A friend of mine looked at Jo one day and said, “You would be perfect for my son. I’m going to have him write to you.” He did. He returned home from the Orient with his Marine unit, came to see Jo on Valentine’s Day, and soon after they planned a wedding.
Between the wedding and a heavy counseling schedule for John, I gave up all efforts to minister or to raise money. It seemed prudent since all the doors I opened slammed in my face. I wrote, instead, working away at JJ’s computer, as we gave him a new one for graduation, an upgrade he needed for law school.
Jo chose a cowboy theme for her wedding and reception, as that’s what the groom fancied himself to be. He wore a black cowboy hat and black boots; she wore white cowboy boots under her stunning white gown. The last good thing that could be said about their marriage happened to be the fun wedding and reception. It ran downhill from there. The groom turned out to be a woman-hater too, not a homosexual, but a decided enemy to Jo, despising everything about her.
During the reception, John hid in the kitchen. When the DJ called for the parents to be on the dance-floor, a long, awkward moment passed while the guests watched me as someone hunted for John. JJ came to my rescue and stood by my side until John exited from the kitchen. Beyond embarrassment, I had simply tired of this estranged relationship.
After the wedding, the therapist, who had attended the wedding and observed the dance floor scene, called me in again. “Marty, I believe John has been mentally ill all his life, and you have been taking things personally when they weren’t personally intended.”
“Are you trying to tell me that when I am personally attacked, I shouldn’t take it personally?” I asked skeptically.
He chuckled, “I know it isn’t easy. Your husband has zero communication skills. I don’t think he intends to hurt you, and for your own protection you have to stop taking the attacks personally.”
“Why is he like that?”
“I think there are things he simply cannot remember, things that are too painful to bring to his consciousness. You are going to have to live with him like this because it is impossible to go any further.”
“What about the homosexuality?”
“I’ve never been able to help anybody come out of that.”
“Then what are we doing here?”
“I’m sorry. I’ve done the best I can.”
With that the counseling ended. I walked back outside and looked at the trees and grass as if they were artificial. Maybe I was in Disneyland where everything looks good, but you can’t live there. I had to come to terms with this information so that I could go on in life and not just give up. The best way I can analyze the attitude I adopted is that I decided if I had given birth to a Mongoloid child, I would have loved that child for the rest of its life. I would not give it away, or estrange myself from it, but simply consider it to be a part of my life. In the same manner, I could live with John, knowing him to be a different husband than I expected. Somehow this decision gave me the freedom to pick up ministry again.
First, I told John, “We’re going back to France.”
He said, “No, we’re not.”
I said, “The Lord called me to France.”
“I’m more comfortable here.”
“Well, so am I, but comfort has nothing to do with it.” I said.
John announced, “When the Lord gives us the money, we can go back to France, but not before.”
“That’s not how the Lord operates. It’s as you go that He gives you what you need.”
“We’re not going.”
I called our ministerial directors, Jim and his wife Kathy. She and I had been friends for years, so she got on the phone. I asked, “Can you give me something to do in the ministry? Maybe something on the East Coast? That way I could take short term mission trips and not have them cost so much.”
As I asked the question, I wondered where the idea had come from. I certainly never thought of living on the East Coast. And what would I save on trans-Atlantic trips? A hundred dollars? I felt like a fool, but Kathy took it right in stride.
“Actually, someone recently put a note in one of Jim’s offerings asking us to start a church in Sarasota, Florida. You and John would be perfect for that place.” I didn’t tell my friend about my ongoing trials with John, wondering if I was being deceptive. I determined I would proceed as if everyone expected me, a woman, to be the pastor. Kathy contacted the person and arranged for us to go for an interview.
John and I drove across country visiting friends and churches along the way to spy out the land of Sarasota, Florida. John wasn’t sure he would even attend church and let me know this was strictly my endeavor. That was fine with me. I wasn’t sure I wanted him attending my church.
We visited other places that had indicated an interest in my coming to pastor a church. When I asked the Lord about the one in Albany, New York, I had a vision of me crawling on thin ice, knowing I could fall through at any moment. When I asked Him about the one in Georgia, He showed me a land filled with molten lava in holes. The earth’s crust was so fragile that, again, I could easily fall through, plunging into the hot, searing stuff if I didn’t watch my step. Then we arrived in Sarasota, and when I asked about this place, I was surrounded with stunning waterfalls, and I could walk on stepping stones underneath each of them.
We found Sarasota to be one half step from heaven! The couple initiating the request, Phyllis and Carl, treated us like royalty, taking us to dinner on the wharf, renting a boat for half a day to cruise around the bay. They, too, had been in ministry, directing a drug rehabilitation center in Miami, but had burned out when the funds dried up and the work swallowed their life savings. Never in my life had I bonded with people so fast. This was family. This was home.
Before the week’s visit ended, Youth for Christ rented their building to me for $25 a week, giving me Sundays and Wednesdays to hold church meetings. I walked into a Realtor’s office and asked about the rent for an apartment on the water. She replied her units started at $500 a week. I got up, thanked her and said I was in the wrong place. As I started for the door, she said, “Wait a minute; who are you, and what are you looking for?”
“I’m moving to Sarasota to start a church, and I want a place on the water for $500 a month for three months while I look for a permanent place.” I said, not expecting her to help.
She got up from her desk and came around to me, extending her hand. “I’m a Pastor’s wife. Welcome to Sarasota. Give me a phone number where I can reach you, and I’ll find something wonderful.” We struck up a fine friendship and within twenty-four hours I had an apartment on the water for three months. I felt the Lord responded strongly in answering my question of if this was His will that we move to Sarasota and that I start a church.
The only drawback was an interview I had with the regional director of Jim and Kathy’s ministry. John was with me. When Bob entered the room, striding in forty-five minutes late, he barked out his first question. “What’s the matter with you, John? Why aren’t you going to be the Pastor?” The interview slid downhill from there, and later Bob told Phyllis and Carl that we weren’t right for the position.
Back in California, Jim called and said, “Well, I guess it isn’t going to work out, the people don’t want you.”
I asked where he heard that, and he said from Bob. I asked if he would call Carl and Phyllis and ask them directly because I felt Bob had a problem with women. Jim called me back right away and confirmed that Carl and Phyllis did want me and would I please go ahead with my plans.
Between his two calls, I discovered a well of concealed determination that rose up and said, “That job is mine! I’m going!” It startled me. I didn’t know it was there! The last memory I had of such defiance came when I vowed, standing by JJ’s bedside, that he would never be hurt by what his father had revealed about himself. In Jim’s second call, I told him what a benefit a challenge can be; it sets your priorities. He agreed and told me if I had any more trouble with Bob to tell him, but for now he would let the issue lie.
John wanted to know what all the commotion was about as he could hear me between the calls affirming my intentions. When I explained the thing with Bob, John said he would attend the regional meetings with me to buffer any further persecution from Bob. Because of this attack, I flinched as other thoughts rampaged through my head of the potential shunning I could face, perhaps from other pastors, or coming from people in general, about my being a woman trying to start a church. However, I felt certain it was the right move to make. And so, I proceeded, and the truth was, I never had to face the troubles I feared, not even from Bob. I was happy to be back in the work of the Lord again!
I made friends rapidly. The ministerial association of Sarasota invited me to become a member and eventually asked me to be on the board. I was the first woman to become a board-member, and they put my assumed feminine skills to work right away. They made me Secretary!