Stanley and Piper Family

West Virginia, USA

West Virginia

Gift of Jehovah

Once again we found ourselves camping in our van in the mountains of West Virginia. Stanley, my husband, still lost in thought, stared into the crackling fire, wondering, daring to hope, if tomorrow would bring us closer to our dream of moving to the country to raise our children away from worldly enticements.

“I feel like Abraham,” he puzzled aloud. “God has called me out, but where?”

There could be no doubt that the hand of providence had guided Stanley and me, and we couldn’t help sensing that God was orchestrating “something big” once more. Never, not in our wildest dreams, could we have imagined just how big and how soon He would work!

For several years we attended family campmeetings, read Country Living and other Spirit of Prophecy books, dreaming of the day we would “escape.” It seemed every book we read and every sermon we heard pointed us to the soon coming of Jesus. We wanted to be prepared to meet Him. We did what we could, but clung fast to our dream of the day we could “escape” and begin to prepare our country outpost. After we attended a workshop by Jere Franklin, we felt an even stronger sense of urgency and prayed daily that God would lead us to that special place He had set aside for us.

We contemplated southern Pennsylvania, Virginia, western Maryland, and West Virginia. West Virginia became the most logical choice for several reasons, but particularly because land prices were more reasonable. Having experience in the construction trade, we decided to look for something on which we could afford a small down payment, and be able to remodel over time. I especially leaned toward old farmhouses because they possess so much character. We combed the easterly counties of West Virginia, searching for “the place.” Would we know it when we saw it? Stanley would clown as we traveled, “Darlin’, one of these days we are going to drive down some dead end road and there it will be! The place God has saved for us with a big halo over the house! I don’t know how we’ll know, but I believe that when we see it God will reveal it in His own way!” Eight months later, still no halos. And here we were, camping in the van, again.

The next day found Stanley, on the job, discussing our fruitless property search with his Best Friend. He works alone and often holds conversations aloud.

“We’re spending a lot of time and money driving around getting nowhere, Lord.” He sighed as he laid down his hammer. “We really need some direction here.”

The previous weekend we had traveled, unintentionally, through a quaint little town by the name of Mathias. It was too far south. Or was it? After he prayed for guidance, Stanley was immediately impressed with the thought, “Mathias is the place to look!” He burst through the door that evening with a new plan.

West Virginia Gazetteer“Piper, the Lord gave me direction! On my way home I bought a West Virginia Gazetteer!” We spread out the map on the dining room table and drew a ten mile radius around the little town of Mathias.

That next weekend, following our new plan, we returned to the beautiful state park we had visited just five days earlier, whose atmosphere was very serene and soothed my soul. The park lies in a hollow with tall pines and a creek running beside the road. We felt as if we were driving through a picture postcard. We ascended a winding, mountain road, past some comfortable-looking country homes and arrived on the upper ridge. Realizing the lateness of the hour, we decided to go just far enough down this road so that we could safely turn around. Suddenly, through a large break in the trees, there appeared a breathtaking view of a beautiful, fertile valley. Stanley stopped the car and leaned on the steering wheel. We absorbed the beauty in a reverent silence.

“What a beautiful place to build a house,” I thought to myself.

Stanley shook his head and smiled, “Wouldn’t it be just miserable to have to live here?” Checking the time he said, “It’s almost four o’clock! Let’s just go a little further down this road and if we don’t see anything we’ll head for home.” We had no choice but to continue as there was nowhere to easily turn around on the narrow road. Shortly thereafter, we came to a beautifully constructed four-board fence such as one would see on a farm in a calendar picture. The enclosed hill sloped down to a weathered, old farm house.

“Look honey,” I said pointing down the hill. “There’s an old farmhouse down there! It looks abandoned!”

“Take a look at the fence! We couldn’t even afford to buy that!”

I couldn’t take my eyes off of the house. It felt like the Lord was impressing me to pursue the matter. Following the fence line past the driveway, we noticed two stone piers and an iron gate with a padlock. Stanley noticed that on one pillar a stone mason had worked an “S”. The other post held the letter “P”.

“Look, Piper!” Stanley grinned playfully, “This must be the place the Lord has for us. Our initials are already in stone!”

