RURAL BRYANT, SD, PRESENTS:
How I was Given the Purpose
to the Tragedy of the Deaths of My Dad & Uncle,
by Ronald Ginther
Besides losing a Daddy, we lost our provider. Mother had held no job previously in her marriage but that of mother and housewife, but now she had to find a job to support our large family. After the funeral in South Dakota and some time spent at various speaking engagements, she returned to gather us up, her family, on the hillside property and farm.
She found a job as cook at an Old Folks Home, as it was called back then in the 1940s. Life became a hard struggle, as her wage was 90 cents an hour, with very hard work and long hours. Many things other families had and took for granted were no longer available to us in our home made from two berry cabins rolled down the hill on logs and joined together by my dad. He was not able to get more than an excavation for the basement of our coming new home done before his death put a stop to any such project, forever.
Our rustic hillside home had some basics and lacked most others. It had no indoor bathroom and hot water heater, no central heating, and was very draughty with uninsulated walls. Rats from the nearby Port of Tacoma had a heyday in the attic and even invaded our living space and attacked my eldest sister in bed. Yet the property, in good weather, was a great place for kids, a hillside orchard of 9 acres and a couple more of blackberry field below the hillside with rich valley soil that produced bumper berry crops for us to pick and sell.
Dad's death, however, brought immediate, fundamental changes in food supply and availability of money that continued and could not be ignored as we grew older. Noticing the differences with other boys and girls at school, unable to afford hot lunches, ashamed of my sack lunches, I began seriously resenting our apparent poverty in the early grades. I was ashamed of our deplorable circumstances. My resentment and shame grew into bitterness. I was poisoned by bitterness, gradually, so that I lost confidence in myself and wanted only to escape from my own home and family if I could. There was no escape, however. But how was I to cope with it?
Yes, Mother took us to church regularly, and we were instructed in Sunday School at church about God, but I questioned God, how God could permit us to lose our dad (and uncle too) in a plane crash and leave us in the state we were in. My eldest brother seemed to suffer the most, as he was heart-broken by his father his idol's death and evidenced mental illness and had to be hospitalized for years at a time, when he wasn't out roaming about and seemingly going nowhere in life.
Despite all that, he was very intent on following his dad in evangelism, to the point he later on in life sold Watkins' products door to door so well he won a money prize and used it to go to a Bible school. There he completed the training very honorably, and became a credentialed street preacher and downtown mission speaker too.
All that was highly commendable for a fatherless youth who had brain damage and bouts of mental illness, and also had been preyed upon in the mental wards by grown men when he was a young boy.
Yet his sporadic stays at home brought a certain amount of turmoil, due to his erratic behavior, and I was glad whenever he left and took off across country by bus or train. Sometime later we would hear he was in trouble, was picked up by the police behaving crazy like throwing his clothes from his suitcase into a ditch, and needed someone to come and get him, in Florida once, and California too. We couldn't go thousands of miles across country and get him, not having the means, but relatives nearest him would do what they could, if he was not sent home by train by the authorities or placed in a hospital again.
Good thing he didn't get his driver's license, he would have killed himself for sure! Taking his driver's test with an inspector in the vehicle, he sideswiped a police car, so that ended that once for all. He could still get on a motorcycle back then without a license, but Mom got a call from him from half-way across the state, his motorcycle had quit, and he had to ask her to come and get him. So from then on it was either public transportation for him, or walk! He did both, and that suited him just fine. It gave him all the opportunities he wanted to mix with people and tell them about Jesus! And he was no danger to himself and others behind a wheel. God was truly looking after him in that way.
My schooling continued, despite the episodes of chaos at home due to Darrell but also due to my own selfish ways that conflicted with his ways. I made it all the way to college and university, eventually, and sought only fame and riches from writing, though I had been saved at age 15 at Augustana Academy in Canton, SD.
Lapsed from my faith, I became only more bitter about the loss of my father as years passed. After service in the Air Force in Colorado and then overseas in Turkey for a year, I returned to school to finish college, then went into graduate school in Eastern Washington State, but there was no happiness or joy, I was all the more bitter at heart. Finally, a crisis came when I alienated my own graduate adviser.
I became so unhappy that nothing seemed to work for me anymore. One day on returning to the dorm I saw a booklet on the banister going up, and I took it and went into my room, and looking it, found it was the Gospel of John. I was no Christian anymore, but I read it like I would read any literature, and, furnished proof after proof, it convinced me that Jesus is the Son of God. The moment I thought, "Yes, he is the Son of God," I forgot about it. But soon after things began to work out for me, my thesis was finished to the point where I submitted it, and it was accepted, my graduate adviser being so pleased that he must have overlooked my former hostility shown him.
