PART FIVE – Moon River to Harvest Haven (cont.)
We had a slightly challenging time contacting George Croteau in Saskatoon. His name wasn’t in the book, but his father’s was. His father said George was very fussy as to who could talk to him. He had sheltered himself away, preferring not to talk to anyone. His father had tried pleading with him, to no avail. He gave us George’s number, against his son’s instructions to keep his number confidential, likely hoping we could help him. His father informed us George’s wife, Gerry, had divorced him.
The last time we saw George he had paid us a visit at our country home near Prince Albert in 1976. Gerry finally packed it in with George and we were told it was a nasty divorce. George crashed, big time – a major nervous breakdown. We found him in a cheap, unkempt apartment, watching TV, lying half naked on his bed.
He meticulously tape-recorded every word we spoke, asking us to speak slowly; he declared he would analyze and classify everything said and done. He claimed he would produce a monumental, comprehensive work, even greater than the Bible. He had created a world of his own, one of delusive self-importance, an escape from his unpleasant reality. What we saw we deemed to be essentially self-pity and bitterness.
George hadn’t treated Gerry well at all. With her leaving, he began to mistreat himself. We tried to reason with him, but he wouldn’t hear it. Yet again, we found our trip was one of observation, not participation.
As for Gerry, we didn’t try getting in touch with her. Marilyn had been friends with George more so than Gerry. We heard she was with another man (a lawyer, I believe), whether in marriage, I don’t recall.
Again, the door was shut for us to minister to anyone. I really wish we could have helped George and Gerry. That goes for the Griers, Ahenakews, Fowlers, Friesens, Hlewkas, Bergens, Hilda Pirie – all of them. We weren’t given to do so.
In Saskatoon, we visited Dick and Donna, Abe Friesen’s younger brother and his wife. Dick had vocally withstood us more than many at the Alliance Church after we were baptized in the Spirit in 1975. He had referred to our experience publicly as delusion of the Devil, though he never spoke to us directly. He had been a youth leader in the church, to Sally Hogg’s consternation. Sally thought he was devilishly inspired, having had dreams of him along those lines, and she was concerned he was leading the youth astray.
Now Dick was also claiming to have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. We knew there was nothing further from the truth, having a witness by the Spirit it wasn’t so. He would soon prove, not his claims, but the Lord’s witness to us.
So many have claimed to have received the Spirit of God, but what have they really received?
Dick and Donna took us to a modern church service in Saskatoon. There were many hundreds of people there. It was theatrical, complete with stage, professional sound and lighting, performances, music – all one might see at a nightclub or theatre. Perhaps Dick was thinking we might be impressed, and I was, but in the opposite direction.
I had a hard time witnessing all these gimmicks and strategies of the world, the flesh, and the Devil being employed to supposedly draw people to Christ. I knew it to be merely a proselyte factory, spawning spurious conversions and appearing highly successful. It was diabolical. Anyone with the Spirit of God would know it and be sorely vexed.
I recalled a term an acquaintance of Paul Cohen’s in Great Falls, Rick Teague, used for modern churches: daytime nightclubs. Are churches all about entertainment? Is that what was necessary to “fish for men”? Were these the kinds of tactics John the Immerser, Jesus, and the disciples employed to win souls? The answer is plain.
We went to a restaurant for brunch, and Dick picked up the tab. We then went to their house. As we visited, Dick and Donna proudly boasted that their children, as thriving Christians, were attending Briarcrest Bible College in Caronport, Saskatchewan. There again, we were anything but impressed, knowing full well Bible schools were breeding grounds for spiritual harlots, producing counterfeit Christians, hordes of spurious converts that would be taking the false gospel into the world.
As we talked, Dick was compelled to sit a certain way in a firm chair because he was having back problems. It wasn’t a temporary condition. Wally Hlewka had been healed of his back problems, until he turned away, influenced particularly by Dr. Lorne Rabuka and… Dick Friesen.
Now one of those instrumental in turning Wally back from the Lord was having serious back problems, as well. For all I know, Rabuka would also have back problems. He certainly had other strikingly similar problems to those of the Hlewkas concerning his children, as we later discovered.
