A Story of a Family Torn Apart by “the Truth”
Remembrances of a small child.
My first memories as a child were very happy. I suppose most children if they are not abused, are happy. Kids don’t care if they are rich – they don’t care if they have stuff. My first memory is of my little kitten. I was playing with her while my mother made bread. Whenever I see very small kittens I can still smell bread baking. Oddly, I don’t remember Mom ever baking bread at another house. This was when I was three. We moved to another town, and I remember jumping on the bed with the neighbor kids at a neighbor’s apartment while all the parents were playing cards. I must have been about four years old. We had moved into a one-room apartment because my father had lost all his money and his business, but a four-year-old doesn’t care about those things.
Fast forward in my memory. I was six! It was my birthday, and I was six! I was skipping through the store. (My family had moved to another city, again, and Dad had started another vacuum business.) I was skipping, and singing Happy Birthday to Me! The phone rang. Mom answered it, and she went white. Literally. I stopped skipping. Mom started crying. Then she hung up the phone, and called someone else. She started yelling into the phone. After that conversation, she told me to go put some clothes in a sack, and come downstairs quickly. We were leaving. Right now. “What about my birthday?” I asked. “Never mind. Just obey. We’re leaving.”
My father had been traveling on business in Montana and had a serious heart attack. We drove with an aunt through the night to be with him. Oddly, I don’t ever remember being very happy as a child again. At least not carefree.
In order to tell my story properly, I’ll have to insert some family history. My Dad’s family met “The Truth” in 1923 in South Dakota. Some workers came to that farming area, and several families professed at that time. My grandparents, Sever and Alma Salhus professed, and a couple of their children did. But not all. They had eleven children, and many years later, at family reunions, the bawdiest stories were of the goings-on while the parents were away at convention.
By 1923, my father was 15. I’m not sure if he was still at home then, or if he was already married. He married for the first time right around then. He and his first wife had at least nine children, and a couple of those died young. In later years, Dad wouldn’t talk about life in the Dakotas. They lived through the Depression on the farm, and then WWII came. Dad left the farm and landed in Seattle building ships. I don’t know when the divorce happened, and I don’t know if his first wife asked for it, or if he did.
Dad met another lady in Seattle, and they married. She had four teen-aged daughters. They ended up living in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Somewhere along the line they both professed, and had Wednesday night meeting in their home there in CDA. Sometime in the late forties, this second wife died of leukemia. Dad was devastated, and began drinking heavily – and alcoholism would plague him the rest of his life.
One of Dad’s stepdaughters rescued him from one of his binges – and he was staying with her in Missoula, Montana at the same time as the stepdaughter’s husband’s sister was staying with them. These two hit it off and were soon married. (And if you gathered from that sentence that one of my aunts is also my stepsister, then you’re pretty sharp).
Mom was staying with her brother because she had a hard time after her divorce. Her husband had been a very strict military man who had become a schoolteacher. He was abusive, both mentally and physically. When he started on her young son, she packed and left.
So now you can see that my father had been divorced, widowed, and had several children and stepchildren. My mother had been divorced and had a young son. Fast-forward eight years, and at the ages of 52 and 40, they discovered they would be parents again. Surprise! I came along.
Between my birth, and my first memories, our little family had lived in four states, and my older brother decided to stay behind when we left California. He is sixteen years older than me, and was never affected by “the Truth.”
Entering “The Truth”
Just to recap – my father, Obert Salhus had known “the Truth” since he was 15. My mother, Verlie Baer Dawson Salhus, had been raised Lutheran. Dad had been divorced and widowed before meeting my mother. He had meeting in his home with his second wife after he had been divorced. My mother had been divorced after suffering through an abusive relationship.
My paternal grandmother, Alma Salhus, was a very interesting lady. She was domineering to a fault. I remember her distinctly as a child, even though she lived in California, and we lived in Idaho. The few visits we had there impressed me greatly, mainly because I was so frightened. I was always doing something wrong. Mom was always wrong. Everything we did was bad. It didn’t help that Grandpa (Sever Salhus) was ‘funny’. Looking back, I’m sure the poor man had Alzheimer’s. But all we knew was that he was ‘funny’.