Absolutely every impediment was smoothed away like all the gears of my graduate program, which had been stuck, were greased with finest machine oil. My graduate expenses were paid despite my lack of funds, my thesis typed and bound and three copies made, and, miracle of miracles, I passed, on the third attempt, the graduate test in German, which was on the subjunctive, grammar that was not even taught!
This merits taking some time to describe, as you can think there was nothing so remarkable about my other turn-arounds and successes in my graduate program, but this German exam was a different animal entirely. It was a beast of an exam! You had to pass it or wash out of your whole graduate program. All your previous, approved work was not going to get you a degree. The language exam was the linchpin, the one thing that put you over the top. If you didn't pass, you were done, you needed to go back and pump gas, you were not going to get a degree you had worked so hard for!
After failing the first German exam, which I promptly did, the next one got harder, and wrong guesses were subtracted from the "good guesses," so that made it impossible to be lucky on those exams. I took the second test, and same result: failed! This was a beast, as I said, and it had beaten me twice, and how was I going to whip it? Miss Lady Luck was no help whatsoever on the first two tries! On the third attempt, I knew it would be utterly hopeless, but what else was I to do? I couldn't graduate with a M.A. unless I passed the German test, so I had to try again, regardless of the certain disappointment and third, fatal flunk I knew was coming.
To try a different venue just for a possible change in a string of failed exams, I transferred from my Washington State college to the University of Montana at Missoula. The test came up and I gritted my teeth and showed up. I took one look and knew for sure this was beyond doubt a lost cause. So I checked all the boxes without looking at anything, handed in the test, and walked out. I had no other reason for remaining at Missoula so I caught the next bus and returned to my alma mater in Washington--for what reason, I have no recollection, except I had no plans at what to do with my life now. One day not long after, maybe a couple weeks after taking the exam, I was passing by the English Department office door. The head secretary called out through the open door, having seen me go by. I heard my name and went in her office, wondering what on earth I had done? It was going to be humiliating, I thought, her telling me I had flunked the German graduate exam a third time!
But no, she had a different message entirely. She said she thought I had passed the' graduate German exam! What? Had she gone mad? It would have taken a linguistic genius with 6 or 7 languages under his belt to pass that German subjunctive examination!
I couldn't believe it was true, so I stopped breathing as she fumbled in the files, and finally brought out my file. She riffled through the pages, read something, then said to me, "Yes, Ginther, you passed."
I could have screamed to high heaven with shock and delight, but somehow divine control was given to me that moment, so I behaved cool as a cucumber and did not give her a heart attack. I left in a casual way, still not taking a breath, my heart racing, with thunder in my soul, for I knew then that God was indeed "back in my life"! I needed no more proofs. If you had been standing in my moccasins, you would know for sure it was a "God-Moment" too! Only people who have not ever experienced God can go on doubting when the reality of a miracle throws you up in the air and catches you in a giant, fluffy pillow!
But what to do with my life, now that I could go get in line and get the handshake and smile and my diploma from the President of the college and take my degree and go forth into the world seeking my fortune? It came to me to return to Minneapolis, to work for my uncle in his landscaping firm. As I had no idea what to do with my degree, and detested the idea of teaching and facing classes, I wrote to my uncle and aunt, and they said to come. All right! That was all I needed, for I liked Minneapolis, it was beautiful back then.
I arrived there at their suburban home at the base of a beautiful, oak forested hill, and found myself enveloped in love, it was supernaturally strong, a feeling like big pillows pressing on me warmly from every side! I was changing inside as well, and responded positively. The old bitterness that chained my heart for decades fell away, chain by chain. I entered into church and Bible studies with my aunt and uncle, and began to learn for the first time about a living Lord Jesus Christ, and that He was the One to whom to dedicate my life, now that I was welcomed back into God's family as a prodigal son.
The catastrophe of my dad's death no longer was the source of lifelong, destructive bitterness. I began to feel a different person, for I was different in spirit somehow. My circle of acquaintances widened, particularly at church, where the young people were numerous and attended the prayer meetings with enthusiasm and, some, with impressive spirituality and active demonstrations of Gifts of the Spirit in ministry to various needs of people in the meetings.
