How was I called into “Ministry”?
I was called no different from the way Jesus called his disciples. In the Gospel of John, John Zebedee and Andrew followed Jesus on their own. John stayed with Jesus, but Andrew went to find his brother Simon and introduced him to Jesus. The other disciples Jesus went after in person (John 1:35-51). In the Gospels of Matthew 4:18-23, and in Mark 1:16-20, Jesus Himself called Simon who became Peter, his brother Andrew, and the Zebedee brothers James and John. In the Gospel of Luke 5:1-11, Simon and his brother Andrew partnered with the Zebedees and for some reason they had not left their boats and followed Jesus. Even after Jesus showed them how to fish with a miracle, Simon felt unworthy to follow Jesus. And that was how I felt when it was suggested that I become a minister of the Gospel.
This is how it took place in my life
God does not work in mysterious ways — at least not in my life. God is Spirit (John 4:24), and to communicate with me, He willing had humans partnering with Him to lead me in the direction of becoming a “vessel of grace” for my fellow man. I, myself, had to open my spirit to God’s Spirit and the Holy Spirit to listen to those who had come to direct me. I had to have the will to be considered for the task of vesseling. I chose to follow Jesus my Lord and not the world that would have paid for any profession, I would have chosen. Without these godly volunteers, I doubt very much that I would have become a minister of Christ. The word “minster” means being a “servant” and not one that wants to be served.
There was one person who rendered unmatched service for me. Her name was Ruby Leal, a wonderful Lutheran Christian, who had a heart of endless love. Her husband was a mining engenier and they had no children. She volunteered at the Larder Lake, Ontario Hospital where I was taken and kept until I could be moved to Toronto. Ruby took me on like a mother. She joined a nurse on my five hundred mile train trip to Toronto, where she had arranged with people to look after me. She saw me recover, re-educate, become a minister, met my lovely wife and two sons, before she passed away. The three people that Ruby brought into my life, who were invaluable help at that crucial time were: The Reverends Lukas, Price, and Stinner. These men knew what I needed most.
What made these “Ministers” so important?
Ruby had that special sense of recognizing my mental and spiritual dilemma that required instant moral guidance. When I regained consciousness, I saw Ruby, Rev. Lukas and a visiting pastor from Holland who spoke German. No doubt, they prayed and did what preachers do to rescue a sinner from hell; only, I was fading and swaying between life and death, jabbering in a language they could not have understood. It was not crying out for being lost, but for failing to do what I knew I should have done and commit my life to Christ. Rev. Lukas, in addition to keeping me in his prayers, passed on my name to the Rev. Alfred Price in Toronto, who took special interest in me and my future. Faithful and gracious Ruby stayed close by me until I was properly placed in medical care and introduced to her brother and caring friends, and only then she went home to be with her husband. Rev. Lukas and family also moved to Toronto and we were reacquainted.
The Reverend Alfred Price, appeared tall and handsome from my bed. His smile was backed by a gentle voice and very few words of encouragement, like, “Danny you are coming along,” or “you are fine.” Not once did he try to open my Pandora box; from the start, he helped me see a new future. He stopped by every week and so did a couple from his Church, Des Eagle and Gwen Wilcke. Des became my first English Bible teacher and we became life-long friends. Rev. Price sensed my need for someone to whom I could fully explain myself, so he brought into my life, The Rev. Skinner of the Hungarian-German Church. Rev. Price noticed my uneasiness regarding what I would do when I had to leave my sheltered environment. Without any discussion, he smiled while he said, “Danny, you belong in the ministry.” He stunned me and I objected, saying, “How is that possible with no English and only six years of elementary foreign schooling?” And with the same smile and tone of voice, he added, “Let the Lord do it,” and then he left. That was my call! Rev. Price had me testify in his church, introduced me to his family at dinner, and saw me become a minister before he unexpectedly passed away.
Now, how was I to get the Lord involved in me?
