Twain Harte, California, has always been a town of second homes. People who lived in the bay area or central valley who could afford a second home there used them as vacation homes in the summer and ski homes in the winter.
As a result the Chapel in the Pines often had a considerable number of visitors during the summer or ski season.
One summer in the late nineteen fifties one of our summer people, a middle-aged school teacher, showed up at a Sunday morning service. He was alone, which was strange, as he usually came with his whole family. One afternoon during the following week I had finished visiting some parishioners and was driving home. I passed the summer home of this man and felt a strong urge that I should visit him. Since it was almost dinner time I resolved to visit him the next day. When I arrived home, I felt a great urgency to go back and visit him right away. After arguing with the Holy Spirit for a minute or two, I drove the short distance back and knocked on the door. He came right away and invited me in, saying that he was so glad I had come, because he wanted to talk to me.
He got right to the point. His wife and children were Christians, so he attended church with them. But he was not a Christian, because he had multiple sclerosis and could not believe in a God who allowed such pain. Did I have any explanation?What a big subject. I asked God to give me the right words. I began along these lines:
- God said over and over that all His creation was good-mankind was even created in the image and likeness of God, which included having a free will;
- Mankind could remain good by obeying God’s rules;
- Beginning with Adam and Eve, mankind disobeyed God and sinfully polluted the environment and their own bodies;
- The result was sin, sickness and death;
- But God provided a remedy for mankind’s sin through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ;
- All who accept Him as their Savior and Lord will become children of God and will have everlasting life with Him in heaven upon their physical death.
I asked him if he would like to receive Christ, and he was eager to do so. God gave him a wonderful sense of peace and His presence, in spite of the pain which still persisted.
The next day he drove to a secluded place in Calaveras County and shot himself. In a note he apologized to his family, but said he could not stand the pain. He told them that he had received Christ as his savior, and that he had taken his life away from their second home so they would still be able to enjoy it..
The second tale occurs some years later after the Chapel got involved in the Charismatic Movement and while we were engaged with the Frank Gonzales Evangelistic Association.
One Saturday morning a car drove up and a young man we knew knocked on our door. After greetings, he explained that he and his beautiful young wife were there because she was to sing at her girl-friend’s wedding which was scheduled for that afternoon at the Chapel. Then he asked if there was a lake in Twain Harte, and if so, how to get there, as they wanted to go swimming.
About mid-morning I got a call from Heuton’s Memorial Chapel saying that the young man had drowned at the lake and had been brought to their Chapel. His wife and some friends were in the office. I took off for Sonora, wondering if it could really be true.
The Chapel was brimming over with excitement and faith in those early days of the Spirit-filled life. I wondered if we were supposed to raise him from the dead, and prayed for guidance. If that is what God wanted, I sure wanted the Elders to back me up.
When I arrived at the office his wife, still clad only in a skimpy bathing suit, jumped up and reached out for a comforting hug. If she was comforted, I was highly uncomfortable. When she let go, I asked if they had a blanket so she wouldn’t be cold.
Back to business, I asked to see the body. The mortician was very reluctant, but I felt maybe the Lord would use that to show me what to do. He did. Forget raising the dead, tend to the ramifications.
I returned to the office, and spoke to the now blanket covered wife. She insisted that she would go ahead and sing at her friend’s wedding. We all pledged utter secrecy, and went our respective ways to get ready for the wedding.
The wedding went without a hitch. That brave wife sang beautifully. The newly weds sped off on their honeymoon, and didn’t learn of the death till they returned.
The wife turned widow explained what happened. Her husband had been a hopeless drug addict, but was saved, as she had been, under the ministry of Frank Gonzales. They had fallen in love, gotten married, and seemed to be doing well. But his desire for drugs came back. He didn’t begin using, but was continually tormented, till he begged God to take him home to heaven. They were planning to go to Twain Harte for the wedding, and God showed him a vision of him and his wife swimming in Twain Harte Lake before the wedding and that is what they were to do.
They found the lake and swam out to a raft. As she was lying on the raft, watching her husband swim around it, he suddenly began to thrash around in distress, as though resisting some outside force. She prayed for him and he relaxed into unconsciousness. He was pulled ashore and a lady doctor living nearby was called and tried to resuscitate him, but to no avail. She pronounced him dead. He didn’t drown, God answered his prayer and took him with a heart attack.
I believe I will see him also, when God calls me home.