My Earthy Journey: A Life of Moving

 

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My Earthly Journey: A Life of Moving

Each of us is on an earthly journey.  This journey includes people we have known, careers and jobs we have had, schools we have attended, religious groups of which we have been members, and marriages and families we have had.  In also includes where we have lived.

Some people are born, raised, and married in the same community.  They continue to live in this familiar place as they raise their own family, as they proceed into older age, and then they may even die in the house that they have lived in for fifty long years.  My father was like that.  He lived in his childhood house in Ellport, Pennsylvania, for 25 years; then lived in two apartments when he married my mother, and stayed there for two or three years.  After this, he lived in an older house in Ellport for ten years.  Finally, he moved to his final house for all of his remaining years, until he died in that very house that he knew so well.  Dad lived all of is life in the same little community.  Stability and sameness rules in this kind of arrangement.

My life was very different from this–for I’ve lived in many different states, different cities, and different houses.  Maybe a few of you would be interested in my own locations and living arrangements during my earthly sojourn.  Let me share a little of this with you.  Remember that I won’t be emphasizing the truth I’ve learned over the years, the people I have known, or even the Lord’s work that I’ve been able to do.  Instead, I’ll be focusing on the places where I have lived.

I spent the early months of my life, after birth, in my parents’ apartment in the little community of Ellwood City.  We then moved a couple miles to my childhood home in Ellport, Pennsylvania, a very tiny village near Ellwood City.  The community was encircled by the Connoquenessing Creek and the Slippery Rock Creek, with wooded hills beyond.  After ten years, we moved to our new house a block away when I was at an age of eleven or twelve where I continued through my teenage years.  The woods and stream were nearby and I spent much time there during those years of youth.  After going to college for a few years, at age 21 I moved to Eastern Pennsylvania, to East Petersburg, where I worked in Lancaster at the General Hospital.  Here I rented a room in an older woman’s house and had few possessions.  It was a protected environment and I owe so much to the kind lady who fed and housed me during that low-wage period.

After one year, I moved to Wooster, Ohio, where I rented another room in a large house, where I stayed for one year and four months, working in the Wooster Hospital.  It was while I was there that God opened my eyes to so many of His truths, ones that I had overlooked in my earlier years. I look upon that period of time as unique for God revealed so much spiritual insight.  It indeed changed the direction of my life.  After my work in the hospital ended, I moved east again, to Denver, Pennsylvania., where I worked in a laboratory and lived on a farm.  What quiet and peace—to have trees, pastureland, and animals nearby!

yosemite falls

My Earthly Journey: A Life of Moving

From this quiet existence, I embarked on a country-wide tour, logging some 18,000 miles in the process, until my money ran out and I had a car wreck.  I had originally planned to have a first-hand look at all of the states and then locate for an extended period of time, devoting all of my energies to detailed Bible study–before launching out on my life work.  The lack of funds and the accident put an end to these plans, quite abruptly.  Our best laid plans often go astray!

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My Earthly Journey: A Life of Moving

After these several months traveling the country, at age twenty-five I moved 1200 miles away, to Lubbock, Texas, where I continued my education and sought better Biblical understanding.  I lived west of the city in West Carlyle, in a small, two-room cottage.  After this, I moved to Searcy, Arkansas for three months to attend summer school at another college.  Here I temporarily rented a small, three-room house.  Soon I continued my education in Abilene, Texas and stayed there for two and a half years until graduation.  I became an incessant student, taking as many as 20 credit hours, along with auditing as many as 20 additional hours.  I took Greek and other courses I deemed valuable for my coming years in the work of the Lord.  While in this west-Texas town, I rented a two-room apartment from an older lady.  When I graduated, I moved to north-western rural Alabama where I sold Bibles and books door-to-door and lived in a single room at a motel for four months.  I remember those hot and humid 100 degree days that summer as I drove up and down the countryside!  By this time, I was twenty-eight years of age.