We didn’t get into the subjects of Bible schools and false religion with Dick, not having the freedom to speak of those things or seeing them as immediately pertinent. However, I reminded Dick of the days when he opposed the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He acknowledged it, or rather defended himself, saying he wasn’t aware at the time he wasn’t right.
I reminded him of how he had worked to turn Wally Hlewka away from believing. He was defensive and suggested I change the subject. I insisted it was only right to bring these things to the light and deal with them. “What is there to fear?” I asked.
At that, he said, “This conversation is now over. You have to leave now.” As we headed for the door, Donna placed her hand on my shoulder from behind, saying, “We love you.” I wished that were true, but I knew she was expressing only false Christian love, so I paid no respect to it.
I think I said something along the lines that if they loved us, they would be willing to talk and not be asking us to leave. Isn’t it interesting how many who kicked us out claimed to love us – my sister Barb, the Trepaniers, the Beals, and now these? What would they do if they hated us?
While visiting with Dick and Donna, we found out about Laura Bradford, Donna’s younger sister, whom the Lord had healed. Laura was in yet another and more terrible car accident. Their mother was also in a crippling accident, fracturing hips and significantly reducing her mobility.
The Lord said to one He had just healed:
“Behold, you are made whole. Sin no more lest a worse thing come to you” (John 5:14 MKJV).
Laura didn’t repent after her wonderful healing. I recall how at a small house prayer and praise meeting, her sister-in-law Bea Bradford had a vision and prophecy for Laura. She saw a drain plugged and then getting unplugged and clearing. When Bea expressed this as pertaining to Laura’s spiritual state, Laura broke out in tears. She was obviously struggling. She never got in touch with us after her leg healing.
After Dick and Donna told us of what had happened to Laura and her mother, I wondered if her mother didn’t have an influence in Laura’s waywardness and was therefore suffering consequences similar to her daughter’s.
Walter Hlewka also wouldn’t believe, turning straight back to his old ways of thought and life, though he was warned and pleaded with. “Something worse” befell both Walter and Laura.
We also heard of Lorne Rabuka. He was once a very slim man. He had been an estimated five foot eleven and weighed no more than 150 pounds, but we were now told he had grown heavy. Furthermore, Abe told us Lorne’s daughters turned to the ways of the world, dressing skimpily, wearing makeup as harlots, and were into drugs.
When I recall what Lorne and his wife were like when I knew them before, and how they seemed to have been blessed, it’s such a sad thing to see the horrid development of the wrath of God on them.
Would these things bring them to repentance, ending their sins? Would they make any connection between their fervent opposition to God in us and the consequences they were suffering?
We would hear more some years later of how people in Prince Albert and Saskatoon continued to slander us in the ears of trouble-seeking men who were in vicious opposition to us. These men were strangers to them, but were in agreement in their evil because having the commonality of a false profession of faith in Christ.
Edna was in a bad way. She was living by herself in an old house, overweight, eating junk food, surrounded by soda bottles and carrying a bag for elimination. She had rebelled against the Pentecostal Richardson pastors of Yorkton, Saskatchewan and to show it, she cut her hair very short and left her head uncovered (they believed in women never cutting their hair and wearing head coverings).
Edna was no longer waxing spiritual. There I was with my “Catholic spirit,” flourishing in the merciful blessings of God, and there she was in her “freedom and revelation.”
Surely, all things are made manifest, sooner or later.
Somehow we found out Lil Damsgaard of Dauphin had cancer and had her breasts removed.
During these years, I heard a report of Shirley Zabiaka, the acquaintance who had become a nun and tried to impress me with her spirituality. I was told she died in a monastery in her early fifties of fatigue, stress, poor diet, and God knows what else under the circumstances of her “calling of God” as a nun.
The last time we had seen Eugene Rushinka, his wife, Christine, and their son was in 1977 or 1978 at their home in Garland, Manitoba. They seemed to be successfully occupied at farming. Their boy was around ten or eleven, slim, active, talkative, interested in spiritual matters, eager to pray, and mentally alert. Christine was of normal build, and Eugene, a bit heavy, had been active on the farm he owned, though for a short time, in hospital recovering from a tractor accident. I had visited him at Dauphin General Hospital.
