BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
WRITTEN IN 1999 – After Michelle and I got saved in 1983, the Lord did some mighty things in our lives. There are many testimonies we have accumulated since then, and though I revel in His grace, and mercy, and love to speak of the wondrous things He has done in our lives, time and space would not allow me the opportunity to speak of them all. But I want to give a testimony of the circumstances that led us to the ministry the Lord has given us. My prayer is that it blesses and encourages those who read it.
The reason I even want to include this account in my site is not to boast in my accomplishments, but rather to show the reader that you don’t need a special degree or title or pledges for financial support to minister in the service of the Lord.
Notice how I stumbled through each phase of the development of the ministry. The Lord sustained me through it all. All He requires is willingness and obedience. These two characteristics He will always bless.
Over the years, I have been priveleged to pray one on one with thousands to recieve Jesus. This is not to boast…truly, any accomplshments I have had are from the Lord. I am not a great and eloquent speaker, nor am I a scholar or a theologian. I only tell you this to encourage you. If I can do it, ANYONE CAN DO IT! Just be obedient to the call of the Lord in your life.
Our first six months in the Lord Jesus Christ were spent in Salt Lake City. There the Lord blessed us mightily, in teaching us to hear His voice and to learn of His Love for us.
Circumstances eventually led to us losing our car (it was parked in an alley for too many days, because the battery was dead and it was impounded). As the wrecker was hooking up to the car, I tried to talk the driver into unhooking the car, and I would move it somewhere else. The driver told me he would, if I could pay him 50.00 for the hook up fee.
I didn’t have the money. I had given up on the Highline job I had gone there to work…I felt led of the Lord to quit the union, so we were scraping by with spot jobs at job service, living basically from day to day, and watching the Lord provide for us.
Our car was important to our work…no car meant no work. It was February, and as we watched the tow truck pull the car away, I walked to the apartment, asking the Lord, “Why?” Even at that young age in the Lord, I didn’t point a finger at Him, or wasn’t angry with Him for allowing that to happen…(I’ve had many people testify to me that they have been angry at the Lord. I can’t ever remember a time that I was…) I understand that He is Sovereign, and my life is in His hands. So I wasn’t angry…I was just wondering why He allowed that to happen. It didn’t make any sense to me. Soon the rent would be due, it was February, and what would we do?
Once inside the apartment, Michelle and I prayed, asking our Father to help us to understand. As we prayed, I opened the Bible. When I opened the Bible, my eyes landed on Hebrews 10:34 (ASV):
34. For ye both had compassion on them that were in bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions, knowing that ye have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.
As I read that, Michelle and I started laughing and joyfully took the spoiling of our old Vega.We were sure that the Lord was up to something good. A few weeks later, we couldn’t pay our rent, so we loaded up my duffel bag and a pack sack, and left Salt Lake City, hitchhiking towards California, but not knowing where we were going.
We knew that we would not ask any one for anything, and that we would make our needs known only to God. Beyond that, we didn’t have a clue as to where we were going, and what we were going to do.
We hitchhiked for two months, during which time, the Lord mightily blessed us with an awareness of His presence in our lives. Every day brought a testimony of new levels of Faith that the Lord brought us to. He gave us many opportunities to witness to whoever picked us up, and we were always blessed.
I will relate just a couple of the incidents here, just to give the reader an idea of the things we experienced.
HUMAN TURTLES, WONDERFUL FRITTERS
We were in Auburn, California. We had left a lot of things behind when we left Salt Lake City, but we brought what we could with us, as well. This made for some heavy burdens on our back. I carried the duffel bag, and Michelle carried the Back pack.
Our progress through town was at the pace of two blocks at a time, then we would rest for ten minutes or so, and walk another two blocks. As we made our way slowly through the town, we eventually came to a bakery. In the window were all kinds of wonderful looking pastries. What grabbed our attention was a sign that advertised apple fritters, two for a dollar.
The fritters looked huge. We hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, and both of us were hungry. We didn’t have a dollar, not even fifty cents – I think I counted out thirty-some cents – but we looked in that window and talked about how great those fritters looked to us. Soon, though, we just committed it to the Lord, and knew that we would not go hungry that day. But as we walked away from the bakery, we couldn’t help but talk about those fritters and how good they looked.
