Greetings, Solutions and Salutations!
Mmmm...Hmmmm. Yup. It's been another one of those weeks. You know how it is with the best laid plans of mice and men? Even though I had all three Coffee Breaks written last week, there was too much happening to actually get them published and Friday's Coffee Break wound up getting out this week instead. It's looking like we're only going to get two out this week as well.
Such is life!
Well, let's try this again. I had much of today's Coffee Break written when my computer crashed, and my work was lost. Duhhhhh.....I normally save my work every few minutes for just such occasions -- and thought I had this time -- but something went awry and it didn't save.
Before we get started today, I'd like to recommend a website to you. Most of you know that Della and I have put many, many Scriptures to music throughout the past 30 years -- some of which are being used in churches and fellowships around the world. Praise and worship has been and is our primary assignment in the body of Christ. That said, when we become aware of other music and musicians which communicate the Word of God with demonstrable results, we take joy in recommending it.
http://www.musicfromgod.com/ is a site put together by Uri Harel, an Israeli-born Hebrew teacher and musician. According to his website, "For years (I) was talking to everyone who was willing to listen about his idea of music in the Bible. According to an old Hebrew tradition about the creation of the world, God used the Torah as a blueprint for the work of creating the universe. The 22 Hebrew letters in pre-determined combinations were used to accomplish this task. Those letters therefore represent the physical forces used in the creation process.
"Uri Harel has produced what he calls "Music from God," which consists of compositions mathematically derived from the original Hebrew text of the Bible. Harel believes the Bible contains many layers of meaning, and that one of those layers is music. In a recent interview Harel said: "We made an astonishing discovery of encoded music in the original Hebrew text of the Bible. Several years of research culminated in findings that may forever change the public's perception of this popular ancient document, and increase interest in it among people of all walks of life. We have found the key to transforming Hebrew letters into musical notes and have opened the way for a new kind of Bible translation”not into yet another spoken language, but into the universal language of music."
Uri and some of his musician friends -- violinist J'Anna Jacoby, guitarist Gal Drimmer, and musical composer, arranger (and drummer) Gardner Cole -- have produced and released several CD's of this music -- music which is really nothing more than the Word of God communicating through the realm of the Spirit rather than the intellect. The impact is powerful. (By the way, Uri, I'm looking for the day when you put together music from the Creation account in Genesis.)
A friend of ours in Clovis, New Mexico took Uri's recording titled, Days of Majesty, into a local hospital. To the astonishment of doctors and medical personnel, people who were suffering from various diseases and sicknesses began to recover while listening to the music. People were healed by hearing the Word of the Lord being transmitted musically rather than articulated as speech. That says a lot, folks! It says something about the power and authority of God's Word, and the ability of the Word to transcend our natural intellect, bypassing it and going straight to the core of our existence: our spirit.
You've heard me say this many times, and I'll say it again. Music is nothing more and nothing less than "spirit communication." When the Spirit doing the communicating is the Spirit of God, the change effect on the human personality and frame is nothing less than spectacular.
Do yourself a favor and go to http://www.musicfromgod.com/ and order Days of Majesty. It'll astound you!
Let's get to our continuing saga in the north country. Pour yourself another nice big cup of that really dark roasted Columbian coffee -- and take a load off your feet for a few minutes.
We ended our last Coffee Break talking about Father Michael's repentance and the impact his son's death had on him. You'll appreciate that Saint Paul Island did not go through an instant change as a result, either. What did happen was that the overt persecution and opposition ceased. Folks on the island began to feel freer to call on Dad for his many services.
You'll recall my telling you about "Prokoff," the lay reader in the Russian Orthodox Church who had struggled with alcoholism, drunkenness and various addictions, and the change that came into his life when he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. Although the decision had been made in him -- and a good decision it was, too! -- to begin to know and walk with the Lord, a lifetime of drug and alcohol addiction had taken its toll on his physical being.
The craving for drink was still there. His flesh literally screamed at him. Prokoff realized that all of the habit patterns of the past were still a part of his "want to do's," and that if he kept cash around, the temptation to use it to purchase bottles of liquor would be overpowering.
One afternoon he came to see Dad. Dad took him into his office and said, "What can I do for you, my friend?"
