In continuing on from Part 4...
In 1985, Husband was sure God was calling him to be in aviation ministry. Me? Not so much. I could not fathom traversing to the remotest part of the earth, walking though the jungles and marshes, picking leeches off my legs to let the peoples know that Jesus loves them. I’m not making light of missionary endeavors, I’m simply telling you where I was at that point in time.
It happened one Sunday when our church hosted a couple to come and speak to the congregation about their missionary work. I felt safe as their missionary work was in France! I could do France! A romantic language, good food, fashion, and croissants! Yes… I felt safe with this couple making a presentation.
Approximately five slides (yes… it was that long ago) into their presentation they stopped at a picture of a four seated Cessna plane. The couple began expounding upon the virtue of those in mission aviation. I was only three rows (pews) from them and I’m sure the look of horror upon my face spoke volumes.
If that didn’t then perhaps it was the low, guttural sounds and sobbing that did it. It could have been either, I don’t recall. I was wailing, weeping and rocking in my seat. Persons from rows ahead were turning to look at me as if I were possessed by an evil spirit!
What I do recall was it was at that precise moment that I knew the Lord wanted my attention. More than that, He wanted my willingness to follow Him in obedience.
We visited and applied to become missionaries at Missionary Maintenance Service (MMS). MMS prepares aircraft for missions while training aircraft mechanics for mission service. This isn't the normal training someone in a technical school would receive, meaning you don’t take a part off the shelf and replace the inoperable one, often you have to fabricate the part or repair it so it will work.
A large part of this endeavor was to raise our own support by visiting churches and finding those who would contribute on a monthly basis. I learned a lot from these treks. We would attend the church service to give a small “tickler” about mission aviation and then return for the evening service where we had the entire service.
I learned that small rural, struggling churches were the most generous as were the ‘widows’ who lived on a fixed income. They would either have a pot-luck to honor us or the Pastor and his wife would have us in for a home cooked dinner.
I learned that being invited to large metropolitan churches was a sometimes empty endeavor. One such occasion when we were invited to a large church in Akron Ohio, I had a feeling, just a nudge and told the Hubs to be sure we had enough money for fuel and for meals, should it be necessary. It was. There was no pot-luck, there was no one who offered to take us and break bread with us and there was no “love offering” to help with the travel expenses. We had to spend the hours between services in our vehicle on a hot, muggy summer’s day.
I am ever so glad that “nudge” was from the Holy Spirit! I want you to know that I’m not sharing this out of spite or meanness but only because I want to grow up to be like those widow women!
I hope, I pray what I’ve written will stir you into action or service should a missionary ever visit your church. Ask them to dinner; slip them some cash to help with travel expenses. Just open yourselves to the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit.
We never were able to raise our support to a level that would sustain a four member family and Hubs health issues also precluded that. But such a learning experience it was. I also learned that our mission may very well be in our own backyard.
When we determined to move in 1986, we moved into a 100 year old farmhouse on 20 acres in a very rural, primitive section of Ohio in Coshocton County. The berg itself was called Tiverton Center and was the second highest point in the state (but still below sea level). This old house needed everything done to it! We painted, we stripped woodwork, we cleaned and finally painted and stenciled. We called it home.
You've no doubt heard of a “Gentleman’s Farm”? Ours was more like an amateurs’ adventure on the farm! We ended up raising chickens (which I wouldn't mind doing again, but alas we don’t have the area in town and I don’t want to be dodging the poop!). Those we purchased as peeps. Crowmore and the Cluck Sisters was what I called them. We began getting farm critters from people we didn't even know.
A pig farmer brought us our first runt by meeting me at the back porch door, handing it to me and saying, “Here – I don’t have time for the runts. If he lives, he’s yours.” So I took the cute little guy and promptly named him Hamlet. Mistake, mistake!!! Warning, warning! Never name a farm animal!!! I bought the special nursing “mix” you use to nurse them back to health and he began to grow. I held him like a baby simply because I didn't know any different. Hamlet began to grow, and grow. I then learned that for every pound of food a pig eats, they will put on half a pound in body weight. He moved to the barn and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that pigs are quite neat! (Chickens however are not! And turkeys are even worse and stupid!!!)
