Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Nighttime Prayer

(A Grown-up Version of a Childhood Prayer)

"Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep..."
Forgive the sins that I have done;
Wash me clean in the blood of Your Son.
Bless my loved ones everywhere;
Keep them safe within Your care.
Thank You, Lord, for all You do;
Teach me always to walk with You.

As I rest, my strength renew,
So I can arise to work for You.
Watch over me in every way
And wake me safe at break of day. 
If You should come before I wake,
I'll see You in heaven, what a glorious Daybreak!
Knowing that You're always there, 
I rest secure within Your care.

--AnnaLee Conti

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Colors of Christmas

One of our favorite activities of the Christmas season is driving around to 
see all the colorful lights that sparkle like gems adorning the houses. 
They inspired me to write this poem:


Silver stands for our redemption,
purchased at great cost.
Red stands for the blood of Jesus,
shed to save the lost.
White stands for the purity of our 
robes of righteousness;
Washed white as snow by Jesus' blood,
we stand in holiness.
Green stands for our Christian growth;
to feed on God's Word is a must.
Blue stands for our loyalty to Christ
in whom we trust.
Purple stands for His majesty;
King of kings is He.
Gold stands for the heavenly place
He has prepared for me.

by AnnaLee Conti

As you enjoy all the colorful lights this Christmas, 
we pray that you will experience the myriad facets
 of the Light of the World, JESUS,
 whose birth we celebrate today.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Christmas Miracle

The day before our second wedding anniversary, my husband, Bob, a career officer in the Regular Army, flew out of Anchorage, Alaska, for a year-long tour in Vietnam. In 1969, the Vietnam War was at its fiercest. Hundreds of American soldiers died each week. After a tearful kiss and a last hug, I watched him disappear into the long tube that led to the Alaska Airlines jet.

Blindly, I turned and ran to the car, our red Volkswagen square-back we had purchased in Germany, where we had been stationed scarcely a year. I drove to the end of the runway to watch his plane take off. As it disappeared into the clouds that bright June morning, I sobbed uncontrollably, not knowing if he would come back alive.

For the previous year and a half, we had been trying to start a family. In spite of my constant prayers, month after month brought only disappointment. Now Bob was gone, and I didn't even have a part of him with me to love and to hold.

In November, my younger sister got married. At Christmas, she announced that they were expecting. While I was happy for them, that news only accentuated my pain and loneliness.

At the Watch Night service that New Year's Eve, my father, a pastor of many years, preached on expectations. Based on the words of Jesus that "all things are possible to him who believes," my dad pointed out that "faith is a prerequisite for God to act on our behalf." As he encouraged the congregation to pray concerning a specific need and expect God to do a miracle, I remembered an old song from my childhood, "Prayer is the key to heaven, and faith unlocks the door."

Bob and I had reservations to meet for a week of R and R (rest and relaxation) in Hawaii in mid-February. I began to expect that God would answer my prayers for a child, and that I would get pregnant on R and R. A month after I arrived back home, I knew we would have a baby around Thanksgiving.

On Memorial Day of 1970, Bob came home from Vietnam. In spite of the many dangers which I have written about previously, he returned unscathed. Sadly, he was the only officer in his advisory team to return home alive. 

We were stationed in Rhode Island, and on December 5, 1970, three days after my twenty-fifth birthday, our son, Robert Benjamin, was born. You never saw a prouder father! And he and our son have had a close relationship from the day Bob carried him home from the hospital. I realized that if Bobby had been born before Bob went to Vietnam, Bob would have missed out on an entire year of Bobby's young life.

Christmas 1969 was my worst Christmas, but the happiness of Christmas 1970 was accentuated in comparison to the sadness of the previous Christmas. As time went on, we never had another child, and not by choice. That's why I believe our son was my Christmas miracle. And like that first Christmas long ago when the Son of God was born into this sin-sick world, my best Christmas followed one of the darkest times in my life.

As a young person, I thought God had two ways to answer prayer: "Yes," or "No." That Christmas, I discovered that often God answers, "Wait," because He has an even better plan. I also realized that we tend to get what we expect. An old chorus says, "If you expect it, God will find a way to perform a miracle for you today."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Take the Lord Christmas Shopping

During this Christmas season, I will be blogging several short stories from my life that relate to my past Christmases. Have you ever thought of asking the Lord to help you with your Christmas shopping? One surprising incident taught me to do it all the time.

Due to a painful back condition, I cannot walk very far without great discomfort. At shopping malls, I try to park close to the entrance nearest the particular store I'm planning to visit. That day, I was looking for a certain gift item, and the store I intended to shop in didn't have an outside entry. I drove around the mall from one end to the other, but every parking space near an entrance was full. I must confess that I was grumbling to the Lord about the situation.

After driving at least three-fourths of the way around the large mall, I finally found a space. It was a little farther from the store I intended to visit, but I thought it was doable. I exited my car and walked to the entrance. There, just inside that door was the very item I was looking for! I didn't even need to ascend to the upper level of the mall to the store where I thought I'd find it.

"I'm sorry, Lord," I prayed. "Please forgive me. I was grumbling about the parking, and You knew exactly where I would find what I wanted. You prepared the right parking space that would lead me to it."

Now, even when it's not Christmas, I ask the Lord to prepare a parking space for me close to where I'm going. And He does. He cares about every detail of our lives.

That incident reminded me of a chorus we used to sing in church when I was a girl: "The Lord knows the way through the wilderness; all I have to do is to follow...." Even in the seemingly insignificant things of this life, like finding the right gift to bring happiness to a special person, the Lord wants us to commit it all to Him, to trust Him to help us in everything.

This Christmas season, don't let the stresses get you down. Instead, "commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you" (Psalm 37:5, NLT).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Why Me, Lord?"

This coming New Year's Day, my dad will celebrate his 92nd birthday. For well more than 50 years, he has served as a missionary and a pastor. Along the way, he has also been elected to office several times as president of the local and borough school boards, the PTA, and the ministerial association; as secretary-treasurer of the Alaska District of the Assemblies of God; and as mayor of Kittitas, Washington--surprising accomplishments for a boy who was petrified to speak in front of a group.

In junior high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was president of the French Puppet Club. As such, his responsibility was to introduce the puppet play. Worried that he might forget his lines, he had written his speech on note cards before he went on stage, but the spotlights blinded him so he couldn't read them. Without saying a word, he crumpled the papers, dropped them to the floor, and walked off. Hidden behind the puppet stage, though, he spoke his lines in fluent French.

At the age of 19, he met two sisters who invited him to attend the annual Victorious Life Conference in Keswick Grove, New Jersey, over Labor Day weekend in 1941. He went with a carload of young people. George Beverly Shea, who later became well known as the beloved soloist for the Billy Graham Crusades, was the song leader and soloist for the conference at the campsite near Tom's River, owned by Addison C. Raws. Having been a boy soprano in an Episcopal church, my dad was impressed with the ministry of Bev Shea. That weekend, he committed himself to Christ. Soon, he felt God was calling him into full-time ministry.

"God, do You know what You're asking? How can I preach the gospel if I can't speak in front of people?" Agonizing over his Call, he finally enrolled in a public speaking course at Temple University. "I literally had to take myself by the scruff of the neck and drag myself to that class," he said, although he remembers little about the actual class.

He received his Local Preacher’s License from the Methodist Church, but his theological studies at Temple University were interrupted by World War II. In 1942, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard. Upon completing Radio School, he was sent to Ketchikan, Alaska, where on August 16, 1944, he married AnnaMae, the daughter of the Reverend and Mrs. Charles C. Personeus, the first Assemblies of God missionaries to Alaska.

Following World War II, he completed his formal ministerial education at Eastern Bible Institute of the Assemblies of God (now Valley Forge Christian College). I was two-and-a-half years old, when we moved to the tiny fishing village of Pelican, Alaska, to help the Personeuses build the church there (read the account of my family's trip to Alaska in previous blogs).

When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land, Moses objected. "I can't speak," he said. God gave him his brother Aaron to be his mouthpiece. Soon, however, Moses was speaking God's words directly to the people. Just as God equipped Moses for the calling God had placed on his life, so God enabled my father to become a preacher of the gospel.

What is God calling you to do for Him that you feel inadequate for? Don't be afraid to step out in faith in spite of your own perceived shortcomings, knowing that God will equip you for the task. As someone once wrote, "God doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Floods, Fire, and Footsteps

Today, as I reflect on all that I am thankful for, my thoughts turn to other Thanksgiving Days, such as the one in 1964 when, as a sophomore in college, I told my family about the young man who would become my husband. My grandparents were interim pastors in Valdez, Alaska, because the pastor there had been killed in the devastating Good Friday Earthquake that spring. That Thanksgiving, my family drove hundreds of miles from Seward, and I caught a ride with friends from college to spend the holiday with them in Valdez.

I met Bob Conti at an Intervarsity Christian Fellowship prayer meeting my first week at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where I had transferred my sophomore year after the Earthquake that spring. Next, I noticed him in my psychology class, and then that he sang bass in the Choir of the North, in which I sang soprano. He stood right behind me on the risers when the choir performed. We became friends.

Our first date was November 20, 1964, the week before Thanksgiving that year. When I read my Daily Light on the Daily Path, before I went to bed that night, these verses jumped out at me: "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overthrow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flames kindle upon thee, for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour--I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not: I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them" (Isaiah 43:2-3; 42:16, KJV). I underlined them that night.