"Ummm....Reverend....Uhhh, I don't know how to say this." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of money. "I can't have this around or I'll spend it on whiskey. Would you take care of this for me, and just give me enough for a few groceries when I need it?" he asked. "I'll send my wife over and she can do the shopping. That way I won't be tempted."
Suddenly, Alvin Capener became Saint Paul Island's banker -- in addition to being the island's center of communications by way of his Ham radio. As other island residents learned of Prokoff's decision to "protect" his income, they followed suit. A community of some 600 - 650 residents, Saint Paul did not have a bank per se, and the few residents who had checking accounts had them based in Anchorage. This meant that in order to pay any bills, Dad wound up writing checks for folks and mailing those checks to their creditors.
People came to him with their paychecks, and he kept an individual ledger for each person. Each time they "deposited" money with him, they had to initial the ledger next to each deposit and each "withdrawal." It was a far cry from modern banking. If anything, it harked back to the banking procedures and methods of the old wild west in the mid-1800's.
But Dad made arrangements with banks in Anchorage to accept these checks that were signed over to him, and they were deposited into special accounts he set up. He kept a ready supply of cash on hand so that if someone simply wanted to get on a Reeve Aleutian Airways flight to Anchorage (and that was a really spendy proposition!) and do some shopping, the cash was available.
He never kept the money in a safe. It was simply kept in his rather large desk drawer. By the same token, he never suffered a robbery, and he never took a loss from theft. Neither did he make any money being the island banker. I don't know for sure, but I'd be shocked if he made so much as a total of a thousand dollars from all his accrued transactions on behalf of the island over a twenty-year span.
People trusted him, and he was scrupulous...well, more than that, he was generous. Folks found out they could trust Alvin Capener with anything! He became the "Gospel in Shoeleather" to Saint Paul Island. Not only did his services to the community provide him with a constant opportunity to minister to folks one-on-one, the changed lives that followed began to very gradually transform the character of the island.
Don't get me wrong. Russian Orthodoxy was still the religion of the island, and traditions -- especially religious traditions -- die hard! But God had given Alvin and Lorraine Capener a pulpit the likes of which they could never have imagined. It wasn't the one they planned on -- and they did have that pulpit, too -- but this was the one that bore fruit that lasts to this day.
With Orthodoxy being so dominant, there were many locals who felt a certain amount of intimidation from their families and friends when they turned wholeheartedly to Jesus Christ. Centuries of tradition don't suddenly disappear, and when you have folks who break with tradition -- particularly when it comes to a relationship with Jesus Christ -- family and lifetime friends often view them with disapproval and distrust. As islanders began to make their relationship with Jesus Christ more and more public, breaking away from their regular attendance at Russian Orthodox church services and functions and coming to the church services at the Assembly of God church, they became the focal point of persecution and ostracizing -- something they had once been a part of themselves.
One by one, these folks left the island, moving to Anchorage or other parts of Alaska -- and some even moved to the Northwest (Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, etc.) This is a bit out of sequence in the timing of our storyline, but I never realized the extent to which islanders had left Saint Paul and moved elsewhere until I was preaching my mother's funeral in early October of 2000, and former Saint Paul Island residents showed up at her funeral -- some of whom were in the ministry in other parts of Alaska. They shared with me how the pressure to return to Orthodox traditions was so great they felt they had to leave the island in order to have the liberty to serve the Lord without interference.
But the Aleut people of Saint Paul Island were not Dad and Mom's only congregation. So long as the island was under supervision of NOAA and the U.S. Department of Fisheries, the Fisheries personnel became regular attendees at mid-week and Sunday services. The Coast Guard Loran station -- which was about four miles from the main part of Saint Paul's population -- was staffed with roughly a dozen personnel, and several of those men became an integral part of the church.
During the Second World War, the island had been an early warning outpost for the U.S. Army. When the War ended, and the military abandoned its facilities on the island, they were turned over to the U.S. Weather Bureau. In succession for almost 30 continuous years, the Weather Bureau personnel -- sometimes consisting of whole families -- were a major part of the backbone support for Dad and Mom and the church at Saint Paul Island.
It just seemed to work that way. The Weather Bureau personnel assigned to the island all were either committed Christians prior to their arrival on the island, or they became committed while sitting under Dad's ministry.