Months passed and the time arrived when it was time to take Hamlet to the butcher’s. Husband did that, I stayed home and felt bad. Really, really bad. A few days later Husband picked up the “packages” and torched the grill. I was still sad. When everything was ready, the table set, the vegetables placed and the food blessed I knew I would have to set an example for our son and daughter, so I reluctantly took a bite. WOW! (This is where we hear the strum of harps with angelic overtones!) A conversion had taken place! What once had been my boy Hamlet had been lowered back to us in a sheet and was now pork any heathen gentile would appreciate! Oh my! Homegrown was the best!
Off and on, the pig farmer brought more runts to our home. The next one (Calvin Swine) did not make it past 24 hours. When he arrived again it was four piglets – three males and one female. I named the males Runtley, Gruntley, Huntley and the female was naturally Brinkley after the model… yes, I know… Again, sheer mathematics and finances caused us to butcher Gruntley and Huntley as juveniles and we then offered either of the other two to a neighbor who was an Amish dairy farmer. He chooses Brinkley and we kept Runtley.
Let me tell you a bit about Amish neighbors. You cannot do something for these people without them doing something for you. We had an abundance of eggs which we gave them. In exchange they brought us baked goods. We had the acreage; they planted and baled the hay. We split it. I had to talk hard and fast to get him to accept half because he said it should be 1/3 for him and 2/3s for us. We didn't have the animals for that – it would be a sin for it to go bad!
Now, about the sow we gave him… the next spring he showed up with a calf for us to raise! I forget the actual mix of the calf but she was half Jersey if we wanted milk and half something else if we wanted her for meat. So… what do you name a calf? I called her “Caffie” and she responded to that.
Our status on the farm was, well at least growing as by that time we had four goats – two kids, one dairy goat (I still have a great grip!) and the kids Mama. Now the dairy goat Broney was the most stubborn thing in typical goat fashion. I would tether her out by the fence line to eat the poison ivy and sumac as goats spit the antibodies out in their milk and it helps humans to gain immunity to it!
I would try to lead her from one spot to another and she would dig her heels in and “Neighhhhhhhhhhhhh, neighhhhhhhhhh, neighhhhhhhhh!” as if I were beating her with a stick! I specifically remember one time when I was tugging and pulling and yelling at her saying, “Don’t you know, I’m taking you to a better place, move it!” I’m sure I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Tamara, how many times have I tried to gently lead you and yet you continue to dig your heels in, too!” OUCH!
Caffie and the goat kids (a.k.a. Mia and Brittney) grew up together. It was cute when they were young, but as Caffie grew I sometimes saw Husband flying out the barn door, as she had affectionately head butted him in the middle of the back.
Coming home from church on Sundays we would be greeted by Smokey (the blind horse who turned the lights in the barn on, he may have been blind but he didn't want to be in the dark) all the goats, Runtley and Caffie running to the barn to meet us and be fed.
Since the missionary work did not pan out, and Husband's health was not improving (asthma), we contemplated moving to Arizona where my mother lived. Not knowing if the move from the farm was something the Lord was directing us to do; we did a Gideon’s fleece of sorts. We prayed and asked that if this was what we were supposed to do, then God - sell our home without a Realtor AND with enough of a profit that we could leave debt free.
An acquaintance of ours that we knew through church and who was a Realtor, heard we were selling and wanted to list the home. We told her about the fleece and kindly said no. She asked if she could at least show it. Husband explained that if she were to sell the home, $ $ THIS $ $ is the price we need and if you need a commission, then you will need to tack it on above this price. She agreed.
She arranged to show the home to a family on Thursday evening. On Saturday she called to let us know the couple wanted the house at that price (to include her commission)! In my typical act of faith I asked Husband, “Were we not asking enough?”
We had thirty days to vacate the premises! I shouldn't have been amazed, but I still am when I recall that story.
So, in 1990, we sold everything we could and gave our daughter whatever she wanted or asked for. She was 20 and pregnant with our first Grand.
Suffice it to say, that had I been Lot’s wife, I would be a pillar of salt! My heart, my home, my first born child and future Grand were in Ohio! The move was difficult emotionally.