Despite the welcoming and nurturing church fellowship, I felt called to return, and though my aunt and uncle wanted me to remain, I returned home, and told everyone what a change the Lord had brought to me, restoring my faith in him. They noticed a change all right. I even asked forgiveness of anyone I had offended, and hugged people! Some other relatives, however, preferred how I was in my worldly days to being the born-again Christian I had become. Unlike them, you see, I was now zealous for God's glory and was determined to do his work. That zeal did not fit well with people who wanted only financial success, as I had once wanted. In fact, I felt I had to express that turning away from the world's materialism and my selfish desires. My worldly writings, all my typed manuscripts, which I had intended to gain me fame and fortune, I dropped in a garbage can one day I will never forget, filling it completely from the bottom to the brim, and it was hauled away. When that garbage truck rolled away with my manuscripts from years of writing to dump it in a landfill, I had indeed crossed my private Rubicon. It was "me and you, Lord," and virtually nothing else! He was now everything, or I was in big trouble.
But I felt a real relief too. My mystery and science fiction series that had nothing to do with God had given me an uneasy conscience increasingly, until at last I faced it and I gave it all up. At last I felt released from cords that Satan had tied on me. The pastor of the church I left in Minneapolis had while praying for me regarding my leaving for home, saw cords, he said, binding me, and though he did not know what they signified, I did. It had to be my ungodly manuscripts and desires fame and fortune by the eventual sale of them.
Free, but free for what? I could not say. But I felt the bondage of the past was broken once for all.
Yet one thing remained unresolved, rising up in the stream like a snag that catches a passing boat: why had God allowed the sudden deaths of my father and uncle in a plane crash with my dad as pilot as they were out hunting on a cold but clear South Dakota day in early January 1947?
What was the purpose of it? I still did not know after much thought about it from age five on until I was well into my adult years..
I felt I had to know. Do you think I knew God was concerned about this matter? Unless he told me, I could not know that. But when God finally, after seeking the answer for nearly thirty-five years, provided the answer--I knew then for certain he had heard my lifelong plea for clarity on this issue. His was an answer that would change my whole understanding of God's Grace and also show me there really is such a thing as "Severe Mercy."
Some people will naturally ask, what is so troubling about a simple, unavoidable fact of life, everyone dies sooner or later, so why not accept the fact and move on? Why make a big deal out of my dad's death? These seem reasonable questions and yet, how heartless and superficial! It is sad, true, this thinking goes on, but that is life, amigo, that is reality, and other people lose their parents, and they don't go prodding God about it for half their lives or more like you are doing. Why go seeking answers to what ought to be obvious: everybody dies, sooner or later! So buck up! Be sensible! Quit acting so childish! they seem to say.
What can I reply to that? I just don't think they get the real question I had in mind. Some of these people, I notice, have had both living parents all their lives. So how can they know how I feel or even how it impacts you when you lose a parent and the providing parent as well? They can't know such realities! They could have asked me, but they didn't, because they didn't care and they didn't want to know what it is like. As long as they had their parents, that was enough for them. Those who lose their parents, well, tut tut, they are just supposed to shut up about it and "lump it." Know such folk? Could you be one? Think again about your responses to others who suffer great losses. That should tell you something.
Heartlessness of that type abounds in families and societies, it is a fact. The heartless ones don't have any idea of the dislocation and upset to normal life the death of a parent can inflict. Abortion advocates, it has been noted, have all been born. Yes, they were lucky enough to be born! But yet they can hypocritically and cruelly deny, and claim the right to do it, deny the right of the unborn to the life they are enjoying. Would they give up their lives for the unborn they deny life to? Of course, they would call that absurd and unthinkable. But is it? Anyone who denies or takes the life of the unborn ought to have been aborted too, along with millions of others. What goes around ought to have taken them too, if life were fair.
Would they be so cavalier about abortion and so-called "reproductive rights" if they were yet unborn and could hear their mother discussing her scheduled procedure at the local Planned Parenthood clinic?
I see a direct correlation between the kind of thinking in people who suppose having parents is their right but other kids must just "lump it" if they lose theirs. Maybe you don't, but tell me the difference, please. I can't see a whit of difference. Cruelty and heartlessness are the same animal in my book. It just comes out in varying circumstances, but it is the same old beast in human nature. There! I trust I demolished your quibble, my friend!
