our witness

quite a Christmas

After three days of travel over snow-packed roads, through blizzard conditions, with little or no sleep…

we arrived in sunny California on December 21, 1981.

We had taken what we considered to be a step in faith and we figured God needed us to be exactly where we were now. We also thought that if God wanted us to be there we’d have smooth sailing from that moment on.

‘taint necessarily so.

We spent the first night in our lovely five bedroom, two and a half bath home on the floor—in our sleeping bags. We were still very excited and tired enough that any sleep, anywhere, was altogether welcome.

About noon the next day our moving van arrived. Yay!! We can begin settling in, making a huge empty house a home and getting down to the business of beginning our ministry.

Our plan was okay—so far.

Just one small hitch. The company employee who estimated the cost of our move miscalculated…by half! Before the drivers could unload our stuff they needed an additional payment, in cash, of almost Five THOUSAND Dollars!


We’ll be okay? God’s got this covered.

We all three pitched in and by Christmas Eve the house was more or less in order; more or less a home. We had, of course, unpacked the Christmas decorations early on. We put up the tree, turned on the lights and thought, “Now we’re read to really celebrate.”

“Give me a minute! Before I start to fix supper let me throw a load of clothes in the washer. I haven’t had time to do that yet.”

Now normally a load of clothes would not have been a big deal. But it turned out to be quite a big deal. As the washer spun out, the sewer backed up under the pressure. The tub filled up. The shower in the master bath overflowed onto the floor. All the toilets overflowed, too! The plumber arrived at 4:30 on Christmas Eve. He did what a plumber does in the face of such a crisis—snaked ALL the drains, wished us a Merry Christmas, presented his invoice for One THOUSAND Dollars and went away.


Later in the evening we attended the Candlelight Service at the local mega-church with friends from Dick’s past California adventures, then entertained them in our new home with a light supper of soup, bread, crudites and dessert. I don’t remember too much about that evening now. I do, however, vividly recall Dick’s friend letting it be known, in no uncertain terms, that veggies, bread and soup did NOT, in his estimation, add up to a meal!

The remaining days of Christmas flew by us in a blur of planning and dreaming. We gorged ourselves on oranges the size of the grapefruit available in Colorado markets. We drove to the ocean, ate fish’n’chips, and drove home. We revisited the small mountain community we’d enjoyed in August. Everything was lovely and we were okay!

On New Year’s Eve we enjoyed a repeat performance. We washed. Everything overflowed. The plumber visited again. The invoice was once again presented and the plumber once again went away. It was at that point we learned why the locals referred to him not as“ The Barefoot Plumber” announced on the side of his van, but “The Barefoot BANDIT”. We understood perfectly what they meant.

But we hoped we were okay…

Long story short…before we were okay the entire sewer line was excavated and re-routed from the house across the front yard all the way to the street. The cause? Valley Oak trees! Beautiful old oak trees. Huge old oak trees. Trees protected by county law. You can’t cut ’em down and you can’t trim ’em up, not without a permit from the government. We were blessed with one of these hundred-year-old giants in our new front yard. The roots had penetrated the tile sewer lines, catching anything more substantial than a tissue and holding it tight, clogging the flow and refusing to budge.

Our house had previously been owned by an elderly lady who required live-in nursing care. The nurse, who lived-in, didn’t bother with proper disposal of her patients adult diapers…she simply flushed them into those root packed pipes resulting in one enormous clog which the plumbers drain cleaning had pushed out as far as his snake could reach, and packed it solid.

The city declined all responsibility for the problem, even though the major portion of the problem was slightly beyond our property line. The previous owner, when questioned about legal responsibility for the problem, sweetly informed us, “It may be true that in Colorado per-existing problems revert back to the seller, but you’re not in Colorado any more. It’s your problem now.”

Another FIVE thousand dollars out of our pocket and into the sewer!


I wish I could tell you things were about to get better, but the truth is we’d had QUITE a Christmas, and it was only the tip of the iceberg.

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!”
 Psalm 91:14-16 The Message Bible

Our God is so good! Looking back along our path He’s been at our side, giving us the best of care.  Some days though, it takes more faith to recognize we are in His perfect plan than others.