When we retired in 2010, we returned to the United States just in time to go to the wedding of our grandson, Timothy Patrick Parlier, Merilee’s son. He married Allison Elaine Cargo, a beautiful Christian girl whose parents had attended the same Shepherd of the Hills Church we attended in Porter Ranch, San Fernando Valley, California. We had never met her parents, but it was wonderful to know that Tim had found such a lovely girl to be his bride. She had gone to Hillcrest Christian School, which is connected with Shepherd, so she was considered one of Shepherd’s own girls. Before leaving Enrile, I had broken my right arm, so it was in a cast when we got back to the States. That Friday morning I had time to go to the hospital to have the cast removed. With that done, by noon we were on our way to Fallbrook near San Diego where the wedding was to be held at Grand Tradition Estates.
First we went to check in at Hillside Inn to change into our wedding clothes. It was near the Grand Traditions Arbor Terrace where the wedding was to be held. The terrace was a very popular place for weddings to be held. It was nestled amongst lush tropical foliage and featured a backdrop of three majestic waterfalls. There were nine lovely maids who were beautifully dressed in milk chocolate sleeveless dresses above knee length and ten handsome groomsmen, classmates of Tim and Allison’s from San Diego State and friends from their growing up years. Allison had two maids of honor. After the processional, the minister brought an excellent message, which was even more impressive because of the backdrop of the waterfalls in the background. It was all very lovely indeed. There was lots of picture-taking, and then they had a reception at which time they served a buffet and had a delightful program, with dancing after that. By that time, the stars had come out and with dramatic exotic garden lighting effects, it was transformed into a sparkling jewel. What a lovely venue!
Everyone was dressed in their finest evening clothes, the first such finery we had seen in many years. It was a real blessing for us to be included in such a lovely wedding, and we were so thankful to be able to be there for the occasion. What an introduction to life in the United States after a long time away from home!
Since we had been gone for 36 years, and had sold our home in the Valley before going to the Philippines, we had no home to go to of our own. Since Chuck’s sister, Betty Casebeer, was a widow and living by herself in her home in San Fernando, she invited us to come live with her. She was our forwarding agent while we were in the Philippines. She was also the secretary-treasurer of the STEP Mission. It was close enough to our main supporting church, Shepherd of the Hills, in Porter Ranch, that we could go there to church and feel at home very quickly.
Before we went to the mission field, I had been the missions chairman at Hillcrest Christian Church in Granada Hills, so when I handed in my resignation from that job, they said they would support us in our work of Bible Translation in the Philippines. They did that until we retired, which was 36 years later. Dudley Rutherford, minister of Shepherd of the Hills Church, had been the minister of the Hillcrest Christian Church who supported us. When we came home on furlough in 1995, Hillcrest merged with Shepherd of the Hills, taking their name, and they continued supporting us. Their support never went lacking and the Lord worked through them to be a real blessing to us. Now we went to church there, and on Wednesday nights, we went to one of their Bible studies, called a Life Group, We had known the leader and several others who came from Hillcrest who attended that night, so we felt right at home.
When we were invited to join the Amen Choir which held their practices on Wednesday nights, we decided to go there instead. We considered it would be a real ministry since the Amen Choir did not sing for the congregation, but sang at convalescent homes and other places on Saturday mornings.
On Thursday nights, we went to another Life Group which met in the home of Marilyn Tuttle whom we knew from the San Fernando First Church of Christ where Betty attended. Several others from that church were also in that group, so we felt at home there, too. Shepherd of the Hills was a mega-church that had two services on Saturday nights as well as three on Sunday mornings. If we wanted to visit another church on Sunday, we went to the 5 PM service on Saturday night so we wouldn’t have to miss out on our own church service. Then we went wherever we wanted to go for church the next morning. After all the years in the Philippines, we were hungry for fellowship with many folks, and we loved praising the Lord wherever we went so this was a real treat to us. The third Sunday of each month, we went to University Christian Church in Los Angeles. We attended the Searchers’ Class at 8:45 AM, the 10:00 AM church service, and the Nurturers’ Class after that, with fellowship between classes and services in their Missions Cafe where you could choose from several juices, latte, hot chocolate, or coffee and finger food and enjoy talking with whoever was there at the same time. After the Nurturers’ Class, we usually went to lunch with UCC friends, so the joy was extended just that much longer.
About once a month we attended the early service at Shepherd and then went to Moorpark where we met Merilee, our daughter. We went to her church with her, had lunch afterwards, and ended up going to a yogurt place after that for dessert. Other special occasions we spent with Merilee and her family, which were always a real blessing! Because our other children lived too far away, we seldom saw them, but we kept track of Nancy and her husband, who are missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Benin, West Africa, via e-mail and Facebook. We kept in contact with Ken and Ron via cell phone, and in fact, I usually worked with Ron four nights a week on my autobiography, with Ron being an excellent editor.
