I was born in Coffeyville, Kansas, in 1934. It was after my father had beaten both my brother and my mother and threatened to kill the family that my mother had him arrested. With very little money, in a 1928 Essex, we headed out for California ending up in the San Joaquin Valley, settling first in the city of Modesto. When we arrived I was just two years old, so all my understanding comes from the things my mother shared with me. It was the year 1936, the Great Depression was still pretty well in full bloom, and when we arrived in California we had but a nickel to live on. My brother who was just twelve years old, went out into the cotton fields that first week, and my mother told me, that after about ten hours in the hot burning son of central California, he came running home that evening with tears running down his cheeks and handed her 25 cents that he had earned that day. God was taking care of us.
I have always had a certain pride that we did not live on welfare and this was because my mother and brother worked hard, and I would remind you that this was during a time when a working woman did not receive equal wages as men. But I suppose one would have to say we were poor, but I can honestly say I really never knew it. Our home was filled with love and a mom that loved, protected, and worked hard to keep both the family and body and soul together. When my mother was in her seventies she was in the hospital for open heart surgery, which was quite new at that time. I had gone to visit her, and she began to cry and explain how she knew that she had not been able to provide the betters things in life for us. I am so glad that, sitting with her in that hospital room with tears running down both of our cheeks, I had that opportunity to share with her these words, “Mom, I never knew we were poor, I never thought that we were poor. I had a Mom who loved me, did her very best, and above all taught me that God is and that His Word was absolute truth and as far as I was concerned I had always thought of myself as one of the wealthiest kids that ever lived.” To this day I look back on that evening as one of those precious moments of my life.
In 1941 Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1942, war was declared on Japan. My brother joined the Air Force and my mother was employed in the San Diego Convair Aircraft plant, where she was one of the many lady riveters building B-24 bombers for the war effort. It was at this time we moved to San Diego. It was while we were living there in Pacific Beach that as a young child in the third grade I had a burden to become “a preacher.” I told my mom at the time, “I am going to be a preacher.” My mother thought of it as but a childish dream but afterwards told me that she couldn’t help but have a certain pride in that while others kids talked of being a fireman or a policeman, her son from that time on talked about nothing else but being a preacher when he grew up.
I attended schools in both Pacific Beach and National City in the San Diego area. After graduating from Sweetwater High School I began attending Pacific Bible College in Azusa. It was here that I began to struggle with the doctrines of the Holiness Movement. They taught a second work of grace which was called “entire sanctification,” that is, one could be made perfectly holy. I had heard, both during testimony times and from the pulpit, many who claimed to have never sinned for thirty, forty, or more years. I yearned to be made perfectly holy.
I wanted to be able to live that kind of life where I would be totally free from sin. But being who and what I am, simply a sinner saved by grace, I struggled. I would get “sanctified” and then lose it. One incident in my life caused me to wonder if such a life was really possible. At the college each semester we would have a “revival meeting” with a guest pastor. Each semester I would go forward at the altar call to “get sanctified” again. During my sophomore year after the fourth “revival” series, the Dean of Students came to me and said, “Wesley, I’ve noticed that you go down to get sanctified during every revival series.” I responded to him, “Sir, I really want to be perfectly sinless, but by the next day after going down, I’ve lost that perfection. I sin and I really desire to be made perfect, to become sinless, I go forward each time always hoping that maybe this time it will work.” The Dean looked at me and simply said, “Wesley, you are just more honest than the rest of us.” At that moment I began to realize that entire sanctification was taught but was not real.
I then began to attend an Assembly of God church in Azusa, hoping that maybe if I got the “baptism of the Spirit” and spoke in tongues this then would make me perfectly holy. So I “jabbered” with the rest of them but came to this sad realization, I still had not become sinless. The one good thing that came out of attending the Assembly of God church was meeting my lovely bride Ginger, and we have now been happily married for 59 years.
I first served in the ministry as an assistant pastor at that church and was licensed to preach by the Assembly of God denomination. I had planned to finish college at Pacific Bible College but nine months and three weeks later our daughter Patty Lynn was born, and I realized I would need to quit college for a while in order to provide for my family.
I moved back down to the San Diego area and was called to be a pastor at the Open Bible Church in Ramona, California, where I was ordained as a minister of that denomination. There I found myself struggling with what I taught and what the Bible taught. The reason was that the Scriptures revealed God as an absolutely sovereign God, and I held that God could not violate man’s freewill and therefore was subject to man’s decisions. I struggled, because although the Bible clearly taught this truth, yet I knew that the church I was part of did not, nor did I accept this teaching. I found myself literally arguing with God, day after day.
I found myself, even though a pastor, unsure of my own salvation because I understood that it was entirely up to me to keep myself saved. I had been teaching the adult class from the book of Romans. When I came to the close of Romans chapter 8 I knew I could not go on to Romans 9 because I did not believe what Paul was teaching in that chapter. I remember telling the class I felt we now had a good understanding of Romans and I had decided that I would go to another book. But what bothered me most is that I clearly understood what Romans 9 taught, but I knew that I did not accept what it taught. I was arguing with God’s Holy Scripture.
A few weeks later I awoke in the middle of the night with a great fear. If I died would I go to heaven? Had I sinned that day and lost my salvation, and therefore needed to renew my salvation and once again put my trust in Christ. I got up and went into the living room, got down on my knees, opened up the Scriptures to Romans 9 and read chapters 9 through 11 and prayed this prayer; “Lord if you’re just you will cast me into hell, and if you’re merciful you will save me, but I give up, I cannot save nor keep myself saved.” I remember a great peace came over me. I became Reformed that evening, not at all understanding what it meant. But a few months later I began to read the Westminster Confession of Faith and was spellbound by the great doctrines of the Reformed faith. For several months I told Ginger, “Honey, I am either fifty years too soon or too late, but no one believes this anymore.”
During this time I was quite heavily into right-wing politics and became acquainted with Doctor Carl McIntire and the Bible Presbyterian Church. My ordination with the Open Bible Churches was received by the Presbytery and I was installed as pastor of the Bible Presbyterian Church in North Hollywood. The one requirement was that I finish my education, a requirement I was pleased to fulfill, as such was not required in the Pentecostal Churches I had previously been a part of.
But the Bible Presbyterian denomination was a strange mixture of Reformed and dispensational teaching. In God’s good providence our congregation had a large number of college-aged youth who were carefully studying the doctrines of the Reformed faith and came to the conclusion that dispensational teaching was not in accord with the doctrines of our Creed. We voted to leave the Bible Presbyterian denomination; at which time we became an independent church taking the name of Westminster Bible Church.
We knew that an “independent Presbyterian” church was a misnomer. We were continually looking for a faithful Reformed denomination. It was during this time we became acquainted with the Reformed Church in the United States and I with the congregation, finding ourselves to be of like mind, voted to become a part of the Reformed Church in the United States.
It has been my privilege to serve first in North Hollywood, then Lancaster, California, and also in Kansas City. I came to Northwest Arkansas in 2003 with a desire to start a church of the Reformed and Presbyterian heritage here in the beauty of the Ozarks.
Coming from a non-Reformed background I can hardly find words to express how thankful I am for the Reformed Church in the United States. This denomination continues to hold fast to the biblically sound doctrines of the Reformed faith as expressed in the Three Forms of Unity. Thankfully, God in His good providence has made me a part of this body of believers.