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Lowell Brueckner

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What Our Hands Have Handled, chapter eight


Success in Christian service is not measured by large churches or stadiums filled with people. The only true confirmation to a godly calling, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit, is by that which will someday walk on streets of gold.



“Lord, if you don’t give me much fruit, give me fruit that remains.” There are prayers that express our highest aspirations. They are not one-time requests, but are carried in the heart and uttered frequently over the years. One of Erwin Brueckner’s perennial petitions, quoted above, was for lasting fruit.

It seemed apparent that God’s plan for his life did not include pastoring large congregations. The attendance at Quinney Chapel for Sunday morning worship seldom exceeded fifty people. On Sunday evenings, the meetings in small Indian homes in Oneida, Wisconsin, were significantly larger, with upwards of eighty people crowding into a single room. At the close of each meeting, someone would offer his house for the following service. In this way, the gospel spread to various neighborhoods in the area. We also must mention home Bible studies in the city of Fond du lac and in the village of Potter, which Erwin conducted on weeknights. Different people attended in each place, but the total number sitting under my dad’s ministry, at any point in his life, was anything but impressive.

Ruth, shortly before she went to
heaven, and  Marshall, who has
celebrated his 90th birthday.
What are more significant are the people, who were challenged through Dad to become fully involved in God’s business. Marshall Averbeck, son of the Quinney Sunday school superintendent, attended St. Paul Bible Institute (now Crown College near Minneapolis) and spent the rest of his life as a pastor. He also married Ruth, my oldest sister, and they are now retired after forty years of ministry. Craig Hendrickson, who grew up in one of their churches and found the Lord under their guidance, made his way to the Philippines as a missionary.

Several years ago, Eddie Burg, who was in the teenage boys’ Sunday school class at Quinney, spent a night in our home in Germany, along with his wife. They now have three sons. Two are pastors and the other son and his family were traveling with them. They had been receiving missionary training in France and today serve in Africa. The son of a butcher in the Quinney congregation, Ken Huber, became a missionary to South America.

Last summer, I was visiting Ft.Totten, North Dakota, where I was born on a Sioux Indian reservation, while my dad pastored a small Indian church. The house, in which my mother gave birth, is no longer standing, but a new church has been built within a few yards of the site. The pastor came to greet my traveling companions and me. In the course of the conversation that followed, he informed us that he was from Oneida, Wisconsin, and folks, who regularly attended Dad’s meetings there, were instrumental in helping him find Christ. I can remember that another young Indian man in Oneida entered the ministry and a youth, converted through my dad in Ft. Totten, became a pastor. The list goes on and on.

Other churches often invited Erwin to hold evangelistic endeavors. One series of meetings in Naytahwaush, Minnesota, was particularly significant. God moved in convicting power. Years before, Clyde Este was plowing a field, when his tractor overturned. He fell to the ground and the immense rear wheel was about to crush him. He cried to God for help and the wheel stopped and hung just over his body. He crawled away, promising the Lord that he would give him his heart and soul. He soon forgot that promise, but he and his family came to the evangelistic meetings to hear Dad preach. After one service, Dad shook his hand. “Clyde,” he said kindly, “how is it with your soul?” Clyde simply hung his head and walked away.

That night, he could not sleep. He got out of bed and paced the floor. Repeatedly, the question played in his mind, “How is it with your soul? How is it with your soul?” In the wee hours of the morning, he left home and walked to the house where my dad slept. He ambled back and forth along the street in front of it. He knew the people well, who owned the house, but at that hour, he could not bring himself to awaken them. He also knew the layout of the house and the guest bedroom, where Dad would be sleeping. He summoned his courage, went to the window and rapped, until he got a response. At four-thirty, my dad let him in the front door, they prayed together and Clyde opened his life to the Lord Jesus. This time, he kept his promise. He and his talented family dedicated themselves to His service. The last I heard, Clyde ministered for Christ among Indians in remote regions of Canada.

During the time in Naytahwaush, Dad found a job to do in the unheated garage. It was winter and the temperature dipped to –40. Presently, a rugged-looking Native American stepped into the garage. He also had been attending the meetings and the Holy Spirit tugged at his heart. He and Dad knelt to pray in the garage, as cold as it was, but Andy Bush’s heart was warmed and transformed. He kept a little New Testament in his shirt pocket that my dad gave him on that occasion and used it for personal witness. It was worn and faded by time and use. Andy became an elder in the church, a lay preacher, and a fervent evangelist among his Chippewa people in the United States and Canada.
Erwin Brueckner was the first in his family to find Christ, but quickly led many of his relatives to the Lord, including my Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Agnes. They raised two boys in a Christian home and the boys raised families of their own. One of Gilbert and Agnes’ grandchildren attended Bible school, fell in love with a fellow student and married. Her husband and she started a church in a high school auditorium in South Milwaukee. They have since purchased their own church building and the congregation now exceeds a thousand.

Not long ago, my brother Clarence, who is chairman on the mission board of a large church, invited me to take a survey trip to Latvia with him. There are many faithful people, such as my brother, serving God as laymen, who came to know the Lord through our dad. Clarence, at only five years of age, was riding home from a meeting, when he expressed his desire to receive Christ. Dad stopped the car and prayed with him beside the road.

The little chapel in Quinney continued as a spiritual lighthouse after my dad left to become the principal of Mokahum Indian Bible School near Cass Lake, Minnesota. The congregation and new pastor caught a vision to reach out to the larger town of Chilton, Wisconsin, where there was no evangelical church. They purchased a building and began to reach that community with the gospel. Over the past 35 years or so, the church has grown extensively under the ministry of Jim Jensen and many people have come to know Christ. Today, the congregation numbers over 300 people.

“Give me fruit that remains,” my dad prayed. Some of that fruit has already been transferred to its eternal destiny in heaven. Over 70 years have passed since he stepped out by faith to serve his Master and the product of that one life, not only continues, but grows in number and expands to more and more countries. God answered the prayer for results that would last, but added the blessing of much fruit. Thousands have made their way into the Kingdom of God, whose spiritual genealogy can be traced back to a lone conversion.

Dad, baptizing Jean, who went to heaven at 18, and Native
American, Mr. John.
The story began humbly and unpretentiously. One man, dramatically converted, zealously reached out to his family and other relatives. Then, he touched his neighborhood. Before long, a ministry unfolded to Native Americans, not with great numbers, put high quality. Now, branches have formed, involving many different people. All was accomplished in accordance with the eternal will of God under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it remains, lives and prospers, though Erwin Brueckner has passed on to glory.

All in Christ
All in all in Christ to be; all that anyone may see,
Then the Christ of Galilee will beckon them upon their knees.
For ‘tis no more I that speak, but the Savior kind and meek
Through the Holy Ghost and fire, not my will, but His desire.
How He healed the broken hearted and the sick from pain were parted -
He within my heart now lives, ‘tis not I, but Christ that gives!
                                                                                 Erwin Brueckner


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