I hadn’t even noticed the initials. My heart was intent on inquiring of the Lord, “Could this be the place?” We went farther up the road, turned around, and headed for home. We approached the farm again.

“Stanley,” I urged, placing my hand on his arm, “I’d like to go down and look at the house.” There were no signs that said NO TRESPASSING, and I just had to take a peek. “You don’t have to come. You can stay and read your book if you want.”

Though there wasn’t a cow in sight, Stanley capitalized on the evidence at hand in an attempt to prevent further exploration. He shook his head seriously, but I saw the twinkle in his eye.

“There’s probably a bull hiding in that ancient barn over there! He might chase you!” That thought deterred me for all of two seconds, then I proceeded to exit the vehicle. The children tumbled out as well, thankful to stretch their legs. So, here we all are, walking down this long sloping hill to an old abandoned farm house, set in a “holler” (as West Virginians call the valley floor), walking over dried cow pies, and a multitude of large stones. I can’t hide my excitement. Here is a beautiful, quiet setting: the house, the two old run-down barns one of which has the “Detroit lean,” a shed that appears to have a root cellar built beneath it, a number of fruit trees on the hillside, and two large, spring-fed concrete water cisterns.

Stanley kept looking back over his shoulder, expressing concern that someone might see us and send a truckload of “hillbillies” with guns to come run us off the place. We took notice of the roofline, walls, windows, and the stone foundation lain in mud mortar. The exterior siding was weather-beaten white and some of the boards were bowed with nails extruding from them. Much of the wood was rotted away along the fascia, rake board, and soffit. Yes, it appeared sound, but it needed a hefty amount of cosmetic renovation, and a lot of TLC. By then we had reached the dilapidated porch. One of the pillars had pulled away from its base and was dangling, and several floor boards were missing.

The screen door was locked, but the interior door was ajar. We sent our youngest son through a window (missing its pane of glass), and he simply let us in through the front door. I have seen some pretty big messes in my lifetime, but nothing to equal what had been left in that old house! Old furniture was strewn across outdated, orange shag carpet and well-used linoleum in the living and dining rooms, but the exposed joists in the ceiling of these two rooms were an attribute I particularly liked. They had been painted turquoise, but I knew that I could restore them to their original beauty. The doors were painted dark brown. What color combinations! In the bathroom, soiled insulation dangled through a large hole in the ceiling. Dirty paw prints through numerous holes in the walls and ceiling indicated a leaky roof. The icing on the bacterial cake was discovered in the mud/laundry room where we teetered across the rotted floor, ducked under collapsed drywall and filthy insulation, to where it joined with what was left of the aforementioned bathroom wall and floor. Old metal cabinets in the kitchen were streaked with animal waste, but the size of the room was easily large enough for our family of five. The large pantry, a separate room off of the kitchen, was ideal. Yes, it was filthy, but what potential!

Upstairs, by way of a “servant’s stairway,” construction typical of that era, we discovered four bedrooms with a large open hallway where we could take a larger stairway back down. The rooms were a comfortable size, but had no closets. This lack appeared to have been remedied in a unique manner with a large community closet in the hallway. Our three children were very excited at the aspect of having their own rooms. We had not known, until that day, that this would be an answer to their prayer! The ceiling, floor and walls were all tongue and groove boards. Some rooms had a heavy canvas wall covering that prevented airflow on uninsulated exterior walls. I loved the fact that everything was made of wood with no plaster or other material on the walls of the original house. The light switches were an old push button kind that I had never seen before. I loved them, but suspected that they would have to be replaced.

I stood in the living room looking out on the green meadows. Was this what the Lord had in store for us? A great love and respect for the old homestead welled up in my heart. Promises flooded my mind: God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. All things are possible with Him. Then and there, I determined to discover the owner.

“Stanley, can we handle a project this big?” I asked my husband who was still intent on watching the driveway. I interpreted semi-optimism in the shrug of his shoulders. When I told him I was ready to go, he was visibly relieved and hastily funneled us through the front door and up the hill to the car.

“I’d like to find out more about this house, Honey” I insisted.

“If you want to waste your time chasing this jackrabbit, you go right ahead.”

