The Way the Lord Led
We can share our testimonies in words in a church service or with others anywhere. and we ought to do that; but ultimately, our testimonies are expressed by the way we live. In I Thessalonians 1 we have an example of “show and tell” Christianity.
Though I grew up in abnormal circumstances, by the grace of God, I had the privilege of growing up in a strong Christian environment and being surrounded by a warm, genuine, vibrant Christians as my role models.
I was born in Peru, South America in 1933. My parents, Clifford and Ruth Bicker, had just begun their missionary work there, when in 1937 my father was instantly killed in a car accident as he was traveling in the AndesMountains to preach the Gospel. He had started to feel sick and turned the driving over to a Peruvian brother in the Lord. Both were instantly killed. An elderly lady traveling with them survived the accident. A police officer investigating the scene, seeing his dead body surrounded by his Bible and Gospel literature commented, “He died as a soldier dies, while engaged in the battle, with his weapons at his side.”
Mother was now a 27 year old widow left with myself and my one year old brother. Since it was time for their first furlough, Mother returned with her two little boys to her home in Toronto. Canada. Her oldest brother, Oswald Smith, had written her a poem when he heard of Dad’s death, Later the poem, “God Understands”, was set to music and has been a comfort to many over the past seventy years.
God understands your sorrow,
He sees the falling tear,
And whispers I am with thee;
Then falter not nor fear.
He understands your longing,
Your deepest grief He shares;
Then let Him bear your burden,
He understands and cares.
God understands your heartache,
He knows the bitter pain;
O, trust Him in the darkness,
You cannot trust in vain.
God understands your weakness,
He knows the tempter’s power,
And He will walk beside you,
However dark the hour.
Life in Toronto was spent living with uncles and aunts and with our Grandfather and Grandmother Smith as Mother traveled throughout America and Canada sharing her story and her burden for Peru. On a few occasions, my brother and I went with her, singing choruses in Spanish.
My early education was in the Toronto public schools. Yes, that was plural – schools. Because we moved around, I was in a different school almost every year. By fifth grade we moved several times and I was in at least three different schools in Toronto that year.
Life for me centered in my uncle’s church. As a little boy I loved to go to church. The auditorium was crowded every Sunday morning and every Sunday night with about 2000 people. I loved to hear the wonderful music and listen to him preach the Gospel and watch people come down the aisle to receive Christ each week. I didn’t understand it at first, but I knew it moved my heart.
One day in a children’s meeting I heard the story of people in the wilderness being bitten by poisonous snakes and dying. I heard how Moses was commanded by God to make a brass snake and put it up on a high pole. All who looked at the serpent were healed of the snake bites. Then I was told how Jesus died on a cross for our sins and all who would look to Jesus by faith and trust His blood sacrifice for sin, would be saved from their guilt of sin and could go to Heaven when they died. I was nine at the time and was drawn to go forward at the invitation to be saved. It was not a difficult decision. I had been fearful and would dream at night of falling into hell. So that evening I went forward and was taken by a lady to the back of the room, where we knelt down together and she led me to trust Jesus as my Saviour.
From that hour, life was totally different for me. All fear of dying and going to Hell was gone. I was peaceful and joyful as I realized that Jesus was now my Saviour and best Friend. Shortly after that salvation experience, I wrote my first song at the age of nine.
Jesus is my Saviour,
He keeps me every day.
Jesus is my Saviour,
At home, at school, at play.
He will never leave me
So I will follow on.
Jesus is my Saviour.
I’ll praise and sing His song.
Just before my eleventh birthday Mother was advised to place my brother and me in Westervelt Home for Missionary Children located in the country, just outside Batesburg, S.C. This was during World War II and many missionaries were leaving their children in this home, led by a retired missionary couple. Though most Christians would judge it was a terrible decision for my mother to make, looking back on it I can see how it was the best decision Mother could have made for us. There I completed my elementary education and began my freshman year of high school, all taught by loving, caring, Christian teachers. I also had a piano teacher who instilled an appreciation and excitement for the piano. Through the years I have had many opportunities to use that gift in service to the Lord.
In 1946 God gave my Mother a second husband, Kenneth Harold, a bachelor missionary in Haiti. Together they served the Lord in Haiti and later in Jamaica, training nationals for the ministry. God gave them a daughter and then a son. Although God had allowed tragedy in Mother’s life, He gave them over fifty happy years together serving the Lord. Now both of them are with the Lord.
My brother and I spent the summer of 1949 in Haiti with our parents. There I saw missionaries up close and was impressed by their joy and dedication to the Lord and to the ministry to which God had called them.
