24 February 2013


Faith is a gift from God.  It is not simply a conclusion, drawn from evidences.  It is not possible to proceed from this or that fact of experience; from this or that conclusion of reason; from this or that historical occurrence - to faith.

It is, nevertheless, the case that faith does normally require such helps from reason.  Grace builds on nature; it does not eliminate it.

When, in 1969, I believed in Christ, my faith was as close to a leap as is imaginable.  I had evidences.  Candace's own conversion was the principle form of evidence.  No doubt the vague notions of the history of Christianity that I had absorbed from the culture were another.  My own inner sense of the presence both of Christ and of the Devil constituted a third.  And, when Bill Arnold, Candace, and I talked together in his father's church early that Sunday morning, some additional questions were answered.  Nevertheless, I believed.

I chose to believe.  This is, in fact, always true.  Faith is a gift to the will of man.  We have this or that reason why we think something is true.  In the end, mathematical proof is not possible - the possibility of doubt, of error, remains.  We decide, 'I will believe.'  This is as true of believing in a human sense as it is of theological faith.  Regarding theological faith, God responds to our act of will - which is an act of love, of desire of the believed Object - by granting us the gift of faith.  And that gift, that faith, is absolute.  It does not co-exist with doubt - with questions, certainly, but not with doubt.

By 1984, I had been well-schooled in the school of presuppositionalism.  I was a disciple of Cornelius Van Til.  The truth of Christianity was the necessary foundation of any thinking at all.  To suppose that one could argue from evidences to faith was to place human reason at the foundation of faith.  This was, in fact, impossible.

So far, it may be, so good.  I think a Catholic version of this could be defended.  But a conclusion often drawn by my teachers was that it was an error - indeed, a moral fault - to attempt to seek evidences themselves.  One was not allowed to seek for reasons for belief.

It is surely not surprising that a person in the situation in which I found myself in August - perhaps late July - of 1984 might experience what he interpreted as an attack on his faith.  We had made a major shift, not only of house, but of culture (and returning to New Zealand after eight years in Yap involved a stunning culture shock).  We were experiencing a great deal of stress because of sharing a one-family house with the Jacksons - and it was their house; we were the invaders.  Our cost of living in relation to my income was suddenly very high.

Above all, however, was the fact that I was coming to know that I had lied to myself in leaving Yap and in leaving linguistics.  I had told myself that we would work for five years in New Zealand, to get the new Pukekohe Reformed Church off the ground.  Then I would return to Yap as a Bible translating linguist.  This had been the sop I had given to my conscience, to justify my action.

In fact, it is difficult to know why I imagined such a thing to be possible.  Even supposing there were some agent willing and able to finance such a project, the slightest amount of thought could have told me that the Reformed Churches of New Zealand would never support any activity that was not Reformed in doctrine and practice.  No such operation could have been possible in Yap.  A talk with Richard Flinn about such an idea, at just this time, was sufficient to clarify this for me.

I do not know the exact date, but I recall vividly the circumstances, in which the sky fell on me.  One afternoon, in late July or early August - mid-winter and very cold - I had gone out of the IAL building where I worked, for a brief break from work.  I was standing in the car park.  I suddenly realised: there is no God.

There is no God - then, there is ... nothing.  Certainly, I - what, in fact, is this 'I'? - I experience this sequence of impressions, this cloud of things I call 'thoughts,' this thing I think of as me.  But ... there seemed no possible response to such a state of affairs.  I was silenced.  What is, just is - and has no more meaning, no content, than if it were not.

I attempted to reason with myself - and ran up against the presuppositionalist command: thou shalt not try to prove God.  My clearest thought was this: if, in fact, Christianity is true, then, certainly, all makes sense.  The world is meaningful.  Suffering may be real, but it is not the last word.

But presupposing the truth of Christianity, although doing so is necessary for the world to make sense, does not make it true.  Presuppositionalism may be a form of St Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God - the idea that the ultimate imperfection of being is non-existence; but God is, by definition, the most perfect being.  Thus His non-existence is unthinkable.

