PART THREE– Israel to Bernalillo (cont.)
Elaine Kapitaniuk worked as a maid for us. One day, we found extra hours filled in under her name in the record book, and it wasn’t in our handwriting. I thought I would watch for further developments and, sure enough, she filled in other days when she wasn’t there.
When I asked her about it, she was a bit sheepish, but wouldn’t admit to anything. I simply showed her the “error,” she agreed with it, unable and unwilling to argue, we corrected it, paid her what was coming to her, and didn’t call her back.
But she wasn’t the only thief….
Hilbert had a storage room with discarded items, among them old TV sets. I decided to clean up these things, and asked him if I could sell them. He didn’t think they were worth anything, but gave me permission to dispose of them.
I put the TVs out front, priced them low, and let people try and buy if they so chose. They all sold. I then thought, “For all the work we do and the little pay we get, I’m keeping some of the money. I won’t tell him how much I got for them.”
He hadn’t told me the money was or wasn’t ours to keep.
When they came up for their monthly one-day stint, he asked me if I had sold them. I said I had, for so much. He said, “That’s great! You can have all the proceeds.” I can tell you that my heart sank at something that should have been good news. The Lord knows how to catch a dishonest child in a trap, not always by force or cruelty, but by kindness.
I had a hard time confessing to him that I had lied to him about the amount. Perhaps I didn’t need to confess, seeing he was willing to give the proceeds to us. Perhaps if he had known the amount I really got, he would have split it or not given any. I don’t know. I just simply had to get it off my chest.
I tried to tell him in different ways, but finally came right out with it. He didn’t say much, but when it dawned on him that I wasn’t trustworthy in that matter, and being he was the distrustful type anyway, he was highly suspicious of me from that time on. This would be of particular grief when we were leaving.
The occupation was almost an unbearable experience. One day while hanging two flags (something else we had to do each day), I complained to the Lord. Marilyn received the words, “Who are you worshipping, Me or mammon?” The money monkey was addressed again. Always overcome with money issues, I knew the answer.
At another time, I was seeing other motels full, while ours was empty. Marilyn received words again – “Don’t look at the appearance.”
Added to the problems of the work, my past sin was bearing fruit. As the Lord had said it would be, so it was. By the time nine months had passed from the time I ate the ice cream bar in Swift Current, I was fighting my weight problem.
Added to that, I had great regret at what I had lost. As you know, my weight problem had been a constantly frustrating losing battle most of my life. I realized that the day the Lord spoke to me about being slim and trim, it had been something established for the long term, provided I obeyed Him. I had lost a precious and much enjoyed victory over an ice cream bar! How grievous that was to me!
Perhaps only people with a lifelong weight problem could understand, but only in part. Add to the mix the spiritual dimension and guilt of having disobeyed God and ignoring His clear warning, even writing His voice off as that of Satan, and suffering the consequences – only then can you know how I have felt.
Besides all the nightmares that plagued me, there was the habit of “should have/shouldn’t have.” Regrets and brooding over mistakes have plagued me all my life – not an easy way to live. While logic says to get over losses and failures, learn from them and get on with it, this is easier said than done – at least for me. It doesn’t relieve one to thin spilled milk with tears.
As I was exercising one day and struggling with weight, regret, money matters, and being locked into Westlock, a bird landed on a wire only feet from the window. I believe it was a house sparrow. These are usually rather skittish and restless. This one stayed longer than usual, and I was reminded of how Jesus said:
“For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!” (Matthew 10:29-31 GNB)
In the fall of 1981, my father came to visit us in Westlock. It was a Friday, and he wanted to take us out for dinner. We went to a new place where we heard the food was tasty, generous, and inexpensive. Dad said he would order fish because, as a Catholic, he wasn’t supposed to eat meat on Fridays – until he saw that steaks were on special, two for the price of one.
My point isn’t to criticize him. Rather, I would like to say that when it comes right down to it, I don’t believe that Catholics themselves truly believe there’s anything serious or legitimate about many of their rules, traditions, and doctrines. That applies to all religions.
I would go so far as to say that deep down inside, men know right from wrong, though they have seared and salved their consciences, hardening themselves in darkness. A man in darkness may still remember what he once saw, if ever so faintly, even after much time. The record is there.
