"Are We Poor or Just Broke?"

After reviewing a lifetime of frugality, a minister's wife realizes she gave the wrong answer.

Doris Schmidt is wife of H. H. Schmidt, president of the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.


Dear Shepherdess: This month I want to pass along a sweet message, titled "Chosen, "from the pen of Phyllis Escobar. It appeared first in the Hawaiian Mission Shepherdess News. With her husband, Phyllis has been a worker for God in various places and now lives in Honolulu.

I always wanted to be a nurse. How wonderful it would be, I thought, to relieve the suffering and minister by their bedside, telling them about the Great Physician! But it wasn't my privilege to become a nurse.

I wanted to be a teacher, to help guide little minds in the right direction. I would have loved to teach them to read and write and to learn the Bible stories. But that wasn't my privilege either.

I wanted to be a missionary in a far away country and teach the heathen about Jesus. I didn't get to do that either.

I wish I could have been a musician, directing great choirs to sing the old hymns of praise, but I couldn't.

I would like to have been an artist and paint the lovely face of Jesus, but that wasn't my talent either.

I think of all the things I wish I could have been, then I think of the many days I have just stayed at home, and I wonder, What is my talent, and what does the Lord want me to do?

I get up in the morning, prepare breakfast for the family, and answer the phone while the toast burns. The person on the phone has another problem, but I can hardly hear what she says. She talks on and on. Then I finally hear her say, "Thank you for listening; I feel so much better." But I didn't say anything to help, and meanwhile another piece of toast burns.

Family worship is interrupted by a neighbor knocking at the door wanting to borrow some flour. I say goodbye to the children as they hurry off to school. The phone rings again; I take the message to my husband, and start washing the dishes.

I keep thinking about a sick woman in our church, so finally I give her a phone call. When I hear her weak voice thank me for calling her, I am thankful that I did.

Another name comes to my mind, although I don't know why. I decide to phone her, and she answers with a sad voice. I ask if she has been crying, and she says she is so lonely and has no friends. She asks what I want, and I say, "Nothing. I was just thinking about you." Her voice brightens as she tells me that I called at just the right time, and that she feels so much better.

The house needs straightening, but first I must check on my discouraged neighbor. Later I'm glad I did, because she was just going to open another bottle of vodka. Together we poured it down the sink, and she said she felt much better. My prayer was simple, but she thanked me for it.

Where has the day gone?

Now the children have come home from school and must have my attention. Soon it will be suppertime.

After the children are in bed it is quiet for a few minutes, and I think of what I have accomplished all day. Nothing!

I open my Bible, and the text "For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt. 22:14) becomes illuminated be fore my eyes. Chosen? Did God choose me to talk on the phone while the toast burned, to help the neighbor pour out her vodka, to take the phone messages for my minister-husband? I wanted to be a nurse, or a teacher, a missionary, a musician, or an artist. But as I fall to my knees in prayer, I thank Him for choosing me to be my husband's wife, my children's mother, and the one who answers the phone while the toast burns. What peace and joy I have as I lie on my bed and sleep through the night knowing that tomorrow will be another day in which I can be my husband's wife.

I know that the Lord chose me to be a minister's wife just as much as He chose my husband to be a minister.

I too rejoice that I have had the happy privilege of working with my husband in the gospel ministry. It isn 't always easy, as the following article by Doris Schmidt shows, but it is rewarding. God bless you all as the recording angel writes your name as one of the greatest missionaries in the world. With love, Kay.

"Are We Poor or Just Broke?"

Mommy, are we poor or just broke?" The voice of her little son startled Pat. She and her pastor husband had been so engrossed in their discussion of the big problem that they had momentarily forgotten the three children in the back seat.

The topic of conversation had been "Where is the money coming from?" That seemed to be the topic far too often. They were constantly worried about how to make ends meet. No matter how hard they tried, there never seemed to be quite enough money.