Possibly it seems an extreme reaction - to suppose that if God doesn't exist - and at that moment, I simply knew, as I believed, that He did not - then ... then, really, nothing.  Nothing followed from anything.  Reason, meaning, rationality, existence itself were thrown out.  I do not think it was.  I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can be an atheist and yet continue to act as though reason, even reality itself, were somehow self-evident.

I stopped talking.

Those who know me will know that such a response is proof of the depth of my dismay.  I did not, literally, become mute.  I responded in a kind of broken-voiced way to procedural questions.  To the now-frequent question from Sue: "What is the trouble?  What is worrying you?" the answer was 'Nothing' (with a rather stupid smile).  On the inside I was devastated.  I continued to go to work.  I didn't know how to stop doing the usual things - but I did not know what I was going to do, nor how long I could keep this up.

All this lasted for, perhaps, a week.  I had not told Sue what was going on, but it was clear that she knew something was seriously the matter.  Finally I could keep quiet no longer (showing that even a major attack on his world won't shut me up indefinitely :-)).  I began to talk to her; asked her how we could even know that God existed.

She was deeply distressed.  Nevertheless, our talking together itself helped the two of us.  After some talk, we decided to talk to Richard Flinn, our pastor.  Some event was to happen at Mangere Reformed Church (which shut down in 2009).  We went to it and talked with Richard.  "How can we know that God exists?"

Poor Richard.  His answer - the only one he could give, based on his Van Tillian views, was to say there there were no intellectual problems with faith.  Every man who expresses doubts about faith is, in fact, using them as a smoke screen.  He does not believe the faith because he does not want to.  He is trying to hide from God.  The reason for perceived doubts about faith was secret sin.

One might have supposed this sort of answer would have driven me farther into despair.  I cannot say it did - perhaps, in great part, because it was Sue and I who asked it together.

I recall very well, in any case, what I did.  In a day or so, I decided to do what Puddleglum does in The Silver Chair.  Challenged by the Green Lady to prove that there is any world outside Underland, they cannot do so.  Puddleglum says that if the only real world is this horrid one of Underland; if the sun and the wind and trees do not exist; then it is strange that their imaginary world is clearly vastly superior to this real world of Underland - and he refuses to doubt the world above - a version, again, I suppose, of the ontological argument.

I decided, one day, not long after talking to Richard, that, if I was not able to believe in God, that, nonetheless, I would refuse to act in any way than that of a man of faith.  If I could not believe in God, I would act as though God were real.  I would not only act so externally; I would think so internally.  I rejected - and with an inward violence that I recall to this day - a world of meaningless, irrational, empty sense experience.

I do not know precisely when I realised - rather suddenly - that I had stopped worrying about the whole issue.  I suddenly realised that I didn't know why I had ever thought I did not believe in God.

This was the worst experienced of my life to that point - to be matched only by June, 1994 - almost exactly ten years later - when I thought God hated me.  Then, also, it was an act of the will that saved me.  It was only reading Ronald Knox, and his summary of St Thomas Aquinas's Five Ways, that I had answers to my questions.  At that time I reflected, also, on Hebrews 11:6: "... he who comes to God must believe that He is..." - August, 1984 - "... and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.' - July, 1994.

Richard was not to be faulted for his answer.  He had established us in Pukekohe.  He was our pastor for approximately the next three and a half years.

17 February 2013


This past week my back has been giving me grief - and I realised, with a bit of a shock, that in my hurry to get past the last two years we lived in Yap, I had not mentioned something of some importance, both then and for my later life.  Memory is a passive function.  One recalls what one is interested in.  Pain is often easily forgotten.

Though I had reason to anticipate trouble.  My first back troubles began when I was in high school - just low back ache that I paid little attention to.  To my great embarrassment, it flattened me once, when I was 19.  Edna, her friend Roberta, and I were unloading things from my station wagon into the flat Edna and I were to live in in Berkeley - when, suddenly, I was on my hands and knees, groaning in agony - and in mortification at girls having to finish what a male could not.  Later that year, when I applied for a job at IBM in Oakland, they sent me to a doctor for a physical examination.  I didn't get the job - because the doctor told IBM I was likely to have back problems later in life.

