Guess that's what happens when folks just keep writing and responding! I just keep sending out more of these Coffee Breaks. I'm past the point of needing someone to monitor my email inboxes constantly. Even with condensing and categorizing emails as they come in, I still have to scan more than 15,000 every day. It's getting to be a bit time-consuming.
I've said all that to say that if you have sent me a personal email or response and it doesn't look like I'm answering you or paying any attention, bear with me. If you've sent me something that requires my response back, I will get back to you. It may take a few days, however, before I can get actually get the time to respond. If you need an urgent response, say so, and I'll get back to just as soon as I see the email.
We had a meeting of pastors here at River Worship Center yesterday. Every month the local pastors of all (or most) of the churches in Sunnyside gather together as part of the Sunnyside Ministerial Association to share with each other, to get a pulse of what is happening in the community, to pray over issues, and to take action on community needs where it is both practical and possible for us to do so.
Naturally, we have coffee together and other refreshments -- and I said all that to say that I've got some "vitamins" left over from our meeting. I've also brewed up some nice, oily dark-roasted Columbian Supremo and filled a thermos carafe with it. Drop by if you have a chance and I'll pour you a cup. Mine's already poured and I'm rarin' to go for the day. Ready?
By the way, I reckon you've already noticed, but Wednesday's post didn't make it out on Wednesday. There were too many things happening that day. I had it written, but had to wait until Thursday to get it out, and then didn't get this out on Friday as planned. So here it is Monday again.
OK. We were talking about Dad and his Ham radio, and the door of opportunity the Lord opened to him in ministry to the community because he had the ability to communicate with the outside world. For a long time, communications with the outside world was strictly limited to postal mail. Telephones were a non-existent thing on Saint Paul Island, except for intra-island governmental communications. HF radio communications and teletype had been established on the island by the U.S. Army during the Second World War, so it was possible to get a message off the island in emergency situations.
The problem was that this was not a practical or easily accessible means for most folks on the island. With Ludy and Prokoff's situation being handled as expeditiously as it had, Dad's Ham radio suddenly became the "in thing." People who had been banned by the Orthodox priest from coming to worship services at the Assembly of God church could legitimately come to the Capener home in order to make contact with family members who lived on the mainland, or if they needed to order something from Sears or Safeway or whoever.
That, in turn, provided both Dad and Mom with the opportunity to invite the folks who came over to stay for coffee and a piece of Mom's apple pie, or some Constant Comment tea and cake around the dining table while the folks shared the Gospel with them.
You've all seen it before, I'm sure. Whenever the Enemy seeks to prevent people from seeing or hearing the truth and puts roadblocks in their way, the Lord had a unique way of opening other avenues.
Think back to the 1960's for a minute. Remember the fight that raged in the courts over prayer in school, and the ridiculous effort Madalyn Murray O'Hair went to in order to argue that prayer in school was a violation of her parental rights as an atheist? So what happened? Eventually, a heavily weighted liberal Supreme Court overturned centuries of accepted practice and constitutionally guaranteed liberties and banned prayer in public school. In 1968 when the Apollo astronauts made their first trip to the Moon, while more than two billion people around the globe watched and listened, Neil Armstrong read from the Scriptures, and prayed a simple prayer -- the same kind of prayer that the courts said school children couldn't participate in.
God always gets the last word! The more Satan seeks to prevent people from hearing the truth, the more new avenues of opportunity God provides to and for hungry people. Satan thought he could stop several thousand children from hearing someone pray, so God opened a way for billions to hear. It matters not what Satan does, everything he does to block the Gospel, everything he does to block prayer, everything he does to prevent God's people from worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ will only backfire on him and result in all the more people hearing and receiving the truth.
And what happens to those people who allow themselves to become the tool of Satan, and agree with his lies? In Madalyn Murray O'Hair's case, she vanished without a trace for years, and eventually the police found what they believed were her bones in a shallow grave in the Texas desert, having been murdered. The son she was so anxious to "protect" from the Gospel grew up, came to know Jesus Christ personally, and is now a minister of that same Gospel.