True, others have suffered the loss of a parent, but somehow they are strong enough to weather it and accept it in time, and "move on." I was not like either group. How should I be, how could I be, if I wasn't. Tell me, please, if you know. And I am forever glad I was not! Yes, glad, very, very, glad! I hope you are shocked, for surprise is not good enough for what I am about to tell you. For the truth is, despite the skeptics, naysayers, quibblers, there WAS a special purpose in what happened to my dad and uncle! It took a genuine revelation from God to see it. God had hidden it, but it existed. My mother knew of it, as I discovered only after many years, but she did not feel it would be accepted by family, relatives and friends, so she kept silent. I did not know that fact, so for many years I had to "gnaw" my bone of contention with the Lord's mysterious dealings with my family, and shuffle around my pieces of an unsolved mystery and puzzle which lacked the one piece that would complete it. Bending the corners, jamming the pieces together, forcing the puzzle to accept fake pieces, didn't work at all. You and I know full well that only one thing will work right, the missing piece. If it does not turn up, the puzzle will forever be uncompleted. So I got no where at all or closer to the answer no matter what I tried to make that puzzle complete on my own..
It was so frustrating and futile, but I could not help myself. I simply HAD to find out what God's purpose was! No one encouraged me in my quest, or even thought it worth-while pursuing. They had given up caring, in my family, and "moved on" in life, so they thought. I could not follow their example. I could not deny what happened in that superficial way. Despite the seemingly hopeless task, I had to find out the purpose of God in the tragedy of my dad and uncle's deaths in the plane crash.
The snag in the river had caught my boat, and I could not sail on as if it hadn't when it had! January 9, 1947, in rural Baltic, my father and uncle died in a fiery crash snuffing out their lives instantly. That was the outward form of the nasty snag. But the problem was not just physical, it was essentially spiritual. Why did that happen, if God was Almighty? With no apologies, I must say that event defined me whether anyone liked it or not, or thought it was an unreasonable, even ghoulish occupation to be so "obsessed" with a tragic happening and the question of God's purpose in it. They could think I was digging up two dead men's bones to find out the real cause of their deaths. .
I failed to find the missing piece of the puzzle, but God was holding it, I found out afterwards, for the right time and circumstance he had set up for it to be revealed to me. My mother knew the secret, but she was not telling me. She never did. So how did I find it out?
Without my knowing it, God was setting up the perfect circumstances in which to bring me the revelation I needed. My church I had asked God to lead me to if it was his will, over time was made a supporter of a certain Romanian evangelist, Ilie Coroama.
He was well-liked by the entire congregation. We supported the ministry of this Romanian evangelist and Bible smuggler every way we could, individually and as a church. He responded by coming more frequently to fellowship with us and hold meetings with us to which the community around was invited.
He had a most thrilling story of his miraculous escape from Communist Romania under its worst and most blood-thirsty dictator with a Slavic name that starts with a "C" and ends, I think, with a "u." However spelled, his name signified BEWARE THIS GODLESS, BLOODY, BRUTAL MONSTER FROM HELL! C-----------u was was determined to his last day in power to stamp out every vestige of Christian belief in his police state and slave camp nation. He gave orders on national television for his troops to shoot any and all protestors in the streets in demonstrations breaking out against his many years of bloody rule in many thousands of people trying to flee the country were shot at the borders. C-------------u had a palace costing hundreds of millions, with gold and silver and gems embedded in the marble walls, a mega-palace gigantic in size set in the heart of his suffering, destitute capital of Bucherest, where lines of raggedy people stood everywhere in all weathers outside a few government stores, hopeless yet desperate to buy even one loaf of tasteless sawdust-and-flour bread the mice would turn their noses up at!
Want that here in America, my fellow Americans? Socialism and Communism, Big Brother or Big Sister, will bring us hell on earth just as it did for the wretched Romanians! But God built up the faith of a certain young Christian couple in that oppressed land, and He ultimately delivered all of them from Communist hell.
Home of the Wurmbrands, Richard and Sabine, who were going through great sufferings of their own as persecuted Christian leaders of the Romanians, Romania had been the bread basket of Europe until the Red Army marched in and Marxist communists took over at the close of WWII.
So when I heard Ilie Coroama tell his story of a great deliverance he experience before the bloody tyrannical communist regime was finally overthrown and independence and democracy reinstated, I was understandable thrilled, because it showed clearly how deeply God was invested in deliverance of individuals. If God could do such wonderful things for Ilie and Aurica Coroama, surely there would be hope for the nation as well with such a God.
That was reasonable to suppose anyway. To believe it, and put one's trust in God for similar great deliverances, that was inspiring to contemplate. Could such a God intervene in my own life and in the lives of others too? I was soon to find out.
I don't now recall how or when I first got wind of how Ilie Coroama was looking for a biographer for his life story.
