Saturday, February 26, 2011

Herlong (Part II)

Do you know why they call it Herlong?" "Well, the first people who got here, took a good long look around and said, 'We ain't gonna be here long!'" This is what you hear when you first arrive in Herlong, California. Herlong is an unincorporated community in Lassen County, California. It lies in the high desert in the valley created by the Sierra Nevada Mountain range at about an elevation of 4200 feet. The town was actually built to provide housing for the workers of the Sierra Army Depot which was built in 1942 as an ammunition storage depot. The idea was that it would be far enough away from the west coast to prevent any Japanese bombing attack. Herlong, despite the joke of not being here long was actually named for Captain Henry W. Herlong. Captain Herlong was the first Army ordinance officer to be killed in action in World War II. Herlong peaked in the 1950's at about 5,000 people. It now has a population of about 1,000.

I had made my decision to leave my bible college due to doctrinal, scriptural interpretation, and practical matters. Of course I did not know what to do next, other than pray and worry. Why I worry I don't know. However, if I may digress, I just came across a quote from Hudson Taylor that will be my new motto and worry preventer. When sharing their "status" with Mrs. Taylor, Hudson Taylor told her, "Honey, we have just $.25 cents and all of the promises of God." (emphasis mine) Is that a concept or what?

As I related in Herlong: Part I, my best friend John G. had a cousin, Don E. Don asked John if he would go up and help out in a church that was being planted due to three of his families moving up to Herlong for work on the Sierra Army Depot. John G. said no, he wasn't interested, but that Don ought to talk to yours truly. Don did talk to me. I talked it over with Irene and the Lord and decided to let Don take us up and check out this church.

Don E. owned a Cessna 172 that he loved to fly. As I related previously, he would conduct his services in Grass Valley, CA and fly the 100 miles to Herlong. He would land on a little airstrip in the middle of the desert and be driven to Herlong to conduct services and then fly home in order to conduct his evening service. As you can imagine that was getting old and he needed to be relieved.

Don agreed to fly to an airstrip in Compton, California. Why, I honestly can't remember. If you remember, Compton was the scene of the 1965 Watts Riots where 34 people were killed and over 1,000 injured. It has always been a dangerous city. Irene and I were driven to the little airport there where we met Don and his Cessna. I had been up a few times in small planes. I actually wanted to learn to fly small planes and still do. Irene had never been up in small plane and had only flown once prior to this trip.

We boarded Don's little Cessna and took off. It was quite a ride. We had to stop once for fuel on the 450 mile trip up to the high desert. I think that was because he didn't refuel when he landed from flying down from Grass Valley. We actually enjoyed the ride while at the same time begging God to set it back down on the good ole terraferma. We made the trip without any incident praise God!

We flew in early Sunday morning to the little airstrip. We were met by one of the churches main families in an old green Pinto station wagon and were driven to a beautiful brick community center building at the only entrance to a small housing tract. We walked into the building and began immediately meeting and greeting people. After a few moments Irene excused  herself to the ladies room where she "relieved herself" of the contents of her poor tummy. Her "troubles" reverberated through the tiny building giving everyone a chuckle.

The church was the Sierra View Baptist Church of Herlong. There were four families - Kelly H. and his wife, Mike M. and his wife and kids, Elbert H. and his wife, Mr. & Mrs. Coleman, and a single fellow named Dave M. After we greeted everyone and settled down a bit from the flight services commenced. Kelly led singing for the little group and that morning he introduced me to a song I had never heard before but has since that day became my favorite hymn - Living For Jesus. I love that song.After the "preliminaries" I preached a message. I don't know what the text or theme was. They enjoyed the message and I was beginning to enjoy them.

After the service and lunch they drove us around Herlong. Herlong is seven miles off of Highway 395. Driving up this long access road you will see a trailer park on the left, and near the front gate of SIAD a road to the right to a housing tract where most of the civilians live. The desert is dotted with make shift homes from mobile homes with additions built on, old army buildings moved out and on to desert lots. On the Depot there is section eight housing for civilians whether they work on the depot or not, a bank, a store, and a few businesses for the army and civilians. It is a very interesting place. People are very independent, very self-sufficient, and very unique.

However, as the 1984 Steve Green song says, People Need the Lord. Well, it only takes about 5 minutes to drive around and look at Herlong. So it didn't take too long to see the community and get an idea that there were a lot of "desert rats" living in all types of homes from 5th wheels, Travel Trailers, Mobile Homes, makeshift homes, and old army buildings. After a good lunch we flew to Grass Valley where Don conducted his evening service. We spent the night with Don and his wife in beautiful home tucked in the mountains. The next morning we got up and Don flew us back to Compton. We were picked up by friends and we drove home to West Covina where I needed to think about these wonderful families and the community of Herlong.

It didn't take me long (I had pretty much decided on the flight home) that I was going to accept the call and to to the Sierra View Baptist Church of Herlong. I told Irene of my decision and then called Don. We talked for a bit and then I called the church and said we were coming.

