PART THREE– Israel to Bernalillo (cont.)
I had to do a painting job for Olga Gaydos in Foremost. Staying in a motel, I found the clerk, the daughter of the managers, dressed entirely in black. When I asked her about it, she said she was a witch, which surprised me somewhat.
She also claimed that witches could place curses on people. I didn’t feel led to speak to her about the Lord (perhaps I should have), but I also didn’t feel the least bit threatened by her, knowing that the Lord’s people are kept from any secret curses, and the enemy can have no power over us except the Lord permit it.
It has often concerned me that I didn’t help people come to the Light of life when occasions such as this one arose. It seemed like it wasn’t the time or place, or I wasn’t the person for it.
In one of these years, Marilyn and I went shopping at Hill’s Pantry for bulk and organic foods. One day I bought a bag of chocolate-coated peanuts. They were stale, so I returned them.
A young man “served” me. When I presented the goods to him, he looked at me like I was an idiot. Perhaps it was small of me to complain, but I thought they should know, and I also thought I had either a replacement or refund coming for something I didn’t bargain for.
He took my bag to the back and returned minutes later with a new bag. I thanked him and left. As we were driving away, I tried the peanuts. One was good, one was stale; one good, and one stale. It was slightly confusing, but soon I concluded that he had mixed fresh stock with old. I was offended, but I decided we weren’t going back again, whether for satisfaction on this particular matter, or for business in general.
What would be the fate of Hill’s Pantry? Years later, we would find out.
We should have seen it coming. Willises, the owners of our rented duplex, soon followed through on their original intention to sell. (Why else had they asked me to paint the suite?) Realtors came to hold open house, promising they would see to it that we were compensated if we had to move before the legal time.
One of those realtors was Brian Bickerton, with whom we became friends while visiting at open houses he was holding. Brian and his brother, Keith, had been developers; they’d suffered bankruptcy when the recession came. Now they were real estate salesmen working for others.
Brian started to line up handyman work for me. In the likelihood we would soon need a home, he also suggested we purchase rather than rent, and began to try and fit us into a home. Brian was a salesman, and a very good one.
Real estate agent Irv Schweitzer sold the house to Jerome and Jenny Shouting, Blackfoot natives. He called on Jerome to develop the basement on a government grant and asked if I would be available to work on it, as well. They wanted Marilyn and me to accommodate the construction while we were still living there, so that it would be done before Shoutings moved in, seeing it needed to be completed for them to qualify for the grant.
This was an unfair request from Schweitzer, seeing that we would be putting up with the noise and inconvenience, but wouldn’t enjoy the benefits upon completion. However, we let it happen.
When it came to get paid, I went to Irv’s office. When he saw the bill, which was very reasonable as far as I was concerned, he exploded. He screamed, cursed, slammed, and stomped, as though I had just deliberately poked him in the eye with a hot iron. His secretary sat by, cold and speechless. I perceived it to be a stage performance, said very little, if anything, collected the check, and headed straight for the bank, in case he changed his mind. The check was good. I take it Irv was making money on the grant.
Jerome and I had some talks about the Lord. Jenny seemed to believe, while Jerome didn’t, but neither of them really wanted to share. Some might say it was the natural shyness that some natives have with whites, but I have seen that when the Lord truly touches people, no matter who they are, they are open and free to talk, indeed, eager to do so. I sensed that with their mindsets and lifestyles, they were headed for disaster. Though I tried to make arrangements, they didn’t want to get together or listen to anything.
Brian Bickerton showed us a couple of homes, but for some reason, things seemed awkward. One day, he showed us a pleasant well-maintained mobile home at Bridge Villa. We had money for the deposit, and the payments were well within our means. We needed only to say, “Yes,” but then the Lord spoke to me, saying, “You won’t need a home. You’ll be fleeing to the U.S.”
I was surprised at those words, but I knew Who was speaking, and I had no problem believing Him. Marilyn struggled a bit, but seemed to know I was right.
I told Brian. While he wasn’t a believer, he seemed to accept, though he did resist a little at first. Salesmen can be hard to read.
A plane’s takeoff uses much more fuel for the speed and distance, than when it is cruising at maximum altitude.
I had only gotten going in the ARC Industries ceramics department, training the students, learning the trade, organizing the shop, establishing contacts, customers, and suppliers, and developing the business in its various aspects; just as I started getting to the point of reaping the benefits, the Lord called us out to go to Israel.
