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November 18, 2014 / danaemckee

A Good and Perfect Love Story, Chapter 19 – Over Again? Greetings with Kisses

Roger'sbd1994 001  Danabd42 003

The first counseling appointment with our pastor, Bob Kauflin, was on November 22 that year.  Roger did come along, though he’d promised he wouldn’t. The bottom line of the counsel was – “Read the Bible and do what it says.” When we walked into the office, busy Bob told us,

“Other counselors will tell you, ‘It took you years to get this messed up, it will take years to unravel everything…’, but I don’t have years. I have four weeks.”

Wow. Ok, we had better pay attention.

Where Bob started was with me! He began confronting, specifically, my anger. I wanted to deflect that focus –

“Hey, I am not the one who was throwing the kids around!”…

But there was that sense, that awareness again, like I’d had when listening to counselor Bill Denny thirteen or fourteen years earlier – this was God’s word; this was His rescue cable thrown to me. I drop it at my own peril… So I sat there and listened. I found out later that Bob was following the biblical model of addressing the one under authority first, then the one in authority. (See Ephesians 5:22-33)

I hated what was revealed when Bob started kicking around in the ash heap of my heart. There definitely was a lurking anger. I had been sowing at least as much discord into our home as Roger was. Here, I thought of myself as the holy, righteous, put-upon, godly one…

“If only Roger, or the kids, (or whoever) could get it together, we’d be fine.”

Not true. And, now that I could see it, it was truly unbelievable that I had not seen it before. I had been groping, fuming, stumbling like someone born with no senses… Blinded, deafened by my own sin. The anger in me was doing huge damage to Roger and to the kids still at home. And to Ginger and Ben – grown and out on their own… When I’d let my anger or theirs stymie our relationship, I’d failed. Instead of finding a place of peace for our home, I’d perceived myself as a victim, but not a quiet victim, a defensive, angry one. Wow. Devastating. It was not fun. I repented and prayed to turn from that sin of anger.

I began to learn then that if and when I ever see my own sin, it is the grace of God working in me. I do not remember much of the particulars of Bob’s words to me; the gist is stamped indelibly on my mind, though. I had a big responsibility to set the tone in our home. I had been setting it, all right; not in a good way… One assignment Bob gave was to write out ten things we liked about our spouse before we met again. I remember staring at the blank page, not coming up with anything… I must have eventually thought of some positive attributes to describe my husband; I am too much of a people-pleasing “A” student to head back to class without my homework finished…

The next week was Roger’s turn. I do not remember details of that counseling session either, only that I did feel a little like he was getting off scott-free in comparison to the grilling I’d had. But I was starting to trust the Lord again that change would come. God had done it before; He could bring life and hope again. It might have been this second week that our homework assignment was to read the epistle of First Peter. Read all five chapters every day. Read the Bible and do what it says. I did not read it every day, but I read it through two or three times that week. The directive to wives in this book in Chapter three follows instructions to servants in chapter two and begins, “Likewise…”

(Wives “likewise?”… the same as servants?!… Nice. I don’t think I like that Mr. Paul…)

I read and reread. There was that part in chapter three that talks about suffering for righteousness’ sake… “That’s me,” I thought. “That’s me!…” Wait, no… The next verse goes on: “…always being prepared to make a defense… yet do it with gentleness and respect…” I didn’t think Roger of any of my kids would describe me very often as “gentle” or “respectful”… Oh, sigh… Lord Jesus, help…

The part that turned our marriage around was the sign-off Peter uses in his first letter to the churches. The last verse says,

“Greet one another with the kiss of love…”

It struck me like the chime of a church bell! I was to greet Roger. I had not been doing that. Obviously. I barely grunted when he came home. But if folks at some church were to greet each other there, greet with a KISS… Ok – read the Bible and do what it says.

I treated this like a recipe. I heard him coming in the door. Rise. Go to him. Speak (sound natural!…)

“Hi, Roger.”  Smack (kiss).

