April 1, 2014

In God's Care

Looking up, I saw a man walking through the bank entrance and expected to greet him by name, as we usually did at our small savings and loan office. The sun was shining behind him, but not bright enough to obscure the fact that I didn’t know him—and that he was wearing a stocking over his face.

We had an extremely dangerous problem on our hands, and I knew it. I was seated at a new accounts desk, training a new teller, while my manager and a co-worker were behind the teller counter. I watched their smiles disappear as the masked man approached them. He pointed his gun at them, handed them a plastic bag, and demanded that they empty their drawers of cash.

My mind was whirling, and all I could think to do was pray, “God, what should I do?” Immediately a memory came to me from my childhood. As a little girl, I had devoured the stories of Andrew van der Bijl, more commonly known as Brother Andrew or “God’s smuggler.” He was a man called by God during the Cold War to smuggle Bibles into Communist countries. He would load his car full of Bibles, and as he approached the checkpoints leading into Romania, Russia, or another country where God’s Word was forbidden, he would pray a specific prayer: “Lord, You have made blind eyes to see; now make seeing eyes blind.” The border guards would look around in his car, inspect his trunk, and send him on through, never seeing the Bibles! Sitting there in the bank with an armed robber, I knew exactly what to do.

As the gunman took the bag of cash and told my manager and co-worker to lay face down on the floor, I prayed, “Lord, You have made blind eyes to see, now make seeing eyes blind.” The man grabbed the bag of money and quickly walked out the back door, mere inches from my back. As soon as he was away from the building, I locked the doors behind him and called for my co-workers to get up. All the while, my heart was full of gratitude that my prayer had been heard and answered! The gunman apparently never saw me or my trainee, even though he looked right at us and walked so close that I could feel the air move as he passed.

The thief was caught two weeks later, after committing another robbery. My manager was impressed with how calm I had been, but I had to confess that it wasn’t me. It was the peace of God flooding me that had kept me together. It wasn’t the first time, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last time God worked on my behalf.

My Christian heritage goes back to my grandparents, great-grandparents, and probably even before them. My mom always took my sister, Dondi, and me to Sunday school and the Sunday morning service, and I was raised to know that I needed to ask Jesus into my heart if I wanted to go to Heaven.

At age twelve, a turning point came. My parents were strict, so I hadn’t done a lot of bad things, but my heart and mind were sinful. I was full of anger, jealousy, and a strong desire to have my own way. As you might imagine, I wasn’t easy to get along with. God started calling my heart, and I knew I had a decision to make.

Every year Grandma Peery would take my sister and me to camp meeting, and she expected us to go to the altar and pray after service, at least for a few minutes. That year, as we knelt to pray, my aunt came and knelt across from us and asked us, “Are you saved?” It is such a simple question, but it has eternal ramifications. I knew the answer wasn’t yes, which meant it was a resounding no. My sister and I both burst into tears, our hearts full of unspoken remorse. In a matter of minutes, Jesus made such a change in each of our hearts that we would never be the same. That day was our mom’s birthday, so we called her and yelled joyfully, “Happy Birthday, we got saved!”

The Lord sanctified me a year later, and at that time He did a wonderful thing with my temperament. For many years I had been resentful of my sister because she seemed so perfect to me. At age thirteen, I knew something had to change, and I couldn’t do it by myself. I needed to be sanctified. When I told the Lord I would give Him anything He was asking of me, He sanctified me and took all those feelings away. I was amazed! I felt love for my sister that hadn’t been there before. What a gift!

When I began my spiritual journey, I had no idea where it would lead. There were restitutions to make, which were relatively small from an adult perspective, but they loomed large in my young eyes. The Lord brought them to my mind gradually so I wasn’t overwhelmed by how many apologies and situations I needed to make right.

