If you haven’t read the first part of this story yet click here Moving to Texas: Goodbye Michigan
A Truck, A Trailer, and a Two Day Trip
Jenny and I were looking forward to the drive. It seemed after all the preparation, packing, and planning that simply driving down the road would be the breath of fresh air we needed. Our conflicting schedules prevented us from spending much time together over the preceding five months. In addition, I had taken all the overtime I could obtain until the very last day; setting a personal record by working 40 days in a row with only one day off. Jenny often shared this while expressing that she felt like she could spend the whole trip talking with me to catch up on things.
Pastor Coleman came that morning, at Jenny’s request, to pray with us; asking for God’s mercy in our travel. We slowly drove passed all the buildings and houses on campus as we made our exit. It was a mix of sad and exciting, relief and uncertainty. This is the part we had so looked forward to; no more packing, plotting, or planning. It was just driving for now; and that is something I didn’t mind. We did indeed talk for most of the time. We also made one of our hymnals available to sing on the way.
We spent the night in Memphis Tennessee in a previously booked hotel. My brother, Sam, helped us out with points he earned on Navy duty which gave us a significant discount. Early the next morning we continued on our journey. Our anticipation built as we got closer to the Texas border. We spotted a Texas welcome center. We were not going to pass this up. We took a plethora of pictures. We felt like we were foreigners coming to the “new world” for the first time. Along with the pictures, I posted on Facebook: “tourists today; patrions tomorrow.”
We arrived that evening at some friends of Jenny’s; the Perrys. The next morning they gave us a tour of the camp in which they worked. Still enamored by the foreign vegetation, we had our picture taken by a large cactus plant and posted that on Facebook. Jim Perry prayed with us before sending us on our way. We had lots to do at the end of our final three hour drive.
We crossed the bridge from Portland, admired the Corpus Christi Bay, and entered the city. It was beautiful! Palm trees accompanied gas stations, stores, restaurants, and even the patches of land surrounded by intersecting highways. They stood out in my mind a banner of climate tranquility, as I ogled them at every opportunity.
Finding a Church
We booked a night at a hotel and set off to find a more permanent place to stay. This allowed us to park the trailer while we looked. The back of the truck was still loaded, making our stop and go city travel cumbersome to the brakes and gas milage. We only had a few hours left for the day, but we wanted to take advantage of as much time as we could before the weekend began.
We set out the next morning, continuing where we had left off. When we went to book another night, the hotel clerk told us that our room was already booked and there was no other rooms available. We immediately looked for another hotel.
We found travelodge. We booked a night and made the best of what was left of the week; which by this time was whatever we had left of Friday. We decided to book the week. This would reduce the daily rate and buy us some time.
We met with a pastor and shared our desire to find a local church. The church was in the midst of moving to a new building. The pastor was only a few years older than I. They had only built their current building two years prior and already had it filled. The church had maxed out it’s ability to build on their current plot of land and had the desire to move to a place that would erase that limitation.
That Sunday, the Mortons invited us out to lunch. They were supposed to have been on a long trip, but at the last minute had to cancel. Over lunch, we told them of our situation. I did mention a concern of mine. We were still paying for the U-haul trailer, and I needed a place to store our stuff until we found a place to move into. I asked him if he knew anyone who had such a place. I would otherwise have to rent a storage facility. Since his trip was canceled, he was beginning plans for a new shed for his tools and would have such a place for our stuff after the tools were moved. I offered my assistance as an exchange for the favor.
Mr. Morton had been a pastor for nineteen years. He had retired, bought a piece of property, and built a house on it. They had just moved into their house a few months before and the landscaping wasn’t yet finished. Prior to his building the house, he had built a storage building equivalent to about three garages. It was filled full. Not all of the things were his, however. Over the years, some of his church members stored their things there and had never retrieved them. Before moving to the new location, he had held a sale, the owners being long gone and their things considered abandoned. He sold quite the sum and reaped an impressive amount for having a garage sale. Still, there were things left over that filled his storage, and he hadn’t gotten rid of it yet. Once the tools were removed, there was just enough room for our belongings. He encouraged me to empty the truck as well, to save on our gas milage. I gratefully complied.
