From the Pasture to the Pulpit

February 10, 2016

From the Pasture to the    Pulpit

By Russell George

I would like to tell you the exciting story of how God took me from the sand hills of Nebraska to the pulpit of a small church in South America.  Many times there are thoughts that fill my mind that plead to be expressed.  They are thoughts of things that should be of interest and a benefit to others.

I, being the only son of a rancher in the sand hills of Nebraska, could have gone back and taken over the ranch. It’s not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed that, but I had other interests.  I’m certain that my boyhood experiences on the ranch made some vital contributions to what ever success I may have had in life.  Being brought up on a farm or ranch teaches children to be disciplined.  I had chores to do night and morning.  I was not a matter of “do it if and when you feel like it” They were just things that had to be done: They were  things like milking the cows, gathering the eggs and feeding the pigs.  It may be that modern mechanized farming does not demand the daily discipline that was demanded when I was a boy.

I grew up in a time of transition. Old ways were giving place to the new at a rapid pace.  I never knew what it was to walk behind a walking plow but I did have the experience of cultivating corn with a team of horses and a single row cultivator.  I walked behind the binder pulled by a four horse team.  I shocked grain.  I helped pitch bundles onto a hay rack and then pitched them into a thrashing machine.  I raked hay with a team of horses and a dump rake.  I stood on a chair and talked on a telephone that was one of those wooden boxes mounted on the wall with a crank on the side.  I churned butter with a crock churn and a wooden dasher. I replaced the kerosene in the lamps that lighted our house at night. If I had been born ten years later, it´s doubtful that I would have had those experiences.

In my youth I learned to adapt to tractor farming and electrical appliances. It was an exciting day when we got our first radio. John Slone was one of the first in our neighborhood to get a radio. One Sunday afternoon John and his mother invited us to come up to their house and listen to the radio.  We all sat in their living room and listened to the radio.  No one talked.  We just listened.

In just a few weeks my dad brought home our first radio. That was before we had electricity so the radio came with a big battery pack that sat behind it.  I help install it.  We were told that it had to have an aerial. I didn´t understand what that had to do with it but I helped string up a wire outside and stick it through a hole in the wall to connect it to the radio.  Every one´s face lit up with a smile when we turned it on for the first time and it played. After the chores were done every night we hurried to the house to listen to the radio.  Some of our favorite programs were Amos and Andy and Fibber Magee and Molly.

I always feel that my teachers in school had to be a little bit lenient with me to give me a passing grade. My first 8 years of formal training were spent in a one room country school.   We never had electricity at the school.  That deprived us of most of the advantages of visual aids and sound equipment.  The school had a wind up record player and a collection of some 12 or 15 phonograph records.  In spite of such primitive conditions I managed to get enough education to be able to go on to high school and then get a college education.  It makes me wonder if all the money that is invested in modern education is really necessary.

Wheeler County High school, in the small town of Bartlett, Nebraska, is still functioning. Many changes have taken place since I was there.  I hope the students still get as good an education as I did when I was there.  I went to high school before there were school busses.  Most of the students came from the farms and ranches.  To facilitate their education the school maintained two dormitories, one for the boys and one for the girls.  On Monday morning my dad took us into town and we stayed in the dormitory   until he came after us on Friday after school.  It was my first experience at being away from home.  I was always a peewee and got picked on by the big boys but I still had a lot of friends and adjusted well.  When school was out every afternoon we were given two hours of freedom to go down town.  We made our way to the stores to by candy, gum, soda pop and chocolate malts.  One day, as we were going down town, we found that the local grocery store had thrown out a selection of straw hats.  They were in the burn barrel so we helped ourselves to one.  We all arrived on the street wearing a straw hat.  That night the dorm mother had to tell us that it wasn’t proper for boys to wear straw hats indoors.

Reminiscing about my high school experience is a story in itself. It was a time when we were making decisions about what we wanted to be.  I toyed with the idea of being a veterinarian.  On a shelf at the dormitory there were some old books about veterinary medicine.  I sometimes read them instead of reading what I was supposed to read.  The books were written for horse doctors whose recommendation for a sick horse was often a pint of whisky.  My grades weren’t good enough to qualify for the school of veterinary medicine so I settled for studying vocational agriculture.  My intentions were to be a vocational agriculture teacher.

