My Spiritual Journey

Back in 2013 I began a project called My Spiritual Journey. Originally intended to act as a document for my future generations to know who Grandpa Chuck was, I decided to make it public as it may encourage or inspire others outside my immediate family. So here it is to date – from an 8-yr old newly baptized kid in 1954 to a married man in 1969. It is long but if you decide to read it through I would welcome your comments.

My Spiritual Journey

Isn’t it interesting how we can forget so much of what has happened over the years and yet there are details that we can recall with clarity even though they may have been insignificant at the time? Such is the case with the beginning of my spiritual journey in 1954 when I was eight years old. Put the calculators down, I am 66. I was living in Los Gatos CA and my step-mother was taking us to the Calvary Baptist Church. I don’t recall that I was making a particular effort to be a “good Christian” but at eight it was time to be baptized. What I remember so vividly is Pastor Blaine Bishop (yes, I remember his name) sat me down in a pew and explained to me the meaning of baptism and made sure I understood.  I don’t remember being aware that Jesus was somebody special. Little did I understand of the long journey ahead of me, a journey that continues today as I travel from fan to follower of Jesus Christ.

After my baptism in 1954 at the age of eight very little happened with my spiritual walk. From that point until 1960 I wasn’t in one place long enough to go to church anywhere. I lived for short periods of time with aunts, my grandparents, in foster homes and for one year with my Dad in Hawaii. I honestly do not recollect ever going to church or even thinking about God during that period. Then in 1960, after doing the first half of my freshman year of high school in Hollister, CA I was placed at the I.O.O.F. Children’s Home in Gilroy, CA where I would complete high school with the class of 1964. At this point God had no place in my life, except that I realize now that He was right there all the time.

Part of the program at the I.O.O.F. Children’s Home in Gilroy was that we were strongly encouraged to go to church. We could choose our own church but we were expected to go regularly. My first experience with church that I can remember while at the home was being invited by one of the ladies that worked in the laundry to spend the weekend with them and go to church on Sunday. Her church was a very small Pentecostal church in a very small town. I have to admit, it was a little intense and I decided it really wasn’t for me. Ok, being honest, it scared me to death. I just didn’t understand why people were yelling and running

up and down the aisles. I don’t remember why, but I decided, along with a couple of other of the kids to go to a Nazarene church which was within walking distance of the home. I immediately liked the church and its pastor, Rev. Jedlicka. He had a real heart for the young people even taking us surfing over in Santa Cruz. It was here that I first had a real experience with Christ and attempted to live a Christian life. Unfortunately, when I graduated high school in 1964 and joined the Air Force, I left God behind. I don’t think it was intentional, it just happened.

I can’t leave this part of my journey without talking about some of my life at the home that contributed so greatly to my arriving at the place in my journey where I am now. First of all, in general, being placed in the I.O.O.F. Home was probably the best thing that could have happened to me at that point in my life. It gave me stability and connection with people who really cared about me. They made sure I was in school, went to church, was fed and housed comfortably. They gave me the opportunity to learn the piano and travel with a boys’ choir. They took us on trips to San Francisco to watch baseball and see Fisherman’s Wharf. It was really a place where I felt secure and was able to learn so much about how to live with people. I had really good role models there – Sam Labue, Joanie Alves, Bill Lucas, Mr. Hartman and especially Juanita Schuler. Juanita and Mr. Hartman were the two primary spiritual influences in my life at that point. I can still remember how he would come into our dorm after lights out and pray for us. Juanita worked in the kitchen and was really loved by all the kids. She was a spiritual rock and would become very important to me later in my journey.

I graduated from Gilroy Union High School in 1964. The school was right across the street from the I.O.O.F. Children’s Home where I was living. I had previously been told that I wasn’t really “cut out” for college and that my best option was to enlist in the military. Accordingly, since I was very low on self-esteem at the time and didn’t have any sense of what I wanted out of life, I enlisted late in my senior year in the Air Force with my friend Ken on the buddy plan. I graduated on a Friday night and Monday morning I was on a bus to the Induction Center in Oakland California. From there we were flown to San Antonio Texas for the bus ride to basic training camp at Lackland AFB.

