The Lord Makes Room for Us

Late in the 1950’s, the government decided to appropriate many of the properties in our area to construct a military air-base. This meant that we would lose our farm, now consisting of 25 acres of land, along with a number of buildings. Government appraisers valued our property for less than we had paid for it nearly ten years before, without any buildings. We thought about all our poor neighbors that were in the same situation as we were with their five-acre tracts, and considering our testimony as Christians, we decided to stand with them to fight the injustice.

Since we had the largest tract of land in the area, the government adjusters came to us and offered us a sizable amount more than they offered the others. They did this to try to get us to settle out of court, and thus discourage our neighbors from following through with court action. This, we felt, was unacceptable. We had lived in the neighborhood as one of them, and so we must remain with these people in their plight. Thus we joined with these other land owners of the community in their action. We realized we might lose a great deal by this, but after prayer, we considered it the only Christian thing to do. Standing with our neighbors to compel the government to appropriate all of our properties at a fair market value seemed to us to be the only right thing to do.

However, it was clear that we would have to relocate, and so we began praying for the Lord’s guidance. Humanly speaking, losing all of our property virtually overnight seemed so incredible to us. We had a nice assembly going there, with about sixty in fellowship, and with an excellent likelihood of further growth. The Lord was using us here to assist a number of other assemblies to get started in the South, so why would the Lord stop this now? It looked for the moment as if everything was canceled. Everything looked black and discouraging to us, but this caused us to earnestly seek the mind of the Lord, and trust Him to guide us.

A school official called us one day to ask us if we would meet with him and his wife. We didn’t think that this was unusual; we had been very involved in the school because of our own children and those we knew through the chapel. This couple had always been friendly toward us, and had appreciated our work with the young men.

They were saddened to hear that we would have to move, and they wanted to know what it would take to keep us here. We told them that all we needed was another piece of property. They were good friends with the owner of some wooded land about five miles up the highway, so they arranged an interview for us.

We were introduced in one of his many buildings. Because of our mutual friends, and because he was impressed with the work we were doing, he decided to sell us a forty-two acre spread of wooded land at well below the market price. He was a professing Christian, and we heard that he had earlier donated another piece of property for a church.

He offered us the land for probably a quarter of its market value—definitely an arrangement by an almighty God in answer to prayer. We were delighted, and wanted to accept his offer right away. There was only one problem: I had $50.00 in my pocket, and that was everything we owned. It might be months, maybe even years, before we could expect a settlement from the government for our Oil Well Road property.

The land owner took his reputation seriously, and it was very important to him to be taken at his word. Nonetheless, I had learned long before in my business dealings that it was important to have any agreement in writing, so as I prayed for the Lord to guide me, I said to him, “We know you are a man of your word, and if you say we can buy the property, that settles it for us. But we realize you don’t know us, so we would like to give you a little contract with a small down payment so you will know that we mean business.” I was thinking that I could put down the cash in my pocket.

He agreed, and arranged for a purchase agreement calling for a down payment of ten thousand dollars. I was stunned. I had intended to use my fifty dollars to seal the deal. It wasn’t too high of a deposit for the property, but where on earth would I get it?

There I was, praying silently. Finally I stammered out, “B-b-b-but, I was thinking of a very little amount down just to hold the property.” He explained that it would be highly irregular for him to sell property without a substantial down payment. “But, O.K.,” he continued, “how about $500.00?” I quickly talked this over with the Lord. Trusting Him to supply the five hundred dollars, I agreed to have it in a week.

Bill Walker and I had made arrangements to fly up to Alabama the following Saturday afternoon, to spend the weekend preaching at several assemblies. Just as I was leaving to meet Bill, our phone rang. It was our friend with the purchase agreement. The owner had already signed it, and if I could come out to her house with the down payment right away and add my signature, the deal would become final. I explained to her that we were on our way out of town for the weekend, but that I would surely stop by the first thing Monday and finalize everything.

When I arrived home on Monday, there was an unexpected call waiting for me. It turned out that the property owner had suffered a heart attack that Saturday night, and died. On legal inquiry, we learned that unless I had accepted the agreement before he had died, the agreement was null and void. I could have dated my signature back to before the death, and who would know? This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to ethics. Who would know? The Lord would!

The reason the signature had been so important was that although the owner had been willing to sell the property to us, his family wasn’t. They thought we were buying it too cheap. As much as we wanted the land, I could not get it dishonestly, so we prayed and left it in the hands of our God.

