PART FIVE – Moon River to Harvest Haven (cont.)
The residents opposing the feedlot held a meeting. I attended and found them demoralized and defeated. Their only remaining hope was to voice their concerns, without expecting any results, perhaps with the possibility of some small concessions. I remember Lloyd Sereda, Luc and Maria Demers, Etta Taylor, Tim Jarvie (a lawyer), and his wife, Anita. Pat King was nowhere to be found.
I told them what the Lord had promised us by Marilyn. Of course, most didn’t believe. However, Etta Taylor and Maria Demers both declared they believed it and it gave them hope. I was thankful for them.
The day came for the meeting at Claresholm on May 20th, 1993, 3 ½ years and ten days after the conflagration at the Moon River fire hall on November 10th, 1989. (I suspect Pat King had informed me of this issue on May 10th, but I have no record of that. I only go by how the Lord has often done things with remarkable timings.)
Both parties presented their arguments to council. Al Wheeler spoke briefly for the Mandels and the feed company, owned and operated by the Olafsons (Butte Feeds), who were in partnership with the Mandels. It could well have been a strategic move to have a Moon River resident speak up for them, thus minimizing opposition from the hamlet.
Olafson and his son, Randy, were present (which I do not mention without significant cause, as you will see). Olafson Sr. made a short, rather scornful remark to the councilors about us, and Al Wheeler chuckled. It was obvious Olafson and Wheeler were there in full confidence their victory was a foregone conclusion. It certainly appeared they had good reason to believe so.
For us, the plaintiffs, Lloyd Sereda stood up and presented what he thought was an excellent, informed paper he had written on the prevailing wind patterns and the negative effects a feedlot development would have on the community. Having given a copy to each of the board members for review several days prior to the hearing, he discovered to his chagrin, though not with much surprise, that none of the councilors had paid any attention whatsoever to the paper.
Tim Jarvie, a lawyer and husband of Anita, both residents of Moon River, came as a lawyer representing Anita, rather than as her husband – to impress the board, I suppose, with the possibility of legal action.
Maria Demers gave her presentation, having done considerable research and, as a result, effectively and civilly questioned the legal right of the M.D. to approve the feedlot.
After these, I rose to speak in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Immediately, I was full of passion, with tears freely flowing. I said, “This is a black day for Moon River Estates.” Having a prepared speech outline, I suddenly took a spontaneous direction.
I spoke of how good the Lord had been to me, of how He had blessed me and I didn’t deserve His goodness. I declared the feedlot a travesty, an evil thing, and though the developers might find loopholes in the law to get their way for financial gain, God’s Law was higher and He was against the feedlot. “I come against this feedlot in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” I declared.
I saw one of the councilors at the table smirking, perhaps embarrassed or contemptuous. I saw Randy Olafson with a funny look on his face, looking across the room to his father as I spoke. “What a fool!” they might have thought. But I also saw the chairman’s face. Unlike others around the table, he had been facing me and was visibly moved – how, I’m not sure. Regardless, I had done my job – in great weakness.
Maria Demers suddenly picked up on a faulty calculation as to the distance claimed from the community boundary to the putrid “lagoon” the developers would be installing to process the enormous output of manure. Orin Kenzie, the civil engineering technologist representing Alberta Environment, who was biased for the feedlot, was responsible for the measurement. Their proposal was thus found to be illegal; too near Moon River according to the municipality’s own specifications. Kenzie had no choice but to acknowledge the error.
The chairman closed the meeting shortly after, declaring they would notify us of their decision. As we stood outside preparing to leave, Mr. Olafson walked by and glared at me, apparently speechless in his fury.
A week later, on May 27th, we received word from the M.D. – a notice of cancelation from the feedlot developers. Surprisingly, though they were once almost certain of victory, the enterprisers decided to withdraw their proposal and establish their operation elsewhere.
We fought and we won, even as the Lord promised. Some in our party were incredulous, having fully expected to lose. Others rejoiced. We were very thankful.
We would see the aftermath of those against whom the Lord sent us to do battle.
Who says there is no God?
In one of these years, I don’t recall exactly when, the Lord gave me a revelation of John the Baptist. One could say He introduced me to him. I could understand and relate to John; I came to know him personally. What prompted this revelation? I don’t know. Soon I was finding myself inside of him, so to speak, for days and weeks, knowing his thoughts and feelings, generally.
I remember little of that now, not having kept the record I made, but I can say I still relate to him, and I appreciate him very much as a dear brother in Christ.