A couple of blocks farther down the road, we found a large brick planter outside a lawyer’s office. A perfect place to rest. As we sat there, we spoke some more about the fritters. Soon, we decided it was time to go. As I started to help Michelle with her back pack, something caught my eye.
There, right behind where I had been sitting, was a crisp one dollar bill, folded lengthwise!
Our eyes got huge as we rejoiced in the Lord’s provision. I took the backpack off Michelle’s back, and she ran to the bakery and bought two apple fritters. As I said before, they were HUGE, and they were absolutely delicious. Wonderful Jesus! Manna fritters. For the record…Michelle and I occasionally buy apple fritters as a remembrance of the Lord’s provision….we have never found any fritters that were as good as those two we had that day.
Never once did we go without food when we needed it. The Lord has always been faithful to supply our needs.
We got into Lake Tahoe early in the morning. As we stood there in town, it started to snow. Big wet flakes came down. We had a few dollars, so we went into a store and bought a couple of ponchos to keep us dry.
The Lord had enabled us to always have clean clothes; we always were able to afford a laundromat when we needed one. But this day, we were down to our last change of clean clothes, and we had spent our money on the ponchos.
All day we stood there, trying to get a ride, but to no avail. After several hours we started trying to analyze what the Lord was doing. We knew He would never let us down…but we started eyeing the camp grounds across the street, figuring we could pitch our tent if we had to, and keep each other warm.
The issues we were talking about as we stood there, was the fact that we needed a shower and we needed to wash our clothes. Never once did we question whether God would come through for us…It was more like, “what was he up to?” We figured that there was someone who the Lord wanted us to tell about Him, but they hadn’t gotten there yet.
From early in the morning, to about 5:00 that evening, we stood in that spot, trying to get a ride. No one would stop. Finally, a car stopped. The man in the car told us that he had seen us standing there that morning. When he saw us still standing there, he knew he had to pick us up. He was the director of a alcoholic recovery retreat, and he told us that all of his cabins were vacant. We were welcome to stay the night if we wanted to. He also told us that if we had any laundry we needed to do, there was a washer and dryer in the cabin we would be staying in. Wonderful Jesus! The man blessed us with a cabin, laundry facilities, showers, and a large kettle of stew. We were blessed.
The next day he drove us to the out skirts of town. He wasn’t even out of sight when a car stopped to pick us up. The man and woman who picked us up explained to us that there had been chain restrictions the day before, and the restrictions had just been lifted. They told us they were picking us up to help with the weight. As we rode, the Lord gave us a great opportunity to witness to them of God’s love and the need for Jesus Christ in their lives. We were young Christians, and didn’t really know a lot, but the Lord used us on that ride to plant some wonderful seed. The man an woman were thanking us when they let us out of the car. We were learning that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.
Every day we had a testimony of the Lord working in our lives. We were totally dependent on Him. He always came through for us.
OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE
We traveled for two months like that, and eventually ended up in Arizona. We spent four years there. During that time, our two oldest daughters, Talitha and Feather were born.
All of our children were born at home, and I have been privileged and blessed to deliver them all. The majority of the time we were in Chino Valley, Arizona, I worked as a carpenter. I also worked as a concrete worker, and a landscaper while we were there. We were doing pretty well for ourselves…we had all we needed, owned all that we had (no debt), were settled in, and had a small trailer we called home.
Every morning for the three and a half years that we spent in Chino Valley, (our first 6 months in Arizona we lived in the White mountains) I would get up at 5:00, and study the Word of God before I went to work at 7:00. I studied the Word every morning, seven days a week for the three and a half years we were there, using Strong’s concordance, Thayer’s, Vine’s, and the Englishman’s Concordance. On Saturdays and Sundays I would spend several hours in the study of the Word. I had an insatiable hunger for the Word of God.
