LTRP Note: Two weeks ago, we presented Part 1 of this story.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
On July 17, 2009, I almost died while at the farm in Eston. Though the circumstances surrounding this incident have not been made public in the past, I believe it is important for me to share what happened. The incident and the weeks and months following changed the course of my life and the ministry at Understand The Times.
This part of my story actually begins in January 2007 while on a flight heading to the Philippine Islands. While the long flight itself from Southern California was just another journey and part of my “1 K” annual flight itinerary, the following day I noticed my body was not the same. I broke out in a “rash” or better described as “hives” from head to toe. I also came down with what seemed a terrible viral illness. From my hotel room, I dialed a friend on my cell phone, “I am very sick,” I said weakly. “I feel so bad, I don’t even know if I will make it out of here alive.”
However, in spite of the way I grew increasingly ill each day, I continued on with my speaking schedule in Manila and Bageo that lasted about ten days. When I arrived back in the USA, Myrna took one look at me and said, “I think you have scabies.” I wasn’t even sure what that was. But when I saw a doctor, he treated me for hives with steroids, and the hives went away. Within a few days of arriving home, we were scheduled for a long anticipated family holiday in Hawaii with my daughter and her family. We had a wonderful time, but on the flight home, I broke out again.
We actually had a second trip planned for shortly after we arrived home from our family trip. While it would seem to have been better to stay home and rest, Myrna and I left for Israel. We no sooner arrived there when I had another major attack. My face became so distorted that I looked like a monster. My skin erupted with scores of itching volcanoes that would not go away no matter what I did.
Once back home in California, a doctor referred me to an allergy specialist. By now, I had been taking steroids for over three weeks. It seemed this was the only way I could sleep. My condition was diagnosed as chronic idiopathic urticaria. The disease name may sound intimidating, but the side effects of the malady are far worse than the name. Chronic essentially means serious and long lasting; idiopathic means the medical profession does not know what you have, when you got it, how you got it, and how to get rid of it; urticaria means a problem related to the skin, which in my case was hives.
Week after week, month after month, the hives kept coming back, and I never knew when they were going to hit. Often they came right in the middle of a conference or other ministry trips. I continued making visits to the doctor who was treating me. After two years of extensive steroid use, weaning down and then off, I started to notice a difference in the way I was dealing with problems. I told my doctor I felt I was breaking down. . . .
[T]here was another factor. I was not only subjected to stress related to travel but also from human opposition to the positions I was taking as I stood for biblical truth. As well, I was now facing a lot of backlash from writing the book Faith Undone. While some Calvary Chapel pastors liked the book, many did not. The book had certainly hit a nerve. It named names, and some of those were names that certain prominent Calvary Chapel pastors were fond of. There were those who wanted me to come to their churches and speak on the topic; and there were those obsessed with trying to harm and even shut down the ministry of Understand The Times through spreading false rumors. Ironically, the book was selling quite well through the publisher to many outside the Calvary Chapel movement. Others could discern what was happening in the church, but many in my own fellowship could not.
It wasn’t just Faith Undone that brought about such opposition but also Another Jesus: the Eucharistic Christ and the New Evangelization, which was re-released in 2007 by the same publisher as Faith Undone. The books were like water between the rocks when it freezes. It breaks the rocks and shatters them.
The biblical position I wrote about in Another Jesus that reveals how Pope John Paul II had implemented an evangelistic program to win the world to the Roman Catholic Jesus was the first book written on the topic. The facts supporting this agenda are overwhelming. The thesis is not based on speculation but on solid documentation and biblical evidence. Further, the scenario is clearly laid out in Scripture by Jesus as one of the end-time signs that indicate His soon return.
Firmly convinced that the Lord had revealed these important things through His Word, I felt I must boldly confront this deceptive plan that fit into Bible prophecy. Three years prior to Faith Undone being released, Hollywood announced the release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion film (discussed in the previous chapter). It did not take me long to see that Gibson was part of the New Evangelization program and that the film was going to be used as propaganda to bring back the “separated brethren” to the Mother of All Churches. Later, I even documented where Gibson admitted that his goal for the film was evangelistic . . . for the Catholic Church.1
In an attempt to warn pastors and others on our UTT mailing list, we began to publish a number of articles explaining what was going on. These articles were met with mixed reviews—a high percentage of the negative response came from several Calvary Chapel pastors. “Pastor Chuck has endorsed the film. What give you the right to think you can challenge something that has been endorsed by Chuck,” a number said.
Even though the opposition against me over the books continued, Paul Smith was able to give away about a thousand copies of Another Jesus at the 2005 Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Conference alluded to in [Let There Be Light]. It was a rather historic time. While my book was handed out the first day of the conference to the pastors warning about the coming Eucharistic Christ, two days later Calvary Chapel pastor Jon Corson performed the communion for Chuck Smith and suggested to the pastors that it was time for Catholics and Protestants to lay down their differences.
