Spiritual Warfare

The Lord graciously used us to reach hundreds in this community for Him, and in a while we had an attendance of several hundred at the chapel. It was not without opposition from the devil, though. Some folks thought that they were doing God a favor to harass us. For example, someone actually started a petition to, as they put it, “Get rid of Schlief because of his religious teaching.” The petition did not get very far, since many folks in the community knew us, and refuted the idea that we were religious scoundrels.

There also was a man who thought he would try to frighten us away. In the middle of the night, we would be awakened by a shotgun being discharged outside our bedroom window. Sometimes it would be fired into the air, and other times it would be fired right at our house; we would hear the pellets hitting the bricks on the outside wall of our bedroom. We could see the indentations left by the pellets in the brick the next day. This was very scary, and we were concerned about going outside at night for fear of being a target ourselves. This went on at intervals for about six weeks. Our nerves were getting on edge. We knew the Lord was protecting us from harm, but it was getting to us. There would be the boom of a gun, then a car would speed away.

One night I stayed up and sat in my car in the carport. At about three in the morning, I heard the gun go off, and saw the car speed away. I raced after it, hoping to make out the license plate number. Anyway, when I got closer, I recognized the car. Then I saw that the driver saw me, and I figured that he would recognize my car anyway. I left the scene in a hurry, and came back home. Gladys and I talked it over, and our first impulse was to call the police. But, after discussing it some more, we decided to just pray about it, and leave it with the Lord, which we did.

That ended the shooting. There were no more disturbances late at night. We reasoned that he had seen me following him; now he knew that I was aware of his identity, and he knew it. But in God’s design, we knew that it was the Lord who had delivered us from this terrifying experience. We even managed, with the Lord’s help, to get friendly with this man in later years. We took advantage of a number of opportunities to testify to him, and we prayed for him, but we never revealed any of what had happened to the public.

An elderly woman, the mother of a woman we had previously led to the Lord, had a room in her house which she had dedicated as a place for worship. This room was just filled with statuary items, large and small. She spent several hours each day praying to the different saints, as represented by the various images.

One day we were able to lead her to the Lord, and she trusted Christ as her Saviour. Then she saw the truth of the scripture, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:5). She said that now that she knew the Lord Jesus as her Saviour, she could pray directly to Him. She realized the error of kneeling before all this statuary, so she decided to get rid of it all. Some of these pieces were real works of art, for which her family and friends had paid dearly.

She had made up her mind that she did not want to give them to her children, because she didn’t want them to become worshippers of idols. On the other hand, she reasoned that if she put the images in the trash can, the trash man might take them. He might bow down before them, or sell them, and so others might be misled as to who should be worshiped. She finally decided that she would break them up first, and then put them in the trash can.

She took them and threw them on the sidewalk in an effort to crush them, but they would not break. Most of these items were made of porcelain, or bisque, and were very delicate and expensive. They were so fragile that they might break even if they should be dropped on a soft carpet. But when she threw them on the sidewalk, they just bounced. She told us later that she believed that Satan was not allowing them to break. She knelt in prayer, and asked the Lord to help her break these idols. She then took a hammer, and broke them in pieces before putting them in the trash can.

Like so many that are steeped in religion, she had never read the Bible before. Once she was introduced to it, though, and realizing that it contained what the Lord had to say to her, she just reveled in the Word. As she read it, she learned more about her Saviour, and her relationship with Him. We could see the change in her life and her attitude. She would go on to remain faithful for years to come, attending all the meetings, being a testimony to her family and winning a number of them to the Lord.

The main objective of our work in Belle Chasse has always been to see souls saved and a scriptural assembly built up to honor the Lord. This meant that a great deal of my time was spent talking to men and women about their soul’s destiny. It wasn’t easy. The people appeared to be religious, but not many were familiar with the Bible, or believed that it was in fact the very Word of God. Whenever I showed people a piece of land, or sold them eggs, I exercised any excuse I could to speak to them about the reality of the existence of God and His saving grace through the sacrifice of His Son.