The Scriptures also say:
“The Gentiles do not have the Law; but whenever they do by instinct what the Law commands, they are their own law, even though they do not have the Law. Their conduct shows that what the Law commands is written in their hearts. Their consciences also show that this is true, since their thoughts sometimes accuse them and sometimes defend them” (Romans 2:14-15 GNB).
Of course, all Dad had to do was go to confession at the next opportunity, and all would be just fine (I speak tongue in cheek).
That fall, Fred and Delores Molnar came from Camrose for a short visit. They were well dressed and groomed, and they looked prosperous, successful… and happy. We definitely weren’t free, happy, or prosperous. Marilyn received a word concerning them – “Don’t be deceived.” The time would come when we would see how deceptive appearances were in this case.
A native stayed one night and while in the office, he witnessed me get angry with Marilyn and call her “stupid.” He went to his room, returned after some time, and spoke a Word from the Lord to us. In kindness and piety, he rebuked me. “Don’t call your wife ‘stupid,’” he said. “The Bible says husbands are supposed to love their wives. It says that if you call another believer (brother or sister) a fool, you are in danger of judgment.”
I knew he was speaking needed truth to me. I was both ashamed for the need of rebuke, but also glad to have someone approach us from a spiritual perspective. I confessed my wrong and wondered if he had anything else to say to us. He didn’t. I thanked him for faithfully speaking that which the Lord gave him to speak.
We had Paul’s mailing address in Vermont where he was living at that time, in the first part of 1982. We wanted to let him know how we were doing, without letting him know where we were, lest he should let it slip to his parents, who were still searching for us.
In order to use someone else’s return address, I called Lois Benson in Stettler, asking her if she would forward our letter to Paul. She wouldn’t do it without her husband’s consent; she asked him for it, he gave it, and I sent her the letter, which she forwarded to Paul and he received.
I also tried sharing things with Lois, but all she could say was, “I don’t need anyone; I have the Lord.” She wouldn’t hear that there was such a thing as ministries, elders, and leaders in the church, or fellowship in a body of believers, submitting to one another.
I suppose she still believed her pastor, Len Rosenfeldt, who warned her against me in 1977. She was very hard. I knew the Lord would have to take her through hard times to deal with her hardness.
I believe I sent her a letter (or I may have told her by phone), saying that there was a storm coming her way.
We called my parents and discovered that the Cohens, or people working for them, were calling for us. We were thankful we told nobody where we were, particularly Paul. My mother and Marilyn’s mother, Laura, were in touch with each other, wondering where we were.
The Cohens called Laura, claiming to be the RCMP, telling her we were a cult and drug traffickers. Judging from what we would hear from her later, it seems rather certain that she believed them, though she said she really didn’t know what to believe about us.
By the time my father and the Molnars visited us in Westlock in the fall of ‘81, we had been easing off the cautionary measures.
God’s corrections and judgments are awesomely tailored. Hilbert was very much like me, or rather, I was much like him. He was stingy, money-minded, friendly, but ever with a selfish agenda, and liked to have firm control over everything. It was so stifling and vexing to work under a man like that, but I knew that I was exactly the same way, and that the Lord had matched us up because of it.
As if the Lord would indicate how similar we were, I found another curious coincidental characteristic. Hilbert would sign using only his initials – HH, which he would scribble. My signature was VH, which I also scribbled. One time after they spelled us off for a day, I saw his signature and thought, “I didn’t sign this. What is this?” As I began to investigate, I saw other papers Hilbert had signed and realized that our signatures appeared identical, even though the letters weren’t. I knew we were “identical” in many ways. I can’t criticize him, of course, but I didn’t like at all what I was compelled to see in God’s live mirror, arranged in His power and wisdom to correct me.
Hilbert once said, “I’m a reasonable man.” By then I had learned that when people claim a certain virtue, the truth was invariably the opposite. Why is that? I suppose it’s because they realize their shortcoming and are in denial of it.
I learned firsthand, again and again, Hilbert was very unreasonable and wondered at how he could ever claim to be otherwise. Was he lying or did he really believe it? I suspect he believed it.
We were in Westlock in spiritual chains; I was living with troubles and regrets, one of those being that I hadn’t heeded my wife’s disagreement with working in a motel. I had broken the law of agreement between us, and we were both paying the price. I wanted so much to be out of there. Besides the troubles, inconveniences, poor pay of the business, and being burdened with an unsavory boss, I was troubled by losses and regrets of the past, I was overweight, and I was plagued by uncertainty, doubts, and fears about my relationship and calling with the Lord.