After first coming home, we started thinking about and planning a trip to the northern states to visit churches and contributors who had supported us with their prayers and gifts through the years of our service in the Philippines. With us both having gone to Bible college in different states in our early years, and having been together in ministries in California, Washington and Idaho before going to the Philippines, we had kept in touch with many folks. Having had a newsletter mailing list of at least 1600 names at one time, we had many stops to make on our trip. In fact, twice when we had come home on furloughs, we participated in a School of Missions in the northwestern states that lasted about a month each time. For each week of the month, we spoke at different churches each night in a particular area. We had a sign-up sheet on our display table so that if people wanted to receive our newsletters, they would be able to do so after that. This was a delightful time to get reacquainted with the folks, and we loved it. And so, we had many stops to make on our trip.
On that trip, we went up the coast of California, stopping everywhere we had made arrangements to go as far as to Crescent City, and then went into Oregon to visit churches and friends who lived along the central part of Oregon. We kept on that main road as far as Anacortes, Washington, still stopping at various places along the road. Then we went over to Eastern Washington, visiting people in Yakima, Washington and going south to the Tri-Cities area of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco, where we visited our grandsons, Brandon and Peter Sullivan, sons of our daughter, Nancy and her husband, Terry, who were missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Benin, West Africa. The church at Westside in Richland was their main supporting church, so they left their sons there to work and go to school. After just a couple of days with them, we went on to Spokane and Deer Park, still further east and north. We then headed south to Idaho to visit Boise Bible College where Chuck had taught a couple of years in our early ministry. We stayed with the Ken Beckmans, president of the school in those years, after whom we had named our second son. From there, we went back to California through the eastern road in Oregon which eventually got to Mt Hood, and then down in California to Orland, where we stopped to speak on a Sunday. From there on, we kept going south visiting churches and friends until we finally got back to San Fernando.
We planned a trip to the east later on, and we got as far as Las Cruces, New Mexico, when we got a phone call from our daughter, Merilee, telling us that our grandson, Peter Sullivan, who lives in Washington State with his brother, was missing. He had left a note for Brandon, indicating the thought of taking his life. We wanted to go up to Washington where the two boys lived so we could be with Brandon. We knew that he would need us to be with him at this time of difficulty and not knowing where Peter was. We called Brandon, but he wasn’t home. We tried to get in touch with him by e-mail, but couldn’t get our computer to work, so we went back to our friends’ home and decided to leave early the next morning to go to Pasco, WA, where Brandon lived.
The next morning was our sixty-first wedding anniversary, July 19th. We got up early, and were on our way. In the car we called my sister, Violet, who we had visited before going to Las Cruces. She had already heard from Nancy and Terry about Peter’s situation, so realized we would not be continuing on our trip to the east.
While we were in the car, Brandon called us. He wasn’t sure if Peter was living or dead, but people there expected he was living. The police and many others were looking for him. He asked when we would be there, and we told him we would get there as soon as possible, probably by Wednesday, since it was Monday then.
From Las Cruces, New Mexico, we went north past the Grand Canyon on the east side, but we didn’t stop to see it. We had gone there on our honeymoon sixty-one years earlier. We went past Lake Powell, but only saw it in the distance, taking pictures of it and beautiful orange-red mountains in Arizona along the highway. That night we traveled till 9 PM and stayed in a motel at Hatch, Utah.
The next day we traveled to Boise, Idaho, where we stayed at the home of Ken and Martha Beckman, and then went to Pasco, WA on Wednesday. About 3:30 PM, we arrived at Brandon’s apartment. It was good to see Brandon again. Ashley, his girl friend, was with him, and Brandon told us the story of what had been happening in Pasco between him and Peter. He told us that when we visited them before, he thought Peter would graduate from Junior College the next week. However, he found out that Peter hadn’t even enrolled in school the last semester. He had been going to school to make it seem as though he was in classes, but he had not enrolled at all. Apparently, he was a very troubled young man, but no one knew this.
The afternoon we got to Brandon’s, three men from his church came to talk to him. They wanted to know as much as he could tell them about Peter. While he talked with two of them in his room, Ashley, Chuck and I and the other man talked in the living room. We came to know that the people in the Westside Church who supported Nancy and Terry on the mission field, were not only wonderful supporters of their work on the field, but they did all they could to find Peter and do whatever else they could for the family at this time. That night, we went to dinner at the home of Diane and Bob MacDuff, where Nancy, Terry and Peter had stayed when they were in Richland at the beginning of their last furlough. We met several of their family members and enjoyed fellowship around their table. Afterwards, we stayed at Brandon’s apartment, staying there for several weeks after that so he would not be alone.