Then, it was time to pack up the Conestoga wagon and head west…
It was twenty-five years ago we traveled across these great United States. We witnessed first hand the "beautiful for spacious skies” and the "amber waves of grain" as we traveled across this nation in a 1989 Toyota Tercel pulling a trailer with every worldly possession we had not sold.
Crossing into the state of Kentucky our then ten year old son sat bolt upright and stated, “Hey! This grass isn’t blue!” Amusing as that was, the grass was the deepest, darkest green with rolling hills and horses lounging in the pasture. We traveled on into Tennessee and found a campsite near Nashville. We had to pack it up and head to a truck stop when a tornado threatened the area! When the warning passed we went back and set up again. Most of the other campers were actually playing guitars and singing, hoping for a break into the Country Music scene.
We traveled further south to Arkansas to visit family before heading on West. We had a wonderful visit and learned most males in that area had two names, i.e. Joe Paul, Billy Bob, etc. To this day I can’t tell you where we were when we first began to hear the southern drawl, "Ya’ll want grits with breakfast?”
I would have loved being a girl raised in the south (G.R.I.T.S.). I love some of the southern euphemisms; “Bless her heart!" "Ya’ll fixin’ to go to town?” and not to forget he plural “All ya’ll”.
When leaving southern Arkansas the next state was Texas. And Texas seemed to go on and on for days and days! It appeared to be the flattest land in the continental United States! Husband said while stationed at Lackland AFB, the saying was you could go A.W.O.L. and still be seen for three days in any direction.
We began traveling north from Texas and into the state of Oklahoma for a very short period. We stopped at Fort Sill to absorb some of the history and local legend. As we were on no specific time schedule, we headed to Kansas where we were able to see the "fruited plains and amber waves of grain". This land too appeared flat and quite frightening when the storm clouds gathered.
Next our trip took us to Colorado where we decided to pickup Interstate 70. We began to see the "purple mountains majesty" and the signs warning about high winds… all while in a Toyota Tercel, pulling a trailer with all our worldly goods… After fighting to stay on the highway that was frequented by many trucks and the high winds, we decided another route south might be best. We were headed to Interstate 40 and traveled into New Mexico and it truly lived up to its name of “The Land of Enchantment” such wonder and beauty I had never seen.
After the enchantment of New Mexico we entered North Eastern Arizona and searched out Arizona State Highway 666 (now renumbered as State Highway 191). We came to the community of Springerville in the early evening. I called my mother who lived in the mining community of Morenci. The conversation went somewhat like this: “Mom! We’re in Spingerville and it’s only a bit more than 100 miles! We’ll be there tonight.” The reply was, “Get a room and start out in the morning. Trust me on this, start in the morning.” So we did. In retrospect I am so glad we did!
Hwy. 666 was evil! It climbed, snaked through an area that had signs stating “highway not maintained past this point.” There were no guard rails and other signs warning that semis and trailers over 20 feet in length were prohibited. There were hairpin turns, cattle on the road, Husband driving one handed saying, “Did you see that elk?” while pointing with the other. I knew we were going to die on this road! Even though we no longer have that Toyota Tercel (without air conditioning that we were moving to Arizona in…) I’m sure my fingernail impressions are still embedded in the passenger’s seat! Our son sat in the back with a blanket over his head! It was that scary!
When we finally topped the incline and began the downward trek into Morenci, I saw it: the huge open pit mine. I looked at Husband and said, “They’ve raped the earth!” It was one of the most horrific sights I had ever seen. I was appalled at what man had done to the land! Then we arrived in Morenci, my Mom met us and led the way to her home. The mining community looked the same to me wherever we went. Small homes built on terraced land all owned by Phelps Dodge (and now by Freeport McMoRan).
After arriving in town you are struck by the “tailings” from the mining effort. Tailings, also called mine dumps, slimes, tails, refuse, leach residue, or slickens, are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction of an ore – in this case copper.
Then, without warning we become blind to all this. Isn’t that like the complacent Christian, who is oblivious to the sin in their life, because most certainly they are not like that person over there, are they?
Next up will be Part 6, when the Spirit moves!