One day we decided to give ourselves to thanksgiving to the Lord for our circumstances, not so that we could get out of them, but just to thank Him for placing us there for His purposes, acknowledging His Lordship in all things, both bad and good. And wouldn’t you know it – almost immediately, things began to change.
The winter had been a cold one, with temperatures in the minus high thirties at times. Spring came, and we did some yard cleaning. In the back yard, there was a compost pile about two feet high that had been there before we came the fall before. As I was cleaning it up, I found the green cutting of a philodendron, about six inches long. I brought it inside and Marilyn potted it.
It grew. It became special to us, symbolizing our survival as compost in spiritually cold and trying times. Several times in the following years it put forth leaves, which would die off or brown on the edges. We would cut them off and the plant would have to start again. So it was with us, time and time again. Thirty years later, we still have it, now crawling high up along the timbers of our log home.
We were beginning to think we would be held at Westlock as prisoners for years, but we were very pleasantly surprised to find that very soon after giving thanks, the Lord gave us the release. I gave Hilbert Hansen a one-month notice, though only two weeks was required by law. After a few weeks, he asked that we stay on for an extra month to give him time to replace us. I didn’t want to stay any longer than absolutely necessary, but I consented. He offered no reward.
Not only did he offer no reward for the favor, but when the day came to leave, he wouldn’t give us our last paycheck. I highly suspected that if I didn’t collect it then and there, I wouldn’t get it. I knew he was holding it back because he didn’t trust me, and was wondering if he might find something missing after we were gone. It was a battle to the end. I knew he wasn’t within his legal rights to withhold pay, and insisted that he pay, and he finally did. I promptly cashed the check, and we were on our way at last.
While it was such a relief to be free from the East Glen Motel and Hilbert Hansen, it wasn’t long after we left Westlock that I was subjected to examining my past. I saw that I had suffered much financial loss over many years and began to see myself as the biggest loser and fool that ever lived. I recalled so many things, not the least of them being how David Miller had cleaned me out of a sizeable share of our house in Charleswood. I began to realize how I had treated him, deserving everything I got, and reaping many times over what I had sown. I saw how selfish, money-focused, and niggardly I was, losing all the way. My apologies to you, David.
And now I was supposed to be a believer, one who had faith in God, worshipping Him, not mammon. I saw myself as a big loser in both worlds. The realization was so poignant that I began to wonder if I would survive. I loathed myself.
God would speak to me of my financial losses again, this time with promise of good.
I don’t know in what years I came to have this realization, but I came to believe that three prominent spirits ruled the Hafichuk family. They were pride, love of money, and self-pity. Often I saw these spirits raise their ugly heads with several members of the family (by blood, not marriage).
Several years later, I came to realize that what I saw in the Szmon family (my mother’s side) were the spirits of pride, foolishness, and willful ignorance.
From Westlock, where were we to go? We had no plan, but we headed east, though I was still wondering if southern Alberta shouldn’t be our destination. We soon arrived at the Gordie Howe Campground in Saskatoon. The sites were hedged with tall lilacs, and it was June, their time of bloom. Both the beauty and fragrance were refreshing.
There we met the Ratzloffs, a couple in their fifties or sixties. They told us about their son who was an associate evangelist with Terry Winter (who has since died years ago of a brain aneurysm at age 56).
They related how their son had prayed that God would anoint his tongue powerfully to preach. He told them that once, while in prayer for anointing power to preach, his tongue became very thick (in feeling, I supposed), and he received a supernatural power, including speaking in tongues.
I knew he had been asking for the wrong thing for the wrong reason. I also knew, therefore, that he received, not the Spirit of God or anointing from Him, but a spirit from the powers of darkness.
The Ratzloffs asked us where we went to church. We told them we didn’t.
“What?” Mrs. Ratzloff asked in surprise. “Then how do you get fed?” (They saw we were very open to discuss spiritual matters.)
A spontaneous reply instantly leaped from my lips: “The Shepherd feeds me.”
She didn’t know what to do with that.
Many people have the notion that Jesus Christ is only in formal, established, socially-accepted churches. Now why would He command me to leave such institutions where people were perishing, as I would leave behind my own dung, if He chose to remain in them?
