Sorry I didn’t post last night–got my second covid shot and it totally incapacitated me for 18 hours!
More from my autobio: Chapter 30 Ministry Opportunities
The tire business was also a place of flexibility for me. I could take time off if I wanted as long as Dad was well. So in the summer of 1971 I set up a short-term trip to Alaska for the church youth group.
The plan was to go to a school near the town of Palmer, Alaska where my mentor from Los Angeles, Jewel and her husband taught. In the end only one young fellow went with me, but it was a great experience for both of us. He got to see the world and experience many new things. I got to spend more valuable time with Jewel and her husband and received more helpful mentoring.
On a weekend off I went down to Homer and visited my first principal teacher at Savoonga, Jim and his family. And at the end of our time there I flew to Nome and visited Dave and Mitzy Shinen
As usual, Dave gave me good and wise input. During a Bible study at his house we looked at Psalm 37: 4 “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
“This word ‘delight,’” said Dave, “is seen most clearly when our minds are free. What do our thoughts go to? A person? Our sports team? A hobby? That is the TRUE object of our interest, our affection, our delight.
“For those of you who have fallen in love, you know very well what this means: you can’t stop thinking about that wonderful person in your life. You delight in him or her.
“That is how it should be with God: our thoughts going automatically to Him and the wonder of His character.”
I tucked that definition away, not knowing that it would be a key to some questions I would have later on.
While in Nome I also visited some of my Eskimo acquaintances who were working there and was amazed to see how short they were! When you are living among a people, the physical differences get minimized; but to be suddenly reintroduced to the same situation brings these differences into stark contrast.
Returning to Connecticut near the end of the summer, I settled again into the rhythm of life. The tire business went through a predictable sales cycle each year. January through March were slow months. Then with the advent of good weather people began to think about buying summer tires and things picked up with good sales going through July.
August and September were slow, with vacation and school expenses taking people’s attention and money, although work on farm equipment remained steady through the harvest time.
Fall brought a new influx of customers getting ready for winter, and the first day of snow triggered a deluge of business that often went through the holidays. We had more than one customer who bought his wife a pair of snow tires for Christmas!
In this setting, God was beginning to bring new influences into my life that would give specific direction for my future. I wanted a new Bible and went to the nearest Christian bookstore run by a retired navy man named Stan Farmer.
While waiting on me, Stan told me about a half-way house, called His Mansion, that he and others were starting in a town about ten miles from my home. It was housed in the old mansion of a textile mill owner, thus the name. He invited me to stop by and see the work, which I did.
There I met Joe Wagner, the acting director, and we became good friends. Each Friday I went on a wholesale route, delivering tires to garages and gas stations in the area. On my way home I drove by His Mansion and usually stopped in for a visit, often staying for supper.
At the end of that summer I was walking along the edge of a lake in a nearby town, thinking about the girls I’d been attracted to lately–although I had not told any of them about that attraction.
There were four of them, and I realized that all of them were just eighteen while I had recently turned twenty-four. “Hmm,” I thought, “if they go on to college that means I’d have to wait at least four years before I could marry any of them.”
At that moment a realization came to me, not an actual voice, but more like a proclamation: “You’ll be married when you are 28.” It was such a strong impression and so definite that I took it to be from God. Subsequent events proved this to be accurate.
From that point on I basically stopped looking for a wife, trusting God to look for me. I quit dating and gave myself fully to working with the young people in our church.
During the early summer of 1972 I suffered a very painful back problem which put me in bed for several days. The Lord wanted to have a word with me about the future and called me aside so I could spend some uninterrupted time with Him.
I had been praying about going to seminary, and had even applied to one, but during this time of bed rest, I sensed clearly that this was not the route God wanted me to take.
Somehow I understood that He could better use me as an “ordinary guy” than as a trained professional. As a businessman I could be an instrument for God, sharpened in the everyday work world, mixing with ordinary people, sharing my faith with them in practical ways.
This is what I was already doing. In fact, ever since starting back in the tire shop, it had been my goal–one God had put in my heart—to share the gospel with each customer I waited on. If no opportunity opened up in conversation, I would at least give them a little tract called “Have a Good Day” when they left.
A number of believing customers who had been looking for a good church began attending Calvary Chapel when I invited them. Because of this, some of the members there joked that they should put a sign over our shop door, “Calvary Chapel Annex!”
The second direction the Lord had for me while I lay in bed was the idea of our church having a coffee house outreach in two nearby towns where there were a lot of young drug users–and to invite His Mansion to join us in this endeavor
The idea was confirmed when very shortly after I had recovered, the Lord brought into my life a fellow whose ministry was helping to run coffee houses. Roland Mitcheson came with a British accent, his guitar and great experience to lead us in this improbable outreach.
None of us had been druggies; we knew nothing of the culture and its dangers; we just knew that these kids needed to hear the gospel and we could share it with them.
The Lord provided all that was needed, including places to rent, furniture, money and a group of pastors to oversee it. In that first year only one or two of the young people who came to the coffee house made commitments to Christ, but they were certainly worth the effort.
Picture: the tire shop in later years