PART TWO – Pentecost to Israel (cont.)
The Lutheran minister we met in Detroit, Dick Bieber, suggested that if we were in New York, we should look up a fellow priest, Bill Luger, a man in his fifties or older who was pastoring with his wife in the Bronx. When we got back from Europe, we picked up our car from the church in New Jersey and headed over the Brooklyn Bridge on an empty tank, praying we wouldn’t stall there.
We made it to Bill’s, and what a place it was! He had a fence close to ten feet tall around his property, with the gate heavily chained and locked. He and his wife received us, put us up for the night, and the next day, they took our car to a garage for an oil change. The fellows there charged a high price for it, and Bill paid without a word. He then gave us a tour in his car, after we parked ours inside his “compound.”
As we reached the outskirts of the area where Bill lived, he said, “See this? Just a short while ago, it was a normal suburb.” We were looking at blocks and blocks of slums. We saw large apartment blocks, perhaps ten stories high, which had never been occupied. The windows were all knocked out and boarded up. The builders couldn’t finish the blocks because of incessant vandalism. Squatters and drug addicts lived in them, without heat, water, or electricity. The streets and grounds were covered with garbage. Many were the ruined, crumbling old buildings. Occasionally, we would see a body lying on the side of a curb or by a building – dead or alive, who knew…or cared? It truly looked like a war zone.
We saw black people, dressed colorfully, with large flamboyant hats, cruising around the neighborhoods with old winged Cadillacs. Lives everywhere were devastated and desolate, in one form or another. As we exited the slum areas, Bill said, “In about three years, this whole area, too, will be slums. It grows that fast, like a cancer!”
We had red David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade and recalled that his experiences were in these very areas of New York.
Bill’s practice was to preach from the Scriptures, his stated goal to bring dignity back to the people in that area. At the time we were there, he was directing his flock in restoring an old building to use as meeting and outreach facilities.
Bill and his wife treated us well. As we were preparing to leave, he asked us if we needed money and gave us some. I left some leftover European currency with him.
We then called Bill Okkema, who received us into his home a second time. Bill also volunteered to give us money for our trip home. He asked how much I had, I told him, he calculated what kind of mileage our car gave, the number of miles to get back to Winnipeg, and gave us enough money to pay for gas.
Except for one night at a motel, Marilyn and I drove all the way back nonstop, taking turns for naps on the road.
When we arrived back in Winnipeg, we headed straight for the Beals’ home, told them of David, who was in the cancer ward at Winnipeg General Hospital, and headed to the hospital the next day to see him. It was a shock. David was down from 165 to 95 pounds. His hair had fallen out and his teeth were loose, all from chemotherapy. He had no appetite and could barely speak, having no strength or energy.
I was moved to tears within, but held them back for David’s sake, so as not to alarm or discourage him. It was bad; it surely looked like the end for him, and yet I wasn’t convinced he would die. Why had God given us to pray for him and to cleanse him of devils months before, if he was only going to die? I was persuaded that God had other plans for David.
How sad that was! At the time, I didn’t realize the brutality and crude, diabolical nature of conventional medicine, but I do now. Had I known then what I know now, I would have been enraged and worked to get David out of there as soon as possible. Better still, if I had any say, he wouldn’t have been their victim to begin with. There are much better ways to deal with cancer, as different to the conventional methods as day is to night. Just when one needs his immune system most, they destroy it with scorched earth tactics! It is pure wickedness.
I loved David, not only as a brother, but because of the way he was. Many loved him as a cheery, humorous, harmless, worldly humble, comical, gregarious person. My heart went out to him in great sorrow and pity.
We were somewhat familiar with eating organic, having learned from Randy Wilson at the Christian Training Center in Saskatoon. We went to a health food store, the House of Nutrition on Sargent Ave., got some advice, and tried to introduce some remedies, but the efforts were poor and unlearned on our part.
Besides, doctors disallow patients from deviating in almost any manner from their medical protocol. When in hospital, many good things for the patient are discouraged by the medical establishment. Vitamin C might interfere with chemotherapy, light with darkness, and recovery with destruction!
We decided to trust in God for healing and went to prayer with the Beals for David. We also asked the Wiebes to pray. We called Willard Thiessen and his co-pastor, Ernie, of Washington Christian Center, to come to the hospital to pray for David, having heard that they had received miracles for others in prayer. They did come, and Ernie received a witness that David was healed. I believed it.
During this time, I encountered on the hospital elevator a registered nurse friend, Ruth Ross, someone I once casually dated in my unbelieving days of sin. I told her that David was healed, though he obviously didn’t look like it.
