By the time I reached the Book of Hebrews, God had opened my eyes. I was amazed. He reached me to the heart. He unveiled to me the truth of what Paul was preaching. Though I had been persuaded otherwise by intellectual argument, I realized that what Paul was teaching was greatly at odds with what the Catholic Church taught and practiced. The contrast was stark. It was a bright and holy light that shone onto the pages of Scripture and into my mind and heart.
I could say without exaggeration that the difference between what the Catholic Church taught and practiced on the one hand, and what the apostle Paul taught in his epistles on the other, was and is as black and white. I knew that the Catholic Church and the Bible were diametrically opposed to each other in both letter and spirit. God was merciful to me in my delusion and affliction. I knew I could not go back.
When I reported to my Alliance friends what had happened, they marveled and rejoiced. They had been holding prayer vigils for me.
Paul didn’t lay down his life in vain over nineteen hundred years ago. I was delivered from the power of deceptive doctrine and religion by his ministry in the Lord. God bless you, brother Paul! As it is written:
“Concerning the works of men, by the Words of Your lips, I am kept from the paths of the destroyer” (Psalms 17:4 MKJV).
We have discovered there are those who condemn the apostle Paul, claiming his Gospel was deceptive and contrary to that of Jesus Christ and His apostles. Those who think so are presumptuous, self-seeking liars in great darkness, and they will have their reward. There is not the slightest difference between what Paul and Jesus taught; they are one.
With a little subtle persuasion from Ernest Regier and the congregation, I came to be baptized, that is, fully immersed, in the church baptistery. He baptized me “in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The baptism was based on the fact that I had experienced a genuine repentance and life change in the Lord, and I was prepared to go on with Him.
I say this was my “second” baptism because, theoretically, I had been “baptized” (by an anointing of oil) as an infant in the Catholic Church, but truly, that was no baptism at all. What had I, as an infant, known of repentance and faith, without which, baptism is entirely meaningless?
On the heels of my appendicitis bout, I received a call in Prince Albert from a pretty woman I had known in Winnipeg, Diane Lazaruk. She had arrived in Saskatoon as a stewardess with Air Canada and invited me to spend the evening with her. I drove the 90 miles to the Bessborough Hotel, picked her up at her room, and we went out for dinner.
This was an ideal opportunity I had once hoped for, handed to me on a platter. Would she have allowed that opportunity for relations? I don’t know. I do know that instead of trying to bed her, I tried to convert her. I was full of zeal and pressure. I am so sorry for having tried so hard, doing what I thought was right. Yes, I witnessed of the Lord and kept myself from fornication, but the works of men, as pious as they may appear, are not good in God’s sight. Again, as it says:
“Concerning the works of men, by the Words of Your lips, I am kept from the paths of the destroyer” (Psalms 17:4 MKJV).
Diane was greatly vexed, though she suffered it patiently. I was a spiritual infant, one who thought he knew so much, but knew so little. I turned so many people off with my religious zeal and witnessing. However, I take some solace in the knowledge that babies soil diapers, burp up on shoulders, cry, and are incapable of doing many things adults have learned to do, yet they are constantly trying and learning. So I’ve tried, been trying – very trying – and I’ve learned. We have our stages of growth, and to condemn myself for my infantile ignorance would be tantamount to condemning babies for theirs.
Diane was not a happy woman that night, and I had no reason to be a happy man. I realize as I write this, however, that a temptation was presented to me on the very heels of a momentous breakthrough – revelation of truth concerning the Catholic Church, whereby I was kept from delusion. By God’s grace, I didn’t succumb to this temptation. And that is often how things work – temptations follow blessings and successes.
Possibly because of how I ate in my formative years, I have been plagued with eating and weight battles all my life. When Dr. Croll put me on a diet in January of 1971, wherein I shed 28 pounds in 35 days, coming down from 193 to 165, I was quite happy about it and wanted to stay that way. It did not happen. By 1973, I had regained 18 pounds.
So I joined Weight Watchers, and for the next several years, I kept my weight in check by adopting their diet principles. By the time I met my wife, I was 160 pounds and still losing. I was also in good physical condition, following the Royal Canadian Air Force 5BX program.
