[Editor note: Zeke has written about his good and bad experiences honestly with which to show his plot: Some progress toward redemption — and even relative holiness. However, all human souls have bodies to train by pruning (1) if necessary. “Man regards his body as good“(2). Photos with permission under fair use provision of US Copyright Law. Catechism quotations permission granted, January 3, 2017. All rights reserved. — Frank Ketoret]
C O N T E NTS
PART ONE – God put me in a secular family.
Chapter 1 Mom taught me how to pray.———————————6
Chapter 2 How God found me in faraway Japan.——————-16
Chapter 3 My Christian Initiation.—————————————-23
Chapter 4 How I left California.——–————————————31
Chapter 5 How God showed me to Helen.——————————41
Chapter 6 When we got promoted.—————————————-49
Chapter 7 Arrival surprise at Travis.————————————-57
Chapter 8 Europe and a world tour.————————————–65
Chapter 9 Living alone through a dark place.———————–75
Chapter 10 How it happened my life was salvaged.—————84
Chapter 11 Life with a godly woman.———————————–90
Chapter 12 Our trial separation.——————————————98
Chapter 13 Layoff and callback.——————————————106
Chapter 14 Two decades ago.———————————————114
Chapter 15 Our new church.———————————————–121
Chapter 16 Final assembly delivery.————————————128
Zeke has found the most meaningful theme of his life-story: ‘We begin with great-great grandfather, Jacob Gundlach, who, as the patriarch of our Californian family, pioneered San Francisco in 1850 to 1858 having established his Bavarian brewery next door to Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, as, we have recently learned, he was Catholic.
‘He returned to Germany, the Fatherland, to marry his beloved Eva Hofmann, and to make their honeymoon tour of Europe.’ My 2nd cousins and his family have the wonderful winery(7) in Sonoma. (Eva Hofmann Gundlach Letters And Poems, Del Oro Publishing, El Granada CA, 2016, gunbun.com)
‘I have just became Catholic, and have learned the principle of being grafted onto a powerful root system of world renown: The Roman Catholic Church. Being “rooted and grounded in love” (8) is my theme here. (Ephesians 3:17, biblehub.com)
‘My life became a rootstock that was pruned from a secular family tree, when God found me some 56-years ago. I had joined the US Marine Corps and was shipped overseas to join an elite group of aviators. My story can show how God gently got my attention, and has transplanted me into his family.
‘How can I tell my story in the context of anything family? Great question! If my sister and cousins remember me, it would be as a child and then maybe even attending one family picnic in 1984, when I travelled to California to see Dad and Alice, in Sonoma. They brought me to cousin Jon Lindeman’s place in Winters, California.
‘Our family is my true objective. I am just one clipping that was pruned away from Californian people. The family connection is still there, no happenstance here. I must share my experience as I found life — one-step-at-a-time — for the benefit of everyone, even today.
‘The way I understand this record, is by faith. “Faith seeks understanding.”(9) And, understanding faith, “Brings truth to reality”(10): Quotes from Saint Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury began to unfold my moderate study of theology; theology is the queen of sciences(11). This eventually led me into Catholicism. (Wikipedia.org, 3.nd.edu, got questions.org)
‘Zeke’s life-verse: “Trust In the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; but in all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”’ (Proverbs 3:5,6 NKJV)
— Frank Ketoret, Author of Going up with Yeshua(12) (incensefrank.wordpress.com)
“GO TO THE LIGHT!”
And other personal true survival stories.
By Charles (Zeke) Bundschu III
Greetings! My story is about the highest standard of human life that I’ve learned; although it does take a lifetime for me to learn. I must share this. It’s like an anointing: An unction. Catholicism means universal.
I want to tell this in four parts. First, how I sensed God put me in my secular family. Second, how God found me far away in Japan. Third, in my exodus from California to Texas, how God got my attention for marriage. And, fourth, in my exodus from Texas to the (promised land) Alabama, for retirement, and out-processing; how God showed me into his Roman Catholic Church family.
The best way to learn about life, God, and his calling in life, I think, is to give up! Right. Because I cannot possibly know anything of God and the things of God, until he can win my favor. Yes. He is God. He made us: I can never be God or make him. So, I need to stop trying, relax, and listen to him — the Holy Spirit is able to speak — and our hearts able to hear, when tuned-in to his holy words. “Faith comes by hearing . . . God” (Romans 10:17 biblegateway.com).
My story is about me — which is about the life I gained when I allowed myself to pursue a more godly and responsible life-style. A very simple philosophical approach, read, think, relate, and step up. (The theology part is accepting the various concepts when given the understanding.)
Oh, don’t worry, this is my personal, humble struggle to put my singular life-experience into a larger frame. A description of ancestor immigration is better: From Germany with love and a dream to plant a vinyard. I cannot hope to top that, but we need to see what they saw, how God led them; and if we can follow.
An example, I was just making my bed, which involves flipping the mattress. Have you ever done that? In my room, I have a large crucifix hanging over the headboard. So I rotated the double mattress clockwise, lifted it up from the foot of the bed, so it rests upon the bedsprings sideways, and covering the crucifix. Then, I carefully worked the lower part of the mattress away from the headboard in order to finish the heavy flipping. This takes several attempts, and puts me between the mattress and the headboard . . .
Taking a brief rest, I notice the large crucifix is right over my shoulder, and Christ (as corpus) is right next to my head. Suddenly I get the thought of being so close to him dying on his cross, I can relate because my death is not that far away. My cross is coming soon . . . but the good part — my death, as I’ve learned, will be a happy one — for me.
Sounds extreme? Maybe, but to have lived almost four generations, I realize nobody but Christ has ever lived to be raised from the dead. My story can help our youth realize the truth about joining Him and learning what He promises can become reality — receive life everlasting — like our Catholic ancestors.
“You will make them able to understand the truth. They will turn away from darkness to the light. They will turn away from the power of Satan, and they will turn to God. Then their sins can be forgiven, and they can be given a place among God’s people—those who have been made holy by believing in me.” (Commission of Jesus to St. Paul, Acts 26:18 ERV, biblegateway.com(13)
By the way, holy (vocabulary.com) means something sacred, set aside, set apart for a purpose of our Holy Creator-God.(It is a spiritual reality(14). (web-church.com) See spirituality(15). (Wikipedia.org)
“God’s word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool? Clean my slate, God, so I can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin. *These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar.” (Psalm 19:11-14, The Message) [Mom’s prayer]
“God’s word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool? Clean my slate, God, so I can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin. *These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar.” (Psalm 19:11-14, The Message) [Mom’s prayer]
A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S
I want to personally acknowledge everyone who ever shared my space with me. The most meaningful associations were with children because I heard today how you are the kingdom of God. Thank you children! I will surely acknowledge you when getting to heaven. I thank God for you daily. All the children in our church family are so angelic–only the innocence of Christ the Messiah is worthy–thank you children! (To Terry for iPhones, iPads, and Wifi internet access!)
To my self-publisher, WordPress.com, thanks for all you have done to keep me going through the years. It is a privilege to be your blogging client. We have no contract, and don’t need one. We have an arrangement like no other–worthy of many thanks!
I need to express my thankful heart to Mom, and to our Mother Virgin Mary. “Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising?” Thanks Mom for showing me to be a morning person, a person able to hear and obey the admonition to . . . go to the light.
CHAPTER ONE – How Mom taught me to pray
FIRST MIRROR IMAGE, TROUBLE WITH A-BOMB, MOVE DOWNTOWN, CATHOLICS DON’T DIE, BOY SCOUT LIFE, WHEN WE LOST MOM, OUR MOVE TO RENO, RETURN TO SAN ANSELMO . . .
My appearance was not a concern until one day I ventured into our parents bedroom looking for my missing toy gun thinking maybe it was taken away for a punishment of some kind. And I noticed my photograph in framed portrait on Mom’s dressing table. Mom was folding clothes.
“Mom, why are you keeping this awful picture of me?” I asked because it showed my weak eye before the corrective surgery. My left eye was inward so very much that it made me look imbecilic.
“It’s a record of my only son, whom I love and want to remember, as he came into the world. You were three when you had the surgery. Remember?”
“Yes, I remember having to not see anything because patches were put over my eyes. That was awkward, but I also remember the toy horse, godmother, Lele, brought me.” I said.
Alas, we had a godmother. A really nice older woman, a widow, whose husband was a family friend, and passed away before his time. Something like helping her, enabled her to help us when needed. She was a godly person, but with a different god. Having lived in Hawaii, she worshipped Buddha. I say this because she had an 18-inch image of Buddha sitting on her hall table next to her apartment entrance.
