This past Saturday, we had the privilege of attending a 90th birthday celebration for Nora Mae Auge. Many of her children and grandchildren gave testimonies of how her godly example and prayers had kept them on track for the Lord, or brought them back when they strayed. Lots of her friends also shared of the impact she and her late husband, Lou, had on their lives and how her example of faithfulness for some 60 years has been such an encouragement to them.
Lou and Nora Mae hadn’t heard much about God in the early years of their life together. Lou worked hard in the woods as a sawyer and was a good provider for his family. They believed there was a God, but didn’t know Him. Then one of the most significant events to ever occur in Libby, Montana took place. In February/March of 1955, Youth For Christ held a two-week rally. The two oldest Auge children, Gene and Ron, attended and became Christians, and talked their folks into going with them to the meetings where they too trusted Christ as their Savior. There were even a couple area pastors who got saved at that YFC crusade!
The Auges started a Bible study in their home along with several other couples, some of whom had also been saved at the crusade. Al Oursland, who was principal at the local junior high, taught the Bible study. They soon added a prayer meeting and a Sunday School time for the children and felt the Lord leading to organize as a church. They formed a board and in June extended an invitation to Pastor Clarence Kutz of Wilsall, Montana to come as their pastor. He did and the first service was held the first Sunday in September of 1955. They chose the name “Faith Bible Church” and met in the Auges’ living room at their residence on 514 Minnesota Ave. As they outgrew the living room, they rented the Grange hall (now Denny’s Body Shop) in the spring of 1956. In March of 1957 they purchased property and began to build that summer, holding the first service in the basement on Easter, 1960. It was quite a sight to see all the cars, and to watch the people filing into a little “out-house-size building” (the access to the basement) and disappearing for a couple hours, then pouring back out again. The superstructure was completed and first used for a wedding on June 16, 1967. Hey, that’s our anniversary! Oh, it was our wedding!
That leads to the role that Lou and Nora Mae Auge had on the life of my family. My folks and I moved from Polson, Montana to Libby in 1958 because my mom got a teaching job (4th grade) at Old Central. Lou and Nora Mae’s oldest daughter, Sherry, had her for a teacher after having a bad experience in 3rd grade. Sherry was so excited to have a “nice” teacher and a Christian that she told her folks they needed to go and visit the Nelsons. They did. They were the first family to befriend us after our move from Polson to Libby and they became close friends. They told my folks about what a great Bible teacher their pastor–Clarence Kutz–was. We went to hear him at the Grange Hall. Wow, he was fantastic and we kept attending and on June 16, 1967, I was married to the Kutzes’ daughter, Kathy, in the first wedding in the upstairs of FBC–thanks to the Auges, who invited Kutzes to Libby and who befriended my folks!
Lou was one of the workers who helped on the construction of FBC and also helped build Big Sky Bible Camp on Peterson Lake near Bigfork, and Elohim Bible Camp near Bull Lake, the Pipe Creek Church, and also the Three Lakes Community Bible Church which I pastored until retirement a couple years ago. Though neither had a great education, and had only the Bible training in their home Bible studies and then at Faith Bible, Lou and Nora Mae were very active in sharing their faith with others, family and friends alike. They and their girls used to go up Pipe Creek to the James’ on Sunday afternoons and conduct Sunday School with the James family (they had 12 children!) and Roberta Sichting and her children. One day Nora Mae went up to visit Beverly James and Beverly trusted Christ for eternal life. Rocky Mountain Bible Mission, with which we were missionaries from 1974-1983, conducted Vacation Bible School at the James’ home or in their field. I started a youth group with the James, Sichtings and several other Pipe Creek families. Soon a church was planted in the area. It really had its beginning in the home of David and Beverly James and with the faithfulness of a dedicated lay couple, Lou and Nora Mae Auge, who came to share about Christ’s love and forgiveness.
Lou went to be with the Lord on Dec. 29, 2000 and what a homecoming that must have been for him, to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:23). I had the privilege of having the memorial service for Lou at FBC and what a time of testimony that was, as was the birthday celebration this past Saturday for Nora Mae’s 90th. It is really special when we are able to gather as we did to pay tribute to someone while they are still living. It had to be such a joy to Nora Mae to hear the many who shared of what a blessing she has been in their lives.
There is no limit to how God can use any of us if we are willing to submit to His lordship and make ourselves available. Lou and Nora Mae were just very ordinary folks, without a lot of education or earthly possessions but who loved the Lord and served Him faithfully and wow what an impact on our community they have had–on our lives included. My wife gets to hold a Bible study in Nora Mae’s home so continues to be blessed by her example and strengthened by her prayers.
Have you made yourself available to God? He would love to use you too. And you will be amazed at what He can do through you. Give Him a chance.