Seven Months In The Wilderness

July 3, 2012

Seven Months In The Wilderness

“For ye know the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich”    (II Corinthians 8:9).

          God’s grace is always sufficient, even for wilderness experiences.  There were seven months in my life when I experienced an abundant measure of the grace of God.  At the time, I was not aware of it.  I didn’t even know I was in the wilderness.  As I look back, after 40 plus years of Christian experience, I am amazed at the providence of God that protected and guided me during those precarious seven months.  They began after I became a child of God late in my second year as a student at the Uni. Of Nebraska.  I had been exposed to the gospel for almost two years before that.  I had seen other students living a consistent Christian life.  I wasn’t ignorant of what it meant to be a follower of Christ.  I had seen it in practice in the lives of others.

New Christians need to be guided in their Christian life.  That comes by being in a good church and being counseled and encouraged by mature Christians.  I never had that.  I left the university, and nearly all Christian influence, to go back to my hometown in June of 1957.

I spent the first few weeks at home waiting for the hay harvest to start in hopes I could get a job on one of the local ranches.  It was during those days that I realized I needed to be in church.  There were only four churches in the entire county.  In Ericson there was a Catholic church, a Methodist church and a Free Methodist church with a woman preacher.  In Bartlett there was a Methodist church that was served by the same pastor that served the Methodist church in Ericson.  Since I went to High School in Bartlett, most of my acquaintances were there.  That’s why I chose to go to the Methodist church in Bartlett.

During those days I was struggling with the most appropriate way of sharing my faith in Christ with my family.  I was naturally shy.  Again and again I ask myself, how can I share something so precious and intimate with loved ones who are almost certain to have a negative reaction?  At last the thought came to me; if I’m going to go to church I’ll have to use the family car.  I still didn’t have one of my own.  I decided to ask if anyone wanted to go with me if I went to church.  For several days I tried to force myself to ask that question when we were gathered at the table for a meal.  Finally Sunday morning came.  It was now or never.  Breakfast was almost over and soon everyone would get up and leave.  Finally the words were forced out of my mouth; “Would anyone like to go to church with me if I go this morning?”  I waited for an answer but, silence.  One by one they left the table without saying a word.  I too left the table, went and changed my cloths, got the car out and went to church.  That, to me, was one of the first manifestations of the mighty power of the grace of God.  I could easily have said, “Church really isn’t that important.”  If I had gone that route it would have changed my destiny.

The Methodist church didn’t contribute much to my spiritual growth.  I only found one elderly couple in the church that showed much evidence of being born again Christians.  Even they were ignorant of a lot of spiritual truth.  I tried to help them, but with my limited Bible knowledge, I’m sure I wasn’t very successful.  Even though I couldn’t speak intelligently about the doctrinal deviations of the church, I could sense that there were a number of things that didn’t conform to Biblical Christianity.  Again the Almighty was looking after one of his little ones to make sure he didn’t fall into a spiritual trap.

After spending a month or six weeks working in the hay harvest the rancher I was working for brought me back to Bartlett one morning.  I called home to have my father come and get me.  While waiting for his arrival I visited with friends around town.  I stopped at the bank and Bob Martin, the vice president of the bank, ask me if I was looking for a job.  Apart from working in the bank, he had an agri-business.  He had two combines and an Arial spraying business.  He had been a bomber pilot in the Second World War and was well qualified to be an Ariel spray pilot.  My job was to help him with the spraying business.  He rented a motel room for me where I stayed.

That was another turn of events ordered by the Lord.  I always had an interest in airplanes so I loved the job.  We often went out early in the morning to spay for grasshoppers in cornfields.  He taught me to hold up a flag every 14 rows so he could see which row to fly over.  He would fly over my head and I would count off 14 more rows while he turned around and came back for another pass.  Then I helped mix up the insecticide and fill the belly tank on the plane.  Any spare time I had was spent washing the bugs off the windshield and leading edges of the wings of the plane.  We operated out of farmers newly mown alfalfa fields that served as a landing strip.  I often served as “front man” for the business.  Farmers who saw the plane flying around would come and talk to me about having him spray for them.

We didn’t work on Sunday.  I went to church in the morning and then went out home for dinner and spent the afternoons at home.  I would go back to my motel room in the evenings.  Shortly after I started working for Bob Martin I bought my first car.  It was a 1938 Chevy.

When the spraying season was over we started operating the combines.  That too was a new and exciting experience for me.  We harvested some wheat.  Then we started on alfalfa and sweet clover seed.  After that we harvested grass seed. When the cold weather came we started on the corn.

Bartlett was a small town.  One day the latest news by the grapevine was that two Mormon missionaries had come to town to see if they could make some converts.  Someone heard that they were indignant because the Methodist pastor wouldn’t let them us the church for public meetings so they started going door to door.  It wasn’t long before they came knocking at my motel door.  I knew nothing about what the Mormon religion taught.  I had read about how they left a trail across the prairie on their way to Utah.  That left me with a lot for respect for them.  They set up their flannel graph in my room and gave me a lesson.  They ask if I had any questions.  I sure did.  I started asking questions about the Bible.  It was obvious to me that they had very little Bible knowledge.  They came one other time and gave me another lesson but I could see that what they were teaching me was light years away from Biblical Christianity.  I didn’t have enough Bible knowledge to refute their teaching but something told me it wasn’t right.  I told them I wasn’t interested but they didn’t want to take “no” for an answer.  The night I expected them to come back I decided I was going to turn off the light and not answer the door.  Sure enough, they drove up in front and knocked on my door.  I was as still as a mouse.  I heard one of them say, “That’s strange.  His car is here but he must not be here.” Fortunately, they didn’t come back again.  Again it was the grace of God that spared me from falling into a false teaching.

I spent many of my evening reading my Bible and listening to Christian radio programs.  One that caught my attention was called “The Voice Of China And Asia.”  The man in charge was a man by the name of Bob Hammond.  Their emphasis was on missions.  I don’t recall that they made any special appeal for Christian workers but God used it to speak to me.  I felt God saying, “I want you.”  I argued with Him saying, “ But I can’t do that.”  I hadn’t made any great success of college and I knew I would have to go back to the classroom to be a servant of the lord.  I kept listening to the program and God kept speaking to me.  I kept holding out.  Finally, some time in late November, I finally gave in.  I fell on my knees beside my bed.   With tears rolling down my cheeks I said, “Lord, I don’t know what I can do.  I feel so inadequate but I’m yours.  What ever I can do, I’ll do it.”  That was one of the most important decisions in my life; a decision I have never regretted.  Several times, when speaking to youth groups, I have told them; “I can’t tell you how glad I am that I said “yes” to God that night.  If I hadn’t, I would now be saying, “what a fool I was.”

As I look back over those seven months I marvel at the way the providence of God ruled and overruled.  Again and again I was at a fork in the road.  It was not within me to make the right decision.  Some times I sought God’s leading but I’m sure there were many times when I didn’t, but the good Lord overruled and guided me.

The first of January of 1958 I packed all my earthly goods in my old 38 Chevy and went off to Omaha Nebraska to enroll in Grace Bible Institute.  I had heard of the school through my friends at the University of Nebraska.  There I found myself in a good Christian environment.  The first evening I was there all the students gathered in the dinning hall for the evening meal.  That was the custom.  Before the meal they always sang a chorus and someone led in prayer.  That night the chorus chosen was:

“God knows the way through the wilderness.

All I have to do is follow.

Strength for the day is mine all the way

And all that I need for tomorrow.”


That was a fitting climax to my seven months in the wilderness.


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