It was not a real heart-felt thing… But it was one of those small obediences to God that He took and turned into something He could use. This simple exercise got us off the treadmill of boring sameness and tiresomeness, and out of the dusty rut of “I already know everything about how you are/you-will-never-change” hopelessness… We began to love one another. We had a marriage!

It was no longer a barely joint endeavor, but something that began to be lovely and safe. Roger responded and softened toward me immediately; he didn’t know or notice that I was doing an experiment, a “recipe”.  Very soon were on the same side! Anger was retreating. Comparing ourselves among ourselves was seldom a trap anymore. Bob was right; it only took four weeks, maybe less! I’d never have believed it if I had not lived it. God is fabulous and amazing. He is awesome!

November 17, 2014 / danaemckee

A Good and Perfect Love Story, Chapter 19 – Over Again? Part b

Some of my issues with my husband stemmed from feeling unloved/unappreciated, and I was angry, but… strange to say, I did not know it. That comparison thing I mentioned back in Chapters 12 and 13 had morphed from my contrasting myself negatively with Roger’s old girlfriend, to comparing myself positively with Roger. And many others!… That is exactly what 2 Corinthians 10:12 warns of – “…we dare not… compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” I did “commend” myself. I truly felt that I was a godly woman, just going about my pretty perfect life as well as anyone could. Roger was the problem. Not me.

AllieGirl 001 copy 3
Roger and I got in a big fight when he man-handled the boys. I don’t remember what Aaron and Barney had done, but I know I did not like how he was dealing with them. I tried to intervene, and then we got into it. This happened in front of two of the neighbor kids, Rebecca and Benjamin, who were playing over at our house. Embarrassing. Looking back later, I think that detail about our friends’ children being there and them getting scared and running home, was part of God’s grace. His light shone in on the nasty, moldy, dank corner where this anger of ours was hiding out. And those burning embers of dissatisfaction, anger, self-righteousness, and ungodly comparison that smoldered in my heart needed to be raked out of the ashes, scattered, and stepped on. All that was about to happen. Things “settled down” after the altercation; Roger and I went over to apologize to them for losing it and acting bad.
That night I got my journal out to write out my feelings. I just needed to sort it out. I had a couple of little notebooks I journaled in from time to time, not organized enough to have just one… I found the one from three months before when Roger had had a really bad Father’s Day, a shameful, angry day. The very words that I was about to write were there; we’d done this same ridiculousness a few months ago. It was so similar, such a pattern. I cried, feeling totally hopeless and helpless. Roger was asleep; not unusual. He had to get up so early he always was asleep way before me. He usually got up and was gone before I woke up.

baby Allie 001
With the baby, I was awake at odd times. That next morning I went downstairs to find him before he left; I needed to try to sort out the aftermath… I wasn’t ok. He wanted to just go on like normal, like “what aftermath”? I didn’t want to anymore. It was one of those many times that you know what will happen ahead of time – if I say this, he will say that… I still could not just go on without trying. So, I brought it up again – the fight. And he reacted. Just like I knew he would, only more strongly. There was no reason to stay, he fumed; he was going to find an apartment and move out.

“And don’t call the church; or if you do, I am not going to them for any marriage counseling.”

I remember thinking, “I have done this single parent thing before; I guess I can do it again…”
A song that sustained me was “God is in Control.” It was a word to me; here are some of the lyrics:
God is in Control by Twila Paris
“This is no time for fear
This is the time for faith and determination
Don’t lose the vision here carried away by emotion
Hold on to all that you hide in your heart
There is one thing that has always been true
It holds the world together

CHORUS:
God is in control
We believe that His children will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
There is no power above or beside Him…

He has never let you down
Why start to worry now?
Why start to worry now?
He is still the Lord of all we see
And He is still the loving Father
Watching over you and me

Watching over you, watching over me
Watching over every thing
Watching over you, watching over me
Every little sparrow, every little thing…

Bob Kauflin was associate pastor, music minister, youth leader, and counseling pastor at our church. I called to make an appointment with him. Looking over old calendars and journals, I am surprised by the actual timeline. I remembered the main things accurately, but thought we got in to see him for counseling quickly – maybe the week following. But the truth was, counseling with Bob was pushed back a couple of months. The fight happened on September 11, 1994. Life went on. And death. My little sister died unexpectedly on November 4. I flew to Nevada for the memorial service for Jeanne, the adoption agency allowing me to take our Allie along.