If they expressed any interest at all, they would be invited to come into my office, or sit down to have a cup of coffee in our home, and listen to a gospel presentation from the Bible. Now and then a person, or a couple, would respond to the invitation of the Lord to trust Christ as their Saviour. Thus a number was added to the local assembly, where they in turn would be taught to be a witness, and live a life for Christ before their unsaved friends and relatives.

When one thinks about it, this one-to-one evangelism was practiced in the early days of the church in the New Testament with tremendous results. I still think that this is the most effective outreach of any assembly. This method was practiced among the disciples of Jesus. Andrew brought his brother in (Jn. 1:40-41). We have encouraged this method of getting the gospel out in our area.

Johnnie Phelan, a personal friend of mine, has the gift of evangelism. From time to time, he would come to our chapel to conduct meetings. One such series of meetings almost caused a riot. We had a chapel full of children, and twenty or thirty riotous folks from a neighboring city took exception to our meetings. They stood outside the chapel yelling and screaming insults, and throwing rocks at the building. Then, they took a large thirty-pound crockery flower pot we had on the porch, and threw it through the large stained glass window at the front of the chapel. When it landed inside the chapel it sounded like an explosion, hitting the floor and scattering dirt and glass everywhere, scaring both the children and us. I quickly prayed to the Lord for help, seeing that these people were stirred up and angry, and determined to break up the meeting. The Lord did help us, and we were able to get them to leave without calling the police.

We brought the good news of salvation to a seafood dealer in New Orleans who insisted that he already was a very religious man, although he still did not know for certain that he would go to heaven when he died. When he was shown from the Bible in 1 John 5:13 that it was possible to know this for sure, he put his trust in the Saviour. His whole life changed. Whereas before he often weighed the shrimp along with his hand, ice, and a good measure of inedible heads, as a new creature in Christ he was able to overcome habits like this.

After he was saved, his wife, son, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, and a good number of relatives were won over to the Lord. His family saw no further need for all the statuary they had in their home, so they loaded them into his pickup truck and hauled them off to the dump. We had baptisms very often, for quite a while. He and his family were a great testimony to those preoccupied with religious ritualism. Our chapel in Belle Chasse seated nearly three hundred, and people filled it, many with their own testimonies like this one.

A man began to attend our gospel meetings who secretly had dealt in white slavery. He confided this to me when he had been convicted of his sin from the Word of God. He sought, and found, forgiveness from the Lord that day.

I shudder as I think of the sordid details of white slavery, practiced by many in the New Orleans area. Young girls are snatched up by these ruthless people, and actually sold into a life of prostitution. Various methods of breaking a girl’s will are employed, including beatings, drug addiction, and other wicked practices.

When he was confronted with the righteousness of God in the meetings, the Holy Spirit convicted him, and he saw what a wicked person he really was. He finally broke down in a terrible agony of tears. Realizing his sins, and the certain judgment of God, he saw himself headed for an eternity in the Lake of Fire. Obviously in desperate need of spiritual help, I counseled him from the Scripture. Verses from Romans 5:6-8, and John 3:16 became very real to him as he cried out for deliverance. In Romans 6:23 and John 3:36, he saw God’s offer to him, and simply put his faith in the Lord Jesus as his personal Saviour.

His wife, along with some of the other members of his family, also publicly professed their faith, so we baptized them along with him. The change in his life was so dramatic, and his public testimony was so strong, that many of his relatives and others would also be saved in coming years through his testimony. The Lord is able to save to the uttermost. There is none, no matter how vile, who cannot seek refuge through the blood of Christ.

After being received into fellowship in our assembly, he continued faithfully with us until being called to glory. I never made known to his family, or to the public, the secret life this man led before he was saved. The Lord has cleansed him, his new life honored God, and he was used to lead other souls to Christ. What a testimony to the grace of God!

A woman was saved at the chapel whose husband hated the gospel, to the point that he would not even consider listening to the Word of God. When his wife was baptized, he made a big scene outside the building. He kept a loaded gun in his house, and his wife feared he would certainly shoot me if I dared go to his house. He was very antagonistic against me, as well as the chapel, and had actually threatened to shoot me—all because of our stand for Christ, and His Word.