Grandma picked and picked and natted at my mother constantly. “You have to get into this.” She never explained what ‘this’ was, except that “Obert know. You betcha, he know. He know better.” (Grandma was a Norwegian immigrant – and never even tried to learn better English.) Letters, phone calls. Her natting was constant. The Chinese with their water torture had nothing on Grandma.
After Dad’s heart attack, and an earlier serious car wreck, he began to think about spiritual matters. And all he had ever known was “the Truth”. So he had his mother contact workers, and found out where gospel meetings were being held.
I think it was our first gospel meeting – if not, it was one of the first – my dad professed. I remember I was sitting on his lap. Suddenly he picked me up, plopped me unceremoniously on the next chair, and stood up while people finished singing a song. Immediately, after the song was over and the brother workers walked to the back to greet people, several old ladies got up and RAN back to the workers. “Do you know who that man is?” “He is an adulterer!”
Dad grabbed me, we went out a side door, and we jumped in the car. Dad actually peeled gravel leaving that parking lot. I had never seen him so angry, and I was very frightened.
The workers showed up at our place several days later, and the upshot was that Dad was allowed to profess – but he was never allowed to take part in meetings. We went most Sundays. I thought meetings were very boring. We lived in Lewiston, Idaho – and that area had never had many young people, so everyone in meeting was ANCIENT. At least to a six-year-old.
Incidentally – many years later I found out that the younger brother worker in the field that year was Dennis Jacobsen. He was appalled at the decision made about our family, and I found out from him that he prayed for us for many years, even after he had left the work. (THANK YOU DENNIS!!!)
Other than meetings on Sunday, our lives weren’t very different than before. Mom was stressed. We didn’t have money. Grandma was picking at us constantly. But Dad was pretty carefree. We went fishing a lot, and I helped in the store.
When I was nine, Mom professed. Suddenly we had a dress code. I had to get rid of my jeans, and wear dresses to school. There were all sorts of rules that weren’t there before, but things still weren’t too bad. Until I came home from school to find our TV in the window with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it. Come to find out, the workers had told my parents they had to get rid of it so that Mom could be baptized. This made absolutely no sense to me. Give up TV so you can take a bath in a creek? Seriously. How dumb. I could not fathom their reasoning. (They eventually took the TV to the dump. The workers were upset that they might ‘profit’ off of it – so they couldn’t sell it.)
After Mom professed, it seemed like my parents just couldn’t get enough meetings. Lewiston and Moscow were two separate ‘fields’ at that time, so there were two different sets of workers having meetings. So a typical week would go something like this: Tuesday evening to Kamiah for gospel meeting (70 miles one way), Wednesday bible study in town, Friday evening to Moscow (40 miles one way), Sunday morning meeting in town, Sunday afternoon meeting in Colfax (60 miles one way), and back to Lewiston for Sunday evening meeting. It seemed like my bedroom had shifted to the back seat of our old Plymouth. At least two, if not three nights a week we were eating sandwiches in the car for dinner.
We were living in an apartment above the store. It had been two apartments in the 20’s, so our landlord cut a door between them to make one apartment. This made a curious arrangement of bedrooms. When we first moved in, the bedroom off of the living room was our guestroom. I’m not sure when it changed, but after a while, that room was my mother’s, the next room was mine, and the third was my dad’s. There was no hall, just rooms leading off of rooms. I thought this was normal for years.
So far I’ve been reliving my memories, as they happened. From the vantage point of years, I can look back and see what was really going on. My mother had been raised in a Lutheran family. Like many who are raised in an extremely “organized” religion, she had never found saving faith in Jesus Christ, just a bunch of rules and ceremony. Now, at a point of crisis in her life, all that she was being offered was another set of rules and regulations. She had divorced at a time when it was just not done. There was incredible pressure in her family to just “tough it out”. But she did the brave thing when the abuse escalated and left. Now, years later, she felt guilt about the first divorce, had remarried, joined a very strict religion, and was pressured about her marital relations. It’s no surprise that my parents ended up in separate bedrooms.
My maternal grandmother was a sweetheart. She taught all of us cousins (I had at least 20 in our town) about the Lord. She took us to Sunday School – and she taught us cooking, our multiplication tables, and how to read. I professed when I was eleven. I remember distinctly that I wanted to give my life to Jesus. It wasn’t until I was 38 that I found out many of the ’friends and workers’ don’t believe that Jesus was divine. I had mixed up in my head everything I learned in Sunday School, and everything I learned in gospel meeting. I was horrified after the convention meeting when I professed, to find out this meant that I had to start taking part.