I never found my toy gun. It was a nice gift, but I think Dad wanted less memories of his army service in the war. . .
Which brings to mind the time Dad was injured, and Mom brought me to the kitchen table to pray for Daddy. This was a big deal. Sitting up in the chair, I was barely able to see over the table, but I noticed a letter and the very old, leather-bound book, that was her family heirloom.
“We are going to read a verse from this bible, son; and then, we are going to pray to God. Okay?”
“Yes, Mommie.” I said.
I had no idea what she meant, until she read the letter from Daddy. Then I knew she meant business, to make a serious request of God. Dad had been shot in the leg, that was serious enough to send him to a Paris hospital in France.
Mom prayed in her own words according to her heart’s desire for help. I bowed my head. Similar to the small prayer above*, about writing this, you know, “Ask and you shall receive.” She read, I listened. (*See Introduction)
When Dad finally returned, quite a while later, he was healed, and showed me his knee. But he looked different. He’d lost all his hair. Mom, Barbs and I were so happy to see Dad return from the war, sacrificing his beautiful hair felt like a small sacrifice because of his love for us.
Another time when my mother shared her faith was when I was five—even a year before starting school. And it was at the dedication of that very school, Brookside Elementary, even a public school. We walked down the street to the school that was maybe three long blocks from our house.
A crowd of people were gathered at the front circle where the flag was flying from its flagpole. Everyone met the new principle, sang the national anthem, and prayed with a local pastor. When the prayer began, Mom asked me to bow my head. I remember hearing:
“Lord, bless our school, and bring peace to our neighbors, safety for all the pupils, and fill all the needs of every parent who brings their children. Thank you for our community, our county, state, and nation. In the name above all names . . .” And everyone said,
That was the last time I walked with Mom. She knew I knew the way. But she may not have cared if I had any memory problem and could find my own way there and back. She was a good mother, and she knew her place. From then on, God was my guide, though I may not have known it, she did, obediently.
That school was where I learned to draw, to count to one-hundred (in the third grade), and where I played after school one time and was caught by a janitor who suspected I was a thief, and told me so. That accusation brought me to tears of denial. I believed those events were God’s answer to me.
TROUBLE WITH A-BOMB
Some time after that, was when a Catholic neighbor, a boy named Eddie D’Maestri, came to our house to see me and play. This was before we moved from Sir Francis Drake Blvd, and after the time I supposedly threw a rock across the street and hit a lady in the eye . . . I don’t remember doing that.
So, I had no idea what to do with Eddie and suddenly, I made up a game:
“Let’s play dropping the atomic bomb on Japan!”
“Okay! Sounds like fun.” Said Eddie.
“Let’s use this tree as our B-29; and let’s go around the house to find our bomb.” I suggested, motioning toward the garage around the side of the house.
And Eddie followed my lead. Not having a clue about where our game together was leading, we found a galvanized bucket in the garage, and began building our bomb.
“Here is a big rock.” Eddie said, and picked it up, and I put it in the bucket.
I found a brick and some smaller stones. Then Eddie added more rocks. It was getting heavy. I felt it was time to load the bomb.
“Our B-29 is none other than our tree here.” I said pointing to the thick trunk, low hanging branches and small green leaves. “I’ll be the pilot, you be the bombardier, I will get up first, you hand me the bomb, and I will hold it for you, until you get up there with me.”
“Okay!” Eddie said, trusting that I could do all I said I would do. He bent over the bomb as I climbed. I climbed up two branches above my bombardier, and called,
“Open the bombay!”
I reached down without any plan of where to put the bomb, grasped the handle which Eddie struggled to hold up for me. Having grasped it, I slowly pulled it up to the first twig that presented itself for my use. Being half in a fantasy and half in reality, I quickly hung the 15 pound bomb on the two pound twig thinking I’d find a better one:
But as soon as I released it, it broke, and fell in slow motion—beyond my ability to stop it. I yelled,
The bucket-bomb caught Eddie by such surprise, hitting him in his head—weight plus gravity times distance—forcing him to fall screaming to the ground. He bounced and rolled to avoid shrapnel and immediately began running home, crying all the way:
“Mama! Mama! Maaamaaa!”
That was the last time I ever saw Eddie DiMaestri, and we moved away about two years later. Oh, when Dad heard about it, he grabbed me by the ear, and we had to go to his house and do two things: apologize for my stupidity, and gain some assurance, that he would recover. Eddie was unavailable.
“Am I going to be spanked Daddy?”
“No son. You didn’t disobey any rule your mother and I have over you, so you are to never do such a thing again. Be assured, if it does happen again, your small fanny will be sore for a week.”
And so, my play-time imagination was harnessed to more conventional tactics, like playing in the dirt out back. Toy soldiers, jeeps and tanks, and wonderful scale airplanes to simulate any more conventional bombing runs.
Having moved closer to downtown San Anselmo, just off San Rafael Avenue, to Grove Lane, Barbs and I were given our own upstairs rooms. The house was older but more favorably located. The San Francisco Presbyterian Seminary was in view from my window, and it’s chimes played hourly for us.
It was here that one night, when taking my bath, I had the thought to ask God if he would clean my body on the inside as I cleaned the outside. And it worked! My age of innocence was extended at least another year. I would run up the curvy street shouting,
“God loves you! God loves me! God loves us!”
That year I failed the fourth grade because of my low reading-level score. So Mom arranged for me to do the grade over. Dad also asked for a tutor to come to my room and patiently sit with me for lessons in reading. That really opened my eyes. Reading in front of class was no longer a threat. It was a Godsend.
We had a lot of good Catholic neighbors our age to play with, and we visited their church once. I remember having a good friend named Russell Thayer. He invited me to play with him over at his house and I rode my bike across town to see him. We really connected for some reason. He was special.
CATHOLICS DON’T DIE
But one day Mom called me to come sit down with her and she told me how Russell was involved in an accident. She quietly said he was hit by a car in their school parking lot and he was killed. Oh! What a shock. I cried myself to sleep, and did not play outside for days, until his funeral. Barbs and I walked to their church and sat thru the memorial service. That was not a good memory: Why did God take him?
Recovering from such loss of a friend took a few years and I have to tell how Dad got me willing to become a Cub Scout if he volunteered to be the pack master. That was an easy choice because I knew he cared for me, and he wanted me to benefit by becoming what he had learned as a child, Scouting.
I willingly followed the man who was willing to lead other boys like me into a program designed to bring boys into maturity. I was personally proud to be his son. Cubs was easy and included den mothers. Plan was to learn something about nature — emulating wolves in the wild and the tough wilderness.
No, my mother was not a den mother, she should have been, but she was home with Barbs. They were not able to join the boys who wanted to learn boy’s stuff. That masculine identity was necessary for me. There was mainly the big ordeal: leaving home for the first time. Summer camp was great for that!
BOY SCOUT LIFE
I attended Boy Scout Camp for two weeks at age eleven. I Became a new person. The activities were interesting and challenging. Camping skills was my attraction. And the ten-day pack trip was a really exciting event. We were led into the Tahoe National Forest at mile-high elevations.
The scenery was so picturesque having been cleansed by winter snow just melted. We discovered many old, gold-rush cabins in their ghost town setting, preserved from pilferage. The land is public but inaccessible from roads; it made perfect camping hikes. Lakes were for private swimming.
I cannot say enough about the benefit I personally received at the Camp Chubb Lake of the Marin Boy Scout Council located near Soda Springs and Nevada City in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. To learn survival, in nature, and in society. To get a break from school and home routines: Scouting was for me!
I was able to become a camp counselor for two years. Age 12 and 13 found me doing the Skills training. I was still in grammar school, but because Dad was my leader, I was picked to lead. That was cool. High school for me was age fifteen and sixteen.
WHEN WE LOST OUR MOM
Our mother passed away when I was 16. All of our first cousins came to her funeral service. I really hurt over that time. Mom was the best of friends. She had succumbed to sclerosis of the liver. There was no cure for that, and she was warned by Dr. Hartman, that if she couldn’t stop daily drinking her glass of sherry, and smoking, that she would die — even two years before she died.
I remember going to the hospital the day before she died. She wanted to ask a favor of each of us. I leaned over for her request to me, to hear her soft words,
“Will you promise me something, Zeke?”
“Yes Mommy.” I said.
“Promise me you will never hurt anyone. Can you promise me that Son?”
“Yes, I promise you Mom.”
She was in pain, and struggled to speak the words to each of us. Then she relaxed as we left her alone, and said goodbye. It was a phone call that came the following night we were in bed that we heard Dad answer when he was told of Mom’s passing away. Dad quietly came upstairs to tell us,
“The hospital just called to say your mother is gone.”