On June 10, 1967, three weeks after we graduated from the University of Alaska, Bob and I were married in Valdez, the first wedding in the new town built after the earthquake. My parents had become the pastors the Assemblies of God church there, and my dad and grandfather performed our ceremony. We drove 500 miles from Fairbanks to Valdez for the weekend. After the ceremony and brief reception, we drove another 500 miles back to Fairbanks, so we could return to our jobs on Monday. I slept the whole way home, waking only when Bob pulled over to walk around because he was getting drowsy.

Back in Fairbanks, our working schedules were crazy that summer. I worked at the Alaska Purchase Centennial Exposition from 2 p.m. until midnight. Bob worked for the Alaska Highway Department from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Not a great schedule for anyone, let alone newly weds!

July 1st, at about nine o'clock in the morning, Fairbanks was jolted by an earthquake registering 7.0 on the Richter scale. When it hit, I was still asleep, but Bob was already on the job. The violent shaking and the crash of something falling on the roof above my head awakened me. Adrenalin pumping, I hopped up and staggered to the front doorway, the best place to stand during an earthquake, and hung on. The telephone poles were jumping and lines were snapping up and down like cowboys' whips. When it subsided, I went to investigate and discovered that the chimney on our tiny rental cottage had fallen down on our roof.

That summer, we had record rainfall in Fairbanks. And it was chillier than usual. With no chimney, we couldn't use the furnace. The first week of August, the landlord built a beautiful cement block chimney. At last, we had heat. Then it began to rain again--almost nonstop for a week. The Chena River runs through Fairbanks, and one night reports came that it would crest well over flood stage. Everyone stayed tuned in to their radios. We weren't too worried since our place was sixteen blocks from the river.

About midnight, we heard that many basements had been collapsing due to the extreme pressure from the ground water. Our basement had a dirt floor and board walls. The furnace was there, and we had stored boxes of school books, wedding gifts that didn't fit in the tiny living quarters, and winter clothes, shoes, etc. We decided it was time to empty the basement. Bob had no sooner carried up the last box than two cellar walls collapsed, and filthy brown water rushed in with a tremendous whoosh! Our cottage teetered over a huge water-filled mud hole.

Outside, muddy water surrounded our house. We piled everything except two large boxes on top of our bed, chairs, and couch. In back of our house was a small boat dealership. Bob waded over and broke out a skiff. But we had no oars, so we used the leaf from our Formica kitchen table. We packed a few toiletries, our Bibles, and our wedding book into Bob's backpack and climbed into the boat, along with a few neighbors, to "row" to a nearby hotel, where the radio announced that buses were picking up survivors to take them to the high school.

A gray dawn was breaking as we paddled away at four a.m. Tears filled my eyes. Bob said, "Don't cry! We still have each other and the Lord. That's all we really need, isn't it?"

From the hotel, a bus drove us through flooded streets to Lathrop High School, where Bob had attended for ninth and tenth grades. We spent a week there sleeping on the tile floor at least thirty to a room, side by side, head to toe, without bedding of any kind. When the waters had receded sufficiently, we trudged back to the house. The flood had opened up huge craters in our tiny street. If we had not used a skiff to evacuate, we could have fallen in one and drowned.

Inside the house, mud caked everything up to nine inches above a the floor. Cold and damp, with no water, sewer, or heat, and the house teetering over a basement full of filthy water, we knew we couldn't live in it. But the new chimney still stood tall!

Parked next to the house on slightly higher ground, our 1960 Chevrolet Impala had stayed dry inside, although the engine had probably been flooded. Bob let it dry out, then tried to start it. It roared to life! Bob still had work, but the Centennial Exposition on the river had been inundated so my job was gone. We decided to load everything into the car and drive to Valdez (it took two trips) to stay with my folks until Bob's orders to active duty in the Army came through.

There, we lived in the missionary apartment above the old church and had a wonderful three-week honeymoon. We fished for silver salmon, stocking my folks' freezer for the winter, and explored one of the most scenic places in the world--Bridal Veil Falls, Thompson Pass, Worthington Glacier, and the Gulkana River Gorge along the Richardson Highway north of Valdez.

We had passed through the waters (a record-breaking flood of the Chena River), and God had not allowed us to be overthrown by the flood. In fact, He added unexpected blessings. I have written previously of how Bob was under fire in Vietnam and God brought him through that year unscathed. God has led us step by step through paths we could not have imagined on that first date in 1964. We have much to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Real Enemy

My husband, Bob, intended to make being an Army officer his career. As an infantry battalion intelligence officer in Vietnam, he came to an understanding of the universal nature of sin.

Part of his job there included searching the bodies of enemy soldiers killed in battle to determine from their personal effects where they had come from. On one body, Bob found a notebook full of detailed drawings of the human anatomy along with a letter. After studying the notebook, the battalion surgeon said it appeared that the dead man had wanted to be an obstetrician. The battalion interpreter determined that the letter was addressed to the young man's fiancee. He wrote of his desire to get married after the war and go to Paris to study medicine.

But the young man who only wanted to bring life into the world was dead. And the intelligence that Bob had gathered had led to this man's death. Neither had wanted to kill anyone. Until then, Bob had thought of sin in terms of the wrongs a person committed personally, such as breaking one of the Ten Commandments. He had believed that being an Army officer and ridding the world of Communism was the best thing he could do to bring peace to this world. In Vietnam, he began to realize that sin, not Communism, was the real enemy.

During his next assignment at a small Army detachment in Rhode Island, Bob became very involved in a home missions church in Providence. In our two years there, the church grew from about two dozen to two hundred as the Jesus Revolution brought many hippies in off the streets in a sovereign move of God. After six years in the Army, Bob was transferred to Arizona for the Intelligence career course. By then, he knew that God was calling us into the ministry. He realized that if every Communist dropped dead tonight, tomorrow the world wouldn't be any different, because sin would still be present. Even if the whole world were a democracy, it would still be dominated by the enemy, sin.

Bob knew that leaving the Army would be difficult. As a regular Army officer, he couldn't get out during wartime, and the Vietnam War was still raging. On the other hand, they couldn't boot a regular officer out just because it was peace time. In spite of that, when he arrived at the career course, he went in to see the commanding officer to start the process. His answer? "Impossible! You can't do that now! You owe the Army a year just for moving you here. If you take the career course, you'll owe us even more. You've been consistently promoted ahead of schedule. Why would you want to get out?”

“Because God has called me to the ministry,” Bob said.

"You might have to wait a couple of years,” his commander said, and he wouldn't do anything to help Bob.

Finally, Bob called the Pentagon and spoke to a major. After a string of cuss words, the major asked, “Why do you want to do this?”

Bob said, “I love the Army, but God has called me to be a minister.” He thought the major would really let him have it, but the major suddenly changed his tune. “Oh! In that case, just fill out these papers and send them directly to me. I’ll hand carry them around to the committee members and get your request approved.”

Within three weeks, Bob received approval to get out of the Army on the exact date he requested so we could move to Springfield, Missouri, in time for him to start the second semester at Central Bible College. Because nothing happens in the military in less than ninety days, we knew for certain that God was leading us.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Vietnam Veteran's Memories

On June 9, 1969, the day before our second wedding anniversary, my husband took off from the airport in Anchorage, Alaska, and headed for Vietnam. At midnight, he crossed the International Dateline and totally missed our anniversary that year. So I have celebrated one more anniversary than he has! 

As an infantry officer, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne. In that assignment, Bob was involved in something called “fireflies”--night operations with helicopters. One large helicopter was equipped with a big searchlight made of large aircraft landing lights. A couple of other helicopters carried rockets and bombs. The operations helicopter would fly high above while the others flew near the ground. At night they'd fly in the dark with no lights until they were over their target. Then, the top helicopter would switch on the lights, which made it an easy target for the enemy, while the other two would fly in from the left and the right, crisscrossing under the operations helicopter, firing rockets and dropping bombs. It was hazardous. Some of his friends cracked up doing the same thing and died.  

Bob says, "Every night I’d have to wait for a helicopter to come to the fire base to pick me up. The waiting was the worst part. I began to understand fear. I’m not talking about just being scared. I mean a fear that gnaws at you and tugs at your nerves. The fireflies took place about one or two a.m. I used to wonder if I’d see the sun come up in the morning. Once, we got caught in a monsoon rainstorm and couldn't see in any direction. I really learned about fear that time. During those months, I began to draw closer to the Lord. That well-known hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul,” often came into my heart and mind. I kept thinking that no matter what happened, with Jesus, it is well with my soul. I can handle it. I did. And I made it through.

"One time, as my unit was being relieved by another unit at a fire base, I got into the command chopper with my pilot, and we lifted off. Immediately, the command chopper of the next battalion landed. Other choppers were coming in behind him. Suddenly, Viet Cong soldiers sprang up out of the grass right next to the landing area and fired away, killing their S3 officer and severely wounding the others. The VC had infiltrated during the change over and were already in place when I jogged to my chopper. The man sitting in the same position in that helicopter that I sat in on my chopper had his arm and leg shot off. I thank God that He protected me on that occasion. I didn’t even get a scratch."