Now I’m a bit stubborn. Even now, no one tells me what to do. I have to have a very good reason to follow orders. So I didn’t take part. And Mom and Dad natted at me after every meeting. But I still didn’t take part.
Then the fighting started. Every day, Mom and Dad would fight. Verbal – only, until the kitchen knives started flying. Whenever they realized I was home, they would stop. Then it was cold, hard silence until they thought I was gone. I got very good at being invisible.
The Teenage Years
Now one lesson I learned very well. “It doesn’t matter WHAT the workers tell you to do, you obey. The workers have our best interest at heart. They are responsible for our souls, and they know what is best.” The summer I turned 13, I had a visit from Everett Swanson. He told me that I was responsible for my parent’s salvation. He didn’t explain how I was responsible for their salvation, just that I was holding them back from pleasing God. I needed to “get my act together” and be a good professing girl. This meant that I needed to start taking part in meeting – and I needed to be baptized.
So I did. I was baptized that summer, and even though it killed me every time, I took part in meetings. I was very shy, being an only child who was good at being invisible.
Then, the summer I was 14, Dad picked me up from school. I usually walked, so this was a treat. But I soon realized he was crying. He told me he was leaving, and moving to Missoula. He and mom were splitting up because this was the only thing they could do to be right with God. I was dumbfounded. I was in shock. Dad left that night.
Mom struggled to keep the vacuum store running – but she wasn’t a salesman. Dad was the genius, the golden-tongued salesman who could sell anything. He was also the repairman – so those duties fell on me since he had trained me. (I can still take apart and put back together most any vacuum cleaner.) After a year, it was obvious that we would all starve at that rate, so Dad came back to Lewiston, and we moved up the hill to Viola, Idaho (near Moscow).
My teenage years were spent in a very different ‘professing’ community than my early years. Looking back and counting, there were over 50 professing kids at our high school in the years I was there. There were fifteen that rode our school bus. There was support, but at the same time, it was very difficult because no one followed the same rules. I think my mother was one of the strictest. I wasn’t allowed to do anything fun. However, I learned to drive about this time, and I had more freedom than some – especially since I had to drive back and forth, and take care of Dad’s place, and Mom’s place.
I was required to get a job. I thought at the time it was to help with the bills. (More about this later.) I paid some of what I made to Mom. Since no one would hire a fourteen-year-old, Dad helped me start another vacuum store. One of the friends in the area, a very astute older gentleman, told me years later that I was the oddest child he had ever known. “You were a little girl – and poof! You grew up in one summer – then you were a little adult.”
So there I was, trying to keep up with school, trying to keep a business going, keeping house for my father from a distance, and doing all the chores at Mom’s. Is it any wonder I tried to kill myself several times? Here I was, being told that my parents should never have been married. It doesn’t take a giant leap of logic to realize that meant I should never have been born. I was just a giant mistake. Plus I was responsible for the upkeep of two households, and I had all the pressure of being a teenager. A teenager that didn’t fit in.
It seemed like I never fit in anywhere. In Lewiston with my cousins, I was the odd one out. They all were from giant families, and I was just me. On the creek we lived, I was the city girl transplanted to the country. At school, I was just odd because I was professing. Among all the professing young people, I was odd because I ran a business, and never had time to do anything.
On top of the despair was the typical pulling of divorced parents. Mom was angry if I spent time with Dad. Dad was mad if I did things with my friends. Mom was angry when Dad bought me a car. Dad was mad when I drove it into the ditch, trying to get to work on icy roads.
It was years later, after my daughter was born, that Mom told me what the decision had been years before. When the workers in our field didn’t know quite what to do with my parent’s situation, they contacted Eldon Tenniswood in California. His advice had been that they should do nothing if there were minor children involved.
So Everett Swanson decided to take matters into his own hands. He decided that since I had professed, I was of the “age of accountability”. So, ergo – the discussion about my baptism and taking part resulted. Once I started taking part – he decided I wasn’t a minor child anymore, and my parents could divorce. He even suggested the job, so that my new status as an ‘adult’ would be reinforced. I also was to pay my mother’s rent. That’s why I was told to give some of my earnings to her.
