Thursday, June 1, 2017

"Why Me, Lord?"

As president of the junior high French Puppet Club, it was his responsibility to introduce the puppet play the club was putting on for the student body. Trembling, he walked to the center of the stage.

His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Every thought fled. He lifted his notes, but the glare of the spotlight blinded him, and he couldn't read a word. He crumpled the cards, dropped them to the floor, and ran off stage.

The teacher had to announce the play.

The boy stooped down behind the puppet stage. In fluent French, he manipulated his puppet and spoke his lines without a flaw.

Daddy in 1942 in front of Calvary Methodist Church in Philadelphia
My dad, Robert Edward Cousart, was born on New Year's Day, 1922, to Roy and Laura Jensen Cousart in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he lived until early adulthood. His mother was Lutheran, but he was raised in the neighborhood Presbyterian Church, When he was old enough, he sang soprano in a prestigious Episcopal Church Boys' Choir until his voice changed. Then, he joined the Methodist Church his father attended.

Bob had been baptized as an infant but didn't realize he could have a personal relationship with Christ through faith. At the age of 19, he met two sisters who invited him to attend the annual Victorious Life Conference in Keswick Grove, at the campsite owned by Addison C. Raws near Toms River close to the New Jersey shore, held over the Labor Day weekend in 1941.

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. As a singer himself, my dad was impressed with the ministry of Bev Shea, and that weekend, he committed his life to Christ.

When some of the young people drove him home from the conference, his mother and father met him on the front steps of their home. Apparently, they immediately sensed a change in their son because they asked, "Bob, what happened to you?"

"I got saved!"

"Saved from what?" his mother asked. "You've always been a good boy."

He didn't say it, but he thought, "Boy, Mother, if you only knew!"

Over the next two months Bob began to feel that God was calling him into fulltime ministry. Recalling his French Club fiasco, he cried out, "Why me, Lord? Do You know what You're asking? I'm too shy, and I'm terrified of public speaking. How can I preach the gospel if I can't speak in front of people?"

Agonizing over the call, he determined he would not leave the house that Thanksgiving weekend until he settled that question.

During prayer, God reminded him that when He called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land, Moses had posed the same objections. And although God gave him his brother Aaron to be his mouthpiece, Moses was soon speaking God's words directly to the people. Just as God equipped Moses for the calling God placed on his life, Bob knew that He would enable him to become a preacher of the gospel.

At the time, Bob was working in the real estate department of a bank in central Philadelphia. The bank offered scholarships for employees to take college classes that would enhance their work skills. Bob applied for and was granted assistance to attend Temple University to study real estate law and public speaking, as well as theology.

"I literally had to take myself by the scruff of the neck and drag myself to that public speaking course," he said, although he remembers little about the actual class.

In February 1942, Bob was granted an Exhorter's License (license to preach) in the Methodist Church. But America was at war. Bob knew he would soon be drafted. Instead, he joined the Coast Guard. After basic training at Ellis Island and radio school in Atlantic City, New Jersey, he was sent as a radioman to Ketchikan, Alaska.

There, he met the Charles C. Personeuses, who were pastoring Ketchikan Gospel Tabernacle, an Assemblies of God church. At Christmas 1943, their daughter AnnaMae came home from Bible college. Bob and AnnaMae hit it off. When she returned to school, they began corresponding. The next summer, they married.

Following World War II, Bob completed his formal ministerial education at Eastern Bible Institute of the Assemblies of God (now the University at Valley Forge) and returned to Alaska to help the Personeuses build the church in Pelican.

That was just the beginning. For more than 50 years, my dad served as a missionary and a pastor. Along the way, he was elected to serve as secretary-treasurer of the Alaska District of the Assemblies of God; as president of the Seward and the Kenai Peninsula Borough school boards; as president of the local PTA,as president of the ministerial association, and at the age of 80, as mayor of Kittitas, Washington--surprising accomplishments for a boy who was petrified to speak in front of a group.

As someone once wrote, "God doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called."

Is God calling you to do something you feel unable or unqualified to do? 

1 comment:

  1. I needed to hear this, AnnaLee. Thanks for sharing it with me.