The Ratzloffs told us that they were going to the Alliance church in Saskatoon, and that they were building a large new one on the south side, pastored, I believe, by Walter Boldt. They were quite enthused about it, and perhaps particularly about its size. Soon after, I had a vision of the new place:
There were people walking from all over the city to that site, carrying pails full of slops, including dung. They were dumping these slops, which were partially solid, partially liquid, onto a heap, which was long, wide, and some feet high. This heap was… the new Circle Drive Alliance Church. What a hideous picture! God likened this church to a slop pile, a dunghill! Didn’t Paul call the pre-Christian components of his denominational formal religious life “dung” (Philippians 3)?
At Gordie Howe, we met a young couple professing faith in Christ. They were headed for the Rocky Mountains with their children, expecting a nuclear exchange in the world soon, on a global scale. I wondered how the Rockies were going to save them. Many are they who think to trust the Lord and think to hear His Voice, but are paranoid or deluded, living in rebellion and imaginary worlds, believing themselves capable of living independently of all others.
Surprise, surprise! My cousin, Eddy Boyechko, and his wife, Jeanette, and their children happened to be camping at Gordie Howe. I invited them to our trailer, where we shared some organic treats with them. They seemed to think them rather weird.
We also shared some spiritual matters with them. Eddy’s contempt was quite visible through his mask; it was a thin mask indeed, one that, at one time, was quite sufficient to deceive me, but not now. He hadn’t changed a whit.
The next day, as they were parting, he knew that I knew. I said very little and didn’t enter into conflict with them, but neither did I pay them any more respect.
Eddy related to me how he and his family were at a campground one night and, for some reason, some teenagers were out to do mischief to him and his property. It was dark and Eddy happened to be outside sitting in the shadows as he spied the tricksters sneaking up on him. They didn’t know he was there.
Suddenly, to surprise them, he shouted something like, “Hey, what are you doing?!” The boys were startled and immediately made a run for it. As they bolted, one of them suddenly screamed in pain as he struck his shin hard on a trailer hitch he didn’t see in the darkness. Eddy had a great chuckle about it.
Whether this story was true or otherwise, I considered how the experiences of my life were generally anything but satisfying or victorious against evildoers. I had become convinced that there was seldom, if ever, justice or satisfaction against evil for me. Even though I was a believer, a child of God, having been one for nine years, people seemed to be getting away with all kinds of evils against me. It was the story of my life.
But Eddy, an unbeliever, seemed to enjoy the upper hand. Furthermore, I perceived it wasn’t because of cleverness or virtue, but simply because it was given to him. Why was God favoring him so, and why wasn’t He giving me that same kind of protection and satisfaction? Why did people constantly do me evil and get away with it? (I now know I needed or deserved it, and that would be why.) I couldn’t understand it.
The day would come, albeit many years later, when I would see the Lord protect and vindicate me in ways this world can hardly imagine. And wasn’t He doing that now? Didn’t He, for example, warn me of Dave Cohen’s intent to kill me? If I had examined my past, I would have easily seen God’s favor in ways Eddy wouldn’t believe.
The way I saw it was that I was fleeing from Dave Cohen, while Eddy’s enemies were running from him. I suppose I was envious of Eddy.
We have been reacquainted with several people after not having seen them for many years. On the surface, they may seem to have become somewhat more humble or proud, educated or ignorant, traveled or sheltered, hardened or softened, wealthy or impoverished, formal or casual, stuffy or down-to-earth, preoccupied or attentive, narrow or broadminded, religious or non-religious, but essentially, they are still the same as in their beginning. Indeed, under closer examination, they seem to become more established in what they were from the start.
I have learned that only a new birth truly changes one for the better. Unless God performs a personal miracle in their lives, we find that though people change somewhat superficially, they remain the same essentially. If there is an apparent change, it’s only because they’ve learned to conceal or sophisticate their faults and weaknesses.
Occasionally I would dream of some woman attracted to me and I to her. (In dreams, people can have an attractiveness and essence I’ve never experienced in reality.) I then feel badly, knowing I’m married and can’t have what is being offered me. My wife has also had dreams of men being affectionate with her. I haven’t been an affectionate man, and I haven’t been even remotely fulfilling for my wife. That, I certainly believe.
This sounds like we each lack something in our relationship. I don’t doubt this is the case. At least for my part, my priority has never been an idyllic marriage or even a good one. My desire has been consecration to God. However, I’ve never been or done what I’ve expected or imagined one who has been fully consecrated to God would be or do.