During these years, my Dad started his drinking again. I can’t imagine the loneliness and grief he must have been experiencing. He had fathered or step-fathered 15 kids, and only one lived near him. All of his family ties were broken. I was the only one he saw at all. He was a lousy housekeeper. I tried to keep up with things, but once a week was impossible.
One of the things that my mother constantly said was “We have made the ultimate sacrifice for Christ. We have given up our home – our family for God.” This never made much sense to me, but I heard this ad nauseam during my entire teenage years.
Looking back, I realize I had been put into a lose-lose situation. Heads I win, tails you lose. Obey the workers, and let them call me an adult to salve their conscience. Then my parent’s divorce is my fault for falling for the worker’s trap. Don’t obey, and I’m responsible for my parents going to hell.
I never received therapy, except for the wise counsel of a lovely neighbor woman. She was professing at the time but left “the Truth” a few years later. She was the one who was driving home the day I decided to throw myself in front of a car. She stopped, picked me up and took me to her house without saying anything. She wrapped me in a blanket, made a cup of hot chocolate, set it in front of me, and said, “OK, spill it. I think I deserve to know what’s going on.”
She became a very dear friend, and I don’t know how I would have made it without her. She told me to fight back by doing my best. So I did. No matter what I did during those years, I did my best. I took up several hobbies, on top of my schoolwork, housework for two households, and the store. One of my hobbies was photography. I ended up experiencing high school vicariously, through the lens of the camera. Miss Invisible all over again.
And spiritually? I was confused. The Jesus I had loved as a child seemed very distant. Instead, I was constantly being told about a God who demanded all kinds of sacrifice. We were constantly told that we should have a good spirit and be willing. I was never quite sure what we were supposed to be willing for, but I suppose it was all the rules and regulations. Everything was a sin, and all sins were equal. Thou shalt not kill – Thou shalt not wear pants. Thou shalt not commit adultery – Thou shalt not cut thy hair. Thou shalt not bear false witness – Thou shalt not go to movies. I’m not surprised, looking back, that many of my professing peers at that time ended up with completely shipwrecked lives. We were given no true moral compass at all.
I married at eighteen. God was looking out for me. I would have married anyone to get out of the situation I was in. But I married a young man from our Sunday morning meeting, who just happens to be the best guy in the world. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to do everything. I had someone to lean on, and enough money to buy groceries.
We didn’t have kids right away – mainly to spite the people who were counting the months on their fingers right after our marriage. I continued to help Dad out, but I sold my business. His health was deteriorating, mostly because he wasn’t eating right, and because he was drinking again. Of course, he was hiding this, and none of the friends knew. I continually had to bail him out of jail, hide car keys, and finally sold the car to try to keep him safe. He passed away in 1985 when our oldest daughter was two. He wasn’t found right away, which still haunts me to this day. The attending physician was suspicious that it was suicide, but I asked him to please drop it because Mom would have had a fit. She was becoming more and more difficult.
Mom was overbearing, critical, and constantly trying to buy our children’s love with inappropriate presents. Nothing I did was right. But as soon as any of the friends showed up, or God forbid – the workers – she was all sweetness and light. It made me want to puke. Looking back, I think she had drug-induced bipolar disorder. I had snuck samples of all her pills to my doctor and asked him what would happen if someone were taking all of those prescriptions together. His answer was that the person would be clinically crazy. Mom was sneaky – she went to different doctors, different pharmacies, and no one knew all the things she was taking. She had a Physician’s Desk Reference, and whenever she had a symptom, she’d find a pill for it – and find a doctor to give her that pill.
Mom became ill in 1993. It turned out to be colon cancer. She had chemotherapy, and it was not successful. I think it was the chemo that actually killed her. She just wasn’t strong enough for it, after several years of abusing prescription drugs.
We had one interesting experience while Mom was dying. She could barely speak and was calling for me. The hospice attendant called me, and I rushed back to her side. She looked at me, grabbed my hand, and told me “It doesn’t matter – it doesn’t matter. Sacrifice, Sacrifice – our sacrifice didn’t matter. Jesus did it all.” This gives me great hope. I think at the end, she finally saw the truth. Not “the Truth”. Mom died in 1994.