Corson even made reference during communion to the idea that the bread or wafer is more than just a remembrance. When he did that, over fifty pastors, many of them former Roman Catholics got up and walked out. Paul Smith, at that time the head of Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship, walked with them. While the tape of that meeting is no longer available from Calvary Chapel, one eyewitness said, “The pastors who walked out were standing on the sidewalk outside with some pointing at the building and crying out, ‘Heresy!’”
From June 2005 to July 2009, my life was like a rocky road covered with ice. Another Jesus was the first bridge over troubled waters. I had never estimated how difficult it would be to tell the truth to a church fellowship that I had been part of for over two decades. In August 2007, Faith Undone came off the press . . . all hell broke loose when the book hit the market.
However, while the release of the book caused a great disturbance, it also brought about many opportunities to speak. Perhaps there were too many opportunities and too many invitations. Being on a steady diet of steroids in an attempt to control what had now been diagnosed as an autoimmune disease, caused me to feel hyped up. This fed my feeling of urgency that it was imperative to fulfill all invitations. When I should have been resting, I was traveling. When I should have been healing, I was fighting on the front lines. In a twelve-month period, I visited and lectured in ten different countries as a speaker. My body was breaking down, and I knew it. My allergist doctor told me that time off and some physical labor on the farm in Saskatchewan would do wonders.
Around the middle of April 2009, I flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma and participated in a Bible conference with Dave Hunt and some other men who often spoke together. It did not require a medical professional to know there was something seriously wrong with me. Not only did my facial features show that I was very ill, so did my speeches. I was only going through the motions; while some may not have not seen it, others were probably wondering what was going on.
A few weeks later, I left for my annual long drive up to the farm to help my son Wade and his wife Lisa put in their crop. Before seeding, I had committed myself to speak at two conferences—one in Calgary and another in Saskatoon one week later. I barely remember those two conferences. What I do remember is that I was not who and what I once was.
When the conferences finally ended, I headed to Eston to help Wade and Lisa who had already started seeding. My life was deteriorating quickly. Myrna was not with me. She was back in California doing her full-time job as an industrial nurse. Without her working, there was no ministry. But our family was a farm family, and hard work was no stranger to any of us.
“You need to see a doctor here in Saskatchewan,” Wade prodded me daily.
“I can’t do that now, Wade. Not without Canadian health insurance. It’ll have to wait,” I protested whenever he brought up the subject.
For four weeks, I slept very little. The hives caused me to itch constantly. The only thing that would give me rest was when I took the steroids, and even they seemed to be losing their effect. I was in a trap and could not get out. I was beginning to feel like Job—I had already lost my son, I was losing many long-time friends and ministry support, and I had itching hives all over tormenting my body.
The weeks passed. I refused to go back to California because I was certain that Wade and Lisa could not manage seeding time without me. When I wasn’t working, I isolated myself, not wanting to see anyone. I pulled the curtains so that my house would be dark. I sat in a chair and watched television programs and the odd Blue Jays ball game.
In the middle of all this, a series of unfortunate events happened. First, our webmaster and good friend, Ron Pierotti, who is an integral part of Understand The Times, was diagnosed with a reoccurring brain tumor and told he may only have a month to live. Next, my long time friend Paul Smith called one day and told me he had just been fired from CCOF (Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowships) at an impromptu meeting that afternoon. He sounded shocked and upset, saying that his own brother, Chuck, sat by and let it happen while one board member made the motion and another seconded it. This news about Paul came at a time when I was already deeply discouraged. Paul was being used by God to warn his brother about the wave of apostasy sweeping through the Calvary Chapel movement, and now he was being eliminated.
Everything solid in my life was crumbling.
And then, as if enough hadn’t happened to completely dishearten me, I received a call from Rob Yardley, a member of UTT’s board at the time and also a member of CCCM’s board. Rob told me that he had met with the Missions pastor at Calvary Costa Mesa, and it was decided that because CCCM was losing tens of thousands of dollars every month due to the bad economy, they were looking for ways to cut their budget. The money that CCCM was paying each month in support of the Myanmar orphans was one of the cuts. The children in Myanmar were going to lose the five hundred dollars a month the church was providing.
After hearing that, and while I didn’t think I could get much lower, I received two e-mails. One came from Sarah Yardley, Rob’s daughter and the overseer for Calvary Distribution. She said that Calvary would no longer be carrying Lighthouse Trails books* because of an article they wrote about Calvary Chapel and their firing of Paul Smith.2
For several days after all this, I drove a tractor helping Wade and Lisa pack or “roll” the legume crops to make the land level, preparing for harvest when the header of the combine needs to shave the ground. I drove the tractor day after day like a robot: I was there in body doing all the right things, but my mind was somewhere else. All I could think about was the death of a vision. Perhaps this is the end for me, I thought. Maybe God took me from the farm to Los Angeles and to the world for a season. Maybe it’s all over.
I tried calling and talking with the men on the Board of UTT in both Canada and the USA. They were either unavailable, not interested, or they told me they never had the vision God had given me in the first place. Doubts began to plague me. Maybe I have never had a vision, I began to reason. Maybe this whole thing is the figment of my imagination. I could not get my mind to stop racing with these thoughts of defeat.