One Sunday, I was sitting at the table, studying God’s Word, when He spoke to me. “What are you doing for me?” I was witnessing to who ever I worked with. I was living a relatively clean life before the Lord…and I told Him so. He asked again…”What are you doing for me.” He quickened my memory to the verse in Hebrews that says “without faith it is impossible to please God….”, and immediately, I remembered how totally dependant we were on Him for those two months. He reminded me of all the wonderful things He had done during that time.
We were aware that He provided for our needs, but it wasn’t the same any more. I was growing in knowledge of the things of God, but where was I when it came to faith? I suddenly had a crazy thought. I looked at my wife, and asked her: “Do you remember when we hitchhiked through California, and how close we were to God, because we had to rely on Him for everything?” She said she did. “Well, what would you say if we sold everything, got a bus, and just traveled for Jesus, and let Him guide us where He wants us?” Michelle said “If that’s what the Lord wants, that’s what we will do.” So it was settled. Now all we had to do was make sure this was of God and just not my own idea. So I put it in God’s hands.
Right here I want to give credit where credit is due. Most women who have a home and two children and financial security would cringe at the prospect of leaving all that for the uncertainties of life on the road and in a 1949 Ford bus, at that! I have met many brothers who have a call for evangelism, and who find much opposition from their wives when it comes to going out on the streets just for an evening. So many people are so into their comfort…that their service to God is dependent on convenience, rather than motivated by a desire to please Him. In 11 years of being on the road, I have never heard my wife complain of being on the road.
Later that day, we went out yard saling. We weren’t even looking for a bus, but we found one. It was a 1949 Ford. The man wanted $800.00 for it. I bought it, and we had a yard sale of our own and sold most of our stuff, and used the money to convert the bus. Some friends of ours, Bob and Anette helped us build the bus. The last thing we did was put our trailer up for sale. It sold in a week. We left shortly afterwards, having no idea at all where we were going. We just threw ourselves in the arms of our Father. We had no idea how long we were going to travel, (certainly, we did not think we’d be at it for 11 years!) or even what our calling was…
On the back of the bus we painted a huge sign that said “faithwalkin’ “. We painted several scriptures in various easy to read places. We were leaving our city, not knowing where we would end up. We made a covenant with the Lord that we would let no one know of our needs, and I would work with my own two hands to supply our needs. The Lord would have to supply the work as we travelled.
…EXCEPT THE FATHER DRAW THEM….
Talitha was 2, and Feather was almost 1 at the time. There are so many testimonies I could share…God is faithful. Many people would approach me, curious about the bus. There aren’t too many 1949s out there these days. They’d want to look at the old flathead engine. Each time this would open a door for me to witness to them, and tell them about Jesus. I was leading people to the Lord , and still did not realize my calling. Others would approach us because of the scriptures that were written on the bus.
I began to think that the Lord intended me to witness to the ones who approached me, which were a lot of people…I had no inclination to “go out” to witness to people. I was leading many to the Lord just through them coming to me. I had the faith to believe each one was a divine appointment, and that the Lord was drawing them into His kingdom.
About three months after we left Arizona, we were in Sydney Nebraska. My dad was dying of colon cancer in Salt Lake City. It was winter, and the mountains between him and us were treacherous, and the brakes on the bus were not the greatest. But I wanted my Dad to see his grand daughters before he passed into Glory. We sought the Lord. That night I dreamed that I was telling a friend of mine about Jesus. Michelle also dreamed that she was telling a friend of hers about Jesus. Both of our friends who were in our dreams lived in Florida. We took that as the direction from the Lord that we had been seeking…So we started for Florida. It took us seven years to get to Florida. We lived in the ’49 for one year.
BASIC TRAINING FOR THE PULPIT
We wintered in Lincoln, Nebraska, parked at the People’s City Mission, while I worked for a construction company as a tender for some brick layers. One evening, I told my wife that I felt that I could relate to the homeless guys better than the people who came in to minister at the chapel services every night, BECAUSE WE WERE WHERE THEY WERE AT…AT STREET LEVEL.