Life after the Parents
Ironically, even after my experiences growing up, I still believed in ‘the Truth.’ My husband had been raised in it, and we knew nothing else. We were a good little professing family. We had Wednesday night meeting in our home. I sewed, canned, cooked, cleaned the house for meetings, and had a bookkeeping business in my home.
But we made one very determined decision. As our children entered school, we decided that they were going to be allowed to be like other children. The girls usually wore dresses, and they had long hair, but we allowed them to do activities, clubs and sports – all the things we were denied. This wasn’t terribly unusual, since a lot of the rules had been relaxed by this time.
But trying to be the ‘perfect’ little professing mother was taking its toll on me. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t quite ‘do’ what I was supposed to do. Other people’s children sat quietly in meeting – mine just wouldn’t. Other people’s children had perfect hair, perfect manners – mine sometimes looked like they’d just come in from the playground after a hard game of rugby. Other women’s hair was always in a perfect bun – I don’t just have bad hair days – I had a bad hair life. Other families’ homes were perfectly decorated, without a speck of dust. Mine – well, we just won’t go there.
I hadn’t gotten to the point where I realized that there was too much focus on the externals. I just realized that we were always talking about “having the spirit” and trying to “live the perfect life” – and I knew I couldn’t do it. I was fighting a losing battle with depression. I remember one meeting in particular. My youngest was a little baby, and my son was two. The baby cried, and I took her out. I came back to the meeting, and my son acted up, so I took him out. Then coming back, I met my husband coming back out with the baby, with the six-year-old following him. I think I got about six minutes of that meeting. After the meeting, one older lady came up to me, and told me that I really needed to get my children under control because they (the other folks in meeting) missed my testimonies. I was speechless. If I could have found my voice, I would have given her a ‘testimony’ right there and then, and it would not have been kind.
(Looking back, I know now why my son in particular could never sit still in meetings. I don’t think he’s been still for more than five minutes since he was little. He is into professional extreme sports. He does freestyle mountain bike, BMX, wakeboarding, trick skiing, and is learning freestyle motocross. Don’t ask me about our hospital bills.)
I don’t remember many details from the ’90s. I was just too stressed out. Three kids, a bookkeeping business, a house to keep – and somehow I felt I had to do everything from “scratch” and do everything myself. I made all our clothes. I canned, I cooked, I gardened. And I yelled. I was not a very nice person to be around.
The first glimmer of uncertainty about ‘the Truth’ came for me soon after Mother died. Our kids were grade and middle-school-aged. We were at convention in another state, and Everett Swanson was there. I walked up to him and introduced myself. He either didn’t know who I was, or he acted like he didn’t know me. I was devastated. He had made the crucial decision that changed my childhood – and he didn’t even know me! I was very upset. Later that fall, we were at another convention in another state. (Yes, I know, convention hoppers. We were BAAAD!) Eldon Tenniswood was there. I introduced myself – and told him my maiden name. I told him who my grandparents were. He didn’t know me either. He was very curt and said he needed to go take a walk. Again, I was upset.
We got internet service in 1996. We had no idea how this new thing worked, and we wanted to try out websites. Jim asked me if I knew of any web addresses. I remembered a letter we had received earlier that I had squirreled away in the bookshelf – it had a website! So I ran and got the letter. This was the same letter mailed to all the friends that the workers told everyone to burn. But remember, no one tells me what to do!
We found the website and played around for a bit. Jim got tired and went to bed. I found the material fascinating. I read, and read, and read. Then I cried. Then I started throwing things. And I cried again. And again. All night long.
You see, I found the early VOT site. And I found that this strict decision about divorce, remarriage and divorce again is only enforced in the western states. If we had lived back east, we could have had a normal family. I found out that Eastern Washington – North Idaho is the strictest area on this policy. And I found out a lot more. This way didn’t go all the way back to Christ, like we were told – it went back to a man named William Irvine. This made sense to me, because one of my interests in school had been history, and the worker’s story never quite jelled with history.
I showed everything to Jim the next morning – he was most upset about the stories of financial dishonesty. His parents were well off, and he was concerned about the worker’s influence over them. We decided to take a ‘wait and see’ attitude about everything. I started reading, reading, reading. I bought books and spent substantial amounts of money at the local Christian bookstore. I started listening to Christian radio. I started corresponding with other people who had left.
