Letter to Amy,
I’m excited to share this letter with you and tell you the story of how the Lord called me to follow Him. I was born in San Francisco in 1951. We moved to South San Francisco when I was seven years old and that’s where I grew up.
When I was 13 or 14 years old my best girl-friend Ronnie and I were introduced to the ouija board, and how we could speak to the dead. Being inquisitive teens, Ronnie and I became intrigued with the occult world.
Ronnie spent the night with me. While we were talking in bed, all of a sudden we both felt a spirit enter the room and sit in a chair about 2 feet to my right. We both froze and stayed still for an eternity, or so it seemed, but it was only 30 seconds at the most. Then it left us, going up through the wall and the ceiling. All at once, she and I both jumped out of bed, talking a mile a minute, ran into the hallway, and looked up the stairs where my parents were sleeping. Then George, my brother, came in the front door and we were both relieved to see him. We went back to bed, but hardly slept that night. The next day I burned the ouija board. That experience frightened me. For a year I hid under the blankets, afraid that the spirit would return to haunt me. A year later I gave my life to the Lord and that fear was lifted from me. What a relief! To this day, when the subject comes up, I warn people not to go there. Stay away from the occult world.
At 16 I started to attend an orthodox Presbyterian church near our home as a result of a friend bugging me to go with her. At the time my family did not have a home church so I went where I wanted.
I gave my life to the Lord after seeing a Billy Graham film and soon started to feel the church was empty. My family started going to First Baptist Church of South San Francisco. I met Bill Lembright there at that time. I had a big crush on him but he had his mind set on everything else, including college, which ended up being Westmont College in Santa Barbara.
I began to feel that the church, as I knew it, was not the "real" body of Christ. This was a shock to me, and not popular with the church. One of my friends at the time was a gal we later nicknamed Rivets. I noticed a real change in her and asked her what happened. She had been meeting with Tom and Marcia Helliwell in their home after church on Sunday nights. She said the Holy Spirit was alive in their meetings and I was invited to come.
I started meeting with them and I invited another friend by the name of Jo Whalen. One evening while I was at the Helliwells for a meeting, my mother called urging me to hurry home with the family car. My sister Linda had been in a serious accident and she was in the emergency room of San Francisco General Hospital.
I ran out of the house with Jo, my close friend at the time, right behind. She went to the hospital with us and we sat there all night while Linda was in surgery. She had been a passenger on the back of a motorcycle and her male friend was the driver. For some reason he was running away from the police. When he raced up a steep hill, and rounded a corner, he didn’t make the turn and ran into a brick wall. Linda was thrown head first over the driver’s head into the wall, shattering her jaw and almost breaking her neck.
The doctor told us she had a slim chance of pulling through. All we could do was pray. She was in a coma for three days. We prayed and I cried and begged God to let her live. Linda did not know the Lord and I didn’t want her to die until she did. On the third night I was having fitful dreams and woke up crying. I begged God to spare her life and then I felt His presence in the room with me. He told me to trust Him. She was in His hands and He would take care of her. I had such peace that I went to sleep and slept soundly. The next day the hospital called and said Linda had pulled through and had awakened from the coma. We could come and see her for a few minutes. She recognized us and recovered. I thanked God for His answer to our prayers. In spite of all of this, Linda didn’t change her rebellious ways for a few years. She went through more troubles before she finally gave herself to the Lord and showed true repentance.
Back to the Helliwells. We met together, prayed together, and shared the Spirit. This did not sit well with the church. One Sunday evening a few of the deacons came to see what we were doing. They told us we should not be meeting like this and could be in danger of splitting the church apart. We told them we needed this meeting to ask God for His strength and direction which we were not getting at the regular church meeting.
Later on, Rivets and I were asked to meet with the minister’s wife and another influential lady in the church. They tried to persuade us that what we were doing was wrong. We honestly told them that the church was not allowing us to progress and grow in the Spirit. After salvation we need to go on and start living. What were we to do when the church wanted us only to witness and win others to the Lord? We told them that we wanted to ask God what to do with our jobs, money, and talents. We left that day agreeing to disagree. We never went back.
In the fall of 1970, Jo, Rivets, and I moved in with the Helliwells and started the experiment of what it meant to live as a group, trusting God for everything. Tom had a job, and the rest of us went to school. I think there were 10 of us, including Tom and Marcia’s children.
A few months later, things went sour when Marcia accused me of flirting with her husband Tom. Marcia had a hard time dealing with all these girls living in her home, and I was a threat to her. I didn’t know how to handle her accusations and it tore the group apart. Rivets and Jo didn’t stick up for me and they didn’t know how to handle Marcia’s attitude. We all moved out and back home with our parents. We stopped meeting as a group, and I was totally at sea in my spirit. I was angry with Jo and Rivets and we were at odds over this. I started going to a church in San Bruno but I didn’t feel comfortable there. God was not letting me feel free with them and I knew I had to find out what God wanted me to do. I cried out to God for His direction and felt as if He had left me.
In January of 1971 I went to work in downtown San Francisco. Jo and Rivets both moved to Southern California. I was totally alone, and I cried out to God night and day for His direction. I was in desperate need to talk to someone about my problem. I wanted to go to Haight Ashbury and talk to Dick Keys, an evangelist working with drug addicts and down-and-outers.
I wanted to go to the main house where Dick lived with his wife and the others with whom he was serving God. I didn’t think it wise to go alone, so I asked Paul Roberts, Rivets’ brother, to go with me. I asked him to meet me after work since he worked in the city near where I worked. We could take the bus there and afterwards go home.