Nonetheless, one readily forgets such matters at 19.  To be sure, some years later my father was obliged to stop active farming for years, to wear a back brace, and to work as an accountant - because of his back.  Still, one does not make the application to oneself.

In early1980, I was out for my daily 8Km run, when something rather more agonising even than that time in Berkeley hit my back.  It is a long time ago, now, and I don't remember how I got home.  Possibly I managed it under my own steam; perhaps I was given a ride.

This must have been in something like March, I think.  The ensuing weeks set up patterns that have been more or less part of my life since then.

X-rays were taken.  Nothing was broken.  Nevertheless, it was clear that I had ruptured a spinal disc - L4-L5, most likely.  For a time, there were patches of numbness in my right calf, the back of my right heel.  I was in pretty serious pain for months.  Surgery was proposed - and rejected (by me).  I bought books; began exercises (which I continue to this day); studied the anatomy of the back.  I went onto megadoses of vitamin C and of some of the B complex - and quite a lot of codeine.  When, in the summer of that year, I visited my father, Gary North in Tyler, and Ross Jackson in Pukekohe, I was nearly over the worst of it.  The feeling had returned.  I returned to Yap and tried to start running again, starting slowly.  Two weeks of that and I had to stop.  No catastrophic occurrences, but I could tell there would be problems.  Tried again, once or twice, over the next few weeks, with the same results.  I have not run since.

By the end of 1980, I was fine.  Sometime during 1982, it hit again.  It was worse this time.  I had numb places in my left leg; what was much more concerning was that my right calf was partly paralysed.  I could not walk without crutches.

The Education Department was wonderful to me.  I lived only a few hundred metres from work.  Using crutches, I made it to work.  Two desks were pushed together.  I worked lying on my back all day every day, with my head up on a stack of papers, and my knees supported on books.

Again, I avoided surgery.  Six months, together with exercise (and the possible help of the vitamins), saw me, again, in good shape - except that my right calf was still partly paralysed, and still is.

Today I am aware that this is something I will live my life with.  In 2006 it all happened again.  Now we are living in New Zealand at a time and in a place with MRI scanning, so the New Zealand medical system could confirm what had to be inferred in 1980 and 1982: I suffer (as, I think, does my brother, and did my father) from congenital spinal stenosis, with a consequent (in my case) ruptured disc.  The 2006 incident happened in June.

The surgeon assigned to me had examined me after the MRI scan, July.  He said: "Surgery might help; if it were my back, I wouldn't.  Keep up your exercises, take it easy.  You will probably be all right."  He saw me again in December, by which time I still used a cane, but was nearly ready to stop.  "Good," he said.  "OK, you're doing fine.  Keep up your exercises.  It will happen again; until then, don't worry about it."

One, as they say, of those things :-)  I recall, in 2006, praying that, if I were to be on crutches, or even in a wheel chair, for the rest of my life, the Lord would just enable me to do my work, to keep up what He wanted me to do.  Back in August, 1984 - when we had been in Pukekohe for three months, something occurred that was much more scary than the prospect of being confined to a wheelchair for life.

Marlene Village

We moved to Marlene Village in the Sunset area of Beaverton when I was almost ten.  This was a neighbourhood about 100+ houses built after WWII.  I believe that there were three or four types of houses with fairly large sections.  The streets were sealed but there were no footpaths. 

I got my first bicycle while living there.  The area was flat, safe and not much traffic, so I spent quite a lot of time riding my bike.  I also had school friends who lived on other streets close by.  When the weather was reasonable, I would ride my bike over to their houses and spend the afternoons there following school.

My mother enjoyed living in that area.  She made a couple of friends who lived close by.  One of them was Donna Jean Lamoureux who was about my mother's age, had two kids, Kathy and Ken, and her husband traveled as much as my father did for his job.

Donna Jean and my mother spent a lot of time together.  Mothers didn't work outside of the home very often then. I remember my mother helping Donna Jean work on her house and then Donna Jean helped my mother with ours.  They were constantly "doing things up", visiting "barn sales" (now secondhand stores and garage sales) - you name it -  if the Internet had been around, they would have spent a lot of time looking at furniture, etc. on it for sure.