September 20, 2014 / danaemckee

A Good and Perfect Love Story, Chapter 19 – Over Again? Part a

FossiePa&Allie  FossieMa&Allie AaronCorrieAlliebaby

When we got our first little foster baby, we also got sleep deprivation. Our youngest, Barnabas, was seven years old, so it had been that long. The nap-when-you-can lifestyle returned with a yawn, a baby on the hip, and the kids and dog in tow. We loved caring for Allie, and church friends, work friends, and family were excited with us that we had this new baby in our home. Roger’s mom was very sick, but she was happy for us too.

One of the first weekends we had our new little one, we jumped into the car to take her to meet Grandma Dorothy. Our car broke down, sadly, in South Carolina on the way to Royston, Georgia, where Dorothy had recently gone to a rehab facility. The kids and I sat  at a fast food place along Highway 85 for a couple of hours after the tow truck came to take the car. Roger had driven separately in his company car and was already with his mom.  As soon as he could he rescued us from the Burger King and give us a ride back home.

  CorrieBarnGrandmaDorothy'sfuneral  RogerBarnGrandma'sgrave

Dorothy passed away in August. What sad news for Roger and for the kids. It was a blow; a first terrible brush with death for Aaron, Corrie, and Barney. It was so hard to know that Roger’s mom, our Grandma Dorothy, was gone.  She had put up a grand battle against the last enemy, Death.  My main feeling was relief that she was no longer sick; she was with the Lord and suffered no more.  But seeing Roger grieve, and the kids…  It was difficult. Painful even now to look back at these photos.

Ginger1994visit  BenMom1994visit 

Funny how life goes from this to that – birth to death – grief to hope…  We decided we would not change the ticket we’d bought for me to travel to go see the kids.  So, a day or two after Dorothy’s service I flew to California to see our Ben and Ginger, and to meet Ben’s girlfriend, Robin.  I stayed in their home, and they made me very comfortable. It was a good visit with them all. Ben worked and surfed and took time to show me his favorite beaches up and down the coast.  I talked about the importance of marriage and about him following the Lord’s rule in his life. He listened. Soon after I got back home to NC, Ben called to say a wedding was planned for the next spring.

That fall, 1994, God put me and Roger on the same team, united like we had never been before. But first, we nearly destroyed this marriage of ours once again. Just heading into our forties, we had grown apart somehow in all the busyness of life. He had been lashing out in raging spurts… big, huge blow-ups about every three to six months. These explosions were short-lived but pretty damaging…

Roger’s focus, his whole trajectory was living and breathing his work.  Grappling with deadlines and people issues, customers, accounts payable, route guys, equipment failures, contests, and hiring and firing while trying to satisfy multiple bosses – just to name a few things – he used nearly all his gifts during fifty-plus hours per week at work. Roger did save a bit of himself for us now and then, and continued taking his turn teaching his fifth graders their Sunday School lessons at church.

Depositing his weekly paycheck into our joint checking account, Roger totally trusted me to manage the finances and all the rest.  I worked non-stop at our home, managing there – dishes, laundry, writing checks for the bills, homeschooling the kids, clothing and doctoring them, cooking, cleaning, training…  caring for our kids and the sweet baby guests the Lord sent.

August 10, 2014 / danaemckee

A Good and Perfect Love Story, Chapter 18 – Our Nest Contracts/Expands – part b

RogerDana.Roger40bd 001

That year, 1994, was stressful for Roger and me. I do not know what all was happening in him, but I was becoming overwhelmed. I felt like all the responsibility for the kids and the bills weighed on me. That was unfair, I’m sure; Roger earned the money with the sweat of his brow, and turned basically all of it over to me to manage. He put in long hours at work, committing himself to the success of his company and his customers; at church he loved taking his turn once a month at teaching ten-year-olds their Sunday School lessons. We hosted a Care Group at our house mid-week, though sometimes Roger did not make it to the meeting.  A sad thing that weighed on him and on all of us that year was his mom’s failing health. Grandma Dorothy was drawing near the end of her earthly life.