What a change of scenery now! They had lost their farm to bankruptcy, but were left on site to operate it for the bank that had repossessed all but the house and the tiny yard around it. Yet they boasted about how the Lord was blessing and providing for them. Rationalization was working overtime. “How much better off we are! The bank has the worries now!”
Another example of rationalization occurred regarding a bulldozer they sold. They had placed an ad and someone from Ontario immediately responded and bought it by phone, sight unseen, sending a flatbed to pick it up and take it back to Ontario. The Rushinkas were thrilled at how God had facilitated such a fast and easy sale. I immediately suspected the price was so “right,” the guy grabbed it in spite of the long distance hauling costs. I perceived the snappy sale not to be one of success or blessing, but of loss and failure, their possessions being disposed of at fire sale prices.
All three of them were now grossly obese. Their son, who continually sat in his chair, looked as though he had Down syndrome, his eyes squinty because he was so sluggish and fat. He spoke not one word the two or three hours we were there. Their entire house was an absolutely filthy pigsty – floors, walls, ceilings, fixtures, and furnishings. There was stuff scattered everywhere – dirty laundry, dirty dishes, tools, hair, dirt, dust balls, mud, cobwebs, junk food, empty containers of every sort, papers, bags, wrappers, dirty hairbrushes, combs, socks, shoes – name it. I had never seen any home so totally neglected, even when I was moving drunken welfare people in Winnipeg. It was shocking.
Yet Eugene and Christine both acted as though we were the ones who understood nothing and they knew it all. They spoke of spiritual matters and were prepared to hear absolutely nothing from us. They were proud and stubborn, and there was no legitimate basis of any kind for their confidence. How deceived!
I told them we were on our way to Winnipeg. “Are you stopping in at Dauphin to see your mother?” Eugene asked. I replied we wouldn’t be doing so, my mother not being receptive of us in the Lord. “Are you telling me you would go through Dauphin, your hometown, where your mother lives, and not even visit her? How would she feel? You have to go see her!”
I told him we weren’t the ones to choose the division between us, or the visits, but the Lord had long ago directed us to forsake all and not look back. I said if the Lord willed we go visit her, however, I would obey. Thus far, He hadn’t directed us to go. I asked him if he knew whether it was the Lord’s will for us to visit her. Eugene replied, “I know it’s His will.”
I knew he was going by law and logic, not by faith and obedience. Nevertheless, he was so insistent about it, I decided we would visit her after all. I had nothing to fear and the Lord wasn’t specifically, personally directing us not to go. (However, I think I caved to his persistence and my pride or shame of not visiting my own mother.)
We left the Rushinkas to themselves, but not before they told us about Eugene’s brother, Nestor:
Nestor Rushinka was the one who often visited us at Thorndale Apartments in Dauphin in 1977 and 1978. He often fasted and prayed, we were told. He was instrumental in bringing guest preachers to the Garland fellowship. He also simply couldn’t receive any of the things we believed about the reconciliation of all things and other doctrines. We covered the same ground on several occasions. I had finally told him there was no point in taking up more of my time if he didn’t believe me. We didn’t see him again.
By the way, they didn’t believe in pastors or elders at Garland. I never knew of any in all the time we were aware of that fellowship. They preferred to be free of any authoritative person and would bring in preachers, some of which were wicked – to the point of threatening the lives of congregants, if criticized.
My estimation of the Garland group was that it was a gathering of independent-minded people who wanted sensation and pleasure without obedience and responsibility – the crown without the cross.
Eugene told us Nestor had died of a heart attack. In post mortem, they found his arteries blocked something terrible. Before he knew he was dying, he had given his farmland away to someone, supposing to follow the Lord’s words of giving everything away and forsaking it all.
Eugene said Nestor had a big and generous heart. I say Nestor was very religious, but not in righteousness. He was full of works. We tried in vain to instill faith and realism in him in place of religion. Not heeding, it cost him his life.
We headed to Dauphin and booked in to a motel on the highway south of town. The next morning, as we checked out, who should be the receptionist but Aunt Hazel Chute! We didn’t spend much time chatting. She was formal and closed; I think, fearful. It was almost as though she didn’t even value us as customers, never mind relatives, least of all, believers. I shake my head at what could have or should have been, had people who professed to believe actually believed. There was so much to be enjoyed in the Lord, but it wasn’t to be for all these we were seeing.