Donna Jean was quite talented at remodeling things.  She and her family later moved to Lake Oswego outside of Portland and she had their home remodeled.  It was beautiful.

In the areas beyond Sunset (Forrest Grove, Hillsboro & Scholls) lived a variety of relatives who came from my Grandfather Stretcher's side - this was my mother's father.  These were the people who we got together with for holiday meals.  The meals at which my sister and I, with our cousins, ate ourselves crazy.

We usually met at Aunt Hazel's in Hillsborough.  She was  the one with the huge pipe organ in her dining room.  She would play the organ at the end of the holiday meal - arms and legs flying over the keys and the pedals.  The temptation to sneak a touch of those things was almost impossible to overcome - but I don't think that either my sister or I gave into it.  Who knew what would have happened if someone found out?

We had quite a full life while living in the Sunset area.  Both of our grandmothers were still alive and living in their own homes in Portland.  The drive was about thirty minutes away to each of their neighbourhoods.  My parents were part of the founding group who started a new Episcopal Church in Beaverton. My sister and I were involved in after school activities such as Girl Scouts and I started riding lessons near Beaverton at Nichol's Riding Academy.  My mother had ridden there when she was in school.  I almost forgot, too, that I took dancing lessons - ballet and tap dancing.  I had problems with my feet and it was decided that dance lessons plus the most insane amount of other "therapies" were going to help me later.  They did but it was a total hassle - more for my mother than me.

My feet ended up being rather a major part of my life for years.

10 February 2013


I have just posted a comment on Susan's recent post making fun of her family's moving so often, ascribing it to a supposed female to be unsatisfied with what one has got; in acquiring our new house, the first thing I did was to make changes.

Well, in fact, the first change we necessarily made was to acquire some furniture.

Our house in Yap had been furnished.  We had shipped everything we owned from there - but the only item that could be called furniture was an enormous kauri (at least, Susan believes it to be kauri; from its age, I suspect it is more likely totara) lab table that I acquired for $5.00 in 1974 when an old chemistry lab in the Old Choral Hall
was cleared out - caused it to be shipped to Yap, and, eight years later, back again.  But even had we had furniture, it would be, as it turned out, something like ten months before we saw it.  The six crates - each 7 cubic metres in volume - that left our house in Yap in May, 1984, arrived at our house in Pukekohe in, I think, March, 1985.  As I recall, the first six months of that time they spent in a warehouse in Yap; the next four in Vanuatu.

When we bought our house from Mr and Mrs Shaw, Mrs Shaw persuaded us to buy their old clothes drier and kitchen 'fridge - and under the house, there was a (working!) electric frypan.  Otherwise - it was bare.

Mr Peck's secondhand store became one of our regular stops - both for buying and for selling back - for the next year or so.

Our house has three bedrooms - and a building divided into a garage, on one side, and a garden shed on the other.  Chronology is a bit hazy here, but very quickly - certainly by the end of the year, and probably by November, 1984 - we had done the following:

  • Wired the two rooms in the outbuilding for electricity.  The garage-cum-garden-shed is, in fact, a very solid building (so long as no earthquake happens - the outer wall on the shed side is laid brick).  We acquired (free!) old carpet (from the man who was, for a while, Johnny's soccer coach).  Both sides have, thus, carpeting - not properly laid, just lying down, but who cares?
  • Acquired a 5KVA 220-110 stepdown transformer for the garage side; a 4KVA for the house.  We would bring a large amount of 110V equipment from Yap (the very last of it has only just this last month - 29 years later - gone out of service).
  • Acquired furniture of various sorts for the house.
  • Acquired an ancient black-and-white television.
  • Acquired a large steel desk for the garage - which thereby officially became my office
  • And - wonderful friends! - Rob Darby installed bookshelves - just from rough timber - in my 'office' and in the downstairs garden-shed room - which thenceforth was officially called the schoolroom.
For we were - or, rather, Susan was - very definitely home-schooling.