Tuesday was a hard day. I became physically anxious. We couldn’t find an apartment, I hadn’t yet landed a job, and our money was dwindling. Elwood staffing had been so promising, but had become such a disappointment. I had attempted to get the ball rolling weeks before our move, but was told I had to wait until my last check processed. Alas, my files would not transfer due to the differences in software between the two branches. I had to begin all over again. It consumed half a day, but I hoped it would be worth it. Tuesday night Jenny and I prayed that God would give us hope for the following day. This, perhaps, was not a big tangible thing to pray for, but it was what we needed.
Wednesday brought us enthusiasm and motivation. Jenny and I tackled the task of searching for jobs and apartments. The heavy burden of our impending situation was lifted. For seemingly no reason, other than answered prayer, we were supplied with joy and energy. That night in church, we shared our answered prayer as a testimony to the congregation. I added, “tonight we are going to pray for a start date for me to begin work.” This was an escalation of faith. This time we were asking for something tangible. It wasn’t a test for God to pass, but a petition to God to bring fruit to our labor as time, in the form of money, was running out.
Finding a Job
Thursday we continued in the same manner as Wednesday. Our motivation had somewhat subsided, but we trudged on. Jenny had found a job-posting for a laborer. I called a guy named Bud. He asked me some questions concerning my past experience in drywall. I did have some, but it was eight years ago. Sounding apathetic and disinterested, he haphazardly suggested he’d be at the construction site the next morning and I could meet him then. I didn’t feel too excited about it, but it was an interview nonetheless. Perhaps this would lead to a start date, but an interview was not, in my mind, a start date. Nevertheless, Jenny and I prayed that we would have a place to move into on Saturday.
Friday morning, Jenny and I set off early to meet Bud at seven o’clock. Contrary to the doubt I held the previous day, this morning, I had a notion that there was a chance I could start work that very day. I shared that with Jenny and suggested she bring her laptop along, just in case. I called Bud and spotted him looking out the open window of the fourth floor. He was talking with the foreman he had just hired. Bud looked like a biker. Complete with grayish white hair, a goatee, and a belly, Bud had a sort of condescending sense of wit and humor that, at times, could be intimidating. After a few questions, Bud asked me what kind of pay I was expecting. I replied that I was thinking in the range of $10-$12 an hour. He said, “I like that first number better. Let’s go with that one for now.” I agreed. Perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered, but I was kicking myself inside for not just saying $12. Of course he would like the first number better! Who wouldn’t? So why not start higher and let him mention a lower number. The truth was that I needed about 12.50/hr to pay the bills. I really needed a few lessons in the art of negotiation. In time, I would learn from this and benefit.
As I had suspected, Bud asked me if I wanted to start working today. I said I would. Bud, Jon (foreman), and I went to the local hardware store to get tools and material for the job. The foreman, Jon, was a clean cut hispanic with a big red Chevy truck which had large shiny rims. Jon had a wife and several children and didn’t live very far from the site. He drove separately to the hardware store. I rode with Bud in his F350 power stroke Ford pickup truck. It was the kind of truck that fit Bud’s personality. We drove around and picked up the tools and ordered delivery of the material we needed to begin work. Bud offered me to work Saturday as well and I accepted happily. Jon would not be working Saturday as he had some personal business to attend to, but would begin Monday. I would begin by installing insulation in the hall ceiling of the fourth floor. For more on this story see Surviving Two Rounds of Layoffs with a 20% Raise.
A Place to Call Home
Now that I had a job, we needed a place to live and our week at the hotel had expired. We did not want to impose on the Mortons, but shared our plans of purchasing a tent and finding a place to plant ourselves until we found an apartment. By this time, Jenny had looked up over 50 apartments. They were either out of our price range or lacked a vacancy. Mr. Morton or Gary, offered us the guest room just for the weekend. We expressed our gratitude and assured him that we were trying hard to get settled into an apartment.
Jenny’s and my prayer of moving into an apartment on Saturday was contingent on our having the Saturday available to make the move. Since I was working Saturday, this wouldn’t have been practical and we wouldn’t have had enough time to make it happen. Still, God’s timing would prove to be perfect.