Nancy and Terry were due to come to the Pasco Airport three days later, and we were excited about that. In the meantime, we got acquainted with Ashley and Brandon as well as different people from their church who invited us to their homes for dinner. We went to a missionary meeting one evening, going first to the home of the man we first met when we got to Brandon’s, for a delightful dinner. Another night, we were invited to go to a Bible study, which turned out to be a group that Nancy and Terry were in when they were in town. The people at Westside Church in Richland were extremely hospitable, loving and gracious to us. They were helping us through this time of grief over the loss of Peter, while we were trying to do what we could to be of comfort to Brandon. Ashley was a real blessing, too.
When Nancy and Terry arrived, they made their home with the MacDuffs. They made contact with the newspaper and police regarding Peter and the ongoing hunt for him. The church had people looking for Peter in many different places in the Tri-City area. They took fliers about Peter, which they handed out in stores and anywhere else they thought Peter may have gone. Since he worked at Walmart and was very much loved by the folks there, Walmart put on a prayer vigil for him one evening, which was exceptionally fine. Everywhere we went, we saw these fliers with Peter’s picture.
At the church, Wednesday nights were set aside for prayer for Peter. People around the world were praying for Peter to be found. They were praying for many things regarding his welfare and whatever else was on their hearts.
On August 23rd, we started home from Washington. At that time, we still didn’t know where Peter was. But the next day, a body was found along the banks of the Columbia River, which was later determined by dental records which Nancy and Terry supplied, to be Peter’s body. They let us know by e-mail about this.
On October 2nd, a memorial service was held at Westside Church in Richland for Peter. We were able to go, and Merilee and Ken, two of our other children, were there, too. We missed Ron, our other child, but he had been to visit Nancy and Terry just the week before, so didn’t return for that occasion. In fact, we drove up to Washington on September 27th and met Ron for lunch at the Black Bear Restaurant in Bend, Oregon, as he was returning home from Richland.
Terry’s family also came to the service, which was lovely, and the church was full of people. Terry, Nancy and Brandon all spoke. The Spirit was there, and the messages were excellent, emotional and everyone on the program during the whole service was outstanding. Afterward, they served a meal and showed a video of Peter’s life while everyone was eating in the Westside south building.
That night, we went to the MacDuff’s for the evening meal. Terry and his family were there, and he had pictures of them when they were growing up. There was lots of laughing and talking as we got better acquainted. We had dinner and then went into Nancy and Terry’s living room to see videos of their family and life on the mission field. Chuck and I, Ken and Merilee went to the home of the Marshes for the night. The Marshes had gone on a trip and made their home available to us. We hadn’t seen Ken for several years, so it was good to be together with him and Merilee again. The next day, we decided we’d like to go together to see the place on the bank of the Columbia where Peter’s body had been found. Ken brought a special prayer with him, and two candles which we held while he read the prayer. Afterwards, we returned to the MacDuff’s, where we showed our old slides of our family. All were there: Chuck and I, Nancy, Terry, Brandon, Ken, Merilee, Diane and Bob. We had a lot of laughs and fun over those. We had also brought along the kids’ yearbooks from the American School in the Philippines for ’65-’66.
The next morning at 4 AM, we took Merilee to the Tri-Cities Airport since she was due to leave at 6 AM. After that, we went back to bed, but got up to talk to Ken and eat breakfast. Terry and Nancy came and got him to take him for a ride, and that noon, we had lunch at a Panda Restaurant and then we took Ken to the airport. Such a short time to get to be with our kids, but we packed it full and enjoyed it tremendously. That’s the way life goes, isn’t it? God is so good to bless us with such a wonderful family and such lovely friends, too.
That night, we went to visit the Ray Webbs and talked until so late, they invited us to stay for supper. A delicious dinner ended with pumpkin pie and whipped cream, and we stayed until 10 PM. The next morning, we went to visit Jim Sinclair, a San Jose Bible College friend, who lived and preached in Pasco. Then that afternoon, we met Nancy and Terry at Westside and went with them to the cemetery to see where Peter’s remains would be buried later. It was a lovely spot, and a place where others from Westside Church had family members buried.
Our last hours with Nancy and Terry were spent watching “Where the Wild Things Are” at Brandon’s apartment. Nancy and Terry would be staying in Richland for some time, but we felt we needed to get home. We had not dreamed when we were with Brandon and Peter on our trip to the north the first of the year that this would be the ultimate outcome, but now Peter was with the Lord, and the rest of us were left to serve the Lord and live the way He would have us to.
When we visited Peter and Brandon then, we noticed he had a nice guitar. We don’t know how good he was on it, but as we see a friend of ours, who looks a lot like Peter, playing his guitar at our church every Saturday and Sunday on the praise team, we think we can see Peter in heaven playing his guitar well, loving it, and being completely fulfilled to know he is praising the Lord he loves with all his heart.