After prayer one day, I took my Bible, and ventured out to see him anyway. I found out that the Lord had been working on his heart, and the Spirit had convicted him of his sin. When he let me into his house, he just broke down, crying for the mercy of God. Harry was saved that day and what a testimony for the Lord he turned out to be! God is rich in mercy, and thus this man was able to have everlasting life by coming to Him, and in simple faith trusting the Saviour of sinners.

We had just built a house for a nice young couple. I had been testifying to them about the Lord and about His saving grace. They both were members in good standing of their church denomination, but, like all too many, they never had read their Bible. They had not understood that because of the sacrifice of Christ, they could be saved from a final judgment of their own sins. They did not know that by simply believing and receiving Him as their own personal Saviour they could know for certain that they were on their way to heaven.

That Saturday, I was exhorting this man to take out an insurance policy on his house, so that in the event of his death, the insurance company would pay off the mortgage for his wife and family. He assured me that he intended to get the insurance on the following Wednesday. Then I went over the gospel with him again, as I had been doing since we met. I seldom try to urge people for an immediate decision, but for some reason I felt it was urgent for him, and he seemed so close to being saved.

I used the insurance policy as an object lesson. I tried to persuade him to trust the Lord, settle it now, and have eternal insurance for his soul. He stalled, saying he would surely come in Wednesday, his day off. After he had taken out the mortgage insurance on his house, he would talk to me again about his soul, and get it all settled.

I guess I felt the Holy Spirit was dealing with him, and since we had discussed the matter of his soul’s safety at length, I asked him why he would not make the decision for Christ then. He reiterated that he would wait until Wednesday to do it. I reminded him that the Lord might come in the Rapture at any minute, or he could lose his life, and then it would be too late. Nothing I said could change his mind. For some reason, he determined to wait until Wednesday.

On Monday morning the man was killed in a terrible accident. I can only hope and pray that he had settled his sin problem with the Lord after he left me. His wife asked me to preach his funeral because of my sincere interest in them, and she trusted Christ shortly after.

One year, when we were at the Mid-South Bible Conference in Nashville, I had just finished speaking when I received a long distance phone call from a young woman I had led to the Lord about six months earlier. She said she hated to bother me, but it was very urgent for her to get an answer to a serious question: “Will I go to heaven if I shoot myself?”

I assured her that she would, but that she would lose her reward, and could be denied that word from her Saviour, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Then I told her to wait, and not do anything until I could talk to her about it in person. We talked on the phone at some length, and finally she calmed down and agreed she would wait to see me.

A day or so after I arrived home, she showed up at my office. She said that she had given up the idea of suicide, and had made up her mind as to what she intended to do, but wanted to talk to me about it first. She was as cool and calm as she related the events which had led up to her phone call.

When she had called me, her husband had told her that he was leaving, and then abruptly left. She did not know where he was, or what had happened to him. She was so distraught that she felt suicide was the only way out for her. By now, though, things had changed. Her anxiety and confusion had changed to anger. She opened her purse, and inside was a gun. Her husband and his girlfriend were shacked up in a motel room, and she knew which room they were in. She wanted vengeance. She said that she was going to go there immediately, and shoot them both.

I knew her husband wasn’t saved, and I presumed the girl he was with wasn’t either. I asked if she realized that if she killed them, they would both be in hell, and would burn forever. They would not have an opportunity, as she did, to trust the Lord. I asked her directly, “Do you understand this? And is this what you truly want to happen?”

She, without a moment’s hesitation, adamantly answered,” Yes, I know it! And that’s just what they deserve!” After an hour or two of counseling and prayer, she was able to put aside the shooting intent and leave it with the Lord. A little later, this young woman was reunited with her husband, and praying with us for his salvation.

I had led my brother, Marius, and my sister, Loretta, to the Lord early in my Christian life. My brother, Cleadis, had become an atheist over the years, and had no interest in the gospel. I just couldn’t talk to him about the Lord; he would have none of it. So we prayed for his salvation. For fifty years, we prayed. I had read that George Müller had prayed for his brother for 50 years, and when someone asked him when he would give up, he said he believed God would save him yet. Two years later, George’s brother was saved. So Gladys and I never gave up on Cleadis. The Lord’s ways are wondrous, and He does answer prayer!

