One night when my sister Cheri was seven or eight, she told me she was going to go on a trip to see the world. She packed her bag with snacks, and a change of clothes, and waited until after dark. We were tucked into bed and the lights turned off when she told me of her plan to go on her adventure, and made me promise not to tell anyone where she had gone. She wasn’t mad at anyone and wasn’t running away from home; she was just going on an adventure.
About an hour later, she was back. A neighbor found her walking down the road and brought her home. Imagine the surprise when my mom and dad found out she had left home and they didn’t even know it.
Somehow the two of us were born with this sense of adventure. To me, my dad was the bravest man alive. He hunted at night, in the dark, in the swamps where anything could be lurking. He even took Cheri and I with him. Cheri loved it, I didn’t. One night when Cheri was about six, he took her hunting out in the swamp. When he got out in the middle, he remembered he had forgotten his gun and told her to sit on a stump and wait for him. He could go faster if he wasn’t carrying her. He left her with his lantern, but she played with it, and tipped it over, extinguishing the flame. When he came back to the area, he thought he had left her, there was no light. He began calling her name, “Cheri! Cheri, where are you?”
“I’m over here,” came her little girl voice. He finally found her sitting right where he had left her. Was she afraid? No. Why not, you might ask? Because she trusted Daddy to come for her, and he did.
One of my dad’s greatest fears was that he would be stuck working on the farm for his entire life. He hated the farm, but it was all he had ever known. He and my grandfather worked the land and milked cows. As the years went by, the responsibility for the fields and the milking rested more and more on my dad’s shoulders. He thought it was the only life he would ever live, and then one day God took the farm away. From that day forward, he lived a life of adventure. He was never afraid to go where God sent him. The first time he went on a mission trip, he went to the Philippines. He had never been there before, and didn’t know what to expect, but it was such an exciting thing to do. Off he went, expecting his friends in the Philippines to meet him in Manila. But while he was in the air, Mount Pinitubo, a volcano in the Philippines, erupted and filled the sky with ash. The plane was forced to land and stay in Seoul Korea until the ash dissipated. He was stuck for three days, stuck in a country where he had no friends, and didn’t know the language. This was his introduction to mission trips. Little did he know that when he came home, he had caught the mission bug, and continued his travels up to a month before he died. He didn’t always like the food or his accommodations, but he always went back, telling us that if ever my mom died, and he disappeared, that we would find him somewhere on a beach in Palawan, Philippines.
My mom loved to read, and while I was growing up, she seemed particularly interested in missionary stories. That sparked a fire in both Cheri and I. She went to some night meetings called Ladies’ Missionary Society meetings, and she would take my sister and me. Sometimes there would be missionaries who would come and tell stories about what it was like to live in faraway places.
Dreaming of someday being missionaries ourselves, we would read the stories after my mom finished the book. My mind would go from country to country, wondering what it would be like, if I could one day live there. I thought of how wonderfully exotic it would be, if I could serve God in the way these brave people did. It never occurred to me that doing so might be something that you would fear. Why would anyone fear being a missionary? Surely mission work was the most amazing thing you could do with your life. And if you had given your life to the mission field, wouldn’t God take care of you? Of course he would.
Daddy took many trips to the Philippines, preaching in local churches and teaching in Bible schools. He often took Cheri with him on those early trips, and would return from each journey with stories that made my heart jealous. I really wanted to go with him, but it wasn’t my time yet.
My dad was also teaching at a Bible school a few hours’ distance from his home in New York State. The students loved to hear him teach, and he made connections that opened doors for him and I to travel both in the USA and Canada. Brian, one of the students, was pastoring a small church fellowship in Quebec, and invited us to his church several times. Brian met Pastor Paul from the Ivory Coast, West Africa, and he eventually made a trip to Africa to be with Paul. When he returned, he called my dad.
“Pastor Charley, you have to go to Africa. They need you in Africa. Please call my African friend, Paul, and tell him you are coming.”
