During the next few years we had the pleasure of growing under the ministry of some fine churches in Holland, MI and San Diego, CA. It was while we were in San Diego for five years (1965-1970) that we first became involved with the ministry of a Christian servicemen’s center. We helped serve refreshments and had opportunities to witness through our church one evening each month. It was there that I got a real taste of soul-winning.
The next milestone in my Christian experience came in the winter of ’68 during some special revival meetings in a church in Vallejo, CA. I completely submitted to God’s leading for my life and promised to serve Him in any way He chose to use me. I didn’t have any idea how He might use me at that point of time.
In 1970 we were transferred to Norfolk, VA. Through an appeal to our local church for volunteers to help on Friday evenings at the Servicemen’s Center I became involved with Christian Service Centers, Inc. on a weekly basis. It was during this time that I knew the Lord was leading me into a ministry somewhere among the military after my Navy retirement. I came to this realization first because of a real burden for the souls of service people. The majority of them were starving spiritually and the military chaplains that I knew were doing little to meet their needs. Secondly, the reality of John 17:3 started to impress me, “And this is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom thou hast sent.” ,They meant military people to me. Thirdly I knew the Lord’s leading by the blessings I enjoyed in seeing so many young men and women come to Christ and seeing their lives changed. I realized how much God loves service people, because He saves so many of them. Also, I knew the Lord’s leading by the many open doors He was putting before me. I had several opportunities to fill in for the Center staff while they went to conferences or on vacation.
It was during this period that we adopted our son, Jim, at the age of three. The Lord seemed to be impressing me with the idea of getting some good Bible training, so upon retiring from the Navy in August of 1974, I immediately started school at the Grand Rapids School of the Bible and Music (GRSBM) in Grand Rapids, MI. Throughout Bible School my goal remained constant to prepare for full time service in a Servicemen’s Center somewhere. I graduated after the three-year course with a Missions major.
At the end of the first year at GRSBM Rev. Crockett, the Founder and Executive Director of CSC, Inc. called and invited me to come to the San Antonio Center for the summer and manage it while the couple on staff were on vacation. There was never a doubt in my mind that the Lord wanted me in such a work as this. The call came again after the second year, and again after completing Bible School in 1977 for full-time directorship of the San Antonio Center. What a ripe harvest field for God! Souls saved every week, sometimes several, and to see some return for a visit years later to tell us they were in seminary or getting ready for a pastorate or preparing for a mission field! Rose was active, too. Beside keeping the Center clean and attractive, she often invited folks in the Center that she befriended from stores in downtown San Antonio often resulting in their salvation.
Brother Crockett succumbed to cancer in 1988. Over the next seven years we were led by an interim director, Carl Hepburn, on two occasions, and Jim Fowler and Mark Norris as Executive Directors for a short time. Our headquarters was in Rantoul, IL from the start, but in 1994 Chanute AFB was shut down, so there was no reason to keep the headquarters in Rantoul. We had Centers in San Antonio, TX, Norfolk, VA, and Lawton, OK at that time. In the Spring of 1995 the job of Exec. Director was passed on to me by the Corporate Board in addition to my duties as the San Antonio Center Director and the printer of all our printed material. Too busy, but happy and blessed! We moved the headquarters to the San Antonio Center and sold the Rantoul property. We started another Center from scratch on a lot that was purchased in Clarksville, TN, The Eagle’s Nest near Ft. Campbell, KY. A few years later another Center was started in Columbus, GA, The Freedom House next to Ft. Benning, GA. In August of 2009 Gary and Sandi Heinz joined our staff in San Antonio and the job of the San Antonio Director was passed on to Gary.
In February of 2013 Rose went home to be with the Lord after having suffered many different illnesses. Enough cannot be said of her faithfully standing by me in the ministry at the Center. We had 56 years of wonderful marriage.
In May 2014 it became necessary to close the Center in Norfolk. In June of 2014 Gary Heinz took over the Executive Directorship and I reverted back to San Antonio Center Director. It wasn’t but a short time until Gary and Sandi were involved in a terrible accident on their way home from church after a prayer meeting service. Both had multiple injuries and Gary almost died. They were laid up for several weeks. In August of 2015 God moved in the hearts of Cliff and Beth Castle to become part of the team in San Antonio. They caught on to the operation quickly and in just a couple of months I was comfortable in turning the operation of the San Antonio Center over to Cliff. In the Summer of 2016 it was decided that Gary could operate from the home that they had purchased in Wisconsin. In April of 2017 Gary retired and Cliff took the reigns as Executive Director.
A little background on the next chapter for my life. Leah moved into our neighborhood in 2003. She became friends with Rose, I and some of our other neighbors. She came to the Lord Jesus for salvation shortly thereafter and had a close walk with Him from the start. She retired from her DOD job at Randolph AFB and immediately answered the call to be a missionary in Cebu City, in the Philippines. She came home on a visit in December of 2015. I mentioned that I had thought of her in the past year or so, as Rose had been gone for a few years. Nothing else happened until I was surprised to get an e-mail from her inviting me to visit her ministry in the Philippines. I was free to happily accept because her sister would come from Manilla to chaperone. To make the story short, I proposed marriage to her shortly after arriving. She accepted and followed me about a week after I went back to San Antonio. We had a fine wedding on August 27, 2016. Her missionary tenure in Cebu was over but we still planned to spend a few months of the year in the Philippines. God was working in our hearts simultaneously to investigate the possibility of starting a ministry to the Filipino military near one of their bases. We went back to the Philippines the next year to check out the ministry possibilities. After checking out several locations our attention was directed to Camp Aquino in Tarlac City. We came back to San Antonio, then made plans to return in December. Upon returning we acquired our second home in Binan City. We proceeded to Tarlac to rent a house to use as a small Service Center where we can host Bible studies. This is a trial ministry for a year to see if it will work. If it does we want to find the right Filipino man to carry it on. We also had to move our household items from the house that had been rented to Leah while she was in Cebu. Some items went to the Binan City house and the rest to the Tarlac City rental. Now we are looking forward to returning to Tarlac shortly.
This brings this autobiography up to date, but with many gaps and holes. Why didn’t you mention this, or say something about so-and-so, or explain about such and such, you may ask? I purposely omitted many events, some regarding the starting and closing of various Centers. Also, there are so many names that could have been mentioned. If I did, I would have had to use so many thin slices of time and events and mentioned so many names that it would probably take volumes to cover, and even then, I would still miss details that I shouldn’t have. Suffice it to say that I have been blessed with so many wonderful co-workers, prayer partners, supporters, and friends over the years. May God bless each one of you. Many are now with the Lord. Besides, God has been so good to allow me a part in serving Him and I don’t want to point to anyone else, especially myself. God gets all the glory for the souls that have been pointed to Jesus Christ. He just placed me in the right spot to point where He could use His Word, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit to touch so many lives. Thank you, God!