Gladys’ father gave a very clear testimony on his death bed in a St. Paul hospital, as we all stood by him. God used this to touch Cleadis, and it seemed to affected him greatly. The testimony Gladys and I had been to him throughout the years started to bear fruit, and I was able to really talk to him about the Lord for the first time.

About a year later, I got a long distance phone call from Chicago. It was Cleadis. “Vernon, can Luella and I come down and stay with you awhile—I want to get saved.” I couldn’t believe my ears—after fifty years! To our joy, they came down, attended the chapel, and Cleadis was gloriously saved. He immediately started testifying for the Lord, and helped greatly in the work here.

Gladys and I left to spend three weeks in Europe shortly thereafter, and my brother was a terrific help in the chapel while we were gone. He had a whole new outlook on life, and he was determined to serve the Lord. Much to our sorrow, however, the Lord took Cleadis home to Glory several weeks after we had returned from our trip. I had prayed for his salvation for fifty years, and the Lord had answered my prayer. Why the Lord took my brother to heaven so soon we will never know until we get there. We trust Him, that “He doeth all things well.” I’m just thankful he made it.

During our lifetime, we have been privileged to lead perhaps thousands of souls to the Lord. It’s our job to present the gospel, but it’s the work of the Holy Spirit that must convict souls of their sins, and lead them to put their trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus on Calvary. It is only there that God can forgive their sin, accepting the shed blood of the Lord Jesus on their behalf, and give them the gift of eternal life. I just want to make this clear, nothing in the salvation process depends on us, except this: as the Word says of Andrew, “He brought him to Jesus.”

I met Bob Clark in a Bible class that I held in a meeting room downtown at the St. Charles hotel. I placed an advertisement in the newspaper for the class, that began something like, “If you are tired of man-made religions, preachers preaching for money, and church organizations bleeding you—if you would like to see a return to the simple scriptural pattern set forth by God, then meet with us at…” About 15 people showed up, and Bob was one of them. As a result, he became interested in New Testament church teaching, and continued to study the Word with me.

We had, over the years, accumulated some Spanish-speaking believers in our assembly at Belle Chasse. When Mr. Santos came to our assembly, we learned he had been an elder in his assembly in Honduras, and knew the Word of God. We began to pray for a Spanish-speaking meeting, and as a result, about a dozen believers hived off from our Belle Chasse assembly. I visited them often, seeking to give teaching help, and Bob went to the trouble of learning Spanish so he could be of help to them, too. He continued meeting with them for years, and with Bob’s instrumental help, they soon became well established on their own.

As another outreach for the assembly, we decided to start a Christian bookstore. We called it the Good News Book Store, and opened it with the help of a dear couple that I had led to the Lord, who volunteered to operate the store. At first, we rented a store building in downtown New Orleans, smack dab in the French Quarter. The French Quarter is noted as an area where anything goes, and we learned that there was some truth to that.

At first we observed that there was a problem attracting people to come into a Protestant, religious store. We realized that we needed to have something else in the store that would draw people in, so an idea came to mind to put some antiques in the window and on some shelves to help attract people. After we did this, we began to sell some books and Bibles. Also, now we had an opportunity to witness, give out tracts, and testify to people about our Saviour. Some souls were saved, and Christians were helped through this effort too, making it all very worthwhile.

We had some exotic experiences in that place. Some women came into the store half dressed, others wearing see-through gowns. Homosexuals, drug dealers and users, and profane men flood the quarter. Our store was in the midst of it all.

We operated this store downtown for about a year, but we thought that it was too dangerous to have women working in that neighborhood. Some had been in jeopardy several times, and were saved in the nick of time when a customer happened in at the right moment. We wanted to continue this as an outreach, but we decided to move the bookstore out to our property in Belle Chasse. We thought we could have a separate store for the antiques, but keep it all in the same building. We built such a building from the ground up, especially designing it for the two businesses. We kept the name for the bookstore, ‘The Good News Book Store’, and named the other store “Schlief’s Antiques.”