My dad was not interested in traveling to Africa. He also didn’t think that it was proper to call up a pastor and tell him he was coming and then tell the pastor that he should receive him. He said, “Brian, I can’t call up a pastor and tell him I’m coming. You don’t do that to a pastor.”
But Brian would not give up. He was positive that God wanted my dad in Africa. Finally, he persuaded my dad to write a letter to Paul. In it he told how he was a pastor in New York State, taught in Bible schools, taught and preached in the Philippines and in Canada. He offered to come to the Ivory Coast, if the pastor was interested. When Pastor Paul received the letter, he said that his heart burned within him, and he called my dad that same day. It wasn’t long before my dad was traveling to both the Philippines and West Africa.
Fred and I went on our first mission trip to Guatemala, to be with our friends the Lewis’s. I couldn’t of been happier. There was just something about going to another country and serving the Lord in that way, that made me so excited. Unfortunately for Fred, he got very sick, and spent the first week in bed. He was so stressed and frustrated about the trip that when we finally arrived back into the United States; he got off the plane in Miami, and stepped outside of the airport terminal, just to kiss the ground saying, “I will never go on another mission trip as long as I live.” He couldn’t have been more wrong!
Dad was always asking Fred to go with him on his mission trips, but Fred didn’t want to go. He finally told my dad that if he ever got an invitation to Russia, then he might be interested. I think Fred thought it wasn’t probable that a trip to Russia would ever happen. But the day came when Daddy was asked to go to Russia, and he said, “no, but my son-in-law said he wanted to go to Russia. I’ll send him.” Soon Fred was on a plane headed to Russia. He came home excited about the Bible school he had taught at, and with an invitation for us to move there, and direct that same Bible school. I said yes, sight unseen. What could go wrong?
My dad wasn’t afraid to send us on the mission field. But he thought I should make a trip to Russia before I moved there. I remember when we first told him we were going to go to Russia to live; he was excited for us. He really believed that this was what God wanted us to do. And he was supporting us 100%.
We traveled to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Minsk, Belarus, traveling by train and by bus. It really was a lovely trip, and I loved every minute. We came home with a confidence that we should definitely move there when school opened for the fall semester, however it would not be that easy.
We arrived home from our scouting out trip, about two weeks before Christmas, and the day after Christmas, as I walked out of the house, I had a major hemorrhage. At that moment, in about ten minutes of time, I lost a third of my blood supply. I ended up, eventually, going to a cancer hospital and having surgery. Of course we were very confused, because we had just decided to move to Russia. What now? Yet, even in the middle of that trial, I couldn’t help but wonder at the goodness of God, to keep that hemorrhage from happening while we were traveling in Russia.
Before I knew I had cancer, I promised a friend to go with her on a prayer journey to Tunisia, North Africa. But after the cancer diagnosis, I wasn’t sure if I would ever go on another trip again, let alone go to North Africa. But I really wanted to go. After surgery and just before having radiation, my friends (the ones organizing the trip) called me and asked if I still wanted to go. They were willing to delay the trip one month if I thought I could travel. My answer was yes. I had a couple of other invitations as well, to go to Ohio to sing on a Christian television show, and also speak at a Women’s Aglow meeting. I was wondering if I should do all of those things since it was only a few weeks after major surgery, and I hadn’t gone through radiation treatment yet. Had I bitten off more than I could chew?
I remember asking my dad what he thought. He said, “Definitely go to Tunisia. Don’t worry about the other places. You can always travel around the USA. If you feel you should cut something out, don’t go to Ohio or you could skip the Aglow meeting, but definitely go to North Africa.” He was always one to say yes to the adventure. And so, against the wishes of my surgeon and my grandmother, I packed up my bags and went with my friends on a prayer journey to North Africa.
After that, Fred and I moved to Russia, and it wasn’t long after we arrived things changed. Our students were arrested, (a story for another time) and we had to return home. I was devastated. I had sold my house, given away most of my possessions, put our only child in Bible school and moved to Russia for what ended up being a two-week mission trip.