Sunday night came and we made plans again to purchase a tent and camp out somewhere. The agreement was that we would only stay the weekend and we wanted to honor that. The Mortons invited us to the kitchen table to talk. They had a proposition. They didn’t want to kick us out into a tent when they had the ability to provide a room, but they also didn’t want us to be too comfortable and lack the motivation to leave. Therefore they offered us to stay there for $25 a night. Even if we found a place to camp, it would be difficult to beat that offer. So we gratefully accepted.
Work for me continued Monday. I met the production assistant, Brent, or in Bud’s words “The fourteen dollar an hour guy.” Brent was twenty-one years old and had moved from North Carolina with his girlfriend and child. Here was a kid almost ten years my junior and making forty percent more than I was. He was more familiar with the job than I, but didn’t quite work with a sense of urgency that I could provide. Tuesday, the superintendent informed Jon that production on the Hotel would be put on hold until further notice in order to fix some plumbing on the first floor. Jenny and I immediately took advantage of the day off and continued our search for an appartment.
We noticed two apartment complexes near the Morton’s house. We decided to go straight to them and try to fill out an application. The Bay Club had a vacancy and it was in our price range. After viewing the vacancy, we filled out the application. There was an application fee. If we were turned down, we would not get the money back and that would hurt, but it was part of the process and we couldn’t get around it. We went ahead with the application and the fee. Now we just had to wait and find out if we were approved. On Wednesday, we awaited the call. By four o’clock, we decided to pay a visit to find out if we were approved before the office hours closed. Raffael, the office manager, apologised for not getting back with us sooner and happily shared the great news. We had indeed been approved provided that we make the larger of the two deposits types. We would need to sign some paper work and pick a day to move in. We picked Thursday.
We spent Thursday traveling back and forth from the storage to our new apartment; filling our truck each time. We made three or four trips in all. At last we had a place to live! It had a pool, tennis and basketball court, palm trees, and a view of Oso bay. Part of the Ocean was literally a short walk away. That evening, I got a text from Jon stating that work would resume the following day. It was not a day too late nor not a day too soon. It was only enough time for us to get approved and settled in.
Upon settling in, we were now ready to join the church. During the previous events the church had just moved into a new building. By making the move they lost building space but gained real estate. It was more than enough room to build upon for many years. While entering the new building I expressed to the pastor that we were ready to join the church now that we had found a place to stay. He asked what to me was a peculiar question. “Have you both been baptized in a Baptist church?” he inquired.
“I think so,” I responded. I looked to Jenny. “I know I was,” I continued, “and I’m pretty sure Jenny was too,” I added.
“What was the name of the church Jenny was Baptized in?” he asked.
“Calvary Bible Church,” Jenny answered.
“Well, Jenny would need to be baptized again,” he stated. “We can talk more about this after the service,” he concluded. I didn’t mind getting baptized again, but I wasn’t sure Jenny was.
After the service, we talked again. I explained to him that, even though it didn’t have the name baptist in it’s name, the doctrine was the same. “But it’s not Baptist,” he declared. I left puzzled. It was baptist in doctrine, and the pastor at the time was an ordained baptist minister. If the name on the sign is more important than the doctrine, I would have to respectfully disagree. Doctrine is important, and there is no Biblical teaching for what wording must be placed on the sign in the front of a church building. There was only one “baptist” and that was John the baptist, known as the last Old Testament prophet. Followers of Christ were called Christians if anything, but that wasn’t self-imposed, rather, it was a label placed upon them by outsiders. Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 1:10-15 teaches that there are not to be any divisions among the brethren, naming baptism as a source of the division.
After the service, we called our pastor back home to seek counsel. He shared what he would do and we followed in like fashion. I felt like I had to side on the importance of doctrine over a factional name. Besides, Jenny’s baptism was important to her. If she were to be baptized again, it would essentially, be an admittance that the first baptism was illegitimate. That thought was discomforting to her and I didn’t feel like it would be right for me to ask her to get baptized again. It was a good church, but it wasn’t the church God wanted for us to attend and it was His way of moving us on.
