In the spring of 1974, we left Portland, Oregon where I had been working for Hyster as a systems engineer. Through our attendance at a good Bible-teaching church and lay involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ and the fellowship of special Christian friends, God worked in our hearts to redirect our paths into full-time vocational Christian ministry. We joined Rocky Mountain Bible Mission and returned to Libby, Montana (our hometown) to work under Kathy’s dad, Pastor Clarence Kutz, who upon his retirement from pastoring Faith Bible Church, had joined RMBM.
I got involved teaching a couple youth groups and several adult Bible studies. One of our outreaches, where Pastor Kutz taught the adults, Kathy and her mom the children, and I the teens (in the shop!), grew to the point where they decided to start a church which they called “Three Lakes Community Bible Church.” The home of John and Lottie Ring where we met was located just off the Bull Lake Road (highway #56) near Milnor, Savage, and School House lakes, about 4 miles from Troy, Montana. Another couple, Marvin and Bernice Kates (Lottie’s folks) donated some nearby property and excavation began on TLCBC. But, Pastor Kutz was diagnosed with an aggressive leukemia and within a couple months went to be with the Lord just as we were pouring the foundation for the church basement.
So, though I had not been to Bible school or seminary, as a “recycled engineer,” I became–by default–the pastor of TLCBC in the fall of 1975. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by the responsibility. Pastor Kutz was an amazing Bible teacher and left very big shoes to fill! But, praise God, “Faithful is He who called you, who will also do it”” (I Thes. 5:24 KJV). God knew just the people to send alongside to encourage and help and we grew together and had something very special and unique. We worked side by side in building the physical structure of the basement, superstructure and education wing and then an activity building, and God continued to add to our little “flock” of believers. In 1979, we started a Christian school at our facility and also, with property donated further down the Bull Lake Road, built Elohim Bible Camp and Retreat Center, which later was turned over to RMBM and continues to thrive and ministers to hundreds of youth and adults.
On our recent trip to Oregon to visit our children and grandchildren, take in a district and state track meet and graduation ceremony (for our grandson, Luke) I had one night when I had trouble sleeping. As I lay there, God brought to mind the many folks who became fellow laborers in Christ at TLCBC. Besides working together on the physical structures, we had picnics, snow outings, hikes to mountain lakes, fishing and hunting adventures, kayaking and swimming, a bus trip to a Billy Graham meeting in Spokane, WA., a very eventful trip to “Promise Keepers” at the Kingdome in Seattle. But, most important, we worshiped and grew spiritually as a local assembly of believers. God brought folks with varying spiritual gifts and natural talents who got involved in planning vacation Bible schools, Christmas programs, cleaning and landscaping, music (even with an occasional little choir and specials), and puppet shows to name a few.
Our church family was also very mission minded and began supporting numerous missionaries, some of whom we continue to pray for and support personally. I believe that an emphasis on missions is necessary for the health of a church.
We were so blessed by the folks that God provided to build the church at Three Lakes and to support and encourage our family. I began with fear and trepidation but depended on the Lord and He supplied as His Word promised. The Apostle Paul often listed the people by name who labored with Him in ministry. I would like to do the same, but the list is long and I would probably leave someone out, so I’ll just say a big “Munga Tusen Tuk” (Norwegian for “Many thousand thank you’s”) to each of you. Some of you will be receiving this “Wisdom of the Week” and we just want you to know how much we love you and are so grateful for the impact you had on our lives. But many of these folks have been called home to glory and I’m sure have been (or will be) greatly rewarded for their faithful service.
I still teach a couple weekly Bible studies and preach once a month at a church that is currently without a pastor, but I really miss the special relationship we had with our little assembly of “Lively Stones” (I Pet. 2:5) at Three Lakes and just want to say, “Thank You, Lord, for allowing us to spend close to four decades with a very special group of people.”
If God is calling you to a particular task or ministry, remember, “Faithful is He who calls you, who will also do it” (I Thes. 5:24).