The chase was on. I was like a racehorse flying out of the starting gate. I couldn’t wait to find some answers. On our way through Mathias we stopped in at a store and inquired about this property. We received a little historical information, but no answer as to ownership. Arriving home, I called a realtor and explained our discovery. She was intrigued. Two days later, she gave me phone numbers for the owner and for the property manager. I quickly dialed the owner’s number and left a message. When I reached the manager, he listened patiently as I explained our discovery. Then I inquired if he might know whether the owner would be interested in someone living on his property while fixing up the house. He said that the owner was away, but that he would check with him and get back to me.

I waited patiently (somewhat), but when the weekend arrived I still hadn’t heard from him, I called back.

“Sorry,” He apologized. “I’ve been a little busy. Yes, the owner is interested.” He then suggested we go back out to the house and take a close look at the work that needed to be done and make sure we’d want to tackle such a large project because the house had been vacant for 15 years. He went on to explain that a few years earlier, someone had tried and had become overwhelmed in only two weeks.

The next weekend we headed back to the “holler” to document, videotape, investigate, and list the jobs to be done as we envisioned the project. After considering the many repairs needed, Stanley and I decided that, with the Lord’s help, we could accomplish the task of transforming the house into a livable dwelling. While in Mathias, we phoned the property manager to arrange a meeting with him that day. He declined saying that he didn’t want to proceed any further without the owner’s approval. He suggested that we mail him a couple letters of reference. That was not what I wanted to hear! I wilted like a deflated balloon, but I tried not to let my feelings ruin the day. I was just so anxious to get started!

“Sweetheart,” Stanley enfolded me in a gentle, loving embrace when he noticed the tears in my eyes that afternoon, “If it’s the Lord’s will for us to be there, it’ll all work out.” Those were the words that encouraged me to trust God’s leading.

I was again encouraged as I considered the sequence of events—discovering the ideal country location, our family all in unity on accomplishing the project, the possibility of the owner being interested in our proposal. It seemed too wonderful a dream to be laid aside. Besides, I am not one to be diverted easily, and my faith was growing daily since our discovery. If ever I’d had “evidence of things not seen” (but dreamed of), it was this farm! But it needed some major attention to become our “substance of things hoped for” before winter.

This had all transpired over Memorial Day weekend 2005. Early the next day, at the close of my Tuesday morning devotional time, I sought affirmation from the Lord.

“Lord, if it’s your will for us to be in that house, please let me know sometime this week. There’s so much preparation to be made before winter.”

It was a normal day with Stanley being off to work by 7 AM, and the rest of us preparing to start home school for the day. As I was helping one of our daughters with her workbook, the phone rang. It was the owner of the property!

“I understand you’ve been out to see my place.”

West Virginia Map“Oh yes!” I answered. “We have been driving all around this area of West Virginia looking for a place in the country. We want to simplify our lifestyle and we really like the beautiful location of your farm.”

He began interviewing me on the phone asking many questions about my personal background, my husband’s background, both of our parents, what we did for a living.

“And where do you intend to send your children to school?” When I explained that we home-schooled our children, he seemed pleased.

“Good! I wouldn’t recommend you put your children in public school there. By the way, are you Christians?”

“Yes.”

“What denomination?” I hesitated. Some people haven’t had good experiences with Seventh-day Adventists for various reasons, or have heard things about us that were not accurate about our beliefs. I swallowed hard, breathed a fervent prayer, and answered as calmly as I could. “Seventh-day Adventists.

His voice brightened. “Oh! I know several Adventists. I have the fondest memories of a lady who was a very dear friend of my mother. She was a Seventh-day Adventist. My grandmother was in an Adventist hospital and they took such good care of her. I’ve known quite a few Adventists, myself. You all appear to be hardworking, honest people.”

I breathed a sigh of relief, but the best was yet to come.

“Hey, aren’t you folks the ones who put out those Bible Story Books that you see in the doctors’ offices?”

“Yes we are.”

“I used to have a set of those books, but I gave them away. I’ve regretted it ever since! I’ve been trying to find a set for the last ten years, but with no success.”

“Well, they still print them.”