The last convention we went to was at Milltown, Washington in 1998. I was in great distress of mind – I couldn’t figure out if this really was the right ‘way’ or not. I was actually reading Max Lucado’s book, In the Grip of Grace while we were at convention. (it was hidden in the cabinet in our trailer.) So I prayed to God before the last meeting. I prayed that he would give me a very clear message in that meeting as to whether or not this ‘way’ was right.
In that meeting, there were three speakers. I couldn’t tell you who they were, and I couldn’t tell you what subjects they spoke about. But all three of them said substantially the same thing. “I was thinking about _______. I couldn’t find a verse that said what I was thinking, so I’m going to read from the hymnbook.” All three of them! And I think I was the only one who noticed. That was enough for me. I wasn’t going to follow leaders who followed a hymnbook instead of the Bible.
I got in the habit of checking a listserve every morning before I took the kids to school. One morning, Ylva Jacobsen had posted that she needed a copy of The Secret Sect for a friend. That particular listserve had a feature that you could post as ‘anonymous’ or with your name. I whipped out a quick reply to her that I had a copy she could borrow. You guessed it – I forgot to make it anonymous.
Within 24 hours, I had a phone call from the sister worker in our field. She wanted to visit. Right away. Within another 24 hours, the workers were at our house for the ‘visit’. (Jim couldn’t be there, he was at work.) The older sister worker was incredibly nervous. She kept wringing her hands. She didn’t say what they were really thinking, but said that our Wednesday night meeting had been a bit crowded, and they wanted to move it to another home that they thought was bigger. So they called the other family, and the man of the house came to our house with his tape measure. (It was odd that he was at home – it was a workday.) He was very, very nervous, and he kept measuring and re-measuring. Finally, he announced that their living room was 10 square feet bigger. “Well, that’s good!” the sister worker said brightly. She was suddenly much happier. “That’s settled. We’ll have Wednesday meeting there starting this week.” They all left, and I had a good laugh. They didn’t know that I knew what was going on. Besides, 10 square feet. Wow. You can add maybe two chairs? If they are tiny.
So within three days of my post, we had lost the meeting in our home. Yippee! I didn’t have to dust again!
From that time on, every time we went to a fellowship meeting, no one would shake our hands. They might nod, they might talk a bit, but they wouldn’t shake. We finally just got tired of it, and quit going.
No one said anything. No one called. Only one of the friends called me, and asked why we weren’t coming – and she wasn’t from our meeting. I gave her my response, about the divorce issue, and the history issue, and she said “Oh. Nice talking to you.”
Close to the same time that they took the meeting out of our home, I got a letter from my mother-in-law. It was short and to the point. She basically stated that she was sorry she wouldn’t be seeing me in heaven because I had decided to start wearing jeans. I showed the letter to Jim, who just laughed. He said, “I don’t care what you wear – but I tell you what, you’re certainly a lot more fun to be around in jeans. You’re not nearly so uptight.”
At first, when I saw one of the friends in a store or something, I’d hide. Miss Invisible again. But after a couple of years, I went out of my way to talk to them. I really made them uncomfortable.
Just recently, a young lady told me something very interesting. She was a teenager in the home where we went to Sunday Morning Meeting. She and her husband have left ‘the Truth’, and we are very good friends today. She said that right about the time we left, the workers came to her parents and had a visit. The kids were all told to go to their rooms, but she and her sister hid around the corner to hear what was being said. The workers told her parents that we had left ‘the Truth’ and that we didn’t want anyone to contact us. We were very bitter, they said, and wanted absolutely no contact. The mother cried and was upset. “But they are our good friends. We can’t just not talk to them. We need to know why.”
“Don’t,” the workers said. “they really want to be left alone.” So that’s why no one talked to us. I guess the young girl who called me didn’t get the memo.
I started attending a local community church in 1999. I got my kids in a youth group, to try to repair some of the damage from ‘the Truth.’ Jim didn’t go for years – he had never been inside a church building like I had growing up – but I didn’t care. I needed the nurturing and I needed to hear the message of grace. Jesus died for us. He paid the price. There is NOTHING we can do, NOTHING we can give, to make ourselves right with God, we can only accept what HE has done.
Our kids never professed, even though our oldest was starting to feel the pressure of her peers. The one girl who gave her the most grief is actually going into the work this year. The kids have repeatedly thanked us for “leaving that church”.
