26 February 2012

Friends and books

I probably have quite a number of dates muddled in all of this.  I would appreciate it if one you has access to a time machine could go back and correct the errors.

Of one thing I am certain.  By the time Susan and I left Honolulu, at the end of January, 1973, I had signed a contract with the Pacific and Asian Linguistics Institute - or possibly my contract was with the University of Hawaii Press directly - to write two books about Yapese: a Yapese-English Dictionary, and a Yapese Reference Grammar (by the way, I can do any of you much better deals on these books than those two Amazon links offer - just e-mail me :-)).  Iou, Defeg, and I - both mentioned in previous posts - had worked on these for some considerable time at this point - but I don't know when we began.  I do know that we were working intensively on these during these years - 1970-72.

I was back at the University intensely now.  I had to catch up on my enrolled studies; had to work on the two Yapese books; and was finding that my friendships had taken on quite a different character now that I was a professed Christian.

For one thing, there was no secret about it.  I went round wearing that T-shirt with "Christ is the Answer" screen-printed on the back.  My Yamaha 50 had been replaced by a Honda 90 - and Hawai'i now had a helmet law.  My helmet had 'Jesus' painted in bright pink psychedelic lettering on the back.  I suppose that most of my previous acquaintances sighed and said to themselves that John had replaced his drug trip with a new one - quite correctly, in a way.

My relationship with one friend changed character in ways that eventually had important worldly consequences for us.  The friend was Greg Trifonovitch.

Greg was a fellow linguistics graduate student.  He was something like five years or so older than me.  'Is' in addition to 'was' as Greg is very much alive, still a dear friend, although we see little enough of one another, due to distance.  Greg was born and brought up in Palestine - in Tiberias, I think - and had moved to the United States in his late 'teens.  We knew one another pretty well before I stopped being a student.  Now I came back - bursting with my Christianity.  Greg was astonished.  I remember well his comment: "What?!  That's impossible!  My adult Sunday School class has been praying for you for two years!!"

Susan and I were no longer living together.  We were, in fact, feeling a considerable amount of strain in our relationship.  I was (am) not the easiest person to be closely involved with.  We had officially decided that we were not to be engaged until God made it clear that we should be married.  God, however, had to deal with John Jensen's badgering, demanding way of wanting what he wanted, when and how he wanted it.  Susan, therefore, had to be certain whose - or Whose - voice she was listening to.

But our lives were very full now of our Christian world.  In particular, we were committed to Campus Crusade for Christ and its activities - which included street witnessing.  One evening a week, with many other Campus Crusade friends, we went to the International Market Place in Waikiki (which apparently is going to disappear), and buttonholed passers-by with the intent of going through the "Four Spiritual Laws" booklet with them - wanting a decision for Christ.  The methodology is undoubtedly shallow - but I have no doubt that some, at least, are genuinely converted, with a start in such a way.

Our closest friends now were all from Campus Crusade activities.  Kathy Golden - now Kathy Ehmann - we knew through Prince of Peace - became Susan's bridesmaid - and, at least the last we heard from her, she worked for Campus Crusade at their headquarters Arrowhead Springs, California (the headquarters moved to Orlando, Florida in 1991 - I wonder if she is still involved with Campus Crusade).  Vicky Clark we had known from the encounter groups.  Vicky was very upset when we left the encounter group scene - was rather annoyed with our hot-gospelling Christianity - and ended up being active with Campus Crusade herself.  Her mother hosted the reception for our wedding.

And also from Prince of Peace we became close friends with the man who ended up being my best man; Bob Feldhan.

19 February 2012

Back to school

(Warning, for those wedded to chronological consistency, though yesterday's post ended with the end of July, 1970, this one skips back to something like April or May, 1970).

I am not sure precisely when I stopped driving taxi and began working for AMFAC - perhaps around the beginning of March, 1970, or possibly sometime in February.

The shop I worked for maintained a wide variety of electronic communications devices, but the primary ones were R-T mobile devices for taxicabs, trucks, and 'buses, and pagers for doctors.  The pagers were all transistor-based, of course, but the former, at that time, mostly used vacuum valves.  We were a busy place and there were, I think, five or six technicians working there.  My boss, Gary Cosendine, was a fair enough man, but a rough and ready sort - and my enthusiastic Christianity and Bible-reading annoyed him a great deal.  At some point I had a T-shirt with the words "Christ is the Answer" emblasoned on the back.  Perhaps I wore that to work at AMFAC.

