In 1997 Barbara said she thought we ought to build a little house on the family farm in CT. It would be for my parents if they needed it, and for us for furloughs and retirement.
I didn’t like the idea; it didn’t seem necessary and would tie us down. However, I was willing to pray about it and see where the Lord went with it. This was a pretty safe course for me to take, as a lot of pieces would have to come together for such a possibility to materialize.
First of all, the farm was under a mortgage; it was highly unlikely that the bank would allow a building lot to be sold out from under their control. Second, my father had repeatedly refused to sell the lot we were interested in. Third, he would surely want more for it than we could pay.I decided that if the Lord could remove those obstacles, then I would be willing to go ahead with Barbara’s suggestion.
First, we talked to Dad and he agreed to sell the lot to us for the agricultural price, which was far lower than market value. We would be able to pay that much.
Then, in September I had a speaking engagement in Maine. Driving up from PA, I would pass through CT, so I got an appointment with an officer at the bank, which held the mortgage on the farm. In our interview he was hesitant when I explained what I wanted. But after some thought he responded, “I suppose we could let one acre go, I guess.”
“Well,” I said, “unfortunately, in Canterbury the minimum building lot is two acres”.
He thought again for a moment and then said, “Ok, I guess we can do that!” He took me to the man in the bank who would rewrite the mortgage, then told me to see the surveyor whose office was across the street and gave me the address of the lawyer who had done the title search for the mortgage.
His office was also just down the street.
I able to visit each one that afternoon, working through the arrangements and in two hours did what I found out later often took months to accomplish!
These were just the first of a long series of God sightings that we saw during the process of building our little house.
After looking at many other houses and plans for ideas, we designed ours as a passive solar one, facing south, with large windows to let the sun shine in during the winter. Barbara measured our furniture and we made it just big enough to hold what we had: 24 by 36 feet.
When the ground was tested, it showed that we needed a special septic system. This required more surveying and I hired a different surveyor to do it. He turned out to be a believer and also a solar power enthusiast, so he gave us informed input and set the house to face exactly south.
In early July of 1998 I contracted with a concrete man to have the foundation poured. We planned to take three weeks of vacation starting at the end of July to try to get the shell of the house up, so it was critical that the foundation be done when we arrived.
I didn’t realize how difficult it is normally to get a foundation done quickly in the summer when there is such demand for construction. But the Lord facilitated things and our foundation was done by the time we got there.
We bought the windows for the house at a surplus place in Pennsylvania and loaded them into our old Plymouth van along with a lot of other supplies. Then Nat and I set off one Saturday morning, heading first to New Jersey to pick up Josh’s girlfriend, Elka, from a training program and then going on to Connecticut.
However, just as we got into New Jersey, the van began to make interesting noises. Then the engine’s temperature gauge began to climb. We stopped to check it out but could see nothing obviously wrong. However, once stopped, it refused to start. So there we were, stuck beside the road with all our building supplies.
We prayed and asked God for help. A driver stopped and called the police for us. An officer arrived shortly and he called for a tow truck. However, I had no AAA or other service, so was apprehensive about how much this was going to cost, for I was at the mercy of…well, the mercy of God. It was a chance to trust God through thanksgiving.
The tow truck pulled us to a storage lot. The man there helped me call a place, which had a big van we could rent. We transferred all of our building supplies into the rental van and continued on to pick up Elka and head for Connecticut.
The next morning I was scheduled to speak at a church north of Boston. So I borrowed Dad’s old Ford Explorer and drove up there with Nat and Elka for the sermon and then headed back home, arriving late that afternoon.
Monday morning early, the three of us were at work on the foundation. Elka cut up old styrofoam insulation pieces to put under the cement floor that would soon be poured in the foundation, This would keep the winter frost from cooling the floor. Nat cleaned off the outside of the foundation and painted it with tar.
I worked on laying out the plumbing that would run under the concrete floor, which was a daunting task, as I had never done anything like this before. The slant of the plumbing had to be just right to connect properly with the sewer pipes or they wouldn’t work—and once they were under concrete they couldn’t be corrected.
I prayed and an idea came. I remembered that a friend had a surveyor’s transit; he agreed to loan it to me. Using the surveyor’s map, I found his main reference point at the base of a telephone pole. Starting there, I measured the height of the sewer pipe from the upper side of the house to the lower point where it exited and laid the plumbing pipe out along that line, hoping it was right.
Two weeks later when the septic system was put in, the foreman told me that I was only off one quarter of an inch in my measurements! That was much more the Lord’s doing than mine! A definite God sighting!
We pressed on with the work, but on Wednesday I had to return the rented van to New Jersey, so I set out very early, hoping to be back that evening. A friend there offered to use his AAA card to have my van towed from the parking lot to his repair man. After that was done, I made my way into to NYC and took a bus back to Connecticut. Nat and Elka met me in New Haven and we were back home by 11pm.
The next day we began to put in the center beam, having, already put the framework up around the edges of the house. This beam needed to be in place before the men came to pour the cement floor the next day.
We worked from dawn until after dark, but weren’t able to finish it, so we had a short night of sleep and were back at it again at 4:30 am. When the cement truck rolled in at 6, everything was in place and ready for the new floor to be poured.