Here’s what I recall of John:
He is very honest, sober, and entirely without pretense or air of any kind. What you see and hear is what you get; he is what he is. John is unapologetic about himself and about what he believes and knows. One doesn’t play games with him. He readily spots a phony and won’t entertain one in any way. Not that he’s critical or looks for trouble; he simply has the ability to see things the way they are and refuses to pretend or allow anyone else to do so.
John loves God, people, and life. If he’s found to express hatred, it’s for man’s wickedness and foolishness, not for man himself. If he were here in the flesh today, the state and religious works of nominal Christendom would make his skin crawl. It would vex him. He’d understand, however, these things are all in God’s hands and must be played out to completion.
John isn’t partisan; he doesn’t play favorites, except for the truth and what is right. He’ll defend your position against his mother if you’re right and she’s wrong. John’s allegiance is to God alone and what’s true. He’ll readily tell you this is so, strictly by God’s favor and grace, and won’t take credit for virtue; he knows full well there’s no credit coming to him or anyone else.
John delights in the simplicity of children and other people and things. He’s definitely not for formality or social sophistication of any sort.
Does he have a sense of humor? Though I’ve never known him to display it, I have no doubt he does, but don’t bother getting silly with him – he won’t have the patience for it, though he knows how to cut some slack, understanding man’s weakness. His humor would be clean and would never be at anyone’s expense. If any man need be trusted (and he would tell you none can be, including himself), he’s the one safest to trust, by God’s grace. John is a faithful man, earnest, intense, and never for sale.
Does he have weaknesses and faults? Sure he does, like any man. Has he wrestled with them? Yes, he has. Has he been at fault on things? Yes. Has he ever compromised? Not like most men, but yes. Has he ever sinned? Yes; no man is without sin. But anytime John has faltered, he has been granted the determination in his weakness to get up and start again, feeling deep sorrow for his falls, but a sorrow overcome by confidence in the One Who’s able to keep him from falling or remaining down if fallen.
John has been afraid and anxious like any other man, with doubts and misgivings, but he hasn’t allowed his fears or doubts to overcome him. He has also been challenged by many temptations, sometimes having great struggles, but always finding the resolve and power from God to overcome them. Constantly, he turns to his Maker for comfort and strength. Remember, he was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, unlike any other man except our Lord Who came as a man.
Some may think John brash, brutish, or belligerent. He’s none of those things. His raw candidness may give such an impression, particularly to those who haven’t entered reality and have things to hide or cling to for their personal gain. On the other hand, his spiritual virtues, without external trappings, exude a fineness few social sophisticates have ever known, right up to royalty, anywhere in the world at any time.
John is a fireball of energy and intense interest, a passionate man in the things of God and His concerns. He’s also a warm man, though he can get angry very easily. The thing about his anger is that it is most often warranted. He sees things for what they are more than almost anyone else and isn’t as hesitant as others to express it.
John hates hypocrisy and disingenuousness. He also hates selfishness and self-preservation. You either come all the way with him or stay home. He has no patience for half-heartedness. Still, he understands men can only receive of God and it’s not in them to determine their course; he knows they lack the wherewithal of themselves to do God’s will. Therefore, he can be patient and tolerant, understanding man’s infirmity.
I love the man, a man after God’s heart, a true friend of God and of any friend of God. He’s ready to help or serve at a moment’s notice when truly needed. He despises nobody and is prepared to usher anyone into the Kingdom who has the heart for it.
I don’t believe I’ve had as much delight in meeting anyone as I have Johanan Ben Zechariah. Despite Herod’s apparently successful attempt, John has a good head on him and an even better heart. I hope to meet him face to face and am confident I will, by God’s grace. I have sensed his presence with me as we step forth in the Name of the One he had the great privilege and pleasure of introducing to Israel nearly two thousand years ago.
Within a few of these years, I suffered two or three bouts of the sense that time had passed me by and I had nothing to show for it. It seemed like I had taken a wrong turn somewhere, traveled thousands of miles off course, and it was pretty much too late to remedy the situation. I suppose it’s what is called a midlife crisis.
Even if I started all over again, there was the feeling of loss and waste due to basing my life on faulty reasoning and assumptions. It’s a terrible feeling to have. I’ve little doubt it must be a veritable nightmare for those who have this experience and don’t know the Lord, who aren’t comforted and assured that He has them in the palm of His hand and that things are going as they should.
For me, it wasn’t long before I realized I had nothing to fear. I was able to accept that even though nothing apparently significant or worthwhile might come of my life, God had planned it as it was for His purposes and it would all turn out for the best in the end. Years later, without prompting or suggestion, I would hear someone else express these same thoughts and feelings when he reached this age range.
