Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Our Heavenly Father’s Eyes Are Always Upon Us – Wherever We Are By Joachim (Joe) Stephan

I shared in previous blogs that as a young man – fervently seeking for God’s presence in our times – had an experience that confirmed for me that God speaks today. Not that he still speaks today – but that he has spoken in all ages. That was my first encounter with the presence of the Lord in my life. The year was 1954. The place was Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

I also shared how my Heavenly Father led me to a Godly family when I least expected it – the Stewart and Maxine Wight family.  When I was young airman stationed on the island of Taiwan I was uniquely led to them and was looked after and given council by them in a most unexpected time and place. That was my second encounter with the presence of the Lord. The year was 1956. The place was the capital city of Taipei.

After initially finding the church in Montgomery, Alabama I found myself in 1954 assigned by the US Air Force to Japan. I soon found the small group of church members in Tokyo and worshipped/fellowshipped with them every other Sunday. There I soon asked for baptism.  The leader of the mission was Carl Crum who worked in the American embassy. He guided me in the study of the church and how it began and what we believed. Then – on December 4, 1954 he baptized me in a Seventh Day Adventist Church whose pastor had kindly made their baptismal fount available. I had become the first member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that had been baptized in Japan. Imagine – a young man born in Germany and now baptized in Japan!

I visited with Carl Crum and his hospitable wife often in order to learn more about the church and what its member believed. But in May 1955 I was suddenly (and secretly) sent to the island of Taiwan to assist the National Chinese Army and Air Force in the installation and use of radio equipment all over Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands. It was during that time that I became “lost” to the church until our Heavenly Father directed another member of the church who was also stationed in Taiwan – to find me. You will find that account in my earlier blog.

I returned to the United States in May 1956 and since that time found myself and soon my wife to be in churches in Montgomery, Alabama, Evergreen, Alabama, Pensacola, Florida,  Oak Ridge Tennessee, Columbus, Ohio, Mansfield, Ohio and finally in Richland, Washington. We were privileged to attend several World Conferences. When in Ohio we had frequent visits to the Kirtland Temple and on one occasion I had the privilege of marrying a couple in the Temple – the last such event to be allowed to be performed there.

It was around 1979 when we were worshipping in the Richland Congregation that I shook hands on Sunday after church services with our Patriarch – Lloyd Whiting. I had given the sermon that day and spoke of the time when I joined the church in Japan.  Brother Whiting was in his seventies then and walked forward leaning because his back hurt. To reduce his discomfort he would usually prop himself against the door post at the back of the church to greet people. That day when I shook his hand, he asked me: “Did you ever hear the story of Carl Crum?” I confessed that I did not. Actually I did not even know that Brother Whiting knew Carl Crum.  He continued: during the mid-1920s Brother Carl Crum had been called to be an appointee in the RLDS Church. However he had barely entered that service when the Great Depression “hit”. Reluctantly, the church leadership had to dismiss Brother Crum.  Carl Crum was understandably unhappy about his dismissal – so soon after he accepted his appointment. In response to his dismissal he quit attending church in defiance – for several years.
It was not until the mid- thirties that Brother Carl and his wife again felt a hunger for the fellowship of the “Saints” as they were called then. They chose Silver Lake reunion in the hope that nobody would know them there.

So it was that they attended a morning prayer service at the reunion. As they had hoped nobody seemed to know them there.  But the Lord knew where his son and daughter were as they soon found out.  There was a young couple there who had come grief stricken to the reunion.  They had just lost their little boy who had been killed in a roadway by an automobile.  It was sometime during the prayer service when the little boy’s father – knowing nothing about the Crums stood up and pointed across the aisle at Brother Crum and spoke under the influence of the Spirit: “Thus sayeth the Spirit:  “Unless you - Son of Man - repent and rejoin the fellowship of the Saints you will lift your eyes in hell with regret. I command you to return to the flock. There are those souls who live now and there are those yet to come who await your ministry!” (I cannot vouch for each word but the part about “lifting his eyes in hell with regret” and “those souls who await your ministry” I will always remember.)

I stood there stunned looking at Brother Whiting. I knew then that I had been one of those souls whose life had been touched by Brother Crum’s ministry because he obeyed the Lord.  And I remember the Sunday when I stood in the baptismal font in Tokyo, Japan with him and heard the words, “Having been commissioned by Jesus Christ …….!” He remained faithful to his commission all his life after that fateful encounter with God’s presence.  My life among many were touched by his faithfulness. Not only his faithfulness but his companion wife’s as well.
On my business trips I usually travelled through Seattle. On those occasions I tried several times to phone Brother Crum in Seattle. My only regret was that I never reached him. But I will always remember Brother Whiting’s story of him and the times we were together in Japan.