Our bookstore grew in size until it became known as the largest bookstore in the New Orleans area. We enlarged it three times to make room for more books, gifts, and records. We maintained a coffee room in the book store so that when we met someone interested in their soul, or needed to clear up a doctrinal matter, or counsel in a personal matter, we could talk to them over a cup of coffee. At lunch time it would double as a lunch room for workers and guests. Here we could enjoy fellowship with one another, and discuss the day’s events or problems. Only eternity will reveal the full extent of the value of the book store.

The book store was started as an outreach for the assembly. It has been that. Many have been added to the fellowship through the store. However, the majority of people saved at the store never end up in our meeting.

For example, after Peetsie began managing the store, she led a woman to the Lord. A week later, she came back, rejoicing in her salvation, to thank Peetsie for helping her find the Lord. “You must be so happy for me. I was baptized Sunday and joined the ‘so and so’ church.” Peetsie, though glad she had found fellowship, was disappointed that her child in the faith did not consider joining with us in our simple assembly of believers.

So many people expect things to be structured, man-made, with a man at the head. A huge, expensive church building, a large main-line denomination to put its stamp of approval on it, a salaried preacher that’s been schooled with years of training to manage a church professionally, so that church goers are absolved of any responsibility—these things oppose the solemn truths of New Testament principles regarding the local church. And many of these new converts are drawn to those other churches for these very reasons.

As I was walked through our bookstore past a very handsome, tall, black man looking at a book, I thought my eyes were deceiving me. I thought for sure that he had a tear in his eye. “Can I help you find something?” I asked. Turning toward me, his eyes welling up, he replied, “Yes, do you have anything that will tell me that I can’t lose my salvation? People are telling me I can lose it, and it’s so wonderful to be saved, I can’t bear the thought of it not being forever.”

We spent about four hours in the coffee room with an open Bible, beginning with 1 John 5:13, “…I have written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye that believe on the name of the Son of God.” Raymond Lewis soon not only understood his eternal security, but became curious when I pointed out scriptures concerning church order that seemed to contrast so much with all the churches he knew about. I recommended Secure Forever by Harold Barker, and he left with many books to help him in the study of the Bible.

The next day, Ray was back with another man he had just led to the Lord. I spent most of the day with them. The next day he brought two more new converts. Every few days he would bring in more, and we spent many hours studying the Word together. Ray was a real evangelist. He was bringing in men he just barely met on the street. Some were alcoholics or drug users. One man that got saved was a top man in the Mafia. This was truly a work of God in these men’s lives.

Then he came in one day and announced that he had started a Bible study in a home. The attendance grew, and it wasn’t long before fifty people were coming. For quite a while he and several men who clearly had a gift of leadership came almost daily to study with me. These were very sharp men, and they grasped the truths of God quickly. One of the oversight of the assembly was Orville Lewis, no relation to Ray. He had a shepherd’s gift. This was an ideal setup. Ray would win souls, Orville would care for them.

When church truth was taught in the new group, numbers thinned, as it often does. Ray and Orville Lewis, and twelve other believers began their assembly meetings in a storefront in Algiers, renovated it, and called it the Household of Faith. Gladys and I were overjoyed to be at their opening service.

Their numbers grew, and they continued to move their meetings into larger quarters. Talk about changed lives! One woman who became a trusted worker had been a professional prostitute. In ten years there were two hundred at the meeting, and the same men that Ray had won to the Lord those first few days had served as elders in their assembly for nearly all those years.

Besides Gretna, we also were able to assist in works nearby at Covington and Houma. It was exciting that God was using the bookstore to introduce me to people that He would use to change the lives of many, and permit me to lend a hand in seeking to established these works on a solid foundation.

The reasoning behind starting an antique store was to attract people to our Christian book store, offering us an opportunity to share the gospel. The antiques have attracted many who would never go into a church, or even a Christian bookstore. It has afforded us the chance to talk to many about their soul’s destiny, and get some good literature into their hands.

