Archive for the ‘ Incidents ’ Category

HOURGLASS (December, 2015)

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Headed east out of Canada in cold weather, traffic was heavy, and I fell in behind a semi-trailer truck, with vehicles vying for position in lanes on both sides. Suddenly, a hunk of ice came bouncing toward us. It may have fallen from the truck or another vehicle ahead of us. There was no way to avoid hitting it (or being hit by it) without side-swiping another car in a parallel lane.

The ice block probably measured about 10”x10”x20” – a rather large obstacle. I did not want to hit it dead center with my radiator, the engine oil pan, or the transmission, so I swerved slightly left, staying in my lane. It broke the fiberglass faux-bumper, taking out a section of the bumper and protective shield, and passing underneath just inside the front wheel and tire. We heard and felt the bump and crunch as we sailed over it.

I pulled off into the breakdown lane as soon as possible to see how much damage was done. Amazingly, we were not losing any coolant or oil. However, though the the contact appeared to be limited to the right side of the car, the entire left turn signal unit had popped out. It had to be replaced later with a recycled part from a salvage yard. Using some bungee cords from the trunk, I wired up the damaged parts so they wouldn’t drag or interfere with moving parts, and we continued our trip.

Another dangerous situation survived!

The Lord has protected us from many potentially disastrous collisions, and provided repairs in a hundred impossible situations. We’ve often commented about the high risk duty our guardian angels have given us.

Travel by automobile has been a main feature of our lifestyle for five decades, covering about 2.5 million miles as we criss-crossed the United States in cars or pickup trucks, sometimes pulling travel trailers. By far, the majority of churches gave us a lump-sum love offering, without consideration for travel expense, wear and tear, or replacement costs. Still, He is our Provider and Protector.


On this day, March 17, 1966, I preached my first “sermon,” standing on a box in front of the J.C. Penney’s store on 16th Street in downtown Omaha, NE. It was St. Patrick’s Day. Everyone wore green. I felt rather green myself! My text was Amos 4:12 “prepare to meet thy God.” This happened only because Arnold Busenitz, a senior student, was ill. All upperclassmen on the Street Preaching team were sick. Although I protested that I knew nothing about preaching and had no intention of being a preacher, W.A. Regier, the Christian Service Director, insisted that there was no one else to fill the slot. Whereas my duty on the team had been to listen to the speaker and be ready to hand out tracts to any passers-by, I had less than a week to prepare, practice in a music hall practice room, and with great trepidation, preach on the street. After this, several of my teammates, including Arnie Busenitz, encouraged me that they thought God’s hand was upon me for preaching. Arnie later urged me to enroll in a summer pastoral internship program. I protested that I wasn’t going to be a pastor, but he ignored my protestations and insisted he was sure it would do me good.

My former pastor, Adrian House, without knowing any of these events, coincidentally invited me to spend the summer with his family in Cheyenne, WY, where he had planted a new church. He told me they could not pay, but would take up a love offering at summer’s end. It was my first real step of faith, realizing I would not be able to return to Bible college in the fall without Divine provision.

Late that summer, as I prepared a message to give to two youth groups at Berean Baptist Church in Laramie, WY, I suddenly felt compelled to kneel and pray. On my knees in the basement of Pastor House’s home at 1010 East Fifth Street in Cheyenne, I told the Lord that I wasn’t sure whether He was actually calling me to preach, or not, but if so, I promised I would do it as He would enable me. From that moment, the focus of my life has been upon the preaching of the Word of God! A few months later, my college roommate, Ron Stradinger ( Alice Stradinger) insisted that I sit down in our room. He then told me that it was obvious that the summer internship had notably changed my life – that I was now more certain of my direction in life than he had known me to be before that.

Praise God for His unspeakable gift, and for His inexpressible gifting to His servants! What a ride it has been! I’m still RIDING HIGH (Dt. 32:13)!

Memories in Oak

Oak, Nebraska in 1976 was a village serviced by no paved roads in any direction. I was a fledgling evangelist, living in Colorado. One of the worst blizzards hit on Saturday, nearly blocking Interstate 76, and I drove my 1956 Chevy to the meeting, leaving our better car for my wife. Snowplows had opened a path the width of one car through some drifts, so traffic would gather, waiting for oncoming vehicles to clear the way. I could not get through until Sunday, and due to delays and crossing into the earlier time zone, I found myself behind schedule to arrive in time for the Sunday evening service, but I raced on and came into the meeting while the congregation was singing. The pastor introduced me with some relief, and I preached the opening service without our usual musical segment.