My heart was set on going to college but my parent’s small ranch didn’t provide them with enough income to finance a college education for their children. I realized I would have to find a way to pay for it on my own.  Graduating from high school dumped me for the first time on the job market.  One day I was reading the ads in the Nebraska Farmer and I saw where a potato farmer in Western Nebraska needed a farm hand.  I wrote him a letter.  He responded and told me to come.  My parents took me to Grand Island to catch the train.  I was going out into the world on my own for the first time.  They gave me advice all the way.   I managed to stay at that job for several weeks.  It was one of the hardest experiences of my life up to then.  The man who hired me forgot to ask me how much I weighed.  I scarcely weighed twice as much as the sacks of potatoes he expected me to handle.   Just as the sun came up he got me up to load a truck with ensilage from an open pit silo.  We spent about two hours doing chores before it was time to go in for breakfast.  Then he took me to a potato cellar to run a potato cutter to prepare them for the planter.  What a struggle I had with those heavy sacks of potatoes.  I was exhausted long before it was time to quite for the day.  After about a month the man fired me because I wasn’t able to keep up with the work.  He put me on the train and I went back home.  Fortunately I arrived in time to get a job in the hay harvest at one of the ranches.  I managed to save enough to enroll in college.

My first days on the campus of the University of Nebraska made me wonder if I wasn’t out of place. It was a new environment for me.  I found myself in a big dormitory with 700 men.  I had to learn about fraternities and sororities and how to find my way around among all the huge buildings on campus.  I was a student at the Ag. College, which was located about two miles from the down town campus.  I had to learn about riding on city buses.  That was a big step for a country boy.

The two years I spent at the University of Nebr. were a struggle for me. My parents didn’t have enough to pay my way.  The first year I stayed at the dormitory but that was too expensive.  I worked during the summer, and saved up enough to go back.  The second year I had to find a room to rent.  I ate at restaurants when I could afford it.  More than once I went for nearly a week without eating while I waited to get paid.  I had jobs on campus, first in one of the libraries and then at a research laboratory.

I only spent two years at the University but it was a turning point in my life. It was there that I met some friends who introduced me to someone who changed my life.  I was a lonely country boy who needed some friends.  Two boys, in the next room in the dormitory, came and got acquainted with me.  After just a few days they invited me to go with them to a meeting at the Student Union Building.  I didn’t know what kind of a meeting it was.   I found that it was a group of Christians that met once a week on campus.  They had a different speaker every Thursday night.  At first I rejected what I heard.  What I had seen of religion didn’t impress me.  I had come to be an atheist even though I didn’t know what the word meant.  I thought “a smart boy like me can’t be deceived  with this religion bit.”  I found those meetings were a good social outlet, however, so I continued to go every Thursday night.   Some times they had week end retreats and I went to a few of them.  I wanted to get acquainted with some girls but I was too shy to approach them.  At these meetings the girls were friendly to me and it gave me opportunities to talk to them.

My second year I continued to go to those meetings. I realized I was accepting more and more of what I was hearing about the Bible.  I wanted what those young people had.  It took me a long time to realize that it was their relationship with Jesus Christ that made them the way they were.  I had heard the way of salvation a number of times but I never took it very seriously.

The real turning point in my life came one Friday night when I invited a young lady to a banquet sponsored by this   group of Christians.  I borrowed a friend’s car to go get her and take her home.  At the banquet I boasted a lot about all I had done and all I was going to do.  After I got back to my room that night I felt miserable. I knew I wasn’t near all I had made myself out to be.  I fell on my knees beside my bed and began to weep and pray.  I poured my heart out to God for the first time.  I begged for forgiveness and for God to save me.  The next morning I woke up a new man.  I didn’t know what had happened but I knew there had been a wonderful change in my life.  I have never had any doubt about it since.  For the first time in my life I knew what it was to have my sins forgiven and be a child of God.  I had gone to church a number of times before that, but from then on I wanted to go.  I began to read the Bible seriously.  I had a hunger to know more and more.

After my second year in college the University informed me that my grades weren’t good enough to go back again. That was a disappointment to me but I expected that bit of bad news.

When hay harvest time came I got a job on a ranch. After that, a man in town ask me to work for him.  He had two self propelled combines as well as a business spraying corps with an airplane.  I was always fascinated by airplanes so I was thrilled to get the job.  I helped him spray crops by mixing up the insecticide and also by holding up a flag at the end of the field.  He would fly over my head and then I would walk down 14 rows and wait for him to turn around and fly over my head again.  In the Fall I ran one of his combines.  That too was a new and thrilling experience for me.

During this time I was staying in one of the motel rooms in town. In the evenings I listened to the radio before I fell asleep.  I started listening to a missionary program  entitled “The Voice Of China And Asia.”  The Lord used that program to cause me to surrender my life to Him.  Each night I felt Him saying to me, “I want you.” I kept arguing with God and saying, “I can’t do that.”  I hadn’t made any success at college and I knew I would need more training to be able to serve the Lord.  Finally one night I said, “Alright, Lord, here is my life.  I don’t know what I can do but I’m willing.” I knew I would need to go back to college.  Among the Christians I met at the University of Nebr. there were some who made mention of a Bible college at Omaha.  It was the only one I knew anything about so I wrote to them and ask if I could come.  They sent me an application with a request for references. I needed to find someone who would give me a favorable recommendation.  I had gone some to the local Methodist church so I ask them to fill out the reference for me.  At first they declined because they wanted me to go to a Methodist school at Lincoln.  I had heard enough about what went on at that school to know that it wasn’t a good environment.  Finally they consented to fill out the recommendation.