Well, God’s Spirit inspires men/women who are willing and ready to assist those who seek to do His Will (Psalm 40:8; 143:10; Matthew 6:10; 7:21). I had to will myself to attempt the impossible; for, I had no idea how hard and long it would take for me to become a minister of Christ. I shared my decision with my Compensation Board Counselor and he did not deem it feasible, but he promised to obtain pay for college that is, if I could get in. Ontario, where I was hurt, had no institute where a person could make up eight years to qualify for college. That was when Rev. Stinner came to my aid. He had come to see me in the hospital and brought some of his people with. When I was discharged from the hospital, I was baptized into his church. And, for the first time in my life, I confided in him as if he were my father; and when I told him of my dilemma. Rev. Stinner knew of the Christian Institute, under Dr. Wahl in Edmonton, which had such a High School department for dropouts and adults like me. After Edmonton, I qualified and was accepted to attend the United College in Winnipeg. And in three years, I received a BA from the University of Manitoba.
The “Impossible” had happened (Mark 9:27)
I had become a graduate of a Canadan university modeled after England, and I even was knighted by the chancellor. I took it for granted that I would go to the German Baptist Seminary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and I did earn my BD (pastor’s degree) in two and one half years. The reason why I finished seminary half a year faster was that after the first two semesters, I went to Princeton for the summer to take Biblical Hebrew and received nine credits. Going to Princeton proved to be the most important thing I ever did in my life. The Lord made something happen for which I have been overwhelmingly grateful for sixty-one years.
Is it hard to guess what it could have been?
Being twenty-nine years old, handicapped and scared, and looking for a mate that could please the eyes of a spoiled youth, was an unlikely task. My uncle and aunt insisted that I spend my weekends with them in Union City, New Jersey. On Saturday morning, he had us board his huge Plymouth wagon with a widow and two daughters, his wife, his ten year old son, me and himself and off to the lake we went. He did this all summer long. On Sundays, I joined them at their German Church of God in a house, which they turned into a meeting place for their small group. The older daughter played the organ and sang with her mother and sister. She very much pleased my eyes, but I would not have dared to approach her without some motivation. After several Sundays, my uncle remarked that her mother would like to see me take out her daughter Selma. So, I asked her to go on a boat ride around Manhattan. She consented and came with a friend who stayed between us all the time. On the way home, her friend had to go another way, and now we were finally alone. We went through the park and it began to rain. I extended my hand and Selma hesitatingly took it and we ran to avoid getting wet. This was on a Sunday in July 1959.
A week later, after Church, Selma remained shy and distant. After Church, three of the girls were getting into her sister’s car. I took Selma’s behavior as a sign to return to Princeton and I began to walk away. But, Teofila, her sister, alertly stopped me and pushed me into the car next to her sister who sat next to another girl. This time, I was riding around with three girls and Selma began warmly to respond. In the next few weeks, we also went alone for ice cream, walks, and talks. The first week in August, we strolled in the woods at the beach, and I casually asked whether it was alright between us. She nodded and as we went back to the party, which regularly met there, Selma announced, “We are getting engaged.” With joy and surprise, I welcomed the announcement and so did everyone present, who expected this to happen. I, of course, lived on cloud nine as the happiest person in the world. And on August 15, 1959, we became engaged. I spent the rest of the year in seminary while Selma continued at her job in New York City. We wrote to each other every day, saw each other on Christmas, and were married on May 28, 1960 in Union City, New Jersey, sixty years ago.
Our marriage was vital to my call
What was and still is our secret? I was not happy alone, and I needed help being a “vessel” of the Lord Jesus Christ. Selma and I came from the same part of the world, with similar backgrounds and beliefs. Marriage was/is instituted by God and man was/is commanded to be one until death dissolved that bond. We decided to treat it like a storehouse. We tried to put in more into our relationship than we took out. We built up our understanding of love, tolerance, loyalty, patience, forgiveness and many other things. Each one of the attributes has a reserve that we use when one of us faced doubts, fears, and many other problems on our long “journey of grace.” And we do make it a “journey of grace” by being affectionately gracious and forthcoming with each other, including our children, and people we have served as a pastor family. “We still bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We continue in the next section.