Back to Saint Paul Island. Remember how I told you in Wednesday's post how the lay reader in the Russian Orthodox Church was a falling down drunk? There were times when he would show up for church services so inebriated he had to hang on the lectern while he read the Scriptures to keep from falling down.
The day came when he showed up at the Capener home (he wouldn't dare come to any of the church services, of course) because he needed emergency medical assistance, and Dad could contact the hospital in Anchorage by Ham radio. On this particular day, radio communications were spotty and it took several efforts to finally get through. Meanwhile the reader (we'll call him "John" for the sake of this story) sat next to Dad's desk and listened to the sharing of the Gospel.
He later acknowledged that it was the first time in his life he'd actually heard the plan of salvation and understood that Jesus Christ died for his sins; that he could have a personal relationship with the Lord instead of a religious one filled with dead form and ritual. "John" did not receive his complete deliverance from alcohol that day, but he was set on a path that eventually led to his total deliverance from the snares of addiction and drunkenness.
The Orthodox priest was furious when he heard that his lay reader had gotten "saved." As far as he was concerned, it was a personal slap in the face. It mattered not that John continued to attend services at the Orthodox Church. It mattered not that he continued in his role as lay reader. It was the change in his life, his countenance, his home and everything about him that bothered the priest.
You recall how the Pharisees and Sadducees were angry over Jesus healing folks on the Sabbath? (See, for example, Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 2:24-28; Luke 13:10-17) Remember how upset they were when Jesus forgave a man's sins before healing him? (Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26) They were angry because results were taking place through Jesus' ministry -- results they had not been able to achieve through their religion and traditions. Jesus' teaching and preaching didn't fit their understanding of what should be able to happen, and it made them afraid -- fearful that they were following a dead religion -- and they couldn't have that! No. Huh Uh! No way!
In John 5:16-17, we see how the religious leaders decided they couldn't have Jesus doing all these things in their midst and demonstrating how dead their religion and traditions really were, so they decided they would kill him. Whether there was an overt effort on the part of the Russian Orthodox priest to kill Dad and Mom is questionable, but he certainly did his part to drive them off the island.
In his anger over seeing the transformation of people in the community -- people who had been lifelong members of his church -- the priest decided if he couldn't keep folks from going over to use Dad's Ham radio for communication with the outside world, he'd try something new. He decided to gather together some of the young boys -- teenagers, actually -- in much the same way the shaman had attempted at Point Hope, and use them for his ends.
A rock-throwing effort began. In the middle of the night, Dad and Mom were awakened to hear the rat-a-tat-tat of rocks pelting the roof of the house. Dad got up and went to the door just in time to see a rock thrown towards him. He ducked in time and the rock bounced harmlessly off the side of the house. When he hollered at the boys who were throwing the rocks, they dropped the rocks in their hands and scattered. Not before he recognized a couple of them, however.
The next morning, he went to the parents of the boys he recognized to report the incident and advise them to keep a handle on their sons. A couple of days went by. Dad and Mom were sitting at the dinner table when another barrage of rocks came, this time breaking windows in the kitchen and one of the bedrooms.
This time, Dad sprinted to the door and chased one of the boys down, grabbing him by the collar of his coat. The boy was one Dad had seen the first time. He marched the boy over to his parents' house and let them know that he would not tolerate this. When he released his grip on the boy's coat, the boy said to Dad, "I'm sorry, Reverend. Father Michael told me to do it."
He'd suspected it because of the priest's non-stop
opposition to them and their presence on
Swift denial followed his confrontation. "The boys are lying," the priest said. "I never told them to do any such thing."
Funny thing, though. The rock bombardment stopped. For a few weeks, anyway. Then it started again. It would be a single barrage and the boys would run away. Sometimes it would be one or two boys throwing just a few rocks, and other times it would be as many as six to eight boys.
One afternoon, Dad stepped out the back door in time to see the priest's son cock his arm and let loose with a rock right toward his office window. Crash! Bye Bye window. This time Dad took out after the priest's son. The boy was pretty fleet of foot, but Dad was no mean runner. He caught up with him and instead of taking him to his house, he took him to the City Office where an Alaska State Trooper happened to be.