We called my mother and made arrangements to visit, but there was no answer. We went to Sticky’s nearby for breakfast, where we happened to bump into none other than my brother-in-law, Ron Hrehirchuk. We shook hands, but I didn’t commit myself to him. Because of Barb’s and his ways against us, I wasn’t about to open myself to him anymore. We did tell him we were going to visit my mother. Not knowing if she would be home, we went over anyway, and she was there.
We had last seen my mother in 1983 at our home in Lethbridge with Dad and Fred and Delores Molnar. That was the time the Lord spoke saying, “Those four will be destroyed in their sins; be thankful.” Within two years, Dad passed away of heart failure at age 68. Within 5 years, Delores died of cancer.
My mother appeared glad to see us, yet reserved and cautious. Why wouldn’t she be? I hadn’t come to my own father’s funeral, I was counter to everything they believed and did, I claimed to see Dad in a vision after he left this world, and there was so much more she couldn’t handle.
Here sat the woman who had said she would leave the Catholic Church if not for Dad who wished otherwise, yet when he died, she’d remained in the Catholic Church. There was Catholic paraphernalia about her apartment.
As we visited, Ron phoned, asking if we had come visiting her. It was apparent he was asking her questions and she was trying to answer him without giving him or their subject matter away to us. She was devious, as was he.
We spoke of various things and somehow the subject of devils came up. Perhaps we had spoken of Archie’s deliverance. Her response at one point was, with some laughter, “Well, I probably have a few of those myself!” It disturbed me to hear those words, accompanied with her lackadaisical attitude about something so serious, and I knew there was no “probably” about it.
Within an hour or so, we went our way, she being the only one we visited of the many people we knew in Dauphin. We headed for Winnipeg. I don’t know that anything was accomplished by the visit, although, remarkably, we ran into Hazel Chute and Ron Hrehirchuk. Though it was by Eugene Rushinka’s urging we visited my mother, I can only trust the Lord was directing it all and would balance everything out in the end.
We phoned Marvin Mielke in Winnipeg. He was working for CBC as a technician. I found him reluctant to communicate with me. I seem to recall he was still united with his wife and children. While he didn’t indicate anything particular or active in his spiritual life, he claimed to have a relationship with God, not seeking anything more.
I was also holding my cards close to my chest. I didn’t divulge to Marv the vision I had of him in his house in 1979. I would be in touch with him years later.
We decided to visit Ralph and Lenore Eidse in Morris, Manitoba. We met them at their farm. We had at least three common grounds upon which to meet – our past history of Amway, past mutual associates, and spiritual and religious interests.
We asked them if they had heard from or of certain persons we commonly knew. They informed us of Art and Doreen Beals. It seemed they weren’t on the most cordial of terms, though Ralph and Lenore weren’t bitter or vindictive towards them.
Art and Doreen’s daughter Andrea became a drug addict. At this time, nine years after we had last seen them in 1981, she was about twenty five. The Eidses told us of how there were parties and troubles at the Beals’ residence at all hours, and the police would have to come deal with them.
Andrea had two children out of wedlock. She was disabled by drugs and incapable of taking care of them, so Art and Doreen were saddled with the responsibility in their old age. What hell had in store for them! They hadn’t listened to our repeated warnings, thinking they knew better.
Ralph related how he and Lenore had joined a church in Winnipeg, pastored by a husband and wife team. It was clear from how he described it, the wife considered herself the primary leader and even went so far as to severely criticize her husband before the congregation, while the husband simply sat there and took it, perhaps even crying. The couple was effective at motivating people to join their church, as well as creative in financing their works, such as building a large, impressive building. The woman insisted on the best for themselves, like having a beautiful office and expensive furnishings.
Get this for innovative ways of raising the money “for God”: They would encourage the congregation to mortgage their properties or somehow get them to sign papers that would, in effect, give the church legal rights to their properties, without their realizing it, and make them responsible for the church’s financial obligations. I’m almost certain I don’t have all the details accurate, but I know the scenario was quite similar – certainly accurate in essence, according to the Eidses.
Ralph and Lenore were almost taken for their property, but someone got wise to the schemes. When the jig was up, some, if not many, of the people disbanded. The Eidses and others were no longer there.
