I have always felt a need to serve the church membership I loved. Therefore, when I became aware that there was a need to help, I did not hesitate.
Spiritual Widows? The ministers, if they discovered a married couple where one of them was previously married and divorced, and their former mates were still alive; the church doctrine was that they must separate. The church considered this living in a state of adultery. Their minister would inform the couple of the absolute need to separate, or the consequences for refusal; they burn in the lake of fire.
They tagged these women with the title of “Spiritual Widows”.
Even with the threat of eternal damnation, the husband was not always willing just to say goodbye and end a relationship with a wife he dearly loved. It was heart breaking! Especially when the advice came from irrational whims of carnal men who thought, they were speaking for God. Sometimes the husband could be downright difficult, if not impossible to deal with. I attribute no blame or fault to them whatever. They were simply innocent victims of an unholy and unrighteous system.
It is not the purpose of this story to discuss church’s doctrine of “Divorce and Remarriage”, but just to make you aware that it existed, and the heartache and emotional distress it caused. However, because of this teaching a need developed. The spiritual widows needed move to another home.
It was a bit bizarre because neither the church nor college was willing to help these unfortunate women move, which in itself is an oxymoron…a church that preached absolute necessity of helping widows but actually offered no help or assistance.
For these now single moms it was not the ordinary move across town, in almost every case it was a crisis move. These unfortunate women, and children, were under extreme stress and the move was generally an emergency.
I find it interesting and even a bit strange that the ministry would break up a family then just walk away, leaving it up to the couple to work things out. They were especially swift to move away if it looked as though there was going to be any trouble. So very often, the wife and children were the ones that were hurt most. These women were often left without a source of help. The church would spiritually beat up the couple then when their victims needed emotional help and support the most; the arrogant minister would back out, leaving the wife to fend for herself. To my knowledge, no attempts were made to help. Now I am not saying that every case was like that, but far too many were, far too many!
It was rather ironic because one of the churches leading evangelists gave a very passionate sermon about the need to help these unfortunate women. This prompted me to come up with a plan to help. So to begin with I solicited the help of three other young people (one of which I married) that I knew cared and could be trusted. The four of us decided we would find a way to help. We would have to do so unofficially without the direct help of the church or college.
The biggest problem, and the most difficult to overcome, was not working around the ministry; actually that was the easy part, it was where do we get a truck and the necessary equipment to move the furniture and belongings of those in need?
Praise God for miracles! As it turned out the college had just purchased a new truck with an 18-foot box, perfect! Now, the question became, how were we going to get the use of it? My job and status, being on the bottom of the food chain, as one person very adequately put it, left me without any influence or power to persuade those in authority to let us use the truck. It would never have worked to explain the desperate need. In reality, it would have been easier to talk the devil out of his horns than to get the help of the ministry. I tried it previously; it was an object lesson in futility. They were not interested in allowing me or anyone else, regardless of their ability to handle the truck (this type of truck I drove every day on my previous job), to use the churches or colleges assets to help someone move.
After carefully studying the situation, I finally came up with what I thought was the perfect plan of action. If all went well we would get the use of the new truck, and if it did not go well, I alone would be invited to a barbecue where my goose would be cooked!
All four of us were genuinely excited about the opportunity to serve those in need. When the question came up, and I knew it would, about getting the equipment. I told them I had found the perfect truck and equipment. And it was not going to cost us anything to use! They were excited as none of us had any money; we all were just barely getting by. Therefore, the prospect of getting to use the equipment without cost was a big relief. If it had cost us, this group of valiant young people would have sacrificed all they could to make it work. It was an unfortunate reality that even if we pooled all our resources together we would not have been able to meet the expenses involved. They had a willing heart, one of a true servant.
When they asked how it was all going to work, I explained how the plan to gain the use of the truck. After hearing the proposal they very politely said I was nuts!