Coming off of 18 years of being taken care of, my entry into the military was intimidating. The first thing ever said to me at basic training was “How many of you believe in Jesus Christ?” Of course I raised my hand, I had been trying to lead a Christian life to the best of my understanding. The second question was, “How many believe Jesus is coming again?” I raised my hand again, that was good theology, though I had no idea why he was asking these questions. It soon became apparent when, after a long pause accompanied by a blistering look at each and every one of us, the drill sergeant announced “Well here I am, now get your asses off of my bus!” So it started.
During the next few weeks, Christianity, Jesus Christ and serving God were the furthest things from my mind as I was forced to concentrate on things like physical training, kitchen duty, marching, getting yelled at, cleaning bathrooms and spit shining my shoes. I even missed my only chance to go into San Antonio on a pass because I left a button unbuttoned on one of my shirts that were hanging on my rack. I would like to say that after successfully completing basic training I fell on my knees and thanked God for getting me through it. Not so much. By this time I was pretty proud of myself and was only thinking about what came next in my military career, God was all but forgotten.
After completing basic training I was sent to Greenville AFB in Mississippi to learn how to be a Medical Administrative Technician. This training was mostly about the classroom, and when we finished our classes for the day we were free to do what we wanted, including going in to Greenville. My free time at Greenville AFB was pretty much split between hanging out at the Airman’s Club and drinking beer, or going into Greenville and, you guessed it, drinking beer. At that time, in Mississippi, you could drink beer if you were 18 yrs old, though it was a weak 3.2% beer. Seemed like a good idea at the time. The only time I recall even thinking about God was when my friends and I, including a couple of guys who happened to be black, walked into a bar and were told that we, the white guys, were welcome but our black buddies were not. My first exposure to outright racism and it did not set well. We didn’t make a scene, but I remember thinking that God was certainly not pleased with this discrimination.
I served for 4 years in the Air Force. After leaving Greenville AFB I was sent to March AFB in Riverside California where I spent the next 3-1/2 years working behind a desk in the hospital, learning how to talk to girls and, you guessed it, drinking beer. I even experimented with smoking for a very short time. I thought about God and my spirituality very little. Two incidents served to remind me, in retrospect that He was with me all that time in spite of my indifference. In both cases, I was driving back to the base from Riverside after a night of drinking. The first time I was in my car and I dozed off and drifted onto the shoulder of the road which had a steep embankment sloping upwards. My car went up the embankment and nearly turned over before I woke up and got control. The second time I was on a motorcycle, again coming back to the base after drinking and I was riding too fast in the fog and nearly ran head on into a concrete pillar supporting an overpass where I was supposed to turn. Again, God made it possible to make a last second correction and thus likely saved my life. I would love to say that these incidents got my attention but they didn’t. I continued on my own selfish self-serving path throughout my Air Force career until my discharge in May of 1968.was to enlist in the military. Accordingly, since I was very low on self-esteem at the time and didn’t have any sense of what I wanted out of life, I enlisted late in my senior year in the Air Force with my friend Ken on the buddy plan. I graduated on a Friday night and Monday morning I was on a bus to the Induction Center in Oakland California. From there we were flown to San Antonio Texas for the bus ride to basic training camp at Lackland AFB. S
Coming off of 18 years of being taken care of, my entry into the military was intimidating. The first thing ever said to me at basic training was “How many of you believe in Jesus Christ?” Of course I raised my hand, I had been trying to lead a Christian life to the best of my understanding. The second question was, “How many believe Jesus is coming again?” I raised my hand again, that was good theology, though I had no idea why he was asking these questions. It soon became apparent when, after a long pause accompanied by a blistering look at each and every one of us, the drill sergeant announced “Well here I am, now get your asses off of my bus!” So it started.
During the next few weeks, Christianity, Jesus Christ and serving God were the furthest things from my mind as I was forced to concentrate on things like physical training, kitchen duty, marching, getting yelled at, cleaning bathrooms and spit shining my shoes. I even missed my only chance to go into San Antonio on a pass because I left a button unbuttoned on one of my shirts that were hanging on my rack. I would like to say that after successfully completing basic training I fell on my knees and thanked God for getting me through it. Not so much. By this time I was pretty proud of myself and was only thinking about what came next in my military career, God was all but forgotten.
After completing basic training I was sent to Greenville AFB in Mississippi to learn how to be a Medical Administrative Technician. This training was mostly about the classroom, and when we finished our classes for the day we were free to do what we wanted, including going in to Greenville. My free time at Greenville AFB was pretty much split between hanging out at the Airman’s Club and drinking beer, or going into Greenville and, you guessed it, drinking beer. At that time, in Mississippi, you could drink beer if you were 18 yrs old, though it was a weak 3.2% beer. Seemed like a good idea at the time. The only time I recall even thinking about God was when my friends and I, including a couple of guys who happened to be black, walked into a bar and were told that we, the white guys, were welcome but our black buddies were not. My first exposure to outright racism and it did not set well. We didn’t make a scene, but I remember thinking that God was certainly not please with this discrimination.
I served for 4 years in the Air Force. After leaving Greenville AFB I was sent to March AFB in Riverside California where I spent the next 3-1/2 years working behind a desk in the hospital, learning how to talk to girls and, you guessed it, drinking beer. I even experimented with smoking for a very short time. I thought about God and my spirituality very little. Two incidents served to remind me, in retrospect that He was with me all that time in spite of my indifference. In both cases, I was driving back to the base from Riverside after a night of drinking. The first time I was in my car and I dozed off and drifted onto the shoulder of the road which had a steep embankment sloping upwards. My car went up the embankment and nearly turned over before I woke up and got control. The second time I was on a motorcycle, again coming back to the base after drinking and I was riding too fast in the fog and nearly ran head on into a concrete pillar supporting an overpass where I was supposed to turn. Again, God made it possible to make a last second correction and thus likely saved my life. I would love to say that these incidents got my attention but they didn’t. I continued on my own selfish self-serving path throughout my Air Force career until my discharge in May of 1968. Then I went home.