Dad took me on several conventions in different locations in the southern peninsula of Haiti where hundreds of Haitians met together to sing and to hear the preaching of God’s Word. Although everything was in the Creole language and I didn’t understand a word, yet I caught the joyful spirit of these people as they sang hymns of praise to God. I watched as dozens of couples who had lived together unmarried, came forward and were married in one big ceremony. I watched as they brought their little children to be dedicated to the Lord. I observed the cleanliness and joy of the Christians in contrast with the filth and the fear and superstitions of the unsaved. It was a wonderful summer of learning and growing in the Lord.
The fall of 1949 my brother and I were sent to Prairie Bible Institute in the prairies of Alberta Canada, where we were enrolled in the high school associated with the Institute. Again, this was a time of spiritual growth for me as I soaked up L.E. Maxwell’s preaching on the crucified life based on Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6. The cold weather was awful up there and I was glad when Mother and Dad came home on furlough and we settled in Los Angeles for the year. There my brother and I attended Culter Christian Academy where I was given more solid Christian training in God’s Word.
The following year my parents returned to Jamaica and my younger brother was enrolled in a Christian boarding school in Florida. I continued my senior year at Culter and boarded with one of the school families. That year I paid my room and board and tuition at Culter by working in a cafeteria after school each day.
After graduating from Culter, at the suggestion of my mother who had been influenced by my uncle, I set off for Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. There I spent the next four years gaining a wonderful Christian education and earning my Bachelor’s degree. Dr. Bob Jones Sr. who preached in most of the daily chapel services, had a profound influence on my life as he chatted with the students each morning on how to live a practical Christian life and the importance of standing against apostasy.
I also had the opportunity to get over some of my stage fright by playing walk-on parts in some of the Shakespearean plays that are performed each year. For several weeksI had the opportunity to sing in a mixed quartet for Dr. Bob Jones Sr.’s daily radio program, as well as in the Oratorio. I also had a small part in Wine of Morning, a feature length film about Jesus and Barabbas, produced by BJU’s film department.
The Christmas of 1953 I was invited by, Allen Thompson, the son of Rev. Elmer Thompson, the director of the mission where my parents ministered, to come down to Columbia Bible College and he would take me to his home in Pennsylvania to spend Christmas with them. So I hitched-hiked down to the school and a day later found myself in his car with three C.B.C. girls, all heading back to Pennsylvania for Christmas. One of them was Pat Gumm. By the time we arrived in Pennsylvania, I determined to get to know her better.
I started writing her in January of 1954 and in May of that year I returned to Pittsburgh to play the piano in a rescue mission, work in a hospital scrubbing walls and start courting Pat. By August of that year we were engaged. A year later in August of 1955 we were married in her home church.
Graciously, God provided all the things we needed to set up housekeeping, plus the money I needed for tuition for that year through wedding gifts.
We returned to BJU for my senior year and God wonderfully provided us with a little trailer home 8 feet wide by about 30 feet long. God had spoken to a dear lady who heard we were being married and felt led of God to loan us a trailer home rent free for my senior year at BJU.
There we spent our first year together studying for classes and getting to know one another as husband and wife. I worked after school at Belk’s Department Store in the ladies’ shoe department, earning $15.00 a week. That’s what we lived on. I think $20. a month went to ground rent and about $7.00 a week for groceries. Pat was an excellent cook from the start and she learned to prepare good meals on whatever we could afford.
In the spring of 1956 Pat was pregnant with our first baby. We did not know what God had planned for us after graduation. That spring a representative of Village Missions spoke in chapel and I heard of opportunities to pastor small churches that were being opened up in rural areas. I talked with the representative after the service and let her know I was interested. Within a few weeks we learned of an opportunity to go to the Sandhills of Western Nebraska to pastor a small church. I accepted the call and by graduation time, we were ready to set out for our first church.
One small problem was that we had no car. God solved that problem through Pat’s brother who had just joined the Air Force and did not need his 48 Dodge, so generously donated it to us.
So in July of 1956 we left Pat’s home in Pittsburgh and set out on our long journey to western Nebraska. Pat was seven months pregnant. We were ready to conquer the world, though I was still wet behind the ears as a pastor.
Now over fifty-five years later we look back on the way our gracious God has led us and blessed us and met all our needs. We can only rejoice in the wisdom He has given us to raise our children and pastor churches over the years. But that’s another story.
We thank God for our three grown children who each love the Lord and for the godly mates He has given to each of them. We thank Him for eleven grandchildren who each love the Lord. Now they are married to godly mates and the great-grandchildren are coming!
What does He have for us in the future? We have no idea; but the God who has provided for us and met every need and filled our lives with joy and purpose, will continue to go with us to the end of this life and then take us to be with Himself in Heaven; not because of our works, but because of what Christ accomplished for us on Calvary.
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