That was a very hard time for us. The funeral was the worst experience I think I ever had, (except the helicopter crash in Vietnam). I cried the whole service. I could not help crying so loudly. But nobody made any objection. I cried and cried. I know God heard my cry that day, he knew my grieving heart.
I remember the location of her grave, and Dad would take us to visit her grave often enough so that our hearts would heal. And at school, a classmate also lost his mother, who I was able to share some sentiments of compassion with. We shared some time just hanging out. It was a comfort just to know we were not alone. (Mom was only 46.)
A MOVE TO RENO – THE BIGGEST-LITTLE CITY – WAS A HEALING PLACE
Two years later, Dad moved us across the state to a wonderful place called Reno, Nevada. He was given the task to begin a branch office there for his employer, The Hartford. High School there was refreshing for me. My sister and I shared some of the same classes, except for the English, art, and gym class.
I excelled in writing a short composition about my playing baseball in grammar school, and how a famous pro baseball player came to talk with the fans of the town’s little league. He was related to Eddie. (You remember, the Catholic boy on whose head I’d dropped the atomic bomb.) It was his cousin from the New York Yankees, Joe DiMaestri.
I was surprised to have the young teacher read my paper to the class. That got my attention, but not enough to even think to pursue a writing career: English was not my major. (I learned to write in the Army as a commissioned officer: a Journalism course.)
Our stay in Reno was a healing time for me to help let my mother go. One godly thing that helped me arrive emotionally, was when we three arrived in town. We moved into the rent house, and the very next day was Sunday — and, we were all invited to visit the church service with Dad’s associate there.
It was the worship service of the first Methodist Church in downtown Reno. All three of us were expected. We sat in the back, but stood up when asked for visitors to stand. (This was historic!) I actually looked at Dad differently for this experience. Imagine, our family in God’s house together! (Thanks Mom, thanks Mother, thanks God)
The very next day, Barbs and I had our first day as juniors for the spring semester at Reno High School. Following the morning classes, I went to the cafeteria for lunch. It was a totally new environment that welcomed this strange child in my Drake High School letter-jacket. And who greeted me?
It was Joan, the only daughter of the Methodist pastor, who sang in the choir even the day before, and knew to seek me out. She was a doll! Blond and buxom (if you know what that means), with smile and eye contact, I knew God was present—Lord! ‘Make me a Methodist!’ This was heaven already!
Joan, a high school cheerleader, gave me the royal tour of the place after having lunch together, she knew of my ability to ski. She already knew how the spring ski team needed me to fill a slot — if I was interested. I was, and that got me a huge jump-start with her and the members of the ski team.
I was privileged to be invited to the Methodist Church pastor’s home and meet privately with Joan’s parents. I began to date her, and we became kissing cousins. She was a lot of fun, and knew where to go to have fun. We went to the Junior Prom in a fancy downtown hotel. I thought that was special.
I competed in the jumping event. I did not know how to ski jump! But it was something macho I felt I could do, and because Joan got me to enlist, I wanted to try. After having practiced for a week, when the Far West Point Race came up, I gave it my best shot. The spirit of the team-mates was terrific. With all the conditions ideal, I jumped 118 feet without falling. And that helped score the extra point for our team to win.
And we made the trip to Colorado Winter Park to ski in the Junior Olympics. I was so psyched on my runs that I failed to succeed even one jump. But the chance to try was spectacular. I lacked experience, but had heart.
Summer break in Reno was another first. I was given a job to make deliveries for an advertising agency. From clients to agency to the bank, deliveries on scooter were something I could do. Also the Methodist summer camp at Lake Tahoe is something I remember well. Joan and I were romancing in moonlight!
The big plus was I was given the family car to go on dates. Just to find a mountain view with city lights, Reno was a spectacular place for this. I was not interested in learning Methodist teaching, but my wounded heart found much needed healing within their camp. (Thanks to you, Joan, and God!)
RETURN TO SAN ANSELMO
The experience of a mountain high school was very beneficial to me. We could begin again, while I felt like a new person altogether — having won a letter in skiing. I was very popular among all the clubs and activities. Four years of football helped too.
I had applied to attend Humboldt State College and was accepted for a Forestry major on the condition of catching up in math. My love for mountain hiking and the plan to serve as Forestry Aid for summer work at Modoc National Forest helped motivate that.
Dad was going to help me with Humboldt, but Barbs became engaged to a sailor, so my hopes for a good engineering school were dashed by the price of a decent wedding, I never attended (I have no memory of ever attending her wedding to Joe Repp.) Oh, the dream about a forestry career was inspired by a local lumber yard owner who invited me to attend a local, Rotary Club dinner. I was honored.
My summer job with Modoc National Forest as forestry aid, was challenging. I was placed with a team of men and trained to prune a stand of virgin pine trees, I learned to use new muscles, and smoke . . . but the big event was fighting forest wild-fires.
The Shasta Trinity Fire in 1959 put our team into hot-shot status and we worked 12 to 14-hour shifts to build a fire break: Very hard manual labor. But, we were flown in by helicopter and I had a chance to talk with the pilot about his helicopter. Later in the Marines, I was able to train for that aviation duty.
How I got from junior college into the Marines, is a good story. My only sense of skill to do anything was art. But because I could draw and paint and make some semblance of good design or composition, I thought of such talent as non-challenging. My heart was not in it. I even tried playing on the college football team. What could that hurt? I thought a good sport should try . . . a big mistake.
With my size and weight, I was assigned to be a fullback. I went to one practice. I played in one play. I was handed the ball for an end run. I knew where to run, got up to speed, when suddenly, I got hit. I was hit so hard, It knocked me out of the practice, out of the field, and out of the team—uh-uh, no more!
I learned my first college lesson. Don’t assume anything, because nothing comes easily.
Junior college was not for me. Matter of fact, a girlfriend of Barbs, Rowena, happened to meet me as we crossed campus during the finals week.
“Hello Zeke! How are you doing? Are you up for another semester?”
“I don’t think so, Ronnie. I failed English again. That disqualifies me for Berkley.”
“Well Zeke, there is always community service, or you can join the military.”
“Oh Ronnie, where’d you get that idea?”
“A little bird, a girlfriend of mine, mentioned you in our girl-to-girl catchup, the other day. And she described you as looking like the Marine Corps’ poster boy.”
“Really? That may be what I need to hear, friend. Tell your little-bird-friend, I will consider her advice. Thanks.”
“Say hi to your sister, Zeke.”
I waved to her as we parted and began to think just how practical such a move on my part might be. But also there were two men whom I had befriended in the football team trial. I did not make the team, but they were bigger and stronger than I was, and they did. They had both signed up for a 6-month program.
This is the clue for a practical way of how a college person can join the reserve unit locally. I was counseled to go to the local unit and begin the process by the physical exam and mental test. So, I followed up with such advice, and was found eligible. I signed up and was assigned to boot camp.
With this, my dependence upon a secular parent ended. I willingly sought a military organization that supports church choices of its members.
To end this chapter, I need to review where my story is going: How God found me; some errors I made; and how I was led to leave California.
CHAPTER TWO – How God found me
Beginning fresh as a young adult is the dream of every youth, but the planning and preparation is the help of the wisdom of parent’s support. There was some talk of funds for college to begin to pursue a forestry major at the forestry school and engineer curriculum, but Barb’s wedding changed such plans.
By a hidden benefit of military life, I was permitted time away from drill instructors to attend the worship services of one’s choice, and convinced going to chapel services was more beneficial than not going. It reminded me of time shared with my sister, only now, with brothers who cared to share.
One helpful pointer was mentioned to me when told how to gain favor from the drill instructor: When asked to volunteer for the left guide position in the platoon — be the first to volunteer for that, but try to avoid volunteering in general. Which I proved by volunteering to demonstrate a judo defense move.
Do not volunteer to attack a self-defense instructor with a cardboard knife! It was the stupidity that I fell into for not remembering to not volunteer . . . Very much like my only football play in college, I was in way over my head. Play, maybe, but not fun! I was shocked to be slammed to the ground seeing stars.
The experience of Marine Corps boot camp (Army, “basic”), was for me a wake-up call. The training is to do more physical stress activities, but do it with a team—in lock-step. The squad, the platoon, and the company, each has their place in organized infantry maneuvers. The discipline is precisely co-ordinated.
The training tested my courage, endurance, and will to sacrifice if necessary. To find myself in a forced run in step — while singing in cadence that runs it’s course, but then continues again, is done to prove the integrity of the team’s will. Here is where the weakest will is pressed to fail. One boot falling out, stops us.
When the final week of boot camp arrived, I was asked to re-enlist, and told the added training opportunities available. I jumped at this. Aviation training in Tennessee would increase the choice of duty assignments, to serve overseas, and that was attractive to me, and so I signed up.