Months later, after the purchase agreement had gone back and forth many times between the family’s attorneys and our own, it was finally signed. This was a miracle. What had appeared to be impossible, was not impossible with God. Once again we learned that, “With God, all things are possible!”

Now that we owned the property, we were able to walk over it, and survey how we would use it. It wasn’t easy, since it was covered with dense growth, vines and trees so thick you could hardly walk through it. It was almost frightening to think what it would take to transform these woods into a livable habitation. Gladys and I would have been overwhelmed, were it not for the steadying hand of the Holy Spirit bringing scriptures to mind like, “Fear not; I am with thee.”

There was a distance of one long block between our property and the highway, which was wilderness. I went to a civil engineer and asked for a price of a survey. He wanted $200.00. I went to Sears and bought a survey transit for $75.00, a book on how to survey for $10.00, and did it myself. We saved $115.00 that first day, and then saved thousands later by doing all the preliminary surveying for our place. Vernon Jr. and I were able to get all the necessary elevations, the placements for all our buildings, and everything else that was needed to begin construction. Later, when it was time to put in streets, we had to hire a licensed engineer to satisfy the Parish requirements.

At the edge of our property was a drainage canal seventeen feet deep and twenty-five feet wide. There was no way around it to reach the highway. One of our first tasks was to build a bridge. It wasn’t much of a bridge, but it could be crossed with care.

To begin with the project, we decided to get into the lumber business. Edmond Falgout proved to be indispensable in this task, one of the first men led to the Lord on the Oil Well Road property. Now he was a beloved brother in the assembly. The young men that were still with us all helped in this project, too. We started by cutting down all the cypress trees on our old property at the Rehab Center. We hoisted them up onto an old truck we had purchased for a few dollars, and hauled them to a saw mill which cut them into lumber.

The Lord protected us from serious harm. The logs were big, and we were inexperienced. On one trip to the saw mill with a load of logs, the cable broke, scattering logs all over the highway. Sometimes, we would just about get them loaded onto the truck, when—boom!—they would break loose and roll off the truck. But we were persistent. Those trees provided enough lumber for our home, a 200-foot long chicken barn, the chapel, the men’s dormitories, and more. We hauled the boards from the sawmill back to our place and stacked them for drying. There was lumber all over our place.

We built temporary quarters for our family, and for several of the young men we had sort of adopted, whom we had brought with us. We were seeking to help them in their lives, and we needed to provide them with housing. The building was designed to be a twenty-by-thirty-foot garage, but ended up as a shelter for all of us. We divided it into two rooms. The bathroom amounted to a little outhouse at the end of a short path. For a bathtub, we acquired a round galvanized tub, and took turns using it in the house while the rest went for a walk. It wasn’t much, but we are still able to joke about “our house—two rooms and a path.”

Gladys did the cooking on a small gas stove that we fueled with a propane tank. Peetsie slept in our room, and Vernon Jr. and the boys stayed in the other room. We felt a little cramped, having lived in our spacious four-room house with a modern bath on the Oil Well Road property. There we had our house to ourselves and the men had their own dorm. We consoled ourselves with the thought that this was temporary, and we were doing it for the Lord. The place was built to be a two-car garage, but it turned out to be our house for several years. We painted it green, and called it “The Green House.” It maintained that name throughout its entire existence, regardless of the color changes it acquired.

We were able to persuade the Power and Light Company to put up some poles and give us electricity. We ran a small galvanized pipe from a hydrant on the highway to our house, about 1200 feet, and this provided us with running water. What Gladys has had to put up with is amazing! How she has stood up through the years is a miracle in itself.

It took us almost two years to put in a shell-rock road from our place to the highway. In the meantime, there was only a dirt road. When it rained, as it does very often in Louisiana, there would be no possible way to drive the car from the highway to our house. We would have to park the car on the highway, and walk the distance to our house. What a mess! When we needed to go to the store, to a meeting, to visit the sick, or anything else, if it had rained, we would have to walk all the way to the highway to our car. We had to take off our shoes and stockings, roll up our pants, and tramp through almost knee-deep mud. We carried a bucket of water and a towel, so that when we reached the car we could wash and dry our feet, and put on our shoes and stockings before getting into the car. When we returned, we would have to go through the same ritual. Walk through mud, wash off mud, before we went into the house.

