Chapter 14: Our First Full Time Ministry

Our first full time ministry was Zillah Church of Christ, which was in Central Washington. However, we didn’t go there right away after we were married. We stayed in San Jose for some time, and were making inquiries to find a ministry to enter. We were already pregnant with our first child when we found out there was a church available in Zillah, a small town with a population of about one thousand, twenty miles from the bigger town of Yakima. We wondered if we should attempt to go that far away since I was pregnant, but the doctor told us that, even though I was pregnant, I was strong enough that I could have ridden a horse to Washington. Apparently, he was a frontier doctor.

Across the Yakima River from Zillah, was the town of Toppenish on the Yakima Indian Reservation. It was on the southwestern side of the river which ran along to the southwest of Zillah. The McKinley Indian Mission was on the Yakima Indian Reservation which our church and other churches of our brotherhood helped support. Mr. and Mrs. John Runyan were the missionaries there. Edna and Ella Hadley, sisters and single ladies, graduates of NCC, served the Yakima Indians as missionaries for many years, also. During the summer, various people would come from churches around the country to hold Vacation Bible Schools on the reservation.

In Zillah, the house in which we lived was right next to the church building and was called the church parsonage. It had no furniture, but the people said they would loan us furniture they had. One piece I remember in particular was an old sofa, and when we delved down below the cushions, we found a huge wrench which came in handy when we needed it to do odd jobs around the house. We were able to purchase unpainted furniture that, in time, we fixed up with varnish or paint. This was mainly what we bought as our babies came along. On the main floor, there was a living room, dining room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. There was a small porch at the back. Upstairs were two bedrooms, and in the basement was a storage room for storing canned fruit and vegetables.

One of the things we really liked was that, although the people didn’t have much money, they did have plenty of food. In a period of seven years they had had severe problems in one way or another. For six years, freezes destroyed their crops, and one year, the crop was so big it forced the price down so low that it was cheaper to let fruit fall on the ground than pay to have it picked. They were able to keep us supplied with food which we canned or froze or did whatever we could do to preserve it. Sometimes they even gave us meat, which we took to a frozen food locker in one of the markets downtown. We often bought large sections of meat, like a quarter or half a beef or half a hog. We had it cut into pieces to our order, and then used it as we pleased through the year. Some folks let us go into their orchards and pick asparagus which just grew wild. We dearly loved to do that, and we would freeze this for later use. We got some strawberry plants and planted them in our back yard and had them, too.

One family had cherry trees—pie cherry trees, in fact. We loved them and learned how to make cherry pies which were Chuck’s favorite. It turned out that in the Philippines, there is another fruit that tastes almost exactly like pie cherries, called “malibadu” in Itawes, and we loved to put a quart of that and two quarts of mangoes together to make three cherry/mango pies for special holidays, and that was always our gift to take for such occasions.

There was one lady who supplied us with the best jersey milk. We bought it by the gallon, and about a pint of it was cream thick enough to whip. Needless to say, we didn’t lose weight while we lived in Zillah. We ate quite “high on the hog,” so to speak, and loved it. The people at Zillah really knew how to cook, and they were very hospitable and had us over to their homes often on Sunday afternoons when they would also invite several other folks.

We lived in Zillah for three years, and during those three years, we had three children born to us at the Yakima Memorial Hospital in Yakima, Washington where Dr. Douglas Corpron was our doctor. He took care of us free of charge because he had been a missionary doctor to China for thirty years, and he knew we were monetarily challenged people serving the Lord. We really appreciated this, and we grew to love both him and his wife very much. Nancy Louise came first, and then there was Ronald Leroy, 15 1/2 months later, and then Kenneth Charles, 13 1/3 months after that. It wasn’t until we moved back to San Jose that we realized why we were having babies coming so close together. Our doctor, Dr. Higuchi in San Jose, was the same one we had when Nancy was conceived. He told us we were still using the same diaphragm at the end of these five years as we were using before we had our first child. Since the birth canal had become larger after each birth, the old diaphragm had done nothing to keep me from having any more children. The doctor in Yakima had not changed the size of it, and we hadn’t realized the necessity of it. We just trusted the Lord that He was in control although we were not averse to using this equipment. After that, we did use the right size and were thankful to find it made a difference.

Before Nancy was born, I got sick one night and threw up/vomited in the toilet in our bathroom. I did not realize that my upper false teeth had been thrown out with it so I flushed it down before realizing it. Soon, I knew exactly what had happened, but nothing we could do would get them back again. It was just before Thanksgiving, and we had been invited to go to Chuck’s brother, Don’s home in Seattle, Washington for Thanksgiving dinner. There was no way I could get a new set of false teeth before that, so I didn’t want to go. But Chuck implored me to go anyhow. I went and just tried to keep my mouth closed as much as possible so no one would see. How embarrassing that was. I was very much pregnant, too, and that didn’t help matters any. We did make it there and home, though, and everyone seemed to be very understanding. This was my first time to meet Chuck’s brother and his family, and I had wanted to make a good impression.