For several years by this time I had given up my writing, thinking it best to sacrifice it like Isacc offered up by Father Abraham unto God on the altar. Fine and good. My cords to my past were severed, at least in part, by that sacrifice. Would I ever write again? I left it entirely up to God. That meant I had to be satisfied if he never asked me to write again. I truly accepted that, I believe.
But a change came which I had not expected. My wife was used of God and with my church's pastor and his wife pressed me to do the Ilie's account while it was still in need of a writer for it. Together they urged me to offer myself as his biographer. I had let my writing hand rust, so to speak. Pick up my rusted talent now? Was that God's will? Several years had elapsed. My vocabulary had greatly shrunk. I could not summon up the words to express myself as easily as in former days. Could I write again? My thinking was no longer literary. I was used to just thinking mundanely about my gardening work and providing as any husband should.
Yet, with their urging me on, I could not see that I had any reason against writing again that was viable. If God was for my writing again, was he not prodding me into action through my wife and the pastor and his wife? Maybe God was using them so he could return my writing vocation to me, for the good of someone else, not myself. I thought that was a possibility. So I had to give it a try. I would not have tried, except for there pushing me, as I had truly given up writing.
It was somewhat unsettling, as if I had stepped into the "Twilight Zone," to take up something I thought was gone forever, seemingly burnt up on God's altar. But as the middle of the family belt, the buckle, I cinched myself, so to speak, and went forward to make my request. I thought that would be the end of it. "Man proposes, but God disposes," as the old saying goes. I was half-hoping it would come to nothing, since I was afraid I would not be up to the task.
It seemed unlikely to me he would choose me, but I went over to where he was enjoying his plate of food at a picnic table and asked him after a short and odd introduction of myself. He seemed to understand me after I gave him somewhat of a surprise in asking him if I could write his book. He took barely a glance at me and replied that he would go pray about it. Then he rose with his mostly empty paper plate and actually left me. I sat waiting his return and his answer, feeling uncomfortable and uneasy. He returned to the picnic table a couple minutes later (it was at a church picnic where this stroke of destiny happened) where we had been sitting. Just as it had come when I received the thunderclap and word I had passed the German test on the subjunctive, the awesome words came: he said it was mine to write.!
Shock! Relief! Bewilderment!
I was so surprised I must have been struck speechless. I do not recall anything intelligible I may have said to him in response, and I hurried away to tell my wife.
I don't recall her response, nor even her facial expression. I was in a cloud of swirling mist and wind at that point. How was I going to handle this momentous undertaking? How?
Gradually, some thoughts rose in my mind that seemed possible and might help me organize this project into some kind of rational shape and make it work. No one offered me a single word of advice. It was all up to me! I could sink or swim, their reaction seemed to say, but I knew I had the Lord to help me, for I believed the Lord had been in this choice of the Ilie Coroama's, as nothing of this sort or caliber had ever happened to me before, so I assumed it had to be God bringing it about. Despite Ilie's ministry at my church, I had never spoken to him before this time, and we were personally unknown to each other. For him to say God had chosen me and then to tell me I was God's choice to write the book, that was convincing enough to me that I was indeed the chosen vessel. That was how much I trusted Ilie Coroama,
Ilie Coroama, after the picnic, began to minister to the people who had come.
I behaved like a fool, getting underfoot of Ilie, trying to minister as well, when I was not called to do that, because I was already puffed up about being chosen to be his biographer!
But after the meeting that evening, I had to settle down and go horn to horn with the awesome task itself of writing a book, a biography, and that was like a mountain to be moved by faith alone. Would I succeed or fail miserably? Time would tell. Yet hadn't God chosen me? That gave me a measure of comfort and reassurance. My pride? It lost air like a punctured balloon as the logistics of the project landed on me like the proverbial ton of bricks!
I began in the next few days to seriously plan and think how I could organize and write his absolutely amazing, spell-binding story.
The format came to me easily somehow, though I had never done this sort of thing before. I would record him, then write down his story in organized chapters. I had to know about Romania's history too, so I raided the local library. Then when he next returned to visit our church, I was ready to commence the real work.
A session was arranged in our home. I began to record him, but it did not go anywhere with him relating miscellaneous anecdotes. He soon lost his narrative and ran out of steam. Yet I knew he had to have hundreds of stories in him, but how was I to get them out of him and organized into chapters that told the whole story of his life and God's great deliverances and miracles?
Fortunately for me, I had just surveyed Romanian history from a number of good history books. One was a biography of the life of Queen Marie of Romania who had once visited a railroad baron friend here in Washington State in her royal train. Knowing something of the outline of his life by his own testimonies in church, I typed up hundreds of questions. He could answer them one by one, and then I transcribed his recorded responses and organized his answers to my questions into a narrative.