Some time after Dad & Mom arrived on Saint Paul Island (the exact length of time is a bit hazy in my memory) -- and they had been using the rather spacious living room of the home as a meeting place -- Dad felt the need to construct an actual church building. The living room simply wasn't cutting it, and the gatherings had grown to the place that using the house was becoming impractical.
He voiced his desire to build a new church building to a few folks in some (mostly-) private letters. Immediately he received a letter from Erwin Anderson -- Yup, the same guy who'd helped so many times in the past, and the same guy who had been part of Dad's very first ministry in Ilwaco, Washington -- indicating that if he would let him know how much he needed in building materials, they would be packaged and put on the next ship.
The design for the house was pretty much along the same lines Dad had designed every previous building for Barrow, Wainwright, Point Hope, Nuiqsut, Atqasuk, and Barter Island. Change was in the works, however. A radically different design for the church building popped into Dad's spirit, and he went to work on a design that would be both cost-efficient, and yet striking in appearance -- at least in terms of building architecture at Saint Paul Island.
I don't have time or space in today's Coffee Break to show you some photos from Saint Paul Island -- they'll wait until next week -- but the new church building for Saint Paul would seat roughly a hundred people comfortably, and that was ambitious (or perhaps far-sighted) in terms of the size of the church congregation. Always the decorator, Mom decided this church needed some nice outside touches -- touches that would be both decorative and have practical value as well. So she drove all over the island finding rocks that would have just the right shape to construct a rock-work wainscot exterior. It took several months to find all of the rocks -- and several more months to carefully put the wall together.
Though the interior of the church was nice, the furnishings were pretty Spartan. Robert Sistrunk, the local Weather Bureau chief at the time, had become very close to Dad and Mom. He decided one day that the church needed furnishings to match its otherwise graceful appearance, and told Dad that if he would order some nice oak church benches, altars, pulpit and matching chairs for the platform and let him know what the total cost plus shipping would be, he would write out a check to cover it.
Thus it came about that the church at
The aforementioned Robert Sistrunk had come to Saint Paul Island calling himself a Christian. The ministry that Dad & Mom poured into him during his years on the island so impacted his life and caused such spiritual growth that he considered them his spiritual parents. Years after he had left the island he was still in constant contact with them.
One day, Robert decided that Dad needed something more practical to move about the island than the old, dilapidated Rambler station wagon and rusting out Ford pickup. (Both of those vehicles were battered from the constant wind and rain and blowing scoria (not to mention the heavy use in tasks for which they were never intended), and though they weren't all that old in terms of years, looked like they'd been in service for dozens of years.) Without any forewarning, he shipped in a Honda 90 trail bike and had it delivered to them. He had no clue what an impact that simple gift would be -- not only to Dad and Mom, but to their ministry to the young people of the island. Not long thereafter, Robert decided they should each have a three-wheeler, and had two shipped in and delivered.
No one on the island had three-wheelers or dirt bikes, and seeing the folks running around the island easily getting to places that were normally accessible only on foot suddenly became an attraction. Young teenage boys came around begging Dad to let them "rent" the bike or the three-wheeler. No sooner had he rented to the first boy ($2.00 per hour) when he had a lineup of boys who would stand around and wait until the previous renter's hour was up.
All of a sudden, Dad had a fistful of young boys, ranging from eight years of age to 15 and 16, who hung around hour after hour after hour. It was a built-in opportunity to talk to them about the Lord Jesus Christ. You'd rarely ever see these boys in church under any normal circumstances, and despite the fact that they might answer when questioned, "I'm Russian Orthodox," they really had no clue what that was, and had zero knowledge of the Bible or the Word of God as it applied to them.
Dad wasn't preachy. He never "sermonized" in his conversations with the boys but found ways to carefully and casually talk about the love of the Lord and to draw the boys into conversation. It didn't happen overnight but over a period of weeks, months and years, many of these boys -- and before long, girls -- began to kneel in Dad's garage and accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
Remember the boys who were part of the rock-throwing episodes? They were also among the renters, and some even among those who accepted Jesus Christ.
There's more, and I guess we need to hold the continuation of this story for today. We'll pick it up here 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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