It was winter when Nancy was born. On January 21st, a Sunday night, I was in the church service when my birth pains first started to come. Chuck was in the midst of his preaching, and I didn’t want to bother him. When they came closer together, I went home and got everything ready to take to the hospital, thinking that when church was over, we would be able to go right away. It had been snowing, so the ground was covered with snow.

Our car was parked in the garage which was behind our house, so I thought I would put my things into it and be ready to go. I even decided to try to back the car out, a dangerous proposition due to a blind curve and hill on the highway in front of our house. However, I forgot about a tree that had been recently removed, and there was a big hole next to the driveway. As I backed up the car, I backed into the hole. Now what was I going to do? I was forced to get out of the car and go to the church building to get help. Fortunately, there were lots of men there at the service, and the service was just over, so I was able to get help right away. Chuck realized what was happening, and he got into the action. It wasn’t long before the car was pulled out of the hole and he was backing it up and around to the front of the church building so we could be on our way.

That was one of the longest trips I have ever taken—to go on snowy roads to Yakima to the hospital, and I prayed the Lord would allow the baby to wait and not be born along the way. He answered my prayer the way I asked for it, and we made it in time. Nancy Louise Richards was born on January 22, 1951 at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital in perfect condition. We really praised the Lord for that! God was so good.

Then Ronald LeRoy Richards came along on May 6th, 1952, without any fuss, although for two weeks before he was born, Chuck was gone to Jerome, Idaho to hold an evangelistic meeting. The church men had told Chuck he didn’t need to go that late in my pregnancy to hold that meeting, but he said that since the men in the service of our country have to be gone at the time their wives give birth, he could do no less since he was in service for our Lord. The elders couldn’t say “No” to that, so he went. We all prayed things would work out just right so the baby would be born ahead of that time, but he didn’t come. So we prayed he would wait until after Chuck returned. We had not really known the exact date he was to be born because I had been nursing Nancy right along when I got pregnant with Ron, and we never did know when he was conceived. At any rate, Chuck went on the evangelistic trip and returned, and Ron was still not born. The same night of his return, my pains began coming, and we went to Yakima right away. Ronald LeRoy was born soon after, taking full advantage of his father’s being home from his meeting.

It was hard having the children so close together. How could we give them as much love as they needed? After Ron was born and before the third child came, I used to take him out on the front porch along with our old rocking chair and just hold him and rock back and forth and wish that time could stand still for a little longer so I could enjoy that baby as long as possible.

When Kenneth Charles was born, the very first I heard his voice down the hall, I knew that was my baby. He sounded just like the other two had sounded when they were tiny. Very shortly after he came, I noticed he had a swelling on his head so I asked the nurse about it. She said I should just massage it every time I nursed him. When we had my first checkup with Dr. Corpron, I asked about the bulge, and he asked me what I meant. Apparently, it had not been there immediately because he didn’t seem to know about it. When I told him what the nurse told me to do about massaging it when I nursed him, he was very upset, and the next day, the nurse who had told me that was no longer in the employ of that hospital. Fortunately, the swelling did eventually go down, and it never developed into anything bad, but from what the doctor thought, if I had massaged it too hard, it could have burst and taken the life of the child. We really praised God that He saw fit to heal it soon and that it was all right before long.

When Nancy was born, my mother came to be with me. It was wonderful to have her there, and we talked about things we had never discussed before. It was like I had finally become an adult, and now we could relate to one another as adults. What a good feeling. She told me things I never knew about her relationship with my father, and she told me things about us kids I hadn’t known before, either. She told me things about bringing up our children, and how to listen to their little cries to see what they were trying to say. Some meant there was really something wrong, maybe a pin hurting them or maybe they needed to have a change of diapers, or whatever, but then, maybe there wasn’t anything wrong at all, and all they needed was a little attention. She advocated not giving in too much to this last one, though, or we might spoil them. However, we realized that having four children in five years, we needed to give them all the attention they could get because we only had so much time, and we needed to use it to the greatest advantage to let them know we truly loved them.

The second child came, but my mother was not able to come back again. However, she paid to have one of the ladies of the church come and take care of me. It was so lovely to have Mrs. Glenna Barnes come and take care of Ron. We were able to take care of Nancy by this time, but she gave Ron his baths and took care of whatever else he needed. I think she also came when Kenny was born, so I wasn’t left with three little children all at once. What a blessing to have her help.

One night, when Nancy was quite small, she wouldn’t go to sleep. She just lay there crying and crying. We tried everything we could to see what was wrong with her, but it didn’t seem like there was anything. I knew that sometimes, when we took her for a little ride, she went to sleep, so we decided to get up and take her for a little ride. It worked. We had been on the way only a short while when she went soundly to sleep. So we went home. As soon as we stopped the car, she woke up and started crying again. Therefore, we began driving the car again, and we did this for some time. At long last, we were just too tired to go on any more, so we went home, thinking to let her just cry it out after all. It wasn’t long after that she finally went to sleep for the night. We decided we would just have to get used to her crying sometimes and have a bit more patience.

