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Lowell Brueckner

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What Our Hands Have Handled, chapter five



Uncle Lester and Aunt Edna
Aunt Edna and Uncle Lester had been married for eight years and did not have children. It was not because they did not want them. Lester was oldest in a family of eight and he and Edna both loved children. Edna had a physical problem and sought all the remedies offered in the 1930s. She hemorrhaged constantly and the doctor had advised her that the only way it would stop was to remove her ovaries.

Lester was my mother’s brother and when both he and my mother married, the couples maintained close contact. More than relatives, they were best of friends and did everything together. It was quite a shock when one couple had a strange religious experience and would no longer participate in some of the fun they had enjoyed in the past. They had always treated each other as equals, but now one of the couples thought they were better than the other was – at least it seemed so.

Edna was miffed by it. She had always been a religious person and fulfilled the requisites taught by her church. Her parents saw to it that she should attend a parochial school as a child and she graduated after eight grades. She knew better than to fall into debauchery and avoided the awful sins that led people into misery. Outside of the fact that she did not have children, she was satisfied with her marriage. She tried to obey the golden rule and be kind to her neighbor. However, Alice, her sister-in-law, began to insist that Edna was a sinner and needed to be saved from her sin. Edna had never been subjected to such judgmental treatment. No one had ever been so bold as to suggest that she might not, after all, be on the road to heaven. It was hard to understand.

Erwin and Alice stopped attending a ‘normal’ church and started to go – not just on Sunday mornings, but several times a week – to a place called the Wisconsin Tabernacle. Why the very name smacked of offbeat radicalism, but it was quite consistent with Erwin and Alice’s recent behavior. Edna had not the least desire to give in to Alice’s persistent pleas to accompany her to at least one meeting. On the other hand, they had been good friends for so long and if going with her to the Wisconsin Tabernacle would help their relationship, well then, it was a small sacrifice to make. She finally agreed to go.

When Edna entered the building, she had to admit that, if this was some kind of radical sect, it certainly had plenty of adherents. They were in a large auditorium and it was full of people. They found a seat and Edna immediately and intentionally closed her ears. When it came time for preaching, however, she could not totally ignore the speaker. Paul Rader gave no polished discourse, but an impassioned plea to the individual to accept the sacrifice of Christ for his sins and come into personal relationship with God. A softhearted man, he threw himself into his message to such a degree that, a couple of times, he was overcome with emotion. He would pause, take out his handkerchief and wipe his eyes. This seemed to be a cue for a man, sitting just behind Edna, to shout, “Praise the Lord!” Think of it! Right in the middle of a religious service! Edna was scandalized. In her church, you could hear a pin drop throughout the ceremony. People knew something of proper etiquette. She vowed that she would never return to that place.

Time went by and my mother, conscious of Edna’s negative reaction to her first experience in a gospel meeting, quietly waited, praying for the Lord to break Edna’s resistance. Three months later, a guest speaker was to take the pulpit. The Rev. L. H. Ziemer was of the same denomination as Aunt Edna, but had been powerfully converted to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. Mom pounced on the opportunity, and pleaded with Edna to come once more. She had to hear this man, who, after all, belonged to the same religion that she did. My aunt told her that she would attend this one last time, but she need not bother to ask her to go again ever.

Once more, she was able to ignore the message. Then came the invitational hymn:
Is my name written there, on the page white and fair,
In the book of Thy kingdom, is my name written there?

That was a new question for Edna Pollnow. She felt she was as good as the next person, a Christian in name and upbringing, but was her name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? The question stumped her, and doubt gripped her soul. She made her way to the front of the auditorium and as the song continued, she quietly gave her life and eternal destiny into the hands of Jesus Christ. On the last chorus, she sang along:
“Yes, my name’s written there, on the page white and fair,
In the book of thy kingdom, yes, my name’s written there.”

A short while later, Lester Pollnow also came to the Tabernacle and to personal faith in Jesus Christ. He and Edna, along with Erwin and Alice, became regular “Tabernacle-goers”. It was a Communion Sunday, when Paul Rader encouraged his people to active faith. He had written a song, which had gained some popularity:
Fear not, little flock, from the cross to the throne,
From death into life He went for His own;
All power in earth, all power above,
Is given to Him for the flock of His love.
Only believe, only believe,
All things are possible
Only believe.

Rader said, “While we are partaking of these elements today, commemorating the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we are also participants in a living reality. Jesus is alive and present, as He has promised to be. If you have any need at all, bring it to Him now and trust Him to meet that need.”

The powerful gospel into which Aunt Edna had come was so different from the religion she had practiced all her life. She listened, enthralled by the words of the pastor and, as he spoke, a small prayer formed, not on her lips, but in the depths of her heart, “Lord, if this is true, heal me!” The thought had no sooner formed, than something like a bolt of electricity coursed through Edna’s body. Two months later, she discovered she was pregnant!

It was the beginning of many astounding events that took place in Lester and Edna’s lives, with many trials and tests thrown in. “Those were rugged times,” Edna testified, “Lester was a substitute mailman for eight years and only got paid when he worked. I still have a 9 cent check he received for two minutes work.”

Then, there was the time when Lester was in an automobile accident and his back was in a cast for 4½ months. All severance pay was used, all personal savings were spent and they were placed in a position of total dependence upon God. It was winter and the thermometer dropped to 20 below zero. The coal supply depleted and the wood they had cut was still too green to burn.

Edna told Lester that they were going to have to talk to the Lord about heat for the house. They went to prayer and left it with the Lord. “In the morning,” Edna tells the story, “there was a knock on the door and a man asked if this was the house, where a man had a cast on his back. He said that he had a check for us from the Lord and it was for two ton of coal. No one knew that we had just prayed for coal, but we now had coal enough for all the winter. Besides that, I found in our mailbox every week for fifteen weeks, $15 dollars in an envelope, without a name on it.”

Another time, Edna was gathering mulberries under the tree in the front yard and Lester was under the car, working. Suddenly, she heard a thud and a grunt, looked up to see the jack had slipped and the car had fallen on her husband. “I didn’t walk to that car,” Edna relates, “I was lifted there. I raised the car with one hand and pulled my husband out from under it with the other.” That was quite a feat for a lady, who was just a little over five feet tall.

These were Christians with purpose. Their chief goal was to share the gospel with others and bring them to Christ. My oldest sister, Ruth, came to the Lord, listening to a Christian radio broadcast. Immediately, she wanted to share the good news with her schoolmates. She discussed it with her Aunt Edna, who agreed that the children could come to her home once a week and she would talk to them. The first week, nine children came into the small home. The next week, there were 27. Weekly, the number grew until it peaked at over a hundred. Then it fell sharply, due to opposition from the local religious leader. So many times, adversity to vital Christianity comes from the world of religion. It was so in Jesus’ day and continued in the time of the apostles.

“He hated us,” Edna said, “and poisoned the minds of the people in the neighborhood against us. I know what it’s like to have people spit in my face. In spite of this, we had to learn to love them.” Helping her in the children’s work was Mrs. Cristin, who, along with her husband, was influential in bringing my parents to Christ. She was like a mother to Edna, counseling and praying with her over the years. Together, two times a week, they visited the homes of children, who attended the Bible classes. The attendance stabilized somewhere between 60 and 70, and continued at that level for years. Many found Christ.

When God called my parents to labor among the Native Americans, Lester and Edna stood with them in their work. In the long run, the relationship, which became somewhat strained after Dad and Mom found Christ, was restored and deepened to such an extent that the early relationship was not worthy to be compared to the one that they later enjoyed. It was something far greater than people having fun together. It was true fellowship with fulfillment and satisfaction, because it brought eternal results. My uncle and aunt helped my parents establish a church in Quinney, Wisconsin, and reach out to the whole Winnebago area.

The Pollnows had a passion for souls. Long after Lester passed away, Edna kept the flame for souls burning in her heart from her wheelchair. She always had gospel tracts handy in her house, ready to be given to any workman or delivery boy, who happened to enter her home. In her frequent visits to the hospital, due to strokes and heart problems, Edna would find someone who was conscious of spiritual need and lead that person to Christ.

Jesus said to His followers, “I will make you to become fishers of men.” Anyone claiming to be His follower must certainly become a fisher of men. It is not something that the disciple can be trained to do, but something that he must become. The Lord Himself must work it deeply into the heart and personality. In Edna’s case, it took place early in her Christian walk. She was standing by the sink washing dishes, when she heard a distinct inner voice telling her to go to share the gospel with an acquaintance. “Okay,” she answered within herself, “I’ll do it, as soon as I finish with the dishes.” By the time the dishes were washed, visitors came to the door and she spent the afternoon with them. It became late and again, Edna answered the urging voice within her, “I’ll go first thing in the morning.”

That night, she had a vivid dream of hell. She saw the flames, she heard the screams and observed the agony of the lost. Horribly, she saw the tortured face of the lady that she was supposed to have visited. She awoke the next morning to hear the news that the woman had died during the night. “I never forgot it,” Edna exclaimed, “It lives in my heart still. That’s why I have a burden for souls and a heart for missions.” That is how Edna Pollnow became a fisher of men.

I am not too interested in doctrinal theories about divine healing. I am less interested in the exhibitionism of gospel showmen, who promise healing and much more, but give little. However, I also understand that there is a large segment of God’s people today, who shy away from expecting God to do any kind of miraculous, direct work of physical healing. They somehow have concluded that it is a thing of the past. However, God said one day to his people, Israel, “I the Lord am your healer.” Be careful not to limit God and endanger the eternal destiny of men by skepticism and rationalization.


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