When we had to abandon our place on the Oil Well Road, we moved the assembly to the Falgout home on the main highway, where we continued to meet until our new chapel was built. As the properties were appropriated for the air base, most people had to move away from the area, leaving only a few to move with us to become the core of the new work in northern Belle Chasse.

After our experience clearing and settling twenty-five acres of wilderness on Oil Well Road, we felt completely at home on the new property. We felt qualified as real pioneers. We didn’t have much money, so we had to improvise, and do many things ourselves.

We had never done any cement work before, so we were thankful that a brother came to help us, and give us advice. When we poured the concrete to form a slab for our garage/house, I thought we ought to smooth it down before it hardened. The informing brother corrected me, though, insisting that it had to stand a while before we began working it. Well, it stood awhile, and hardened up so much it could not be smoothed. We had to get a grinder to smooth it down.

The chicken house was a necessary building, and we designed it to be easy to build. We didn’t want any posts in the middle of the building to hold the roof up, so we built trusses the width of the building, and then hoisted them in place with the tractor. There were a lot of trusses, since the building was 200 feet long. We constructed the roof using corrugated metal. The building was designed to hold about two thousand laying hens in cages. Each cage held one hen. The eggs would roll out onto a tray so they could be easily collected.

Since we did not have money to supply everything we needed for this kind of layout, the man who owned the feed store, and who supplied us with our feed, insisted on financing the project for us too—another $5,000.00. This made it possible for the egg business to continue being a great source of income, enabling us to go forward with many projects.

Our next task was to build the chapel. We drew up plans for a simple building, thirty-five feet wide and sixty feet long. We put a platform in the front of it, complete with a built-in baptismal, and four small Sunday school rooms and two rest rooms in the rear. The building went up without a hitch. The Lord answered prayer continually for us. I was especially delighted when He led us to a fantastic buy on second-hand, beautiful, plush theater seats for only $9.00 each. They were my favorite color, too—red. When it was finished we had a big open house celebration. I was delighted when many people from the Parish attended, including some officials.

Vernon, Jr. was about fourteen when he came and insisted that the motor in our car had a bad sound. Unless it was fixed at once, we could expect it to break down completely, leaving us with no car to drive. He knew what was wrong with it, though, and he could fix it, he said.

He had shown an interest in auto mechanics, and had read a great deal on the subject. We thought that he probably would become an auto mechanic one day, since he was quite sure that he didn’t want to be a preacher!

When Vernon came to me with this information about the condition of the car, I told him that I should get a mechanic to look at it. I hardly knew anything about mechanics, so I didn’t understand what he said was wrong with it. He assured me he could fix it, and it would only cost us a few new parts. This was the only car we had, and since we certainly couldn’t afford to buy another one, I reluctantly consented to let him try and fix it. But Gladys and I weren’t really prepared for the his ambition that we were about to witness.

Two days later, Gladys called me over to where Vernon was working on the car. She was horrified, and I was stunned. There in the shed were three large bushel baskets filled with nuts, bolts, washers, and screws. The motor had been lifted out of the car, and there were wires and parts strung all over the place. Somehow I managed to keep my cool; after all, I did give him permission to fix it! Of course, that was before I realized that the repair involved a complete overhaul of the engine.

Mother, with all the composition she could muster, calmly asked her young son how he expected to put all this mess back together again. She added, before he had a chance to speak, that surely if anything was ever going to be put back together, the parts would have been laid out in order. He reaffirmed his convictions: he would put the parts back together, and make it run. I guess I had my doubts about this too, because I remember closing my eyes and saying, “I hope so.” I stayed away from the work shed after that, because I could not bear to see what I thought would probably be the last remains of our only car.

About a week later, Vernon came to get me, so that I could help him start the car. I got in the tractor and gave the car a little pull, while Vernon jump-started it. To my amazement, not only did that motor start on the first try, but it ran smoothly, with absolutely no knocking or any noise at all. We all knew now that he had to have a special gift to work on mechanical things, and I think that this gave him confidence to start his own very successful auto repair shop later in life.

After that first sour experience in laying cement ourselves, I thought that maybe the time was right for Vernon Jr. and I to try laying the slab for our new house by ourselves. It would be too big for the two of us to handle all at once, so we decided that we could do it in three sections. After hours of labor, we finally got the cement down and troweled out, but I made a decision then and there never to lay another slab. We hired a professional to do the work on all the rest of the buildings.