In much of my spiritual life, I’ve looked for something more, in spite of the Lord having done so many unusual and great things for us. It’s amazing how poor our memory or short our attention span can be, and how soon we can be unappreciative, dissatisfied, or bored. I’ve felt at times like my life has been one great anticlimax.
Was it a problem of overly high expectations? Was it a matter of being hard to please? Was it wanderlust, desiring adventure, a matter of self-importance, or what? I didn’t know. The time would come when I would.
I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t trade my life for anything. With what the Lord gave me, and how He granted me to identify with Him since 1973, the very thought of trading my life with another was despicable, an act of great ingratitude, indeed, bestial contempt (Psalm 73).
Yet I longed for something more. I’d go to a Christian meeting or some public affair, social event, or even a movie, or I would visit someone, as I did with Moon River people when we first moved here, hoping for something, perhaps bringing one, two, or many to faith. It never happened; I was never able to satisfy that rather mysterious longing.
I now record one of several of those occasions where I would go looking for something to happen:
Marilyn and I found out about the upcoming Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Powwow. Why did Indians gather for powwow? It was a mystery to me. Of course, it had nothing to do with Biblical or Christian substance, but I was curious, and more precisely, I was looking for experiences or fulfillment of some kind.
Marilyn, Jonathan, Lois, Kerri, and I went and watched the dancing and observed the natives as they casually mixed and celebrated with each other. What I saw was a people longing for their roots, for the “good old days.” They knew those days were gone, and they were languishing in the days now here. Few, if any, had come to terms with reality. It was quite sad.
We got some snacks from the mobile booths. One of them was operated by a young Ukrainian student from Edmonton, whose name, I believe, was Chapka (Terry?). He was friendly with me, partially because I was Ukrainian, and we had a good talk. He spoke of wanting to be in the Ukraine, helping his own people there.
I wondered how he could be so passionately connected to the “old country,” when I never was. It wasn’t as though he had immigrated; he was Canadian born, as I. But he was also searching for something purposeful and meaningful. In his case, he was searching backward to his physical roots, as were the natives, while I was a Ukrainian Canadian Christian looking forward to spiritual fruits.
All of us but Kerri – Ukrainians, aboriginals, and spiritual sojourners in Christ – were Canadians, yet none of us was merely Canadian. None of us was altogether home.
I must now relate some of the most shameful and painful experiences of my Christian life. I went whoring after money. We had savings in the bank and interest rates were very low. The Lord wasn’t leading us to do anything with the money at this point. It bothered me that we weren’t putting the $280,000 savings we had to good use.
Having gone to the Charles Givens presentation on managing money and been told how we could receive an excellent rate of return in the bullish stock market, I thought, “How is it we sit here with substantial savings, letting them rot in the bank? Why don’t we invest somewhere, like in mutuals, stocks, bonds, or whatever?” Seeing an ad in the paper, we called a representative for Primerica, Aleeyta Starre, who had a partner, Don Morgan.
At about that time, Jessie Lybbert, one of the sales staff at Stu Sinclair’s Toyota, instrumental in selling us the Cressida a few years before, came by with a proposal. He and his brother wanted to start a mail order business with a certain product. He asked if I would lend him $10,000.
I asked him to tell me more about the business and what the product was, but he refused. I asked him why he wasn’t borrowing from the bank. He said his credit was dry. I asked him what he had for collateral. He said he had nothing to offer; all he had was more debt. I asked him what he proposed in return for the loan. He said he would pay only the going bank rate of interest charged for loans.
I asked him how he would pay me back. He said he would pay as he was able, with no schedule or guarantees of any kind. He expected me to take his word and all his risk, though we hardly knew him or anything about him. I politely declined, wondering what he was thinking and what the Lord was doing.
One morning as we were lying in bed, I spoke these words to God: “You are He that divides us as wood and casts us into the fire.” I knew I wasn’t speaking from myself. What strange words they were, and I wondered what they meant. Were they a warning? Were we to repent of something? I didn’t know. It seemed I was simply expressing a principle of life, of the way things are, or a prediction of things to come.
All of us would come to experience the trauma of what those words meant, such as we never dreamed.
While doing some banking at our 13th Street branch of the Bank of Montreal, I mentioned our plans of investment to Maureen McCrady, the clerk attending. She zealously advised we speak to Glen Seaman, an investment advisor with Nesbitt Thomson. We called him, thinking it wouldn’t hurt to get another opinion.
We were quite wrong. It would hurt very much. It was, however, to be a marvelous, breathtaking development – lethal to the flesh, but vitalizing to the spirit.