The 82nd Airborne went home after six months, and Bob had six more to go, so he was assigned as an intelligence officer, S2, on an advisory team to a Vietnamese unit in Tay Ninh Province. "We had to ride in helicopters a lot. I made it a practice not to fly unless my job required it. Two weeks before I came home, my best friend, Major Barton, the S3 officer on the advisory team, invited me to fly along with him to visit the province chief that Sunday morning. It was a beautiful day, but I said no. I wanted to go to church and then write letters to my wife. That day his helicopter crashed, and all on board were killed."

At the end of the longest year of our lives, Bob returned home on Memorial Day, 1970. Although he suffers from the effects of exposure to Agent Orange, I am especially thankful every Veteran's Day that my husband came home from Vietnam unharmed.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Search

After the Good Friday earthquake that devastated South Central Alaska, I used my "earthquake relatedness" scholarship from the Ford Foundation ( see previous post, "In a Matter of Minutes") to enroll at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. The first week of classes, I attended an Intervarsity Christian Fellowship meeting. There, I met the man who would become my husband three years later.

Bob had come to Alaska in 1959 with his father, a colonel in the United States Air Force, assigned to Eielson Air Force Base, near Fairbanks, as the base engineer. When Bob graduated from high school, his parents were transferred, but Bob stayed in Alaska to attend the university.

Bob's family did not go to church. When Bob was eight years old, his father was stationed in Greece for three years, and the family accompanied him. Another American wife who lived nearby often visited the Conti family. "I haven't been to church in years," she often lamented. "God must hate me!"

Overhearing her, young Bob thought, "I've never even gone to church. God must really hate me."

Early one Sunday morning Bob climbed a tree near their house on the road just outside of Athens. A unit of Greek soldiers often marched by on their way to the Greek Orthodox Church nearby. Lustily, they sang hymns as they marched. Hearing them, eight-year-old Bob felt very guilty because he never went to church.

As he sat in that tree, a warm Presence suddenly enveloped him, as though God had put His loving arms around him. "It's all right, Bobby. I love you, " He seemed to say. And thus began Bob's search for God.

The first thing Bob did was to go to the Orthodox Church. He opened the door and peeked in. The two-dimensional icons frightened him. Then a priest with an upside-down stovepipe hat chased him away. Bob quickly decided that he would wait until the family returned to the States to look for a church.

Bob was eleven years old when they returned to America. That's when he learned that as a baby he had been baptized a Roman Catholic. A school friend took him to church and introduced him to the priest, who enrolled him in special catechism classes to prepare him for confirmation.

Bob faithfully followed the teachings of the Catholic Church. When the priest discovered Bob had an excellent singing voice, he enlisted him to sing the responses in the Mass. But Bob's favorite part of the Mass was the reading from the Gospels. At the base chapel at Eielson, the chaplain-priest gave Bob a copy of God's Word for Modern Man. He loved reading the stories about Jesus, but soon he had many questions.

"Just trust the teachings of the Church," the priest told him. "The layman can't understand the Bible."

But that didn't satisfy Bob. When he graduated from high school, he left the Catholic Church. Working as a surveyor for the State of Alaska Highway Department, he spent his free time out in the woods by himself, singing all the music he had learned in the Mass and praying, longing to know God.

That fall at the university he met a Christian girl who invited him to church. That evening, a visiting evangelist spoke on Jesus' words in John 10:9, "I am the door. If any one enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." Bob realized he'd found what he'd been searching for. That night, he walked through that Door.

*This story is an excerpt from my nonfiction book, Frontiers of Faith, available on www.Amazon.com or from www.AuthorHouse.com. For more information, see my website, www.AnnaLeeConti.com.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rescued by Angels

Bridges were suddenly thrust many feet higher than the crumpled ribbons of highways--if they were left standing at all--when a devastating earthquake hit South Central Alaska on Good Friday, March 27, 1964. Registering 9.2 on the Richter scale, the largest earthquake ever to hit North America left every city, town, village, and connecting highway within a 300-mile radius in ruins.

Seward Highway, the only road connecting Alaska's largest city, Anchorage, with the port city of Seward, where my family lived, was particularly hard-hit. To reopen the 120-mile road as quickly as possible, the Corps of Engineers erected temporary Bailey bridges along the route. Resembling an erector set, these prefabricated bridges with open girders could be adjusted to fit any site. There were no guard railings, and the roadbeds consisted of wooden or metal plates.

That fall, my mother was invited to fly to Juneau to attend the anniversary celebration of the founding of the church that her parents, the Charles C. Personeuses, had pioneered in 1917. She planned to spend a few days visiting friends there, until she felt a strong impression that she needed to return home earlier than planned. The feeling was so persistent that she thought it must be from God. She caught the first flight to Anchorage. Since no one was expecting her, she planned to take the bus to Seward.

Her flight arrived late, and she missed the bus. So sure was she that she needed to get home as soon as possible, she persuaded her foster daughter, Barbie, to drive her to Seward when she got off from work. It was Friday, so Barbie could spend the weekend at home.

Then it began to snow. Barbie didn't have snow tires yet. Before they could leave Anchorage, she had to have a set mounted on her car. Night comes early that time of year in Alaska, so it was dark by the time they left Anchorage for the three-hour drive. At the wheel, Mother had to proceed cautiously because the snow, mixed with freezing rain, created patches of ice on the roadway.

At Portage, near the head of Turnagain Arm, about halfway to Seward, they stopped to eat. From there, they had to cross a series of Bailey bridges over tide flats cut by estuaries and creeks before heading up into the pass through the Chugach Mountains. Because these temporary bridges sat parallel to the remains of the ruined bridges, they had to make a little jog off the main road to get onto them.

As Mother drove onto the first Bailey bridge, the car suddenly spun out on black ice. Barbie screamed, and Mother cried out, "Oh, Jesus, help us!" When the car came to rest, it was teetering crosswise with the front wheels hanging off the edge.

Staring into the black waters below, they were trying to figure out what to do when headlights flashed toward them. "Oh, no! What if they don't see us?" Mother exclaimed.

The car stopped facing them. Four big men dressed in suits got out. They surrounded the car, picked it up, and set it back on the bridge, headed the right direction.

Amazed, Mother rolled down her window to thank them, but they had totally disappeared--no car, no men! Puzzled, she looked all around. "They're gone!"

"But where could they go?" Barbie asked.

Awe filling her voice, Mother said, "I don't know.They must have been angels sent by God to help us!"

When they finally arrived home late that night, Daddy exclaimed, "What are you doing here?" In the next breath, he added, "But I'm sure glad to see you. Mrs. G [a lady in our church] has been critically injured in an auto accident on Seward Highway. Her teenage son was driving too fast, hit black ice, and crashed into a bridge abutment. He's okay, but her family desperately needs you."

"So that's why the Lord told me to come home." Then Mother told him how they'd been rescued by angels.

Have you ever been aided by angels?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Loose Lips Sink Ships"

During World War II, posters reminded people, "Loose lips sink ships." Even in peace time, loose lips can cause deep hurt. I learned that the hard way.

One summer during my high school years, my family was returning home from a long car trip over the Haines Cutoff portion of the Alaska Highway. In those days, that three-hundred-mile stretch of road in Canada was unpaved--bumpy, dusty, and full of hairpin curves. Needless to say, it was bone-jarring for us all.

We decided to stop in Valdez to visit friends who operated the children's home there before continuing on to our home in Seward. When I didn't get enough rest, I often contracted tonsillitis. By the time we arrived in Valdez, I had a whopper of a sore throat and fever and was sent directly to bed.

After traveling so long, we needed clean clothes. The children's home allowed my mother to use their washer and dryer. Before long, my freshly laundered clothes were delivered to my room. To my surprise, they were not only folded, but my blouses had been ironed and hung on hangers.

One of my shirts had long, wide sleeves that needed to be rolled up. Being a perfectionist, I was very fussy about how that was done, and I noticed right away that they had not been ironed the way I liked. Thinking my foster sister, with whom I shared the chore of ironing, had ironed my blouse, I complained, "You didn't do the sleeves right."

A teen girl who lived in the home had helped to carry the clothes upstairs. As those words of complaint left my mouth, the smile on her face fell away. I knew instantly that she had ironed my shirt, and I had just destroyed her pleasure in doing something nice for me.

Nothing I could say would recall those thoughtless words, though I wanted so badly to do so. Nearly fifty years have passed, and I still remember that incident and how my words hurt that girl. That day I learned the hard way that words once spoken can never be unsaid.

The Apostle Paul advises us in Ephesians to speak only words that build up the other person. That day, I learned to think before I speak so as not to needlessly hurt someone. I'm sure I haven't done it perfectly over the years, but I am more aware of what I say. Daily, my prayer is "May the words of my mouth...be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14, NLT).

Have you ever said something you wished immediately that you could take back?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Trip, a Contest, and a Wardrobe

The year was 1961, and I was a sophomore in Seward High School. An announcement attracted my attention. The local Odd Fellows and Rebekahs lodge was sponsoring a contest for sophomores and juniors for an all-expense-paid trip. That coming July, the winning student would travel with 35 other teens from the Pacific Northwest and Canada and four chaperons by educational bus tour across Canada to New York City to study the United Nations for a week and return through the northern United States, visiting many points of interest en route.

It sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime. All I had to do was ace a written test and win a speaking contest. I was a good test taker and often led our church youth group. With my parents permission, I entered the contest and was the top scorer on the written test.

The speaking contest was held on a Wednesday evening. Because we had midweek services every Wednesday in our church, my parents were not in the audience that night. The topic of each five-minute speech was to be the United Nations. We would be judged not only for the content and presentation, but also on poise and appearance.