One cold January day I loaded all my earthly belongings in my old 38 Chevy and headed for Omaha. I was thrilled with the gracious acceptance I received.  I was a college student again but in a completely different environment.  I still didn’t make the best grades but I was able to pass all my courses.  It was there that I met my wife Margaret.  She has been a tremendous asset to my life.  Since I was able to transfer some credits from the University I was able to finish my studies in three years instead of four.  We both graduated the same spring and were married that summer.

We were among the poorest but we were as happy as two turtle doves on a telephone line. We were praying about what the Lord would have us do.  We both felt the Lord was calling us into missions.  I applied to a mission board and they recommended that I get seminary training first.  I really wasn’t very excited about going to seminary but I reconsidered it and applied to a seminary in Minneapolis, Min.  I was accepted.  We loaded all our earthly goods in a U-Haul trailer and went to Minneapolis.

It was at that seminary that I became a Baptist even though I had joined a Baptist church while I was at Bible College. When I went to the Bible College I wasn’t a member of any church.  I hadn’t been baptized.  To join a church I needed to get baptized.  I considered joining the Mennonite church at the college.  I found that they baptized by sprinkling.  I thought, “Before I do that, I better study the Bible to see if that’s the way to do it.”  The more I studies the more I realized that to be baptized scripturally I would need to be immersed.  That’s why I decided to join a Baptist church that we had been attending occasionally.   My classes in seminary made me come to some basic convictions about my denominational identity.  I had just been more or less free lance up until then.  I struggled for a while with what they were teaching me but I came to realize that they had the Bible to back up what they were teaching me and I couldn’t find much in the Bible to defend my position.  I finally came to the place where I was willing to say, “If that’s what the Bible teaches, then I’m willing to believe it.”

Now I’m a long ways from the pasture but I still haven’t got to the pulpit so let me continue my story. While I was in seminary I preached as pulpit supply a number of times.  Once I was offered the pastorate of a church but I didn’t think it was a situation I could work with so I declined.  When I graduated, my father in law offered to let me come down to Iowa and work for him. We packed up our earthly goods in a   trailer and moved to Iowa.  We weren’t there long before a small church in North English Iowa ask me to be their pastor.  We spent nearly three years there.  They couldn’t give me a full salary so I continued working for my father in law and at other jobs here and there.

We continued to pray that the Lord would guide us as to where he wanted us. We still felt called to the foreign mission field.  Even back in Bible College days we felt the Lord laid Argentina on our hearts.  Every Friday was missions chapel.  They nearly always had a missionary speaker.  We noticed that there were never any missionaries that come from Argentina so we began to wonder what was being done there.  In seminary we met a missionary and his wife from Argentina.  They had a lot of influence on our going to Argentina.

How we finally got to Argentina is a too long a story to tell you now. A church in Montana ask me to come as a candidate.  We went to visit the church and they decided they didn’t want us.  We felt it was God’s way of showing us that He had something better for us.  We applied to a Baptist mission board and were accepted as missionaries for Argentina. Many thought we were rather foolish in taking our young family so far away to live.  I began traveling, visiting churches to raise support to go.  I also took jobs painting houses to support my family while I wasn’t on the road.  It was a long hard road getting enough support promised to be able to live in Argentina but God was good and after three years we had nearly enough.  In the summer of 1973 we moved to Southern Texas to study Spanish.  That was another challenge.   In the fall of 1974 we finally arrived in Argentina.  There were times when we wondered if we hadn’t made a bad mistake, especially when we couldn’t make people understand anything we tried to say.  God didn’t let us quit.  Within a year after we arrived we were in our own house and ready to start a church.  That’s the rest of the story and I don’t have time to tell it to you now.

I can’t boast of having been a great success but I do feel like I have lived successfully. I have no regrets. The lives I have seen transformed as a result of my ministry mean more to me than any earthly assets I could have accumulated. If I had it to do over again there are some things I would do different, but I wouldn’t want to miss any of the rich and rewarding experiences I have had.

God has given us six precious children. They are now standing in the gap, serving the Lord, doing what we can no longer do.  We also have two churches functioning in Argentina as a result of our efforts.  To God be the glory.

For the rest of our story we urge you to get one of our books entitled “To God Be The Glory.” It is available as a paperback book and also in e-book format from Amazon.com.  The ISBN number is 978-1-4669-6778-6.

Our E-mail address is: rusandmargaretgeorge@windstream.net

 

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