She became angry with me, shouting, “How can you be so cruel as to give him hope when you know very well there isn’t any? He won’t make it out of here alive! Better to prepare him for ‘going,’ instead of filling his mind with false hope! If he ever walks out of here, I’ll believe, too!”
I said, “Ruth, he will walk out of here, and you will see it.” I did not, however, expect her to believe, even when it happened.
Spending daily time with David for a week or two, we prayed with him and shared much Scripture, strengthening him in faith. We then knew it was time for us to go back to Prince Albert. With conviction, we assured David that he would be okay.
When I first attended the Alliance church in my first days as a believer, I heard Abe Friesen often speak of Ken Peterman. Ken was an alcoholic whom many were trying to help bring to faith and deliverance. He would go on a drinking binge, quit, profess faith, then go back to the bottle, repeating the process. His wife, Verna, professed faith, and tried to pray for and “love” him.
After we received the Spirit, we discovered that Verna also claimed to have received the Spirit and the gifts. However, when trying to talk to her, she was not receptive. She saw nothing wrong with continuing in the Alliance church, while we were being directed to leave the church systems and formal religion.
She also appeared to enjoy her lot in life as the dispossessed one, the one with all the faith in the face of the terrible trial of an alcoholic husband. People in the Alliance church encouraged her and, in so doing, flattered her concerning how she was “standing up so well in her trials.”
There needs to be a distinction made between needful encouragement and inadvisable praise. While the former strengthens another in faith to go on, the latter, though meaning well, might flatter or exalt a person’s ego. While the former points to the Lord for all things, the latter encourages one to look to one’s own courage, faith, strength, and virtue of character. The former builds up in the faith and saves; the latter builds up in the flesh and destroys. Those built up on their own perceived virtues become proud and fall away from what little faith they may have, though they might appear for a time to be excelling above others in trial.
Because of this, rarely have I paid compliments or praised anyone. I suspect I have possibly gone too far in the other direction, avoiding these, but I see my choice as better than to destroy by inadvertently causing one to focus on his or her goodness or virtue, which in reality, as the Lord Himself declares, is nonexistent.
While we all love praise, and while the world teaches that praise and compliments work, I am wary of them, whether in giving or receiving them, because we are all so vulnerable. I know they work, for we have all seen others use them with great effect. They work on me, and I have worked them on others. Whether they work for good in the long run, or in the most important sense, is the question I have often asked myself.
The Lord guided us through many issues that are manifested in various systems of belief. Some believe in baptism by immersion, keeping the Sabbath, observing the “Lord’s Supper,” foot washing; some emphasize doctrines like eternal security, and so forth.
Some, such as Hutterites, some Mennonites, and Pentecostals, believe in head coverings for women – some while in church meetings (gatherings) only, others in any public involvement. They do this in attempting to follow these Scriptures:
“So a man who prays or proclaims God’s message in public worship with his head covered disgraces Christ. And any woman who prays or proclaims God’s message in public worship with nothing on her head disgraces her husband; there is no difference between her and a woman whose head has been shaved. If the woman does not cover her head, she might as well cut her hair. And since it is a shameful thing for a woman to shave her head or cut her hair, she should cover her head” (1 Corinthians 11:4-6 GNB).
And: “Judge for yourselves whether it is proper for a woman to pray to God in public worship with nothing on her head” (1 Corinthians 11:13 GNB).
For a while, we believed Marilyn should wear a scarf, shawl, or hat when gathered with others, and she did so. Yet it didn’t witness with us; we weren’t free in it. Scriptures closely following the above have this to say:
We eventually came to the conclusion that the Lord ordained long hair for a symbolic covering for women, and therefore a hat or headscarf wasn’t necessary for Marilyn. The longer hair acknowledges God’s order and authority through the man. Of course, that acknowledgment can only come with the proper spirit through Christ, both in the man and the woman.
Yet the time would come that the Lord would humble me by prophetically ministering to me on another matter through a young maiden who – you guessed it – wore a head scarf for a spiritual covering at a public meeting.
As for the cutting of hair, while some women are convinced their hair should never be cut, we are granted to understand that it isn’t the cutting, but cutting the hair too short that is the issue. A benefit in the difference in hair length is that a casual onlooker can more easily tell the two sexes apart. A woman having hair too short isn’t natural according to the apostle Paul, the Judeo-Christian culture, and God’s original intention.
Back in Prince Albert, Dr. Fred and Joyce Meiers, members of the Alliance Church, were headed to Saskatoon for a winter course in anesthesiology. They asked us to take care of their home for a few months. Thereby, God provided us a place to live for the next several months.
Supposing I could bring in some income by something I was trained to do, I awkwardly returned to work for Homes Canada, feeling a bit like a fish out of water. Once replaced unceremoniously as manager of the branch, now I was back to serve as a salesman under Bill Prettie, Bob Vail’s recruit from Ontario.