As the night progressed, I thought each speech was terrific. In spite of a bad case of nerves, I felt confident that I had done well. How would the judges be able to choose just one of us?

My heart pounded as the moment for the big announcement came. "And the winner is...AnnaLee Cousart." I'd won! I could hardly believe it. I learned later that it was my highest score on the test that put me over the top.

My parents were proud of me. Mother berated herself for not being there. I was ecstatic that I'd won--until I looked in my closet at my wardrobe.

I had no clothes appropriate for the hot, humid summer weather I was sure to encounter on that trip. Alaskan summers are cool and often rainy along its southern coast. Once school was out, we wore jeans or pedal pushers with shirts and sweaters and almost always needed a jacket or windbreaker except on Sundays when I wore my one suit with its long-sleeved jacket until the weather changed in the early fall.

The brochure listing what to take on the trip stated that the girls would be required to wear dresses or skirts every day--no pants. I had several wool skirts and sweaters for school, but no skirts and dresses suitable for a month-long trip in hot weather. And we didn't have money to buy me a new wardrobe.

"We'd better pray about it," my mother said. "The Lord will provide."

Somehow, word got around that I'd won the trip. The state president of our denomination's women's organization learned of my need for a wardrobe and took it on as a project. She wrote letters to all our ladies' groups around the state. Most of those churches were small and struggled to pay the bills, just as ours did. But that didn't keep them from helping out.

Soon, letters began to arrived with checks of various amounts designated for me to purchase items needed for my trip. My mother, an excellent seamstress, bought material to make skirts and blouses and dresses for me. By the time I flew out to meet the tour group, I was outfitted from head to toe with everything I needed for the trip.

How has God not only met your needs but also the desires of your heart?

In my next blog, I'll write about how I learned to keep my mouth shut.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

From Pelican to Seward

Pelican had a two-room school for grades K-8. I took eighth grade there and graduated the year Alaska became a state--1959. Since Pelican had no high school, Barbie and I began taking correspondence courses that fall, our freshman year. Grade school had been easy for me, but now I had to dig everything out for myself. That was the year I learned how to study.

The only option to correspondence courses for high school in Pelican at that time was for the students to go away to boarding school. Instead of that, since there were six or seven teens in Pelican, the school board decided we could all take correspondence courses. They arranged for us to meet daily during school hours in the tiny library on the second floor of the fire house and paid my dad to supervise. That arrangement worked well. Most of us were freshman so we could help each other on coursework, and my dad proved to be a good teacher when we got stuck, especially in algebra. This job also helped us financially.

My parents had put in a request to be transferred to another church in a town with a regular high school. In February 1960, my dad was offered the pastorate of a small church in Seward, Alaska. We packed up, shipped our household goods and books, and flew to Juneau on the Alaska Coastal Airlines Grumman Goose. (Since Pelican had no roads, we didn't own a car). In Juneau, we boarded the Pacific Northern four-engine prop plane, the Constellation (nicknamed "Connie"), and flew to Anchorage. There, we transferred to a single-engine plane to fly to Seward.

The day we flew south through the Chugach Mountains and swooped down toward Resurrection Bay, on which Seward was situated, the weather was picture-postcard perfect. Surrounded by rugged, snow-capped mountains, the clear blue waters of Resurrection Bay reflected the azure canopy and sparkled in the bright sun. As I peered out the plane's tiny window and caught my first glimpse of our new hometown, I thought Seward was the most beautiful place I had ever seen, and I'd seen most of southern Alaska as well as much of the United States from Washington to Pennsylvania.

When we entered the parsonage attached to the tiny church, though, I cried. We had left a lovely home in Pelican. Though the living quarters in Pelican had not been large, the upstairs, which extended the full length of the building, had afforded enough bedrooms for each of us to have our own. Now, we three girls had to share a room only large enough for a twin bed and a set of bunk beds set side by side with only an orange crate between as a lamp stand. One double dresser extended from the foot of the twin bed to an open closet across the other end of the room. My sister's dresser stood outside our door in the nine-by-twelve living room.

We could see daylight through cracks in the plank floor in our closet. That winter and every winter thereafter in that house, I often could not change my sheets for weeks on end because they were frozen securely to the wall. Our parents' bedroom was even smaller--one double bed with enough space for one person to walk around and built-in drawers along one wall and a closet along the wall by the door.

Our "central" heat consisted of a furnace in a hole dug under the floor covered with a large metal grate not quite three-feet square. That became a favorite place to stand during those winter months when the strong, frigid winds blew in off the bay and rattled the house.

In spite of the inadequacies of the house, though, I soon made many friends and learned to love Seward. God again proved His faithfulness in meeting our needs. See my previous post, "God Is Never Too Late," and my next post of how God showed His concern for a special need I had.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

God Provides

During our ten years in Juneau, our church outgrew its building and built a new one on the edge of town. All the men of the church spent evenings and Saturdays donating labor to complete the structure. During that time, my dad served as an usher in the church. One Sunday, he and another usher, Harry Bates, were talking when Harry said, "A Christian has to be ready to pray, preach, or die." Those words stuck in our minds, because they were Harry's last words to my father. That week, the oil tanker he was driving was involved in an accident, which resulted in an explosion, and Harry Bates was killed.

It wasn't long before my father was preaching full time. My grandparents, who had built and had been pastoring the church in Pelican for ten years, retired. My dad was appointed as the new missionary to Pelican. Most new missionaries in Alaska itinerated from church to church in the States to raise support before coming to the Territory of Alaska. Since he was already there, he did not get that opportunity. So my family moved to Pelican by faith. The Juneau church pledged $30.00 a month toward our support, but that was no where near what was needed to support a family of six.

The family moved to Pelican in February 1958. There, my dad renewed acquaintance with a man he had known while stationed in Ketchikan in the Coast Guard during World War II. Pros Ganty owned a float plane, and my father had flown with him a few times. Now, Pros Ganty owned the Pelican Cold Storage Company, Pelican's primary employer. He hired my dad to do the inventory for the general store that winter.

Pelican is built on piling along a boardwalk that stretches a mile along the rugged coastline of Lizianski Inlet, on Chicagof Island. Winter storms off the Pacific hit the mountains of the Alexander Archipelago and dump heavy amounts of snow all winter long on Pelican. For ten years, the "city" had hired my grandfather to shoveled that long boardwalk. After he left, Pros Ganty hired my father to do it.

During the first summer in Pelican, my dad bought an old skiff with a small outboard motor and trolled the inlet for salmon. That year, my parents froze, smoked, and canned a lot of salmon, which supplied us with protein all that winter. My mother became quite creative in coming up with new ways to serve salmon!

The next summer, a Christian fisherman who visited us whenever he was in port, hurt his back and had to go to Sitka for a spinal fusion. His 18-year-old son could not operate the boat alone, so my father fished with him for the rest of the summer.  Most times, though, when they would haul in a fish, seals would steal it right off the line, leaving only the fish head before they had a chance to get it into the boat. (In spite of that, one of my favorite memories of our years in Pelican is of the week I spent on the Alitak as "chief cook and bottle washer" out on Cross Sound where Icy Strait meets the open Pacific.)

With his part-time jobs, plus fishing and hunting for deer, and the fish given to us by fishermen, my dad was able to keep food on the table. During the summer months, we picked blueberries for cobblers and pies. The cannery cookhouse, the only restaurant in town, hired my mother, an excellent baker, to make pies and sheet cakes. My foster sister and I did a lot of babysitting at fifty cents an hour to buy our own clothes. Even though the budget didn't balance on paper, God supplied our needs. We never felt deprived, and I have many fond memories of those years in Pelican, which often inform my writing.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Barbie, Part 3

The next morning when Barbie knew her father had gone out on his fishing boat, she crept home to bed. Even under her blankets, she couldn't get warm. She shivered and shivered. Then she began to sweat and threw off all her covers. All day she shivered and sweat, shivered and sweat in alternating waves. That night, she began to cough--deep, harsh coughs that shook her to her core. Her mother brought her fish broth, but the smell nauseated her.

Finally, after about a week, the worst of the illness seemed over, but Barbie felt weak. Her brown cheeks were pale. Her eyes had lost their usual sparkle. When she tried to return to school, even the short walk up the path exhausted her. And her coughing continued.

After several months, she still had not improved. Her parents arranged to take her to the doctor in Kodiak. After examining her, he told her parents that she had tuberculosis again, this time in her lungs. She was again sent to the sanitarium at Mt. Edgecumbe. There, after further examination, the doctors found that her lungs were so destroyed by the tuberculosis that she could not get well. They decided they could do nothing for her and would send her home to die.

In the meantime, the Cousarts learned of Barbie's condition. Knowing that God could heal her, they sent prayer requests to Christians they knew all across America. Before long, they heard that the doctors had changed their minds. Instead of sending her home to die, they would try a new drug on her--streptomycin. The results were miraculous. Within six months, Barbie was well enough to leave the hospital. (Streptomycin is still used today to treat tuberculosis, a once incurable disease.) The doctors, however, fearing she would only get tuberculosis again, said Barbie could not go home to Old Harbor.

The Cousarts were no longer operating the Bethel Beach Children's Home, which had been closed. They now owned they own home, where they lived with their three children. The Alaska Native Service social worker, who knew of the Cousarts' interest in Barbie, called to ask them if they would take Barbie into their home as a foster child. Even though friends and doctors warned them that their children could catch tuberculosis from Barbie, the Cousarts felt it was God's plan that she come to live with them.