I was amazed. How could they have fallen for such nonsense? Could they not see what was happening? What about the Scriptures saying women aren’t to be leading men in spiritual matters, as their elders? What about the emphasis on money? What about…? What about…? When I expressed these things, they looked at me as though I had suddenly gone mad and began trashing their house. One could say I was mad and trashing their (former) spiritual house.
They then asked us what and how we were doing. They may have seen our new Toyota Cressida. I proceeded to tell them the Lord had blessed us in every way, that we had been on the road ministering for a few years, and then He gave us a new log home on an acreage. I told them of how we, by faith, took on the home and the debt for it without the funds to pay for it, and in two months’ time the Lord laid it on someone’s heart to pay the debt in full, without being asked!
To hear of such miracles, some would marvel. Some would even praise God. Not the Eidses. Ralph exploded, “BULLSHIT!”
I was shocked. Where on earth did that come from? Didn’t he believe us? To be sure, such a combination and timing of need and blessed provision as ours was rare. But how could anyone calling himself a “Christian” have a problem with such marvelous provision?
For some reason, Ralph couldn’t bear what I had said. Was it that he couldn’t stand the contrast between their unpleasant financial experiences and the blessing of God’s provision in ours?
What did he think we had done wrong? Did he miss the fact we hadn’t asked for the money or motivated anyone to canvass for it or to pay our bills, so we weren’t guilty as were those who nearly took their farm in the Name of God? Was he still smarting from what others had done to them financially? Were they suffering need? He was most certainly bitter.
Maybe it was simply a quirk in his mental condition or the effect of some meds he was on.
Was it envy? Maybe he reacted that way because he did see how God had blessed us. Their farm was a miserable, run-down operation in a notorious Red River flood area, from which, I suppose, they had at one time hoped Amway would deliver them, which didn’t happen. When I packed it in as their “star” Amway direct distributor in 1972, had I dashed their hopes and dreams?
My temporary and apparent success in Amway must have promised great things for them at last, after working so long and hard without much fruit. Perhaps Ralph thought I didn’t deserve to prosper after “spoiling” things for them. I don’t have the answers, but I do suspect a raging jealousy.
Perhaps he thought I was lying!
As in Friesens’ and Griers’ cases in Saskatoon, I didn’t have it to stick around and try to reason or argue with the Eidses. We rose up and headed to the car and began to drive away. Then I felt like I should go back and try to understand what was happening and perhaps help them deal with their problem with us. As I recall, Marilyn didn’t agree, but I returned to their door.
It didn’t work. Ralph remained adamant, though Lenore remained out of sight indoors and was trying to calm and coach him as he stood at the door speaking to us on the doorstep.
I got nowhere. I did tell them, however, that they didn’t have what they thought they had spiritually – they didn’t believe. Getting angry, I told them they were tied in with the whore, Mystery Babylon the Great, false religion, and were suffering the fruits of it. Then we left.
The Nordins were people I originally met at MIT in Winnipeg in the mid 60’s. In 1971, I recruited them into Amway. They were Catholic. When we last saw them around 1980, they were involved in Marriage Encounters. They very much wanted children, but weren’t having success.
In those days, I spoke to them about what the Lord had done in my life after they and I had left Amway. I told them about the falsehood of Catholicism, seeing I had been Catholic and was saved from it. They didn’t receive what I had to say. On the contrary, they were quite content and convinced of Catholicism.
Passing through Winnipeg on this trip, I called them to say hi and see how they were doing. They had adopted a child at first and then finally had their own children, being very happy. Here was a case where it seemed they received what they wanted, something only God could give.
We didn’t visit, they being occupied. I wish them well.
We’ve well witnessed and learned the consequences of falsehood and idolatry, however, particularly when people have had opportunity to hear the Truth. I can’t expect things to go well for them indefinitely. It has never been my experience.
But there was a difference between the Nordins and the others I mention here. Nordins didn’t oppose us, though they disagreed. The others came against us. As well, the Nordins didn’t pretend to be something they weren’t in relation to the Lord. The others did.
The Scriptures are clear God doesn’t hold guiltless those who take His Name in vain and He curses or opposes those who curse or oppose His people.