It is titled "Walk in the Light," and was printed, but the 2,000 book printing was not enough. I finally put a Study Guide to it and put it up on Amazon Kindle with the same title. What a blessing it was to write it, but an even greater blessing, of a personal kind, actually a revelation from the Lord, came to me through my future encounters with Ilie Coroama in 1987 and several years after.
The Missing Piece and God's Revelation of His Master Plan
What exactly is a "revelation" anyway? Sinner and nobody that I was, foolish, irresolute, and impulsive and unsteady as water, I yet had already experienced before marriage several most exciting touches of God I that I had not even imagined possible. This being chosen by a profound man of God such as Ilie Coroama who had ministered to huge crowds in big arenas with none other than a NASA Moon Mission astronaut, Charles Duke, who walked on the Moon, this seemed yet another thrilling encounter with the Master Weaver of Destiny, and I was understandably excited at the prospects.
I had no idea that a 'great revelation was coming to me, by the way. I was totally engrossed in this project, writing Ilie Coroama's life.
If anyone had prophesied it, I would not have known what he was talking about, or maybe it would have come when I was too taken up with the challenge of a book to give it proper attention. God has his perfect time and way, does he not? Well, if you do not know that, I can prove he does by what happened to me personally!
Give me some space, if you will be so kind. I will get to the revelation. But, first, what is a "revelation"? Webster's II, with "55,00 precise definitions," it declares on the cover, is most unhelpful when it defines "revelation." It goes: "1. an act of revealing. 2. something revealed, esp. something dramatic." How prosaic! Now let me try to tell you, friend. Ever had an ocean come out of nowhere and roll over you, wave after wave of grace and favor and magnificence and beauty and joy? No? How about stumbling through a Death Valley, seeing bones of other wayfarers whitening in the burning sun, and you gasping and your lips cracked and bleeding, your heart about to give out, your strength long gone, your hope shattered that you will ever make it through and out alive? Which event do you expect will come first? The valley of the shadow of death, or the coming out into rich fulfilment and revelation?
In my case, it happened that I was prepared a bit with several touches from God that threw me into something like near ecstasy and wonder over my awesome God.
I had already tasted some of the valley of death experience, truly, in early childhood and into my teens and then my twenties. Losing my dad at age five had thrown my life into a mudhole of misery, and I was struggling from that time on to get my head above the bitter water and muck of that loss. Being alone as I was in school, not so able to cope with the rivalry of my bigger, well-off peers, I pretty much kept to the sidelines and let others do their thing, while I wished in vain they would for once include me and befriend me. That did not happen even once, so I was very much a loner and friendless.
Working at lawn jobs my successful, popular, accomplished two older brothers handed down to me at age twelve, , I made some money for small personal expenses, but I never found a part-time job and so it was a struggle for me all through junior high and one year of high school in town. The rivalry increased, and so did the brutal bullying. I was ill-equipped to fend it off. When you are the main target of thirty or so fellows, most of them bigger and stronger, you have no chance to escape except you avoid them everywhere you can if at all possible. In the hallways of the big high school, it was impossible. In class with a teacher present, it was not so bad, but in the halls it was intolerable. I just had to find a way to escape their humiliating me again and again, so I thought of one place where I might go: the school my mother had attended in South Dakota. Would that work for me? It had to work! I had to go, as I could not bear another year in the high school, forced to fight or take the abuse, day after day. My grades had gone down, too, and I knew I could not go on there. So I asked my mother about the school, and whether I could go, and she immediately stood with me in my decision, since she knew it was a wonderful Christian school, and it would do me much good.