What a joyful reunion when Barbie arrived at the Cousarts! Now she could go to Sunday school every Sunday without fear of receiving a beating! Barbie lived with us until she graduated from high school ten years later. She became one of the family--loved and accepted as a daughter and sister by all of us.

And none of us children ever contracted tuberculosis or even have a positive TB test to this day!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Barbie, Part 2

The Cousarts began to pray that God would send a missionary to Old Harbor. Before Barbie and Ralph boarded the plane to leave, the Cousarts gave them each a Bible. Clutching their Bibles and holding back their tears, the two children turned to wave and smile then disappeared into the airplane.

When Barbie and Ralph arrived home in Old Harbor, they found that God had already answered their prayers. A young lady named Violet Abel had come to live in Old Harbor to tell the villagers about Jesus. How Barbie and Ralph loved to visit her and listen to her tell the Bible stories!

Then one morning at breakfast, Barbie and Ralph's father said sternly, "You've been going to the missionary's house, haven't you?"

"Yes," they admitted, trembling with fear.

"The priest has forbidden us to go there," their father thundered. "You will not go there again. If you do, I will beat you!"

Hearts thumping hard with fear and disappointment, the two children left the house silently to go to the one-room schoolhouse. Barbie felt as though someone had turned out all the lights in her heart. She loved Violet Abel. She would miss her very much. And she wanted to learn more about Jesus.

For many days, Barbie obeyed her father. But finally she couldn't stand it any longer. She decided to take the risk and visit Violet. After school, she looked to see that no one was watching as she quickly ducked into the doorway of Violet's house. Inside, she was having such a wonderful time listening to stories about Jesus that she completely lost track of the time. Before she knew it, it was dark. Her father would be home. He would ask where she had been.

Afraid to go home and face her father, Barbie walked up and down the beach in the cold wind for hours. When she could walk no longer, she huddled down in the shelter of a rock and fell asleep.

To be continued: Barbie, Part 3

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Barbie, an Aleut Girl Who Became My Sister

Barbie was an Aleut girl, born in the tiny village of Old harbor on the shores of Kodiak Island, the largest of a long chain of islands that extends from southwestern Alaska in the Pacific Ocean. Called the Aleutian islands, this chain stretches so far west that the International Dateline must jog around it. Barbie's father was a fisherman, as were all the men of Old Harbor. Salmon, halibut, and other fish and seafood made up the main part of the villagers' diet. In the cool summer months, they picked wild blueberries, goose berries, and salmon berries from the treeless hillsides above the village to add variety to their diet.

Old Harbor in the late 1940's and 1950's had few modern conveniences--no running water in their houses and no electricity. Kerosene lanterns lit their homes on the long winter nights. They carried water in buckets from a nearby stream or melted huge chunks of ice in the winter. Instead of toilets, outhouses stood behind each house. Since lumber was scarce on this treeless island, the houses themselves were small, hardly more than shacks.

The largest building in the village was the Russian Orthodox church with its onion-shaped dome, the Russian cross on top. The Russian Orthodox priest held a lot of power among the Aleuts. As their spiritual leader, he was respected, even feared, and obeyed without question.

When Barbie was just a little girl, she and her older brother, Ralph, became very sick. Since no doctors lived in Old Harbor, their parents had to take them several hours away by fishing boat to Kodiak, the largest town on Kodiak Island. The doctor there examined them and found that they were suffering from tuberculosis, a very serious disease. Tuberculosis usually affects the lungs, but Barbie and Ralph's tuberculosis had attacked their spines. They needed surgery to remove the diseased bones. That meant they would have to fly in an airplane to a faraway hospital somewhere in the United States (Alaska was still a territory then).

After two spinal fusions and having to lie perfectly still for many weeks, the two young children were returned to Alaska to another hospital, a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients at Mt. Edgecumbe, near Sitka, Alaska. After several years of treatment and some schooling, they recovered and were sent to the small children's home in Juneau operated by my parents, where they would live until they grew strong enough to return to their family in Old Harbor.

At the Bethel Beach Children's Home, Barbie and Ralph found many other children to play with. Picnics at Tee Harbor, romps in the tall grass with the other children and Taku, the husky-German shepherd-wolf dog, filled the long summer days. With nourishing food, fresh air, and exercise, Barbie and Ralph gained weight and strength. The thing they liked best of all was when their houseparents, Mr. and Mrs. Cousart, took down the big Bible story book and read aloud the stories of Jesus. And each Sunday morning all the children dressed in their best clothes, and everyone went to Sunday school.

By the end of the summer, Barbie and Ralph were strong enough to return to Old Harbor. They both cried because they didn't want to leave the home where they had been so happy, where they had learned about the love of Jesus. Who would tell them more about Jesus in Old Harbor?

To be continued: Barbie, Part 2

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Teacher Who Influenced My Life

I was privileged to have many wonderful school teachers. Several were born-again Christians who shared my faith. My fifth grade teacher, Miss Dinsmore, inspired me to be a teacher. Miss Mayberry, who I thought was very strict, cultivated my writing. We published a book of poems and short stories that year. But my seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Yates, went beyond the call of duty to pour herself into my life over a period of years.

Although she was a school teacher, I first met Mrs. Yates in church. She was the director of the junior choir, of which I was a member. My family was very musical. Both parents had trained singing voices, and my mother played the piano, mostly by ear. My brother, sister, and I used to sing together when we were preschoolers. Mother wrote many songs, including one for us to sing at Christmas. I sang my first solo, "The Way of the Cross Leads Home," when I was 9 years old. Even my parents were amazed at the big, mature voice coming from their young daughter. Mrs. Yates often assigned solos parts to me after that, and she and I sometimes sang duets together.

I had a strong desire to learn to play the piano, but a growing family of four children left no money for music lessons. My father planned to go into full-time pastoring. While he was working for the airlines, he had brought home an adult piano course that someone had left in the waiting room and had never claimed. With that, I was able to teach myself some basics with Mother calling out, "That's not right!" whenever I hit a wrong note. She could hear what sounded good and could read notes but didn't have time and wasn't proficient enough to really teach me.

Mrs. Yates was a gifted pianist. Somehow, she discovered that I wanted to take piano lessons and offered to give me lessons free. For a whole year, she gave me free lessons. From her, I learned how to play for church. In addition to music from the John Thompson Grade Two piano book, she assigned hymns, one in each key. She showed me how to determine what chords to play along with the melody.

My birthday is December 2. In Alaska, the cutoff date for starting school was November 1, so I was nearly 7 when I started school. That made me one of the oldest in my class. Always mature for my age, I was also the tallest. I'd always been a good student, but when I entered sixth grade, I understood the work before it was taught. In fact, in those days before calculators and computers, I spent math period working out grade percentages for the office while the class did the lesson. On my twelfth birthday, I was allowed to skip into seventh grade with Mrs. Yates as my math and English teacher. She'd promised to give me special help if I needed it. Two months later, my parents assumed the pastorate of the church in Pelican, when my grandparents retired. Not wanting me to have to adjust to another change that year, Mrs. Yates invited me to live with her and her husband for the rest of the school year. We also continued my piano lessons.

The Yates eventually moved to Olympia, Washington. When I attended Seattle Pacific College to study music, their place became my home away from home, where I spent holiday weekends since it cost too much to fly home to Alaska whenever I wanted.  When my husband and I started a church in Gloversville, New York, the Yates drove up to visit us. By then, I was playing for church full time. I was excited to turn the bench over to her and hear her play once again.

Through the years, we have kept in touch at Christmas. They retired in Colorado. It's been years since we've seen each other. As this blog airs, though, my husband and I will have visited her again. She's in her eighties now. Her husband went to be with the Lord in March at the age of 93. We're retired now too, but I still play and sing for church occasionally. Over the years, I've directed church choirs, played the piano for services, and sung solos for the Lord, just as my teacher did years ago. She taught me more than math and English. She demonstrated a life of service to the Lord.

Did you have a teacher or other adult who has influenced your life in a special way?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My Faith Heritage

One advantage we enjoyed as a family that came from my father working for an airlines was free airfare for our entire family on a space available basis. During our ten years living in Juneau, we took three trips by air back to Philadelphia to visit my father's parents and other relatives. I remember flying in the belly of the Pam Am "Strato" Clipper in its comfortable lounge on one occasion when the passenger section was full. Another time, we were "bumped" in Detroit and spent the night sleeping in the airport. These trips gave my Philadelphia grandparents the opportunity to get to know their Alaska grandchildren.

During those trips we also visited our many relatives in Lancaster County, my mother's and grandmother's birthplace, where our ancestor was the first white settler in 1712. Isaac LeFevre, at age 16, was the only member of his family to escape martyrdom at the Revocation of the Edit of Nantes. They were French Protestants, nicknamed Huguenots. Isaac fled with the family Bible baked in a loaf of bread to the Feree home in Strasburg, France, then with them to Holland, and eventually to England, where they met William Penn, who deeded to them a tract of land in Pennsylvania in the Pequea Valley, 55 miles west of Philadelphia. They named their new settlement "Paradise," because they had finally found a place where they could worship God freely. The name of the town remains to this day, and a monument to them stands by the railroad tracks near the spot where U. S. Route 30 crosses Pequea Creek.