While in school, I did extensive research to determine where God might want me to move after graduation.  After collecting data on several dozen cities and states, no one place clearly stood out as the place where I should settle.  This was a dilemma: should I simply choose a city and state and move, without knowing anyone or having any employment?  I was willing to do this, but should I?  Because of this lack of certainty, I chose to move back to Eastern Pennsylvania where I knew a few families who were oriented to the Lord and His ways.  For a month, I lived in Reinholds, then moved just west of Ephrata, in Lancaster County, which has been called “the garden spot” of the country.  The whole area was so idyllic, with sprawling farmlands, white houses and barns of the Anabaptist people, and quiet, small-town living.  During this time, I lived in a small, older mobile home, filling it with books and bookcases, desks, and file cabinets.  It was a wonder that the floor didn’t collapse!  While there, I went to school three more years, as well as spending several years teaching, preaching and writing.  Part of the period there was a time of fulfillment, but, because of circumstances and my own plans, I chose to move.

A Barn fellowship I was with for several years. This was a small, undenominational group, without formal leadership, mainly consisting of young and zealous converts.

boyertown body at barn

My Early Journey: A Life of Moving

After these six years in Pennsylvania, I concluded that God would want me to move south to Texas.  I had visited Fort Worth a year earlier and made this my choice after much prayer, deliberation and counsel.  I was now thirty-four years of age, with extensive plans, great dreams, and a faith that God would bless my endeavors, as I committed all to Him and a pursuit of His will.  My expectations were high and I looked forward to the Lord’s blessing and open doors to His will and work.  For at least ten years, I had longed to “get away” and devote myself to incessant study and extensive Biblical research, with the expectation that God would then launch me out on my life dream.  These were my sincere but idealistic dreams!

I placed my extensive library, Christian literature and office supplies in storage and drove to far-off Fort Worth, some fifteen hundred miles away.  I first lived in a garage apartment for one year while continuing my education.  This was a small, two-room place, in the historic Berkeley area.  I began my earnest studies on vital Biblical topics, spending countless hours in research.  I even was able to find employment that allowed much time for Biblical study, memorization, and writing.  After the first year, I traveled to Pennsylvania again and was able to move my library and other earthly possessions from Pennsylvania to Texas.

God provided a good-sized rental house for about three years, and here I filled every room with books and bookcases, literature, and audio equipment.  I resumed publishing “True Discipleship,” a small publication that I produced by mimeograph and sent to about 250 people for about seven years.  For a couple of years, I worked much overtime in a menial job, but this was sufficient to pay the bills and also gave continued free time for my spiritual pursuits, seeking first God’s Kingdom and righteousness.  After those two years, I lost my job and couldn’t find suitable employment for many months.  After that time, the owner decided to sell the house and I was forced to move.  This would be the beginning of the lack of housing and distress I would face all of my life.

At about age thirty-eight, I found a vacant house during my early-morning run, and I was permitted to rent the place at a low rate for about one year, in the Hallmark area of Fort Worth.  It was accommodating and roomy.  I especially enjoyed the park scene to the west, a place where I ran and exercised each day.  However, as before, this house was soon put up for sale and I had to search for other low-cost housing.  After diligently seeking some housing solution, God finally provided another house that was large enough for my Christian supplies.  All of this time, I was moving a library of 10,000 books and several dozen book cases, along with desks and numerous filing cabinets!  Moving was becoming a difficult venture that required hiring a number of men.  This next rental property was located in south-western Fort Worth and I moved again!

I thought that I might be able to live at this place for some length of time; however, after one and a half years, this house also was put up for sale by the owner and I needed to vacate it and look for something else that would be affordable.  Because I was very low-wage, seeking a house was becoming increasingly difficult.  After a diligent search, including over one hundred ads in five different newspapers, I lost my overtime wages and could not find a suitable house.  I was now forty-two years of age.  I spent much time in prayer for God’s help and blessing, pleading for a simple house to live in.  No one seemed to be able to give any advice that would solve this enigma of housing.  To the very end, I trusted that the Lord would provide something appropriate.