Jonathan was only three months short of his second year when Glen Seaman came to the door on June 1st, 1993. As Glen waited in the entrance, Jonathan came by and immediately came away startled and crying, which was unusual for him; he seldom cried. I wondered what happened and never did find out. I suppose he was startled by an unexpected stranger standing there. Or was there more to it? There was more, much more, which I believe he was picking up in his sensitive spirit.
Glen said a veteran broker, Bill Welton, was coming from Toronto, someone who would advise us wisely on stock investments. He asked us not to make any decisions until then. Marilyn wasn’t in agreement with our going with Aleeyta and Don or with Mackenzie funds. She received, as by revelation, that we should listen to, and invest with, Glen and Bill. I believed her, but not entirely.
Greed and fear started to work their magic with me. Aleeyta Starre, a novice in the business and hunting for the big money in Primerica, was urging me to invest in Mackenzie mutual funds. When we saw their extraordinary growth, I decided to invest $100,000 as soon as possible, paying up-front commissions of 5%. We were greener than money.
I was debating whether or not we were doing the right thing by going into the stock market. Was this “Christian”? Was it what God wanted? As Marilyn was breastfeeding Jonathan and looking over the investment literature from various brokers, particularly that of Nesbitt Thomson (later Nesbitt Burns), she heard, “A quarter million to a million.” I took those words as an assurance and specific promise from the Lord He would prosper us – in these directions.
I was right, so right – and wrong, so wrong. But not in the ways I thought.
When Bill came from Toronto, he and Glen strongly urged that we do (or not do) three things: not invest in Mackenzie funds, not pay up-front fees, and invest in Altamira. Altamira had enjoyed a record of impressive results. However, I was seeing Mackenzie doing better at the moment.
When I asked some specific questions of the men, they were unable to answer me. They were unfamiliar with Mackenzie. It was apparent they weren’t interested in anything but their own chosen product, unable and unwilling to appreciate or compare others. They were there for themselves, not for the client, whose interests they pretended to serve.
I would find out the hard way that most stockbrokers have a super-narrow view. They aren’t usually competent, able to take in both the bigger and smaller pictures at once. Unless an investor is prepared to carefully, responsibly investigate and analyze certain companies and the things that can influence their operations and chances for success, it’s a crap shoot and the one shooting invariably gets the crap.
The next day I went to the Primerica office on Scenic Drive to buy the Mackenzie funds. There was a room divider between their desks and the front entrance. After purchasing the funds, Don escorted me to the door, which had bells to alert them of people entering. While seeing me to the door, he said something about not being after the money – doing good and helping people financially was their main goal. He shook my hand and turned back in, and I opened the door to leave.
Then I thought of asking another question. I turned in the doorway and saw that Don had already retreated to their desks behind the room divider. They didn’t know I was still inside, and I overheard Aleeyta laughing and saying something to Don about the great show he had put on for me about noble intentions, to which he responded with boasting and laughter.
I could have stopped right there and stepped around the divider, perhaps to see jaws drop on red faces. But I didn’t; I thought it wrong to be eavesdropping, even if it was accidental (silly me), and so I left.
People say and do a lot of foolish things all the time, and we would be foolish to pay attention to them all. One cannot necessarily judge the whole picture by a few words, I reasoned. They were happy about their sale. They were fresh into Primerica and hoping for windfall earnings. Of course, we would be a partial fulfillment of those hopes, as their clients.
I see now that while I wasn’t intentionally eavesdropping, the incident was possibly my cue to cancel, and I was without wisdom to take it. I was hasty to catch the fast-moving gains. In my covetousness, greed and fear of missing out on apparent gains had taken over.
“A sensible one foresees the evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished” (Proverbs 27:12 MKJV).
On June 21st, Bill Welton called us and came by to sell us on his funds. We discussed investing in ethical funds, having heard of the corruption of many companies, mutual funds often including investments into tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceutical stocks. Some companies employed sweatshops and child labor, all things with which we didn’t agree. Bill talked us out of the ethical stocks, assuring us that those companies usually presented a poor return.
“How will our investment go from a quarter million to a million, presumably in an impressive amount of time, seeing God was doing it, if we invest in poor stocks?” we asked ourselves. I expected our investment would quadruple in perhaps five to ten years according to Marilyn’s prophecy.
And what about taxes? Surely, there would be substantial taxes to pay, which means if we were to be left with $1 million, the returns would have to be extraordinary. “Perhaps there’s good reason why we need to go with Bill’s advice,” I reasoned, as Marilyn believed we were to do. We bought $180,000 in Altamira mutual funds, those Bill recommended, ethics be damned.