At the time of my discharge I didn’t know what I was going to do.  In all honesty I cannot even remember the sequence of events over the next few months until I finally went back to Gilroy in February 1969.  I know that I was arrested for failure to appear on a traffic warrant and spent about 30 days on the county work farm.  I know that I maintained friendships with a couple of girls that I had known from my time in the Air Force.  One of them I actually became engaged to for a short period of time.  Another I spent time with riding my dirt bike in the hills around Riverside.  Another one I actually ended up slapping in the face for calling my mother (who I had never known) some very colorful words, not my proudest moment.  I was still drinking quite a bit and even experimented with marijuana for a time.  I met a guy named Joe who was similarly disconnected and we ended up taking a road trip to Phoenix AZ where we picked oranges while living in the desert in his car and outdoors under the cactus. We did finally get some work assembling farm equipment where we made enough money to live in a motel room in Surprise AZ.  That job was soon over and we packed up and moved back to California.  It is so tempting to capture everything on paper at this point that I can remember, but this is about my spiritual journey, I will save the full autobiography for another project.  My spiritual journey at this point of my life was still on vacation.    Finally, in Feb 1969 I decided to go back to Gilroy and see my brother who was still living at the I.O.O.F. Home while going to Gavilan College.  My dad was living in Salinas at the time and I wished to reconnect with him as well. I rarely thought about God or the value of trying to live a Christian life, but at this point I was on a real search for something to give meaning to my life, though I may not have understood that at the time.

I arrived in Gilroy just before Valentines Day in 1969, on the bus since I had no car.  I had arranged with Randy to stay with him in his room at the I.O.O.F. Home for a few days while I figured out what I was going to do.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out that something had changed in his life.  He told me that he was going to an Assembly of God church there in Gilroy and that he had accepted Jesus as his Savior.  My reaction initially was, well good for him, but I don’t need to get involved with religion again.  I was determined that I could figure things out for myself and run my own life just fine.  Randy was not pushy about it.  He did tell me that some of my other friends from the home, Bob and Mike particularly were also going there.  Not only that but my ‘stand-in’ Mom, Juanita Schuler went there as well.  This got my attention somewhat but still not enough to make me walk through those doors.  Then he invited me to go to a Valentines party for the young people at the church.  He hinted that there would be single girls there to meet. That got my attention.  So I agreed to go to the party which would be held in an upstairs room at the church. That seemed safe enough.  So I went to the party, walked into the room of young people and within 10 minutes was smitten with Linda Evans!

Linda was 17 and a senior in high school.  I was 23, high school graduate and four year veteran of the Air Force.  She was a church girl, I had some exposure to church but was by no means a church goer.  That changed after I met Linda and I started to go to church on a regular basis, to see her of course, not because I had any real interest in things of God.  We became inseparable. I even lost a job because I took off on a Saturday that I was scheduled to work to go with her to a youth snow trip, where I tore up my knee in a toboggan mishap.  My boss wasn’t amused when I came in on crutches on Monday, he said something about me being on probation and told me goodbye and good luck! The only upside to this was that I was taken in by Randy’s wife’s parents, Herb and Sally Smith. I stayed with them while I recuperated from knee surgery and then worked around the ranch for a time. Herb and Sally Smith were a godly couple that heavily influenced my eventual return to an experience with God. It was while living with them that I first felt the call to preach.

Though I was focused on my new girlfriend I was having a difficult time resisting the Holy Spirit.  It seemed as though Jesus was beckoning me every time I went to a service.  I just wanted to be with Linda. I really did not want to get all religious.  You have to understand, this was a Pentecostal church and there was a lot of excitement every time I walked in the door.  People were genuinely in touch with God!  I had seen this before way back in high school at another little Pentecostal church, but it didn’t affect me like it did here.  This was somehow real.  They raised their hands, they prayed out loud, they spoke out in strange tongues and it all just seemed right.  I was starting to get interested in God again in spite of my efforts to the contrary.  I was really conflicted.

One morning, after my brother had left for school, I was lying on my bed thinking about my life, and I suddenly realized that I needed what the people at First Assembly of God had, more accurately, I needed God. The church was across town from the I.O.O.F. Home, probably about 5 miles. The pastor lived right next door to the church. I needed to talk to him about what I needed to do to find God. Since I didn’t have a car and I didn’t want to waste any time I took off on foot to talk to the pastor.  The pastor graciously invited me into his home and I told him why I had come, and after he explained to me the plan of salvation I knelt there at his couch and surrendered my life to God. Thus began probably the most tumultuous period of my spiritual journey.

I married Linda in August of 1969 and we served God together, more or less. Soon after marrying we hooked up a U-Haul trailer to the back of an extremely underpowered Renault R10 and dragged all of our worldly possessions over the Tejon Pass (barely) and into Riverside where I had served in the Air Force and still had friends. This was us stepping out on our own. We stayed in Riverside for two years. We went to church, went to the lake, got sunburned and got pregnant. We decided to leave the heavily smogged in Riverside and return to Hollister to await the birth of our first born, though it meant moving in with Linda’s parents for a time.

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