I was awarded a promotion upon graduation, and that was an encouragement. I was in good health, better shape than football season. Yet my hormones were looking for God in all the wrong places. The secret to making success is finding God in all the right places, so I had to wait for that to happen.
Marine Corps basic was the best thing to straitened me out. I valued going to Protestant chapel services. It was a liberty I had grown up with, and just that choice gave me the godly favor I needed. While in aviation training, at Millington, Tennessee, the command sergeant major called me into his office. (Photo credit; USMC Drill Team, NAS Millington)
“Son, I noticed your name, and just wanted to know if you are a relative of Captain Geary Bundschu?”
“Yes sir, he was my father’s cousin who gave his life on Guam in World War Two.” I said.
“Well, I was privileged to have known him and served under his command.” He said from his desk.
“My dad knew him and spoke well of him often. Thank-you for telling me, sir. I am proud to be his relative, and to be a Marine today.”
“That’s all, Son; thanks for coming in to see me, you’re dismissed.” He said, and I smartly left.
Following aviation training, I received orders to sea duty aboard the USS Princeton, yet for that more training was required. Sea School was a return to San Diego and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD). Located across the large parade field, I was feeling good about this assignment, but it changed.
The week before graduating there, orders came down for a small unit at Camp Pendleton, California. There, the small group I knew and related with, got promoted by on-the-job (OJT) training. That took a few months. While there, I remember an incident that got my attention. I was the duty NCO.
There was a commotion in the squad-bay that I tried to calm down. Noise. Yelling and laughing while playing cards in the sleeping area. So I went and told everyone who was doing it, to stop with the loud noise already. I did not take names or make any log entry, like I should have. My bunk was there too.
The next night after having the day off, I felt I could sleep and the squad bay was quiet . . .
WHAM! I was socked in the face. The rude awakening was from a more senior marine who was drinking and took offense over my order to quiet down when I was on watch the night before. He dragged me out of bed and began hitting me again and again. He was bigger so I had to take it . . . part of the job.
I remember going to a chapel service and felt good about God helping me get over such conflicts. That was a healing revelation. I remember it came over me that I was not alone, and maturing by adjusting to my new environment. Maturity meant fitting into my duty placement. With help from God it happened.
When I turned 21, as I was assigned to VMO-6 at Camp Pendleton. I took liberty, went to a bar off post and ordered a drink. I wasn’t in uniform, and I expected to be asked show identification. But it didn’t happen. I was looking for friends, or any friendly people, but they didn’t happen either. Some birthday.
We were organized as a cadre (the next group of replacements for overseas tour of duty). Such a rotation of Marines is routine, and since we were trained for ship duty, I was looking forward to seeing classmates. But that wouldn’t happen until the spring cruise after three events I’d like to share.
My training complete, I was assigned to my own helicopter as crew-chief. I was responsible to preflight daily, sign off flight status, and voluntarily accompany the aircraft to every mission. This helicopter was made by the Kaman Aircraft Corporation and was designed for max stability and maneuverability.
You may have seen the HOK-B [for helicopter, observation, Koman] helicopter: The configuration seen from the front is two pylons supporting two separate rotor-blades, side by side, able to rotate alternately in opposite directions. Their tip-path planes were high in the middle and low on the sides.
One of the earliest missions I remember, was when our squadron was called to rescue a Marine from a ravine in the northern training area of Okinawa. I was in a passenger seat behind the pilots, so I was able to operate the hoist, on the left side, behind the copilot. We were guided to a field near this ravine.
We landed where an officer was signaling for us to set down. I was told to get out and run over to the naval officer and get directions for the rescue. As I approached him, I recognized his face, and he was a chaplain. Oh my gosh! It was Richard Walenta, a Lieutenant J.G. in the Navy, serving as battalion chaplain!
“There is an infantryman in a tree, who will point to the Marine to be extracted!” He yelled over the chopper noise.
“Richard! Is that you?” I blurted, not saying sir hoping he recognized me.
I was wearing my flight helmet, so I took it off, “I’m Zeke Bundschu from Boy Scouts.”
“Yes! I recognize your name, but you have grown since we knew each other at camp!”
“Great seeing you again Chaplain! I will try to visit at your office one day. Till then?”
I said hurriedly due to the intensity of the moment. I saluted and recovered my helmet. He returned my salute by the time I was back in the chopper to plug into the intercom. I told the pilots what the Chaplain said, and we followed his direction, pointing toward the deep ravine to our left.
We were up in a hover, turning left, and slowly lifting up till we saw the Marine in the tree, who was pointing down below us. We acknowledged his directions, and began descending while I thrust my head out the hatch (left door) — after fastening my seatbelt.
I viewed the steep sides of the ravine that narrowed to a stream below, I immediately began lowering the hoist, while telling the pilot to stop descending and hold-steady—which was difficult because the hover had no ground effect cushion. The hoist strap was caught wisely, using a shirt to dampen static shock.
Once the Marine was attached, I told the pilots I am to bring up what looks like a dead patient because his shirt was tied over his head. Still, I had control, and was keeping the pilot informed of my progress. When a funny thing happened. The alarm for an electrical failure sounded, and the hoist stopped.
Our patient was not quite at the level where I could pull him into the back seat. So the pilot told me to hang on while he made an emergency landing. With that, all I could do was to hold my arms around the corpse to the side door hatch until we could land. In minutes we landed in a field on the other side.
There was total chaos on the ground, but our landing was smooth, and the pilot shut down the engine. Medical people came forward to receive their patient, and as soon as the blades stopped, we were able to discover our electrical problem. I looked around the back seat area.
“What’s the problem, Corporal? The pilot yelled.
“My seatbelt buckle is the culprit, Sir.” I said.
He looked in the backseat area and noticed that while I was attending to the hoist operation, the buckle was pushed hard onto the large electrical bundle of wires, melting the insulation and causing a short that halted the hoist from operation, and setting off the alarm. It was my seatbelt, but I wasn’t using it.
What I was using, was the extended belt that connected to a central ring to enable safe hoist operation and that was my story, and why the belt buckle was flopping around exposed to the electrical bundle, and my kneeling on it — causing the problem. We pulled the circuit breaker, and flew home normally.
That experience was exciting for me. It made my job more significant. I felt encouraged for two reasons: I was able to make needed contact with the ground command, and I gained experience to properly operate the hoist in a rescue attempt. We were on a training mission when we were called to help.
It was maybe a month later that a squadron commander’s mast was called at formation. I was recognized for my quick thinking and bold action to help make the rescue mission successful. This recognition came with an award given by the Kaman Aircraft Corporation, their honor scroll award.
I certainly don’t remember praying during such a rescue attempt, but my confidence level was high. I knew what to do, and I did my duty to the best of my ability . . .
That occurred in the fall, so for the winter months, I was chosen to transfer to the VMO subunit in Japan with the Atsugi Naval Air Station. The mission of such subunit was to provide support to the Mount Fuji Training Area, delivering mail or airlift observers of combat maneuvers, etc..
I felt good about serving in Japan mainland, but don’t remember ever attending chapel there. Once, the commander wanted to hold a party on the Marine Corps Birthday. That was spectacular: Good food, good drinks, and fun-loving women. Even entertainment of a stripper! That was a long night!
Returning to Okinawa after four months of cold, I remember stepping off the passenger ramp and could breathe again. My cold and sniffles were gone! The very next week, our whole squadron began the annual spring cruise to the Philippine Islands. That cruise lasted a month, and felt refreshing.
Beginning this event, I was promoted to E-4 Corporal which enabled me to serve as duty NCO. We were flown off the USS Princeton to land at the Sangley Point NAS on the Manilla Bay. I was tasked with issuing liberty cards, and did not need a work detail. New NCO plus new billets equaled liberty for all.
But the First Sergeant didn’t think so.
“What! You better hope and pray that nothing happens on your watch, Corporal!” He said gruffly.
Nothing did happen. Thank God. I was confident to do the new guy as a non-com leader, so it happened. Everyone made the liberty boat and had a fine time in Manilla. Frankly, I was happy to just be on terra firma. You know how that feels. The short tour there was a tactical exercise, and flights around islands.
One time I recall how we flew to the large island of Mindoro. We set up camp on a beach. With support from the Ceebees (slang for combat engineer battalion) They set up and made comfort stations along and around the areas of beach operations. What I will always remember is making a last check.
One event that was not military, but more cultural, was when some children came up to us when we were given time to chat with civilians—it’s unavoidable, they come up to me wanting to trade, and they appear smart to ask what can we give for their possession.
“Hey Marine, what can you give for my swivel knife?” Said a youngster holding a fancy knife.