We spent many happy hours with my Grandma's youngest brother and his wife in the 28-room mansion, the home in which Grandma grew up, built on Isaac LeFevre's land in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. Our trips always took place in October. A favorite memory is of riding in the wagon behind the harvester and catching the ears of corn that slid through the machinery with the husks still intact. We loved to pull off "the paper," as we called it. Meals made almost entirely of fresh corn on the cob were a special treat to us Alaskans who only ate corn from a can at home.

In Lancaster, we also came to know my Grandma Personeus's sisters and brother who had given their lives in service to God as missionaries. Thus, the seeds of God's call on my life to full-time ministry were planted. And one aunt, associate editor of the Sunday School Times for many years, had also written nine novels, kindling my desire to write books.

Those trips also widened my understanding of our American heritage. In Philadelphia, we visited Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross's House, Christ's Church, the Philadelphia Mint, and the Franklin Institute. We sat in George Washington's pew, read the Declaration of Independence, and brought home a copy, along with our miniature Liberty Bells. The stories of America's fight for religious and political liberty came alive. 

On one trip, we traveled by car to Washington D. C., where we toured the White House, the Capitol building, all the presidential monuments, the statue of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, and witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. 

My heart still swells with patriotic pride as I pledge my allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and sing the national anthem. As I read the writings of our Founding Fathers, I learned of the great sacrifices they made for the cause of freedom and their dependence on prayer and the Bible to encourage and guide them. How much we have lost as the history taught in our schools has been rewritten! How thankful I am for my godly heritage and the religious freedom we still enjoy here in America!

Do you have a faith heritage? Are you passing it down to your children?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Growing Up in Alaska

Mother always told us not to play with matches. One morning, several of us were playing on the tidal flats below the house near an old derelict ship wrecked there years earlier. That old ship, nearly tipped on its side, all black with decay, fascinated me. I wondered what stories it could tell. I never did learn how it got there. It's gone now, taken out along with our children's home, by the highway department when they put in the modern Eagan Drive.

Anyway, that morning, I found a pack of paper matches. We were away from the house, so I knew there was no danger of burning it down. I decided to try to light one of the matches. When I struck the match, it flared into flames and set the whole book on fire. Before I could drop it, the flames licked at my thumb and immediately raised a blister. My mother often quoted Scripture to drive home a point when disciplining us. That day, I learned the meaning of "Be sure your sin will find you out." To this day, I will not light a paper match.

Often on Sunday afternoons, we children were required to take naps so we could go the evening service at church. One of my fondest memories growing up was of waking up to my mother playing the piano and singing hymns in her beautiful soprano voice.

For a while, a lovely young Eskimo woman and her baby lived with us. My brother, sister, and I sang together on special occasions in church when we were young. The Eskimo lady taught us to sing "Into My Heart" in Eskimo. I can still sing it even now. Mother also wrote songs for us to sing. "I Wish I Could Have Been There" is one we sang for the church Christmas programs.

Every Christmas after the program, each of the children in the church was given a red net stocking filled with ribbon candy, chocolate drops, various nuts, plus an orange and an apple. The fruit was a special treat, because fresh fruit had to be flown to Alaska and was very expensive. My parents could rarely afford fresh fruit or dairy. We ate canned vegetables, fruit, and juice, and reconstituted tinned evaporated milk or powdered milk. Milk is another thing I don't particularly like to this day. In spite of all this, I never felt deprived. We didn't know anything else, until we made our trips back East to visit our grandparents. Actually, I felt it a privilege to grow up in Alaska.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Miraculous Event

One afternoon, Mother had taken us all to town for a doctor's appointment. We returned by taxi. When the cab pulled into our driveway and we all climbed out, Mother told me to hold onto my three-year-old sister's hand. But Kathy didn't want to take my hand and ran around behind the cab. In the confusion, Mother didn't notice until the car began to back up. She glanced around to make sure all the children were out of the way.

"Where's Kathy?" she asked, a note of panic in her voice.

She glanced under the cab as the rear tire headed right for my sister's head! "Oh Jesus!" she screamed.

She shouted for the driver to stop and watched in horror as the wheel reached Kathy's head.

At that moment, the tire jump up over Kathy's head as though lifted by an unseen hand.

Mother and the driver both ran back to find my sister on the ground, dirty and crying, but apparently not seriously hurt. "Oh thank You, Jesus!" Mother cried.

Mother picked her up and said to the taxi driver, "You'd better take us to the hospital to get her checked out." As she climbed back into the taxi, she said, "I hate to leave you children all alone, but this is an emergency. AnnaLee, you're in charge."

We were all so scared, not so much of being alone but about Kathy's condition, that we went right upstairs and stood in front of the window that overlooked the driveway, where we stayed, huddled together, whimpering and praying. It seemed like forever before Mother and Kathy returned. The doctor pronounced her unharmed. Mother told everyone that the hand of God lifted that wheel over her head so it wouldn't crush her.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Memories of the Bethel Beach Children's Home

In spite of the tragic backgrounds of many of the children, we enjoyed many happy times playing in the big house or in the spacious yard. We'd dress up in old clothes, bathrobes, high heels, whatever we could find and play "parade" up and down the long, winding driveway.

Summers in Juneau were usually cool and often rainy. One summer, though, we had a long stretch of hot, dry weather. The grass turned to straw. We children loved playing in the "hay." In our huge, square sandbox we became construction workers, building roads and hauling sand in all the toy trucks we owned.

Just off the driveway near the road was a small thatch of woods. The branches of one particular tree hung out over a slope. We loved to sit on the branch and swing our feet. We called it our sycamore tree, named after the tree in the gospel story of Zacchaeus, the short man who climbed a tree to see Jesus when He passed through Jericho.

A lot of skunk cabbage grew around our "sycamore" tree. It looked like cabbage but smelled like a skunk. One day, I decided to eat some. After all, it was cabbage, I reasoned. Oh, what a terrible stomach ache I had! I was never tempted to taste skunk cabbage again!

The big house was surrounded with many kinds of berry bushes: red raspberries, green gooseberries, red and black currants. Mother made pies, cobblers, and crisps.

Mother always had a way with animals, as well as children. She tamed the squirrels that inhabited the trees. Standing by the fence, she would hold out a crust of bread. The squirrels would come and eat out of her hand.

One summer, she decided to raise chickens. She loved scattering their feed and gathering the eggs they laid. They would flock around her feet as she called them each by name. Come fall, though, they had to be slaughtered. The winter would be too harsh. Better to freeze them for our winter meat supply than to allow them to freeze to death. I'll never forget the sounds of my mother's weeping. That was the first and last time she ever raised chickens.

We always had dogs, though. Our first was a beautiful German shepherd-husky-wolf mix we named Taku, after the Taku Glacier and the cold, hurricane-force winds that swept off that glacier to rattle Juneau often during the winter months. At night, the wolves in the mountains would howl, and Taku would howl back. Yet she was the gentlest of dogs. Even when we children put our fingers in her eyes, she wouldn't snap at us. Once, she stole a turkey carcass Mother had set on the kitchen counter planning to make turkey soup. Poor dog! After that she'd often yelp from the splinters of bones stuck in her digestive tract. When scolded, Taku would tuck her tail between her legs and run away in disgrace. One day, she disappeared for good. Some of our neighbors, who didn't know her, were afraid of her. We think they poisoned her.

Our second dog was a reddish-gold toy cocker spaniel, Mother's pick of the litter born to Skippy while we were dog-sitting for a friend. She lived with us for sixteen years until she dropped in her tracks as she was running up our sidewalk. She had tangled with a porcupine some months earlier. The vet pulled out as many quills as he could reach, but one was stuck way back in her throat. He warned Mother that it would eventually work its way into her brain. She died the day before my nineteenth birthday.

Every Sunday, we all went to Sunday school and church. We sat quietly in a row with my parents. If we whispered or squirmed, a glance from Mother was all it took for us to behave. On sunny Sundays during the summer, after services we loaded up the old black sedan with food and kids and headed for Tee Harbor. Friends of my grandparents owned a cabin on the stony beach and allowed us to use it whenever we liked. Driving along the winding two-lane road that followed along the beach, we drove past the Juneau Airport, Auke Bay, Mendenhall Glacier, and beyond to a harbor of blue waters surrounded by snow-capped mountains to a little log cabin nestled among tall evergreen trees.

There, we roasted hot dogs, ate potato salad, and topped it all off with marshmallows toasted over the embers of the fire built on the beach. We waded in the cold water, ran up the beach to climb on the big rocks, and laughed and played until sunset, which occurred well after our usual bedtime. Then we piled back into the car for the ride home and fell asleep before we arrived. Such were the memorable, carefree days of my childhood Alaskan summers!

It was at the children's home that I honed my teaching and story-telling skills. I loved to play school, and I was always the teacher. Mother was a Sunday school teacher at our church. She allowed me to use her flannelgraph pictures at home to retell the stories of the Bible over and over to the other children. My favorite was the story of how Jesus raised Jairus' daughter from the dead. I'd line up the children in front of me and tell the Bible stories over and over. We never tired of them. To this day, I love to tell the stories of Jesus and His love.

What special memories do you have of your childhood?

In my next post I'l relate a miraculous event that took place at the Bethel Beach Home.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Bethel Beach Children's Home

We had such sweet but needy children in the children's home--several sets of siblings. Alcoholism was rampant in Juneau. One father who worked on one of the islands came home to discover his alcoholic wife had tied their two little girls in kitchen chairs and gone off drinking for several days. He found the house cold and his girls crying and hungry. Heartbroken, he brought them to the Bethel Beach Home and paid for their care until his job was completed.

