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Yesterday...page 5
Our Adventure Continued
 
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We had to leave our government home in two weeks with no place to go and no way to run back to the wisdom and comforts of family and familiarity in Florida. God had put us right where He wanted us, to begin a 22-year test in trusting Him in Matthew 13:20-23, Mark 10:29-30, and Luke 18:22.

PE03602_.WMF (2166 bytes)At that critical time God gave us a special Christian friend, born and raised in this one-room log cabin in the Olympic Mountains. He was for many years a Mountain Rescue "Man Tracker". This friend took us up to another one-room log cabin, where two generations earlier a couple had raised ten healthy, well-adjusted children into God-fearing, productive adults. A little light began to glow in my spirit. We were being called to God-focussed simplicity!

What HAD God already given me to provide for my family and at the same time keep life SIMPLE while preparing for the hardships of mission life? I had grown up making art, crafts, woodworking, stained glass, and little inventions, my first love with a flare for functional and mechanical art.


PE03602_.WMF (2166 bytes)Being a non-conformist Hippie in the 1960's taught me that, well...a school bus was a viable option for living in! I approached my 28 year-old loving, pampered, well-bred, and cultured wife, six months pregnant and with three children under five, kissed her on the cheek, and asked her if she would like to live in a school bus. Would any man reading this like to try that? 

After a night of much prayer, Diane said, "OK, ...but make it pretty...". Do you remember that classic moment in the movie when Adrian looks up at her husband from the hospital bed and says, "WIN, ROCKY,WIN!! My wife tells me (an artist) that her only stipulation to living in a bus with 4 kids is to make it pretty! WHAT A WOMAN!!

The Navy taught me survival skills, and had taken me around the world to observe simpler cultures in action. As a Machinist's Mate I learned general mechanics, motors, machining, hydraulics, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, welding, water distillation, piping, wiring, and power generation. 

The Coast Guard taught me Diesel engine mechanics and small engine repair, but above all, that with functionality and space properly utilized, six grown men could function on a 42-foot Search and Rescue vessel. I could certainly design a 35-foot bus to comfortably house a family of six. With God's wisdom, I did! Many of my design and utilization of space ideas came from my Navy and Coast Guard ships.

We found a decrepit 1951 International Harvester school bus in the woods, and traded our only car for it. That summer we lived in a 150 sqaure foot goat barn until the bus was livable. The barn and place to park and live in our bus was provided by another friend with 7 acres near Port Angeles.

Over the next 18 years we converted and abode in 3 more school buses that we converted together as family projects, which provided us the mobility, and financial freedom to pursue His plans and preparations for us as individuals and as a family. Each bus WAS attractive, functional, and comfortable.

Stained glass windows, large skylights, hard-wood floors and cabinetry (oak), 86" high ceilings, ceiling fans, real tile, indestructible Kydex® walls, H/D washer/dryer, microwave/convection oven, separate refrigerator and freezer, privacy, comfort, ample storage, computer, telephones, tub/shower, china toilet,  room for six to roam, and room for 12 to sit comfortably were standard in each bus. Got to see my design and look inside to believe it!


PE03602_.WMF (2166 bytes)This is bus number three, in 1988, parked on ten acres behind a church in Bensalem, PA, near Philadelphia. 

Bus MAKE/MODEL Purchase Price Total  Conversion Costs  Years of ownership
1 1951  I.H. a 1977 car $ 4,560.00 1979-1982
2 1964 Ford free $ 6,200.00 1983-1986
3 1967 GMC $300.00 $ 8,677.00 1986-1989
4 1962 GMC free $ 10,803.00 1991-Present
 
Our home in America is bus number four, presently parked on the property of a 
good friend from our church, in tiny Christmas, Florida near Orlando. 

Each bus is a separate story of God's miraculous provision and of innumerable family adventures, and opportunities for witness across America in RV parks, interstate highway gas stations and restaurants, churches, and our children's schools. We home schooled them for five years and then put them in public schools to be (as they were) dynamic witnesses.

Most of our expensive electronics,  personal documents, and photos of all four buses were in a travel bag stolen by the Vladivostok Security Police (we could not believe it either!) as we returned to Siberia this past year. Sorry we can not share all our best bus photos.

"ARGG!"
  
Our bus homes were not goals, triumphs, or ends in themselves for which we strove for recognition, notoriety, or contentment. They were simply God's chosen tools, classrooms,and opportunities in our lives to build character: to learn about ourselves, one another, about faith, and God's faithfulness. They forced us to grow close to one another and most importantly, to grow close to God. There was no room for "things" of little or temporary value in our buses, and thus, strangely and wonderfully began to lose their places in our hearts as well

We learned to find joy and recreation with one-another and in family worship. Television was not standard in our buses. We learned that things like contentment, joy, peace, and prosperity are not counted in dollars or measured in the size or numbers of one's home or possessions.They are found  in daily devotion to Jesus Christ, and in the simplicity of loving Him and one-another.

The most thrilling aspect of bus life, was watching so many outside the faith reconsider the claims of Christ through our firm dedication to finding simplicity in life and faith. In the midst of a myriad of material and time distractions modern America offers, they saw us loving life and using our time and money for God and family [not family possessions]. Many too within Christianity were challenged to re-commit and refocus on the important eternal aspects of life and to forsake many worldly and trivial pursuits.(Philippians 3:7,8,and 18-20)

By far the most hurtful and difficult aspect of bus life was the overwhelming rejection from the majority of Christians we knew or met. Some rejected us and our lifestyle because of theologies which link spiritual health with material and financial "health" (of such speak 1 Timothy 6:5-11 and James 2:2-9). Among most however who were bold enough to forsake gossip and confront us, the issue was that God could not have possibly told us to live that way. Why? Because if He told us to, He might tell them to, and they just could not [would not] handle it! We praised God for the honest ones! 

Among God's people, so much time, energy, and money goes into things which can not bring satisfaction. When six people live in 262 square feet, life gets real simple! It was just not fair that we had so much joy and contentment without the "things" so many struggle for. (Jeremiah 2:12-13)

The week before we moved to Siberia for the first time in 1996, a very disheartened and apologetic gentleman called from Siberia to inform us that he was unable to find a home of suitable size for American expectations. We asked him for the home's dimensions. We then made his day by describing our very adequate and comfortable bus home, and that his provision was 200 square feet larger!

Yes, God was calling us to the field for which He had prepared us for 20 plus years: a field of great discomfort and hardship where God's love, spiritual health and growth, contentment, joy, and peace are not measured in possessions, money, or lands. We were ready!

Today, we are living in the small town of Vilyuysk, in a two-story log cabin God has provided through the generous gift of a Christian couple in Vienna, Virginia. We have a Yakut family with their three teenage children living with us, as well as Yakut friends/relatives in need, and students from distant villages living here. The ONE room Diane and I have as our bedroom, office, quiet retreat, counseling area, and bathroom is-- you guessed it! 8 feet by 24 feet! Almost the exact square footage and dimensions of our bus homes!
       


Let's talk . . .
mike@icefishing.net