I thought a minute and figured I might share my cigarettes. “How about cigarettes?”
“I will take cigarettes, how many?” I offered the carton, he grabbed it and ran away happily shouting.
Return cruise to Okinawa was uneventful. A good catch-up on sleep was in order.
The big event that happened Wednesday the day following our arrival back to Futenma Marine Air Facility, when given the afternoon off for recreation, I was changing into civvies (civilian clothes), in our platoon quonset When a sergeant entered.
“Does anyone here, want to play golf with me?” He yelled openly.
I heard him and raised my hand in response. “Yes sarge! But I have no clubs or shoes!” I yelled back.
“That’s okay since the golf course provides them.”
I was just dressed, and locked my locker. And left my bunk neat and tidy for my return later that day, whenever that might be.
“I’m called Chuck, Sergeant. Nice to meet you. You play golf often?” I asked.
“Hi Chuck, I’m Gary. Well, when I get a chance. You won’t believe the great course available for us.”
We walked out to the street where his moped was waiting. Gary made no excuses — we hopped on and sped off post rode up highway 1 to the Kadena Air Base where we showed our military ID’s and rode to the special services golf course: A beautiful nine hole course with views of the South China Sea.
We played 18 holes and each won a round. I was very impressed with such recreation facilities, and it was the only time of four years of duty there that I played it. I just looked it up on google earth! But that was a memory I’ll never forget. And here’s why. Coming out to his scooter, Gary said,
“I have another place to go, and you are welcome to join me, if you want.” He said getting on looking very sympathetic, and I motioned for him to finish.
“It is our midweek fellowship supper at the Central Baptist Church.” He said smiling.
“That sounds better than the base movie theater, thanks!” I said without hesitation.
We rode back past the base and about three blocks on the left was a humble concrete building and sign showing Central Baptist Church. Just located between our base and the main highway.
We walked into the fellowship hall with a crowd of people and a smell of good food. I was very pleased to be among the throng of American families. This was a wonderful place. How was I so blessed to be here? Good question. Such events are not just incidental. Like a plan was unfolding for me!
I was introduced to the pastor and a deacon, and was told by Gary he would not be taking me back — having another place to go. That was fine to me.
Following the fellowship pot-luck meal, we all moved into the auditorium. Having eaten a good home-cooked meal was refreshing. I remember being asked on my return to base, how I liked the meal.
The deacon had a car to ride me back to my quonset, and I noticed he was saluted by the gate guard and we flashed our ID’s to get on base. No one but the commander of my unit had or was allowed to have a car. I thought he was a Captain or above. We stopped at my quarters and he asked me,
“Did you enjoy our fellowship Chuck?”
“Yes sir, of course I did.” I said with heart.
“Would you like coming back to fellowship?”
“Yes sir.” I said, thinking to say good night.
CHAPTER THREE – My Christian Baptist Innitiation
THE BAPTIST AND THE PRESBYTERIAN TEACHINGS
Then would you be interested in learning more about us?”
“Yes.” I was not late getting back, so, I was willing to hear more from him.
“This is a small, marked New Testament. It is self explaining starting at the very front.”
I took what he handed me, and opened the cover of the book.
“It says, turn to page 184.” He said.
So I turned to page 184 and found the verse underlined. I showed him I see it. Then he read the verse.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him, should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” [John 3:16,17]
At the bottom of that page it says to turn to page 302. So I turned to page 302, and he read the verse.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” He said.[Romans 3:23]
Then I noticed the next page number: Turn to 307. And I turned to the next verse.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
[Romans 6:23] The next verse is, turn back to page 305.
“There are only two more passages, Chuck.” Deacon said.
“God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:8]
At that page bottom was, Turn to page 313. I turned to the last passage and read along as he said the words.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. . .For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”. [Romans 10:9-10,13]
“Have you seen these verses before, Chuck?”
“Then, we may conclude how these four verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans, called the Roman Road, is the entry gate to heaven and eternal life . . . as it says, and to gain heaven and eternal life, we must do something . . . It says we need only pray with our heartfelt words, to receive Jesus Christ — have you ever prayed to receive Jesus Christ to be your personal savior, Chuck?”
“Wouldn’t you like to now?.”
This was the big question, I had to live 22-years to hear. But the deacon said it so matter-of-factly, objectively, and without pressure. An invitation: It was left totally up to me to decide my own fate. This opened my mind to a rush of thoughts.
‘You can just leave! Go! Open the door, run away! What would your mother have you do?’ I thought.
“Yes.” I finally said, reluctantly, but remembering how I felt among the members.
“Good choice! Now we can pray. I will pray what the verses say, ‘believing in our heart and confessing with our mouth’, called the sinner’s prayer of repentance — sorrow for sin, and admitting Jesus is Lord and Savior . . . Let me pray first. Listen to the words: Just what I described, as we learned God’s Word says in this New Testament. (We can trust this bible-version).”
“Okay, go ahead.” I said.
“You pray in your own words.” He said.
We bowed our heads sitting in his car in front of my quonset. It was an eternal, quiet moment. Everything stopped.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for Chuck and his honest, willingness to receive Your holy Son by faith—believing in his heart, confessing with his mouth, that he is a sinner, sorry for sin, but willing to personally receive Jesus as personal Savior—to be saved, according to your word, I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.”
So I prayed simply, “Heavenly Father, thank you for Deacon (here) showing me to introduce myself to you, but of course you know me and my heart. I am sorry for my sin, and I want to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Please accept me, forgive my sin, and lead me to new life. In Jesus name, amen.”
“Wonderful prayer son!” He said.
I wondered how was I supposed to leave, and I had questions.
“Now you can be baptized, which may happen in a couple of weeks. What do you think?”
“Is baptism necessary for salvation?” I asked.
“No, Baptists believe it demonstrates, your saving faith already, but that Jesus says to be baptized.”
We shook hands, I thanked him, I’ll see you Sunday, and got out of the car. I went right to my rack. Lights were out, so my getting into bed was quick and quiet. I laid there thinking about God. I put the small New Testament under my pillow. I felt a deep gratitude that my heart expressed in bringing tears . . . and fell asleep.
My duty as a Marine was the same routine, although having a new friend whom I felt related in a special way, a way not experienced before, a forever friend, if I never had one before, I was found by godly people who thought better of me than worldly people. My purpose in life had taken a step up smartly.
That was in April, a day and a month after my birthday. I was baptized ten days later on Mother’s Day, which was God showing me mom was interceding for me. The experience was exhilarating. A group of baptism candidates were prepared and dressed in denim clothing, and sitting on the front row.
The auditorium was a universal baptist facility (church) with space in front of the first row of pews, then 3 steps up to the platform where a central podium was prominently located, and behind that was the choir loft, having a low partition separating it from a stage-like podium. Behind that was the baptistry.
To get to the baptistry, since it was behind the central wall, we walked around to the side of the platform, to a side left doorway that led into where the back room was. It contained access up to a backstage stairway that led down into the water. The whole building was designed for baptisms.
Before the Mother’s Day worship service, my group of converts were led to the ready position about to enter the water. The lights dimmed. The pastor was in place in the baptistry, the water level was visible behind the tempered glass. Pastor stood waist deep and motioned to begin. Everyone was quiet.
Each candidate had a waterproof name tag. The first person slowly stepped down into the water. Pastor stood facing the membership while we were told to step in front of the pastor and allow him to grasp our neck and nose. After saying the words, he guided each of us to lean back bending to be submerged.
“Do you confess you have prayed to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?“ Pastor said.
“ I do.” I said.
“Having confessed your faith publicly, I baptize you Charles, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit . . . Buried with Him in baptism . . .”
The audience participated by leaning to see my face gently guided under the surface as made visible. The fact of total immersion is a specific requirement of the process as the scripture is defined by the Greek word for baptism, baptizo, meaning to dip under, immerse . . .
. . . And raised with Him in newness of life.”
Everyone saw my raising up from the water, and said,
My baptism was real. It was confirmed with Catholic teaching as genuine. Although it is believed to be more than a Baptist ordinance, which means necessary to be done in obedience, it is a Catholics sacrament, which is necessary, and holds saving grace — even the forgiveness of original sin.
This very morning while sitting in my church pew, I received a mini-revelation about the Catholic Church in America. The ratio of adults to children sitting around me was at least one to four. My thoughts led me to think positively about each child being born into the faith, having been baptized at birth.
The real benefit is, as I see their being cleansed of original sin, children with their natural parents are all quiet and respectful. A direct benefit of not having original sin, because of its forgiveness and cleansing at birth. So with this, my conscience was alerted how this congregation will grow to fill up our society.