Another set of siblings came to us mere hours after their mother had thrown the younger brother and sister off the dock and drowned them. She was diagnosed as a classic schizophrenic and sent to a prison for the criminally insane. The children stayed with us until they were adopted. We kept in touch with them, and I met up with them again when I attended the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

Most of the children came to us through the Bureau of Indian Affairs or welfare. My parents received a small amount for their care. My dad worked at the Alaska Coastal Airlines full time to support us and the home. My mother usually ran the home single-handed. One time, she had thirteen children, nine of us under five, and two babies in cribs, with no help. My parents treated us all the same, whether we were their birth children or not.

We children slept in huge rooms set up dormitory-style, beds set up in rows--one for the girls and one for the boys. Every morning before a home-cooked breakfast, we made our beds and did chores. Each of us had a job to do--dust mop the floors, dust, clean the bathroom, et cetera, depending on our age and ability. Working together, we got them done in no time.

I will continue my memories of the Bethel Beach Children's Home in my next post.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Change of Plans

In Pelican, our Personeus grandparents welcomed us enthusiastically. Not only were they happy to see us, but they needed help. The land the town had given them for the church building had been covered with windfalls up to twelve layers deep, like a gigantic game of pick-up sticks.

Grandpa and Uncle Byron had cleared enough land by hand to build the church and had built the framework, but the heating system could not be installed until a chimney was erected. When we arrived, Daddy and Uncle Byron carted all the cement for the tall chimney in wheelbarrows up a long, steep hill on boardwalks--a backbreaking task.

The winds blowing off the inlet that summer were so cold that Mother had to keep us dressed in snowsuits inside as well as outside. By then, Mother knew she was expecting another baby, due in November. As the summer drew to a close, she began to have difficulty walking because of the way she was carrying the baby. She needed medical care, but Pelican had no doctor.

That fall, Mother and Daddy decided that we needed to go to Juneau, where there were doctors and a hospital, until the baby was born. An elderly friend and former co-worker of my grandparents offered to let our family live in her rental house on the beach half a mile outside of town. While living in this house was when my mother told me to play with a bear (see post "Encounter with a Bear").

Another morning, while I was playing on the same second story porch of this house, I somehow managed to fall head first over the railing onto the huge oil tank and onto the ground, knocking myself out cold. I must have been out for about half an hour. When I came to, I was lying on my parents' bed, and Mother was spooning hot tea into my mouth and praying out loud for me. Since I seemed none the worse for the accident, she never did take me to the doctor.

While in Juneau, Daddy needed to get a job. The only one he could find that paid enough to support the family was as a traffic man at the Alaska Coastal Airlines. But he had to promise to stay for a year. So once again, God changed their plans. One year extended into ten years as my father was promoted to boss of the cargo department at the airlines. After my sister, Kathy, was born, my parents were asked to take over the operation of the Bethel Beach Children's Home when the matron retired. She and the home's founders had worked closely with my grandparents in starting the church that is now called Juneau Christian Center. It was at this children's home that we ran out of water (see post, "No Water!"). Once again, God was "leading His children along."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Going to Alaska Part 3, "Wash Out!"

The scenery along the train's route changed from farmland to prairie, and after many days of travel, the Rocky Mountains loomed ahead. When the train entered British Columbia near the end of May 1948, our food supplies had run out, but our parents weren't too worried. We would soon meet up with my uncle's mission boat in Prince Rupert and be sailing to Pelican, Alaska.

As the train approached the Columbia River Basin, however, my parents watched anxiously as a tributary along the tracks churned angrily and rose higher and higher. Along with its tributaries, the Columbia River Basin covers seven states and most of central British Columbia.

"The tracks are washed out!" The word was passed from car to car:  "We're being rerouted by bus to Vancouver."

Unbeknownst to the Cousarts, the snow pack that winter had been up to 135 percent of normal. Warmer than usual temperatures and two major rainstorms the latter half of May 1948 had combined with the high snow melt to swell tributaries feeding the Columbia to the highest flood levels ever. The Columbia River went on a rampage, flooding the entire basin, affecting communities as far up river as Trail, British Columbia, and as far south as Vanport, Oregon, the second largest city in Oregon at that time. Named the Vanport Flood, it totally destroyed that city. Thirty thousand people were displaced from their homes in the Columbia River Basin, and fifty people lost their lives.

Food and money gone, my parents didn't know what to do when we reached Vancouver. "I think my parents have friends who pastor a church here," Mother told my father. So my intrepid mother found a telephone and called the operator. "Can you connect me with an Assemblies of God church in Vancouver?" she asked. (She didn't know that in Canada they went by a different name.)

"I don't see any church by that name," the operator said, "but I'll see what I can do."

The first church she connected Mother to turned out to be just the one she was looking for. Pastor MacAllister knew my grandparents. Even though it was late on Saturday, he took us out to dinner and put us up in the church missionary apartment, all free of charge.

The railroad gave the stranded passengers tickets for the steamer to Ketchikan, and meals were included. On Monday, we set sail. If we had had to travel by train to Prince Rupert as planned, we would not have had enough food or money to buy more. God used a bad set of circumstances to meet our needs.

My parents wired my uncle to meet us in Ketchikan, and within a few days we arrived in Pelican. As we sailed up Lizianski Inlet and I sighted the framework of the church building overlooking the water, I sang out in my two-and-a-half-year-old voice, "There's Pelilik! Now we're in Alassa!"

How has God met your needs in times of trouble?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Going to Alaska Part 2, "Split Lips and Torn Sacks"

The Cousart family planned to board the northbound train in Philadelphia in the evening. As they raced to the train, the shopping bags of food, diapers, and supplies they were carrying for the long train trip broke. Hard boiled eggs, oranges, apples, and jars of baby food rolled everywhere. Mother, Daddy, and I scrambled around trying to retrieve everything and stuff it all back into the torn bags. Somehow, we all made it onto the train just in time.

Early the next morning, we arrived in Toronto and had a five-hour wait for the train that would take us west. Their arms filled with the food and supplies for the trip, Mother and Daddy set my brother and me down on the ground and told us to walk close to them.

My one-and-a-half-year-old brother, still half asleep, tripped and fell. When Mother lifted him to his feet, blood streamed down his face. She inspect his injuries and discovered that his two lower front teeth had punched completely through his lower lip. Mother tried to stem the bleeding but realized he needed first aid.

Surveying the mangled bags and her bleeding son, Mother said, "Honey, I'll stay here with the children and luggage and look for a first aid station. Why don't you go out and see if you can find some kind of canvas bag to carry this stuff."

At the first aid station, the nurse there said, "I'm not allowed to give first aid to anyone but employees."

"But he needs stitches," Mother said. "Look! The wound is still bleeding."

"All I can do is give you Band-aids," she said.

So Mother did what she could to bandage the gaping wound, while praying that no infection would set in. (That cut healed up without even a scar.)

After a while, Daddy returned empty-handed. "You stay with the kids, and I'll try," Mother said.

Mother's family had lived by faith for more than 25 years in Alaska and had seen God meet their needs in miraculous ways. As she stepped out of the train station, she prayed, "Lord, you know what we need and where we can find it."

As she looked around, she felt led to go a certain direction. After a couple blocks, she stopped and asked, "Which way now?" Again she felt impressed to turn left, then right, and so on. At the last turn, she noticed a sign on a storefront up ahead that said, "Army Surplus." At that moment, a truck pulled up in front of the store. The driver hopped out and began unloading stacks of burlap sacks.

"That's just what we need," Mother said as she followed the man in. She was able to purchase a couple of those bags at a very reasonable price.

Back at the train station, she loaded all their supplies into the gunny sacks, and we all boarded the train headed across Canada to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, to meet up with our Uncle Byron's mission boat for the last leg of our journey to Pelican, Alaska. At least, that was the plan.

Next Blog: Going to Alaska Part 3, "Wash Out!"

Monday, June 3, 2013

Going to Alaska

My experiences growing up in Alaska in the fifties and sixties heavily inform my writing. In my next few blog posts, I will recount the miraculous way my family journeyed by faith to Alaska in 1948.

My mother, AnnaMae, daughter of pioneer missionaries Charles and Florence Personeus, grew up in Alaska. Before she met and married my father, Coastguardsman Robert E. Cousart during World War II in Ketchikan, Alaska, she attended Northwest Bible Institute in Seattle, Washington. During a spiritual emphasis missions service, God gave her a vision of herself surrounded by African children. She was telling them about Jesus. She felt that God was calling her to be a missionary to Africa.

My parents shared the same calling--to go to East Africa as missionaries. After the war ended, my father used the GI bill to attend Eastern Bible Institute in Greenlane, Pennsylvania, just north of his childhood home in Philadelphia, to prepare for missionary service.

To supplement their income one summer, he worked at a job that required hard labor outside in often 90-degrees plus temperatures with high humidity. One particularly hot day, he collapsed with heat exhaustion. The doctors told him he must never work in hot weather again. They recommended he move to a cooler climate.

My parents were shocked. They had been certain God had called them to Africa. But Africa was hot! What were they to do now?