My mother's alma mater, a truly exceptional Christian school, Augustana Academy, was nearing 100 years old. It had started with the immigrants in 1860 in Illinois and was reputed to have had Robert Lincoln for a time as a student in the earliest days, and the son of john Hay too. I was in the class that would graduate in 1960, when I entered the Sophomore Class after finishing a rather disastrous Freshman year at my hometown's high school. It was a different world seemingly than anything I had known so far. I was accepted on my own merit, not on whether I had a car or cool clothes to wear, or a big allowance to spend, or that I looked tall and handsome and was active in sports. . I had none of those attributes and advantages to gain popularity, but it did not seem to matter to my classmates or the other kids in school. Scholastics mattered more highly than those things that obsessed the classmates I left behind; and even more than scholastics, spirituality mattered! What a switch that was! Nobody in society seemed to care about God outside church, far as I could see. This was totally a new thing to me. A school where God mattered, and we attended chapel every day and were required to attend church service in town on Sunday? This was phenomenal to me, and instructors and administrators, were in a number of cases, pastors or even missionaries. The whole spiritual atmosphere of godliness and Christian service was different, charged with something I did not know how to classify. At the Academy people cared about you! It seemed so supportive and positive, and hence I was encouraged to try out for various school activities and was readily accepted, not pushed aside as inferior or not considered "popular" enough by certain snobbish cliques who lorded it over everyone they considered beneath them. They had their ways of letting those beneath them feel their contempt too! I saw how boys would go up to an overweight girl and ridicule her hairdo on which she had spent so much obvious care. Cruelty of that kind abounded. I felt it too, but the contempt came in the form of actual physical attacks.. How happy I was to escape such torments and the condescending and hateful attitudes that produced them.
My world expanded greatly at this small but unique school, and I learned that students came from all parts of the country, even foreign countries such as Israel and South Africa, but most came from the Northern Plains states, North and South Dakota and Minnesota, and Iowa too.
What a welcome change for me to be accepted into such an environment as this one. My grades improved and climbed into B's and even an A or two, but I had to work hard as the competition was keen, for the scholastic level was one of the highest in the high schools of the state. Most all the students went on to college, too, which made it very much an elite prep school like those the privileged families sent their sons and daughter to attend in the East. Yet despite these distinctions, it was a humble school in endowments, as it was supported mainly by local farming people, churches, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church headquartered in Minneapolis. We had the basics, but not much more than that. Even so, three meals a day was to me outright luxury, and warm rooms at night and transportation furnished when we went out to represent the school in various programs.
I was saved at this school, making my decision for Christ, and experienced God actually coming into my heart, in my Sophomore year. That changed me, but not nearly enough. My bitterness did not go away, it just submerged and laid low for a while. By the time I was a Senior, it had crept back to resume its role of directing my thoughts and actions, and so I decided I was not going to follow God anymore, I would go on my own again. So I did! Fifteen years, while attending college, then the Air Force, and then repeating my college years at another college, I lived in sin and rebellion against God, and pursued my own interests, fame and fortune, and made a mess of my life though I was getting good grades.
God called that period to a half, fortunately, when he restored my faith in Him. I was amazed by the miracles he performed for me in getting me graduated so that I could leave the Eastern Washington College (later a university), and return to "civilian" life. Where was I to go? What was I to do? I did not want to teach, but I had been writing what I hoped a publisher would take, and with my manuscripts and God back in my life, I headed back to Minneapolis to work for my uncle who said he would give me a job.
Fifteen years of Bible school and church and being self-employed followed, and suddenly things shifted. I was given a trip to Israel in 1979 by an anonymous donor, and God blessed me extravagantly on that trip in miraculous ways. I was baptized and also was given a new name by the Lord. I also experienced Handel's Messiah performed in London in the Royal Albert Hall. I felt I was in heaven hearing the name of Jesus lifted up in that glorious venue. Returning to Washington State, I hoped my life would continue to improve. But I was still able to only do yard work, some landscaping, and occasional house painting to make a living. I had not tried teaching, but when I applied, Affirmative Action shut me down and out, though I had a M.A. in Creative Writing.
Taking a chance at a second trip to Israel to experience more miracles of God, I worked at a hard, filthy, minimum-wage dishwashing/janitor job in a restaurant, and earned barely enough money to buy a round-trip ticket to London. At Heathrow Airport in London it was arranged that English friends of my eldest brother Darrell would meet us. I did have some miraculous experiences in Israel and Egypt as well, but not of the kind I wanted repeated. I was sovereignly healed of something that must have been typhoid contacted in Jericho from the polluted water when two missionaries I was working in Jericho for painting the second mission house interior, prayed for me, not knowing what it was but feeling they had to pray for me. I ran out of money in Egypt, but God provided an American black man who was hiring workers for Saudi Arabian oil fields at the hotel I happened to be at (without money to pay for my room, much less a coke!). He gave me five Egyptian pounds, four more than the one needed to hire a taxi take me to the American consul, and the consul called my family at home and they sent the money I needed to get to London, where my ticket would kick in and take me back to Seattle. What a come-down! I had spent money on souvenirs, not on anything else, but my poor planning had landed me in a terrible situation, moneyless in a foreign country in the Middle East. It was a miracle I survived, and I would have disappeared if God had not provided a certain black young man at the International Hotel where the bus from Israel dropped me off.
