The Chapel has always been a very missionary-minded church, and when the missionaries we supported were on furlough they would come to the Chapel and share with us about their ministry. At the time Stephen was about to enter his Junior year in high-school, the Olson family, missionaries to Nigeria with the Sudan Interior Mission, were visiting us. They gave their report at the Sunday morning service as usual. I suddenly came down with laryngitis that afternoon. What to do about the evening service? The Olsons were staying with a local family, so Alva called them and asked if they could take the evening service also, which they kindly consented to do.
Aleck, the husband and father, ad-libbed for half of the time, then turned the remainder over to Adena, the wife and mother. She took the occasion to make us aware of a personal problem they had and asked us to pray with them for a solution. The problem was with their children’s education, or rather with that of their oldest son, Ralph. SIM had a fine school on their base in Nigeria, but it only went to grade 10. Ralph had graduated from 10th grade before they came to the USA on furlough. Their problem was that they could not return to Nigeria until they had found someone who would “adopt” Ralph for two years while he finished his last two years of high-school in the USA. Ralph’s brother would go back with them to Nigeria until he finished 10th grade. It was very touching-their hearts were obviously in Nigeria, and they could hardly bear the thought of being delayed in their return (SIM would not let them go back until some arrangement for Ralph had been made). Earnest prayer for the situation was offered at the end of the service.
I was really burdened for them, and wondered if it was possible that God wanted us to take him. When we were back at the Parsonage after everyone was gone, Alva told me that we were supposed to take him. Make no mistake, this is not a situation where we would be reimbursed for his care. It would be adding one very eager appetite, need for bed and bedding, clothes, transportation, school expenses, everything.
Imagine! A housewife with four children, a pastor’s wife, heavy into Sunday School, heading up Children’s Church, yet willing to charge into mothering another teen age boy she doesn’t even know just like that-the faith, courage and love that was needed. What a woman!
But how about Stephen? And the other kids? Would they be willing? All of them had met and interacted with Ralph during the day. Steve was overjoyed-a buddy his own age, his own grade! The other kids thought it was fine. We prayed about it and felt God’s peace in face of the huge additional responsibility it represented. Next morning we still felt it was God’s will, so we called the Olsons and offered to take Ralph. They wanted to come over and discuss the possibility.
When they arrived we could see that they were excited, but somehow concerned. They expressed their great gratitude for our offer, and indicated that Ralph was all for it, but they had a problem. They knew we were Charismatic, the Chapel was Charismatic, but they and SIM were not. They were afraid there would be pressure on Ralph to become Charismatic also. We told them that is not the way it worked, and guaranteed that no human pressure would be put on Ralph, although we could not guarantee that God would not draw him. With that they were satisfied, and were exultant that they could now return to their beloved Nigeria. They left Ralph and his personal belongings with us, and took off. What a difference a day and a half had made!
Ralph quickly became a member of our family, like one of our own. Stephen and Ralph spent two years together at Summerville High, playing football both seasons together, and spent four years of college together at Azusa Pacific University (Alva and I did not have to pay for Ralph’s college costs as SIM had provisions for that).
Foster child number one. During the 1960s, others would follow: Happy Sumner (honorary Mexican), Lillian Roque, Ruth Roque and Yolanda Sesma (three genuine Mexican-American daughters), fortunately not all at the same time, but all equally delightful.
True to our promise, we didn’t put any pressure on any of them to become Charismatic. But God had not made any such promise, and He wooed and won every one of them!
The FGEA and The Order of the Lamb
FGEA stands for the Frank Gonzales Evangelistic Association, which is pretty self explanatory. Frank was a young, fiery Mexican-American evangelist. He was a gifted musician; a world-class trumpet player; a superb chorale director.
His evangelistic team consisted of himself and a chorale. The Chorale consisted of one piano player and twenty or so college age singers, most if not all of which were converts from his evangelistic meetings. They sang, gave testimonies, counseled at altar calls and had a zeal for winning souls like El Jefe (Spanish for The Chief). The target of the Association was the youth of the churches at which they ministered. Serious converts at the meetings would be recruited for the chorale and summer evangelistic outreaches in Mexico.
The Chapel leadership attended one of Frank’s meetings in the bay area, liked what they saw, and invited him to come to the Chapel. The meetings were enormous success. The FGEA and Chapel were instantly joined at the hip. They stirred us (especially the youth) up to serious evangelism, and we stirred them up to receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. We felt Frank was a secret Charismatic, but didn’t dare to show it because most of his “customers” and backers were Baptist churches, and he didn’t want to lose his financial base. In any event, as they moved up and down California from one crusade to another, he would stop by Twain Harte to get a few more of his team filled with the Spirit. It was from the FGEA that we got our foster daughters. A number our youth joined the Chorale and toured with him, including Stephen and Ralph. It was from the FGEA that a number of our youth got their spouses.
Guess who was the Chapel contact person for FGEA? Guess who was the darling Mother to all of the team members, girls and boys? You are right, it was Alva, the sublime gift of God! The Chapel’s association with The Association lasted for many years, and was a great benefit to both.
As if the FGEA wasn’t enough, about the same time another contributor to the maelstrom appeared on the scene, The Order of the Lamb! A local Pentecostal pastor became burdened for the hippies that were congregating in Tuolumne County. He had the gift of evangelism, and went out to the hippie camps and began winning them to Christ. Of course he steered them to the church he pastured for training and worship.
The converted hippies got excited about Jesus, and were growing rapidly, but their dress, long hair and personal hygiene didn’t get adjusted fast enough and the regular
church members resented his bringing all these uncouth youths into their respectable church. So they fired him! He sensed that God was in it, and turned full time to ministering to the Tuolumne County branch of the hippie culture. He rented a couple of large houses in Sonora, one for the uncouth boys, and one for the uncouth girls. He taught them how to work, cook, keep house, and weaned them away from their former evil lifestyles. The hippie sounding name, Order of the Lamb, was adopted to identify the movement.
One problem-he no longer had his own church to which they could go for corporate worship in the larger world. So they started to attend the Chapel. By now Steve had graduated from APU and was our Youth Pastor. He led our own youth at the Wednesday evening prayer meetings. The Order of the Lamb came en mass to this meeting. They were packed like sardines into the Parsonage living room/kitchen area the Lord really met with them there. It was a sight to behold. The whole youth group, Chapel’s plus Order of the Lamb, loved Steve. And, of course, they met Steve’s Mom .
The Order of the Lamb girls latched on to Alva,, as though her extended family wasn’t already more than any mother could be expected to handle. One lovely young blond waif reached out to Alva-to me also for that matter-and most every Wednesday night after the meetings were over, she would come and beg Alva or me or both of us, to let her stay with us, rather than go back to the girl’s house in Sonora. She said she wasn’t afraid when she was in our house. I seem to remember that she called us Mom and Dad from our first meeting with her. Her name was Debbie, and in due time she made us her Mom and Dad by marrying Steve!
The Order of the Lamb was a great shot-in-the-arm for the Chapel, and for us personally, but its greatest blessing to us was giving us this precious new daughter. The love and affection she has shown to us through the years, and that she still shows to me since Alva’s home-going is wonderful.