Meanwhile, Ben lived in CA; he’d been there for a couple of years.  He had made his way back and forth to see us a couple of times, but we had not visited him. We knew he was no longer living with his dad, and that he’d tried renting a place with a group of guys – which did not last super long either.  Now we found that he was living with his girlfriend.  Roger and I made a plan for me to go see Ben and his girlfriend, and Ginger.  Also, a life lull presented itself (no pending moves!) that would allow me to travel to CA for a few days. I would go the middle of August.

In July we got a call from the adoption agency. Did we want to take a new baby girl? Yes! We were ready to begin our foster care journey.  We had the license, we’d borrowed a cradle and dug out our old high chair, etc. We were going to “name” her Charlotte and call her Lottie. Corrie and I went to the store to buy a diaper bag and a new little dress, then drove the five or six miles to the agency office and waited. And waited… They did not come. After an hour, we found a pay phone and called them.

“Oh, the birth mom changed her mind and is keeping her baby.”

We were glad for the baby but disappointed for us; Corrie and I both shed a few tears driving back home.  Little did we know that another baby girl was being born that day who would become very important to us.  The Lord was saving her place in that little cradle in Roger’s and my bedroom.

Two days later we got the call: “Do you still want a baby girl?”

“Great; yes, we want her!”

AllieBaby 001 AllieGirl 001 copy 2

This time Doris, from the agency, brought the baby to our house, straight from the hospital. I had to run Aaron to his tae-kwon-do class that rainy day, and hurry as I might, Doris beat me.  There she was in her little car seat on the kitchen table when Barney and I walked back into the house. We were instantly hooked on this beautiful, perfect, brown-eyed little girl. We called her Allie, and we realized that if we had gotten “Lottie” two days before, the agency would not have given us, a brand new foster family, two babies at once. We’d maybe not have ever met this little one. We felt a sense of destiny and began caring our for Allie Girl.

 

July 17, 2014 / danaemckee

A Good and Perfect Love Story, Chapter 18 – Our Nest Contracts/Expands – part a

Lula4 copy 4  DanaGirlsGastonia BenMomGastonia 001

We moved, letting the house on Bill Wilson Road sit empty for a few months. The real estate lady called to inform us there was a “moisture problem.” Roger drove down to see what was going on; a small, leaking drip untended had become several gallons of water pooled in the drop ceiling of one basement bedroom. What a pain to take care of a property remotely! When we got a buyer for the Lula house, we were relieved and thankful. We felt free as a molting bird shed of old plumage.  How marvelous to have that off our minds and off the check book.

Roger and DanaGastoniaEaster

We had one child in college in GA, and four with us in NC. It was the right thing for us to move to NC and get our family back together, but the new house was short one bedroom. There was no good place for Ben to squeeze in. He was “grown,” so rather than adjust to a new life on a couch in NC, Ben moved to CA to be with his dad. He was fine. But I did hate it that we did not have a room for our Ben. He went off into the real world of work.

Our move from Georgia to North Carolina came midway through Ginger’s 11th grade, a trying time for her to be uprooted. She took some months off school and drove with Ben to visit their dad when Ben moved. Before she left for her summer trip, Ginger applied to a couple of colleges. Not only accepted, Ginger won a great scholarship to attend a good college near us. She also worked at a gift shop part-time. The second year of Ginger’s college, I ended up doing something I had to apologize to Roger for later. I disregarded my husband’s wishes and manipulated him to do this one more thing my way. When Ben’s plans changed and he put off attending college in CA, the FAFSA* situation changed for Ginger too. Available money amount from grants and scholarships shrank. Roger’s take on it was,

“If there is not enough money, there will be no classes.”

But I pushed him –
“No, don’t allow this college opportunity to slip away for our girl! She faithfully worked hard and did so well this first term.”

