18, No Time to Waste
"KATHI," I PHONED HER at her apartment, "we are invited to a farewell dinner for the pastor and the Wallis family, and they want you to come, too. It's Friday night; the Wallises are leaving for Brazil on Saturday."
"I can't, mom. I have to work." Kathi was genuinely disappointed.
I was too, for I wanted Kathi to get acquainted with the Wallis brothers, Dave and John, and I felt that they would really enjoy her. Kathi had seen John when she was cheering for the track team meets between Canoga Park High and Cleveland High and briefly at church.
I had even teased her one day after church, "You know who would be a real good boy for you? John Wallis."
Surprisingly, she met this statement with a smile; usually my choices were not hers.
Jim and Ann Wallis were missionaries from our church to Sao Paulo, Brazil. They were also special friends. Now they would be leaving for their third term, and their three older children would remain in the States.
Ethel, almost twenty-one, was finishing her last year at UCLA; Dave, nineteen, had just graduated from Canoga Park High, an honor student and track star. Tall and handsome, John was dynamic in his love for Christ and, like Kathi, in his positive expressions of his faith. It seemed inevitable that they should meet but when?
The swim-dinner party was lavish with food and fun; the teenagers swimming in the pool and playing volleyball at the far end of the yard were wholeheartedly enjoying themselves. I was wistful, wishing Kathi were there.
Although it was a wonderful evening, we were sad that our beloved young pastor was leaving the church to go back East. And the Wallises, so dear to our hearts, would be sailing the next day for Sao Paulo.
I thought back to Jim Wallis's message the previous Sunday evening when he had asked the congregation, in a broken voice, to "look after his precious children" while they were gone. How difficult it must have been for them to say good-by to part of their family.
"I wish you could take Kathi with you," I told Jim. "She would make a good little missionary."
As we said our good-bys, I hugged Ann Wallis and she said, "Well, we'll see you in four years."
Something tugged at me and I thought, No, Ann, it won't be four years at all.
The next day friends and family met at the pier in San Pedro to wish them well; it would take over thirty days to make the long trip to Brazil.
Ann kissed her children, turned to give her tall son John an extra hug, and then broke down. John patted her shoulder gently. "Don't cry, mom. I'll save my money and come down at Christmas."
Jim and Ann, with their younger sons Bobby and Jim Jr., walked up the long gangplank, waving bravely with set smiles.
Among the group of friends that day were Joe and Veda Quatro with their five children. The Quatro boys, Steve, Jim, and Mike, were special friends of Dave and John. Mike, just seventeen, was planning on a medical missionary career. Strong in his faith, Mike was a real witness at Chatsworth High, a quiet boy with a quick sense of humor. He was active in our Senior High Department at church and, with John and Dave, would meet with Pastor Smith in his office before the Sunday morning service for prayer. Often as I was hurrying to choir practice, I would see the three boys entering the pastor's study with their Bibles in hand. It was an unusual sight; but then, Dave, John, and Mike were unusual boys.
No sooner had the Wallis family set foot in Brazil when they received a letter from Mike:
Dear Jim Wallis, Sr., father, Ann Wallis, mother, Bobby and Jim Jr., sons:
This letter should arrive in Brazil about the time you get there. The Lord is working fantastically here. Ethel gave devotions at teen-time, and I thought Jesus would appear any minute. She told about getting and giving, so I gave a little the next day. I talked to a girl at school and she asked me why I wanted to be a missionary. Wow! One other fella asked if I had witnessed to him before. I had. He said it had influenced him to accept Christ. Next I got an assignment to do research on Israel, and I told the class how God said Israel would go back to the land and all about the Bible and what I said. Then I got to read from the Bible in class. Last Sunday, Pastor and us guys prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Unbelievable people were pouring down the aisles.
And the letters John sent his parents were filled with news of his busy life and of his love for Christ. John told them of a Missions Camp in Northern California to which the church was sending four young people.
"Mike, Dave, Kathi Johnson, and I are going," he wrote.
My intuition had been right; when John finally met Kathi, he liked what he saw. One Sunday morning I was wondering why she hadn't come down to sit by me, when I saw them sitting together, getting acquainted. Later, after church, John, Mike, and Kathi were grouped together in excited conversation.
"Guess what I'm going to do!" she exclaimed when she came home for dinner that Sunday. "I'm going to Missions Camp with John and Dave Wallis and Mike Quatro."
I was stunned. "You are?"
"And I'm going to drive."
"You are?" I repeated dumbly. But I became as excited as Kathi when she talked about it.
"The church is sending four kids, and they asked me." Her face was aglow.
Suddenly, "But I promised I'd drive," she remembered dejectedly.
"What car did you plan on driving," Vern asked, half-smiling.
"Well " she didn't know.
"Don't worry, we'll find you one."
All of us were in high spirits at Kathi's decision to attend the camp. We would do anything to help her. For even though she had moved in with Felicia, Kathi had finally become "our girl."
John Wallis brought a quiet, strong influence into Kathi's quicksilvery life. She became more stable and relaxed, yet her smile was even brighter, more radiant. She was experiencing answers to her lifetime prayer; she was learning to trust Christ completely.
All the tugging and nagging I had thought necessary to bring my daughter into harmony with God's will had not been needed at all. It was the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit that had wooed and won Kathi; she heard His call and responded.
I was ashamed that I had tried for so long to do the Holy Spirit's work. Never again would I be the spokesman for my children's thoughts. I would tenderly guide them and direct them into faith in Christ, but I would let God Himself do the work of convincing and convicting.
I had learned a valuable lesson!
Table of Contents || Chapter Twelve