First Day

June 1st, 1990. The date is forever etched in my memory. We had earlier gotten a call from a man named Vic in Astoria, regarding the need for someone to fill the pulpit at his church. In a thick Norwegian accent he used two messages on the message machine to relay the details. I called him back and agreed to be there the upcoming Sunday.

On that particular Sunday we loaded our three kids in the car and made the two hour trip from Columbia City to Astoria. Upon our arrival I noted that the previous pastor was at the parsonage, packing up his vehicles to move away. I would later learn that he was one of four pastors that had served in the precious decade, and that the church had a reputation for being a “difficult” ministry for pastors.

We made our way to the sanctuary…that huge sanctuary…and found the place mostly empty. There were a dozen people there. They greeted us. We sang some songs and I preached way too fast from Colossians chapter one on the supremacy of Christ.

A couple of things are stuck in my memory from that day. There was some sadness in the air. Another pastor was leaving the place. A new pastor has come. The people were no doubt thinking, “How long will this one last?”

In addition to that, one couldn’t help but notice that the building wasn’t yet finished, though it had been built in 1974, and that the building and yards looked uncared for. Later we would face the reality of trying to care for that place with a monthly budget of about $1000 per month.

All that being said, I did not doubt as we left on that day that God had called us to serve at Lewis and Clark Bible Church. Two months later we were called by the church to serve. And we stayed there for 27 and 1/2 years.

So what happened? God, the One who is the very best at fixing things, turned things around. Those folks, discouraged as they were on that first Sunday, became so incredibly dear to us. Bickering and strife gave way to unity and cooperation and teamwork. That woefully deficient budget, gave way to God’s plentiful provision. Especially once we began to expend ourselves in service to our good friends in Uganda. God used a big storm, which ultimately cost $900,000 in insurance repairs, to finish and remodel that church building. And when I retired, in 2018, we left behind a wonderful church family, possessing much love for Jesus and for one another.

How did it happen? I could speak to various things like commitment to the Word, or the quality of the leadership, or the servant-mindedness of the people, etc., but the bottom line and the truth of the matter is, it happened by grace, God’s grace. His grace was more than abundant.

Before that June 1st Sunday, two men, Vic Albertsen and Jim Thompson, had met to pray. They feared they would have to close the church, but they didn’t want to do that. So they prayed that God would somehow intervene. And He did. And that’s the rest of the story. The Bible says “God gives grace to the humble, ” and so He did. And so He does!

BOOK REVIEW: “Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy Seal Team Six Operator Adam Brown.” By Eric Blehm

This book is the true story of a Navy Seal by the name of Adam Brown.  Adam grew up in small town Arkansas.  He played football for his high school team, and was a fierce competitor.  He had a lot of friends.  He graduated from high school and headed off to college.  But found he didn’t have much appetite for academics.  He came back home and worked for his Dad who had an electrical company.  But then he met a girl.  And this girl had a drug problem.  And she drug Adam right along into it.  He was doing all kinds of drugs, including Meth.  He would be gone overnight and sometimes for days.  His drug habit got real expensive, so he stole from his Dad’s company.  On one occasion he ran off with the company’s van.  And this went on for some time.  And his Mom and Dad loved him, as did his twin-sister and older-brother, but there was seemingly nothing they could do to stop Adam from his downward spiral.  They feared for his life.  Adam was totally given over to his sinful pursuits.  And he didn’t care at all about anyone else.  It mattered not the he was breaking the hearts of his parents.  His twin sister loved him, but he was oblivious to her concerns.  He was completely self-absorbed and utterly lost.

Then Mom and Dad decided to go to church. And they talked to the pastor. And they were saved. And they began praying for their son. They called the sheriff—there was a warrant for Adam’s arrest—and had Adam arrested. The pastor went and visited him. And the court made a deal with Adam—go to a Christian treatment program, for a year, and you won’t have to stay in jail. And so he did. And somewhere along the way, Adam trusted in Jesus. But that wasn’t the end of his drug issues. Meth is especially hard to stay away from. And he sometimes went back to it. He met a young lady. A Christian young lady. And she began to pray for him. And she got to know him. And she would intervene whenever he was tempted to go back to drugs. They got married. And Adam decided to join the Navy. He had seen the movie “Navy Seals” as a boy and had ever since carried that thought of being a seal. A friend’s Dad, a Navy man, worked to get some waivers approved. And Adam joined the Navy to become a Navy Seal. And he passed all of the rigorous training. And by this time, Adam has grown in his walk with Christ. He is a loving husband. A child comes along. And then another. He is a loving father. Despite some serious injuries, Adam excels as a seal and is counted among an elite group in the top one percent of all of the seals. He serves in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is known for his willingness to put himself in harm’s way for the sake of his fellow soldiers. When he’s in Afghanistan he sees that there are many children without shoes. So he calls his pastor in the US, and they ship hundreds of shoes to Adam. When his fellows walked with him, they carried weapons, he carried shoes—and he would give them away to children who didn’t have any. He would also carry MREs with him, and would give them away to hungry children.

It was about time for his Navy career to be over.  He had one last mission he was called to perform.  His task force was called to enter into a particularly dangerous and mountainous region.  They were going after a man who had led a team of Taliban rebels who had been responsible for the death of many Americans.  The team arrived at his holdout.  And much shooting ensued.  And there came a point where someone had to go to a particular spot where a man was firing from a window at the team.  Adam volunteered.  He put himself in harm’s way to protect his teammates.  And he was mortally wounded.  And Adam died.  He had been asked, before that day, how he was able to approach such situations with such fearlessness.  You know what his response was?  It was his faith in the Risen Christ that made the difference for him.  Adam walked with Jesus.  And as he did, he lived that kind of life.  I read that book and cried.  And I also rejoiced.  I rejoiced in the truth of what Jesus Christ did in that man’s life.  He rescued him from his sinful and selfish and bankrupt existence, and made something very beautiful of his life.  It should come as no surprise to you that Adam’s example worked to encourage other Seals to put their faith in Jesus Christ.

The book tells a great story of how God intervened in the life of a troubled and needy soul and saved him and set his life on a better course.  There is much encouragement here for the drug addicted and those who pray for them.  I highly recommend it.