“Yeah, but I don’t like the new ones.” I could hear his frown. “I like the ones based on the King James Version of the Bible. The new ones don’t have the poetry of the older ones.”

“I believe I have a set of the old ones.”

“Really?”

“Yes, they were given to our children by my father,” I said. “Let me go get one.” So I ran to get a book and sure enough, the publishing date was 1953 and it was the King James Version. I read him a line from the book along with the publishing date. His voice became reverent.

“You know, Piper, everything I know about the Bible I learned from those books. I can still see the pictures in my mind.” After a pause he continued, “Well, I’ll tell you what; if you could find it in your heart to let me have those books, I’ll let you have my house.”

I covered my mouth as it dropped open in astonishment. My morning prayer washed over me like sunshine, “Lord, if it’s your will for us to be in that house, please let me know sometime this week….” Tears welled up in my eyes. I had trouble controlling my voice as I shared my morning prayer with this kind stranger.

“Oh, so you’re the one who ‘summoned’ me today?” he chuckled.

I asked him some questions about the house and why it hadn’t been occupied. He told me that he had bought it at an estate auction when the owner died. He had grown up in this area of West Virginia and didn’t want to lose these country properties to developers, so when they come up for sale, he buys them to keep them preserved. This one happened to have a house, which meant nothing to him other than it could serve as a storage building, but that if it would suffice for us to make a home in it that we could go right ahead and do with it whatever we wanted; to fix it up however it pleased us.

“You can live there rent-free. Just take care of it as if it were your own. If you take care of my things, I’ll take care of you.”

I couldn’t thank him enough for the offer and I knew at that point, God was in this and I had no fear of moving forward. This meant giving our notice to our landlord, have a yard sale and start packing. We went from not knowing where we were going to actually moving in two weeks time. Talk about a swift move! When God begins to answer a prayer, we need to strap on our seat belts!

As we were packing and having our yard sale that first weekend, the owner called and asked us if we had a place to stay while we worked on the house, because he had another farmhouse about four miles down the road that we would be welcome to stay in if we so desired. I was floored again! Not only did he offer us one house, now he was offering two! I felt doubly affirmed by God. We had already made arrangements with my dad to borrow his camping trailer to set in the yard while we were preparing this house, so I declined his offer, telling him how very much I appreciated his thoughtfulness. I then proceeded to bound out the door to share with Stanley that phone conversation. He assured me that it would have been too much work to maintain both homes while fixing the one.

We had set a date of June 10th to meet with the owner and his property manager to get acquainted and go over the details of where we wanted to start renovating the house. We had to complete the transaction, so with books in tow, we left for wild, wonderful, West Virginia. The time was set. We arrived at the gate and waited… and waited… and waited. As time passed, doubts tried to take root in Stanley’s mind.

“What if this whole thing falls through? You have quit your job. You gave the landlord notice. You could be unemployed and homeless!” Then, replaying the events of the past few days, he dismissed the thoughts as those of the enemy trying to plant seeds of doubt. He knew full well the Lord was in this. Just as Stanley sent Satan packing, an old truck pulled in behind us.

Tusing Sisters - The Texture of LifeThe property manager came over to our window and said the owner was stuck in traffic outside of DC and would be here as soon as possible. He was instructed to take us over to the second house to see if we changed our minds about staying there, while fixing this one. As we toured, he explained that this house hadn’t been occupied for twenty years or so. It is a historic home that the Tusing sisters used to live in, which happened to be the property manager’s great aunts. They were Mennonite women who lived like the pioneers in a modern world. They had no electricity, no running water, and cooked on a wood cook stove. They had a milk cow, laying hens, grew their own veggies and had fruit trees. They also made their own clothes and were famous in this area for their weaving skills of fabrics and rugs. (We later obtained an interesting documentary of their story by the Smithsonian Institute.)

We returned to the house in which we were interested, and waited for the owner. When he emerged from his vehicle, I was surprised to see a middle-aged man who looked so very down-to-earth in his corduroy pants, button-down oxford shirt and a baseball cap on his graying head. I guess I was expecting someone in a business suit. What a pleasure it was to meet him! I felt like running up to him and giving him a big hug to thank him, but somehow that didn’t seem quite appropriate. I felt as if we had discovered a long-lost uncle. With such overwhelming gratitude, it was hard to keep from displaying my emotions as we completed our introductions!