He caved and gave in to me, signed a small loan for her to continue, and she returned for the start of another year. Ginger also took out a loan, and so did Clay.

After the gift shop job, Ginger started working part time with Roger at Aramark. Seeing the level of responsibility he had at work and how much people relied on him gave Ginger a new, grownup respect for Roger. A move onto campus made sense when school started up again, and she got more involved in some social aspects of college. Following a couple more semesters, Ginger put college on hold and she moved to CA to be near her dad. I knew that the Lord was at work in both the older kids; there was something important about the dad/son and dad/daughter relationships that needed to happen for them. As the children grow up there many things that may take place beyond our knowledge – those are God’s department for our kids. He covers and cares for them. Always.

my rag man

Roger’s job as Assistant GM turned out to be really the work of a GM. The titled General Manager was also Group Manager over that plant and three others. Roger learned much about being a General Manager there. He’d previously done everything in the service end of things; in Charlotte he learned production. More responsibility; more stress. After a year at the Gastonia house, Roger moved us to Charlotte, just twenty-five miles away. First we rented a large, beautiful home on the north side of town.
Ridge Lane Rd house
God answered a specific prayer and provided for us in a remarkable way that winter. The house was a huge open floor plan, and though the owner was renting to us for a price below market value, I was doing the bills, and was concerned about the power bill. I prayed that the Lord would provide wood for the two fireplaces so that we would be able to afford to heat that big place – 3,500 square feet. Bigger than any place we had ever lived in before. A day or two later, workmen for Duke Power knocked on the front door asking permission to take down a large dead tree on the land. I tried to refer them to the owner, but they assured me that I could give the ok as a renter on the property. So I agreed. The wood from that big tree was already cured perfectly, as it had been dead for some time. I was amazed and humbled, and so excited… I had cried out to Him, and the Lord of heaven and earth had heard me!  God hired three men to work at cutting wood for us for three days. They not only cut the tree down, they cut it up and split it into lengths that fit the fireplaces in the home. Roger was so busy at the Assistant GM job at the time, we did not see him a whole lot. And when he was home, he had small energy to help with household stuff. I cried tears of joy and gratefulness over that firewood, feeling the Lord’s everlasting arms around me. This was evidence of our Father caring for me/for us.  God is my Dad, and He is so faithful.

God had reminded me to ask Him about this looming problem instead of getting mad at Roger (which was my default mode when I wanted him to fix some budget thing for me. Roger typically would say, “I give it all to you, Dana; that’s all I can do. You figure it out. Spend less someplace else.” Which was all true and good advice, if frustrating.) Then God had fixed it without me borrowing or fretting (very much) or scheming or anything.

Only seven months after moving in we found that home was being foreclosed on, so we bought a nice house on Elwood Drive. There we settled in for a few years. While in the first Charlotte house, we became good friends with neighbors Chris and Alton. They introduced us to Abundant Life, a vibrant, new church meeting in a theater. The senior pastor, Brent Detwiler, preached the Word; families there seemed to have their kids in order in a way we had not seen before. Bob Kauflin led worship in a skillful, God-honoring way. They were friendly, lovely folks, and they welcomed us into the church there.

Homeschooling the younger kids was a full-time job for me. We found that some of them had eye/hand coordination and perception problems. Homeschool was a great option to gear lessons to their specific needs so they could learn at their own pace. The Lord sent us perfect resources for what we needed, and provided testing and encouragement through Mary, a new friend we found at Abundant Life. She had multiple degrees in evaluating and teaching kids with learning differences. Mary tested the kids for us, pointed us toward good curriculum, encouraged us, and showed us lots of strategies. What a wonderful help! We met life-long friends at our church-beautiful, sweet people. And we found more great friends in our neighbors, the Hearns. Their kids were similar ages to our Aaron, Corrie and Barney, and they also homeschooled.

CorrieBarnBDCharlotte  RogerDanaApr93trip

Roger worked lots of hours; the kids were growing; life was busy. We were challenged at church by a friend who worked in an adoption agency to become foster parents. Corrie, our ten-year-old daughter, asked if we could do it; we thought, “Why not?” If a baby needs someplace to stay for awhile, they can certainly stay with us. We went through the process and got licensed to do foster care in Mecklenberg county.