I told her that I would like the opportunity to preach to them. She told me she was sure that if I mentioned it to the workers there, they would probably give me an opportunity to preach in the chapel some night. I told her that I didn’t want to make anything happen. If the Lord wanted me to share to the men, He would open the door for me to do so. That way I could know I was in His Will. Two days later, Anita McCracken told me that a person who was scheduled to preach had cancelled, and that they needed someone to preach that night. She asked me if I would. I said “sure”. She said the only catch was that chapel was in 15 minutes, so I would have no time to prepare. I threw myself in the arms of my Father, and He mightily blessed me.
That whole month of February people kept on canceling their appointments. I probably preached 20 days out of that month. The Lord was training me for pulpit ministry.
Since then I have committed my ways to the Lord, and have made it an unswerving policy not to open any doors myself, but to walk through the ones that the Lord opens.
A NEW HOME
My mother came down to Lincoln to visit us, and Michelle went with her back to Minnesota for a week to visit relatives. While she was up there, she stopped in to see Lonnie Lee, a pastor friend of ours. (see my testimony). When she went to his house, Lonnie was praying to the Lord, asking Him what he should do about a bus he had. When he opened the door to his house, and saw Michelle, he knew the Lord had given him the answer. He asked Michelle how our bus was doing. The ’49 was losing power. I got stopped on the freeway once for going too slow! She said it wasn’t doing too well, but it would get us where we needed to go. Lonnie told her we could have his bus if we drove up to get it. A couple of months later, we went to Northern Minnesota, and our bus died just as we got to my home town, Margie.
We spent a year and a half there, building our new bus, and making it livable. The following spring we left Margie to continue our trek to Florida. But first, we went to Warroad, Minnesota, and spent about a month up there, ministering in the way the Lord had taught me, letting people come to the bus for ministry.
In St. Cloud Minnesota, a sister in the Lord named Betty Reardon told me that my calling was that of an evangelist. I never realized that, ALTHOUGH BY THAT TIME I HAD LED LOTS OF PEOPLE TO THE LORD. She asked me if I ever handed out tracts, I told her that I let the Lord bring people to me. She gave me a box of tracts, and told me to try it some time. Eventually, I did, and ended up discovering a whole new dimension in the ministry the Lord had called me to. We were in St. Cloud for about six months.
ARMED AND DANGEROUS
The Lord blessed me abundantly in the tract ministry. We spent about two months in Austin Minnesota, a few months in Osage, Iowa, at a ministry called Rennaisance – a Christian community given to ministering to ministers – and about eight months in Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Iowa.
The Lord literally gave me the streets in Waterloo, Iowa…it seemed like every person I spoke to was open and receptive to the things of God. I got to lead many people to the Lord and out of the grasp of Satan each time I went out on the streets.
Elijah was born there in our bus on the job site. He just turned 7 in June of ’99.
I had spent about four years on the road, ministering one-on-one to people with no one but Jesus to show me the ropes. Don’t get me wrong…Jesus is the perfect teacher but sometimes it got pretty frustrating, as I would begin to get the “Elijah Syndrome” (Lord, I’m the only one that’s out here, serving you). I never met another street evangelist in all that time.
Actually, I wasn’t even sure that there was such a person. I would meet a lot of people who told me they wanted to go out on the streets with me…but I never had any one actually go, with the exception of my brothers and sisters at Renaissance when they came down to Waterloo to work the streets with me a couple of times.
Then we got to Chattanooga. There are so many testimonies that could be included in each one of these sections, but the purpose of this is to just let the reader get a general idea of how we have gotten to the place that we are at now. I ended up working in Chattanooga with a Christian plumbing company, “Mainline Plumbing”. For two and a half years we worked there, and it was an ideal situation…They understood and honored my calling as an evangelist, so when the Lord would quicken me to go preach somewhere, they backed me up in it.
In Cleveland, Tennessee, we found a wonderful church which we call “home”, Living Word Fellowship,on Old Tasso Road. If you are ever in that area, visit them. Pastor Larry and his wife, LaVonna are wonderful ministers of the Lord’s grace.
Grace Elizabeth was born Birchwood, Tennessee, in our bus. I first started open air preaching at the abortion clinic in Chattanooga. The Lord teamed me up with a precious brother who carried a cross as part of his ministry. Mike Siemer and I became regular partners in ministry for the two and a half years we were in Tennessee.