Vernon Jr. and I did just about the entire house ourselves. We did the plumbing, the electrical, and all the carpentry work, but got some help for the bricklaying. The bricklaying was too close to concrete work for me—extremely hard work. Except for some finishing trim work inside that we had help with, we built the whole thing from scratch, including clearing the land and making the lumber. When we didn’t know how to do something, we would take a trip to the bookstore and purchase a “how to” book, and go to work. Our house was built for a grand total of $6,000.00. In spite of the fact that we did it without any formal training or experience, it is still standing more than thirty-five years later.

Our family was elated when we moved from the “Two rooms and a path” house into this modern home. We designed it with three spacious bedrooms, a large living room/dining area, a complete kitchen with all-new electrical appliances, a laundry room, a two-car carport, and even a large office for me. Gladys thought she was in heaven. This was the first time in about twenty years that she had such modern conveniences. Not since we had left our home in Milwaukee had we enjoyed such comfort. We could hardly believe it wasn’t a dream. As we thanked and praised God, we were again reminded of the promise of the Lord when He said in Matthew 19:29, “And every one that hath forsaken houses…father, or mother…for My name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold.”

The men’s dormitory were the next building to go up. We built them out of cement blocks, and the lumber we had logged. It was very well-built, and would not be easily damaged either inside or out. It had about eight rooms. It was not as big as we would have liked, but our plans allowed for us to add on to it as the need for more space became apparent. This provided a place for the young men to sleep, freeing our family to live a more normal life. Gladys only had to cook for them now. We saw clearly that every inch of improvement on this entire project was an answer to prayer.

When we saw these buildings completed, we had a sense of joy that is impossible to describe. We all knew that the Lord was with us, and that He would never forsake us. We had a true sense of security in Christ. Knowing that the God of the whole universe was with us, we felt as though there was no mountain big enough to hinder our progress in His work. His great power and grace cannot be measured, even when, regrettably, our faith is so small.

By now we could see that we needed some streets for our project, so we drew two out. One connected the highway through our property past the chapel, so we called it Schlief Drive. The other street gave us access to our house, the dormitories, and the barn. We named it Good News Avenue. This street went on to become one of the best known streets in Belle Chasse. We designed it so that the street could be connected with another one that already had a name, but the Parish changed it to Schlief Drive in accommodation to us.

In years to come, Good News Avenue would be extended again and again, as it was developed into an arterial road for all of the new houses to be built. Since “Good News” is another word for “gospel,” everyone who drove along that street would be reminded daily of the “Good News” we preached from the Lord. I would like to think that it reminds them of the Lord who provided us with the good news of salvation; of His coming to earth, born of a virgin; of becoming the God-man; and of His judgment upon the cross of Calvary, sent there to pay the price for our sins.

We started a Children’s Home as an outgrowth of the Boy’s Home, which we had started in order to give the young men a place to go while they got on their feet. When we came across teenage boys and young men who were in trouble, we did our best to reach them with the gospel while we cared for them and gave them a place to live, hoping that this would change their lives for the better. When we first moved to northern Belle Chasse from “The Farm” on Oil Well Road, these young men lived with us until we were able put up a new building for them.

We expanded the building to provide quarters for a family who would be house-parents to the younger boys, and supervise them around the clock. We were able to find a very qualified Christian man and his wife to fill this position. He had been a sheriff, and he seemed to know how to deal with the disruptive older teenage boys that we had taken in.

Our ministry continued this way for some time. However, when we were asked to take in some younger boys who had no homes, we discovered that mixing these younger boys with the young men did not work out very well. The variance in ages presented a problem, because the older boys were becoming a bad influence on some of the younger ones. It didn’t take us long to see that a change would have to be made.

After much prayer and exercise before the Lord, we applied for a state license to operate a Children’s Home. We renovated the existing buildings, and built more so that we could accommodate both boys and girls. We had rooms for the girls on one end of the building, and rooms for the boys on the other end. We set up an apartment for house parents in between them. There was a large game room for the children to play in, and a yard that covered twelve acres or more.