When we returned to Canada from Israel, and I started the moving and hauling business, it was the same thing. The learning process was the difficult part, and just when business got running smoothly and promised greater returns with greater ease, we had to move on.
Now it was happening with the handyman business.
For years, again and again, we would break the ground, prepare the soil, sow the seed, nurture the plants, and just when the fruit was about to come, we would have to leave it all behind. Yet, somehow we knew the Lord had us on a learning program, and always had something better waiting for us each step of the way.
Marilyn had her IRS problem again (Initial Reluctance Syndrome), as when the Lord gave notice we would be going to Israel. Now, just when we were in a position to have our own home for the first time and when we were getting financially comfortable, there we were again, giving it all up. She was temporarily distraught.
On September 18th, 1983, the Lord gave me a song for her.
(Click HERE to listen to “There’s Lots to Be Thankful For,” or to read the lyrics.)
Yielding to God’s will, Marilyn made a request. “If we have to be on the road, I want a bigger trailer. The one we have is just too small.” I asked the Lord to lead us, and then I had a vision. It was the back-end of a larger trailer and two parallel single-line strokes (“whisks,” I call them) indicating our flight in that trailer to the States.
Meanwhile, by August, we moved out of the house and back into the 13-foot Casa Rolla, staying at the KOA Campground on the #3 Highway west of Lethbridge. We had been at Meadowlark for the length of a gestation period – nine months.
Rob Gregg, a house builder, advertised his 24-foot Holiday trailer, and we went to see it at his place. He hadn’t cleaned it up, and we weren’t impressed, except that it had an open floor space. We hadn’t seen any other trailer that we liked, and it didn’t strike me that this was the one I saw in my vision.
Days later, just after the Labor Day weekend, Rob came tearing into the KOA with the trailer and asked us if we wanted to buy it. We thought, “He has brought it right to our door. Maybe this is the one, after all. Why not?”
We asked the Lord, received assurance, and took it.
While staying at the KOA, we met Les and Muriel Dillabough. They had two sons, Patty and Keith. Keith was about 12 or so. We took advantage of every opportunity to share with him the things of God. He seemed sheepish about it, but apparently something was getting through to him, though we didn’t know it then.
My soul is compelled, as are the souls of others, as God chooses, to love, desire, and serve God, no matter what. We falter, we fail, we don’t always know what God thinks or feels about us, but we press on because there is no choice. It’s an irresistible and unconscious force in spite of everything.
God gave me the first stanza of a song on September 24th, 1983:
Loving You, loving You,
Loving You is all I can do.
Even when I’m sad or glad,
Whether You think I’m good or bad,
Loving You is all I can do.
More stanzas would come the following year for this song.
There was a prophecy containing more than what I record here. The Lord said, “You will go with alacrity.” I assumed it was to the U.S., but it became apparent it would be for a time in the future of a ministry, speaking forth that which I would be given to speak.
This verse came in October of 1983, just before we fled to the U.S. It was added to the song, “Walk by Faith.”
The most important part of this wonderful story,
The part you must know if you’re to enter into glory,
Is if you start and finish, you’ll never be sorry,
If you put your trust in the Lord.
(Click HERE to listen to “Walk by Faith” in completion, or to read the lyrics.)
I was wondering what I was going to do for income if we were going to the States. Perhaps I might keep my truck and tools and work as I traveled, though that would be illegal in the U.S. As I was wondering, a couple from Cheyenne, Wyoming came into the park. He saw my handyman truck and hired me to wire the brakes in his trailer. It only took about an hour.
“How much do I owe you?” he asked.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to charge anything, but I also got my jacket dirty crawling underneath, so I said, “Pay me whatever you think it is worth to you.”
He paid me $7.00!
I thought, “From now on, I either charge or don’t charge. Leaving it up to the customer isn’t a good idea.” But the event led me to surmise that I could indeed support us in this way.
However, I should have done the job for nothing. I might have been well paid, as you shall see. I didn’t give, and I was sorry I didn’t receive when the time came. I got their names but not solidly, which I would have done, had I given freely and won their gratitude and friendship. Instead, I was left with some gravel in my mouth and wasn’t interested in them anymore.
Developments would very soon unfold in a most remarkable way to once again demonstrate the sovereignty and chastening love of a Greater Power ruling from above.
