Owen Wilson from McFall, Missouri and Oca Matthews from Pattonsburg, Missouri went on a date to hear Reverend James O. Damron preach. Reverend James Damron was the father of our late Brother Forrest Damron. He had come to McFall to hold a week of meetings. It was there that God revealed to Oca that there was more to the Gospel than just being saved. She knew they held a higher standard than the nominal churches did. Both Owen and Oca were already saved at that time.
Soon they were married and moved to a homestead in South Dakota along with other young couples they knew from the same area. In time, a little girl, Arvilla, was born. The Lord answered many prayers for them while they lived on the homestead. Arvilla fell ill as an infant and they feared for her life, but they prayed and the Lord stepped in and she recovered. At one point, Owen was losing his eyesight, but they prayed and the Lord healed him.
Another time there had been a very dry season on the homestead and many of the farmers’ wells were going dry. It was difficult to get enough water for the livestock, as well as for the people. As Owen was praying in the house about the lack of water, the Lord revealed to him where to dig for water. The place the Lord showed him was a very unlikely spot to find water. The need was so great that he was willing to dig anyplace the Lord showed him. He went out to the barn and got his posthole digger and went to the spot and started digging. Before he got to the full length of the digger, the hole started filling with water. He went back to the barn and got a shovel and dug a larger diameter hole, and he found out he had uncovered an artesian spring. He told the other homesteaders that they could come over to his place and bring their wagons and barrels and tubs and get all the water they wanted. Some of his neighbors said to him, “Why don’t you sell the water. It is on your land and it belongs to you?” He replied, “No, it’s the Lord’s. He showed me where the water was, and you can have all you want free of charge.” The spring was still producing water when they eventually moved from the homestead.
Arvilla was getting older, and they wanted her to be in Sunday school. They realized they not only had a responsibility to clothe and feed and educate her, but she needed to learn about God and the salvation He provided. There was no Sunday school around the homestead, so they prayed that the Lord would lead them somewhere to His own people—they didn’t care where. They had been receiving all kinds of religious literature, but the Lord definitely showed them they were to come to Portland, Oregon. On August 2, 1923 they held an auction to sell their livestock, farm equipment, and household belongings. Handbills were printed and distributed.
The neighbors told them it was unwise to have the auction right at harvest time because only a few would come, and they wouldn’t get what their goods were worth. People asked why they were moving to Portland. Do you know anyone out there? Do you have a job? The answer was; they were moving to be with the Apostolic Faith people.
A heavy rain came the night before the auction and nobody could get into the fields. Therefore, the auction was a huge success, and to Oca’s embarrassment she ran out of the refreshments provided for those coming to the auction because of the big crowd.
They arrived in Portland in August of 1923 at the close of camp meeting. Eventually, they bought a small house just a block from the campground. They lived there for many years, helping in the Gospel work. Oca taught Sunday school, and along with a crew of helpers, she cooked many dinners for workers going to places like the State penitentiary. She was also in charge of cooking hundreds of meals for workers on building projects, including the East Chapel and West Chapel on the campground, and also when they built the cabins that replaced the tents. In later years she worked as a “filler” in the correspondence office. Many letters come into our office asking for prayer, advice or Gospel tracts. Usually a minister or someone who answers the letters would feel a certain tract should be sent to the individual, and it was her job to see that the tract was placed in the return envelope.
Owen cleaned the church office on Saturdays. He was also a doorkeeper or watchman at the church door on Burnside Street, because it led to the Music Room and the were racks for the musical instruments. He also helped on many of the church building projects, as well as painting projects.
Many street meetings were held, especially before the evening service was to be held in the church at Sixth and Burnside. The street workers would form a semicircle in the street where the cars park. Sometimes it would be impossible to find an empty parking spot for the meeting. Owen would go early and maybe drive around and around the block until a spot would open up where the meeting could be held. He would park in the spot and then pull out when the street workers arrived.
Owen and Oca were parents of Arvilla Jernberg and Rev. Ivon Wilson.