One day at the office, I thought to call David. I went to one of the display homes for private prayer, asking the Lord for guidance. He said, “You don’t need to call. David will call you.” In half an hour, the phone rang. It was David.
“Victor, I am in the hall at the hospital at a pay phone!” he said excitedly. “I have my appetite back, I am getting my weight and strength back, I can stand on one leg now, and they tell me I will be able to leave soon!”
Was I thankful! The Lord had spoken, His Word to me was fulfilled, and David was delivered from the jaws of death! I immediately called Marilyn, and we were overjoyed.
Who says there is no God?
Soon after, I received that David shouldn’t remain in Dauphin, back with family and friends in the thick of the influence of the world, but that he should come to Prince Albert to spend time with us and learn of the Lord. It wasn’t David’s will to come, and we didn’t have it in our hearts to insist, perhaps because we were going through very difficult and lonely times ourselves and didn’t feel we could do him justice.
Frankly, I believe we faltered in faith, not earnestly believing that the Lord wanted David with us. I recall feeling like he would die of boredom with us, seeing we were so alone and in the process of God’s discipline (though we couldn’t discern or define our circumstances as accurately then). Why didn’t we believe that God would take care of our concerns?
David confessed to us the following year that the Lord was prompting him to come be with us, but he just didn’t do it. While he may have come had we pressed him, we were hesitant to do so.
Archie and Cathie left the Christian Training Center for Calgary soon after we left for Prince Albert. We had had some difficult times with them. One could never trust them. Without telling us, they were forever making abrupt turnaround changes in attitude toward us, and we never knew what to expect. It was good and necessary that we parted for a time.
Archie became involved with Charismatic churches in Calgary, one being Grace Gospel, which was led by a few men, including John Martello and Gordon Donaldson. Archie also went to the men’s Saturday morning breakfast prayer meetings, and occasionally to Vic Graham’s Truth Tabernacle, where Vic preached the reconciliation of all things, more commonly known as universalism.
Archie began prophesying everywhere, privately and publicly, often without warning. His language was, at times and to a limited extent, “King James English” (usually in meetings), but at other times, when in casual company, our common English.
Often, the spirit of his prophecies seemed harsh or threatening, the circumstances unusual, or the timing without warning. This made us feel quite uncomfortable around him. It was like someone might suddenly splash a cold bucket of water in your face, just as you turn around. Being young in the Spirit, we didn’t know what to make of what occasionally came forth from him, much less how to deal with it. I don’t recall any particular prophecy like that toward us personally – it was the general ongoing atmosphere in his presence.
That summer, we bought an older car as a gift for Archie and Cathie because they didn’t have one. We drove it up to Calgary along with our Volkswagen, so that we could drive back, and they accepted the car. They also had credit card debt, on which they were paying high interest. We went to the bank and paid it off for them, asking them to destroy their cards and not use them again.
Because they had no money at all, we gave them what we had, retaining $30 for gas back to Prince Albert. I’d felt I should give him everything, but decided to cover my needs.
On our way back, we visited Fred Molnar at his Good Year Tire Center in Calgary. Out of the blue, Fred asked us if we needed any money. He pressed me, but I told him we had enough for our immediate need, namely fuel.
I have no doubt that had we given all to Archie, I could have told Fred I had nothing, and he would have given. I felt badly for two reasons: One, I hadn’t believed the Lord and emptied my pockets, trusting that He would provide; two, I was sorry that I had shortchanged myself on more abundant available resources through Fred. However, the good thing is that the Lord caused Fred to press me in this matter, so that I would learn to trust Him and be liberal, knowing He rules over all.
At one time when we were visiting Archie and Cathie in Calgary, Archie developed a terrible headache. As he lay on the bed, we tried praying for him, with no results. I suspected that he had devils. One of us suggested we call John Martello, an elder at Grace Gospel Church, where Archie and Cathie attended. John said he would come as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Archie was making strange statements and facial expressions, and we kept praying for him. At times it seemed he was almost unconscious; at other times, not in his right mind. We were concerned.
When the doorbell rang, we were all in the bedroom with Archie lying on his bed. Cathie answered the door, and John and his wife, Ina, entered. We could hear John approaching in his shoes across the hardwood living-room floor toward the bedroom.
Archie suddenly started crying out, “Don’t let him come here! He’s going to take my ministry away! He’s going to take my ministry away!” (I wondered what in the world he was talking about.) He kept repeating himself, in a spirit of great fear.
Strangely, John’s footfalls echoed loudly in my ears, and I felt fear, which emanated from Archie. As he lay on his back with his arms by his sides, his entire body was completely immobile, except for his vigorously lifting head and contorting face. It appeared, however, that he would do anything to be up and out of there.