I was rebaptized into the Catholic faith because records over 55-years old could not be found. So I also experienced the provisional public baptism by water sprinkled on the top of my head over a baptistry font (bowl). God was there, because it occurred on my 78th birthday. Only divine providence did that.
My thoughts in the pew were not dramatic or supernatural; they were simply peaceful. The theme of this writing is about the life I was given, and about how it was lived to make some difference — toward the good of society. My hope is that it is not finished, and the future will bring reward for my family.
My life was changed! My service was beginning a totally new paradigm shift. I was able to think beyond the military box—my service was beginning to step up: From serving our country with God as sponsor, to serving God with country as sponsor. And the foundation key was grace to relearn absolute truth.
Not long after my baptism into the local Central Baptist Church, in Futenma, I remembered to visit my Scouting friend who was now a chaplain serving in the northern training area at Camp Hansen. I was on my own, had some money for bus fare, and walked out the gate and down to the main road bus stop.
I waited and watched, the first bus came along and it stopped and I got on.
“Camp Hansen ku da sai (Japanese for please)” I asked.
The driver showed me to put money in the box. And I put in a dollar, and he nodded. I found a seat, and when a woman got on I knew to give her my seat. So I stood up most of the trip. Camp Hansen is located twice the distance further than Sergeant Gary rode me to play golf, even 15 miles: But easy access.
I arrived at the gate that was off the main road, and the bus stopped.
“Camp Hansen!” Yelled the driver.
“Domo arigato.” I said as I disembarked the bus. (Japanese for thank you very much)
I showed my identification to the gate guard and asked directions.
“I want to find the chaplains office, I have to see Chaplain Walenta, please.”
“Yes Corporal, go about three clicks on this road, and you will see the headquarters. He is in there.” He said. (A click is military lingo for a thousand meters.)
I easily walked the distance, entered the building, and asked the clerk for his office . . .
THE PRESBYTERIAN TEACHING
“Chaplain Walenta, Corporal Bundschu reporting.” I said knocking on his small office door.
“Hey Zeke! Come in. Good to see you!” Richard said.
“Has it been ten years since we knew of each other at Chubb Lake?”
“Yes sir, lets see, I was thirteen, and I’m pushing twenty-two.” I said slowly.
“Great! Have a seat, we can try to catch up.”
“Thank you sir.” I said. Noticing his rank was equivalent to my commanding officer.
I sat in a chair in front of his desk, sitting up straight.
“Seeing you in the field was a surprise. But I guess the circumstances brought us both on the scene unexpectedly. How did it work out for your units?” I asked remembering he was not in utility dress (fatigues). The grass was really tall where we landed.
“The Marine private, trainee, had drowned, so we managed to transfer his remains to his parents. You also had an emergency on your aircraft, I was told.”
“Yes sir, my seatbelt buckle was pressed hard on an electrical bundle near the hatch where I was trying to hoist the body up and in, so the power failed—and I was stuck—unable to pull him in, I just held on.”
“Sounds exciting, what happened then.”
“The pilots gracefully realized the anomaly was’t affecting the flight operation, so we landed at the nearest clearing that appeared to be a central rally point. The medics came up and got the body. I was concerned for them, but they knew to approach from the front. We lost a maintenance chief to a blade strike. He was holding the tracking flag, a gust of wind threw the flag and his shoulder into the blade.”
“Too bad! That was very unfortunate.”
“Yes sir, and I was honored the Kaman Aircraft Corporation honor scroll award, for some kind of heroism. But I was not risking anything, wearing a safety belt. Such an accident is part of my training. I should have been reprimanded for kneeling on the buckle that caused the shortage.”
“No, you are given such a commendation for doing your job to the best of your ability. Your squadron was pleased how you performed in a tight spot. Did you not get a meritorious mast? (Naval award)
“Well, okay, yes sir, the whole unit was called to attention just to commend my duty as well done . . .
“Oh! I have to share my conversion and becoming a Baptist Christian with you. I was baptized on Mother’s Day!” I said excitedly.
“Now that is good news! How does that happen over here, Zeke?” Richard said leaning forward.
“To make a long story short, a sergeant asked for someone to play golf with him, for our Wednesday afternoon recreation. I volunteered, we played 18 holes at Kadena Air Base, then we went to his church just off post, to their fellowship potluck supper. Wow, all American families. I was introduced to a deacon who might ride me back to my squad bay, and he showed me bible verses, and how to pray.”
“You were set up, Zeke!” The chaplain said leaning back in his chair, smiling, and reaching for a pamphlet.
“Yes sir, I get that, but it was made real to me, like that I have never known. Everybody can learn about God through other ways, I suppose, but only four passages, and I was convinced to willingly pray to receive Jesus as my personal savior. The Roman Road, you must know the verses even, right?” I said.
“Of course, but we don’t have churches out here, let me show you briefly what we Presbyterians use.”
Richard handed me a pamphlet to read. I received it and held it in my hand.
“Yes thanks, I remember, you went to the San Francisco Presbyterian Theological Seminary there in my back yard.” I said.
“Yes, I remember your dad brought you as a child to our community fair, when I was there.”
“Yes sir, we lived two blocks away on Grove Lane—I could hear the chimes and see the castle-like building from my bedroom window.”
“Then you should value the evangelism work we do.”
“It was thoughts of my mother who influenced me to go ahead and pray with the deacon.”
“That’s good. How is your mother, Zeke?”
“She’s in heaven, sir, almost seven years ago, she had her liver go bad due to her addiction to wine.”
“Sorry to hear that, Zeke; but, by her then, you have turned out okay.”
“I guess that’s why I’m here, to bring you respects from my father — in the love of my mother.”
“Ha! That sounds like your dad. How is he doing?”
“He’s having good times working. He wrote me about an assignment to sit on an advisory board at the state capitol, where new seismic building-codes need to be developed for insurance purposes . . . You have a brother, Art, how is he?”
“He is well, and working with students at the university (of California).”
“And how about Dick Hacke, our camp director, are you hearing from him or his son, Danny?”
“Yes, Danny is deep into underground engineering projects; and Dick is going strong.”
“Glad to hear that, Richard. When you see them, tell them I asked about them, please. I missed the old Scouting days. It meant a lot to me personally to have been a Boy Scout. I am proud to have known you and your brother. I am most impressed with your support here.” I said sheepishly.
“Thanks for that, and for stopping by, Zeke. You are always welcome, when I’m not in the field.” Richard said offering his hand. “Shall we pray?”
“Yes sir.” I said and we stood up and bowed while the chaplain voiced the words:
“Father, we thank you for your presence in this fine young man, Zeke. Bless him with safety and your security here while he serves out his tour. Give him your wisdom and knowledge to grow in grace. And may he pray for his family and friends daily. . .”
“And together we both serve safely here for our country.” I said.
“In Jesus’ name, amen.” We both said .
We shook hands, and I left thinking how it was worth the trip, and I have something to read riding a bus back to base. . .
As I rode the 15 miles on a local bus back to base, I read about the Presbyterian Gospel teaching.(17)
“This wonderful, joyous message that Jesus is King and Jesus is Savior must be responded to somehow. You will either believe these things about Jesus, or you will not. And if you believe, you will raise your open hands to God, letting go of your rebellion against Him, and call upon his name, and He will save you. Ask yourself, “Am I ready to surrender to Jesus, who is God, as my King? Am I ready to trust in Christ alone to forgive and cleanse me, that I might be with God forever?” If you are, tell Him. He’s listening, right now.”
“If you need Jesus as King to guide and protect you each day, and if you sin every day and need fresh cleansing from a Savior who loves you, then you need the gospel everyday. If you have surrendered to Jesus as King, and trusted Jesus alone as Savior, what are 5 ways to help cultivate this devotion to Jesus?”(17)
The remainder of my tour was routinely uneventful. Daily preflight inspections, and weekly midweek and Sunday church began my new life in Christ.
CHAPTER FOUR – How I left California
MEANWHILE BACK TO CALIFORNIA, LYLE HENSEN, SEARCH FOR CHURCH, SOME SCHOOLING, AND PASTOR BOB COOK . . .
I rotated home to California and the Marine helicopter base at Santa Ana called LTA or Lighter than Air. I took a 30-day leave. This was when Dad remarried.
Alice Baumgarten was a divorced Catholic, meaning she was excommunicated, Catholics cannot divorce. Their wedding was officiated by Dad’s cousin, and my uncle Dick Sims, who was a local appellate court justice—very qualified to marry them. I was their uniformed bar tender. I served the drinks. All in fun.
Alice was a legal clerk in a law office. How they met was at a party thrown by someone of Dad’s many friends and associates in San Francisco. Dad was very good with names. He kept up with many so much so that they got a pile of Christmas cards every year.