Cornell Road

When we moved out to the Sunset area, I felt that I would never want to leave.  It was very much like the Pukekohe area that we now live in.  There were parts of it that had been large farms - many of which were still there.  There were new housing developments built after WWII and a new shopping centre about ten minutes away that had a large Safeway grocery store.  Beaverton itself was twenty minutes away and it had everything:  indoor swimming pool with a high diving board, "The Dark Horse" - a new women's clothing store that was beautiful, a movie theatres - one indoor and one outdoor, a number of churches, and Beaverton High School where I would have gone when I was older, and of course, a lot of businesses were beginning to open up in the area.  I loved going into Beaverton with my father on Saturday mornings.  After doing errands, we would end up at a coffee shop - he would drink coffee and eat a piece of pie and we would have cokes and doughnuts - totally healthy, of course.  This was about 1955.

The first house we lived in the Sunset area was on Cornell Road.  It was on the country side of the area and was very established with a large yard, a garage that had a large workshop, a large glass house that my mother spent quite a bit of time in and just beyond a white wooden fence in the backyard, there was a large playhouse with a front and back door.  I can remember spending summers in the playhouse with the doors open for a breeze,  the  radio playing "Queen for a Day" and my sister and I eating lunch together. 

The next door neighbours were friendly.  An older couple lived on one side in a two story building which they used the main floor of for making Christian movies.  I don't remember too much about it except that my sister and mother were asked to be in some of the movies.  I got to go and watch them and later we saw the movies they had appeared in.

I will never forget that down the road from this house was a meat slaughtering business.  There were large barns and many trucks.  My mother wanted a dog as we had the area to keep one and she felt it would be good as my father was often gone on business trips.

A couple of days after we got the dog, we got up one morning and heard my mother yelling for us to look out the front window that faced the lawn.  It was an awful sight.  The dog had been down the road and somehow got hold of  cows  heads and brought them home.  There were a number of them on the lawn.  Yuk - my mother was going nuts.

She got us in the car and we drove down to the slaughter house - we had never been there before -  she told someone what had happened.  They came up to the house and got the cows heads - and we thought that was the end of it.  They said that it wouldn't happen again - they didn't know how the dog got the heads - but it did happen again.

We ended up giving the dog away. My mother didn't want to keep the dog tied up all the time and obviously the dog liked the slaughter house.  Not a good combination.

Across the road from us lived Dr. Stalder and his sister on what was left of their family farm.  Their home had been in their family for a number of generations.  I can remember going in there and thinking it was like something I had seen on TV or in the movies.  Everything seemed  very old, very well kept and beautiful.  Eventually they sold the property and Sunset High School was built on it.

If we were sick,  my mother would ring Dr. Stalder and he would make a house visit.  I think that he did that for many people in the area.

We lived in the Cornell Road house for a couple of years and then moved to a housing development in the area named Marlene Village.  It was on the other side of Sunset Highway and I can remember it quite clearly.

03 February 2013

Today this entry will be rather short.  I have had a cold and infection in my chest for the last seven days.  The most exciting part of it happened this morning. 

Our cats are fed in a hallway next to  their "cat door" leading outside and on the way to the laundry room.  I was passing past their area in the hallway and coughed - as I have been doing all week - one of the cats was eating out of its bowl and the sound of the cough was loud enough to send this cat into panic.  He jumped onto the bowl and tray and the dry cat food flew all over the hall area, onto the wall - the water in the cat dish spilled onto the tray and then onto the wall and carpet.  It was a mess and the cat stood there looking wild-eyed at me.

I had planned to write about the years I spent in an area outside of Beaverton, Oregon - 1954 -1959.  My family moved there after leaving my grandfather's farm in Damascus, Oregon and living in Portland for a year.  We lived with each grandmother for six months in 1953.  During that year I attended Laurelhurst School and then Llewellyn School in Sellwood.  Laurelhurst was my father's elementary school and Llewellyn was my mother's.

In 1954 we moved to an area just off the Sunset Highway.  This was the main highway between Portland and the Coast.  The area was newly developed and Sunset Valley Elementary School was new.

I am grateful that we were able to be part of this area.  There were many families moving into it and there was a real feeling of progress.  About three blocks from the school was a business called  Tektronix where a close friend of my parents worked.  At the time it was a small business, having just started after WW2.

