June 30, 2012


            I thank God for the promise of Philippians 4:13.  “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  With all of us there is the temptation to say, “Lord, I pray thee have me excused.  I can’t do that.”

I grew up on a ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska.  I felt more at home with the cows than I did with people.  I had four y   ounger sisters and no brothers.  I found diversion in pushing a two wheeled cart I had made around the farm, or in rolling rubber tires down the hills and watching them bounce over obstacles.  I even found enjoyment in helping my dad fix fence o haul hay.  But, none of that was any preparation for the work the Lord had for me.

When it came to meeting people, I was a coward.  More than once relatives came to visit who were strangers to me.  When they tried to talk to me I would burst into tears to their embarrassment.   It embarrassed my parents too.  In grade school I some times burst into tears when the teacher asked me to read out loud before the class.

God says, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  He didn’t have much to work with when he called me, but there is no limit to his power.  School was never easy for me.  I managed to learn enough to get out of grade school.  High school was more of the same.  I was nearly always at the tail end of my class.  I did have some aspirations.  In high school I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian.  My fellow students called me “Dr. Rusty.”  Later I learned that Nebraska didn’t have a college of veterinary medicine.  Only the top scholars were accepted in the colleges in other states.

I enrolled in the University of Nebraska to study vocational agriculture.  It took me two years to find out that I wasn’t college material.  They flunked me out.  Even so, the greatest thing in my life happened when I was there.  That’s where I put my faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for my salvation.

When I arrived on campus I was a timid country boy.  I didn’t know anyone.  I was introduced to my roommate.  He was friendly but scholarly and spent most of his time with his nose in his books.  Next door God placed two young men who were believers.  Through their friendship and good testimony I finally came to realize that I was a lost sinner and needed to be saved.  That’s another long story but, for now, suffice it to say that one night, alone in my room, I accepted Christ as my Savior.  I pleaded with God to forgive my sin.  I have never had any doubts about my salvation.

Since I couldn’t go back to college, I went back home and got a job.  After working for a rancher in the hay harvest, I got a job working for a man who was the son in law of the local banker.  He worked in the bank, but he also had an agricultural business.  He had been trained as a fighter pilot in the Second World War. He had a small plane and started a crop spraying business.  I helped him with that.  Then, in the fall, I operated one of his self-propelled combines.

He had me stay in the only motel in town.  At night I listened to a Christian radio program entitled “The Voice of China and Asia.”  The lord used that program to speak to me about surrendering my life to him for full time Christian service.  At first I dismissed his calling, thinking it must just be a fantasy.  I thought, “Surely God knows I’m not capable of doing that.”  But God just kept bothering me about it.  I reminded him that I had been a failure as a college Student.  I knew that Christian service meant a return to the class room.  God still didn’t give up.  Finally, along about November, I surrendered.  On my knees beside my bed I said, “Lord, I don’t know what I can do but here is my life.  I’ll do what you want me to do.”  Apart from my decision for salvation, that was the most important decision I ever made.

I enrolled in a Bible College in Omaha, Nebraska.  It was the only one that I had ever heard of at the time.  I loaded all my earthly belongings in my old 39 Chevy and went to Omaha one cold January day.

I wasn’t at all certain that I could make good enough grades to be able to stay in school.  Many of my fellow students had grown up in a Christian home and what they heard in class was just a repetition of what they had already heard a number of times.  To me, it was all new.  One day a student ask me if I was a dispensationalist.  I said, “What’s that?”  I had never heard of it.  Thanks to a caring and patient faculty, I was able to graduate.  Many times in my Bible College days I wrestled with the temptation of saying, “Lord, I pray thee have me excused, I can’t do that.”  They gave each student Christian work assignments.  One of my first assignments was street preaching.  I was scared.  I knew I couldn’t do it; but I did.  Then there was preaching in a rest home.  Again I had to cast myself on Philippians 4:13.  Then there was the assignment in the city jail.  They warned me that some of the prisoners might cuss and insult me.  Again I found that I could do all things through Christ.

It was there that the lord called me to be a missionary in Argentina.  I knew that meant doing deputation and learning another language. I thought there was no way I could do that.     I had a hard time speaking in English, let alone in a new language.  Again the Lord had to keep bothering me about it until I was willing to say, “Ok, Lord, I’m willing.”  It was about that time that I met the girl who was to be my wife and we prayed together about it.

We were married in the summer after we graduated from Bible College.  Before that we made application to a mission board that had a work in Argentina.  They said I would have to have seminary training to be accepted.  I said, “Oh no, Lord.  Back to the books again?”  I thought I was ready to go to Argentina.  In my mind, seminary was only for Greek and Hebrew scholars.  I said, “Lord have me excused.”  But he wouldn’t have it any other way.  My bride and I loaded all our earthly belongings in our old car and a U Haul trailer and went to Minneapolis, Minnesota where I had enrolled in Central Baptist Theological Seminary.  The Lord led in that.  They made a Baptist out of me.  I struggled with it for a time but finally I realized they had the Bible to back up what they were teaching me.  Seminary was another time of finding things I couldn’t do except for the grace of God.  Some of the most thrilling experiences in life are finding what’s included in those “all things” of Philippines 4:13.  What they have been for me, they may not be for you.

Before going to seminary I was ready to go to Argentina but, when I graduated I was saying, “I can’t do it Lord.”  Seminary didn’t teach me everything there was to learn.  It just made me aware of how much more I needed to learn.  I had heard of many pastors who had overwhelming problems in their churches.  I ask myself, “What will you do if you face those problems in Argentina?  I won’t have any one to turn to for advice.”

This time it seemed that the Lord was ready to agree with me.  I wasn’t ready to go.  He opened the door for me to pastor a small church in Iowa.  I had to face some overwhelming problems but it was a tremendous learning experience.  After three years the Lord was saying, “Now it’s time to go to Argentina.”  Again I was saying, “I can’t do it, Lord.”  We had four children by then.  It’s not very common to find someone making plans to pack up and move with his family to the Southern hemisphere.  I said “I can’t do it” and went off to candidate for the pastorate of a church in Montana.  They said, “We don’t want you.”  I realized that the only one who wanted me was God and he wanted me in Argentina.  Again I said “yes” to him.

We applied to a mission board and were accepted.  We started on deputation.  Deputation was a continuous succession of saying, “I can’t but I can through Christ.” After spending two and a half years on deputation we still lacked a lot of support.  I was discouraged.  I wanted to quit.  To quit would mean I would have to admit I was a failure.  It would mean that all we had sacrificed and lived for during the last two and a half years had been in vain.  We went to a little church in Tipton, Iowa at that time.  I thought, “They can’t help but see that I’m discouraged.”  I thought, “We will never get any support from them.”  But, in less than a week the pastor called and said they were going to support us.  To me, it was a confirmation of the Lord’s promise “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  We went on with our deputation and in a short time enough money came in.

How the Lord helped us through language school and in the ministry in Argentina is another story that isn’t included in this article. It’s included in my Book, “To God Be The Glory.” Write and ask me how you can get a copy.

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