PART THREE– Israel to Bernalillo (cont.)
We visited a grocery store in Saskatoon. There we were, passing through a city of perhaps 170,000 people, and who should we chance upon but Judy Strauss (nee Linton)! This was another of the many constant appointments arranged by the Lord – some unfinished business I was unaware of.
Judy, you will recall, was the one for whom I had to confess desire to Marilyn, before God would grant me His Spirit in January 1975. There was no trace of the apparent humility I remembered of her as a new believer some eight years before. Now I saw Judy as proud and self-assured, religious, haughty, and completely closed to anything I might have to say.
Her countenance was hard and consequently unattractive (I had known her when she appeared younger, more tender, humble, and innocent). She was now dogmatic in her beliefs and boasted of her husband’s position as a Baptist pastor.
Her attitude was one of “I’m a successful pastor’s wife, and therefore I’ll tell you a thing or two, because I know better than you. After all, aren’t you the one who fell away from the faith?”
(Besides what I saw in her attitude, there could be no question they were against our departing from the Baptists after we received the Spirit.)
And this is the woman I thought I might like to court when she was single? How time, as overflowing waves on a shore, serves to erode and change the landscape!
I think God gave a confirmation that it was better to have taken the direction I took after all, having Marilyn for wife, not that I ever really doubted the choice. I was glad to have run into Judy. It was just one of many loose ends taken care of. I was thankful Marilyn was my wife.
I was chagrined that, while some people appeared to believe my words, they misinterpreted them and went in other directions than I intended. Harry Strauss was a prime example. In 1974, when I conducted a class at the Faith Baptist Church, he seemed to take to heart my exhortation to full commitment to the Lord. But when Marilyn and I received the Holy Spirit months later, though Harry and Judy heard about it, they didn’t follow us. I had hoped we could talk to Harry at that time, but it didn’t happen.
Instead, he became a Baptist pastor.
I thought, “How could my words of exhortation to follow the Lord have taken him and his wife in this direction? Am I responsible for this? Knowing the ways of the Lord, I can only conclude that He didn’t choose Harry to enter through that narrow gate of life. ‘Many are called but few are chosen.’”
Years later, I would see more of Harry on TV, as they held an Easter service in their church in Regina. While he appeared rather successful to the religious world, I perceived him to be tragically empty, the end result of his chosen path. Many, I expect, would differ with my perspective and conclusion.
I had this dream at the Gordie Howe Campground, which dream happened to be about three years after Paul was called upon, in Israel, to leave Alison and to follow the Lord. I was in Heaven. In Heaven I saw Paul and Alison, but Alison didn’t belong there, not because we were better than she, or because she was wicked, but it just wasn’t her time or place. I needed to tell her so.
At some point, whether before seeing Paul and Alison or just after, I saw an elderly man, well-dressed, seated on a chair, bowing in prayer, saying, “Lord, bless brother Vic.” He reminded me of John Taal.
Then we heard music, and a choir of many people, all male, it seemed. How beautiful the music and the voices! Comparing the best of music of this world to what I heard in Heaven would be like, well, there just could be no comparison – I’d have to say it’s the difference between life and death. The heavenly music was food for the soul and spirit, with abiding sustenance.
In the midst of the singing, a sudden shout went out from all of them, in unison, a resounding roar of permanent joy and excitement. How wonderful!
I then saw a man on stage, who reminded me of Merv Mediwake, playing a bass while all sang. He was holding the bass in his left hand, while plucking the strings with his right. On his neck and hanging down over his abdomen, he wore a long beaded, multiple-stringed necklace. With a playful expression (as Merv was inclined to have), he began to pluck the necklace instead of the instrument strings, and the bass sound continued as though he was still plucking the bass. Everyone broke out in joyful laughter.
It was the humor of God – clean, funny, at nobody’s expense, miraculous, sharing his glory with another. What a taste of Heaven!
In one of these years (I think it was shortly after we left Westlock), when I looked and saw that I had nothing to show for my past, God spoke to me saying, “Replenish, replenish, I will replenish.”
Though I had some difficulty believing it, God was assuring me that, one day, we wouldn’t be poor.
I thought, “I must just want to think that! Why would God want me to have financial wealth? Does a devout Christian or man of God need it?”
I certainly wasn’t aware I was seeking the riches of this world.
After many weeks in Saskatoon, it was time to move on. We headed for Manitoba. When we reached Yorkton, I determined to go to Dauphin to visit my parents, but Marilyn received a Word from the Lord: “If you go there, that will be the end.”