When at their apartment while they traveled, I wanted to go to a good Baptist Church. So I visited the Hamilton Square Baptist Church on Franklin St. just five blocks away from the honeymooner’s apartment on Gough St. (pronounced goff). I went forward thinking home church?, but never returned anyway.
The new assignment at LTA was interesting. The facility revolved around two huge blimp hangers—giant structures where all squadrons of helicopters were housed. Lighter Than Air is the only way official military can designate a blimp hanger.
Helicopters there in 1962 were different from past training and duty. The UH-34 helicopter was much larger and designated as utility but capable to carry a 12-man combat-infantry squad. As an experienced crewchief, the larger aircraft meant passengers to be responsible for. That will take some more getting used to.
I remember two important events that I highly value still. One is the Christian Servicemen’s Center downtown Santa Ana, and the other is meeting and getting acquainted with Lyle Hensen when he was a lance corporal. We were both still wet behind the ears. But we attended chapel together as a team.
I met him one day in the mess hall, I sat at a table with him for lunch, and bowed my head to thank God. He came alive about that—started sharing his faith. God was introducing me to someone whom I actually know on Facebook today. He is a senior highway patrolman, about to retire himself.
The servicemen’s center was an off-post-place I spent some quality time. John and Fern Kulisich were there to run the place. Coffee, soda, snacks were available. John was a gifted teacher, Fern was open to showing hospitality . . . Their home was also a rally point. I did a bible-story story painting for them.
It was here that my three-year, initial tour was to end, although I was asked to reenlist, there wasn’t the opportunities I wanted, such as rigger school: denied because of not having depth perception. Also, officer school denied for less than 20/20 vision. I could easily leave military service for college. And, my squad leader was just promoted to E-6 Staff Sergeant, but it took him twelve years as an E-5. Somehow that fact discouraged me — not something I felt was worth pursuing. Cuban Missile Crisis occurred then.
When I got processed out, I returned to San Francisco, to stay at Dad and Alice’s apartment for a week to line up my next steps: It was July 1962, I needed to apply for college. I remember looking up the top art school on the west coast, called them, and had them send an application. I mailed it ASAP.
So a year at the Art Center school showed me a career that was as demanding as the military. Two things showed me God was not favoring me there, my grades were average, and when I visited a Baptist Church in Hollywood, the pastor embarrassed himself forgetting his own son in line for baptism.
The year at the Art Center was challenging. In other words, the assignments were given to all the class to produce each student’s expression of the objective model. I was often amazed at the wide variety of results. I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to work that hard. Failing Economics because I crammed all night to finish a design presentation, and when handed the test I fell into stupor-sleep sitting up. Before I started to take the test, the hour sped by. I was shocked, but that was a sure indicator.
After two semesters of the professional art classes, I was ready to wake up and smell the rosy truth.
SEARCH FOR CHURCH
Another Baptist Church visited and rejected. But was it God or was it me? Had I been raised Catholic, my conscience would have been formed and I would have heard. Basically, I fell into sin in my second semester as I worked part time as busboy in the residence dining hall. I was asked for a date by a single young business woman visiting a work associate, she was a secretary, and attractive but handicapped.
It may because of my grades dropping, but my mind was not where it should be. In the military, young men overseas easily sought prostitutes. I fell into that trap. And I paid the price spiritually. Not being raised Catholic, I had no idea how original sin caused immorality and mortal sin. Going on from there, I applied to work at a summer job with the Forestry Service. That assignment was a good opportunity.
This time, I got assigned to Tahoe National Forest Ranger Station at Soda Springs. That was also a blessing because it occupied the Chubb Lake area where I spent summers as a boy. The job was common labor doing trail maintenance. It paid well enough I might return to college. But college was now trade school—I had to change majors to accomplish something more, like even a licensed Aircraft Mechanic.
An application was sent to Northrop Institute of Technology before reporting to the ranger. I thought about 2 minutes on what major to study and came up with. They offered a certificate (license) for Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) Mechanic. My military specialty helped me get state tuition payments.
Summer of ’63 was definitely different. Ten day pack trips maintaining trails — I had hiked through the wilderness as a Boy Scout a decade earlier. Four days off between trips meant opportunities to go places, like Sacramento for a dentist appointment, or. . .
The lady from LA travelled to meet me and we picnicked together for her vacation. I was in pig-heaven. Mortal sin was happening, and as a young Baptist, it never occurred to me. I was free to let it happen, and flesh had its way. I was in no position to think marriage, nor was she. We just wanted sex.
She was able to afford the hotel room up the highway from the ranger station, and I dined with her at the restaurant. It’s unusual to yield to an older woman, but like she was very tactful and knew how to tell her desire: I was the fish and trapped into her net. Not justification — but ignorance of how evil works.
Her handicap was her knees were not able to bend. She could only get around with crutch-like supports. I think I thought differently about her — willing to help her. She would not relate with her usual friends, nor could she socially relate with work associates. I was special to her only because I liked her.
Her vacation was over too quickly. I gave her the Forestry Service tour, the station, the café, and the trail among the pines, her hotel room, and restaurant. I think she was happy to have come to visit me. I think I wrote her once. Then she was gone. Life was better for her in the big city. We never met again.
When finally accepted at Northrop, the class was to begin November. So I explained this to the ranger, and he suggested transferring me to the engineering department at Nevada City to work as an aid for the weeks remaining before snow began to fall. Surveying for access roads for timber cutting was good.
I enjoyed the peaceful month’s stay there. I learned something about surveying, and forestry. Not having pursued that career at Humboldt State was of no consequence. I was happy with the new opportunity for getting qualified as aircraft mechanic. Nevada City was friendly place to visit.
My stay there was resting in a historic hotel nights, and traipsing through the virgin pine trees by day. It was tiring work, but they served good draught beer at the restaurant, so my social connection was still blossoming an awareness of self-worth and a church visit happened in their historic setting.
This meant a nice preparation for a new beginning — a valuable course on quality aircraft maintenance, and showed me a completion of what I was trained in the military — that alone could not satisfy the much broader skill requirement of civil occupations. But it helped land a job close to home.
SOME SCHOOLING, CHURCH SERVICE, MIRACLE MOVIE
When there, living in the city of Inglewood, located south of Los Angeles — north of Long Beach, I want to remember two events that helped heal me from recent hanky-panky activities, and line me up for being delivered from struggles with flesh and evil influences: I became active in the First Baptist Church!
By that, I mean they trusted me to teach Sunday School to 6-grade boys. I could do such a thing, with excellence. I did that for a year. I came away feeling like I made a small contribution . . . The other thing that blessed my socks off was one Saturday night after studying the Sunday School lesson, I heard in my heart to go to a movie.
This was not any movie, this was a showing at the Hollywood Universal Theater showing The Greatest Story Ever Told!
How I knew to go was a curious chain of events. Like I knew the bus route was just a block away. A bus travels from Century Boulevard where I was, north to a street a block from the theater. All I had to do was go — all by myself. It was exhilarating because I had never gone there, and the showing time was all sold out, I was told, but wait.
My patience captured my heart, when I was called and a single cancellation did come in. It was, and get this, the first row of the balcony, and a center seat — a perfect viewing placement! Like the movie was showing just for me! A miracle, I thought. Anyway, that movie experience totally enraptured me.
I travelled a hundred blocks on a local Los Angeles City bus enroute to miraculously see a first run showing of a Hollywood production! I was blessed so that I felt God was treating me with a reward and was demonstrating what living for him can be like. I was definitely touched: A miracle moment.
Graduating from Northrop Institute of Technology, took a month longer because, I failed two classes that were worth taking over. Electrical, and Hydraulics brought me to the 14 month course completion. I came away with hands-on training and confidence my notes were reliable: San Francisco here I come!
Assigned as helicopter mechanic with SF-O Helicopter Airlines, I started driving the fuel truck. A worthy job that required removing and replacing radio and radar equipment as written-up. I was vastly experienced and knew what I was doing. I was blessed for two reasons, the first was Aunt Dale Sims.
I was given the privilege of flying as a steward-crewchief from San Francisco to Oakland International Airport. One of the passengers was Aunt Dale, mother of my cousin Rick. She was well acquainted with me, as we were family, yet second cousin once removed. She was a true lady, and privilege to help support her transportation needs.
The second was my apartment was located two miles from the airport. I located it just blocks from the Burlingame Baptist Church. This church I had no problem joining. It was most convenient, and was truly where my heart was. There was only one problem. They had no pastor. So visiting preachers came to apply. That’s how I met Bob Cook. (It was also close to the big city where Dad an Alice lived and worked.)