Though we had to find another church, much good had come from our attending there. God indeed used this church to meet our needs through the Morton’s help. He moved them in their new house just months prior. Before this move they were living in a relatives house and wouldn’t have been able to provide us with those few days of stay. God canceled their trip that would have spanned a few months in the Philippines in which case we would have never met. Finally, He put in place the process of the installation of Gary’s tool shed which freed up exactly enough room for our belongings. God could have chosen a less fantastic collection of circumstances to provide for our eminent needs, but I am persuaded that He chose this way to show us that we existed in His favor and care.
We found and join Bible Believers Baptist Church. They were also instrumental in helping us in many ways. See Top Ten Churches in my Life.
(Balancing the Budget)
I had realized that my income would not meet our needs and continued searching for a more lucrative job through Elwood. I already had one interview on a day off and Elwood contacted me for another interview. This time it was in the middle of the week. I had to take a few hours from work to go on it. Bud knew I was still looking for a more suitable income when he had hired me, but remarked that he didn’t blame me. I don’t think he seriously thought I would find one. I reported the interview to Jon and asked if I could get some of the morning off. He consented. Though the company chose three people to interview and would only hire one, I knew, eventually, my turn would come. It had been only two weeks since I had started with Bud’s company and I was certain I couldn’t get that raise to the needed $12/hr much less $11/hr, and I didn’t feel like I was in a position to ask for one. The evening after the interview, I commented to Jenny that I knew God would fix our problem, but I didn’t think He was going to use Elwood. I just couldn’t figure out how this would be resolved with my current job.
The next day the big boss, Bud, came back in town. He took Jon for a walk while Brent and I continued work. At the end of the day, Jon told me that Bud wanted to talk to me in his truck. I thought, “Ok, he’s letting me go. I’ll have another job soon anyway.” I figured this was God’s way of answering our dilemma.
Bud welcomed me and commented, “So I hear you’re taking interviews for other jobs.”
“Yes sir,” I answered, “I just can’t meet the budget on $10 an hour.”
“Ya, I understand,” he confided, “Look, if I give you $12/hr, will you stop looking and finish the job here?”
“Yes.” I promised, suppressing my enthusiasm.
He held out his hand and as I shook it he smiled and said, “Then it’s a deal. I’ll give you $12/hr and make it retroactive for this past Monday.”
“You’ve won my loyalty,” I declared
“And you’ve won mine,” he replied.
I came home and told Jenny, “I have good news and bad news.”
She looked troubled and responded solemnly, “You got fired.”
“Nope,” I answered, “I got a raise!”
She exclaimed, “Yay!!” “…then what’s the bad news?” she asked curiously.
“Well, Brent got fired,” I answered regretfully.
Our budget was balanced, however marginally. We agreed that it would be helpful if she could obtain even a part time job to give us a better standing.
(A Win Win)
Jenny looked up several Christian schools in the area. One school called her and set up an interview that happened to coincide with her birthday. Sadly, they canceled and said they would call to reschedule, but never did. Jenny found another school which had an opening for second grade. The principal offered to meet her in the morning at seven. I drove her there and waited in the truck while she was being interviewed. After some time, Jenny and the principle, Jon, came out. Jon told me he was going to show Jenny the campus and invited me to come along. I accepted. We looked at several buildings and ended in the gym. Jon said he had interviewed several people and had purposefully passed them up. He didn’t want to bring anyone on who might not finish. Two teachers, the year prior, had bailed on him. One teacher bailed after only a couple weeks; another after only two days! He expressed that he sought to fill this position with prayer and he felt that she was the one for the job. He asked us to pray about it and get back to him. I told him we would get back to him in twenty-four hours.
We were excited. This was quite the match. Though Jenny wasn’t originally planning on teaching, this was an opportunity. It did sound alarming that two teachers had resigned, but I had the feeling that it had more to do with the teachers than the students. We talked about it and prayed about it, but we were pretty sure it was the thing to do. We also felt that Jenny would be providing a very needed role. Teacher orientation started the following week, and school started the week after, so this was quite the timing. We agreed to have Jenny take the job.
Our journey required prudent preparation. It required diligent saving. It required every opportunity of overtime and hard work. It required sad tears of departure. It required humility to allow God to provide in His time and His way. Ultimately, after we did all we could do, it required faith that God would do what only He could do. Faith was the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.