We prayed about digging a lake, because children love to fish and be around water. Again, the Lord answered with nothing less than a miracle. The government was building a tunnel under the Intracoastal Waterway just a mile away from our land to carry traffic for the Belle Chasse highway. The engineers were looking for a very particular soil, with just the right percentage of clay. They tested all around, and found just the dirt they were searching for in the very spot we had wanted to dig a lake. They dug out a nice five-acre lake for us, seventeen-feet deep, in just the shape we designed. On top of this, they paid us over four thousand dollars for the dirt they hauled away! The joy the children had at this lake cannot be described, and we loved it as well.

I’ve always loved water and fishing, and now the Lord blessed us with our very own lake in our backyard. We landscaped the lake area with various flowering shrubs, planted rows of beautiful flowers, built pretty brick sitting places along the shore, and really tried our best to make it into a beautiful park for everyone to enjoy.

The US Wildlife Department stocked the lake with thousands of brim and bass, free of charge. We’ve eaten many a meal of fresh fish that we had pulled right out of that lake. Not only was the lake and the garden area around it nice for us and our children, it also provided a great opportunity to testify for the Lord when neighbors would come by to enjoy the fishing and restful serenity of our park.

Our lake wasn’t suitable for bathing because moccasin snakes, alligators, and nutria also lived in the water. So, we began praying for a swimming pool. The Lord answered this prayer by putting Vernon Jr. into the pool construction business. I helped him with the business part of it at the beginning, and he focused on the construction end. He and his crew of workmen would build many pools in people’s yards in the years to come. He built us a lovely swimming pool twenty feet wide, and forty feet long. You can believe that our children loved the daily swimming sessions.

We were ecstatic! Now we had everything we needed for the children we were taking in to raise. Along with the lake and the swimming pool, we also put in a tennis court, a badminton court, and other outdoor games and equipment for them to play with. There was plenty of room for them as well—about twenty acres. All of this made an attractive home for our children. In fact, we were rated as the top children’s home in our state by the State Licensing Bureau, but perhaps with the smallest number of children. In awarding us their top rating, they said that they did so not only because of the spacious facilities we had, but because the bureau recognized the personal loving care we strived to give to the children. They also considered the tangible results they were seeing in a visible change of behavior they noticed in the young people. To God be the glory.

It was fun to have the children around, and it made life very exciting to have them with us in their own home. We loved it. I think they loved it, too.

We’ve always striven to reach children with the gospel. It’s been my experience that most people who get saved get saved in their youth.

One time the children were playing behind our house; Gladys kept a watchful eye on them without disturbing them. The children didn’t even notice that she could see them. When they came in later, they asked her, “Guess what we’ve been doing.” She rattled off to them everything that they had done. The children were amazed, and insisted on finding out how she could possibly know. Thinking she would be funny, she said, “Don’t you know that I can see through the walls?” Shortly after this, Gladys was walking past one of the boy’s rooms. She overheard one of the young boys, little Santo, saying to the others in his room, “We better be quiet, you know that Mama can see through the walls.”

I have always enjoyed the straightforward innocence of little children. When getting ready for her birthday party, Peetsie looked at her mother, who had not changed her dress, and asked, “Mama, aren’t you going to put on a new dress?” When Gladys asked her why, she replied with emotion,” Well, my friends will be there and I’ll have to tell them that you’re my mother.”

Another lesson that adults should learn from children is how they can argue over some disagreement, but then quickly make up, and move on. They might get hopping mad at each other, but by the next day they will be playing with each other, as though nothing ever happened. The Lord instructs us not to let the sun go down on our wrath.

When our son was ten or eleven years old, he and another boy in the neighborhood pooled their savings and bought a bicycle for five dollars. They wisely decided at the time of purchase which half of the bike each one would own. Our son decided that he would own the frame, and the other boy decided that he would own the wheels. When they would fight and break up, the other boy would take off his wheels and carry them home, and our son would carry his frame home. In a day or so they would be best of friends again, so the bike would be put back together, and the boys would happily enjoy their bicycle again. Of course, it wouldn’t be long before we would see Vernon walking home again, carrying his frame. Every time they would have a disagreement, off would come the wheels, and there is no telling how many times this process was repeated. In the end, they remained the best of friends, with their agreement intact.

On the other hand, let two adults get into a heated argument, often over some trivial thing, and it can be years before they make up. One woman I knew had a silly little argument with her best friend over her children’s bedtime, and they didn’t speak to each other again for nearly twenty years.

