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Lowell Brueckner

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What Our Hands Have Handled, chapter six


I have been challenged a couple times recently concerning living a life of complete trust in the Lord. My siblings and I wouldn’t trade the heritage that God has given us for any number of theories or arguments to the contrary. If I have any regrets, it is that I haven’t been more faithful, because God has never failed us.
“I’m so glad I’ve learned to trust Thee
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me
Wilt be with me to the end.
Jesus, Jesus, How I trust Him
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus,
Oh, for grace to trust Him more.”



The Erwin Brueckner family with son-in-law, Marshall Averbeck
When a door opened for my dad, Erwin Brueckner, among the Native Americans, he took his wife and three children to move 80 miles north of Milwaukee near the shores of Lake Winnebago. The 1930’s were not easy times and money was scarce. Fellow Christians in Milwaukee were thrilled to hear the stories of how God guided Erwin and his fellow workers to the little town of Quinney. They were happy that Indian people had opened their hearts to the Lord and amazed to see that a building was provided on the spot for meetings. They promised that they would help in any way possible, as Erwin left his home and relatives to take this giant leap of faith.

God was so real! Erwin and his wife, Alice, were baby Christians, who had only known the Lord for a year, but they had seen him do wonders in that short time. I suppose, they were a bit naïve. In those days, there was no medicine in the medicine cabinet. When one of the children became ill, they would go to the Great Physician. When my sister came down with pneumonia, my grandmother, though a believer, was indignant. Erwin and Alice would not allow her to apply her home remedy to the child. She became desperately ill one night and Grandma shouted exasperatedly, “You’re going to kill the child!” Erwin continued praying through the night, the fever broke and the next morning my sister was well.

My brother, Ken, had frequent earaches as a little boy. Sometimes, he would cry himself to sleep. One night, Dad had had enough of it. He knelt by Ken’s side and implored the Lord Jesus to heal him. Ken stopped crying and went to sleep peacefully. A few years ago, I was talking to Ken about that experience. He told me, “You know, I haven’t had another earache since that night.” Ken has now reached eighty years of age.

If their Master called, my parents would obey and He would provide. It was that simple. There was no savings account from which to draw and no mission board to provide a salary. They had never heard of itinerating and raising support among churches. No, it was a matter of simple, immediate obedience – “He arose and went” (Acts 8:27).

They rented a house for $3 a month and enrolled in the school of the Holy Spirit. He is never satisfied until He is assured that He has the whole heart and so the teaching began. There was a rock in the woods, where Erwin would sit to meditate and by which, he often knelt to pray. The joy of His presence was a common reality and the Lord would speak very clearly.

It was fine that fellow-believers wanted to help, but was there a secret confidence in Erwin’s heart towards his friends and Christian relatives that should only belong to God? The Spirit of God was about to bring it to the test. Difficult financial situations warred against the good intentions of God’s people and often won the battle. The offering plate was passed among the new Indian converts, but frequently returned empty. People are not to be blamed in such times; the loving, heavenly Father is at work to draw us closely to His heart.

The Brueckner’s held family devotions every morning. One morning, Dad announced to the family, “We have no food in the house – nothing for breakfast. So as we pray this morning, we will ask God to provide our daily bread.” (Dad didn’t believe in borrowing, or telling others of his troubles.) They all dropped to their knees and in simple prayer, drew from the storehouse of heaven. They had not yet arisen, when there was a knock on the door. Someone went to the door and opened it, but not a soul was in sight. On the doorstep, however, was a pitcher of milk and on the pitcher was a dollar bill. Now remember in 1936, one dollar could buy at least five gallons of gasoline and easily would provide their “bread” for that day. After all, that is what He has promised to give and it is all that is needed.

It was not the only morning in which there was no food in the house. The Brueckner family “joined with all nature in manifold witness, to (His) great faithfulness, mercy and love.” Another morning dawned with empty cupboards and again the family went to their heavenly Father for help. This time there was no knock on the door as they arose from their knees and began to disperse for morning duties and chores. Someone glanced out the window and saw a mink within a hundred feet of the house. Never before had they seen one in that area and never afterwards. The front door opened silently and the muzzle of a shotgun protruded. A shot rang out and the mink fell. Erwin skinned it and sold the pelt for $8, plenty of money for groceries and even to pay the rent. This was his testimony: “We never went without a meal, except for days of voluntary fasting and prayer.”

Of course, God does not restrict Himself to the bare necessities when He gives. On a winter day, Dad and Mom left the house for a drive to spend the little money they had on hand for groceries – basic staples, apparently. As they drove home, Mom stated rather wistfully, “It would sure be nice to eat some meat for a change.”
Dad’s only response was “Why don’t you take that to the Lord?”

She did just that. Returning to the house, Dad noticed something unusual about the way the snow was packed in a drift by the front door. His curiosity was aroused and he began to dig through the snow to discover two rabbits, skinned and gutted, ready for immediate roasting.