After earnest effort up to the very last day, God the Father must have chosen not to provide, at least in the way I sought.  Therefore, I hired a number of men and regretfully placed everything I owned in two large storage places.  I had nothing left over to live on, thus I faced a crisis I had never faced before.  With no place to go, I was forced to begin to live in my car—where I remained for six difficult weeks, until the temperature dropped to 32 degrees.  Then, in God’’s amazing providence, I was allowed to stay overnight at work, where I continued for the following four years.  I could write a book describing the events of those unique years, the lessons that God taught me, and the blessing that God provided even in my poverty and perplexity.  Finally, with God’s help, at age forty-seven, I was able to locate a tiny cottage back in the Berkeley area of Fort Worth.   This place was too small for my possessions, but it was a beautiful, safe, and pleasant area.  With my window opened at night, I could hear the lions roar in the zoo, which was not far away!

With a base of operations, I was able to apply myself more fully to the work and could host Christian gatherings and Bible studies.  Of course, the cottage was very small, with very little seating, and this hindered the kind of work that I had envisioned for many years.  After some very trying and turbulent years at this little place, my landlord died and I was forced to again seek other housing.  This time, about age fifty-six, I found another small but somewhat larger house in a less desirable part of town.

I longed to be able to have better circumstances so that I could once again access my library and office equipment and the vast literature supply I had prepared, but, for the time being, I had to be content with the limited circumstances.  I so much wanted to have a place for meetings and hospitality, but I had to endure the limitations of this place for a while.  At least, at this place, I was able to access some of my library and file cabinets and live a more normal existence.  However, this arrangement was not to continue very long.  I began to experience many setbacks in life.  I had different working arrangements with a different manager, thus I could no longer study extensively on the job as in the past, I lost overtime hours at work, and I was given much lower pay.  Further, after about four years, the owners of the property decided to move back to the rental house.  Once again, I had to look for other housing just to live!

This time, I couldn’’t find adequate housing at an affordable cost.  God had provided very low-cost housing all of the time I had been in Fort Worth (except for the years I stayed on the job), but now nothing could be found that I could afford, especially since my wages had been drastically lowered.  Again I prayed and prayed for deliverance, merely wanting a place where I could carry on the work of the Lord in a more normal fashion, with room for hospitality, for my Biblical research, and for the work that I wanted to do for Him.  After several weeks of searching, I could find nothing, so again I had to place everything in storage.  This was a massive job, for, by this time, I had about 45 file cabinets, my large library, desks, bookshelves, furniture, and much literature that I used in my teaching, preaching, and writing.  My life work for the Lord had required these possessions; however moving became very burdensome and costly.

A friend graciously permitted me to say in a residence that was up for sale and I could use one of the bedrooms in this empty house.  I continued there for about ten months, with the barest of essentials, but the house finally sold and I had to move again.  This time, I couldn’’t find a house and I had lowered wages, but I needed to live somewhere.  For the first time in my life, I began apartment living.  This was a last resort and I had to pay more rent for a smaller place than I had ever paid before.  I moved into this tiny place not far from work.

By this time, I was sixty-one years of age.  Obviously, I could not access my possessions out of storage and had to try to continue on without use of my library and Christian literature that had meant much to my service to the Lord.  By this time, I had produced as many as a couple hundred of different books, booklets, and tracts, and all of this took extensive space to store, in order to distribute.  I pleaded with God to provide the means to continue His work, but I’ve discovered that God does “move in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.”  He may bring trials and hardship for His purposes, even when it seems that the circumstances are working against His purposes. He knows best–and will do what is best.