The plan required to work around the ministerial hierarchy of the church. Make no mistake about it; these were powerful men within the organization. Messing with their authority was very risky and potentially dangerous. It would be worth it all just to help relieve some of the stress and feeling of overwhelming despair that a new widow had to face. Her choice was quite simple, either she comply with church policy or be kicked out of the church and burn in the lake of fire. I have seen couples cry bitterly because the ministry destroyed their lives, and worst of all their hope for the future. Some few had ended it all by committing suicide. It was a horrible situation.
Working at the church’s college, it sometimes helped to be just a little nuts, not too much mind you, just a little. It also helped to ignore all the possible consequences and to be willing to put faith into action and step out. Most, not all men feared the ministry. I did not, although I knew I had to tread carefully. It was somewhat like dealing with a poisonous viper. Needed to be very careful how you approached it. It took skill and finesse to grab the sucker by the tail and snap it like a whip so the head would pop off, thus rendering it harmless. To solve unusual problems like this one often took an unusual and unexpected approach.
At the first opportunity to help a widow move, I put the plan to work. Within twenty minutes to everyone’s amazement and shock, I arrived with the truck fully gassed up with moving equipment loaded and ready to do some serious moving.
All four of us piled into the cab and away we went to help this young widow in her time of need.
We completed the move within three hours because as a team we worked fast and hard. We were well organized and efficient…. I was able to return the truck just slightly before midnight….
Now, how did I accomplish the seemingly impossible task of securing the truck? Here is what I did; I waited until about 8:30 pm which is well after the dinner hour. It was also the time a particular evangelist was getting ready for bed. He had mentioned this several times in sermons about how important is was to get to bed early.
Knowing this was a vital part of the plan.
9:00pm, I knew the brand new truck was at the Transportation Department, it had been delivered to the college the day before. I simply told the supervisor on duty that Mr. Evangelist, who is well known and I might add highly feared, said we need to help widows move. I was here to pick up the truck. I did not lie about the woman in need of help, and I just implied that the top ranking, (rank is a bad odor), minister gave me the okay to use the truck. When he hesitated, and I knew he would, I told him he could call the evangelist at home. I also mentioned that the call would probably get him out of bed, and he might be a little cranky. The supervisor decided it would not be in his best interest to call (I used fear and intimidation to my advantage). He gave me the keys; the plan worked just as slick as I had hoped! It is amazing the amount of respect and fear one can generate just by forcibly and confidently using a name.
Yes, I was bluffing, big time. Had he made the phone call, which I was certain he would not; no one in his right mind would take the risk of disturbing such a powerful and feared evangelist! However, had he called, the plan would have failed. The resulting consequences would have been very painful.
This arrangement worked well for almost a year. Three or four times a month, as the need arose, we used the truck. It became such a routine that all I needed to do was show up before 9:00 pm and the supervisor would check the checkout sheet, then almost automatically hand me the keys to the truck. The plan was working perfectly!
One evening, the unexpected happened. Midnight Madness struck down our use of the truck. It came to a rather sudden, abrupt and unexpected end, but not for the reasons you might think. That order came from Herbert Armstrong himself, no use of the college truck unless he personally approved.
This strange chain of events leading up to the truck no longer being available started when we arrived to move a widow. First thing we ran into was, she was not ready for us. The dishes were still in the cupboards, the clothes in the closets, nothing, absolutely nothing was ready or packed. She was so upset that she became sick. Obviously, upset about having to leave the love of her life that she just could not face packing up her belongings. This delay required a lot of hustling, be we finally got her moved. In spite of the obstacles, everything went rather smoothly.
It did however delay getting the truck back by midnight. Here is where the problem really started. It was well after 1:00 am before I drove the truck into the Transportation Facility. That is when the situation became weirdly interesting and somewhat complicated. Someone was there waiting for the truck. A local church elder was glaring in a sinister way as I drove in. I knew there was going to be trouble.
He demanded to know where I had been with HIS truck! His tone of voice reflected how agitated and annoyed he really was. He was just short of yelling, he was downright nasty and hateful! Actually, it was not his truck, but being a minister (he was all too typical), he was very possessive of the churches assets treating them as his own. It seemed he had planned to use the truck that evening to move some personal items. I really messed up his plans and now he was going to have my head.