July 17, 2014 / danaemckee

A Good and Perfect Love Story, Chapter 17 – Roger’s Backstory, part d – Saved!

Roger

Roger’s life did not change right away.  Not long after being rescued from suicide by Jesus in that Athens church, he headed to Washington state to take baby portraits.  Roger worked in Washington and in Oregon, setting up portrait shoot appointments at hardware stores or anywhere.  Advertising the shoot, photographing the babies and children, going back to sell the portraits in two weeks…  He worked hard and made good money at photography.

Sometimes he took speed, Roger confesses, to help him get through a long drive or a long work day.  Incidentally, a confirmation that Roger had ADD or ADHD is that speed settled him down; he claims he was the best, most loving person ever when he took the stuff.  Taking a stimulant when he did not have to work or drive inspired him to write mushy letters to all his friends and family and tell each one how much he loved them/how much they meant to him.  Roger also spun imaginative, fantastic stories about what all he was doing to include in those letters.  Thankfully, he escaped crippling, deadly addiction that threatens many who self-medicate with such substances.

In Oregon, Roger rented a studio apartment beside Charlie, a man who was a Christian.  This guy repeatedly invited him to come to church.  Roger felt sorry for Charlie because of his terrible skin condition – big, dry pieces flaking off, falling around the man.  Finally, for Mother’s Day, Roger took the guy up on the invitation, mostly because the church was planning a meal after the service.  He does not remember what the pastor preached or what Scripture was used that impressed him, he just knows God clearly spoke to him; he was called from darkness to light.  Roger repented of his sin and got saved that morning.  He was changed.  Jesus was real; Jesus was God’s Son, and He loved Roger!  Roger gave his life over to the Lord that day, got rid of drugs and liquor, as he suddenly had no desire for those things, and to complete the transformation, the new, Christian, Roger bought two three-piece suits. Later he realized that, though wearing suits is appropriate for many situations, he did not have to “be Jimmy Swaggart”.  Roger would be himself, now God’s man.

After that small Oregon church discipled Roger for a few months, the pastor and another family from the church decided to move to Reno, Nevada, to plant a church there.  Roger was in.  He’d been saved for six or seven months, and he wanted to lend a hand to spread the Gospel.  Letting go of the baby photography job, Roger donated his monetary savings and moved to Reno to help establish a brand new church.  The Foursquare Gospel got a committed lay evangelist; “The Biggest Little City in the World” got a new night watchman in Roger McKee.

Beginning with a dozen or so folks, they rented a facility and started the church.  All seemed to be going well.  But five or six months later, Mike came to Roger early on a Sunday morning, hurriedly asking him to take the service last minute.  Mike was heading out for California…

“Would you tell Maria and the kids that I will be gone a couple of weeks, but then I will be back?”

Roger gave the family Mike’s message.  Distraught – the kids crying, Maria asking lots of questions that Roger did not know the answers to – Roger stepped up to lead that church service and the next few as well.   Mike disappeared.  Much later when Roger heard of him again, he was not doing well, not living as a good witness to the transforming life that Christ offers.  As far as Roger knows, Mike never went back to his family.

Maria packed up her kids and moved back to Oregon.  The Foursquare church leadership sent Gary and Catherine Steele to Reno to take over the fledgling church being held together by new Christian, “Elder Roj.”  Gary and Caty loved Roger and appreciated his commitment to stay; they worked to get things back on track for the church to continue.  Roger got a job at the MGM, working in the French restaurant kitchen, and started winning people for Jesus.  His plan with the move to Reno, though, was not to settle long-term.  He was going to help get things started, then he was going to Tyler, Texas, to R. W. Schambach’s Bible school/ministry school.  He was going to be an evangelist!  Then a dark-haired young woman with two little kids caught his attention and derailed that train – or put it on a much different track.