Although most of the children have moved on over the years after growing up, not all have. Jessie Cheramie is one of the boys we raised in the children’s home from a very early age. He is one of a family of five children that we raised. Three of those Cheramie children were saved and became involved in the things of God, two at the chapel. Jessie became a good song leader, and later went on to become a deacon. I had the privilege of holding hands with him and Liddy, his lovely and capable wife, when they became united in marriage. Liddy became a Sunday school teacher, as well as Jessie’s sister, Gale.

We disciplined all our children with love, and they loved us. They were taught from the Scriptures, and were included in daily devotions with their house parents, or with Gladys and me. We always included them at the assembly meetings in the chapel when there was a service. In all, we raised about sixty children. We’re delighted that they have all grown up to become men and women that we can be grateful for, with good jobs, families, and respected as good citizens in the communities in which they live.

To show how the Lord leads, and how wonderful are His ways, we prayed about how best to sell off a part of the acreage in order to help pay for the many projects we were undertaking. We drew a little plan of a small subdivision that could be developed by some land developer. For this subdivision we allotted about one-third of our forty-two acres. We figured that since the land was worth about four times what we paid for it, we should be able to have, free and clear of any debt, the other two-thirds for our own endeavors.

We were simply amazed when one businessman offered us $20,000.00 more for that one small fifteen-acre plot of land than what we had paid for the whole of it. In other words, he would have given us the entire amount that we had paid for forty-two acres, plus $20,000 on top of it. This was a handsome profit, and very tempting. Our first inclination was to sell it, but we decided we needed to pray about it. Would it be the mind of the Lord for us to sell? Would He show us what we should do?

While we were waiting for an answer from the Lord, another businessman offered us $30,000 more for the same property. Now we prayed again. We realized we needed divine guidance to make the right decision. Again, we did not feel led to sell it yet. Then, a man offered us $50,000 more for this same parcel. Now we were really afraid to sell it. We reasoned that if this businessman could pay that much, and still make money on it, perhaps we could develop a subdivision ourselves, and use all of the profit for the Lord’s work.

The Lord guided us, working miracles, and soon we were able to borrow the money so that we could do the job ourselves. Through this whole chain of events, we were acting on faith. There is no other way to explain it, other than that God answers prayer! He parted the Red Sea for Israel when they called on Him and trusted Him. The Lord removed obstructions in the path of Moses as He led God’s people for forty years. He won all their wars against their enemies for them. These things He has done for us also through the years too.

We plotted out fifteen-acres of our property into smaller homesite lots, so that we could sell them individually for a higher profit, and enable us to pay off our entire project. We hired a civil engineer to redraw the lots and streets that we had already sketched, so that it could be presented to the governing board. Our project was under the jurisdiction of Plaqamines Parish, and officially its fate would be decided by the Parish Police Jury. Basically, though, nothing happened in Plaqamines Parish unless Judge Perez approved.

Appearing before the Parish governing body with an attorney, I was very uptight as I listened to our lawyer present our plans for the subdivision. I hardly need to mention that I was in constant prayer, asking the Lord to overrule any negative decision that might be forming in the minds of these powerful men, and who were now deliberating over our plans.

I remember vividly how my heart sank when Judge Perez said at one point, “I don’t believe we want any more subdivisions in our Parish right now.” I had learned that what the judge said, stood. But just at that moment, God again was to answer my prayer. Mr. Luke Petrovich, a member of that governing body, spoke up and addressed the panel of jurors. I had only met Mr. Petrovich just prior to this meeting, and he had seemed to like me, and was aware of our work in the community. Speaking out firmly on our behalf, it was his conviction that it might be a good idea to approve this subdivision. He added that it certainly couldn’t hurt anything, and further, he made a motion that they pass it. Everyone else on the jury unbelievably voted for the passage except the judge, and finally he agreed not to oppose it. Now, I remind you, this was completely unheard of in the “Judge’s Parish.” This just could not be happening here.

I want to mention here, that later the judge and I got along great. He always called me “Dr. Schlief,” or “The Doctor,” because he knew that I refused the title of Reverend. The Scripture gives this title to the Lord, and men have no right to use it. “Holy and Reverend is His name” (Ps. 111:9). Also, I think that he respected me because I would have no part in local politics, and I was firm in my convictions for the Lord. The judge’s friendship toward us proved helpful.

The Lord had worked everything out for us. Some might say that I had met with Mr. Petrovich by chance just before the official meeting. I don’t believe anything happens by chance. This world was created by God, not just a chance happening, and neither are the things in the life of a child of God. God has His finger on everything.