His name was not on the schedule or checkout sheet for that evening which was rather strange. The supervisor on duty always checked the schedule sheet before allowing the truck to leave the facility. He did so to be sure it was available, and not reserved. Puzzling, this minister was not on the schedule.
In almost a year this was the first time there was a conflict, and such a strange one at that.
The elder was extremely angry and appeared highly agitated. His ranting did not scare or intimidate me in the least. I simply followed the plan. I told him that Mr. Evangelist said we needed to help the widow’s move. I told him, if he had any questions or concerns, to direct them to Mr. Evangelist. I was forceful and very dramatic in my statement. Amazingly, his countenance changed. His voice quickly became friendly and he began to apologize for assuming I was not authorized (his assumption) to use the truck and for being so harsh. Beads of sweat began to form on his forehead. He seemed nervous and a bit shaken when I mentioned the feared name of the evangelist. He said he would consider it a personal favor if I did not mention this situation to Mr. Evangelist. I assured him I would not say anything. I gave him the keys and left. Thinking for sure this elder was one brick short of a full load. He was really acting weird, even for an elder.
It was not until several days later that I indirectly found out why he became so friendly and did not want me to say anything about his using the truck. To my amazement, and now probably yours, he was using it at midnight to steal furnishings and other assets from the church’s warehouse. That is right; this sinister minister was using a church asset to steal church assets, now that is bazaar!
He was smart and well organized in the manner in which he operated his scheme to steal the assets. He would take the junk furniture from his house or other places, such as Goodwill, and switch it with the excessively expensive furniture from the warehouse. By switching them, the inventory would always show that all items accounted for, at least in number.
Then it happened; campus security caught him red-handed in the early morning hours, the very morning I encountered him, with a truckload of stolen goods. His midnight madness ended abruptly! As an unfortunate consequence, all equipment usage (including the truck), except for college ordained projects were to be discontinued. Without the use of a truck, our project had to cease. At this point, it was far too dangerous to use Mr. Evangelist’s name.
This elder had stolen tens of thousands of dollars in furniture, paintings, fine crystal, silver, and other accessories. They really had no idea of all that he stole. As it turned out, he performed the inventory since it was his job to oversee and run the warehouse. He did it in such a haphazard, sloppy and very unprofessional manner, that there was no way the church officials could tell what was really missing. No wonder he was able to get away with his stealing the churches assets for as long as he did.
The church maintains a very high-end inventory of furnishings. They used them to furnish an apartment for a visiting dignitaries or head of state. They wanted to make the visitor feel more comfortable, the furnishings were in a style appropriate of the visitor’s country and culture. Therefore, the inventory was huge; it nearly filled the warehouse, which was larger than 30,000 square feet.
No public disclosure was ever made of the elder’s criminal activity. Church officials quietly swept the whole situation under the rug. Moreover, of all things, they promoted the elder and made him a church pastor. Then they assigned him a congregation to oversee. Now, how is that for a paradox? The sinister minister now preaching and teaching righteousness.
It is sad, the ministry could have accomplished so much good; instead, their interest was in making themselves look good, and securing their future. What an unfortunate paradox we financed through our three tithes plus offerings!
Interesting enough, when Herbert Armstrong died in 1986 his whole organization collapsed and self-destructed internally. All the efforts of the minister to gain power and authority for their personal use came to nothing. His powerful organization is gone, the ministry scattered into more than 500 separate organizations. Each continues to teach their own brand of living under the law, and spreading fear and tyranny.
One final comment: You should know that using the college’s truck was a miracle in action. There were numerous checks and balances put in place, so much so that it is impossible that my using the truck during that year was not detected, or at least should have been detected. Security should have stopped me and taken me to the highest-ranking official to be fired and kicked out of the church. Nevertheless, none of that happened, I was, along with my co-workers, able to provide a valuable service to those unfortunate women in need. The only feasible explanation is that God, for His own reasons, wanted those women helped and used us to take care of their need. He saw to it that we were never discovered or challenged, as impossible as that was. The only logical answer, it was a miracle. And yes I do believe in miracles.