April 3, 2014 / danaemckee

A Good and Perfect Love Story, Chapter 17 – Roger’s Backstory, part c

Roger red plaid2
Roger met Celine at a hostel in Rome.  They were two among many young people hitching rides around Europe at the time.  But Celine found hitch-hiking scary in that country, as Italian men were wildly forward.  She asked Roger to travel with her.  Since they both were headed the same direction, he did accompany Celine.  Thus, he kept her safe from men who assumed she was a loose woman (which we was not), and she kept him safe in that she, being fluent in French, could communicate.  It so happens, I was not the first person he introduced as his wife, but men still propositioned Celine in spite of his claiming that intimate role with her.  Roger witnessed multiple guys pulling over, fighting each other to get her into their car.  The duo enjoyed a platonic relationship, made each other laugh, and traveled together to Sicily and Tunisia.  She thought Roger sounded exactly like Elvis when he sang.  In Tunis on Christmas Day, Celine celebrated by dragging a small tree inside, decorating it, and then being sad that she was not home.  Roger encouraged his usually vivacious friend to go back home early to her parents and siblings.

When in Rome, Italy, Roger met some cult people, the “Children of God.”  He did not know they were a cult; they were sharing what sounded like the Gospel on the street.  They invited him to dinner and he went with them.  Inside they showed Scripture passages to Roger from Matthew and Luke.*  They twisted the Scripture with their impassioned commentary,

“We hate our parents; we have taken new names!  We have given everything up.”

When they wanted Roger to surrender all his stuff to them, he asked if he could think about it.  He found his plate of food immediately whisked away from the table in front of him and himself thrown out onto the street!  As he walked away, one of the women followed him repeating,

“You will never go anywhere without Jesus Christ in your life.”

Roger had gone to church when he was a kid, but he had not heard the gospel yet.  It may have been preached, but his ears, his heart had not heard.  Those words of hers stuck with him and echoed in Roger’s mind in the coming months and years.

Riding a cattle train one night in Algeria, Roger fell into an exhausted sleep.  During that slumber he was robbed.  Most of his cash, all his film, almost everything was gone.  His prized Nikon camera was not taken, but the leather strap to its case had been cut part way through.  Thankfully, most of Roger’s money was in Traveler’s Cheques, but he had no way to get to Paris to get his money replaced.  Not speaking anything but English, he was nearly prey again.  Some crooks, uniformed as travel and customs agents, seemed helpful.  Roger somehow realized he was being tricked – there was no reduced fare ticket – and escaped the crooked “agent” who was about to take his last little bit of cash.

Ruby Specko, the blackest man ever, hailing from the Ivory Coast, befriended vulnerable Roger in that travel depot.  They struck up a conversation over an advertised celebrity – this time it was not Elvis, but Mohammed Ali.  Ruby’s white smile broadened as he praised Ali, the Heavyweight Champion of the world.  Roger was also a great fan, and that’s how they met.  Ruby was also going to Paris and, unbelievably, paid Roger’s boat fare to cross the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain.  They journeyed on to France, becoming friends long before they parted.  Finally in Paris, Roger went to the American embassy, replaced the stolen money, and somehow got on a flight without his passport.  So thankful to be headed back home, Roger was now suffering some uncomfortable symptoms from drinking the water while overseas.

Back from Africa, he arrived in Montreal on a cold, winter day.  It immediately became clear that his girlfriend was not expecting him as she had other company there.  Roger was sick and sad. He made his way to Athens, Georgia, riding a train part way, hitch-hiking the rest.  There he cut his wrists one night, went bleeding into a Catholic church, looked up at the life-size crucifix, and cried out to God.  The Lord answered him, disclosing Himself to Roger, whispering to his heart – he must start at the foot of the cross.

 

* Scriptures used by the “Children of God” that day in Rome – Luke 14:25-30, “ Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish…”
Matthew 10: 37 – “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
(Taking all of what Jesus says throughout Scripture, He would not be advocating mistreatment of parents.  The Matthew passage explains the Luke passage as being a comparison. Compared for one’s love for the Lord, our love for mom and dad resembles hatred.  When we are grown, we love and follow Christ before we follow our parents’ wishes.)