Still, Gary was willing to put up with me, so long as I did the work.  Initial contracts were always for 90 days - during which period you could be dismissed without any reason given.  After that, they had to give cause and might deal with the union.

I must by now have been involved in at least some University activities.  Perhaps I was still in some technical sense a student, and was going there to try to work on some of the Yapese materials I had started whilst in Yap in 1969.  One Thursday, in May or early June - my 89th on the job - Grace, the secretary, had issued to me my AMFAC uniform clothing.  I took them home, and today, Friday, was wearing one change of clothing.  Gary announced that we would all have to work this week-end.  We were, in fact, being flown to Moloka'i to install R-T equipment in some of the big tractors that are used in the pineapple fields.

"Ah.  OK, Gary, I think that will be ok, but I have to check - I may have University obligations this week-end."

"You have no other obligations that conflict with AMFAC's requirements!"

"Oh, no, I can't accept that."

"Go tell Grace to terminate your contract."

That, then, was that!  I talked to Grace, filled out papers to get my last paycheque - and asked her what to do about the uniform clothing ("Never mind, just keep them.")

Well.  Out of a job.  I don't really remember in any detail what precisely happened then.  At some point - whether before or after this occurrence, I don't know - I had said to staff at the University - possibly to my friend Ken Rehg, a fellow PhD student - that, obviously, there was no way for me to come back.  That, I was told, was not true!  Come back I did.  I must, I suppose, have been paid by the University of Hawai'i in some way, since I did not starve to death!  I had believed, at the end of 1969, that I was finished with linguistics forever.  In ways that I could not have imagined this turned out not to be true.

What above all I did during the months leading up to my baptism in July, and continuing on from then, was to read.  To be sure, I read linguistics.  I returned to classes and began thinking about my PhD.  I began also to resume my weekly visits with Kathleen, my and Edna's daughter, though these were rather stiff and formal - neither she nor I knew quite what to make of each other.  But mostly I read - I read Christianity.

I was trying to understand this thing I had undertaken.  During this time, and, indeed, over the next two and a half years, I both bought books and read books from the library.  Some of the authors (by no means all - and in no particular order) who were of great importance in framing my outlook in this period were:
There were many others.  The above list illustrates the randomness of my reading.  Chesterton is the only Catholic author, whose Everlasting Man is the only Catholic author I recall reading.  Perhaps most influential in the above were Lewis - with whose writings I fell in love, a love affair which has never ended; Schaeffer, who taught me the beginnings of Christian philosophy; and the Calvinist writers (Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Van Til, Calvin himself), who taught me an absolute submission to the Word of God.

Of Lutheran authors, I had read some of Luther - his commentary on Galatians, his essay on the bondage of the will - and Thielicke on Christian ethics.  But by the time of my baptism I was already pretty deeply Calvinist - and Baptist.

18 February 2012

Born again!

I went to that Campus Crusade meeting in a state of considerable unhappiness.  I was a Christian.  I knew that I was not living as a Christian should.  I wanted to do so - and yet did not do so.  I was living very much in St Paul's Romans 7 experience.  I do not think I knew the passage yet, but I could have echoed:
22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Dick and Carolyn Edic were the leaders of Campus Crusade in Honolulu.  Dick spoke that evening.  And what he spoke of was revolutionary for me.  He talked about what we came to call "The Bird Book"  The booklet was of the same format as Campus Crusade's famous "Four Spiritual Laws" booklet - a small-format pamphlet to be handed out to persons we talked to.

The Bird Book was about the Holy Spirit.  It was not charismatic in the commonly understood sense.  It simply said that God wanted me to live a holy life - but that I could not do so in my own power - "in the flesh."  The Holy Spirit was given to enable me to live as God intended.

I went home very excited - hence Susan's concern that I was on drugs again.  I began intensely to pray.  It was still enormous challenge, but I was determined to quit the drugs - and smoking cigarettes - and now believed that I could, with God's help.

I will say here, parenthetically, that those with more theology than I had at the time will quickly want to point out - what is quite correct - that as I had not been baptised yet, I could not have received the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, I was not confirmed until I became a Catholic, in 1995.