While neither Weight Watchers nor the RCAF exercise program may seem spiritual, I have no doubt that the Lord provided me with these to deal with the realities of our infirmities in this world. Do I recommend these over others? Not necessarily. They happened to be the provision for my needs at the time. (I have continued using 5BX on and off until a short while ago, discontinuing it when it aggravated my neck and knee injuries.)
Ever since I bought my first car, I was in debt, and try as I might, I couldn’t come out of it. I consolidated my loans and credit card debt and started again from there to go even deeper into debt. When the Lord took over my life in February of 1973, all that changed. That year, I made nearly twice as much money as I had with the Bay and three times as much as I had the year before with Homes Canada (I was only with them for about half a year in 1972).
In my first year as a believer, I was out of debt in a matter of months, something I was not able to do in years, though taxes were higher and I was bringing offerings to the Lord – 10% of my gross income, most of which I gave to the Alliance Church.
Now it was time to buy a car. My old Chevy Impala with a rebuilt engine was burning oil, and it was not the most reliable car, with over 100,000 miles on it (which, in those days, was passing its limit). Tim Friesen also needed a car, so together we went shopping.
I was going to buy a good used car, nothing fancy, something for maybe $2,000, which was about half the price of a sporty new one. Tim wanted a new one. We shopped around in Prince Albert and then went to Saskatoon. We finally came to Patrick Dodge. Looking around the sales lot, Tim spotted the one he wanted – a 1973 blue Charger, I believe, and I saw a new 1973 Dodge Challenger, canary yellow, with black vinyl top, Ram air hood, console, bucket seats, and 4-barrel carb, complete with a gas-guzzling engine. The color wasn’t my choice, but the car was.
Tim and I thought we might have some leverage, seeing we were buying two cars at once, for cash. I had the money to buy a new car! We dickered some, and it seemed that the salesman and manager were quite anxious to sell. We bought, were very thankful to have the cars, and the dealership was thankful to make the sales.
I never thought I would have my Dodge Challenger! I had not even thought of getting one, but there it was, and fully paid for. God had given me a treat. Don McLeod sold me the car after all, years before. All he needed was a time machine, and he would have been set to cash in, but then he wouldn’t have needed to sell cars!
I received a wedding invitation from my brother Archie in Toronto. He was getting married and asked me to be an usher. The bride-to-be was 4’11” Cathie Duck, daughter of Gordon Donald Duck.
I was asked to wear black platform shoes, they being the fashion in those days, and I did. I flew to Toronto, and it was not long before I found myself somewhat avoided by people. I had talked to everyone in the family about the Lord by then, and Archie had apparently warned them that I “got religion.”
It was not easy being a stranger with strangers in a strange city, while they drank and carried on. It was perhaps even harder being with those with whom I once drank and caroused, Rick Berezowski being one of them, who was Archie’s best man (what a character that guy was! He knew no inhibitions or boundaries and laughed at so many things I could only squirm at).
I tried sharing with Archie the importance of getting his life right with God. I shared that same message with anyone who seemed open, including Cathie’s father and Archie’s pals. Archie and his friends were quite cynical or perhaps bashful. It was not long, however, before things would change, at least for Archie and Cathie.
As I heard it from Bob Vail and Terry Johnston, Dennis Skuter, their manager of the Dauphin branch, betrayed them. He had secretly begun his own mobile home dealership next door, in competition with them, and used their resources and contacts while pretending to be working for them as manager of their lot.
I knew that Dennis Skuter was an ambitious, unscrupulous young man who would step on anyone to achieve his goals. I had experienced him in the Amway business. I was also aware that he bore a vengeful grudge against Homes Canada, vowing to put them out of business if he could. He tried to hire me out of Homes Canada.
While I knew Dennis to be a very selfish and unreasonable man, could there have been another side to the story Bob and Terry gave me? Why was Dennis bitter if he was the only one in the wrong?