The antique store was never meant to be much of a business enterprise, and it hasn’t been. However, it has carried its own weight financially, contributing to the work. We could have made more money with it if we had worked at it, but I needed to spend my time reaching and teaching souls, not just making money.

When I left Swift & Co. to serve the Lord, I also left that opportunity to make money, and gain prestige. I’ve never strived to amount to much in this world, because it just doesn’t last. Only what is done for Christ will last. After I had successfully developed our subdivision, a wealthy land owner wanted me to supervise a subdivision on a section of his land. If I would agree to take on this project, I knew that I could have realized at least a million dollars. I turned it down, and for one reason: it would take away too much of my time from my lifetime ambition—serving the Lord.

One day a little boy about eight years old came into the antique store, and told me that he needed a job. He was a very bright lad, very sure of himself, and he had his sales pitch down pat. Some adults I’ve interviewed for work didn’t have the abilities and self-confidence this young man exhibited. Going on to extol his talents, he said he could clean, run a calculator, was good with figures, was a good learner, and could even wait on customers. He was convinced that he was the man for the job. Like a consummate sales professional, he closed his pitch with a direct question to the customer, me: “How about a job?”

He was so cute, I wished that I had a tape recorder. I responded by telling him how much I was impressed with all of his skills. I appreciated his willingness to work, but as it was, all of our help was volunteer work. He asked, “Volunteer—what does that mean?” I answered, “It means that the workers here work for nothing.” As quick as a flash he came back, “What, work for nothing?—Forget it!” Then he quickly turned around and walked proudly out of the store.

The antique store has taken very little of my time. I worked at it more as a hobby than anything else, and it has been a sort of therapy for Gladys and me. There have been some days where I’ve spent all day at the hospital with a dying patient and their family, or with a family who had lost a loved one. Even when I’m just dealing with lost souls or counseling Christians, it’s a great help to be able to divert to something different. I believe the Lord uses these things as diversions to keep us in a state of good mental health. I recommend it.

We’ve had all kinds of business people, professional people, even movie people visit our store. I’ve had the privilege of spending many hours in the coffee room with one of the South’s most famous criminal lawyers, as he sought peace for his soul. Charles Bronson visited our store. Three movie producers from Hollywood were in New Orleans producing a movie, and saw our advertisement in the antique dealers section of the Yellow Pages. We give out a gospel tract to everyone who comes into our store, using this as a way to testify to them of the need for salvation. When they came into our store, I gave each of them a tract, and mentioned that we were interested in people’s souls. Soon these three men from Hollywood and I were in a serious discussion about the fate of their souls. As I talked to them, I realized that these were men that I’d never be able to get past their secretaries to talk to. They really seemed to listen attentively, and soon I had spent about two-and-a-half hours preaching to them from an open Bible.

They were amazed that an antique man would be so interested in the destiny of their souls. They had never been church-goers, had never read a Bible. Though none of them got saved that day, they were so impressed to investigate what we had talked about further, that they went into the book store and purchased Bibles. I praised God for the opportunity to testify to these men, praying that the Lord would convict them of their sins and that they would trust Christ.

It was wonderful to be able to continue in fellowship with the many saints of God meeting now through the South. The saints in Linden continued on faithfully, and Bill and I tried to help out teaching the Word, and preaching the gospel. Brother E.G. Matthews would frequently spend months at a time visiting us here in the south, including Linden. He became a great help to us. He began to enjoy his work in the South so much, later he would come every winter, teaching at the various Deep South assemblies.

The old building in Linden has since been torn down, but that wonderful gospel sign brother Lacey made is still there. Their present chapel building is lovely. We cherish our many wonderful times with the saints at Linden, and rejoice that the assembly there is still going strong more than forty-five years since its beginning.

A trial in the Needham assembly serves to illustrate that the scriptural principles given to us by the Lord really do work. Brother Rupp had left after several years, but the little flock continued faithfully. Some years after they had built the first chapel, a new preacher assumed leadership, and we heard that the believers meeting there agreed to change the assembly into a Baptist church. When we heard this, we were both surprised, and deeply disappointed. After all, though, it was their meeting, and we did not want to cause contention. So, believing that the meeting as an assembly was finished, we decided not to return there. However, we kept praying for them, hoping that somehow the Lord would turn things around, and that we would be welcome there again.