We had taken payments over on a newer car by then. We had taken off the hands of a bible college student who couldn't make the payments and stay in school of a 1979 Dodge Aspen Station Wagon. Irene and I loaded that Dodge up to the gills and then pulled a UHaul trailer behind it. We had filled the trailer to where we almost couldn't shut the door. We had packed stuff on the roof and tied it down and that station wagon was filled from stem to stern with all the stuff we had collected during almost three years in Los Angeles.

The morning came to leave, looking like the Beverly Hillbillies, we fired up that over-loaded Dodge with Irene, myself, Shannon, Sonja, Sharon, and Stacy headed to a little piece of desert 141 miles south of Oregon and 60 miles west of Nevada. Off we went traveling some 450 miles in little over two days.

When we got to Herlong one of the families had a daycare center in an old building that had sort of been a house. The church put us up there and made that our "home" and Irene a ready made job tending the daycare. We rolled up our sleeves and began trying to build that little church and lead it into a church that was something for the Lord.

It became evident very quickly that we were not what these people really wanted. I knew that they had ideas similar to the fellowship and the college that I had just left. However, they had promised me that they wanted the bible taught accurately and whatever the Word said they were willing to comply with. I have discovered that on some occasions the words, "We want nothing but the bible taught accurately" is really code for " We really want the bible taught the way we want it taught regardless of whether it means that or not." I also was naive enough to believe that by simply teaching that bible I could change their well grounded, long held, and unscriptural ideas.

After only 4 months or so I was done. We were not on the same page and they were not going to change. I went to the families and said that I had left behind what they really were and wanted. I did not want to be a part of that philosophy. We agreed that it wasn't working and that they wouldn't hold it against me if we went back to Los Angeles.

Irene and I packed up that Dodge Wagon again. We put all of our worldly goods in that wagon and trailer and with just enough money to get to LA we pushed that little dodge south to southern California. I was devastated. I was a pastor, I was a bible teacher why didn't they see that and get on the same page? How could God let us fail like that? What do we do now? Where do we go? Where will we live? Let me tell you that was a long and miserable trip back to southern, California.

Where would we live? I had no idea. I didn't even have any money, maybe enough for a first months rent. The only thing I could think of was point the Dodge to Pomona and Fernleaf Drive and see if John G would put us up long enough to find a place to live.

Thank God He is sovereign and in control. Thank God He really does exist and is a re warder of those who diligently seek him. Irene and I pulled into Pomona and traveled over towards John G.'s house. We pulled up to a traffic light next to a car at the intersection of Grand and White Avenue. Sitting in the car next to us is John O. from Alta Deena Dairy and PCBBC. John recognized us and asked us what we were doing? We told him we were moving back to LA. He asked where we were going to live. I said I don't know, I was hoping John G. would put us up for a couple of days. Here is where I have to stop, dry my eyes and praise our God one more time, wait a minute will you? OK, I am fine, John O. said that he was now the manager of the apartments on Fernleaf and that he had an empty unit and we could follow him home and unload our car and trailer that day in our own little house. So for the second time we lived on Fernleaf Avenue in Pomona.

We unloaded the car and the trailer. We returned the trailer to a UHaul location. We were able to see once again John and Debbie O., John and Sue G., John and Judy G ., and Bobby and Terry S. What a wonderful reunion. The next day I went back to Alta Deena Dairy to see if I could be rehired. Praise be unto God I could. Within a day I had a place to put my family and a job. God is so good.

I spent quite some time at Alta Deena Dairy. I was wondering what God was doing with us and what was up. How could I be so wrong. I was so sure God wanted us in Herlong, at least at the Sierra View Baptist Church. That awareness never left me, it nagged me and dogged me everyday. What was I to do?

Discover what I did in the next issue entitled: "Herlong-The Sequel."


welcome to my world of poetry said...

This made excellenet reading Gregg.
Loved it very much.
Hope you have a most enjoyable week-end.


Persis said...

Thanks for continuing to share your story, Gregg.

Anonymous said...

'We ain't gonna be here long!' Too funny! Yep, Herlong - passed it several time this year. Robert pastored a little church in Orovada, Nevada, if you've ever heard of it- now that's waaay out there.

My mom was born in Grass Valley. Still love that area.

Sharon Kirby said...

Gregg - Unfair!! I'm on the edge of my seat, waiting for the sequel! This was quite a journey - both physically, and spiritually.

I am encouraged by how you were upheld throughout all this confusion. And I eagerly await hearing what you have to say about those times when we're "so sure" we have heard God's will - only to be disillusioned by the reality when it comes.

I loved the quote about 25cents and all the promises of God. What a great mindset.


Anonymous said...

Well, now I've go to come back... :-)

Arlee Bird said...

I guess it was all partly an education process and maybe the rest had to do with faith and other related things. Bottom line is that God does provide and we need to patiently wait and listen.

That Alta Deena milk must really be good. It sure is expensive at Ralph's. I think there is an Alta Deena store in Montebello not too far from my house. I've heard people swear by their milk products.

Tossing It Out

Ajudando ao Próximo said...

Much good!
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. I Jhon 3.1
Helping to next
You are invinted to follow my blog.
God Bless.