We had to exchange money, a considerable sum to us. Do we exchange it in Canada or the U.S.? Where were the rates more favorable? The Lord was getting angry with me for covetousness and pettiness. I simply wasn’t trusting and looking to Him.
When He has His purpose set, one can do what he wishes to the contrary, and it won’t work. He will foil it perfectly, every time. As one preacher jokingly put it, “If you fix the fix God fixes to fix you, He’ll fix another fix to fix you.” One can’t escape God’s chastening hand.
I decided to exchange the money in the U.S. from Canadian to American. Bad choice.
Somehow I hadn’t yet learned that the Lord wasn’t going to let me go anywhere without burning all bridges behind us, though it had happened so many times. At the border, 65 miles from Lethbridge, the official asked us some questions. “How long will you be in the U.S., and what is the purpose of your visit?”
What could I say? That I was fleeing? I told him we were going for the winter, though I wasn’t sure where.
Looking at my ten-year-old truck, he wondered if we could afford it. I had Canadian traveler’s checks to persuade him on that point. However, he asked to see the back of the truck. There he saw tools, paint cans, and of particular note to him, a ladder (with which I planned to service the top of our trailer), and concluded that I was going to work in the States, for which I had no permit.
I knew that while I was willing to take on work unofficially if it came, my intention wasn’t necessarily to work; I didn’t know what we would be doing, work or otherwise. He suspected I would be working and told me that he couldn’t permit us entry, but if we returned without the equipment, he would reconsider.
Do we drive all the way back to Lethbridge? “That’s a hundred and forty miles round-trip for nothing, and I only get 13 miles to the gallon!” I thought. (I measured every little thing in financial terms.)
As we turned back and drove by the Canadian border weigh station nearby, Marilyn spotted the truck of Bob Utley, a drywaller we had met at the KOA, and for whom I had previously done work.
“Why don’t we see if he might not take the stuff to our former neighbor, Sandy Ponech, and ask her to store it for us until we get back?” Marilyn suggested.
We dropped into the station, Bob was there, had room in his pickup, consented to this, and we returned to the border.
However, before we returned all the way, we stopped by the roadside to take the Able Handyman Services decal off the truck cap. I thought, “Though he didn’t ask me, I should do it to show him that I mean business.”
Sure enough; when we pulled into the crossing, another officer met us, knew our case, checked our truck, and took particular note that we had even removed the sign. He didn’t even check our 24-foot trailer (I thought he might check it to see if we simply transferred the forbidden goods). He gave us the go-ahead along with a blessing! (How often does that come from a customs official?) We were now in the U.S.
Who says there is no God?
I did the money exchange in Shelby, Montana. It turned out that if we had simply gone to our bank and done it, we would have been much better off. For what we lost, it would have been well worth going back to Lethbridge and exchanging the money. But after what we had just gone through at the border, crossing back again was out of the question; I suspected they wouldn’t believe us.
We lost a considerable amount, not to mention the frustration and humiliation of going from bank to bank in Shelby, finding all exchange rates to be much less favorable. The more I calculated and strategized, the worse I fared. Money matters plagued me terribly.
We traveled through Montana, not knowing what direction to take or how far to go. We passed into Wyoming. About fifty miles out of Cheyenne, we started to hear a knock in one of the wheels. As we approached the city, it got worse. We knew we had to deal with it. We pulled into a Conoco station we could see east of us from the highway.
They took the wheels off and found that the right front hub needed to be replaced. It was too far gone to be machined. To have to replace a hub was bad enough, but not having a hub available means no truck! They and I phoned several suppliers, and nobody had one.
While we waited for about three days, the owner decided to check a used one he had. Who knows? Maybe it is the hub for our truck. It was the hub for our truck.
He had me where he wanted me. We were strangers, he knew I needed it badly and that I couldn’t get one anywhere else, and he charged me perhaps one and a half to two times what it was worth. I paid it, thankful that there was one to be had, and that in spite of how uncommon they were, there was one right there in the first service station provided and waiting for us, and it was the only one available.
Now, what were the chances of our wheel breaking down in Cheyenne, Wyoming, of dropping in on the only place that had an uncommon hub, and of it happening in the city of those people we had met at the KOA in Lethbridge only days before – people who may well have been able to favorably represent us to the Conoco dealer?