PASTOR BOB COOK
BOB COOK was 50 years old when he traveled to Burlingame California from Phoenix Arizona where he left his wife who could not leave her job as a house keeping associate at the international airport. Bob had pastored six Southern Baptist Churches in Elmore County, Elmore, Alabama; and attended the Southwestern Southern Baptist Seminary, to earn his masters degree in theology.
Pastor Bob loved to preach. And his preaching pierced my soul! I loved to hear him do his fire and brimstone shouting. He made me sit up straight for hearing his bold and courageous delivery. He met me and asked about my situation.
“Well Pastor Bob, I just graduated from A&P mechanic school and got a good job at the airport.” I said.
“Where do you sleep?” He asked squinting his eyes.
“I have an apartment a few blocks from here. I live alone. My parents have an apartment in the city.” I said thinking how he came from Phoenix alone. “Do you have a place to stay yet?”
“Not yet. Have lunch with me, Chuck. Maybe we can work something out.”
“Good. Thanks Pastor.”
We left the church walking toward my place, and stopped to shop for lunch at a local grocery.
“Let me take this.” Bob said handing cash to the clerk.
“Thank you sir. Are you new in town?”
“Yes sir, I am interim pastor at the Baptist church.” Bob said smiling and pointing.
Bob was a very open and personable man. He was always ready to give a good answer
to anyone who asks anything of him, especially of the faith.
“Oh, that’s nice sir. Welcome to Burlingame.”
“Thanks, I am looking forward to moving here.”
“Oh, that’s fine. Where are you from?”
“Phoenix.” Bob said smiling and eager to tell about his God.
“Now there’s a good place to be from.” The grocer said being polite.
“We grew up in Alabama, Elmore County, Elmore Alabama, where you can find Southern Dandies—but we don’t know what ‘dandy’ means.” Bob said with a lyrical note. “It’s two clicks from Montgomery, northwest.” He said smiling as our food was bagged.
“Glad to meet you sir.” Bob said politely, realizing he said too much.
We left the store and I led him to my place a short distance away.
“Here we are.” I said as we entered. “The kitchen is this way. Make yourself at home” I said trying to be hospitable.
“Thank you.” Bob said as he put the food down on the table, and went to the sink to wash his hands.
I sat down to arrange the food, and Bob sat and said a prayer.
“Bless O Lord this good food, we praise you for your peace, in Jesus’ name, amen.” Bob said.
“Thanks Brother Bob, I feel privileged to have you in my home.” I said before taking a bite after he did.
That’s good, Chuck. You have a nice place here.” He said looking around.
It was a small one bedroom that had comfortable furniture. The bedroom had twin beds which Bob noticed. And, oh, wall hangings were throughout..
“I really like your apartment, Chuck. What do you say for me to live here with you?” Bob said popping the question.
“It really is practical. A little cramped, but you can afford it, here.” I said.
“I will pay you half your rent, as soon as I get some pay.” He said.
“That sounds good, Pastor.”
I shook his hand, and realized my new pastor was my new roommate.
The significance of this miraculous happenstance was more than I realized at first. I liked Bob. Brother Bob was God’s man come to rescue me from California. This is the way such a wondrous objective unfolded: Pastor Bob needed to reorganize the church, and get it on it’s feet and out of debt.
The building was recently renovated with expensive pine paneling. It was beautifully done; but, the cost was well above agreed contract prices. I believed Pastor Bob would do the job to teach what needed to be taught, and preach what needed to be preached Burlingame Baptist Church to become economically solvent.
However, he got me interested in the Training Union program, and wanted me to be the director. Wow, I thought it could happen with a little help from God. I wore my best sports coat, and because of my experience as Sunday School teacher of 6th grade boys, I knew something about Southern Baptist material. I was just a pretty face in the right place and the right time. And over four-months, we grew.
Pastor Bob was big with visiting folks. He and I went door to door even. Telling people about church, God’s word, and poems that were fun to hear and inspirational. We had fellowship that brought families together. That was fun, but something happened that damaged Bob’s reputation.
He was seen crawling on the floor playing with the children. That embarrassed parents, and members of the board. The church leaders who voted to accept him as temporary pastor, was now changing their minds. So, the church business meeting voted to reject him as pastor. A political maneuver beyond me — they refused to hear me speak.
One of the most memorable events I shared with Pastor Bob, was that he had bought a used bicycle and rode with me every morning all the way out to the airport where I worked. He taught me how to sing his favorite song:
“In the morning when I awake, Sweet Marie! Seems my heart will break, love for thee; Oh the stars up in the sky, they all stop and wonder why, they are dimmer than your eye. Sweet Marie!”
“Sweet Marie, love for thee — not because your face is fair — love to see, but because you’re pure and sweet makes my happiness complete! I will falter at your feet, sweet Marie . . .”
We sang together as we rode bicycles along the back road along the bayshore, that led us to the large airport — every day.
Because I was becoming a biblical teacher, I shopped for and found a popular bible, called the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. That began my fascination with learning what the Bible does say. There visual charts — charts that appealed to my mechanical mind. (I took this bible with me when I traveled globally.)
Brother Bob and I rode our bikes together to my job singing at the top of our lungs for months, so that I grew to love him as a brother. We talked too, and he was a wealth of biblical knowledge. I remember asking him, ‘What determines the interpretation of pre-millenialism?’ He said, “It depends on the seminary you go to.” That I’ve remembered, and accepted as true and helped me discern Catholicism.
One day while at work, I began to think how my Pastor-roommate was fired and he will be leaving to go home. How could I, having befriended him in godly fellowship, let him go? Probably a stupid question, but the man was like a father to me. His coming all the way from Phoenix, for me, was preposterous.
But, that is what happened and history has proven. He asked me to go with him. To go with him, I needed to quit my job. The job that was working out, but I was still on probation. I could leave without any negative repercussions. I just needed to call Dad and Alice. They didn’t understand, but accepted it.
We had little to pack, although, I was given family heirlooms to keep. My grandfather’s shotgun, a 12 gauge Damascus barrel, his model 1878 Winchester rifle, and a large horn made of a bull horn and bugle mouthpiece. I noticed they were missing on our departure.
“Hey Bob, where are my guns?” I said feeling a sense of loss.
“I took them to a flee-market and sold them.” He said, looking straight at me, as in confession.
“You didn’t!” I exclaimed. “Those were family heirlooms. My sister’s sons might like them.”
“I used the cash to buy this Ford station-wagon to get us to Phoenix, and I bought tickets for the Training Union Convention at Glorietta, New Mexico, that is a big event, you won’t regret, Chuck, I promise you. Also, I shipped your trunk with your horn wrapped up with some clothes. You can get it in Phoenix.”
Bob was standing still to tell me of his preparation to leave our place in Burlingame.
“Is there any thing else?” I asked helplessly since I was flabbergasted as still trying to assess our brotherly status.
Then I heard my conscience tell me:
‘Don’t judge your deliverer for obediently taking steps to provide your exodus by literally taking God’s teaching to heart: You are his mission now.’ My heart said.
From that point on, I began to understand how God can change things in my life, but I have to yield for it to happen — and I realized Brother Bob was far more devoted to God than I was. I needed to learn from his spirit. So, our relationship stepped up to the next level.
Oh yes, I almost forgot; Bob and I had to travel to the hospital where Barbs had given birth to her second son, Robert. I was pleased to see her, totally ignorant of her delivery details — and she was not happy to see us. We cut our visit short and said a bible text and a prayer for her at her bedside.
She was fit to be tied! She looked around frantically for something to throw at us, picked up the empty urinal, and cocked her arm ready to throw. When we both said amen, and left her alone.
“What’s with her?” Bob asked as we squeezed through the exit.
“She is not saved yet.” I said.
“The word I shared was anointed. . . “
“Yes sir. But her heart is hardened. Also, she does not like being a captive audience; she likes being hospitable on her own terms.” I said.
“I guess you understand better than I do. I thought you said that she led you by hand to the churches you visited as children?”
“That’s right, Bob; but she’s more worldly as a married adult now.” I said, and he nodded.
Our trip to Phoenix was a real miracle. The car needed maintenance badly. Oh, it had only an oil leak, but it leaked oil at the same rate as the engine burned gasoline. Okay, then we got a case of oil, and we had to have gallons of water. As we drove along, we sang our song — loudly!
But even as a mechanic, I think I prayed more than I calculated when to service the gas, oil, or water: If the engine was overheating, then we stopped and serviced one or the other. Sadly, we modified our hopeful plans, by behaving more wisely to junk the car, and travel more dependably by bus.
Honestly, I had no idea what was coming for me. When I made a decision to trust Brother Bob, and events began to unfold positively that opened my new possibility future.