Ten years later, Gladys and I had just left a wonderful meeting at Linden. We were on our way to Mobile, when we felt an urge to stop in Needham, to see if we knew any brothers or sisters in the Lord that were still there. It was about 1:30 on a Lord’s Day that we drove up to the old chapel building. The Christians were still there from a morning meeting. When they saw us, they came running toward us. They all hugged us, and were so happy to see us that they arranged a big party for us. The Turners and most of the others we had known were still there. Gladys and I will never forget that reception.

Charlie filled us in with the details of what had taken place: When the Christians realized that the changes the preacher were making were contrary to their understanding of Scripture, they asked him to leave, and just kept on meeting. Though they were left without any leadership ability, some not even able to read, they kept on meeting simply in the name of the Lord. Somehow, they had not known how to contact us. Then, about fifteen years ago, brother James Bonner and his family came into the assembly at Needham. The Lord led him to supply some of the leadership they were lacking. He works in the paper mill to pay his own way, as the Apostle Paul made tents to provide for his needs.

There has been happy fellowship since. Bill Walker and I, along with our wives, were on hand a few years ago to dedicate their beautiful new chapel. It was a great time.

After the Mobile assembly had grown to about thirty-five adults, brother Todd was called to heaven. Bill and I preached to a very large audience at his funeral. However no one continued any evangelistic work in the city, so the meeting diminished as saints died, or moved to other cities. Finally, only two faithful sisters, Mrs. Todd, and Catherine Crary, who had been at the first meeting, were left. Every Sunday they set the table with the loaf and cup. If a brother came by, they broke bread. If none came, they read the Bible and prayed. This is devotion!

In Winnsboro, the meeting continued as a good testimony for many years until brother Lingle, a leading elder, moved. Attendance dropped, but the meeting went on for years.

Sad to say, years later, one of the remaining leaders fell into sin, and most of the flock were scattered. Only a few remained. The chapel building was finally sold, and the meeting was moved to a home in Winnsboro.

Years later, Earl Lingle, the son of the elder who had previously moved away from Winnsboro, felt led of the Lord to take up the work of his father. He wanted to help the little assembly at Winnsboro, so he left a good job with great potential in Texas. He moved to Monroe, a thirty minute drive from Winnsboro, and accepted employment at a much lower salary. Later, the meeting was transferred to the Lingle home in Monroe, and it continues there today.

The assembly in Slidell, Louisiana, began with a Bible study in a home. A godly sister in the assembly in Belle Chase worked in Slidell, about forty miles to the north. There she met a couple of Christians, and they began to attend our chapel. We arranged to have a Wednesday night Bible study in their home in Slidell, and several went with us, including Bertley Englade. He had been in our meeting almost from the start, and was also one of our elders.

We studied the New Testament gatherings of believers. It became clear to all that there shouldn’t be a denominational affiliation or a headquarters, since the head of the church is in heaven—Christ. The church is a body, an organism, not an organization. All Christians are priests, and can function as such in an assembly. We also learned about the plurality of elders, excluding a possibility of one-man leadership.

The study class grew in number, and several were saved as well. After a little more than a year of weekly studies, they began breaking bread in the home. It was a joyous time, and before long it became necessary to look for a building. They converted a house into a nice chapel, and the gathering continued to grow in numbers.

After some years, the chapel was too small to accommodate everyone, so a three-acre property was purchased at a fraction of its value. The site included a beautiful chapel building, with a built-in public address system, and an organ. It also provided a complete child care facility, a fellowship hall with a kitchen, a three-bedroom modern house, and a swimming pool. This permitted them to operate a child care center, in addition to a Christian school they run nearby. This industrious group is now seeking to finalize plans for an even larger, more spacious school building.

Our assembly in Belle Chasse enjoys an especially close fellowship with the Slidell assembly, being so close in proximity to ours. We all look forward very much to their annual conference. In truth, we appreciate each and every one of the Deep South assemblies. The various conferences at the assemblies are all encouraging to me, as we come together to appreciate rich times of fellowship. All of this is attributed to answers of fervent prayer. What a great God we have!