Here I had believed I was doing the right thing, believing in God to bring my Egyptian pastor friend in Cairo to the hotel I had chosen to be dropped off at, and no such thing happened. I was marooned! Where was Pastor Nathan Georgi? I could not call him, as the telephones were broken, you had to pay someone to call for you, and it took hours to get a line to work and a call to go through! So for me to get help from a black man who gave me help despite the fact we were strangers, that was a miracle. He remarked about his helping me, that "someone had helped him" at some hard place in his life, whom I thought later must have been a white man, as first sight when seeing I was white he had hesitated, but then had extended his hand to me, apparently recalling how he had been helped and it was his turn to return the favor to a man of another color. Was he befriended and helped out of prison sentence, or given money to complete college, or what? I will never know in this life, but I know he had to have been helped when he did not deserve it, as I was helped by him when I did not deserve it, and he gave the money to me freely, without a hint he wanted repayment when my fortunes turned to the better.
As for my Egyptian friend, after my ticket was bought with the money from home by the consul, I looked him up before my flight out, and a church I stepped into downtown just as they were having Communion, provided a family that took me in their Mercedez Benz right to my friend's church! I was taken up to see Pastor Georgi, and he came out, pale and wearing pajamas, for he lived with his family on a top floor of the very tall building. He regretted, he said, that he had not been able to meet me since he had been so ill. But I had to wonder later why he had not sent his son or an elder to do it for him. Anyway, I had supported him up to that point, and he was the reason I went to Cairo in the first place, as I had been so concerned after not having heard from him for weeks. At least, he was alive, but I had almost lost my life myself, arriving penniless in Cairo, a city of over 13 million people, where to lose your life is a simple matter if you are destitute and have no means whatsoever to get about safely.
I returned to my church under somewhat crest-fallen for losing my way over in the Middle East, and there I crossed paths with a woman who took a liking to me. We married. Ilie Coroama came and we both were entranced by him. The book offer was made, I was accepted, and my life seemed to take on new promise of fulfilment. Where the years of stumbling through dry stretches and waterless wilderness coming to an end? Was the Lord bringing me out to rich fulfilment? Was Joseph about to raised from the pit and the prison to the palace? I earnestly hoped so!
But our marriage failed. The book was completed, but it brought me nothing, and I tried to re-negotiate with Ilie Coroama, but he declined to hear of it, and he remarked that he had been taken advantage of by a writer whom he had given $10,000 to, only to be given a booklet. After a year's hard work, I gave him a book of over 100 pages, a full biography, but he had taken me as his biographer without payment. My pastor wanted it to be a free gift on my part, but I needed something more than that, and I felt I deserved something more. My marriage failed after several teaching jobs had come to me, so I returned to Washington State where my mother and family lived. We had moved to Oregon for my wife to do ministry there, but she remained, and I returned home, my tail between my leg. My church disowned me, and the pastor preached against me. I was back in the pit again, it seemed! From almost the steps of the palace, back to the prison and then the pit!
Yet, before the marriage failed, revelation came! It came just before the darkest period of my adult life, the breakup of our marriage. Ilie Coroama was passing through our area, we heard at church, and he called and asked if I wanted to meet him at the airport and spend an hour with him. He was on his way to see churches in Japan. I thought that would be of interest to my mother, so I asked her if she wanted to go. Ordinarily, her schedule was jammed with activities, but the day I was given to meet with Ilie was wide open on her calendar! So the two of us went to meet the man of God at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
To recap, I had left my thirties behind with a touch or two of glory, sheer wonder and grace and divine deliverance and healing being given me in Jericho and Bethlehem in Israel and London and Cairo on these two trips, but marriage was the biggest event so far in my life, far as the re-adjustment of my life was concerned. I did not even dream that the marriage would fail as it did. Where marriage led, I had no idea. I thought it would be marriage till death we parted, just as we had both vowed before God and the church where we were members. Then this book became a consuming occupation. I was working at the time as an estate gardener and caretaker, as I was not paid anything for the book writing, nor was I initially asking for any, offering myself freely to Ilie Coroama. I thought I would sacrifice everything on the altar again, freely, but I felt later that I could at least be given my expenses, which my wife, who had done bookkeeping for a large firm, estimated at a sum of $1,000 or $2,000, for I do not recall now exactly the amount. Yet nothing of money matters came up when we met at the airport. God had something far greater in mind for me, it turned out, that was beyond earthly price it was so valuable to me.
PLEASE RETURN FOR PART II AND THE WONDERFUL WAY GOD ANSWERED MY BURNING QUESTION
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