When we got there, Dick Keys wouldn’t see me for some reason, but I was welcome to talk to one of the girls who lived in the house. We went into a large living room but I didn’t want to pour out my heart in front of a lot of strangers, so we went into the bathroom to be alone. I told this lady all that I had been through and cried my eyes out. I felt so alone and felt that God had left me. I had nowhere to turn, and I was at my rope’s end. This lady listened to me and comforted me. She told me God had not left me but He was testing me and I needed a group of believers with whom to meet and pray. She said I’d have to find another group as their’s was about to break up. She would not go into details. When I left there that evening I felt I had a direction to go in, but didn’t know where.
Somehow Jo and Rivets ended up with a group in Reche Canyon where Bill had gone. I had their address so I wrote to them out of my despair. They shared my letter with the group and they wrote me back. One letter came from a man named Gommel, whom I had never met. They invited me to come and share with them my struggles and ask with them what God wanted me to do.
I knew when I read their letters that God was telling me this was His answer. I’ll never forget that evening. I was in the kitchen washing dishes and I felt the Lord saying to me, "This is what I want you to do." I was born again. In May of 1971 I quit my job, bought an airplane ticket, and moved lock, stock and barrel to Reche Canyon. I was going totally on faith. I had no idea what I was getting into. Before I left South San Francisco, I went one last time to a Dick Keys meeting to tell them I knew what the Lord wanted me to do and was going to do it. I finally had some direction and was stepping out on faith.
I came to stay, to the amazement of everyone. We asked together as a group what I should be doing with my life. For a while I cleaned houses for people. Pris, who was a member of our group, suggested I go into hospital work as a nurse’s aide. I felt God’s hand in this. I did this for 4½ years.
In 1973 Bill Lembright and I were married by Gommel in our living room after one of our Sunday morning meetings. This was the first time two members were married since the formation of the group. We did it in obedience to the Lord and with the group as our witness.
We were running a small general store called the Hitchin Post. When the subject came up that God might want us to run a second store, I was not in favor of it. I felt we would be spread too thin to do the job. We did what we call a secret ballot, and each person wrote what they felt God wanted us to do. I said "no" but the others said "yes" so I knew that God had other things in store for us. This was in 1975 and we operated two stores until 1981, when we sold the Hitchin Post. Some of us stayed in Reche Canyon and on Sundays we would travel to Lucerne Valley to meet together. 1976 I started working full time at the Hitchin Post Market because many of the group had moved to Lucerne Valley to run a store there. In May of 1981 we sold the store and house in Reche Canyon and the group came together again in Lucerne Valley.
The first Lucerne Valley Market was located where the Sheriff’s station is now in the old shopping center. We grew the business from a dark dingy store to a thriving business, and eventually outgrew the building. The building owners thought if they moved us out, they could take the business back and continue with the progress. He asked us to leave and sell the business, equipment, and fixtures back to him. That was an exciting time for the group. We felt God’s hand in that. It was very clear to us that God had something else for us to do. After selling the business we didn’t know what God wanted us to do next so we spent the first few months asking God what He wanted.
Bill and Linda went to work for a Safeway Market in Hesperia and I went to work for H& E Hardware in Victorville. Later I worked for the Apple Valley Inn until we opened the new store. Gommel spent the time drawing up plans for a new shopping center. We asked God if He wanted us to risk everything and build it. This was a rough time for the economy as interest rates were high and we were uncertain if the bank would loan us the money.
The Lord made it clear to us that this was what we were to do, so we went ahead. We risked everything and that was scary. That was trusting God in uncertainty. In March of 1983 we opened the new Lucerne Valley Market, with lots of room to expand and grow.
In 1985 we expanded the shopping center to include a coin laundry we call the Wash n Shop and two rentals: one is Shear Perfection, the hair salon, and the other became First Mountain Bank.
In 1989 we expanded L.V.M. from 15,000 to 36,000 sq. ft. We anticipated the growth to continue for at least 5 years, but the economy went into a depression. The High Desert, which included the Victor Valley, was and had been slow to recover. Lucerne Valley is now finally coming out of it. Many people had moved to the cities to get work, shrinking the population of Lucerne Valley and our sales. There was limited work available here since there are only a few businesses. Also, older people moved close to their doctor, medical facilities, or to retirement communities. (We would like to see a retirement community built here, but we are going to leave this to someone who wants to fight all the red tape that will go with it.)
The group consists of Gommel, Bill, Linda and me. We meet on Sunday mornings and evenings plus Wednesday evenings. On January 4, 2004, Barb, Gommel’s wife, passed on. Four of us work at the store for minimum wage, and we work as many hours as needed to get the job done. We do this in order for the store to make it financially. This is our commitment. Also we want to hire as many staffers as we can without hurting the store. We do this because we feel God wants us to give in this way. We don’t accumulate money for ourselves, and have signed away any profit that would be made when the store and shopping center is eventually sold. We are trusting God for our lives and our futures. We would like to invite you, to come and join us on Sundays. We meet at 8:00 am in our home on Highland Road.
We are challenged to live changing lives and show fruits of the Spirit. We try to not let the world influence us. My personal challenge is to not let the cares, riches, and pleasures of life influence me, and to be straight with the others in all aspects of my life. Also I tend to be too nice and want people to like me. This is what I ask God to help me change and to hate as much as He does.
Time is short and we must live each day as if it were our last. I must believe this and live each day trusting God. I must not presume upon His mercy, but live a repenting life and really want to change and then do it.