The “Useless Church People” Story

The Beginning
The last job I had before attending Bible School in Calgary was with a seismic oil exploration crew based out of Three Hills, AB in the summer of 1957. I had told the crew I was a Christian. They noticed that I went to church on Sundays, my language was clean, and I didn’t smoke, drink or mess around with girls.

One weekend the boss gave us extra days off. My foreman, his girlfriend and another guy from the crew were driving his car to Edmonton. I asked him, “Can I ride with you as far as my folks’ house in Red Deer?”

“No problem,” my foreman said, “but be ready for us to pick you up at your house on Sunday. I’ll phone you to let you know what time we’ll come by.”

The Middle
That Sunday afternoon he called, “We’ll be at your house tonight at nine o’clock. Be ready.”

“I will be at church at that time,” I said. “Please pick me up there. The church is only one block off your route, right near the highway. You won’t even need to go all the way up the hill to my house.”

“Well, okay,” he said, but I sensed resentment in his voice.

That night, when I got in the front seat, my foreman, in the back with his girlfriend, yelled at me. “I hate like #*+# your changing plans on me, making me pick you up at a #@%* church, for *#@* sake!”

I didn’t say anything while he continued cursing “useless church people”. Eventually he turned his attention back to his girl.

Twenty minutes later, as we were driving down the two-lane highway at 100 kilometres an hour, the car ahead of us abruptly slowed down. Our driver slammed on the brakes, and to my horror, our car swerved to the left and slid sideways into oncoming traffic. The last thing I remember was seeing a pair of headlights only yards away through my side window.

When I woke up, my left wrist, knee, and head hurt. People ran up to help. I crawled out the driver’s door. A man helped me stumble to a nearby house where I sat on a couch to recover. A policeman came in, and after talking to the driver, asked, “Who was the front seat passenger?” I raised my hand. “You’re a lucky guy. If that car had hit your door, you would not have survived. Instead, it hit forward near the hinge door frame, which absorbed the impact.”

The Ending
The foreman’s car was a total wreck; he cursed and worried aloud about how we were going to get to Three Hills still eighty kilometres away. “I’ll phone my Dad.” I said, “He’ll come, pick us up, and take us to Three Hills.” I did, and Dad did, arriving a half an hour later.

At the end of the trip, Dad refused the money the foreman wanted to give him, saying, “Jack and I love Jesus, and we love helping people in trouble.” With that, he turned the car and drove home, completing a 225-km-long demonstration of Christian love. Five hours later he got up to go to work.

The cast I wore on my left wrist reminded my foreman for the next two weeks that “church people” might possibly have some use after all. Only God knows what impact, if any, this experience had on him. We all know, however, that Dad will hear Jesus saying, “I was stranded in a wrecked car and you drove me home.”

(This is an excerpt from Chapter 20 of my next volume of memoirs, The Adventures Begin.)

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Didn’t See That Coming!

The Crash
I was peacefully driving along a major city street in Edmonton a few years ago when a large Mercedes SUV suddenly accelerated from a cross street and smashed into the passenger side of my car.

Whoa! I didn’t see that coming! I thought as I got out of my wrecked car. “Good thing your wife wasn’t sitting there,” the police inspector said later. “She would have been seriously injured.”

It was a classic case of getting T-boned. It was also completely unexpected. Not my fault, and yet destroying my car and throwing me headlong into the onerous, time-consuming task of dealing with police, insurance, and multiple used car salesmen.

We all can tell similar stories—sick babies, broken washer, power outage, losing a job—totally unexpected, not our fault, yet deeply affecting us and throwing our lives into turmoil.

God’s Purposes
I can think of only one Person who has never said, “Whoa! I didn’t see that coming.” Nor will He ever say it, because He is in complete control. He has the whole, wide world in His hands. He knows “The end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.” He says, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Isaiah 46:10 (NIV).

We, who love and follow Him, know Who holds tomorrow and we know Who holds our hand. The One who loves us enough to die for us, is still in control. We can trust Him. He orchestrates events and permits problems in our lives for purposes that go beyond this earthly life.

God, our Father, wants us all to become more like His Son. (Rom 8:29) As cross-cultural missionaries my wife and I were taught that as Jesus suffered to bring God’s Kingdom to earth, so must we be prepared to suffer to extend His Kingdom throughout the whole earth. (Col. 1:24). Christians of many nationalities and races have suffered through discrimination and persecution for centuries. Christians continue to be the most persecuted group on earth, even today.

Going Downhill
The way Christianity and biblical principles are being attacked even in places with a solid Christian history and tradition like North America, I wonder how long it will be before God permits full-blown persecution right here where we live?

It is already starting with the attacks against private schools, most of which are faith based. Here are some things we can expect the current trend of anti-Christian legislation to achieve:

  • Private schools shut down.
  • Children who did not graduate from the public-school system forbidden to enter universities.
  • Graduates from Christian universities not allowed to practice their professions.
  • Churches pay property taxes.
  • No more “tax deductible receipts” for donors to churches, missions or other Christian organizations.
  • Income tax levied on funds received in the Sunday offering.
  • What is now merely “not politically correct”, eventually will be against the law.
  • Government monitors in church services to check that the preachers do not break the law.
  • Churches going bankrupt, their buildings sold or confiscated.
  • Church leaders that refuse to have their sermon content controlled by government inspectors jailed.
  • Businesses owned by Christians forced to close, and Christian medical personnel, police, lawyers, teachers, etc., lose their jobs because they cannot in good conscience do what the anti-Christian laws require them to do.

HandcuffsThis is not fantasy horror. It happened to thousands of churches and millions of believers in China, Russia, Cuba and in other countries. Some of these things are happening elsewhere; they can happen here.

Our Attitude
What can also happen is that God will again give “beauty for ashes” (Isa 61:3) by refining His Church as He did in these countries. As true believers come together in homes, to biblically encourage and edify each other, God’s Kingdom will grow stronger here and will increase, not despite persecution, but because of it. It’s happened before. That’s not a bad outcome. But that’s not saying we should welcome injustice, lies and anti-Christian legislation with open arms!

It may be that God will allow massive persecution to come on His people in North America. But, right now, He still holds us accountable to pray for all those in authority and for justice and truth to prevail.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior.” 1 Tim. 2:1-3 (NIV).

In these threatening days, God has given us, His people, power, influence, voice, and a vote, and He expects us to use them. Some Christians are like Esther who hesitated to use her position of influence to avert a threat to God’s people, but God’s message to her was, “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 (NIV). This is not a time to passively wait to see what will happen but to actively stand for truth and justice.

Fear Not
We don’t need to be afraid of the future. Whatever happens in the end, God will never have to say, “Whoa! I didn’t see that coming!” God is still in control. Jesus’ promise is still in effect, “In me you will have peace. In this world, you will have trouble, but cheer up, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV).