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Lowell Brueckner

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What Our Hands Have Handled, chapter three


Jesus told His disciples, “Without Me you can do nothing.” Because they believed Him, they gave themselves to prayer. Prayer was and still is the backbone of any church or any ministry that can expect eternal results. It calls upon God to do what man cannot do. Prayer is the power generator behind everything that brings glory to God. Earthly success is not to be taken into consideration at all. It must be understood as plain Bible teaching that His house is to known among all nations as the house of prayer. Only that which is birthed in prayer will walk on streets of good.


From the First Day Your Words Were Heard

A few people from the "String Band" and the Quinney group, 1936
     Erwin Brueckner glanced down at his patent leather shoes, and then stepped back for a better view of his 10-piece orchestra. On each of the ten stands before him was a gold-and-blue banner, denoting The Brueckner Melody Kings. Each musician facing him was wearing a black tux. He raised his wand, just as the curtain began to lift. In those days, stage curtains rolled up. Tragically, Erwin’s swallowtail coat got caught in the rising curtain and before the stagehand noticed the dilemma, my dad was hanging between heaven and earth. An outside curtain was down, fortunately, so he was spared the embarrassment of dangling helplessly before the audience. Still, much damage had been done to the pride and morale of the orchestra and they could not recover from that horrendous start. After a dubious performance, they left the theater by a side entrance to avoid encounter with their listeners.

     The Brueckner Melody Kings’ first theater performance was a marked failure and things only went downhill from that night. Erwin’s dream of becoming a great orchestra leader was shattered. Invitations came few and far between and discouraged members began to drift away one-by-one.

     Now, my dad was a skilled musician. He was an excellent violinist, trained by a concert professional from Chicago. He had the determination and potential to become a professional himself, practicing many hours every day. However, something stood in his way. It could be better said, Someone stood in his way, who had other plans for his life.

     God revealed Himself to Dad. First, a mysterious bright light awakened him from sleep, convincing him of reality in the spiritual realm. Seven years later, he and Mother moved next door to Christian neighbors, who led them to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

     Jobs were scarce in 1935. Dad found work as a door-to-door salesman, selling Christmas candy. It was an ideal employment for an eager new Christian. Whether he was a successful salesman or not, I never learned. Dad only talked about the many opportunities he had to witness for Christ. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my dad combed the neighborhood, proclaiming his newfound faith at every opportunity. One of his earliest converts was a Native American, named Tony Doxtator.

     It was sometime in the summer of 1936 that an Indian lady appeared at my dad’s front door. Her husband had sent her to find the candy salesman, who had come to his home and prayed with him for salvation. He did not know his name, nor where he lived, so the poor woman went down the streets of North Milwaukee looking for “the man who goes around this neighborhood talking about Jesus.” She found him!

     The woman’s mission was two-fold. The first part was on behalf of her husband; the second came from her own heart. Obviously, the Holy Spirit had been dealing with her and the fear of God was upon her.
“I want to apologize,” she said. “While you were in my living room talking to my husband, I was in the kitchen with my daughter mocking you.”
“I forgive you,” Dad answered, “but you need to give your heart to Jesus.”
They bowed their heads and Dad led her in a prayer to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Then, she told him that her husband lay in the hospital with a rare lung disease, but wanted desperately to see him before he died.

     Shortly thereafter, my dad was at the hospital, putting on a gown and mask before entering Tony Doxtator’s room. Tony was concerned for his relatives.
“Please,” he begged Dad, “Go up north and find my family and give them the same message that you told me!” He particularly mentioned his brother Bill.
“I’ll go and tell them,” was Dad’s answer and in so responding, he entered his life’s calling – to reach lost Native Americans with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This was within the first year, after he had found Christ.

     Tony had apparently lost touch with his parents and brothers. He was not sure exactly where they lived. It was somewhere on the east side of Lake Winnebago, probably near the town of Stockbridge.

     In the old days, God’s people handled such problems with prayer. Dad took Tony’s request to the ‘String Band’ at the Wisconsin Tabernacle. The ‘String Band’ was a group of new converts, consisting of Dad, Mother, some of my aunts, uncles and a few others, who played or were learning to play, stringed instruments. It was not the polished orchestra that my dad had dreamed of conducting, but what they lacked in polish, they made up in enthusiasm and the pure joy of serving Christ.

     My Aunt Edna Pollnow declared that all the ministry of the String Band and the ‘Tab’ (as they sometimes called the Wisconsin Tabernacle), in general, was bathed in prayer. “We lived in prayer,” she said. Prayer meetings were held almost nightly, if not in the confines of the Tabernacle, then in someone’s home. On Sunday, people took lunches to church. There were prayer meetings held throughout the day and after the evening service, a prayer meeting would ignite almost anywhere that could last until two in the morning.

     Was that why so many were being drawn to Christ on the north side of Milwaukee? Was that why there were reports of people who, when handed a gospel tract on the street, would stand transfixed reading it, even dropping to their knees on the sidewalk in prayer? Was that why several of my uncles and aunts, bowing to the pressure of my parents and others’ insistence that they attend meetings, would steel themselves against any positive response, yet find their resistance crumbling once inside?

     For instance, my Uncle Harry and Aunt Edna Wiesner, newlyweds at the time, went to a home meeting to please Grandma Brueckner, Edna’s mother. They agreed before entering, however, that they would not raise their hands for prayer, as was the custom for earnest seekers at that time. Yet on their knees with their eyes closed, their hands shot up in unison, as if on cue.

     Aunt Edna Pollnow was one, who felt her religion and reasonably correct lifestyle were enough for passport to heaven. She became a subject of prayer and on two occasions agreed to go with my mother to a meeting. However, she determined not to pay attention to the preaching. It was a song that caught her attention, near the close of the second meeting. The Holy Spirit touched her heart, it melted and she entered the kingdom of God. Uncle Gilbert and his wife, Agnes, found the Lord in a similar manner.

     When Dad brought the request of Tony Doxtator before the String Band, they went to prayer, asking that the Lord would lead them to his relatives. Then, they put feet to their prayers. One Saturday, they packed their instruments in the trunks of several automobiles and headed up Highway 55 for Stockbridge. The main crossroad in downtown Stockbridge, had bars on three of its four corners. It did not seem to be a contradictory fact that the parochial grade school’s enrollment far outnumbered that of the public school. Once there, the String Band went straight to the town authorities to ask permission to hold a meeting on the street. They flatly refused, resisting such an invasion of living Christianity into their community. To get off the hook, the officials suggested that the group try the little village of Quinney, where there was an annual town celebration taking place.

     The group from Milwaukee climbed back into the cars and drove down the road three miles south, pulling over across the street from the Quinney dance hall. This time they did not bother to get permission. They unloaded their instruments and tuned them in the ditch alongside the highway. They waited for a break in the music from the dance hall and, when it came, they began to play. People streamed from the hall and gathered around them. They played several rousing gospel songs and then my dad began to preach. Afterwards, he invited those who wanted to receive Christ to raise their hands for prayer. Fourteen hands went up and Dad prayed for them. In the conversation that followed, it was discovered that one of the 14 hands belonged to an Indian man named Bill Doxtator! Prayer had hit the mark. Not only had the group found the man they sought, but Tony’s lost brother had found God.
The chapel as it stands abandoned today
     A lady approached Dad. “There’s a church on my property, which is empty,” she said. “Tomorrow is Sunday. Would you come to hold a service in the church? I have been praying for eight years that someone would make use of the church!”

     Praying for eight years – that is a long time to pray without seeing results. At the time of the meeting by the highway in Quinney, my dad had been saved for less than a year. Approximately seven years before, a light had shone through the ceiling of his bedroom, awakening him from sleep. I wonder, if the exact dates were known, if we would find that the light came into a bedroom in Milwaukee at the same time that a woman began to pray in the village of Quinney. In the meantime, many pieces had to fall into place – a move to a new house with Christian neighbors…a dying, Indian convert in Milwaukee making a last request…a closed door in Stockbridge, the authorities recommending Quinney…the coming of the String Band coinciding with a homecoming celebration in Quinney. The woman was certainly unaware of what God was doing to answer her prayers.

  Here God had hungry hearts waiting, which accepted the gospel and soon formed part of a new congregation. An empty building was waiting for someone to come to preach. God prepared a 31-year old man, with a heart burning to take the gospel to the lost, for this very purpose.

  Weeks later, Dad wrote the district bishop of the Methodist Church. He offered him $200 for the empty chapel. Times were hard and money was scarce. The bishop was happy that someone was putting the little building to good use and accepted the ridiculously low offer. Soon, the transaction was made and the bishop sent the deed for the building. Dad became the pastor of Quinney Chapel.

    Besides attending to the pastorate, in the years that followed, Dad was often invited to hold evangelistic meetings throughout the Midwest and his violin was in demand in large churches and conferences. I can see him today in my mind’s eye, standing erect and dignified, bringing his beloved violin below his chin, and snapping the bow into position, as the accompanist finished the introduction. I see a conference audience sitting, first spellbound, then in tears, as Dad played slowly, softly and sweetly, the strains of his favorite hymn:
I have found a deep peace that I never had known
And a joy this world could not afford,
Since I yielded control of my body and soul
To my wonderful, wonderful Lord.

     What began that summer of 1936, brought more satisfaction and thrills into his life, than he ever could have experienced as a conductor of a 10-piece orchestra.


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