Mr. Petrovich was very friendly the day I met him, and somehow he was impressed with our endeavors in Belle Chasse for the Lord. I’ll always be grateful for his help that day, and his friendship through the years. That day in the Police Jury chambers was a crucial moment in my life, and for the future of our project. This was another example of the providence of God. The Lord had known the right person to contact, and had led in this matter. Our Lord is over all!

However, our trials in the matter of our subdivision were not over yet. We had to furnish a bond to the Parish to guarantee the development of the streets, and the amount of the bond was set by the engineer of the Parish in charge of developments. He set it extremely high, a great amount over what it should have been. Because it was set for such an exorbitant and inflated amount, we could not find a bondsman. There still were some who were not in favor of our subdivision, and were dead set against bringing more people into the Parish. We felt certain he had been pressured into setting our bond so high that we wouldn’t be able to post it, and thus not be able to subdivide the land.

After we had prayed about it, Gladys and I went to see the engineer who had set the amount of our bond. I learned that he was not a Christian, but he was a member of a large church in New Orleans. The pastor there was a close friend of ours, and a genuine born again Christian. I told him this, and I asked him what he thought his pastor would think of this matter, doing something that he knew wasn’t right. All the while I was praying to the Lord, asking Him to intercede for us. I could sense that the man really felt guilty about the whole matter. It ended up being a very nice visit with him. Over the course of the two hours we spent with him, we also were able to share the gospel with him. The next day he called me, and said that he was taking it upon himself to lower the bond nearer to what it ought to have been. The Lord does answer prayer, and works things out in very remarkable ways. He is able. These are things which just don’t happen!

At any rate, we used the property as collateral for a loan to get the bond and develop the property. Now we could start clearing the land, putting in the streets, bringing in the water, gas, and electricity, and providing for drainage. This was very exciting. We hired a bulldozer to take down the large trees and shape the land. We worked from sun-up to dark. I went out on our tractor, doing the fine grading of the lots, and grading along the streets for drainage. Vernon Jr. and many helpers all pitched in, helping with the surveying, picking up sticks and trash, cutting up the trees, and all sorts of many things that needed to be accomplished. All the trees that were taken down had to be disposed of, and we did this by burning them. This turned out to be a mammoth task just by itself. However, we did learn how to do it. It can be done.

During all of this clearing and shaping up of the place, we still remained very occupied preaching and witnessing as a testimony to the Lord, and some souls were getting saved. In fact, I believe that the Lord often used our work as a means for us to contact people, just so that we could be a witness to them. We were all encouraged and looking up, and our assembly was beginning to enjoy an increase in attendance.

During the clearing of the land, if we killed one, we killed one hundred deadly big snakes—and I mean rattlers and moccasins. Several had jumped right up onto the bulldozer to keep the operator company. Our operator usually didn’t appreciate the company, and would jump right off the dozer until the snake could be killed. Those were tense moments, but the Lord protected us from any serious accidents or harm.

I killed two nests of coral snakes, one of them right in our own backyard, a few feet from our back door. This was very frightening, because the coral snake is the most deadly snake in our area. If one bites you, you have about two minutes to get help. One of our Christian sisters from Honduras was cleaning her yard with a machete, and a coral snake bit her on her finger. Realizing how deadly the bite was, she promptly laid her finger on a log, and cut it right off with one whack of her machete, thus living to tell about it.

Peetsie was frightened by spiders early in her life. Maybe that came from the many black widow spiders we killed then.

Having overcome these many impediments, we did get the subdivision completed, and ready for sale. Satan was alive and well and still working, though. Some who opposed our subdivision had evidently used their political power, and called all the lending agencies in our area, instructing them not to grant home loans for any lots in our subdivision. No loan company would loan any money to build homes. No banks, no homesteads, not one. This meant that we would not be able to sell the lots, because who would buy a lot if financing could not be found to build a home on it? Again, we were cast on the Lord in prayer. We felt that surely the Lord had led in this whole project up to now, and somehow He would give help. Our hope was in Him. We were reminded again of those verses in the Psalms that say, “The cattle on a thousand hills are Mine…and the silver and the gold are Mine.”

In a lapse of faith, we put our confidence in the most successful real estate agent in New Orleans. We gave him an exclusive six month sales contract, and offered the lots at a ridiculously cheap price, hoping for any sales at all. The agent tried his very best to sell the property, and did a lot of advertising, but it didn’t generate one bite. At the end of six months, we were convinced that we hadn’t trusted the Lord the way we should have, and that we had failed the Lord by giving it to the agent to sell in the first place. We confessed our failure, our sin, to the Lord, and vowed to trust Him.

Now we put up our own sign, “Lots for sale.” We prayed that the Lord would perform a miracle for us if necessary. He did. Remember, people were not buying our lots because they could not secure loans to build their houses on them. Well, in answer to our prayers, the Lord had just the right persons in mind to change things for us. Our Lord is over all! In just a few days, He sent a couple along with enough money to buy the lot and build their home without a loan. Amazing. We were ecstatic with joy and thankfulness to God!

To make sure that our new neighborhood would be a desirable place to build homes, I designed and built those first homes in our subdivision myself, which we named “Lake Park.” All of our first home buyers paid for their houses, and lots, in cash. After a while, the banks and the homestead institutions began to see that they were missing business here by not offering mortgages for home building, and they began to slowly offer loans here and there. Soon they were competing for the loans. From the sale of lots, and the additional income from the houses we were building for people at a profit, we were able to use that money to more effectively carry on our ministry. This benefitted the church we had been establishing there in Belle Chasse, as well as our missionary efforts to start churches and build them up throughout the South.

How did we become builders? I went to the library and got a book on residential buildings. I learned how to put in a concrete foundation, all the necessary footings, the size of the wire and rods needed for reinforcement, the stress sizes needed for the lumber that would be required, and so on. Then I designed, drew the plans, and supervised the building of those first dozen homes in our subdivision. They were well built. They would be standing thirty-five years from now, as does my own. All this was enabled by the Lord, who gave constant help.

Soon after opening our subdivision, a plot of land became available next to our place. It was owned by the son of the man who had so generously offered us his land at a fraction of its value. He said that his land was available for sale, and that he would like to sell it to us, providing that all twenty-seven heirs of the estate would agree to the sale.

He soon called our attorneys, only to regretfully inform them that there was one heir to the estate who would never allow her consent to the sale. I was called over to our attorneys’ office to hear the bad news, and they also told me that he would be withdrawing the property from the market completely, in order to avoid any family problems. We were able to get him on the phone, and he plainly told me that he would not consider asking this one person to change her mind. In all his years, he had never known her to change her mind on anything. I asked him, “If perchance she voluntarily changes her mind and calls you, would you then sell the property to us?” He said “Yes,” and that was encouraging. But, he went on to add that he still intended to take the property off the market the next day.

When I hung up, my lawyer said to me, “What now?”

“Well,” I said, “ I still have one secret weapon to use.” Smiling, he asked me just what that secret weapon was that I was referring to. “Prayer,” I answered. “I believe God can change this lady’s mind,” and I went on to relate several experiences when the Lord changed people’s minds. “My God can do anything.” They were aware of some of the things God had already done for us, so they said they believed me.

I left the attorney’s office and got into my car, and I was about to get on my way to our weekly prayer meeting at the chapel, when I began to realize what had just happened. I had just put the Lord on the spot. I had not even left an opening for the Lord to say no. All the way to the prayer meeting, I was confessing my rashness to the Lord, and pleading with the Lord to make that person change her mind. I told the Lord that now that I had opened my big presumptuous mouth, if He didn’t do this, my lawyers would think that I did not have a prayer-answering God. All through the prayer meeting I was pleading with the Lord, mainly because I had been testifying to my attorneys about the Lord, and I did not want to see them have an occasion for unbelief.

When I walked into my house after the prayer meeting, the phone was ringing. It was my attorney. “Mr. Schlief, tell me honestly now, what have you been doing since leaving my office?” I told them I was at the prayer meeting, and then he wanted to know what our prayer meeting was about. I had to tell him the truth. “I honestly don’t know. All I’ve been doing all night is confessing to the Lord how foolish I’ve been to put Him on the spot, and now if He doesn’t make that lady change her mind and call on the phone, you won’t believe that I have a prayer-answering God.” He interrupted me to tell me that he had just gotten off the phone with the son representing the estate. The son had called him to say that he couldn’t believe it, but the woman had just called him saying she had decided to change her mind, and will sign off now on the sale of the land. Talk about an answer to prayer! Our God directs the minds of kings. Again I had the truth confirmed that nothing is too hard for our God.