I had rarely been at a church. Ever, ever, ever. Occasionally with a friend, but only a few times to different places.
As I've posted and said often, I was responsible for my younger sisters on Friday nights and Saturday days and nights. My only fairly restful day off was Sunday. I could sleep later, I could sometimes go to a movie [10 to 25 cents in those days], go play with friends, ride my bike. I LOVED my day off.
I don't remember the exact date, but my parents came home one Saturday evening and said that the next day I had to go to Emmanuel Lutheran Church. It was only six blocks away. I already knew a few of the kids that went to that church, because we attended the same nearby elementary and junior high schools. But, I knew nothing else about the church.
And my reaction? I. was. furious. How could I be forced to lose my one relaxing day of the week? And now what would I do? How would I do it?
The next Sunday morning, I went. No choice. Immediately, I found out that I was expected to go to a Confirmation class on Saturday mornings, attend Sunday service, Sunday School class, Sunday evening Youth Group. The confirmation class included its teachings, Bible reading [Genesis, Psalms, John and Revelation], and involvement with constant questions and discussions. And memorization of so many Bible verses and catechism doctrines. Lots and lots of homework. Entering this class, unlike the other kids, I HAD KNOWN NOTHING!! I HAD TO LEARN EVERYTHING.
Was I happy? Not at first. But, very quickly the pastor and the secretary took me to their hearts. They knew, somehow, what I went through with my family. [I'm often certain that many people from our general area knew more than I thought they did. THAT was a blessing, often.]
Pastor Hultgren was very nice to me, cut me some slack, occasionally, BUT he did not let me get away with whining and acting like I couldn't get the assignments done. He'd just give me an extra hour or so, maybe an extra week, but he didn't let me "con" him.
One small funny thing: when I was in 3rd grade in Portland, Oregon, my teacher insisted on calling me "Joan", refusing to call me "Joanne." I HATED the name "Joan", because of that. Pastor Hultgren called me "Joanie". It was such a sweet name, through him. THAT healed my hate-heart attitude.
Secretary Shirley and her fiance, were the youth leaders. Those evenings were a lot of fun.
I was involved from the beginning of 7th grade to the Spring of 9th grade when confirmation occurred. I had learned MUCH in that stretch. How amazing is it that the Lord had used my parents to force me to do something I would never have intended to do nor ever wanted to do? And why? Because the Lord used this opportunity to plant spiritual seed in my heart.
A main seed planted was this pastor, a godly man placed in my life. [I usually hated or was afraid of men at that phase of life.] He gave me instructions, he forced me to follow the rules, and he let me know what he expected of me. BUT he showed care, appreciation, respect, and answered question after question after question connected to the Bible and the church. He was not impatient. [Can you imagine me reading Revelation and not having PILES of questions to ask? I did, and he took that time. What a blessing.]
Now, at home things didn't get better. At school, I was a rotten kid some of the time, especially in 8th grade. In my neighborhood, I was a tough cookie. In the Girl Scouts, I wasn't liked.
BUT the Lord used those weekends, sometimes a struggling time, as an entrance to my heart.
That following summer after confirmation, my family moved from Tacoma to Klickitat, WA, and a whole new life began, in good and evil, but it DID begin. [One of the biggest blessings: my "forever friend" Susie was dropped into my life, and, 52 years later, we are still spiritually and "heartly" together.]
I've never forgotten him. I discovered some years later that he left the Tacoma church shortly after I did. I'm looking forward to seeing him in heaven. GOD USED HIM. Even though home life did not change and I fell into extreme sin, headed for a violent death in my late teens, the seed that was planted did not leave me. And God broke through when I was 20, those few years later. I'm a very grateful lady...
for both Pastor Hultgren and my Heavenly Father.