During this time, I had a peculiar fear of competitors winning over me in merchandising, leaving me with valueless inventory (this fear was formed at the Bay, but I didn’t know it at the time). So when Dennis brought his mobile home dealership to Prince Albert, I was alarmed. True, I had no ownership in Homes Canada and it was not my only source of livelihood. I was still afraid, and that fear would remain with me for a long time.
I have had that kind of fear generally. For how much must I sell my goods? Will customers buy from me regardless of competition, or will they go over to the competition if our prices are higher? I have come to know that unless we have something to offer of true value compared to others, and customers understand it, they will go elsewhere, if we have the higher price.
What persuades people? The dollar wins out in almost all cases. Business people who depend on friendship and customer loyalty independent of competitive value for their purchase dollars are headed for disillusionment. Customers do business with their own betterment foremost in mind. The merchant must provide something his customers want or need and for which they are willing to pay.
I’ve learned that it’s always a two-way street, give and take (the give coming first).
I’ve also learned that competition can prevail with dishonesty and ruthlessness, by hook or by crook. People can be easily deceived and are very prone to believing lies, especially if they think they have something to gain. I have been one such gullible person.
However, success in sales does not depend on price only, or even primarily, but on the ability of the salesperson to persuade the prospective client of the value or uniqueness of the product. Therefore, product knowledge is very important, not only of one’s own product, but also of the competitor’s.
Finally, I have learned that, oftentimes, the salesperson is the real product, and the product or service one sells is secondary. Trustworthiness and a sense of genuine goodwill are factors potential buyers are on the watch for, consciously or not.
I soon discovered there was another member of the Hafichuk family who left the Catholic Church, she having come to profess personal faith in Jesus Christ. I wanted to talk to her, Mary Kozak, wife of Nick Kozak (who did not profess faith), and so I called her. I had met her and her two daughters years before, without knowing what had happened – her older daughter even babysat me.
Mary told me how the family shunned and disowned her when she left the Catholic Church. She expressed joy and excitement that I came to believe. Her daughter also marveled at the change in my life and how I was talking. They were attending the Worldwide Church of God, however, which I did not find capable of bringing people to a true relationship with Jesus Christ, though their step was in the right direction – coming away from Catholicism.
I have gone through many painful situations when dealing with those who profess faith in Christ, but live otherwise. One of my first such experiences was with Gary Allen, who came to attend the Alliance Church. He was a farmer bachelor whom I assumed was a believer.
As I was a mobile home sales lot manager, a fellow came to me asking me to sell his used mobile home in the Whispering Pines Trailer Court. I consented, we agreed on a price, and Gary Allen came along looking for such a home. He was not prepared to see me profit by it, however. I have seen that farmers often have the mentality that one can only justly earn by physical exertion, by the sweat of the brow and callusing of hands. Ignorance of this sort does not appreciate the various intangible skills of the mind, which can be, and often are, far more necessary. Even farmers have to think, more than many! What will one pay for knowledge and experience?
He pressed me hard and repeatedly to find out how much I was making in the transaction, insisting that he wanted to be sure I was fairly paid for my work. Though I assured him I was satisfied with the amount (which was not at all exorbitant or unusual), he persisted.
I finally gave in, thinking, “I am a believer and he is a fellow believer, so I should be open about it; he is pressing me, perhaps he will understand.” So I caved, to my great chagrin. He was not happy about it at all, though my fee was more than fair, less than expected in the industry.
In the end, I let Gary buy the home directly, and he dropped by the office, paying me a quarter of what my commissions would have been. I felt like tearing up his check and saying, “Keep it; obviously, you need it more than I do.” But I accepted it, with gravel in my mouth for years thereafter, partially because of my lack of understanding, and partially because Gary conducted himself the way he did while professing Christianity. He was deceptive and quite overpowered by mammon.
In the following years, I came to understand that there are some things one simply does not tell another. Because one calls himself, or appears to be, a Christian does not mean he is one, or that he will act or live as one, especially when money is involved. I have certainly been guilty many times in money matters, to my shame and sorrow. I recognize that Gary was in bondage, no different from my own.
Again, the Scripture:
“No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24 MKJV).
