Chapter 32 Answers to Prayer
As a result of the coffee house outreach, we began to have extra meetings with the youth group, and many attended. I shared the principles I’d learned in Bill Gotthard’s seminars and had internalized through meditation on Scripture and personal application. The kids listened with rapt attention and absorbed it.
In that group were several who have become leaders in our church. Forty years later one of the girls from that group wrote to me, “Thank you for the years you spoke biblical truth into our young lives, giving us our foundation of faith and our relationship with Christ. Those pearls of wisdom have been the strong base that has kept me on the right path.”
It was the Lord who did this, not me. I was simply the tool in His hand. After He brought new freedom and a deeper surrender, His grace could flow more powerfully through me to others. This was a foretaste of the ongoing upward journey He would take me on, and the next step was not long in coming.
On the day after Thanksgiving of 1972, I stopped by His Mansion and stayed for dinner. Joe had some guests, two girls from New Jersey. After we finished eating, Joe read a passage from Philippians, and then asked if anyone wanted to comment on it. There was a short silence, then one of the girls stood up and gave a sermon!
“Wow! What a pushy woman!” I thought, “That’s a good one to stay a long way away from.” Dad’s warnings about the dangers of strong women were firmly entrenched in my mind and heart.
At Christmas my youngest brother, Sam, came home from college. He was interested in working at His Mansion, so we went over together for a visit. Those two girls were there again and I overheard a chat the shorter girl had with one of the residents.
She turned out to be a native German with a very pleasant accent, and was also very nice looking. She was the one who had delivered the after-dinner sermon. The fellow asked her how old she was. When she said she was thirty-one, he was amazed. So was I–she looked ten years younger.
“Hmm,” I thought, “five years older than I am. Along with being so pushy, that certainly eliminates her as a possibility for a wife. Besides, someone that good looking would never be interested in me!”
I some how had the idea that God would give me a fat, ugly wife in order to make me grow spiritually. That showed how much more I had to learn about the goodness of the character of God and the sinfulness of my own ascetic nature.
At Easter, the kids from His Mansion came to my church for the sunrise service and breakfast. As I was looking over the crowd trying to find my friend Joe, the German girl came up and said hello.
“Hi,” I replied, “Do you know where Joe is?”
She told me later that she was so happy to see a familiar face and then disappointed that I was unwilling to talk. Well, I had other things to do and wanted to keep my distance.
In June when I stopped by His Mansion on a Friday afternoon, the German girl came down the stairs. She had on a colorful European apron and a broom and dustpan in her hands. She looked great.
“Oh, you’re here!” I said in surprise. We had a little chat and I learned that her name was Barbara. I told her that my brother, Sam, was coming to work there in July.
After he began working at His Mansion, Sam often brought Barbara to the farm so she could get a break from her 24 hour a day responsibilities as women’s counselor, cook and cleaning woman. She and my mother became good friends.
That summer we planned another two-week coffee house outreach with the His Mansion in the same two towns as before. During the first week we had some intense interaction with interested teens.
One evening I was sitting in a booth, talking with two fellows and Barbara came and sat down with us. I was vaguely aware that she was there, but was fully focused on the conversation and did not acknowledge her presence.
The next week we moved the coffee house to the other town. On Thursday night I worked until 9 pm in the tire shop, so didn’t get to the coffee house until about 9:45. Barbara was sitting outside on the front step talking to one of the students from His Mansion. Just as I arrived the fellow got up and went inside. I greeted her and she said, “I’d like to talk to you.”
To my surprise, I said, “I’d like to talk to you, too!” I sat down and she asked me about my time in L’Abri. She listened intently as I told her all that God had accomplished during my time there.
Then I talked about my work with the youth group and the problem I was having.
As a twenty-seven year old single male, I sensed that the girls in the group were following my teaching because they liked me, not because they were following Jesus.
I wanted them to be following Christ, so I had been praying for a woman to work with me, to lead the girls. “Would you be willing to work with me in the youth group?” I asked.
“I would certainly be willing to consider it.” She said. “but I have to talk with Stan and Joe first to see if it’s ok.”
I then suggested that we take a walk, so we went up the street, talking about our backgrounds and gifting.
“I’m tender,” I said.
“I’m firm,” said Barbara.
I told her that the Lord had told me that I would be married when I was twenty-eight.
“Do you know the girl?” she asked.
“No, I don’t.” I replied.
She told me later that God spoke to her at that moment and said, “This is the man I have for you.” Her inner response was, “Oh no!” She had just broken off a five-year engagement—the fellow couldn’t make up his mind to take the plunge—and she was not interested in starting another relationship. Plus, she did not like my last name. “Such a strange one,” she thought. But she was also willing to follow God’s leading if this was it.
I suggested we pray together, so we sat on the low stonewall in front of a church. That is when Barbara made her almost fatal mistake. As I began to pray, she moved closer, “So I can hear better,” she said, but I wasn’t so sure.
I knew women were dangerous, especially pushy ones, and this move almost sent me off to the hills. But, being of the generous sort, I decided to give her another chance. Besides, her obvious love for Jesus was very attractive to me.
Two weeks later Barbara came to my mother’s baptism at the pond on our farm. Afterwards I offered to take her home on my motorcycle. She borrowed some blue jeans from my sister, Marcia, and off we went.
This was an important ride, for I was giving her “the motorcycle test.” As we went through the curves of the road, leaning first to the right and then to the left, I was waiting to see if she would try to steer me with her hands on my waist. That would mean she was definitely too pushy for me. But she leaned nicely into the curves with me, following along perfectly, passing the test with flying colors.
When we came to the stop sign just before His Mansion, I turned and said to her, “We’re just going to be friends.” This was something I said to all the girls I met. It put a safe boundary on relationships, keeping both parties from going off on fanciful dreams.
Barbara said, “That’s fine with me.” In fact, after her painful engagement, she was very happy to have this clear boundary set in our relationship.
I suggested to Barbara that we pray together each day for the youth group and she agreed. So each morning at 8 I would call her from the tire shop and we would pray for the kids.
Picture: Fall of 1973