Two years ago, at about age sixty-four, I moved into another apartment when I married.  God had finally brought Moni, a dear woman, into my life–a “gift” that I had prayed for so many times during my earthly journey.  (I have described this new “chapter” of my life elsewhere.)  I continue to be perplexed about what next happened.  Last year, quite abruptly, I lost my job after working for the same company twenty-eight long years.  The boss was very anti-Christian (or at least repeatedly stated that he could not stand my sincere and devoted “Christianity”) and could not tolerate my walk with the Lord and commitment to His Word.  I determined to love him and treat him with respect, the one who had brought such hardship, deprivation and suffering into my life.  This brings me to the present time, and I will soon be sixty-six years of age.

This short writing has not described the many lessons I’ve learned, the many ways God has taught Me His will, and has only barely mentioned what I was doing to serve the Lord during this period of my adult life.  I’ve simply gone over the various places where I have resided.  My life has been one of moving–to different states, different cities, and especially different dwelling places.  I never intended it to be this way and I didn’t plan for this, but God must have had other plans for my life.  Much of this was caused by my pursuit of further Biblical education or different menial jobs when I was younger.  And it was related to very low wages the last half of my life, since I could not begin to purchase a house with my income or even rent a regular house much of that time.  I served the Lord with as much of my meager income as possible.  With giving as much as possible to His work, I had nothing left for permanent housing expenses.

I have often prayed to God and questioned Him why He would want my life to be one of incessant moving, lack of reliable housing, low-wages, menial work, and earthly difficulties.  This lack seems to have lessened my impact, my work, my outreach, and my ministry for Him.  It is hard to do so much that is related to normal living and service for the Lord when one’s dwelling place is so insecure.  I’ve also had to endure well-meaning but insensitive advice from people to “simply trust in the Lord and He will give you a place to live!”  Some have said, “Just believe that God will solve these problems, give you a house, and provide for you–and He will!”  For all of my adult life, I have sought to trust in God my Father, whatever the cost and whatever the trials, without compromise, but for some unknown reason, He has chosen to withhold according to His will.

God has never audibly answered.  At this time of my life, I have little by way of earthly things, other than what I use for the work of the Lord–and I have much of that.  The circumstances and lack remain a perplexity in my heart.  I must trust in a God who does all things well, according to His wisdom and mercy and love–and not according to earthly standards or expectations or desires.  One of my life verses has been the words of Christ, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).  I will continue to trust in God and seek Him first–above all things, beyond all!

At this juncture of my life, I continue to earnestly want and pray for some solution to this lack of housing.  Especially since God brought my Moni, my dear wife,  into my life, I see an increased need to locate a reliable and sizable residence.  I always prayed for and thought God would provide what I referred to as a “spiritual retreat” for the blessing of others.  I envisioned the following:

  • A simple day school could be established for the Christian education of children.
  • A Bible school and Christian library could be initiated where young people could be trained in the Scriptures.
  • A place could be prepared for Christians to camp and find spiritual and physical refreshment in the natural world of trees and streams and fields.
  • Housing could be erected for brothers and sisters needing a place to stay.
  • Land could be devoted for the growing of fresh and nutritious produce.
  • A house could be built where I and my wife could raise a family for the Lord and offer hospitality and a place for the meetings of the saints.

You may be thinking, “fantastic, idealistic, but unrealistic!”  I realize that could be the immediate response, but someone has said that we need to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God!  Yes, for perhaps the past 25 to 30 years, I did pray for, work for, plan for, and envision this kind of spiritual retreat for the work of the Lord and His people.  At present, I continue in a very limited, restricted, and confining arrangement.  Regretfully and lamentably, my present place is far too small even for Bible studies and hospitality.  You can see why I would pray for some change in circumstances, especially at my age.

I do know this: although my living arrangements have been very insecure here on earth, I will be given a heavenly home of much more grandeur and loveliness one Blessed Day (cf. John 14:1-3; Rev. 21:1-7)!  God will give a Heavenly Home that will be eternal and secure—a place of indescribable beauty, of ultimate fulfillment, and especially where I will see Jesus my Savior face-to-face.  I look forward to that coming Day!

(Written before God “opened the door” to a house that solved–in a measure–some of my long-standing housing problems. But more about this in another article yet to be written!)

Richard Hollerman

 

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