Have I learned discretion? Many would not bother or even be caught dead with a report of things I mention in this book. So why do I do this? Am I an idiot? Won’t there be repercussions? No doubt, there will be. So will it be worth it? Will I be sorry for being honest and open, as I was with Gary Allen?
I relate these things because I would like to communicate some of the realities of humanity for the encouragement and sakes of all. I want to let people know they aren’t alone in these little things that occupy the mind and heart, including those of believers in Christ. I’m not the only petty one here! At least in this earthly dimension, we are all cut from the same cloth.
We learn that little things are big and big things little, and who can tell the difference? I also perceive that most of us, if not all, put on fronts and hide these things behind a lot of polish and camouflage. Oh, we are a deceptive and vain bunch!
We also learn that what we practice and believe in private, we, sooner or later, come to speak and do in public. It’s only a matter of time. And isn’t it interesting how the older we get, the less we care about how we look or what others think of us? (Human character-discerning comedians have a grand time with this sort of stuff, don’t they?)
While many would not bother writing about what would seem to be little nothings, I believe they are somethings to all. I have seen, red, and heard of great, wealthy, intelligent, educated, and powerful persons getting offended for the smallest things, being apparently petty. But what’s petty, anyway?
Are you aware that God sends into our lives people with faults and infirmities similar, if not identical, to ours, to deal with us and to deliver us from those faults and weaknesses? We can either get offended and hate those people, in which case we must hate ourselves for the same things (and do), or we can acknowledge God’s redemptive work in our lives with the use of our enemies as tools to that end.
We need to thank God for those people, forgive them, and thus be forgiven ourselves. If we do not forgive them, we will remain with those same faults and weaknesses for which we resent, and will not forgive, others.
If I fail to forgive others for their offenses against me, I will remain with their faults.
Again I must confess that probably the most grievous thing to me is the hypocrisy of professing believers in Christ, speaking one way while living another, smiling while concealing fangs and a venomous tongue. I see those who call themselves Christians in love with money while professing godliness, going to church, reading the Bible, memorizing Scripture, wearing certain kinds of clothing, and keeping their day of the week, be it Saturday or Sunday. However, they live as does the world, according to its standards and mindset, in most of the socially acceptable ways, and often not even those.
These people anger me; always have, and likely always will as long as they are around. They are treacherous. By their profession of faith, they promise one thing, but deliver the opposite. They deceive, take unfair advantage, disappoint, and discourage faith in others, all the while acting pious. While I have tried to control my reactions towards them, I have not been able to rest in that restraint, whether their words and actions personally involve me or not.
The day would come when I would have it to speak out what was forming in me, but first things first – the beam would have to be removed from my eye.
When I went home to Dauphin to visit my parents and family, my father was incessantly grieved because I left the Catholic Church. He was earnest to persuade me to come to Mass with them. I so struggled, thinking, “Does it really matter if I go? Will it hurt me if I do? If I don’t go, it will hurt my parents. Is that right? Am I not to honor my father and mother?” I saw them in grief, and my heart was breaking for them. But I knew I could not go because the Lord was bringing me away. They cried and I cried, but the die was cast.
I occasionally visited Uncle Fred and Aunt Mary Prestayko on their Holstein dairy and grain farm five miles north and six miles west of Dauphin, Manitoba. I always enjoyed talking with them. One day, as Aunt Mary washed the dishes, I took a tea towel and began drying. She looked at me and blurted out with surprise, “You’re helping me with the dishes! Nobody ever does that!” (It was not customary in our family and Ukrainian circles for men to help with dishes.)
Then suddenly she exclaimed, “I just remembered! I had a dream last night, and you know what? I was doing dishes and Jesus came and helped dry them! And I saw His mother standing in the doorway in the hall, right there!” She pointed. “She stood there with her hands clasped in front of her, arms hanging down, and she bowed her head in a humble way.”
I had been testifying to them of the Lord on that visit as well as on others. They soberly listened, apparently not believing, but not writing anything off, either. They were different from the others. Their only son, Bob, on the other hand, in his late thirties, was quite dismissive and jokingly mocked my profession of faith in Christ. We would see how things went for them.
