I, Robert, was born in 1938 near Algoma, Wisconsin, to dairy-farming parents. Both of my parents were practicing Roman Catholics; so, of course, I was baptized as an infant, and grew up in Catholic church.
When I was old enough to understand, something of the world around me, I realized that the World War II was over and the great depression that preceded it was over as well. Many transitions were taking place during this era. Early on, my father did some of the field work with horses; but as time went on, tractors and mechanization took over. I went to grade school in a one-room schoolhouse located on the edge of our farm; consequently, high school was a bit of a shock. When I began attending high school I joined the Future Farmers’ organization and soon grew determined to follow in my father’s footsteps. After high school I attended a fifteen-week Farm Short Course at the UW College of Agriculture. At age 22, I enlisted in the U. S. Army and served 6 years of active duty/active reserves.
Julie was born in the same county to Roman Catholic parents as well. Her father was employed at one of the major meat packers in Green Bay. Midway through high school her family moved near Green Bay, where she graduated from high school. Following graduation, Julie worked in retail sales in a large department store.
We met in late 1961 at a wedding dance that neither of us was invited to. We began to date and were engaged a year later. Following our marriage, in August of 1963, we farmed together with my parents for a number of years, until taking the farm over in 1974. Dairy farming is time and labor intensive, so much of our time was dedicated to that endeavor, as well as involvement in farm organizations and cooperatives. During those years, the Lord blessed us with two daughters and then a son.
We were very involved in our local Roman Catholic church as well. I was president of the parish council, at one point and Julie served on the school board. The teachings of that church were all that we knew. The Bible was just a big book turned open on a stand in our living room—sort of an ornament.
Time of Searching
In the late seventies with the stresses of the farm, and raising a family, Julie became a bit disillusioned with her circumstances, in comparison to what her expectations had been. In God’s providence, the “Jesus Movement” and the charismatic movement in the Catholic church began manifesting themselves in our area. Some of her friends became involved in the Bible studies and luncheons that were held, and they invited Julie to attend. She began to hear things from the Bible, things previously unknown to us. At first I wasn’t too interested because, after all, we were in the true church. But as time went on, we began to discuss some of the things she heard. Our veterinarian, an elder in the assembly with which we would eventually fellowship, gave us Bibles. As president of a local Christian radio station, he encouraged us to listen to the programs, soon we were hearing good Bible-based preaching.
Eventually, we began to notice differences, radical ones, between the teachings of the Catholic Church and the Bible’s teachings—namely salvation by faith alone, the Lord’s Supper, and absence of praying to Mary. We encountered some difficulty understanding what exactly “the new birth” was and how it came about. Eventually, in December of 1980, we both trusted Jesus Christ alone to be our Savior and Lord and experienced that new birth. In May of 1981 we started attending the assembly that has since become Country Bible Church.
A New Relationship
Before we were saved, we probably saw each other as the most important person in our lives. All of that changed now. There was a new person, One more important than our spouse, in each of our lives—the Man Christ Jesus, who, of course, was the eternal Son of God as well. We were saved in middle age and soon found out that there was much we didn’t know about our God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. We were biblically illiterate! We did know that we were saved beyond any doubt (1 John 5:13), an assurance we never had before. No more kneeling in the confessional before a priest, because now we could confess directly to our High Priest (1 John 1:9).
Though the dairy farm still consumed much of our time, little by little we learned biblical truth. Our assembly had one brother who had attended Emmaus Bible College, but the other men who taught had no Bible college education. Some coming from outside might have said that they were “uneducated and untrained men” (Acts 4:13). But all the brothers who taught knew Jesus and loved His Word, the Bible. Christian radio was another venue that aided us in our Christian growth and walk.
One of the blessings and privileges of fellowship in a New Testament assembly is the opportunity to use spiritual gifts. At some point in time, I was asked to speak at our Sunday evening meetings, and eventually at our Family Bible Hour on Sunday morning. There came a time when the elders saw leadership ability in me and asked me to join them in the oversight of the assembly.
Not long after being saved, I had a desire to be involved in ministry to a greater degree—perhaps attending a Bible college or seminary would better equip me. So we put our dairy farm up for sale—and it was up for sale for many, many years. (The Lord has His timetable for His own.) Finally, in 1997, part of the farm sold. Our son owns the remainder of the farm; he and his family are in fellowship in our assembly. But did I want to enroll in a Bible college at sixty years of age? The Lord, in His providence, helped with that dilemma. In February of 1998, Country Bible Church commended me as a local worker. I have appreciated so much the opportunity they gave me. I do some of our teaching and lead Bible studies as well. I write an article for our weekly bulletin, and visit our elderly and shut-ins at home, hospitals, or residential facilities. Julie helps me with the visitation and provides hospitality for visiting speakers.
Filling A Need
Even before I was commended, Julie and I had begun to take training in biblical counseling at Faith Baptist in Lafayette, Indiana, because we realized there was a need for that ministry in our local assembly. After our commendation, I earned an undergraduate degree in biblical counseling from Trinity Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana, in addition to training received at various seminars and conferences. I want to emphasize that our counseling is truly biblical, rather than integrational. Julie has been very helpful in this ministry, especially when counseling women. The counseling ministry that Country Bible Church has provided has been a benefit for our assembly, as well as for men and women from outside the assembly.