I knew it was a Word from the Lord (it witnessed with me) and I wasn’t about to disobey. The consequence of the ice cream bar rebellion was more than enough. We headed through Russell, Manitoba and on to Winnipeg.
Why we came back to Winnipeg, I don’t know. As was often the case, without commitments or obligations, we could have gone anywhere.
During that time, the truck developed a vibration in the drive train that service stations couldn’t identify. We crawled along at about eighty kilometers an hour or less, through Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. In Winnipeg, we checked with Erickson’s on King Edward Street. They had serviced the truck in times past, and couldn’t identify the problem. I decided to live with it until the Lord provided a solution.
Happily, Hafichuk has had all sorts of notions that never panned out. In my insecurities and small-mindedness, I had hatched the idea of working for Helen Huebner. She was now a widow who could, perhaps, use someone with business management training and experience. She was a professing believer of sorts, and I enjoyed Amway while I was in it, so maybe something might work for both of us.
I was surprised by her spirit and attitude when we went to visit her at her office (I hadn’t said anything yet about my ideas). Helen was sarcastic, almost caustically so. “Well, how about getting back into the business and doing something useful with your life?” she snorted (yes, snorted).
My, but widows can be tough when they want to be! I wondered if Bert wasn’t eternally grateful to the drunken driver that killed him. Maybe he saw his opportunity to escape and took it as he was crossing the street the night he was killed!
Helen had a son helping her in their product warehouse, so I assumed the door was firmly closed to my notion. However, I ended up visiting with him for a while. He was a sad young fellow, browbeaten and empty. I shared some things about the Lord with him, and there seemed to be a tiny bit of light breaking through, though it wasn’t obvious. Soon we left.
We decided to look for a house to rent, which would be much less expensive than living in a motel. From there, perhaps I would do trucking again, or painting, or something. We found a home for rent, reasonably priced, and took it. It needed work, but I thought that if I worked on renovating it, we would have income immediately. The landlord was willing, so we didn’t need to give a damage deposit, as is customarily required of renters.
It wasn’t long, perhaps three days, before we could no longer stay there. There was a strange uncomfortability that we couldn’t identify, but which we weren’t prepared to tolerate. We also felt generally out of place.
I called the landlord, thinking we were going to be charged a month’s rent. I told him that we simply didn’t feel right about the home. To our surprise, he was very understanding and charged us nothing at all.
He wanted to talk more about how we felt, and while we couldn’t explain much more, he believed he had an explanation. He told us that his wife had just died of cancer there. He believed her death had something to do with our feelings. We had known nothing about it.
While on the road in our Casa Rolla trailer, we headed to a humble trailer court on North Main in Winnipeg. We were wondering what to do, and we were stressed because of unbelief.
I prayed and said to God, “Lord, I sacrifice everything I have to You, all I possess and am” (I believe I meant my future as well).
Suddenly, in a vision, I saw an altar upon which lay all kinds of foul garbage – dung, used menstrual pads, and every vile thing… the worst kinds of things people would find in common refuse. It was as though someone had dumped bags of miscellaneous garbage on the altar. I realized I had nothing to sacrifice, and whatever I had of me or mine was a vile insult as a gift to God. It was the height of presumption to even suspect I had anything to offer Him.
I was ashamed. I fully deserved and needed the chastening revelation of myself.
During the stay at the trailer court for a couple of days, I made attempts, without inspiration or conviction, to find work there as a groundskeeper or serviceman of some kind, and to negotiate with the trailer court manager for a lesser rate. During the brief conversation, I said something about her being a generous person. I believe it was flattery, and very soon the Lord convicted me of having said something that simply wasn’t true. I remembered the Scripture:
“And the heart of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of those who stutter shall be ready to speak plainly. The fool shall no more be called noble, nor the miser said to be bountiful” (Isaiah 32:4-5 MKJV).
I thought, “Lord, I have called the miser bountiful. I’m a hypocrite, contradictory in all my ways.”
Somehow I knew that the woman to whom I had spoken was a miser, yet I was looking to her for work, for provision, and for generosity. I was trusting in flesh and blood, rather than the Living God and Source of all things. How miserable a creature I was!
We left that trailer court. It was an unkempt, dismal cheap place, swarming with mosquitoes. We decided to go to Bird’s Hill, a provincial campground north of Winnipeg, which turned out to be beautiful.
While there I decided that I wasn’t going anywhere, whether to live or work, unless I heard the Lord specifically direct me, and unless Marilyn and I were in full agreement. I had learned my lesson, at least for a while (how soon we forget), and I vowed I would freeze or starve before going where I wasn’t led.