In 1973, “Father” Franko Szadiak, a former classmate at St. Vladimir’s Minor Seminary who went all the way to become a priest, came to visit me at my office in Prince Albert. I suspect my family sent him. He tried reasoning with me, while I testified to him of what the Lord had done for me. His main thrust of argument was, “How can the Body of Christ be divided? We are the one true Church, with the same Mass every week all over the world! We are the biggest, the oldest, and the original church, unified under one Head!”
By that time, the Lord had well delivered me from any doubts that He was leading me; He had delivered me from the delusion of Rome. Franko and I parted on friendly terms. Years later, I would come to see his sad and empty end.
I put away alcohol altogether when receiving repentance toward God, more from the counsel of evangelicals (especially George Lynn) than from my own conviction. Yet it was good to do so, seeing I had such a pleasure in, and propensity for, drinking.
My father pressed me to have a sociable drink with him after my conversion. I wondered, “Why does he not press me to have a glass of water, a cup of tea or milk, or a soda? Why alcohol?”
Though he was not much of a drinker, he was offended that I would not drink with him. (It was the same with many others.) I wondered what power there was in alcohol that would provoke people to feel that way.
Perhaps that is why alcohol is called spirits. Alcohol is a symbol, or medium, if you will, of sociability in some circles. Eliminating alcohol, one is judged as antisocial, self-righteous, legalistic, or fanatical. Not only does this occur with new believers, it also occurs with alcoholics who have determined to kick the habit. They become despised and ostracized by their former drinking companions – no alcohol, no camaraderie. People take it personally. “As you do to alcohol, so you do to me.” It seems like it can be a religion in and of itself.
My Uncle Ernie Hafichuk and I had a talk one evening at a wedding. We stood outside the hall, debating the use of alcohol. Uncle Ernie disagreed with my stance of abstinence and argued that it was not bad to occasionally have a sociable drink. I now think he was right, but I was also right for my time and circumstances.
Suddenly, out the front doors of the Ukrainian Catholic Hall tumbled my other Uncle Ernie (Mouck), drunk and raging after a spindly young fellow. Ernie Mouck was half again his size, more than twice his age, and viciously beating him until some came to break it up.
I felt that the Lord had just given my Uncle Ernie Hafichuk and me a confirmation of the validity of my stance. Uncle Ernie was speechless, and I rested my case. Tragically, Ernie Mouck would not be alone in the ravages of alcohol. His son, Butch, became an alcoholic barely, if not before, entering his teens.
Perry F. Rockwood of Halifax, Nova Scotia was someone whose program, The People’s Gospel Hour, I occasionally listened to. His message was simple enough, but it did not resonate with me, although I couldn’t argue with the letter of his message. There was something about him that turned me off. I would find out later what it was.
I also tuned in to the radio program The World Tomorrow, and I occasionally red The Plain Truth, the complementary magazine published by the Worldwide Church of God. Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder, was an interesting speaker, but he seemed self-righteous and somewhat arrogant to me.
He claimed that nobody had been preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, or the Kingdom of God, for nineteen centuries. I did not believe that. How could others and I have been saved, if this had been the case? I certainly did not receive Christ by Armstrong’s preaching, but I had by that of others.
Being in evangelical circles at the time, which rejected Armstrong, I was influenced to see him as a false prophet, but mostly for the wrong reasons. I red a tract written by Roger Campbell and distributed by Max Solbrekken about Armstrong entitled Mr. Confusion. While the writer was right in most of what he wrote, he was also doctrinally in error and biased, particularly in the matter of the trinity (not that Armstrong was right in that matter), though I did not realize it until later. (The distributor was an artificial copy of a man of God – see Max Solbrekken – Canada’s Own False Evangelist.)
More than Herbert, I enjoyed Garner Ted, his son. He was also charismatic, but in a more attractive way, and his preaching was exciting. However, one could pick up a spirit of cynicism, arrogance, and self-righteousness, which he perhaps inherited from his father. While Garner appealed to my flesh, he did not appeal to my spirit. I never could understand what his point was.