Bill Marsh and his young family moved from the East Coast to Oregon so he could work at Tektronix.  They attended the Episcopal Church in Beaverton where we also attended - actually my parents were in the group of people who started that church in Beaverton.

We often spent time at the Marsh's house - my sister will remember some of the kids.  Their names were Thomas and Betsy - their mother, Virginia, has been raised in a wealthy family with maids, etc...and she loved her kids but she was not the most motivated person in the housekeeping department.  Their home was very "relaxed".

I can remember my parents often telling us that Bill Marsh was working on the beginnings of something called computers - or something to do with them.  It was all very advanced.  I can remember going to his office building - a smallish brick building - and thinking what important could be happening in there????  He was also very "relaxed" - he didn't seem very important to me at all.

Years later his place of business became an international company.  John proudly tells me that he a Tektronix oscilloscope.

I believe that Nike is also quite close to where we lived - it was just open fields that we had to drive by to get to Beaverton for the things that Sunset didn't have:  swimming at the indoor pool, movies, shopping, etc...  Beaverton was our big town.

Same Ocean - Different Location.

So, now we move on a few years to another location on one of the Oregon beaches.  This one is Gearhart Beach - three miles north of the well-known Seaside Beach.  It was the location of the Episcopal Church's summer family camp. 

I don't have a lot of separate memories about the years we attended this camp - I just know that I loved it.  My family was happy there.  My parents had friends who they were able to socialise with and everyone seemed quite relaxed.

Most of the families stayed in a huge two or three story building named The Scott House (thanks to my sister Candace for this memory of the name).  Neither Candace nor I are sure what this building had been used for, but we think it was some kind of a nunnery for the Episcopal Church or maybe it had been Catholic. 

It was made of wood with shingles on the outside and there were many rooms that were the same size and they were very plain.  One could hear through the walls - I remember friends being in the room on the other side of the wall - and we could talk back and forth at night while our parents were downstairs drinking wine and having religious discussions.

The main camp was a couple of blocks from Scott House.  There were cabins and a large dining room.  There was also a large yard where sports were played. 
Close by was a church/chapel where daily communion was held in the mornings - early.

Last but not least, there was the beach.  It was beautiful during the summer with large sand dunes and  rolling waves.  After morning classes held separately for the kids and adults and then lunch, most people would go to the beach for the afternoon.

By the end of the week, I was usually sunburned and being careful with cuts and bruises I got from walking on the large pieces of wood (old trees, etc...) that had been thrown up by the ocean onto the beach.

One afternoon - I was probably ten or eleven at the time - while at the beach with my family I decided I needed to go back to Scott House - can't remember why.  It wasn't too far away and my parents said to just go and come back as soon as I could.  I left the beach alone and was bare foot.  I had a towel with me and knew that I didn't want to take the long way back - I would just cut through the open lot that separated Scott House from the beach access.

This lot was not well cared for - it was a mass of prickly weeds and  rubbish.  I started to cross it and suddenly realised that I wasn't going to get very far with bare feet.  It was a hot day and I started to panic in the heat and seeing that I was in a predicament.  I could only hope that someone from our group would see me - when they were coming or going to or from the beach -  and help me.  No one came - no one saw me -

What to do?  The only thing I could think of - I put the towel down on the weeds length-wise in front of me and walked to the farthest end, somehow turned the towel around so that the end  that was behind me was now in the front position and walked to that new position and kept doing that the whole length of the lot - mostly on my knees with my hands spread on the towel to keep the action in motion.  That's what painful weeds will do to you.  Forget walking on a bed of hot coals using positive thinking - where there's a will-there's a way.  I do not think that I ever told my parents about this - I was mortified that I had to do it - dumb.

All the camp meals were shared in the main dining room.  The food must have been fine and the mothers didn't care anyway.  They didn't have to make it.

The only problem was the Friday night dinner.  It was observed as "fish on Fridays" - so we got served clam chowder.  This was not the deluxe type one might  serve or be served today with a beautiful base, etc... No, this was something that looked like grey goop and it smelled pretty bad, too.