I think I mentioned before that during the 1960's, and even into the early 1970's, we only had an occasional police officer who would fly out from Anchorage. Other than a resident security officer hired by the City, Saint Paul had no police presence of its own. Most matters were dealt with internally by the Russian Orthodox priest, and since nearly all of the families on the island were related to each other one way or another, it became just a family affair in dealing with local problems. The presence of an Alaska State Trooper meant that some crime had been committed that had been reported off the island.
Dad's taking the priest's son directly to the Trooper and handing him over meant that the vandalism and malicious destruction of property (which was how the Trooper classified things) was now a police matter. It wasn't long, however, that the priest's son was released from police custody and his father ordered to pay a small fine.
It wasn't long before the rock bombardment resumed with more broken windows and the destruction or damage of other property. This had now gone on over a period of weeks stretching into months, and Dad had had it! Walking down the street one day to the local general store, he happened upon "Father Michael" coming out of the store.
A boldness came over Alvin Capener that was not his usual boldness (and Dad was not known for shying away from confrontation under the right circumstances in spite of his rather retiring mannerisms). He addressed the priest directly in the presence of other townspeople and passersby.
"Sir, you cannot continue this opposition. You are not standing against us, and your opposition and resentment is not against us personally. You are fighting against the Lord Jesus Christ who sent us here. If you continue your fight against the Lord, it is you who will ultimately suffer the consequences."
It came out as a prophecy. Dad wasn't given to prophesying a lot, and it never occurred to him to speak judgment against anyone. Nevertheless, the priest paled at the rebuke, ducked his head and walked away. I don't remember if it happened that night, or whether it was the next day, but the priest's son orchestrated himself another all-out rock-throwing barrage.
It would be the final event in this series of attacks. A short time later, the fishing season began and the priest's son signed on as a crew member on one of the fishing boats. As already noted, the Pribil of waters are classified as among the most dangerous in the world. Storms arise suddenly and -- because of the depth of the waters -- the waves can become very great and treacherous, especially for smaller fishing craft.
It was no surprise to hear that a fishing boat had disappeared in the middle of a storm, but it sort of caught everyone off guard when they realized that the priest's son was among the missing. Day after day after day after day, and week after week after week after week for the better part of a year, the priest walked the beaches of Saint Paul Island, literally walking the circumference of the island many, many times in search of some remnant of his son.
The Russian Orthodox folks have a tradition that says that if they can recover even a fragment of clothing worn by the person who is lost at sea, they can have a burial and ceremony that ensures (?) that the dead person makes it into Heaven. If no evidence of the person or his/her clothing is ever found, no burial can take place, and the person is regarded as a castaway by God who will not allow that person into Heaven.
You'll appreciate, then, the effort that the priest went to in order to find some remnant of his lost son. After a year of fruitless searches, a very gaunt and exhausted Father Michael showed up at the door of the Capener home. Dad answered the door and invited him in.
He shook his head, then changed his mind and stepped inside the door. Without waiting he said, "It is the judgment of God against me. I was wrong to persecute you. It was me who stirred people against you and now the hand of God has been stretched against me. My son's death is the result. Will you forgive me?"
Dad shook his hand, nodding vigorously. "Of course," he said. "Come on in."
My recollection is a bit hazy here, but if memory serves me, Mom brought him into the kitchen and served him coffee and cake. The conversation was somewhat sparse, and Dad and Mom obviously felt Father Michael's grief. I don't recall that there was any great effort made that day to talk to him about his personal relationship with Jesus Christ: that would come later.
This is where we need to leave this story for today. Have a great weekend. We'll resume on Monday.
God NEVER calls His people to do the possible. "Possible" is only the rational mind's way of dealing with human capabilities. God ALWAYS calls His people to do and perform the impossible. "Impossible" only exists in rational thinking. "Impossible" is ALWAYS "probable" and "accomplished" when seen through the eyes of faith.
The Blessing of the Lord be upon you.
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