All this is true.  Yet ... God does not deny His help to any who sincerely ask it.  He works through His ordained Sacraments; He is not limited to them.

I experience two weeks of pretty fair agony in the second half of March, 1970.  By the end of that time, I had stopped smoking, and had stopped taking drugs.  I have neither smoked nor taken drugs since that time.

Susan began attending Campus Crusade meetings with me, and became personal friends with Carolyn Edic.  She and Carolyn went for coffee one day - and Susan told Carolyn that Sue and I were living together, thought not married - and asked Carolyn what she thought.  Sue says that Carolyn offered her a Bible verse - in fact, did what Campus Crusade typically does: opened her Bible and asked her to read it.  Sue does not remember what verse it was, but I suspect it may have been one of CC's favourite verses: I Corinthians 14:40 - "Let all things be done decently and in order."

I don't, after this much passage of time, remember the details, but I do recall talking with Dick, telling him my theory that we were married "in the sight of God" because we were already living with one another and considered ourselves (at least I considered us :-)) married.  He did not argue with me.

Within a week or two, we were no longer living together.  Susan's main job was working at the main office of First Hawaiian Bank.  Her friend Gerry Wyttenbach, who also worked there, told her of a friend, Carrie Street (now dead, from a car accident - may she rest in peace), who had a house and needed a housemate.  The house was at 2971 Koali Road.  She moved there in, I suppose, April of 1970.  When we were married, that was our home until we moved to Auckland, in February, 1973.

Things improved from then.  We quickly became regular Sunday attenders at Prince of Peace.  We were fully a part of the congregation.  We made close friends - Denny Wicks, Lois (forget her last name - in the Army), Reverend Fred Sapp, Assistant Pastor (whose Bible studies introduced me to the Athanasian Creed, and to wonderful evangelical hymns such as Amazing Grace and Just As I Am, Pastor Norm Hammer himself (another car accident victim) - and especially Bob and Vicky Feldhan - Bob who became my best man.

On 26 July, 1970 I was born again.  Pastor Hammer baptised me at the Sunday morning service.  Indirectly, this led to my and Susan's leaving the Lutheran Church.

12 February 2012


1970 and 1994 are two years of drastic changes in my life.  More accurately, the period from late December, 1969 until the end of 1970, and that from September, 1993 through the end of 1994 are two periods of, to me, breathtaking changes.

At the beginning of the first I was a heavy user of drugs, an unreflective agnostic - scarcely even agnostic since the thought of God had scarcely ever crossed my mind; at its end I was a Baptist, no longer using drugs (including tobacco), and beginning to set serious sin aside.

At the beginning of the second I was a pretty sophisticated - but not very happy - Calvinist; by its end I was a Catholic.


Driving taxis had, from the beginning, been something I did not like.  I did not like driving at all.  It made me tense and anxious.  Customers were not easy to deal with.  The day was long - I left the house at 5 in the morning and got home around 7 at night.  I earned enough money, barely, to live on.

Taxicabs use radio communication to talk to the despatcher - and I had a certain amount of electronics knowledge, from my amateur radio experimenting days.  Taking my 'cab into AMFAC to have the radio repaired one day, I talked about my experience - and was offered a job as an electronics technician.  I accepted it.  I stopped driving taxis in about February, 1970 and began working for AMFAC as an electronics technician.

Sue and I were now going to church.  Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Waikiki had a Youth Service every Sunday evening.  It was a preaching service - no Communion - with rock music and a singing Youth Pastor, Bob Turnbull, the "Chaplain of Waikiki Beach."  If this was Christianity, I was enjoying it.

I was not happy with myself, however.  I knew with increasing certainty that my drug use was bad.  I knew from my experience that my living with Susan was bad.  I had begun to know that I was not free.

Susan did not like my drug-taking, and I said I would quit.  I tried, repeatedly, to stop - tried, and failed.  One day in March, having, again, taken LSD - I found myself weeping.  Since I had become a Christian, I had, when I took LSD, never had a 'good trip.'  My last LSD experience that I could call remotely rewarding had been the one that night at Greg's house, with Candace, which led me to Bill Arnold's father's church and to Jesus Christ.  Since then LSD had been frustrating for me.  The drug had physical effects - and I was using increasing doses; it seemed no longer to have any psychic ones.  Marijuana was no longer doing much as a tranquiliser.  Tobacco was beginning to make me sick.  Drugs had become a major issue between me and Susan.