I remember sitting on the plane crying. There were two prophets from California who were on the same plane, and one of them came over to me and said, “God saw your willingness to go to Russia. Nothing is lost. God has a new place for you.”
What I didn’t know was, while we were on the plane coming home, my dad was on the phone talking to his friend Pastor Paul in The Ivory Coast. “My daughter and her husband are missionaries, and they have no place to go. They used up all their money on a trip to Russia. Would you like them to come?”
Paul said yes, and we went to Africa. I’ll never forget watching Fred check the flight map, trying to figure out where we were flying to, because he did not know where we were going. We were just doing what we were told, and we expected God would meet us there. My dad assured us that everything would be ok, and it was! More than ok.
One time I was in the Philippines with my niece Katie Lynn. We were way-out in one of the villages on the island of Palawan. This island is only about twenty-five to thirty miles wide. You are never over fifteen miles from the ocean. We were staying at a lovely Bible school, when my dad called me on the phone which he didn’t do very often. He said, “Deb, I just called to say goodbye.”
I said, “You called me to say goodbye? What do you mean?”
“Well, I was watching the news,” he said. “And there was a big earthquake in Japan. Because of the quake, they are forecasting a powerful tsunami. I was looking at the map, and I saw the direction they are predicting the tsunami will go. It’s going to hit right where you are. I know the land is flat, and I know there’s no place for you to go. So I just thought that I would say goodbye, and to tell you that I’ll see you in heaven.”
I told him thank you and that I loved him. It never occurred to me to be afraid. It was a grand adventure for sure. The tsunami never came, but I never forgot that moment when he called
“just to say goodbye.” My dad wasn’t worried about me. He knew we would see each other in heaven one day. That was just the way he was.
Daddy wrote this poem after his first Philippine trip.
This story starts a few years ago
When on a Ministry trip I did go
To preach the Word on a tropical isle
With an older Missionary I’d be staying a while
Well I was told would be a nice thing
If for my host a gift I could bring
And it was said that this brother would be pleased
If I should take him some ripe Blue Cheese
Now Blue Cheese we all know has a reputation
For smelling bad in any situation.
But I got a big chunk and wrapped it well
And rest assured it never would smell
Well things went fine I got under way
Till I had to change planes and was told I must stay
Seems a volcano blew at my destination
So three days were spent half way waiting
Well the weather was hot and the crowds did squeeze
And wouldn’t you know they squashed my blue cheese
And as we traveled from airport to hotel
The smell was worse than I can tell
You talk about getting a cold shoulder
Folks were doing all they could to avoid that odor
They must have thought it was B.O.
Probably thought it was me but how was they to know
And even though they all a foreign language spoke
In any tongue I stunk! Now that’s no joke.
Well I pitched it out at the Hotel room
And scrubbed it down and soaked it with perfume
But for the next three days I was in despair
Was worse than at first it just hung in the air
All the perfume did was add a `sweet smell’
And it was so strong it would cast you into a spell
You see in the tropics where it really gets hot
When things smell bad they smell bad a lot
Now; to this very day when that perfume I smell
I think it’s Blue Cheese I swear I can’t tell
When I finally arrived t’was raining real hard
We emptied that valise and hung it up in the yard
Turned it wrong side out and left it all night long
By the next afternoon the odor was gone
There is a moral in this we can find I hope
That this wasn’t on me just a good joke
When there is sin in our life and it begins to smell
You can’t cover it up others can tell
You think Blue Cheese will make a bulldog choke
The cover up will make your eyeballs float
When we try our sin to conceal
It just adds to the smell and makes it worse until
We can’t tell the cover from the curse
You wonder if your friends “know the score”
But they just don’t seem to come around anymore
And while you question what may be the reason
They probably think you have a Blue Cheese Demon
Now the choice is yours choose your own plight
You can soak in the Spirit and Expose it to the light
Or just sit around till you get really ripe
No; although it may cause you some pain
Empty it out and let it soak In the Holy Ghost rain