A Knock on the Door Changed Her Family’s Life

Post a Comment » Written on December 8th, 2004     
Filed under: News
WASHINGTON (December 8, 2004)  – Editor’s note: the following story was  written by Sharon Read, who as a child lived in the state of Washington.  It speaks of the often overlooked acts of love and kindness that have  far greater impact on a life than one might realize at the time. It is  particularly appropriate as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child  who is the source of inspiration for this kind of love.

By Sharon Read

Recently, while putting together some genealogy material and stories for  my adult children, I found myself writing about my parents’ lives and  the limited exposure we had to God as kids during the fifties. From my  earliest memories, our family didn’t attend church. The extent of my  knowledge about God was the “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” prayer my  grandmother taught me when I was small.

It was in 1955 that the pastor of a local church entered our lives – and  changed our lives forever. Pastor Alfred Ulner was the pastor of a  church located a few miles from where we lived. At that time, our little  town was nothing more than a small grocery store and gas station with a  feed store by the railroad tracks that ran from Renton to Bellevue. We  lived next door to my grandparents on land that my great-grandparents  bought in the early 1900’s – it was considered out in the country. We  didn’t get a lot of drop-in visitors. The only people I can remember  coming up our driveway during those years was the Fuller Brush man or  the Avon Lady.

One day, Pastor Ulner came knocking on our door. He was out visiting  door to door, which as anyone knows who has ever done that kind of  outreach can be challenging. You never know what kind of reception you  might receive. He introduced himself, spent some time talking with my  mother and invited our family to church. After that visit, the Sunday  school bus, sometimes driven by Pastor Ulner, began stopping in front of  our house and picking up my brother, sister and me on Sunday mornings.  My mother went to church occasionally for awhile, but my father never  did attend with us. Pastor Ulner continued talking with my mother about  God and generally encouraging her. She was studying the Bible during  this time and I can remember her reading her Bible every day. She and  dad began to watch Billy Graham Crusades on television.

In a conversation with my mother a few years before her death in 1999,  she told me the story about that first time Pastor Ulner came to our  door. She was several weeks pregnant with her fourth child. She didn’t  want any more children and a friend had directed her to a doctor in a  town who did abortions. She made the appointment to abort the baby, but  the day before the appointment, Pastor Ulner came to visit. She said she  felt his visit was a direct intervention from God and she did not go  through with the abortion.  My baby brother, Mark, was born in 1956.

For the next few years the three of us older children attended Pastor  Ulner’s church. In our Sunday school class my sister, brother and I  learned about Jesus. I remember loving the singing part of church. My  brother, Steve, who was about six years old, remembers that at some  point he said the sinner’s prayer with his Sunday school teacher. When I  was about 11 years old, I had my first experience really knowing that  God was real while attending a local bible camp with my Covenant church  Sunday school class. The wind of the Holy Spirit was blowing on our family.

In 1958 my grandfather died, and by 1959 our family had moved from the  area. We no longer attended church. I wish I could say that our life was  wonderful after our short exposure to God, but that wouldn’t be reality.  There were many hard times for my parents and for us kids in the  following years. But God is faithful.

As he grew older, my father became more open about his childhood. He  shared with me about his Baptist background, how he was saved as a boy  in a church he attended with his parents. Shortly before his death in  1982, he recommitted his life to God. My mother’s faith continued to  grow during the last two decades of her life. In 1974, I accepted Jesus  Christ as my Savior. Soon after, my husband also became a Christian. All  four of my children are Christians as are my six grandchildren. My  brother, Steve, continues to serve God, recently traveling to Mexico on  an outreach trip.

Through my eyes as a child, the church seemed kind of formal . . . the  grownups seemed intimidating. Maybe I felt that way because it was the  1950s and we were the little kids that came on the bus without our  parents. But my memory of Pastor Ulner will always be of his kindness to  us, how his faithfulness in reaching out to my mother changed the course  of her life, as well as saved the life of my brother.

To my knowledge Pastor Ulner never knew about the day he just “happened”  to come to our house to invite us to church – and how his visit had a  bigger purpose. I decided to do an Internet search to see if I could  find him, to tell him and to thank him. When I typed in his name, a  Covenant news story came up telling of his memorial service in August  2002 (he had died at Mt. Miguel Covenant Village, a retirement facility  in California). I was sorry to hear of his passing, but I saw from the  article that he had five daughters. I contacted Covenant Communications  and asked if someone would forward my note to Pastor Ulner’s family, if  possible. A few days later (thanks to the assistance of the Department  of the Ordered Ministry), I received a reply from one of Pastor Ulner’s  daughters.

I enjoyed reading her note about her memories of her family’s time  living in Washington while her dad was a pastor and where he had  ministered later on. (After leaving Washington, Ulner was called to  churches in Berkeley, California; Phoenix, Arizona; northern Michigan,  and Mason City, Iowa.) She noted that she and her husband also entered  the ministry as missionaries to Africa. The daughter said she was young  when the Ulner family lived in Washington – from the third grade to  about the sixth grade – before the family moved to California. “I  remember often riding on the bus on Sundays or during Vacation Bible  School,” the daughter wrote. “So probably I met you many years ago.”

I’m happy that I was able to share my family’s story with Pastor Ulner’s  daughters. I think that all too often, men and women like him go through  their lives being faithful in the small things, but never really knowing  or understanding the incredible impact that they had for God and  eternity. And I guess to some degree, all of us go through life not  knowing or understanding – this side of heaven anyway – about the seeds  that were sown or the harvests reaped for the Kingdom of God by our  everyday “knocking on doors, driving the bus, kind words, a smile,  reaching out, sharing the love of Jesus” kind of faithfulness.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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