In time, I graduated from high school and then married the son of the pastor of our church. Gary and I moved to Corvallis, Oregon, and the Lord provided a job so I could support us while he was in school. We didn’t have much money, but we had a big God! On Sundays, we traveled about forty minutes to attend church in Dallas. Every Sunday, without fail, we would be invited to someone’s house for dinner. We not only had a good meal, but the saints would visit with us, give up their bedrooms so we could rest, and do what they could to make us feel loved and welcome. These weren’t fancy homes, but they were full of the love of God. This made a tremendous impact on Gary and me. To this day, we do our best to open our home to others as often as possible, and we feel blessed by those who come. Just three days after Gary graduated from college, the Lord provided a job for him nearby and we were thrilled to be able to move to Dallas.

Before long, there was a baby on the way, but to our surprise she was born a month early. Angela weighed only four pounds, fifteen ounces, and was not permitted to leave the hospital. I felt hopeless that she would ever come home with us. One day as I sat beside her bed, Gary’s father came for an unexpected visit. I asked him to pray for her, so he pulled out his anointing oil and gently ran his finger across her tiny forehead. As he prayed, for the first time in days I began to rest in Jesus. The next morning when I walked into the nursery, the doctors said our daughter could go home! We were so grateful.

The doctor literally ran while pushing my hospital bed down the hall to surgery, explaining that they were hoping to save our baby’s life.

After our second daughter was born, I realized God used the experience with our firstborn to lovingly prepare us for the next baby. She came twelve weeks early. The doctor literally ran while pushing my hospital bed down the hall to surgery, explaining that they were hoping to save our baby’s life. At church, God’s people began to pray.

A couple of hours later I woke up from surgery and learned that our baby girl was alive, but very sick. At only two pounds, three ounces, she was taken by ambulance to a bigger hospital in Portland, about an hour away, where they were better equipped to care for her needs. The doctors didn’t have much hope to offer us, but we knew the Author of hope and we went to His Word. Luke 18:15-16 says, “And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” So Gary and I brought our infant to Jesus. Katrina spent seventy-seven days in the hospital in Portland, and Jesus touched her many times. Today she is a healthy young woman, married, and with two sons of her own.

When we were expecting our third daughter, our hearts were full of joy and fear. It was a difficult pregnancy and I spent the last ten weeks in and out of the hospital. Confined to a hospital bed in my living room, I was unable to take care of our daughters, who were just three and four years old. However, our wonderful church family stepped in to help. Each day of the week a different family would take care of our girls. Sherilyn finally arrived, very tiny but healthy. Our family truly has been blessed.

A few years later, I was assigned the seventh and eighth grade cabin at the upcoming youth camp. I felt terribly inadequate for the task. Although I was saved and sanctified, I knew my need for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. I had not been seeking that experience very seriously, but I became desperate for God’s help.

My daughters and I went to camp meeting in Portland that summer. One evening, my sister agreed to watch my girls while I went to the service. I went, determined to get everything I could from the meeting. As the altar call was given, I went forward to pray with a heart full of desire to be whatever God wanted me to be, to listen to His voice, and to be ready for whatever He wanted to do in my heart. I pled for whatever I would need to make a difference in the lives of the girls who were going to be in my youth camp cabin. As I prayed, I felt as if I were kneeling at the feet of Jesus. It was an indescribable feeling of awe, reverence, and wonder, and completely humbling. I had never experienced anything like that before, yet it felt like right where I belonged. I wanted to stay there forever. Even though I was hardly able to speak, my mind was giving praise and honor to God for the gift of His presence. The words of praise began coming out of my mouth in another language, but God still understood every word. I was filled with such joy; I had been given exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. I was ready for whatever God called me to do, at youth camp and at home.

We were blessed to be a part of the Dallas church congregation for seventeen years, and then our family moved to the Seattle, Washington, area. Our hearts missed Dallas, but we watched in amazement as God made it so clear that we were where we needed to be. God provided housing for us in Seattle, good schools for our daughters, and helped our home in Dallas to sell almost immediately in a depressed market. He worked out all the details in miraculous and loving ways, and the church in Seattle welcomed us with open arms and hearts.

Over the years, God has given Gary and me blessing after blessing. To see our children serving the Lord is one of our greatest joys, whether it is in our local church or another country. God’s great faithfulness has reached behind and before us, and is all around us every day. My never-ending desire is to continually strive to be what Jesus wants me to be!

apostolic faith magazine