When my father finished his Bible school coursework, my grandparents invited my parents to join them in Pelican, Alaska, a tiny fishing village on an island between Juneau and Sitka, to assist them in building the new church there. Feeling that this was God's direction for them, they agreed to go.

But what about the vision God had given my mother several years before? She began to realize that if her vision had shown her teaching children in Alaska, she would not have understood it as a specific call for her to be a missionary since she had already taught Alaskan children stories of Jesus for a good part of her life.

The next hurdle, though, was telling my father's parents of their plans to take their two toddlers clear across the continent to Alaska. Those grandparents were not happy about that at all.

"Alaska is so far away," they cried."We'll never see your children again!"

Having just completed Bible school, my parents had very little money, yet they went ahead with preparations for the long trip. They would ship the household goods, and we would travel across Canada by train to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, where my uncle would meet us with his mission boat and take us up the Inside Passage to Pelican.

My parents packed the boxes. They called the railroad for a quote on the cost of shipping them. My father called a taxi to take the boxes to the train station to ship them. When he arrived with the load, he was told the quote had been incorrect. It would cost a lot more. He only had enough money to ship a few of the most essential boxes. The rest he piled back into the taxi to take home to store at his parents' house.

My father only had a few cents left in his pocket the evening his little family prepared to head out to the train station for their long trip. They exercised bold faith in God to see them through. My mother had filled a couple of large paper grocery bags with hard boiled eggs, oranges, apples, and jars of baby food to feed us on the long train trip. That evening, just before they left, first one parent and then the other came to my father secretly and gave him a five dollar bill and a ten dollar. Each one said, "Don't tell your mother," and "Don't tell your father."

And so my parents started out on an adventure trusting God to supply their needs as they traveled that long journey with two toddlers and only a few dollars in their pockets.

Next post: Going to Alaska Part 2, "Split Lips and Torn Sacks"

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

God Is Never Too late Part 2

Since our arrival in Seward in February, we too had been living by faith. Our church was small and unable to support us financially. We had only $30.00 in promised support each month. The cost of living was very high in Alaska. We had four teenagers to feed and clothe. Our two oldest girls were buying a lot of their own clothes with babysitting money, which helped, but they all had healthy appetites and were growing. Sometimes we didn't know where the next meal was coming from, but God was never too late.

"Lord, You won't let us down this time either," I breathed as I finished packing our lunches.

"Hey, Mom, our 6-feet 1-inch, 13-year-old son, Robert Paul, stood in the doorway. "The kids are wondering what's holding you up. They want to get going."

"Mother, we're all ready and waiting," AnnaLee, our 14-year-old daughter, declared, as she squeezed past her brother and entered the kitchen. "We'll be late if we don't leave soon."

"I know, dear," I answered, giving the already clean counter a final swipe and hanging the dish cloth on the rod. "Honey," I sighed and turned to my husband, "I guess we'd better tell them our problem."

"Yeah, I guess so. Come on." And he led the way to the living room, where the young people were sitting around laughing and talking. They sobered quickly when they saw our grave expressions.

"Young people," my husband began, "I don't know what we're going to do. We've been praying for gas money, but so far, it hasn't arrived. We know you don't have enough money either, so let's pray again, right now." We gathered in a circle, and he led in prayer.

Our living quarters occupied the back of the church building. A boardwalk led along the side of the building to the parsonage door. Just as Bob finished praying, we heard loud footsteps, someone running up the boardwalk.

The doorbell rang vigorously. Before anyone could get there, the door burst open. In came a young man who had recently moved to Seward from Cordova and was now attending our church.

"At work a few minutes ago," he exclaimed, breathlessly, "the Lord impressed on me not to wait until Sunday to pay my tithes but to bring them over to you right away. I asked my boss if I could take my coffee break early. I don't know what this is all about, and I don't have time to find out." He laid some money on the table. "Gotta run! Bye!" And he rushed out the door.

"Praise the Lord!" We all burst out in praises to God.

Quickly, we gathered our things and hurried to the car. Not only was there enough money to buy the gas, but  we discovered enough extra to buy a can of pop for each teen to drink with the sack lunches.

God is never too late, and sometimes He even adds an extra treat!

Has God given you more than you ask for? Tell about it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

God Is Never Too Late

This is a "nugget of faith" story my mother, AnnaMae Personeus Cousart, told often. Although I remember the incident, I am writing it from her point of view.

"What should we do?" my husband, Bob, asked softly as he entered the kitchen where I was wiping the counter top after packing sack lunches for our family. "The young people are all here now, and we still don't have the money for gas. I guess I have to tell them we can't go."

It was Friday afternoon in 1960. We were missionaries in Seward, Alaska. A youth rally was to be held that evening in Anchorage, 130 driving miles north of us. Our small group of teens needed the fellowship of other Christian young people, so we had promised to drive them to the rally in our nine-passenger station wagon.

The young people had received permission for an early dismissal from school, and now stood in our living room, sack lunches in hand to eat on the way.

But we didn't have the money for gas, neither did our small church. We had no credit cards either, but we felt confident that God would supply the money. Each day Bob had gone to the post office expecting to find a "blessed letter," as the students from his Bible school had called them. Yet, not a penny had arrived. We kept praying and believing, but nothing had come in the mail all week.

While making our egg salad sandwiches, my thoughts had drifted back to my childhood. I had a rich heritage of living by faith. My parents, Charles and Florence Personeus, were the first missionaries of their denomination to Alaska. [Read their story in my book, Frontiers of Faith. To purchase it, go to www.annaleeconti.com.]

In 1917, they had traveled by train and steamer from New York State to Juneau, Alaska, arriving one cold, wet November evening. Certain they were called to this ministry, their only promise of support was from God in Philippians 4:19, "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus," and in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." They had fulfilled their end of the bargain, and God had always fulfilled His, maybe not as quickly as they may have wished, but God was never too late.

It seemed that God was really cutting it close to the line this time!

When have you felt like this?

To be continued...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

No Water! Part 5

Mother arose from her knees and again went to the phone for another futile attempt to call for help. As she hung the receiver in its two-pronged holder, she glanced out the window of the dining room door that opened onto the enclosed front porch. Someone stood in the outside doorway, shaking off snow before entering.

Amazed, Mother opened the door.

"Hello!" the nurse greeted her. "For some reason, I felt I should come out to see you. Is everything all right?"

Mother finally found her voice. "Thank God!" she cried. "Bob is terribly sick, and I haven't been able to reach the doctor."

She led the nurse to Daddy's bedside. After a quick examination, she exclaimed, "I think he has pneumonia. We need to get him to the hospital immediately!"

"Oh, dear, but how?" Mother asked.

"My husband is up in our car. I'll go get him." At the door she paused. "Where's your shovel? We'll need to shovel out the driveway before we can get our car down here."

With the help of the nurse and her husband, Daddy was finally tucked into the nurse's car and on his way to the hospital and eventual recovery.

The next day, the snow turned to rain. Our reservoir filled up, and we had water again.

My parents soon learned that a neighbor had created the dam to supply water to a four-apartment complex he had built about two blocks away from us. The stream was on public land, but he refused to modify the dam. For the next four years that my parents operated the Home, whenever the weather turned extremely cold, we had no water. I have fond memories of those Saturdays with no water when we drove to the home of friends for a potluck dinner so we could all take baths at their house.

Have you ever been in need of help, and God sent someone to help you? Tell me about it.

Beginning in my next post: God Is Never Too Late

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

No Water! Part 4

Daddy's temperature was 103 degrees. What could my mother do?

She went to the wall phone and took the bell-shaped receiver off the hook. Thankfully, no one was on the party line. She called our pastor to ask for prayer. No answer.

She called the doctor's office and his home. No answer.

When she returned to the bedroom, Daddy's condition seemed to be worse. He had tossed off his covers again, and his forehead felt hotter. Again, she tried to take his temperature. In less than 30 seconds, it registered 103.6.

She stood over him, crying and praying. We children, wide-eyed and scared, gathered around the bed. Trying not to frighten us further, she told us all to pray while she went to the phone again. Still no answer.

Mother looked out the window. The front porch light shone into the darkness outside. Fat, wet snowflakes plummeted to the ground. The driveway was now completely filled in. No way could she drive the car out even if she could manage to get Daddy into it. Our nearest neighbor, a frail, 86-year-old lady, lived alone in a tiny house almost a block away.

Back in the bedroom, Mother knelt by the bed, and we did too. "Oh, dear Jesus, please heal my darling," Mother prayed. "Oh, Jesus, help us!"


In town, the Public Health nurse was enjoying her day off, relaxing with her husband in front of a bright fire in their fireplace, snug and warm in spite of the swirling snowstorm outside. Suddenly, she felt uneasy.

"Honey," she said, "I don't know what's the matter, but I feel I must go out to the Bethel Beach Children's Home."

"You don't mean right now, do you?" he asked.

"Yes! Right now!"

"But, honey, this is your day off. You give a good five days a week to running all over helping people. Isn't that enough?"

"I know," she said, getting up and heading to the closet for her coat, "but I feel I must go out to the Bethel Beach Home right away!"

"But it's snowing so hard, and it's a long way out there. You could get stuck in the snow. I can't let you go out there alone."

"Then come along with me," she said as she plunged a foot into her fur-lined snow boot.

"I hope this isn't some wild goose chase," he grumbled as they stepped out into the storm and trudged gingerly to their car.

To be continued...

Have you ever been prompted to do something that felt like a "wild goose chase"? What did you do?