The Close of 1997
8/11/97 NOTE: R&SW sent a totally unexpected check for $1000 on this date. I wrote, “I was shocked…It….made me ask the question, ‘Here I am working 50-60 hours per week for 1/3 of this amount. Should I rely on God 100% to supply our needs while I put 100% of my time into ministry?”
9/8/97 “During the last approx. 4-5 weeks we have been given incredible amounts which total over $16,000 through gifts, and earnings! This is almost too hard to believe.”
12/15/97 “I admit…the past two years…have been a difficult time. Yet, also looking back, there was actually no good reason to be fearful or stressed. …God supplied our every need…God is absolutely trustworthy.”
The Beginning of 1998
Building or remodeling an old house and owning a piece of farm property had been our dream for a long time. Leaving Kenya we'd liquidated everything except the items we brought home in our suitcases. The cash from items we’d been given by our supporting church had been returned to the church’s mission account, but sales from our personal items had been deposited into our personal savings account. So, when Donna and I located the perfect piece of farm land only 9 miles from Jellico we purchased it with money from our savings. There was no existing house on the property and I had no building experience, but being young and naïve, I thought I could build my own home. Donna thought I could do anything I said I could do, so when no one suggested to us that we couldn't build it, we started.
I remember walking heel-to-toe across the Florence Avenue rooms estimating their sizes-- guessing my foot was approximately 12 inches. I would then ask Donna if she wanted our house's kitchen, for example, to be larger or smaller than the one at the Florence house. If she indicated she wanted something a little wider or longer I added a few steps until it felt right for her. I then estimated the size of our "kitchen-to-be" based on that. From there I drew ‘blueprints’ on a piece of notebook paper using a standard ruler. We came up with a design and dimensions we thought would suit us. Donna began feeding me pictures and ideas from magazines and house building books. These helped me come up with a drawing of what we wanted from a side view.
Determining dimensions, numbers of doors and windows, and whether one wants a white or a blue bathroom hardly begins the matter of construction. On the fly I was to learn about the placement of load bearing walls, the depth of footers, the steps necessary to waterproof a wall below ground, plumbing, wiring, codes, etc. The tools which helped me along the way included a step-by-step book a friend had used in building their house, a wiring diagram workbook, and the advice of dozens of men who had experience with laying footers, framing, roofing, electrical, plumbing, etc. I learned quickly and from mistakes. Every step seemed to be agonizingly difficult, but many friends and neighbors help for a few hours or a few days as our notebook paper blueprint came to life.
I had my family to help too. My sons, Daniel and Caleb, were 12 and 10 when we began. They worked like grown men. Sometimes it was so hot we could only go an hour before we had to rehydrate with slugs of fresh water from our spring. Hours were long too. One night the kids slept in the car after our Wednesday worship meeting while Donna held the light and I lay flooring until daylight. It was so cold that night that ice formed under our feet while we worked. Though it sound like something from LIttle House on the Prarie, it is true.
It didn't take too long for me realized that I had bitten off more than I could chew, but there were no options. The rent on Florence Avenue was consuming our savings. I was convinced I could build for $25 a square foot and get us into our house debt free. (As of 2013, the house is 98% complete. We’ve hosted somewhere between 3-4 thousand people in our home with many of them being overnight(s). My sons know how to work hard and can build. Donna and I fondly remember the all-nighter in the freezing temps; the kids don’t remember sleeping in the car. We estimate the cost of our land and construction to be around $27-$28 a square foot. We did it without any debt.) Beyond the house and the good memories, I also have a special creek/pop in my right elbow which I've self-diagnosed as ‘hammer-elbow’.
During all of this my Mother was still suffering from severe and chronic pain. However, two local doctors (FA and BW) were heroic in the extra measures they took to find her a helpful treatment. Her condition improved greatly under their care though she continued to struggle to some degree round the clock pain. At least, by this point, they were beginning to enable her to function and to sleep. I no longer needed to sleep in the chair by her bed, and she could watch the kids if we needed to step out to the store for a few minutes.
Somehow we managed to get through 1998. I slept little, but soundly. Fatigue was ever present due to the busyness of working full time for Dwane, building the house, while also attempting to start a church locally. The church planting effort was the most discouraging, but something in my heart would not release me from plodding on toward it—no matter that the price seemed to be escalating.
These are a few journal entries from 1998 illustrating the things I discussed above.
1/3/98 “First gift of the new year was $75 from BC…If….He (God) will be supplying all our needs through Hi-Tech, I’ll inform our donors to discontinue, or at least I’ll remind them that their giving should only be as God prompts them.”
5/25/98 “R&SW sold some stock and sent us all their profit! $604.27!” 6/9/98 “Someone paid our rent anonymously!”
7/22/98 “I am tired and discouraged. My work at HTR has yet to be effective this year. I’ve had no placements (sales or new accounts) in 1998. My house is only at ground level, and we still have no church. I wonder why I’m here sometimes.”