ANOTHER COFFEE BREAK: 40 YEARS BELOW ZERO XVII
Salutations, Solutions and Felicitations.
That work for you this morning?
Well, how about "Blessings on you"? Better?
Good! Then grab your cup of good ole French Roasted Columbian Supremo and set a spell.
We're going to get right to today's discussion and continuing story. I've got a couple more photos to share, and these bear directly on the events I'd like to cover today.
Both of the photos are a bit grainy, but taken from the
I'm sure I've already mentioned it, but because of the rather unusual -- and at times spectacular -- nature of the accomplishments people saw Dad and Mom perform as a direct result of their ministry, the news media often covered them. Dad's Ham radio work and efforts to provide communications for the Saint Paul Island residents during the period prior to any kind of telephone service with the outside world got him written up in Ham radio and communications magazines on at least two or more occasions.
Dad's rather innovative method of building a wall within a wall to prevent frost transfer in extreme cold became the subject of builders and contractors all over the country. Mom's efforts to bring non-native plant life to Saint Paul Island, and her successes in creating a gorgeous flower garden around the church gained attention literally around the world among gardening experts and florists.
Newspaper articles and magazine stories had been (and were
continuing to be) written about
I've already noted that
Although the home Dad had built certainly couldn't be called "luxurious," it was far and away the nicest home on the island -- and easily the most comfortable. On one of our trips to the island, Della and I had helped Dad and Mom remodel the interior (the exterior was nothing to write home about), and replace some of the older furnishings with some pretty nice stuff. Mom had gone to great lengths to decorate various rooms, and each room had its own theme. Dad had become an extremely skilled cabinetmaker throughout the years of building churches, and his handiwork was on display in virtually every room.
He had taken a couple of Philippine mahogany doors, separated them with sections of bamboo that had drifted up on the beaches and created a rather large and book-accommodating coffee table. To match it, he had taken a wine keg from an old ship which had broken apart on a rocky reef at one end of the island, cut it in half and wrapped each half with bamboo strips, using the ends of the keg on bamboo standoffs to make two matching end tables.
I've said all that to say that the house became a draw to tourists all by itself. The Capener home, with a couple of spare bedrooms, was -- more often than not -- a bed and breakfast for tourists, some of whom were dignitaries from foreign governments, historians, famous authors including the likes of James Michener (he was working on his novel, ALASKA, at the time), world-renowned photographers, television media and entertainment moguls, scientists, and even folks like explorer and oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. (Della and I happened to be at Saint Paul Island when Cousteau sailed his famous ship, Calypso, into Saint Paul's harbor.)
Year after year after year after year, the famous and the
unknown, the powerful and the "commoner," the great and the
not-so-great made their visits and pilgrimages to
I talked to Dad about his rental rates one day, and his answer was, "Son, I'm not trying to get rich off these people. I just want to cover my costs, and use these bikes as a vehicle (pun intended) to share the Gospel." And share he did. It is highly doubtful that Dad or Mom ever kept any record of the number of visitors to the island who came to know Jesus Christ.
From the article of the same name published
in the Anchorage Daily News on
The visitors, the tourists and the dignitaries who visited
the island were not their primary objective, however. The Holy Spirit had
made it clear that the spiritual atmosphere of the island was that of a
cesspool, a garbage disposal to be more exact, and that
Mom had developed a practice of sharing Scripture verses. She had purchased several "Precious Promise" boxes containing Scripture verses on tiny little cards. When someone would come in to rent a bike -- especially if it were one of the young people of the island, she would have them take out a card and read the Scripture verse; and then pray very quickly with them.
A bond developed between her and many of the young people. Some of them dared to come to church on Sundays, and Mom would teach them using flannel graph stories from the Bible (that was way before the computer graphics we have today!). Her flair for teaching the Bible using these illustrations was unsurpassed.
In the 65-plus years I've been around, I've never met anyone else who could teach like she did! It paid dividends everywhere she and Dad ministered -- and the dividends were paid in the lives of the young people with whom she shared the Word -- a few of those young boys being in one form of ministry or another today.
Likewise when we came to Barrow, the church was built, and the Holy Spirit began to be poured out just as Paul had prayed, he heard what was happening and -- at 65 years of age (or thereabouts) -- mushed his dogs the 90 miles from Wainwright to Barrow to see for himself what God was doing. He had literally climbed over people and waded through the crowd to the front of the church to throw his arms around Dad and weep at the visible answer to that which he had interceded all those years.
He stayed in the northwest long enough to become well
grounded in the Word and to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
However, there was an increasing burning desire within his being to return to
the islands and share with his family the truths of the Word he knew they had
missed hearing in the Russian Orthodox church. Upon his return to
John wasn't about to be deterred. He shared with
various family members, and anyone else in the community that would give him
five minutes. He traveled across the water the 42 miles to
Persecution and opposition mounted within the communities, however, among people who could not see the difference between "religion" and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and considered that John had "departed from the faith." In fact, John had departed from religion TO faith!
Faith, as we all well know, is not a religion, it is not a dogma, it is not a church or denomination, it is not a set of beliefs or a philosophy of living. The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans (see Chapter 10:17) and said, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
You can't hear a denomination. You can't hear a philosophy. A philosophy is a manner of reasoning, and faith is the exact opposite of reasoning. Faith takes place in one's spirit -- NOT their head! In his epistle to the Galatians, he wrote, "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love." (Galatians5:6)
Faith, therefore, is a tangible substance which produces tangible results -- changes in the lives of those who hear the Word of the Lord, and evidentiary proof of the power and authority of God working in the life of the believer. Because faith works by the agape love of God, it has no fear, it doesn't work in the presence of fear, and intimidation has no effect.
John Merculief was not in the least intimidated by the religious opposition, and he decided to simply attend the Orthodox services, stand in back (people stand up the whole time in Orthodox services, anyway) and simply pray in the Spirit over the people, over the community and over the priest. Week after week, month after month, and year after year, John Merculief prayed and interceded in the Spirit for the folks at Saint Paul Island and Saint George Island.
Dad and Mom's arrival at
In later years, John became a good friend to Della and me. We enjoyed our fellowship with him, and our conversations rarely dealt with anything other than the Word of God. I asked him one day about his continued participation in the Orthodox services and he answered very simply, "I pray all the more for their salvation. Now that you folks are here, and the Gospel is being preached on this island, I pray that the Holy Spirit will give them hearts to hear the truth."
Twenty two or twenty-three years after Dad and Mom first
There are a few more stories I'd like to share with you before we wrap up this series, but maybe we can finish this adventure story within the next week or two. I'll see you next week.
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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