Saturday, February 19, 2011

Herlong, California (Part I)

The decision had been made, I was ending my schooling at PCBBC. The question that was on my mind and heart was, "what do I do now?" Naturally my wife wanted an answer to that question also, and in keeping with her family's heritage, she wanted it "muy pronto!"

You see when we headed for bible college and the preparation for the ministry we had two darling little girls, Shannon Annette, and Sonja Aurora. As my college career was winding down our family was "winding up." We had two little girls while I was at the school. I know, I know, I heard it all - how do you have time for "that" when you are in school 4 hours a day, working 8-10 hours a day, driving almost 2 hours a day and doing homework. Well, you just need to know we did.

Before we jump on I-5 and head for Herlong let me share with you how God payed for "that." It was obvious that being a Security Guard at California Plant Protection wasn't going to make us rich. My best friend John (not John G who had given us the Olds) got a job as a truck driver at Alta-Dena Dairy in the City of Industry. John regaled us with stories of how great a place it was to work, the "benefits" and more to my liking, the pay. I put in an application and discovered other friends, Bobby S. of Texas and John O. also of Texas worked there. These guys all lived in the same apartment complex as I did and were second year students with me at PCBBC. John and Bobby helped get me on and I became an "ice-cream puller" and dock loader for the family owned Dairy.

The job was a tough one. We worked in the ice-cream freezer where it was 50 degrees below zero. The law said we were to work 45 minutes inside and then 15 minutes outside warming up, but the brass must have never gotten that memo. It was fun -it was physically hard work that kept us in shape and awake during our shifts that is for sure. You could eat all the ice cream you wanted on the dock. Anything off the dock was considered "stealing." The first couple of hours we pulled ice cream half-gallon containers that came through the shrink wrap machine which we loaded on to pallets. One hundred and eighty six gallons of ice cream fits on a standard pallet. I still remember that some thirty years later. Those pallets were either fork lifted into place on storage racks or loaded on to trucks for shipment around the country. That is why the freezer was so cold, we had to immediately freeze the ice cream in order to ship it out immediately.

The 14 brothers and 1 sister, no I didn't make a typo, who owned and operated the dairy did not want the union to come in and take over. So, they devised a plan that would be the envy of any man, oops, sorry Johnny Cash for stealing your line (One Piece At A Time.) They just provided benefits better than the union could. We made a dollar or two more an hour than other unionized shops, had a day or two more vacation, and our health plan was out of this world. This kept the workers happy and no one wanted to organize and vote in a union. I didn't either, even though I was the son of a teamster. The plan worked for me.

You see, when you had a medical, dental, or optical issue, you went to the appropriate doctor, brought back your receipt of payment, you were then  immediately cut a reimbursement check by payroll for the full amount, minus NO FEES OR CHARGES. Yes, it was difficult sometimes making payment in order to be reimbursed. I confess to you, and have confessed to our Lord, of writing "bad" checks to medical providers and then driving like a maniac back to the Dairy with receipt in hand in order to be reimbursed in order to make a second mad dash to the bank to make a deposit.

Let me interrupt for a moment if I can and tell you how little Sarah had come to be growing inside Irene. Shannon was now 5 and Sonja was 4 and Irene was well, thinking these two were enough. I wanted a son. So one day I convinced Irene to attend a family meeting about said desire. The meeting consisted of yours truly, Irene, Shannon and Sonja. We put the agenda on the table: I wanted a son and the girls wanted a baby brother to torture. After, numerous objections from the VP (Irene), it was finally put to a vote. Irene lost 3 to 1. We were going to have a baby!

The morning Irene woke me up and told me that little Sean Austin or Sarah Amber was on the way, was no concern to me how we would pay the doctor or the hospital. We drove a couple of miles to the Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina, California and checked in.

That little gal was in a hurry and has been in a hurry ever since. From the time Irene poked me in the ribs and said "its time" to when we were starring at a wet, bloody pink little girl was 45 minutes. I know some of you ladies are envious, but that is what it was.