In the winter, it was cold. The wind whistled under the doors and around the windows, so we got weather stripping and put that on. The floors had only linoleum on them, so they were very cold. The oil stove would heat only the upper part of the air in the room, rather than clear down to the floors. We bought little play pens to keep the children in so they could be kept off the floor. Even at that, they often caught colds and had to go to the doctor. At first, we slept downstairs, and we had Nancy staying in a baby bed down there with us, but later on, we slept upstairs where there was a vent that allowed the heat to come upstairs.

Although the winters were bitterly cold, we had good times during them. In the fall, when the winds first came, the leaves floated down and made great piles under the trees. We would dress the children in their warmest clothing even up to their little caps, and let them burrow their way into the leaves and enjoy the fun of it. In winter, the snow was fun to play in for a while. In the summer, the grass grew quickly, so we were out mowing the lawn every so often. I can remember Nancy sitting in a box of grass cuttings having the time of her life.

One time the congregation decided to enlarge the kitchen facility in the basement of the church building. The existing kitchen was almost directly under Chuck’s office. They dug a deep hole for the extension beside the existing kitchen alongside the church. This meant there were dump trucks coming and going along our driveway leading to the hole to get the dirt out and then remove it.

The main highway from Yakima came around the hill and down in front of our house. A person standing on our front yard could not see vehicles coming around the hill until the vehicles were right there. If a person didn’t watch carefully, he could walk out onto the road without realizing that a vehicle was there. We did not want our children running out onto the highway, so we put up a fence around our yard.

One day Nancy was on the inside of the fence watching the dump trucks going in and out of our driveway to get the dirt. One of the men from one of the trucks called out to her and asked her if she would like to go home with him. He didn’t know what an outgoing little girl she was, because her answer was, “Oh, goody, I get to go home with the truck driver! I get to go home with the truck driver!” But her joy didn’t last very long when she found out she didn’t really get to go home with the truck driver.

Sometimes Nancy did get to go home with the folks from the church. They really enjoyed her ways, and one time she happened to be visiting a single couple when a newspaper reporter from the Yakima Herald came to take pictures of their prize peaches. He took Nancy’s picture holding on to a huge peach from one of their trees. That picture was featured on the front page of the paper that week.

The folks at the church were really active in serving the Lord. They were good at teaching in the Bible School, singing in the choir, making quilts at special quilting bees, and having very special Vacation Bible Schools. They let me be the superintendent of the Bible School, and they all joined in to help in the operation of it, so we had wonderful large schools each year.We had good evangelistic meetings, too, and invited the best evangelists to hold them. Many folks were baptized into Christ at these times. Brother G. Fred Hoy was one of these evangelists, and another was Brother Elston Knight.

On special occasions, they had potluck dinners that were almost out of this world. At first, the women were the ones who made the food and served it and cleaned up afterwards, but when we got there, Chuck became a regular part of the dishwashing crew, and when we left Zillah, the men were very obvious at the going-away party by their presence in the kitchen both during and after the meal.

When Ron was about five months old, I was back to my unpregnant self. The older class of folks at the Zillah Church of Christ was a funloving group who loved to have good fellowship, and they decided to have a Halloween party. It was to be a costume affair, and everyone was to come incognito. No one was to talk when they entered the fellowship hall because if they spoke, others around them might recognize their voices and guess who they were. The idea was for everyone to come incognito. We wanted to see who could keep him/herself incognito the longest, and then that person would be deemed the winner.

It was all quite exciting. Chuck and I went to Yakima to a thrift shop to see what we could find, and sure enough, I found a lovely pair of black elbow-length lace gloves. Also, I found a beautiful black long-haired wig that fit perfectly. I already had a floor length gown at home which I hadn’t worn for ages that was just right for the occasion, and I found a beautiful-lady mask. No one would possibly be able to recognize me.

Chuck found red full body underwear which would be just perfect for his idea of going as Satan himself. He got a pitchfork and, of course, a Satan mask. We were set to go to the party.

The evening arrived for the party, and about thirty to forty folks came. Chuck and I decided that Chuck would go in first, and I would go in later. Everyone would know who we were if we were together. Of course, as you guessed, the folks all knew Chuck almost immediately. Who but the preacher would go as Satan himself? But no one recognized me—a beautiful lady that they had never met. They all knew me very well ordinarily, but this wasn’t the regular Mickey they all knew. The Mickey they knew was always pregnant, and she couldn’t possibly be the beautiful woman. When we all unmasked, what a surprise they had. The beautiful lady was me, and I was deemed the winner.

We loved the folks very dearly, and we took part in their times of sorrow as well as their times of joy. I remember the death of one little girl in particular. It was a very difficult time for me, especially at the funeral where I was asked to sing, I broke down and cried while singing. Weddings were a real joy, though, and also it was wonderful to see and be there when people came to know the Lord. Their lives were changed so definitely, and it was a thrill to be part of that. Other times we celebrated holidays together.

When we finally left Zillah to go to another ministry, we were really sad. If it had not been that we were going to Idaho to have Chuck be one of the professors at Boise Bible College, besides being the minister of the Meridian Church of Christ, we wouldn’t have even considered leaving. However, we felt the Lord leading us, so we could only answer by going with Him.

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