He was already an open air preacher…I was better at one on one. But as I ministered at the abortion clinic, I got more and more confident to preach on the streets. Soon I was sharing the Microphone with Mike on the streets. I was convinced that I wouldn’t ever carry a cross like Mike did. It seemed so impractical. I liked the freedom of being able to go freely from person to person.
I wrote my first tract there…I found a brother that would print them inexpensively, and had ten thousand printed up.
So far I have passed out some where around 50,000 of that tract. I just got another shipment of 26,000…they should last me for a few months…
Eventually we left Tennessee, and finally headed for Florida.
PICK UP YOUR CROSS DAILY…
We ended up in Crystal River, Florida. I was at a Bible Study shortly after we got there, and the Lord spoke to my heart that this would be the place to build a cross. This was not like the cities I was used to…there were no places where there was a lot of foot traffic, where I could pass out tracts. A visual form of evangelism would work here.
Naturally, I had to let Mike know…I knew he would get a kick out of it, since I had said I would never do that kind of ministry. On the way to the lumber company the next day, I figured I would stop at the mall and call Mike and let him know. As I was getting close to the mall, I saw a man walking down the road, carrying a cross! Wonderful Jesus! Talk about confirmation!
When I spoke to Mike on the phone, I told him what I was going to do, and what I saw. Mike said that he knew the guy, and that I should go to meet him. I did, and Brian O’Connell and I became good friends and co-laborers together.
FULL TIME SERVICE
Shortly after I built my cross, the Lord spoke to my heart again, and I asked my wife to make a robe for me. The purpose of the robe was never to imitate Jesus, although many people think that when they see me. The robe was a prophetic tool. To the Christians that stop, I tell them that the Lord is coming for a spotless bride. In Revelation 19:7-8, we are told that the Lamb’s bride is dressed in white linen, and the white linen represents the righteousness of the saints. The Word to Christ’s bride is to get ready.
Then again, wearing the white robe also serves another purpose. When people see me, whether their reaction is negative or poswitive, there is no doubt that they think of Jesus. Even if they say “Look at that nut! Who does he think he is, Jesus?” They have still thought about Jesus. It doesn’t matter what people think of me…that they think aout Jesus is important.
One day I was walking in Crystal River, and the Lord mightily blessed me with lots of opportunities to minister. Then He spoke to my heart, and said “You can do this all the way to California.” When I shared it with Michelle, she told me if that was what the Lord wanted, we would do it.
The Lord opened a lot of doors, and in August of ’96, we left on our journey “crosscountry”. For the past three years He has blessed us with being able to minister full time.
Our bus broke down in Mobile, Alabama. The Lord blessed us with a nice motorhome a short time later…He moved a brother and sister in Christ to buy a 35 foot 1988 Allegro for us. He is our Provider. If He calls us to a work He will see that it prospers. Not for our own selfish needs, but so the work can go on.
Before we left, the Lord laid down some guidelines:
1) As usual, we would never let anyone know our needs, other than God.
2) I would accept no money from anyone while I was ministering on the streets, unless the person wishing to bless me said “the Lord told me to give this to you.” That way I would be blameless in the eyes of the world.
Some people have not understood this, but one particular testimony may explain it.
I was in Panama City Beach, and a man came up to me as I was carrying the cross, and pulled out a wad of money, and tried to give it to me. I refused it, telling him I wasn’t interested in his money, but in the well being of his soul. He insisted I take the money, and I just kept on refusing. He would say, “well, how do you survive? Everyone needs money to live.” I told him that my God provides for me. He said “Oh, you mean you have a church that supports you?” I told him no. He kept on insisting that I take the money, but I wouldn’t. Finally, he pocketed his money, and listened as I ministered the gospel to him for about 45 minutes. Before he left, he told me that he believed everything I said was true, because I had refused his money.
So many people think Christianity is about money because there have been those who have preached a gospel of greed. The Lord has told me to be blameless in this area. I have had many other people who had the same reaction as this man.
I have turned hundreds of dollars down…on three or four different occasions I have refused to accept hundred dollar bills. Each time it has resulted in awesome ministry opportunities. The Lord provides amply enough for us.