The third summer we attended  camp my father did something extreme.  Friday afternoon he informed us  that we were not eating dinner at the camp.that night.  It seemed quite radical to me.  He was taking us to Seaside to eat - I believe that he thought no one would see us there.  Of course we ran into other camp families  who were also escaping the clam chowder -

In thinking back over this, I believe that either my sister or I had got sick the second year after dinner on the Friday night - real sick....or maybe it was other people who did.  My father decided that we didn't have to go through it again....or he used it as an excuse -

Of course my whole life wasn't spent at the beach.  Most of it was spent attending school during the year.  Sunset Valley School outside of Beaverton, Oregon -

02 February 2013

106 Victoria Street

We lived in Ross and Glenys's house from 20 May until late July, 1984.  By that time it had become clear that the project to build a two-family house in Glenbrook was not going to happen - and the difficulties of two large families living together had produced a lot of stress amongst all, including with relation to our and their children.

The kernel of the new Pukekohe Reformed Church was to be four families:

  • us
  • the Jacksons
  • Roel Voschezang and his extended family
  • Rob and Aileen Darby and their family
Rob owned - still owns - a chicken farm in Buckland, outside Pukekohe.  We had become close friends with him and Aileen, gone to Bible studies at their house, and generally enjoyed getting to know them.  In July, I think it was, they, with their children, wanted to go on holiday - would we house-sit for them?

The offer was wonderfully received.  Sue and I (and, I am sure, the children) longed for some relief from the difficult situation.  I am certain that Ross and Glenys's feelings were the same.  We had, by then, bought - through Rob's negotiations, in fact - a 1964 Morris Oxford
(not in such good shape as the one in the photo above :-).  The six of us spent the next three weeks at Rob's house - and during the stay, resolved not to move back to the Jacksons.

When Rob and his family came home, we rented, for a few weeks, a house in Edinburgh Street.  Ross, the truest friend I have ever had, took time with Susan to hunt for a house for us to buy.

The New Zealand Housing Corporation had, at the time, an arrangement whereby families that had never owned a house before could get low-interest (no interest for the first year) mortgages.  We would qualify.  But we would still need a down-payment.

In 1970, as a new Christian, I had been convicted of my duty to tithe - to give a tenth of my income, in some sense, to God.  By perhaps 1976, when we moved to Yap, in reading books by Gary North, I had begun setting aside an additional tenth as savings.  This had been possible in Yap, because our living costs were very low.  We paid no rent.  We had no vehicle.  We had effectively no entertainment costs.

I bought gold and silver coins, instead.

This practice was also influenced by Gary's advice, and by reading the publications of Howard Ruff.  One might suppose I thought of this as a kind of investment.  I did not.  It was savings.  I remember watching the gold bubble of 1979-80 - in January, 1980, it peaked at US$850/troy ounce - and collapsed.  I do not think I ever seriously considered selling the gold coins that I had (nor, in fact, would I have been able to do so at anything like the top of the market.  One would, I think, have had to be physically in New York or London with gold in one's hand to do that).  So when gold returned, quickly, to more normal prices, I still had my gold and silver coins.  When we left Yap, I arranged to ship my collection to some place in the US where it would be safely stored for me, or could be sold from there.

Just before we left New Zealand for Yap, in December, 1975, Rob Muldoon became Prime Minister.  He was still Prime Minister when we returned, in May, 1984 - but would not be for long.  What is known as the Constitutional Crisis of 1984 was precipitated by Muldoon's calling of an early election, for July, 1984 - an election that was won by the opposition, the Labour Party.

At no point in any of this did have the slightest idea of what was going on.  What the link above tells me is that Muldoon had held the New Zealand dollar artificially high during his long term in office.  Labour devalued the dollar and it fell like a stone.

Like Forrest Gump, I had stumbled unfazed through a mine field.  My coins, which were in America, were suddenly worth much more than before.

We looked at a number of houses.  One day Sue 'phoned me at work saying that she and Ross had found a house they thought would do.  "Do you like it?" I asked.  "Yes, I think it will be all right."  "OK, good."  "Well, when are you going to come see it?"  "Oh, I don't need to.  If you like it, that will be fine."

Sometime in mid-September, 1984, we moved into 106 Victoria Street, Pukekohe.  We still live there.