It would have been acceptable to delay arrival, and nobody would have been surprised if I had postponed the meeting. Like many places I frequented, it was off the beaten path, and often overlooked by other evangelists.

An elderly couple came from Nelson, Nebraska to attend one night of the meeting. When I gave the altar call, they made their way down the aisle together as I stood in front of the communion table, pleading with the audience to come, to trust Christ. They were in their late 70’s. They said they had never made any profession of faith before, although both had entertained the idea since their youth, when they had attended revivals, some 50 years before. The pastor and I met with them in a side room, where they prayed one by one, sweetly receiving the Savior. What if I had refused to go to Oak, hoping for a bigger venue elsewhere?

I spoke to students at the elementary school, which still had a tunnel-type fire escape from a second floor window. Even in those days, opportunities for a preacher to speak in a public school were being discouraged by the public educational establishment. As I stood before them, I could only recall one time during my elementary days at Springer School District #7 in Scottsbluff County, Nebraska, when a children’s evangelist did a magic show and explained God’s plan of salvation.

Who were those students listening to my ditties, amused by the antics and spontaneity of the young evangelist? Perhaps a boy, who would lose his life in the first Gulf War? A girl who would die in an auto accident before graduating from high school? A child already imbibing the evolutionary philosophy that has since led so many into the paths of agnosticism, narcissism, addiction, and humanism? Maybe one became a missionary whose life has influenced thousands in some foreign land? Only Eternity will tell. Meanwhile, it is our duty to be faithful, through dangers, toils, and snares.


by C.T.L. Spear

No telling how many times the angels of God rescued this errant servant from disaster. Traveling at about 45 miles per hour on Old Middleburg Road I noticed the vehicles ahead were stopping suddenly to avoid a crash with a tandem axle truck which had pulled out from a driveway, blocking both lanes of traffic. As I braked, I checked the rearview mirror and saw that a small model pickup following me did not appear to be slowing down. He probably wouldn’t brake in time to miss me. Glancing ahead again, I saw that the shoulder gently fell away from the road unlike other places where it banked severely. I swerved to the right, accelerating slightly, which cleared my lane and gave the pickup more room. He swerved and skidded to a halt averting a collision with the truck which was now backing into the driveway again. No damage done, I drove on past the other vehicles and continued on my way.

It made me think of the time Pickloski lost control with our 65 Chevy on ice at 112th and Sheridan Boulevard in Denver. She spun around 360 degrees, but never left the roadway and continued on without mishap. It was one of the rare times traffic was sparse at that intersection, so no harm was done. Or, the time the left front wheel on my Jetta took leave of the car while Softie was driving west of Murray, Kentucky. She had to flag a ride, but there was no damage, and she arrived in time to sing with me in concert that night. Jake hit a little fawn with a VW Corrado once, and barely missed a van full of kids with a Buick Regal another time, but later rear-ended somebody, decimating the grille of our poor Dodge Omni. Only their Mom remained fairly clear of vehicle accidents while driving. But, a teenager rear-ended her pickup in Mayfield, Kentucky, and more recently, she turned a blind corner only to join a three car pile-up, which left her with a shoulder injury and a car out of commission while insurance and repair people debated the virtues of “totaling” versus renovation for several weeks.

On one of our first dates, I crunched the left front fender and suspension of my ’53 Chevy with a car full of students in Omaha. That accident put me out of the league of drivers for many months. Walking to work and dating on foot humbled the proud owner of a red two-door hardtop. We have much to be grateful for when we consider the dangers, toils and snares from which we’ve been spared.

Dangers, Toils, Snares, & Motorcycles

Dangers, Toils, Snares, and Motorcycles

by C.T.L. Spear

My first college roommate, Dennis Gingrich, owned a Harley Davidson “74,” which remained back home on the farm south of Gering, Nebraska. The Bible College prohibited freshmen from bringing vehicles to campus, holding the view that vehicles and girlfriends only distracted from serious study. Freshmen were not allowed to date until after the first nine weeks. Vehicles were banned for the entire year, which meant that Dennis and I were afoot.