Who says there is no God?
And what was He saying to us?
I have no doubt that if we had befriended the Cheyenne, Wyoming people, freely giving them help with wiring their trailer brakes, we would have had their names. We could have called them, and they might have gone to the trouble of helping us. With local help, we wouldn’t have been treated as strangers of whom one might take advantage.
Still, the owner of the station did allow us to park our trailer behind the garage free of charge and to be there for a night or two until the job was done.
There’s another possible lesson, and perhaps a more likely one. Had I conducted myself with that couple and their wiring as I ought to have, there would have been no problem with the wheel to begin with. As far as I’m concerned, the wheel was made to malfunction to teach me a lesson.
The lesson? Here it is:
“Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded. Share what you have with seven or eight others, because you never know when disaster may strike” (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 CEV).
And how about?:
“Do not be forgetful of hospitality, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2 MKJV).
Were those people angels, with whom I was not hospitable?
The Bible says something I haven’t heeded:
“Generosity will be rewarded: Give a cup of water, and you will receive a cup of water in return” (Proverbs 11:25 CEV).
On the other hand, see how the Lord still faithfully and generously provides, even while He chastens and teaches? God is merciful, patient, and good!
We finally arrived in an award-winning KOA campground in Bernalillo, a few miles north of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The place was near Sandia Mountain, which, we found out at the local library, had a legend of twin warriors, a legend that would prove highly significant for us.
The KOA was clean, scenic, pleasant, and quiet. I saw my first roadrunner, of cartoon fame. Dan and Debbie Money, a young couple managing the business, received us cordially. We decided we would stop there for a while. It turned out we stayed there the whole winter.
A couple in their 60’s pulled in to the KOA. The next day or so, we heard a medical emergency crew come in, urgently directed to their motor home. After the medics had been there for a little time, an evangelical woman we had met came to our trailer, told us what was going on, and asked us to pray with her to save the man’s life. He had suffered a major heart attack.
Immediately, I received that there was no praying for him – he would die. We weren’t free to pray for him. She was offended when I told her. She believed that she would pray for him, and he would be made well. I told her he would die. For the next three or four hours, they tried to save the man, to no avail.
We later heard some of the gory details. He had a heart attack, had vomited and messed himself from the bowel. The scene was quite unpleasant. When they succeeded in resuscitating him, he tried to force himself up, as if to say, “I can take care of myself.” They tried hard to calm him, telling him to lie still and relax, but he stubbornly refused. Then he died.
I had met the man the day before. He hadn’t been friendly, perhaps because he was unhealthy; I don’t know. The day after they took him away, I met the wife in the laundry room and suddenly had a Word for her. I said, “The Lord took your husband, being very displeased with him. He has been a stubborn, selfish man all his life, not willing to listen to anyone. That is why he was taken.”
There may have been a little more, but that is all I recall. She said nothing and wasn’t shaken. While she didn’t show any gratitude, she also didn’t try to defend, justify, or absolve him in any way. On the contrary, it seemed that she was relieved.
I knew she needed to hear what was spoken, and I was thankful to give her that word of comfort. I call it a word of comfort and not unpleasantry, because I had the impression she might be needlessly blaming herself somehow for his death.
There was one man there with whom we had more to do than anyone else in the many months of our stay. He was in his high sixties, I believe, had a game leg, was a professional photographer, teacher, and chef, and he had a variety of other skills and experiences behind him. He seemed rather familiar with the locale and said he owned some land locally, though I think he was originally from another part of the U.S.
His name was Addis Whitehead – they called him “Addy” or “Whitey.” He took us to a couple of restaurants and a Pueblo Indian festival and dance. We spent several hours together.
His name is Anglo-Saxon, meaning “son of Adam.” Another book claims the inherent meaning is “worthy of trust” and the spiritual connotation is “God’s helper.”
Well, he certainly helped us, and I hope we were able to help him. Marilyn invited him over for a specially-prepared Ukrainian dinner with all the traditional dishes – perogies, cabbage rolls, khutia (pearled wheat cooked with honey and poppy seed, usually served only at Christmas), and nalesnekeh (pancake/cottage cheese rolls).
Though we didn’t celebrate Christmas, it was around that time that we invited him for dinner, reciprocating his kindness to us. However, I felt that my ways of being money-conscious saddened him, though he was very patient and tolerant with me.