It seemed strange to me that Archie would be, first of all, so deathly afraid; second, that he would be afraid of losing a ministry none of us were aware he had; and third, that he would be afraid of being prayed over for healing. Remarkably, his fear was infectious and invasive. It began to take me over, and I could hardly resist the compulsion to prevent John from entering the room and sending him away. However, I restrained myself.
John entered, laid hands on Archie, and prayed for him. I wanted John to cast the devils out of Archie, but either John didn’t discern them, or he wasn’t led or given to do anything about them. I believe it was the former – he said that Archie simply had a bad headache. I believed it to be more than that, but Archie soon settled down and the Martellos left. I believe the devils were happy they hadn’t been discovered and were permitted to remain.
After John and Ina left, Archie said, “When I was lying down with the three of you beside the bed [Cathie, Marilyn, and me], I knew I had the strength to pick you up and throw you through the wall. I wanted to do it, but there was a barrier of light protecting you. I couldn’t touch you!”
Why did I not fully realize that Archie was demon-possessed? Somehow I saw and knew, yet didn’t. And why didn’t I try to cast the devils out of him? The faith, power, and leading just weren’t there for the time. We were young and unlearned in the Spirit. It also wasn’t Archie’s time, but that time would come.
Vic Graham was perceived as a heretic in Pentecostal circles because he preached the doctrine of the reconciliation of all things, declaring from the Scriptures that in the ages to come, everyone would be saved. We wanted to hear more, so we attended his meetings whenever we could.
One day, he was preaching that David was a type of grace and Solomon a type of the Law.
“What?” I thought. “Did I hear that correctly? Wouldn’t it be the other way around?”
While he was speaking, I asked him to clarify. (To his credit, Vic permitted others to speak during his sermons.) He reiterated what I thought I‘d heard. I don’t remember his reasoning.
I asked him, “How could David represent grace when he was known as a bloody man of war who wasn’t permitted to build the Temple, while Solomon, meaning ‘peace,’ wasn’t a man of war and was divinely appointed to build the Temple?”
Furthermore, I said, “Solomon’s reign was known as a glorious, prosperous reign of peace, unlike David’s. What about Solomon’s wisdom, which excelled that of every other man save One? Does the Law represent wisdom and peace while grace represents war and bloodshed?”
He couldn’t answer, but I recall that the next time we came to his meeting, he wasn’t quite as open or cordial towards me.
I have to say that Vic was faithful in preaching the reconciliation of all things. He had been cast out of his Pentecostal circles for it, and was thereafter opposed and shunned by nominal Christendom, particularly evangelicals, but this didn’t deter him.
I also recall him to be a generous soul. He had a collection box at the front of the room for those who wished to give (he never solicited). At the end of the first meeting I attended, he went to the box, pulled out what I think was a lone $20 bill, and stuffed it in my pocket.
Around this time, we discovered that Archie and Cathie had renewed their credit cards and went right back into debt, an act of continuing unbelief. They also gave the car we gave them to a couple we didn’t think should have it, Leo and Fran Dueck – professing believers. Our gift to them seemed wasted. Of course, it seemed we were no different. Had we not given to those who apparently shouldn’t have had it?
The misery of miserliness has plagued me all my life. Many times I have prayed about it. Many times I have thought I was finally free of worshipping mammon, and I was always wrong, though the Lord has always been faithful and supplied abundantly and on time, well beyond my needs or even wishes.
I have envied people who seemed to have freedom with money. I recall a drinking buddy, Dave Adams, in my pre-Christian days, who was always quick to pick up the tab, time after time. Gerry McClintock would provide the car for nights on the town or drives anywhere, drive me home miles from his home, and require nothing of me. For my part, I was cheap, cheap, cheap, and a nightmare at times to live with because of it, not only for others, but also for myself.
I have always had an aversion to cheap people, yet there have been few cheaper than I. The proverb says, “The liberal soul shall be made fat” (Proverbs 11:25), but I have been the selfish, penny-pinching, calculating miser, who is stingy with all. I have strangled relationships and souls because of miserliness.
One day, Marilyn was shaking cream in a container to whip it and the lid fell off. There was cream all over the kitchen. I lost it and railed all over her. She cried.
Why did I lose it over something so small and insignificant? I don’t know. I can only conclude that it was bondage to money, an unbelief that coursed through my being. And perhaps, fear of loss?
The proverb says, “He that is greedy of gain troubles his house” (Proverbs 15:27). In time to come, I was to learn by bitter experience the essence of another proverb related to this one: “He that troubles his house inherits the wind” (Proverbs 11:29).