I have tried to keep from using names, but there are a few who must be mentioned. Bob Brown is one of them. He is a man I discipled in the Scripture for some ten years. Bob had been saved in the Navy, and was transferred to New Orleans shortly thereafter. Up until that time he had not grown much, and understood little of his responsibilities as a believer to help build a scriptural assembly after a New Testament pattern. Bob was a master chief, in charge of all of the navy’s aircraft maintenance here at the Alvin Callender airbase. As such, he had more than three hundred men under his command. He has had much training in leadership, which the Lord has sanctified and used in his work in the assembly. It was encouraging to see how Bob’s life changed from week to week, and how eagerly he studied the Word.

May I encourage others to invest their lives in developing men for the service of the Lord. As Paul wrote to Timothy: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). I find it especially gratifying, to say the least, to have been able to have had any part in preparing each one of these missionaries, full-time workers, and elders now spread throughout the world.

Bob purchased a home in Slidell, and proved to be a great help in the effort there. He was later commended to full-time work for the Lord by the Belle Chasse assembly. He has become a great asset in helping to build the work in Slidell on the foundation we had the privilege of laying. Bob has been of special joy to us because he has been willing to stay in the Deep South to help build New Testament assemblies. We have prayed to the Lord that He would raise up men to carry on the work here in the Deep South when we are gone. I believe that, by God’s grace, Bob Brown will be one of them.

Ray Cummings was won to the Lord largely through the prayer and efforts of Bob Brown. Bob was very close to Ray, the two of them having worked together in naval aviation for many years, and they had much in common. Ray was Bob’s boss, and they had become close friends over the years. They were tough sailors, inspecting Navy bases in every corner of the world as a team. They had tremendous authority and power, with some six hundred thousand men directly or indirectly responsible to them. I mention this to emphasize the fact that God was preparing their leadership ability and reliability even before they were saved.

After Bob was saved and retired from the Navy, he continued to testify to his former boss. Finally, he was able to convince Ray to come with him to attend my Bible class. Ray was skeptical about the Bible classes, but he had seen the complete about-face in Bob’s lifestyle. It seemed to him that Bob really was a new man. We were really praying for his salvation, and after some time Ray trusted the Lord as his Saviour. At once his entire outlook on life changed. He was reading his Bible now, taking the Bible studies seriously, and was becoming occupied with spiritual things.

Ray has a keen mind, and it has been a joy to see him devour the truths of God’s Word. He was offered a very high paying job in management with the Boeing Co. a short time after he was saved, but refused it so that he could stay here instead, donating his time to the Lord’s work and studying the Word. As he has grown in his Christian walk, he has become a trusted elder in the assembly. He faithfully preaches, comforts, and encourages the assemblies in the Deep South, and also works with me to manage the work here at Belle Chasse. I am also very thankful for my faithful wife and children and the grace of God in their lives. We look to the Lord that, through the ministries of such faithful believers, the assembly here will go on after we leave it.

And what is true of this assembly can be said of the other twenty-some assemblies in the Deep South. Gladys and I are deeply humbled that the Lord ever saw fit to use us in some little way to contribute to works which honor His Word, and adhere to the scriptural principles of gathering to the Lord’s name alone. Through the years that we have labored in the Deep South, we have tried to help whenever and wherever possible to establish local churches here. Some have failed, however, we are encouraged to see that so many have survived, resulting in many souls trusting the Lord, and then growing in their Christian lives.

When Henry Peterson was very close to his ninetieth birthday, he said, “The older I get, the less I know, but the more I believe.” I think I could say that this is true of me as well. But there is one thing I know and rejoice in every day: I am heaven-bound because of grace alone. My hope is the hope of every believer, to be with Christ and like Christ!

When I was first saved—over seventy years now, as I write this—I looked for the Lord to come with a shout in the clouds, and I believed He was coming very soon. Now it is nearer than when we believed. The coming of Christ is imminent, and I am convinced now more than ever of this precious truth. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

Eternity will evaluate all. Praise and honor be to our great God alone.