Dennis discovered a motorcycle shop not far from the college, and we made the pilgrimage to the show room frequently. In the back, we found a 1942 Harley “45.” Den purchased it for $54 and included me in the restoration project, even sharing the profits when we sold it to another student, Ron Stradinger. We pushed it up the hills of Omaha to get it home, since the transmission was (literally) in a basket. The transformation included custom exhaust pipes and taillights, and a fire engine red paint job shot from spray cans in our dorm room, with a box fan in the window, a feeble attempt to maintain respiratory health. The fan blades and the screens on the window, as well as the walls of the room took on a rather pink hue. The Dean of Men, Ron Seibel, managed to ignore the “vehicle,” which was stowed in an old garage behind the dorm, although plenty of evidence made its way into our room – wheels and tires, fenders, and gas tank – which hung from a clothes hanger hooked to the light fixture.

That summarizes some of the extracurricular “Toils and Snares” of Bible College life… Dangers? I’ve rarely told about my first solo ride on the “45.” Dennis was gone to work one afternoon, so I test-drove it on the student parking lot across the street. By the grace of God, I found the brake and the foot-operated “suicide clutch” just before the front tire would have bashed into the side door of a Volkswagen owned by the Student Body President, Gary Isaac. I never confessed this near-transgression to Dennis or Gary, and never rode solo again until I owned my own 1972 Harley Sprint “350,” seven years later. But, that is another story.

Winter Dangers & Snares


Holidays present unusual and sometimes harrowing experiences. Casey purchased airfare to Jacksonville to depart after midnight shift at the hospital intensive care unit. The plan was to maximize income and time off. The 2004 Christmas storm immobilized Paducah, closing I-24 with 21 inches of snow, while over 400 automobile accidents piled up. It ain’t Minneapolis, y’know! Casey’s pal, Chris took him to Nashville’s airport on his way to Georgia. Four wheel drive took them through Paris, Tennessee avoiding the interstate.


Nashville airport was closed, full of travelers, and flights grounded. Merry Christmas! . . . No room in the inn. Over an hour later, they got a ticket from Atlanta to Gainesville, Florida only 50 miles from our home. Chris took him on to Atlanta, and I found him in the waiting area, trying to remedy his recent bout with self-induced sleep deprivation.


Earlier battles with the elements loom on memory’s horizon. In early evangelistic work, Donna Toews was our pianist, traveling with us from Denver. We finished eight days in North Platte, Nebraska on a Sunday night. A winter storm was on its way, but I insisted we had to get back to Denver, a five hour drive at the old 55 mph speed. We were all exhausted, and by Julesburg, visibility succumbed to a ground blizzard. I kept falling prey to road hypnotism, staring into the relentless wall of driven snow. Sharen, my faithful copilot repeatedly exhorted me to “Wake up!” Traffic vanished. Very late, we maneuvered through rising drifts into Sterling, renting the last motel room in town. Next day, four foot drifts kept us captive until afternoon when snowplows facilitated our escape.


Once, on our way from Cheyenne to Casper, we discovered the snow gate across I-25 blocking our path at Wheatland. Again, unexpected motel and restaurant expenses mounted while we waited.


In South Dakota, we ran into snow between Sioux Falls and Platte. We crawled along 15 mph with our windows open to see the marker posts. Sharen kept watch on the passenger side while I tried to keep the intermittent center line in view. We prayed that traffic would see us, that we would not be rear-ended, nor suffer a head-on collision. In Platte, we collapsed in the only room to be obtained. The road was finally plowed but we found only one lane of traffic through drifts three times the height of our car.


One November, we headed north from Denver to join my parents, aunt and uncle in Cheyenne for Thanksgiving. We stopped in Northglenn to pick up a few items at about sundown. Snow started falling as we left there. Approaching Loveland, I found my van losing traction on every slight rise in the road, and decided we’d better stop and wait for daylight. Our furnace in the trailer had been cantankerous, and we knew it might not heat properly. At Johnson’s Corner, a new campground was under construction. Snow was piling up relentlessly, so I navigated toward the main building trying to maintain speed, hoping to plug in and utilize our space heater. We spun out and halted, stuck in a drift. I retrieved 25 and 50 foot extension cords, strung them end to end through the snow, and barely reached an outlet on the veranda of the building. Praise God! It worked. Next morning, snow was drifted to the roof of the trailer. I walked to the truck stop and phoned my parents. (Aren’t cell phones a blessing?) I scooped snow and got the van out, leaving the trailer and a note to the campground proprietor. Sharen counted 104 cars wrecked or abandoned between there and Cheyenne. In Cheyenne, we walked through waist high snow the last half mile to our destination.


Anyone have ideas about my wife’s stress-related health problems?  Yes, we’ve known stress, but the amazing thing is that God has carried us safely through many dangers, toils, and snares!