Those mutuals included every unethical form of business one could imagine. Furthermore, corporations were merging with, and gobbling up, others, ethical or otherwise. It was a confounding mixture and almost impossible to keep track of. Presumably, it was the broker’s job to be diligently, actively managing portfolios according to the client’s wishes.
Bill and Glen told us Bill was making no commissions whatsoever by selling us Altamira funds, trying to make it sound like they were acting entirely unselfish. I thought, “I don’t believe it. Why would they bother?” I speculated he was looking at things long-term, using Altamira funds as an introduction, planning to move us into other funds in the future, whereby he would earn his commissions. If that was the case, it was perfect cause to flee, but we stayed. The Lord had delivered us into their hands for evil, and rightly so.
We were soon to realize that the broker, having secured the initial sale, is only interested in getting more sales. Managing the portfolio for the client is the least of his concerns. However, we didn’t know what we were doing and, more importantly, we cast caution and discretion to the wind for mammon’s sake. Into Satan’s arms we entrusted ourselves, like sheep to the slaughter.
Yet for all that, the Lord was in full control and guiding.
We discovered Aleeyta Starre to be a strange woman, someone who thought she was being visited by beings from another world. She treated Don Morgan as some sort of disciple. He was suffering a divorce and was in a bad way, not only maritally, but also financially. Aleeyta seemed consumed with mothering him and encouraged resentment against his ex-wife, emphasizing her unreasonableness toward him. Don was obviously Aleeyta’s prize, someone who, in his weakness, was spiritually captivated by her.
I had a talk with Don and found out in general what was happening between him and his wife. I received counsel from the Lord for him, advising him to respect his wife’s desires, which seemed justified and not unreasonable. I advised Don to love his wife unconditionally, to disregard her faults and offences and the past, and to submit to her wishes, expecting nothing in return.
I told him that if he did so, he would experience wonderful changes and benefits, which would compel him to call me and tell me of it all, being very excited.
He replied, “What you’re saying to me makes a lot of sense.” He saw a ray of light in his darkness. I believed I was giving him prophetic counsel, not of my own wisdom.
I told Aleeyta not to interfere or dissuade Don in any way from listening to me, but as expected, she ignored my advice and he didn’t heed my counsel. She persuaded him in his wrongful attitude and course of failure. “Woe to you and woe to her,” I wrote Don. “She countered the Lord and you rejected Him. You received Aleeyta’s feigned pity toward you and reveled in her sympathy, instead of taking your eyes off yourself and doing what Jesus Christ would expect of you.”
To her, I wrote, “Aleeyta, you were told strictly not to interfere. In our visit here, perhaps you’ll recall saying, ‘I can’t believe that with your knowledge you don’t know what’s going on with me.’ That there are two of you was confirmed to me when you shared your writings and told me how they came to you. The spirit that speaks to you is a seducing demon. You fell victim to its control because of deliberate choices you made, desiring to be something you aren’t, and you received a counterfeit….There can only be desolation and destruction waiting for you and all that follow you, namely Don.”
I called on them once again to repent, not expecting it would happen, and it didn’t.
We then withdrew our investment money with them and transferred it to Bill Welton. In a few years we would see what happened with Don and Aleeyta.
For the first few months, Mackenzie mutuals were still showing good returns, on paper. I was told energy costs would be rising in the future and that those with energy stocks would prosper. I thought, “Wow! I can earn money in energy and not worry about the price of gas. In fact, when I buy gas, I’m buying it from myself! How can I lose? God is so blessing us!” I was quite happy with myself, but that was soon to change – drastically. How could it not with a child of God rejoicing in mammon?
As for the Altamira mutuals, while one fund might be showing well, most weren’t going anywhere, though Bill Welton had promised they would. Another problem I observed was that even within individual funds, some stocks would make a good showing, while others would more than offset those increases; some stocks would be excellent, while others were performing dismally. It was frustrating. It was madness.
I began to realize that unless I personally took the time and trouble to seek out worthy investments myself, I was open game – a goldfish in a shark pool. But I wasn’t interested in getting involved, in spending that time and energy; it wasn’t my thing. Instead, I hoped that one way or another, things would work out.
It’s foolishness to expect God to overlook irresponsibility and bless you, regardless. It’s foolishness to expect someone else, particularly strangers, to truly care about your affairs, especially when they have already gained from you what they were after and have something to gain elsewhere or in some other way. It’s foolishness to expect money handlers to have the foresight and understanding that helping you succeed will in turn cause them to succeed.
Men, in their greed, selfishness, and fear, especially those in the business of money, often don’t and can’t think honestly and clearly. Such was certainly true of me.
Yet over it all was the Lord in His grace and mercy, working more than one miracle at a time, as we would discover when it was all done.