3) We are to walk through every town along highway 90. This is not a marathon walk. I don’t walk in between the towns…I walk through the towns, covering every major street, doing prayer warfare as I walk, and ministering to everyone who happens along my way. Just as it took us 7 years to get to Florida, once the Lord told us to go there, so far it has taken us three years, and we haven’t even made it half way. We have started ministries, trained up others in the area of evangelism, and seen many people ask Jesus into their heart.
4) ACCOUNTABILITY IS IMPORTANT. In every town I minister, I bring myself under the authority of a local pastor. Rebelliousness is a problem in the church today…too many people have the attitude that they do not have to be accountable to any one. But there is an order in the things of God.
AGAIN, I WROTE ALL OF THIS FOR ONE EXPRESS REASON…IN THE HOPES THAT IT ENCOURAGES OTHERS WHO HAVE WONDERED WHERE THEY FIT IN WITH GOD’S PLAN. SO MANY PEOPLE THINK THEY NEED A SEMINARY DEGREE, OR A LICENSE OR RECOGNITION IN ORDER TO MINISTER. JOE CHRISTIAN HAS BASICALLY BEEN CONTENT TO LEAVE “THE WORK OF THE LORD” TO THOSE WITH TITLES OR DEGREES. IF YOU ARE WILLING, THE LORD WILL BLESS YOU AND USE YOU FOR THE FURTHERANCE OF HIS KINGDOM.
I BELIEVE GOD GAVE ME A WORD FOR THE CHURCH A FEW YEARS AGO… THE WORD WAS THIS:
“THIS IS THE DAY OF THE LAY MAN. NO LONGER IS CHRISTIANITY TO BE A PULPIT TO PEW RELATIONSHIP…IT WAS NEVER INTENDED TO BE THAT. THE WORD OF GOD SAYS THAT HE HAS MADE US ALL KINGS AND PRIESTS, AND WE ARE TO SIT AND RULE IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES IN CHRIST. THE FUNCTION OF THE PASTORS AND THE EVANGELISTS AND THE TEACHERS, THE APOSTLES AND THE PROPHETS IS TO EQUIP THE SAINTS SO THAT THEY, TOO CAN BECOME PASTORS, OR EVANGELISTS, OR TEACHERS, OR APOSTLES OR PROPHETS.
TOO OFTEN PASTORS HAVE LORDED IT OVER THEIR FLOCKS, CONCERNED MORE WITH RETAINING AND BUILDING THEIR NUMBERS THAN WITH SENDING THEIR PEOPLE OUT. IT IS TIME FOR THE LAY MAN TO ARISE AND TO REALIZE THEIR CALLING. GOD HAS GIVEN EACH ONE OF US GIFTS SO THAT WE CAN FURTHER HIS KINGDOM. IT’S NOT IN OUR NAME, AND WHAT WE HAVE DONE, NOR IS IT IN OUR MINISTRY AND HOW INFLUENTIAL WE ARE…IT IS ALL IN JESUS, AND THAT HIS KINGDOM WOULD BE ESTABLISHED ON EARTH, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.
THE LAY MAN WHO IS CONTENT WITH SITTING IN HIS PEW IS LIKE THE SLOTHFUL AND EVIL SERVANT WHO BURIED HIS TALENT IN THE GROUND, INSTEAD OF INVESTING IT TO FURTHER HIS MASTER’S KINGDOM.
THE PASTOR WHO CONDONES THE COMPLACENCY OF THE PEW SITTER IS LIKE THE PHARISEE WHO LOVES THE CHIEF PLACES, AND WHO MAKES HIS PRAYERS TO BE HEARD OF MEN…
BOTH OF THESE PEOPLE ARE IN A TERRIBLE POSITION.
THE TIME IS SHORT. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND. THE HARVEST IS RIPE. IT’S PAST TIME TO GET BUSY.”
I PRAY THE LORD RICHLY BLESSES YOU AS YOU SEEK HIS FACE FOR DIRECTION IN THE MINISTRY HE WOULD HAVE FOR YOU…