Together we walked around the house and then through it, discussing our vision with the owner. At the close of the tour the owner looked at us and smiled.

“This is your house. Fix it up as nice as you want it.”

Immediately I envisioned the house, in God’s time, restored to its original beauty. I also pictured my loving Father desiring to restore His image in me.

“The first thing I’d like to do is rewire the house,” Stanley was saying. “The wiring is ancient. If we are getting into the walls to do that, it would make sense to insulate the walls and replace the windows at the same time.”

“Well, Stanley,” the owner explained, “This is like a dance; we’re learning to dance together. You try not to step on my toes and I’ll not step on yours. I do everything in cash. I do not deal in credit, so if the money’s not there, then it has to wait until there is some. You came at me out of the blue and to be quite honest with you there is no money in this year’s budget for you.”

Even though we had no guarantee of insulation, or electricity, we were at least in agreement that we would just have to do the best we could with what we had. At first we were disappointed, but the Lord had proved that He would not abandon us, over and over again. We knew that He would get us through the cold winter months.

“Come on outside,” said the owner as he opened the door for us. “There are cows on the property from May through November, so we need to fence the yard. How large a yard do you need? How large should we make the yard?” We mapped out an area we thought would be sufficient, but he enlarged our play space when we mentioned how much we like to play outside with our children. He instructed the property manager to start construction on the fence by Monday (this was Friday).

Garden Produce“Do you like to garden?”

“Yes!” We responded enthusiastically. “It’s one of the main reasons we want to be in the country!”

He showed us the garden spot and told the property manager to have it plowed up for us by the time we moved into the house. In addition, he explained that there were many fruit trees on the hillside to enjoy: apple, peach, cherry, and pear. There was also an old apple orchard just beyond the house.

“They are all yours!” He motioned with a generous sweep of his arms. “Just don’t let them go to waste.”

If he had rolled out a red carpet I couldn’t have felt more welcomed! To myself, I said over and over, “Lord, what have we done to receive all this kindness?”

We left that day knowing that we had a mountain of work to do, but we were in good spirits. God had made it plain that this was the place he had reserved for us. I had to trust that He would work out the technicalities—in His time.

When I checked with the electric company about hooking up service to the house, I was informed that an inspection would be required first. The next week I met the electrical inspector to see about getting service. He told me that the wiring in the house was not just old, it was antiquated. He didn’t want to pass it, but said he would if we made rewiring the house top priority, because it really was not safe. When I gave the owner the electrical report he surprised me.

“I will be in town again on the weekend of July 4th,” he responded. “Have your list of materials and their cost ready for me then.”

I spent the remainder of that day in a series of praises to God for moving upon the owner’s heart to allow us to start to insulate and rewire the house before January! We had stepped out in faith, and the Lord had provided! Just as Moses had led the children of Israel through the Red Sea by his great faith in God, we were feeling that this was our Red Sea experience. It was a massive demonstration to us, His children, that He would protect, lead, and provide for our needs. We felt all of these things from our Heavenly Father in a very real and personal way. July 1st was our official moving day. We had much to do, but nothing seemed insurmountable, now.

On one occasion, when I moved a load of our belongings out to our “new” home in the country, the owner was there waiting for us. While I descended the long driveway, I noticed that he was doing something around the smaller barn. I pulled into the driveway as he smiled and opened the gate.

“Welcome Home!” He said, “I just wanted to be here to welcome you to your new home. I hope you don’t mind that I used your weed-eater, but I thought I’d make myself useful until you arrived, by cleaning up some of this tall grass around the barn.”

“We don’t mind at all!” I assured him. “We certainly appreciate your efforts! Sorry we weren’t here sooner!”

“No problem! I also brought something for your garden. Do you like tomatoes?” He asked as he turned and walked over to the trunk of his vehicle and pulled out a beautiful, healthy-looking tomato plant.

“What a kind gesture!” I thought as I received the plant and thanked him for everything he had done for us.