Pat and Jim were products of the depression. They had both worked almost their entire way through college, taking five years instead of the usual four. On completion of their last year of schooling, they had gone immediately into "the work," still owing what seemed to them a large sum of money. Their first priority: pay up the school bill! So the skimping and scraping continued, even though their wardrobes needed replenishing, as did most of the linens that had seen them through five years of dorm life. Their first few homes were furnished apartments in the cities and towns where the conference saw fit to send them.

About a year later Pat and Jim made the delightful discovery that the two of them soon would be three. How excited they were! This called for a definite change in their life style. Now they had to (1) pay for a new baby; (2) buy some furniture; (3) buy a car (by order of the conference) all at the same time. Just how they managed they really never quite knew, but manage it they did.

One day several months after the baby arrived, Pat felt a distinct uneasiness. It lasted all that day, and the next, and the next. By the end of the week she was praying with almost every breath, "Oh, no, please don't let it be so! Not now. We can't afford it. Not this soon! Let our little chap get older before we give him a brother or sister." But the doctor con firmed Pat's fears. "I believe you will be spending Christmas in the hospital," he said.

Wrong! Christmastime found Pat at a doll counter looking for some sweaters and booties small enough for her two wee girls to wear. Everyone was surprised when twins were born two months early. How can I care for three babies—three within fifteen months? How will we manage? Pat wondered. Because the twins were so tiny and frail—together they weighed only six and a half pounds—they needed more attention than usual, and special medication and formula for "preemies" that was quite expensive. How grateful Jim and Pat were for the many gifts of baby things they had received at the shower given by the ladies of the church. They marveled that everything had come by two's, even though at the time no one suspected there might be twins. But Someone knew! '"My God shall supply all your need,'" murmured Pat as she fingered the small items.

When it was time for the children to start school, some way had to be found to fit tuition into the family budget, for Pat and Jim were determined that their children would never go to public school. There just had to be some extra income. Should Pat go to work? She was trained to be a teacher but was hesitant about teaching church school where her husband was the pastor and chairman of the school board. What should she do?

The Lord took care of that situation in a rather unexpected way. He sent some one to talk to Pat about the possibility of working in one of the local hospitals. Help was desperately needed during those war years, for nurses were scarce. Would Pat consider working the night shift, from 11:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M.? That shift paid more than the others; she would not have to work on Friday nights; the children would not be alone at night; she would get home in the mornings in time to get their breakfast and fix lunches, see them off to school, and pick up around the house a bit. Then she could sleep until they came home in the afternoon and be with the children until they went to bed. Perfect! She would do it. Pat soon learned that days were not meant for sleeping. Doorbells rang; telephones jangled; children made noise playing under the windows. It was hard to get enough sleep, but she and Jim were keeping their children in church school, and that was most important.

Buying clothes for twins was not easy. With only two ways to go—exclusive, expensive "twins" shops, or cheap, run-of-the-mill clothes Pat solved the problem with her sewing machine. How thankful she was to be able to keep the children looking well dressed! As the twins grew and became more clothes-conscious, other problems arose.

"Why can't I have a new dress, Mother? She has a new dress (meaning a best friend who happened to be the only child in her well-to-do family). She is getting a new dress for the school party. Why can't we have one too?"

Pat explained, "Her father has only one girl to buy dresses for; we are very lucky, for Daddy and I have two little girls. But that means that the money has to go twice as far, and you two can have only half as many dresses as she can have." Wonder of wonders, they under stood! The twins seemed to reach their growing peak in the seventh grade. That was another blessing, for some of the clothes they wore then were still in use when they finished the academy.

Music lessons, academy, and college whirled along in quick succession. All three children were usually in the same school at the same time, which entitled Pat and Jim to a slight discount in tuition. However, when their son decided on a career in music education, which meant private lessons in instruments, as well as voice, there was no help to be had. In those days the educational allowance did not cover private lessons. How Pat and Jim managed they really never knew, but they were firm in their belief that no sacrifice was too great to keep the children in Seventh-day Adventist schools. That was the least they could do to help prepare them for eternity.