Jim’s mom is 96 and still professing. We’re dealing with issues with her that are the result of 50 years of professing. She has no joy, no hope each day because her whole life was about ‘doing’ and about ‘serving’ and now she can’t do or serve, and she just seems lost. She’s also angry a lot, and very manipulative. She asks us to give money to the workers, as that’s the only thing she can still ‘do’. Luckily, Jim has power of attorney.
Jim had a stroke last year, and he’s recovered pretty well, although he had to retire. We attend a local Baptist church now. It actually isn’t very Baptist – more of a community church. It’s a very welcome and loving place. Jim attends with me when he isn’t trap shooting. All the kids are in their 20’s, so we are empty nesters.
And still, no one tells me what to do. But I’m not invisible.
By Bev Bafus
PS: I would love to reconnect with some of the kids I grew up with, who moved away. (Just contact the admin of this site and they will contact me.
My mother, Verlie Salhus, wrote an Account of the situation with her and Dad. Other than the blatant glossing over of facts, and having the years wrong, the biggest thing that strikes me about her account is that she spent her whole life living a lie. Having been raised in an atmosphere of deceit, I realize that a lot of the problems I have had as an adult result from that type of upbringing. If you are never allowed to tell the truth, if you are never allowed to express how you feel – you stifle every normal emotion until you cannot feel. You cannot tell the truth.
Account by Verlie Salhus, Idaho
(Mother of Bev Bafus)
February 2, 1987
When Walter called asking if I would mind putting my testimony on paper, I couldn’t help but think that God in His mercy is certainly on the throne and knows when and what to do. How timely that was. When Gay spoke at Mrs. Ringsage’s graveside service about choices last Tuesday, she stated life here on earth offers us choices, death seals our choices, judgment reveals our choices, eternity is when we live our choices. She went on to say that here on earth in this life with the choices offered us that if we make wrong choices we can correct them before death seals all choices made. Needless to say, Obert has been on my mind almost constantly since and the choice we made so many years ago and the results.
To begin with. I was first married to a school teacher/principal in 1942 and had a son in 1944. Circumstances, et cetera, precipitated a divorce in 1949. He is still living.
I met Obert through the work I was doing in Billings, Montana and after a length of time we talked of marriage. I asked him if he believed in God and he said “Yes” and no more. I had the idea that this was impossible for me as I had been married and divorced so I proceeded to look all over the Bible (I really didn’t know how) for references on marriage and came on the portion that stated “except for fornication.” I never bothered to look “fornication” up thinking this meant “adultery.” I didn’t realize the heartache this would cause in later years. Oh, but had I known! So we were married on September 12, 1953. Seven years later, we had a daughter, Beverly.
After we were married Obert’s mother was just as determined that I would get into “it” as I was to stay out of “it” whatever “it” was. I knew it was her religion but 1 wasn’t going to have someone force me into any religion.
Then after several serious and nearly fatal experiences (one of my brothers we had worked for, Obert having a car wreck and almost killed, his heart attack, no income, etc.) we returned to Lewiston and we started attending gospel meetings that Otto Fleger and his companion were having. Obert reprofessed in Spring of 1967. 1 did not know that he had professed before. He was then told he could not take part in meetings as he had married me, a divorcee, and we each had former spouses still living. He did, however, select a now and then.
Dan Hilton and Lee Bjerke came into our field the Fall of 1967, and at a Special Meeting in Clarkston Dan had the morning session. When I heard Dan speak I knew without a doubt that I would be in “it” whatever “it” was, so told Obert and Bev, “Let’s go–we don’t want to tie up the rest of the day.” We left. There must have been something he said that touched my heart as I could not stay away from any meeting. We even went to the Sunday Morning Fellowship meeting with Obert. It was as if a magnet was pulling me–so each week the three of us would go to meeting and each meeting would pull me closer into fellowship with God’s people.
I was still fighting the spirit at the gospel meetings though. The fight was over when Dan spoke on the rejection of Christ. He said whenever we deny Christ and not deny ourselves we are rejecting Him and putting Him back on the cross–or words to that effect, but that is how I remember receiving it. I knew then by continuing to say “No” I was putting Christ back on the cross–and I just couldn’t keep doing that. I stood and embraced the gospel on Mother’s Day, May 12, 1968. The following years were wonderful years for the three of us. Bev, age 11, made her choice at Walla Walla Convention on Saturday evening when Don Garland gave the invitation June 12, 1971. There was much rejoicing then. She started taking part in meeting a year later on Mother’s Day–more reason for rejoicing.