We were at Bird’s Hill about a month. The winter of ’82 was approaching, it was getting colder, and campers were leaving. Our plumbing in the trailer froze, and something had to give. I was prepared to buy straw bales from some farmer and hunker down for the winter, determined to go nowhere or do nothing until God spoke. I wanted Him to tell us what to do and where to go. I had no stomach for another Westlock.
I don’t recall specifically what the transaction with God was or how it occurred, except that I was prepared to go anywhere or nowhere, as He chose. Then came a peace and rest I never knew before.
We had some visits with the park warden, who professed faith. He was having his problems and receiving misleading spiritual direction from his church. We advised him that he needed to put his trust in God, rather than in men.
One morning, Marilyn came back from the public showers and washrooms crying. They were closed for the season. After several days of waiting and praying, the Lord said, “To Lethbridge.” That was all He said.
I knew our truck needed servicing. The clutch was almost gone. I checked the classifieds in the newspaper and found someone who was willing to do mechanical work for a reasonable rate. He offered to replace the clutch and whatever else was needed.
To replace the clutch, the standard transmission had to be removed, which wasn’t too easy, but we did it. He having done the clutch work, it was then my duty to hold the transmission from above, in the cab, while he was underneath guiding it into place. The transmission weighed perhaps 70 or more pounds and I was having a difficult time bending over and holding it.
The mechanic (a constable with the Winnipeg City Police) was stumped and quite frustrated. We tried and tried to fit the transmission with the clutch, but it wouldn’t slip into place. I cried out to the Lord, asking Him for the solution. Immediately, I thought to put my foot on the clutch pedal, did so, and the three-speed transmission instantly dropped into place.
“What did you do?!” he blurted with surprise and relief.
“I asked God for an answer and He gave it to me,” I replied. “I put my foot on the clutch.”
He didn’t say much, but he marveled, knowing I knew almost nothing about mechanics. What I did made sense to him; he even explained how it worked.
Who says there is no God?
Everything else was falling into place, too. He determined that the drive shaft was causing the vibration. He ordered one from the auto wreckers, replaced the defective one, looked the rest of the truck over, and said, “You should be good to go now.” I thanked him and paid him, so relieved to be rid of the mechanical problems that had been haunting me.
I was thankful we were now on our way.
As we approached Medicine Hat, my stick shift was suddenly in my hand, free of the floor! I managed to pull over and stick it back in, keeping it there until we got to a campground. Someone helped me replace a broken pin, and we were in operation again.
We met an elderly couple at the campground with whom we visited for a while. They were having marriage problems and confided to us. All we did was listen and, as they talked, they came to realize each other’s thoughts and feelings more fully. This helped them to reconcile, for which we were thankful.
Could this be what the Lord had in mind for us, an effortless ministry where people would be unburdened and helped without our aggressive input?
A mechanic specializing in alternator repairs was camped there. I told him my light was coming on. He looked, said the alternator needed brushes, replaced them, charged me, and said that should do it. The light was still coming on, however. He told me that after a few miles down the road, it would go off. It didn’t. I had to turn back after several miles and replace the alternator. I think he lied to me.
The last time we had been in Lethbridge, it was a shut door to us; we were compelled to move on. This time, as we drove in, there seemed to be little doubt we were to stay. I decided to get a newspaper and look for home rentals. Walking to a store, I bumped into a man with a realtor tag. I said, “Seeing you’re a realtor, perhaps you know of a home to rent. We’re new in town.”
“As a matter of fact,” Norm Tolley replied, “I just got a home for rent today. Come into the office.” He called Richard and Cindy Willis of Vauxhall, the owners who had been trying unsuccessfully to sell their home at 45 Meadowlark Boulevard and decided to rent it for a while. He filled out the papers, paid no attention to the fact that I was without a job, credit references, or fixed address. All he wanted was a month’s rent and the usual one-month rental damage deposit.
He showed us the home, we decided to think about it, took a room at the Travelodge Motel on Scenic Drive for two days, prayed, and decided this was it (we knew it from the start, but I was still skittish from the motel incident). We took Norm’s offer and immediately moved in – just in time. It was November and winter was right behind us. The Lord had provided us a home with the very first contact on the street.
Who says there is no God?
Our home was half of a side-by-side economy duplex. The Don Thompson family was on the other side. Next to our home was another duplex, in which Sandy Ponech, a single parent, lived with her son. A few doors down were Dale and Susan Cole. They were all friendly and helpful. I parked the trailer, put it up for sale, and received no bites. We met our landlords, the Willises, and appreciated that they were friendly.