I was weeping because I longed to be free of these burdens.  I was weeping also because I could see that my relation to Susan - now of five months' duration - was deteriorating.  We were making one another unhappy.  I tried to pray - but scarcely knew what to pray for.  I resolved yet again to stop taking drugs.

One evening at church, an announcement was made.  A campus organisation - but it was not strictly for those involved with the University - was going to have an introductory meeting.  Details were given.  The organisation's name was Campus Crusade for Christ.  Did Susan want to go with me?  No, she didn't feel like it - although she did not say so, I think as much as anything she was very unhappy with our living arrangement and our relationship.

When I came back from that meeting and came into our flat, Susan's first, annoyed, remark was, "You've been taking acid again, haven't you?'

04 February 2012

What have I done??

When I was about eight years old, my maternal grandmother gave me a Bible.  She marked for me, in blue chalk (which was what we used in the days before highlighters!), the Lord's Prayer, in Matthew 6, and the 23rd Psalm, telling me to memorise them - which I duly did.

It is a good thing that all Candace had to give me was a New Testament.  When my grandmother gave me a full Bible, I did what, naturally, one does with a book; I began to read it from the beginning.

The first eleven chapters of Genesis are very difficult.  They constitute a prologue to the history of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which are the burden of the book.  I read, perhaps, no more than those eleven chapters of Genesis before going to my mother - who was as innocent of any Christian knowledge as I - and asked about the patriarchs who had lived for seven or eight hundred years.  Oh, she told me, perhaps they really meant months.  Enoch (Genesis 5:21) , for instance, was 65 years old when he begat Methuselah.  Eight years old can do simple arithmetic.  I knew that a man not yet 6 years old was unlikely to do any begetting.  I read no more of the Bible.

I still had my grandmother's Bible, but my conversion, if that is what it was, that Sunday the 28th of December, 1969, was very much connected with Candace, and I had her gift.  That very morning I began to read at the beginning of Matthew's Gospel.

This is more difficult than Genesis 1-11.  I got to Matthew 5:27-28:
27Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
And other hard sayings.  I was, to put it mildly, distinctly alarmed by this - in the language of the time and milieu, I freaked out.

I rang Candace later that morning and, rather babbling, said that I didn't know what exactly had happened, didn't want her to think it was something it wasn't, maybe it wasn't what she thought, perhaps...

Candace seemed not even slightly concerned.  She calmly said not to worry, trust God, it would all work out.

Monday I got in my 'cab and went back to work.  By Tuesday, or, at the latest, Wednesday, I found something out: if you give yourself to God, you will have to work at it if you want to take it back.  God doesn't abandon you - and you won't find it easy to ignore Him.  I remember thinking something along the lines of: "Well, it looks like I am a Christian now, whether I want it or not.  I suppose I had better try to find out something about all this."

Susan, although, I expect, reasonably positive about this development, was both sceptical and annoyed.

Sceptical, because John had been through other enthusiastic trips - well, here was yet another.  How long would this last, and where would it go?

Annoyed, because I was raving about what, after all, she had grown up with.  I talked as though I had personally just invented Christianity - as though I deserved credit for - well, for whatever had happened.  Susan had been a Christian all her life - although her attendance at the Episcopal churches in Honolulu had been a bit sporadic.  Who was this johnny-come-lately to be telling her about being saved?

Nevertheless, she was positive about the matter.

Candace and her mother returned to the mainland.  I persuaded Susan to move in with me to Young Street.  Did I begin to wonder, even, about the propriety of this living arrangement?  I may have done, I think.  The beginnings of some slight notions of there being a real moral world may have been dawning at last.  Proof of this is that I recall thinking - or saying to Susan, even - that now we were "married in the sight of God."  You don't justify what you think needs no justification.

When driving my taxi, I listened to the radio.  I heard an ad for something called a "Youth Service" at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Waikiki.  Well, I knew that "going to church" was something that Christians did.  This "Youth Service" sounded great.  They had rock music!  I told Susan that we should attend.