Then a few years later at Walla Walla Convention Eldon spoke on Marriage. This really shook me a great deal remembering how I felt before Obert and I were married, so Obert had him come to our trailer and the three of us had a very revealing and personal discussion on marriage–ours. Sometimes it takes many tears to clear our vision and it did that day. Realization of my stupidity came about when I learned what fornication REALLY meant. In this conference with Eldon I was told that, if after Bev was 18 and on her own and we were still together, then I could no longer take part in any meeting because I knew our marriage was wrong in the eyes of God. It was my understanding from this conference that we cannot grow as a child of God, nor can we expect to help others, if we can’t take part, thus sharing with others what we had gleaned. I had also read of the woman at the well in John 4 which spoke loud and clear to me. It was Christ Himself who told her the man she was with was not her husband. And she knew she was wrong!
God has His way in answering our prayers. The Elder’s Meeting notes were sent around and when Obert was reading them he put them down and from something in the notes stated, “Why, I can’t even select a hymn.” He was desolate! Almost the same time Bev had come to me and asked why our home was not like other peoples’ homes. That was a very hard question to answer. How do you tell your child that you and her Dad should never have married? And, how do you go about making it right? All we could do was let God lead us to make the right decision and then act on it.
After many prayers (Obert and Bev must have had theirs) and much conference (some with Bev included) we agreed to separate in order to give Obert a chance to take part and to allow each of us a chance to get closer to God. This was May 20, 1975. Later, in August 1975, we made the complete break by getting the divorce to make it so neither could or would hold the other back and that we could get our lives right with God. Although Bev was in my custody, she and her Dad were together a great deal. It was really hard on her as well as the two of us, but in 1978 when she turned 18 and graduated with honors from High School, I could truly say, “My cup runneth over.” If I’d waited until then to start any of the decisions we had to work out together, I know 1 could never have done it. God gave us the grace and strength at the time to make the choices we needed to make when he wanted them made, and even the courage to act on those choices. I’m thankful for all the help received through the workers that also came our way. I knew then and am more sure now that we did the right thing. God has indeed been good to each of us.
Beverly? Where would she be if her Dad and Mother had stayed together and never had a chance to grow as children of God? She had planned to attend the University, but she turned her scholarship back and married a wonderful professing young man in October 1978. Jim is a wonderful husband and provider and is very good to her. They had a little girl, Melinda Rose on December 4, 1983, and their second is due in a week or two. They now have the Wednesday Bible Study in their home.
Obert? A few years back he gave a testimony in Gospel Meeting stating he had had a bitterness in his heart for many years, but that bitterness was no longer there. By that statement he lifted me out of bondage. He seemed to really grow more and more spiritually as time went on. He had been ill off and on for several years. He had attended Gospel Meeting April 25, 1976, and died in his sleep before midnight of that same night. His last testimony was on Mary, Luke 1:46-49, on the previous Wednesday ending his testimony that he wanted to be found faithful at the very end. No one can convince me otherwise–he was!
Myself? It wasn’t easy starting out late in life looking for work to support my daughter and myself but God in His mercy through one of the friends in this field told me where to apply and get a good position at the University and this I did. We never know who our lives speak to, but I pray that my life spoke to someone while working there. I only just recently retired and they did more for me than others that retired at the same time. I am now finally able to really enjoy my children, their spouses and all the grandchildren.
Love is a word used so haphazardly these days, but when we put God in our lives to come first and live our lives as though we mean it, I do believe we get a better idea of what love really means. We also have his protection when we let Him have full and complete control.
I’m very thankful God gave me the privilege to enter into His family and that I have something all the money in the world cannot buy–I have the guiding hand and keeping power of God helping me. I am finally and more aware now as I have never been before that what we have in Jesus is what God wants us to have and to continue to have that we can fully partake of the inheritance he has waiting for us–this all through Jesus when He gave His life for us. I just pray that I, too, may be found faithful at the end.
Your sister in Christ,
February 2, 1987