College graduation finally came. How proud Pat and Jim were! They had made it. Now all that remained was to pay off what was left of the college bill so the children could march down the aisle with their classmates. Just one more time to borrow money to pay off the college bill. Wonderful! No problem. That would be easy to do. Then maybe they could buy some new living-room furniture. Oh, how shabby that old set seemed! But Pat and Jim had not reckoned with the un expected. There were still some miscellaneous expenses that had to be met, such as weddings.

Weddings! Through the years Jim and Pat had occasionally mentioned how nice it would be for the twins to have a double wedding, if things just happened to work out that way. It was almost too much to hope for, but it did just happen to work out that way. The twins wanted a double wedding that summer. Their son would be married the following summer. Pat and the girls spent time going from shop to shop looking at wed ding gowns and bridemaids' dresses. One thought quickly became uppermost: what ridiculously high prices to pay for one evening's wear!

"Why don't you make our dresses, Mother?" the twins asked. At first the idea overwhelmed Pat. Sure, she had made suits and coats and dresses and all kinds of things through the years, but a wedding dress—no, two wedding gowns! Did she dare tackle it? "Come on, Mother, you can do it," the girls encouraged.

"Well, maybe . . ."

It was a lovely wedding, even to the little choke in Daddy's voice as he spoke the vows to each of the twins.

Then, quite suddenly, it was all over. Pat and Jim were alone again, just the two of them. How empty the house seemed! Nothing to do now but pay off the last of the bills. No problem! They had lots of time now. Time to reflect. Time to consider what the years had given them. Time to think of their little son's question long ago: "Are we poor, or just broke?"

At the time Pat had laughingly answered, "Both, Son!" Now, in retrospect, she knew that her answer had been wrong. Scarcity of money they had; they had struggled with that problem through the years. But poor? Never! What a wealth of love they had! What rich lessons they had learned about God's love for them! When crises came that they knew not how to meet, when they could not see the end from the beginning, when obstacles too high to surmount seemed to bar their way, somehow, some way God always came to the rescue. How rich they were! It had not always been easy, but there had always been love and grace sufficient. "Poor? No, we're rich," whispered Pat. "Aren't all our children active members in the church? What more could any parent want?"


Prayers from the Parsonage

by Cherry B. Habenicht

Weakened by progressive cancer and confined to bed most of the day, Ida wants someone with her around the clock. Because I organize volunteers for the times her hired companion and family can't cover, she calls me when there's a problem.

Her daughter won't be home this evening, so I promised Ida I'd find a substitute. I've been calling church members, but without success.

I didn't even try contacting the ladies who have already given their time, and I omitted anyone with young children who couldn't be left on such short notice.

But from women who work part time or who have no children or whose family could take care of themselves, I got only excuses:

"Bedside care has just never been my thing." (The last time I approached her for help, my request wasn't her "thing" either.)

"My family needs me at home at night." (This mother sees her teen-agers throughout the day.)

"I need to prepare for the Sabbath. Everything won't be done if I'm away tonight." (OK. Thursday night is a bad time when Friday is short, but is an uninterrupted routine more important than a person in need?)

So I'm going. I wanted to stay home tonight too. I've already stayed with Ida once this week. Now I'll just have to take Lisa along for the second five-hour stint. And the sun will sink tomorrow night on a dozen unfinished household tasks.

These members make me disgusted! Such weak alibis for staying snug in their homes! At least You won't say to me, "I was . . . sick . .. and ye visited me not."

Forgive me, Lord. It isn't my place to condemn. Send conviction to these women. Help each to find and do some thing for another, though they may re fuse my suggestions.

If I go with resentment or in self-righteousness, what service do I offer? Please make my motives pure and my ministry acceptable in Your sight.

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Doris Schmidt is wife of H. H. Schmidt, president of the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

October 1978

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