On July 16th, Wade and Lisa left the farm early that morning with my seven-month-old granddaughter Elizabeth to go to Clearwater Lake for a few days. I was alone. I decided to be useful by cutting the grass in my yard, which was located about a quarter mile from our original home where Wade and his family now lived.
The events of the rest of the day and the next several days are merely a shadow in my memory. There are many details I do not recall. But what I do remember is this—I was very, very tired because I had not slept for days. I was also very depressed. Upon returning from cutting grass, I opened the shed door and drove in with our small John Deere garden tractor equipped with a mower attachment. The next thing I remember is waking up on the floor of the shed, my fingers tapping the floor. Then more blackout.
After that, the next thing I remember was Saturday morning the 19th of July 2009. I was curled up in my favorite chair in our living room; I had no idea how I got from the shed floor to my chair. But later, piecing things together, I must have fallen from the tractor, been knocked unconscious, came to, and crawled inside to the living room and into the chair. Now here it was Saturday morning, three days after my fall. Wade had returned from his trip. He was talking to me but getting nowhere. “Dad, I’m going to call Mom,” he finally told me walking toward the phone. Myrna was still in southern California.
“You better get him right over to the doctor in town,” she told Wade with concern in her voice. As soon as Wade hung up, he called the local doctor. The nurse told Wade to bring me in for a check right away.
I had known this doctor for most of my life. His father was also a doctor who had treated my grandmother. When he asked me how I got in the condition I was in, I told him I had chronic idiopathic urticaria and that I had been taking steroids. He then instructed Wade to go to my place and bring him all the medications I was taking.
From Eston, I was transported to Saskatoon to the University Hospital, but upon arrival, we discovered there was no room there, so I was shuttled to City Hospital. The next morning, doctors determined that I had a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and thus was transported to St. Paul’s Hospital for surgery. All of this happened within twenty-four hours.
Before the surgery took place, my vision became extremely blurred, almost to the point of blindness. After the surgery, this condition continued. The rest of my hospital experience in Saskatoon, Canada may become the subject for a book in the future regarding the pros and cons of socialized health insurance. For now, let me say, I was in the hospital for two weeks before they found out I had a hemorrhage in my brain, and this was the reason I could not see.
Before this diagnosis, at least one doctor treating me suggested that perhaps I was just depressed. But it would take a pretty heavy dose of depression to actually cause someone to lose his eyesight.
As soon as Myrna heard the diagnosis of the brain bleed, she left her job immediately in California, taking an emergency leave of absence, and came to Canada. When she learned that the hospital could not do an MRI for at least a month, she had me discharged, packed me in a car, and headed for California. She was afraid to fly and was advised against it in light of the brain injury. Because of Myrna’s quick response and insistence that I receive proper care right away, my life was saved.
Over the next several months, many things took place for me to get on the road to recovery. When we first got back, a doctor, who was a new ministry friend of ours, advocated for me and got me in to see one of the best brain specialists in southern California. Looking back, this was another step in God’s intervention of what Satan had meant for my destruction.
For one year, I was forced to take a sabbatical. I rarely saw anyone except for the odd occasion when Rob Yardley would show up. The rumors were spreading that I was either dead or that I would never be back in ministry again. While I’m sure there were those pleased with such news, God had other plans.
One afternoon, several months after my fall, and when I was beginning to get out a bit, I went into a Calvary Chapel bookstore and asked the clerk, out of curiosity, if she carried the book, Faith Undone.
“Yes, we do have a copy of that book.”
“Oh great,” I answered. “What do you know about the author, anyway?” I was curious what the word on the “street” was.
“Well, I think he died recently. That’s what I heard.” My eyebrows rose with interest.
“Oh, I don’t think that is true,” I told her. “In fact, I’m certain of it.”
“Really?” the young clerk asked, looking puzzled.
“Yes, you see I am the author.”
I have to admit I was amused at the stunned look on the girl’s face. As I walked out of the store, a purchased copy of Faith Undone under my arm, I smiled to myself and to the Lord. “I’m still here Lord. You protected me and must have kept me alive for a reason.”
What took place in my life those difficult few years has some similarities to the “Joseph” in the book of Genesis. His brothers, who should have been his friends, were instrumental in his near demise. But God took the thing that Satan had meant for evil and brought good out of it for Joseph and his family. Evil plots against those who belong to the Lord do not hinder God who is in charge of all things. He turns human manipulation around and in Joseph’s case made Joseph victorious.
The Bible tells us that our redemption draws near and that we are to look up in anticipation for that blessed hope of His appearing. None of us know the hour, but God’s Word tells us if we are watching the signs and the seasons, we can be aware of the times. I believe Jesus is coming soon, and Satan wants to keep the darkness protected. However, God’s Word is light. God hates darkness and will always expose it, even if those protecting the darkness are well-known and respected spiritual leaders.
Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me. (Micah 7:8)
(Taken from the 21st chapter of Let There Be Light, 2011, Lighthouse Trails, by Roger Oakland – links added by Lighthouse Trails editors for this online version.)
*LTPC note: While Calvary Distribution did drop all Lighthouse Trails books, some Calvary Chapel church bookstores still carry our books but must purchase them from other outlets.