I did a double take I guess. I had to look at the one end a couple of times, you see that was suppose to be my boy. The sonogram showed the, well you know, she carried it high or whatever it was, she wasn't as sick, and whatever silly old-wives tales convinced me it was a boy. But, it wasn't to be, the nurses were cleaning up our third little girl, little Sarah Amber.

But, Sarah it was not to be. All through the pregnancy and right up to Irene being admitted, if we had a girl her name would be Sarah. When the nurse brought out our little girl all wrapped up and handed her to Irene, Irene looked at her and said she doesn't look like a Sarah. She looks like a Sharon.Sharon? Sharon had never been on the list. Oh well, Wala! Debut Sharon Amber Metcalf.

Well, my job that day was to cuddle and kiss both Irene and Sharon, run to billing, pay the bill, and run back to the dairy. Without blinking an eye, asking a question, or lecturing me on better use of my "free-time", the payroll clerk cut a check for the entire amount of the bill. This is where we all stop and praise our glorious God!

There it was my final shot at a son. Now it would be up to my brother to carry on the Metcalf name. You ladies know how it is in that "room" and how it goes. "How could you do this to me?" "You will never touch me again." Et cetera, Et cetera, Et cetera...

Fortunately at least for me, we resumed the type of protection that would "ensure" we would not have any more little ones. We thought we were covered. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men don't you? Almost to the day, one year later we were taking that same trip to the Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina. Sharon had been born March 18, 1981 and here was Stacy Alaine making her debut on March 17, 1982. Yes, I can count, that is only 364 days apart. I didn't even have a leap year on my side.

It was the same drill. If it was a boy, he would be named Sean Austin, if it was a girl, she would be named Stacy Alaine. I don't know what it is about that name but Sean never materialized. We love and are proud of Shannon, Sonja, Sharon, and Stacy. I paid the bill, ran to the dairy with the receipt, got my reimbursement check - again with no questions, comments, or lectures, and ran to the bank to make a deposit.

Once again God supplied our needs by His marvelous grace. The dairy never quibbled or squabbled about medical issues. Later on they did change their policies for self-preservation. One of the foremen had a baby that unfortunately had tremendous complications and it wasn't long, even in the 1980's to run up a million dollar bill. The dairy paid it but then set a limit on medical costs.

Well, I have digressed haven't I? We were leaving PCBBC. But what next? The burden to shepherd God's people had not left me. The desire to teach his word still burned in my heart. The ministry was still my calling. What do I do?

Sometime I have to tell you about John G. No, this isn't the same John G. that gave us the Oldsmobile the day after the Chevy Vega blew up on Kellogg Hill coming home from work one night. This is a different John G- a man who became my best friend and whom I love to this day.

John G had a cousin, Don E. who planted the Sierra View Baptist Church of Grass Valley, CA. Eventually in time, three of Don's families moved to Herlong, CA to work at the Sierra Army Depot. These three families soon discovered that there was slim pickings in churches to attend in Herlong. The nearest town was either 50 miles north (Susanville, CA) or 60 miles south (Reno, NV.)

They begged Don to come up and help them start a church. Don was a pilot and had a small Cessna. He would conduct his services on Sunday morning, fly up to a little landing strip in the desert, conduct their services and then fly back to conduct his evening services. As you could imagine, after awhile it took its toll and became tiresome. In late 1982 Don E asked his cousin John G if he would go up to Herlong and take over the little church that had begun. John thought it over and decided not to go up there. He told Don E that he had a friend who might be interested and to talk to me.

Don E. called me and after a long talk I decided that Irene and I would take a look at this little church and see what we could do to help it get on its feet and reach maturity. We decided to explore the possibility that was there in Herlong.

Next week, in Part II, I will describe the trip, the decision, and the next step in our walk of faith as God pointed us towards Herlong, California.


welcome to my world of poetry said...

Most interesting read Gregg, I enjoyed it from start to finish.

Hope you like the end of my new post.


JD Curtis said...

I'm with Yvonne. I'm rivited.