The Lord works in various ways to convey His love to us. Sometimes he uses people to speak to us for Him. I felt like Jesus, Himself, was welcoming us to the place He had intended for us all along. This house had been vacant for 15 years. We are only the third family to inhabit this beautiful 240 acre farm, since the house had been built back in the early 1900’s. The stone piers at the top of our driveway were built with the “P” and the “S” on them before Stanley and I even knew each other. I can’t help but think that the Lord may have smiled to Himself as the stone mason laid our initials in the gate posts. “Won’t Stanley and Piper be surprised to see their initials on this place that I’ve reserved for them?”

Upon inquiry of the letters on the stone piers, the owner explained that they were the initials of his twin daughters.

“You might think that that’s what those initials stand for,” Stanley winked, “But I know what they really mean!”

“I think you might be right!” The owner smiled and chuckled softly.

God was planning our future long before we felt our need; even before Stanley and I had met! How awesome He is! He has fulfilled His promises to us. The Holy Spirit prepared us to receive the gift He had planned. We have immensely enjoyed the beauty, wildlife, and serenity of our new home. It gives us such peace to know we are exactly where the Lord wants us to be. And though the work is not completed, the house is now a home. It reminds us so much of ourselves and how the Lord is perfecting us; seeing us not as we are, but as we shall be. Even when we can’t see, we can still trust that He is preparing us for an eternal future with Him.

This event in our lives is what we now refer to as our “Red Sea” experience because it strengthened our faith and trust in the One who knows our every need and has made provision for us. He clearly displayed His love for us. We praise Him to this day for all He has done, is doing, and will continue to do as we remain faithful. We are sure that this story won’t be complete until the Lord comes. Many more exciting miracles and surprises are still taking place! I can’t wait to see Him and the place He has prepared for us in His city! What unspeakable joy and blessing that will be!

As we wrap up this chapter of our story, let me share the tying of the bow on the Lord’s great gift. Three months after we moved into our new house just outside the little town of Mathias, we attended a “You Can Survive” workshop in New Jersey. For the first time, in a public setting, we shared our Red Sea experience; how the Lord had led us to our beautiful acreage while we were without a job, and with very little money.

“Do you know what the word Mathias means?” Linda asked us after the meeting.

We shook our heads. She opened her Bible and pointed to the definition of the word.

“It means ‘gift of Jehovah.’”

Personal Comments:

In the book Maranatha, we read about Adam being reinstated to his garden home and being “transported with joy, he beholds the trees that were once his delight–the very trees whose fruit he himself had gathered in the days of his innocence and joy. He sees the vines that his own hands have trained, the very flowers that he once loved to care for. His mind grasps the reality of the scene; he comprehends that this is indeed Eden restored.” {pg. 354}

Stanley is convinced that in a similar way, Jesus will bring us back to this mountain in the earth made new and we, as Adam, with joy inexpressible, will recognize our “Eden home”. Then, as promised in Isaiah, we shall build our house here and dwell in it and we shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them. We will call it Mathias even then, because we believe this is Jehovah’s gift to us not only for this life, but all eternity.

We leave you with the promise that we claimed through our Exodus experience to the country, Jeremiah 29:11. “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” If God has placed on your heart the desire to “escape” to the country, “Be still and know that He is God.”

The scriptures are full of promises about God’s leading and guiding. Find the ones that speak to you and claim them. “Jehovah’s gift” for you has already been orchestrated, but you will never find it unless you allow Him to lead.

“Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service and honor of God supreme will find perplexities vanish, and a plain path before their feet.” {DA 330}

God wants to work mightily in your life. Place your trust fully in Him. Make the service and honor of God supreme and He will lead you to the special place reserved for you.

We hope you have been encouraged by “Jehovah’s gift” to us. We know you will enjoy His gift to you even more! God bless you in your journey.

     “In our day the Lord desires that His people shall be dispersed throughout the earth. They are not to colonize. Jesus said, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’ Mark 16:15. When the disciples followed their inclination to remain in large numbers in Jerusalem, persecution was permitted to come upon them, and they were scattered to all parts of the inhabited world.
    For years messages of warning and entreaty have been coming to our people, urging them to go forth into the Master’s great harvest-field, and labor unselfishly for souls.”

Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 215. (1904) {Country Living, p. 21.3} • Ellen G. White