What do we do now? I was still determined that I wasn’t going anywhere unless I knew for sure what we were to do, and Marilyn and I were in agreement on it. While we waited, I purchased used furniture and appliances through the classifieds. We bought some in need of cleaning and repair, fixed them up, sold some, and made some money.
We had no income, and we had $45 left. The rent of $450 plus utilities would soon be due. Our anniversary was coming up on November 30.
I had been discerning a pattern with the way the Lord worked with us. It seemed that He wouldn’t provide for us again until the cupboard was bare. So, in order to ease the pressure and not prolong the pain anymore than necessary, I decided to promptly spend what we had left. I went out and bought a dozen roses for Marilyn. The cost was an exorbitant $42.
“Roses!” she exclaimed when I presented her with the bouquet. “Are you crazy?! What in the world did you do that for?! That was all the money we had!” She was beside herself.
I told her my thinking, and she was too upset to think or agree. She wouldn’t get flowers again for many years, not until I began to understand that she hadn’t been rejecting me or the flowers, but reacting to the pressures of the time. It should have been a simple thing to understand, but again, I have been very slow on the uptake. I was hurt by the rejection.
But more importantly, there was a lesson involved:
The Lord was bringing home the truth that the celebrated events of this world are not those He would have us honor. So a couple is married 30 years. What kind of marriage has it been? So someone is 5 or 50 years old? Is the number of years of value, or is it the quality of the life lived in God’s sight?
We learned that while the Bible recorded age, it didn’t honor the celebration of age. I have seen few, if any, people who have the right to be proud of their ages at all. I certainly had no right.
Wherever birthday celebrations were recorded in Scripture, invariably there was death. On Pharaoh’s birthday, he beheaded the baker (Genesis 40:20-22); on Herod’s birthday, he beheaded John the Baptist (Matthew 14:6-11); and on the birthday celebration of Job’s eldest son, all nine of his children died as they partied, notwithstanding their father’s pious life and substitutionary sacrifices on their behalf (Job 1:4-5, 18-19 KJV).
Besides giving up celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, we dumped Valentine’s Day (which is pagan and extols false love), Halloween (a particularly demonic event), Mother’s and Father’s Day (which are artificial and cheap substitutes for the realistic honor of parents), Christmas and Easter (pagan revelries with Christian excuses), and all others of the world.
The landlord wanted us to paint our home, and the labor would be applied to the rent. I accepted the opportunity. This time we were getting paid for our work, unlike with Hilbert Hansen in Westlock; however, there was still no other work or income.
Dale and Susan Cole invited us to Christmas dinner. Though we told them we didn’t celebrate, they insisted on having us anyway, saying it wasn’t going to be festive as such, and we accepted. We were thankful for them.
I looked for work, which wasn’t abundant – it was a time of economic recession. In unbelief, I applied, along with twenty or more other applicants, to Canadian Linen for a delivery route they were advertising, and was offered it. In praying about it, Marilyn and I knew I couldn’t take it. She received that the Lord had something much bigger and better for us. I knew it to be true. We continued to wait.
Notice how Marilyn was often the one hearing from God?
I met Ed Nakamura, who owned and operated Elite Custom Upholstery. I had contacted him to do some upholstering on a sofa for us. He gave me some menial work, with menial pay, tearing old couches apart.
I wondered if I might not get into the trucking business again, renting a portion of his shop. Lethbridge required commercial facilities, unlike Winnipeg where I was permitted to work out of the home with a simple license. The city’s requirements for using Ed’s facilities weren’t feasible, and I couldn’t get my own place. Furthermore, I sensed I couldn’t go back to the old business. God was taking us on to something else.
I tried to talk to Ed about his life, but he was closed. He was a Buddhist and saw no reason to change. It wasn’t long before his wife left him.
Working part-time for Ed was Sid Wendelboe, a young alcoholic hippy. I liked Sid. He was colorful, with humor and somewhat uncommon insight, but he was hooked on drugs. He wasn’t interested in God or in changing his life. I heard a few years later that he died. His parents, being JW, couldn’t help him.
Did we trust God contentedly in our trials? No. We started to be very restless, so much so that I was starting to feel a hole in my stomach, and Marilyn was losing her hair. Yet I wasn’t going anywhere unless I knew the Lord was in it. But what were we to do? The rent was due, and we had nothing to pay.