Myrta Sawings (Tomasino) and Alvin
with Mom and baby Phyllis, 1936
Only a few weeks ago, a cousin, Gilbert Brueckner Jr., who lives near Milwaukee, forwarded a letter to me. It was from Myrta Sawings Tomasino, someone who I vaguely remember, having been born after my parents moved to another house in the area. However, in 1936, the Brueckner family and the Sawings were neighbors. The letter adds further light to the testimony that Mom and Dad related on many occasions. It states: “Alvin and I were hunting rabbits in the woodlot next to their house and we killed four rabbits that day. So he cleaned two of them right away and we went over to Erv’s house, but no one was home. Alvin piled a big clump of snow in front of their door and put the cleaned rabbits in the middle of the snow. Alice told us later that they didn’t have any meat for supper and that she was praying about it on the way home. However, the Lord, before she even prayed, was already providing for them.”

The school of the Spirit continued through the severe winter of 1936. It was in January of that winter that my sister, Phyllis, was born. Because of the cold, the wood supply for heating the house depleted much faster than in a normal year. Also, the recent move from Milwaukee and the new work did not allow time for all the necessary preparations. Dad had logs cut in ten-foot lengths in the woods, but that was a long distance from the house and the snow was deep. Still, it became necessary for him to trek overland to the logs, his feet breaking through the crust and the snow coming to his knees. He lifted an end of a log to his shoulder and dragged it behind him. It was exhausting work and halfway home, he could go no farther. He let it fall to the ground and sat on it. This one log would heat the house for only a short time, he mused, and yet he did not have the strength to bring it home. In desperation, he began to shed tears and, again, called on the Father in heaven: “Oh Lord, you know that soon a baby is coming. We need heat in the house and plenty of fuel. Yet, I don’t have the strength for the task. Help me, Lord!” Suddenly, he was conscious of strength entering his feet and coming up his legs, displacing the weariness. He rose, picked up the log again, and walked home. He returned again and again for more wood. The lesson came through to his consciousness, not as a doctrinal theory, put as a practical fact: The Lord was his strength.

Many people have lost their lives in blizzards. In the Midwest, often farmers will run a cable from the house to the barn, because there have been occasions in which farmers have gotten lost in the short distance between the two buildings. One day, Erwin needed to go to the nearest neighbor on an errand, a distance of about a quarter mile. As he walked, the snow fell and the wind began to blow increasingly stronger. Returning into the wind, it howled and the snow blew with fury in his face. It began to freeze over his eyelids. He could see nothing and realized that he was in serious trouble. He stumbled along aimlessly, it seemed, calling on God for help. Then, he bumped into a solid object. It was the mailbox just in front of his house. God had brought him safely home! He had learned another practical lesson: The Lord was his guide.

Before I was born, my mother developed very serious physical difficulties. Unfortunately, I never asked my parents the nature of the problem. They only told me that the doctor recommended an immediate operation and advised that the operation, in turn, would put the fetus in mortal danger. My mother decided against the operation. She would trust God for her own life and for that of her baby. To complicate matters, my arrival came while Dad was attending his mother’s funeral. A neighbor, meeting him at the train depot and transporting him home, remained tight-lipped and it was not until Dad entered the house that he realized his seventh and last child was born.

Now the operation was urgent, but the finances were far from sufficient for such a costly undertaking. The doctor was kind and offered his services free of charge, but the hospital costs still loomed formidably before them. At this time, Dad was trying to install a furnace in the church. He had never attempted such an undertaking before. One day, a man from town happened by and found him in the middle of his task.
“Say,” he said, “I need a new furnace installed in my basement. Would you do it for me?”
“Well, I’m not an expert,” Dad admitted, “This is the first one I’ve ever worked with.”
“I’m sure you’ll do a good job,” the man responded. “If you’re willing, I’ll hire you.”

Dad agreed and soon went to work. There were some complications with this installation – things he had not encountered in the basement of the church. As problems arose, he lay awake on his bed at night, and brought them before the Lord. His mind was illuminated and a pattern would form. In the morning, he would draw elbows on cardboard and then transfer the patterns to sheet metal. The employer was very happy with the work and others around town engaged Dad to do their furnaces. Soon, he had to hire a helper in order to meet the demands. By the time the operation was performed, there was plenty of money for the hospital bill. Once the need was met, there were no more requests for furnace installations.

Down through the years, God provided everything our family needed – automobiles, homes, everything. For a time, when we lived on an Indian reservation, the local game manager gave us a buffalo for winter meat. Later, a German butcher in the congregation offered all fresh meat and sausages without charge. Dad never did have a salary. When he died, a Christian undertaker prepared his body for burial. The coffin, while not extravagant, was very nice and a Christian flag was draped over it. The undertaker called our family aside. He said, “Your dad was a man of God, who gave his whole life to serve Him. I count it a privilege to offer my services and all the costs towards his burial free-of-charge.” Even in death, God had not taken His hand off his servant and his testimony of faith continued to be proclaimed.


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