Freed for Service
by Evelyn Dick with Russell Bixler
"Watching the love of God heal person after person challenged me. I quietly asked Him to heal me too...."
The Spirit of the lord God has been placed upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the suffering, to heal hears that are broken, to proclaim for captives release from slavery and freedom to those who are in .
Thus Jesus appropriated Isaiah 61:1 to Himself in the synagogue at Nazareth. I believe it - every work of it. Jesus has done it for me.
I was born in a broken home. My parents may have lived together, but it was a broken home, nevertheless. Arguing, criticism, tension were all so much a part of my childhood that I hardly knew anything else. Indeed, if it weren't for the hours I spent in my uncle's and aunt's house, where the Bible was read and prayer was heard, I would hardly have had any idea of what a home should be like.
I suffered frequent stomach aches which our doctor was unable to diagnose. But the worst ache of all was the one in my heart. How desperately I wanted to experience a little love! I never had any fingernails, always biting them as short as possible. Worst of all, perhaps, were several of my teen years with the daily dread of coming home from school, anxiously asking myself, "Will Mom be home? Or has she run off again?"
I learned to steel myself against these hurts. Refusing to face the anxieties in my heart, I shoved those feelings down and worked hard to excel in everything I did, seeking to win for myself a tiny morsel of commendation.
Today, I am aware of a significant cause of those troubles. My mother's family had for years been involved in practices. My grandmother would practice "pow-wow" to stop bleeding. Mom often sought out such "doctors". It actually works, but the demonic after-effects bring great hardship and misery. We just didn't know better.
The Early Years
LeRoy and I have been married fifty years and have served three former pastorates, in two of which I was further hurt by events and people. Still not admitting to myself or to others the deep needs of my life, I gritted my teeth and energetically strove to be a good pastor's wife. But LeRoy often wondered about those hard knots in the back muscles just below my neck.
In 1962 shortness of breath, chest pains and occasional attacks of rapid heartbeat forced me to seek medical help. The doctor placed me on tranquilizers and I felt great. But after six months I decided not to be dependant upon tranquilizers and abruptly set the pills aside.
Such a deep depression immediately settled upon me that I had to be hospitalized. There the doctor diagnosed a thyroid deficiency. "Fortunately", he added, "the pills are cheap, since you'll be on them the rest of your life". Several times I stubbornly tried to eliminate the thyroid pills, but each time returning symptoms forced me into renewed dependence. Without the pills I simply couldn't function.
Shall We Move to Pittsburgh?
In 1972 LeRoy was suggested as a pastoral replacement for the Pittsburgh Church of the Brethren. Russ Bixler had resigned, but would be staying on as in a limited associate role. Other ministers proclaimed that they "would not touch that situation with a ten foot pole". Yet LeRoy felt strangely drawn to the Pittsburgh Church.
Their Ministerial Commission suggested a visit to one of the Sunday evening services. I was a little confused by not understanding what was happening during the service, but I didn't sense the irrational fear that many people feel when they first experience the supernatural power of God.
The Bixlers invited us to dinner. Russ spoke rather sternly, "This is a wonderfully-exciting pastorate, but I'm only going to tell you the lousy aspects of it. Then if you still want to come to Pittsburgh, you'll be a great success."
In a short period of time Russ described in detail each disappointing situation in the church, then announced triumphantly, "Everything else is great!"
How different! We mused to ourselves.
Russ and Norma later noted to each other that I seemed like a person on the defensive - tense, and ready to ward off the next impending blow.
We met with the Ministerial Commission. LeRoy and I were braced of the usual ugly question, "What's your attitude toward the National Council of Churches?" Instead the Commission excitedly witnessed to us - individually - about what Jesus Christ had done in their lives. And they loved us. The love of God just radiated from them.
Driving home that night, LeRoy and I know that our lives were somehow going to be different. Even if we didn't receive a call to the Pittsburgh Church we were going to be different.
Moving to Pittsburgh
When the call came, the ominous warnings also began. Pastors would solemnly warn LeRoy of the terrible situation he was walking into. Their wives cautioned me in similar manner. "It really must be bad," we thought; and I became more tense than ever. Yet LeRoy continued to feel this strange compulsion to go to Pittsburgh, although he had earlier insisted that he would rather have a pastorate farther East.
A few months later the Pittsburgh congregation welcomed us to their church. Immediately LeRoy was accepted as their pastor - and after thirteen years with another, most unusual pastor. Their warmth toward us was gentle, yet electric. We attended all the Sunday evening services, but the congregation didn't push us to accept anything new. We simply received more of what the Ministerial Commission had offered us - the love of Jesus. This was utterly, totally new to me, but I surely liked it.
Watching the love of God heal person after person challenged me. I quietly asked Him to heal me too. One day I realized with a start that I hadn't taken a thyroid pill in a week - no, two weeks - no, it must be longer than that! He did it! He healed me too!
At Christmas time our son, Jim, came home from Manchester College. During the holidays he attended a youth meeting in a barn and returned with an unusual glow about him. Jim had been "baptized in the Holy Spirit." He was excited about Jesus in a way LeRoy and I had never been. A couple months later Jim came through Pittsburgh on a college deputation trip and handed LeRoy his fifty-dollar glasses. "I won't be using these anymore," Jim announced, and bubbled his way back to college.
That was almost too much for the Pennsylvania Dutch in his parents. Fifty dollars! And Jim had worn glasses since the age of four! He just didn't need them any longer.
Baptized in the Holy Spirit
But we were genuinely touched, and on March 11, 1973, after less than six months of witnessing God's miracles on a continuing, weekly basis, we could resist His love no longer. We asked one of our deacons to pray that we too be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
LeRoy's pastoral prayers immediately began to reveal a new sense of power and authority. it was so much easier for me to smile. I could laugh with the church members with an ease I hadn't known before. I was beginning to experience that deep peace of God that Jesus described in John 14.
Healed of a Broken Heart
On Sunday evening September 15, 1974 (I could never forget that date, either), Norma Bixler announced that the Holy Spirit had told her that someone in the congregation had been healed of a broken heart. A liquid warmth began to flow through my body. I knew something good was happening. A few minutes later Norma said with a bit of insistence, "The Lord has a gift package for someone here, but you must unwrap the box and receive the gift."
"Don't look any farther," I told Russ. "It's for me." My face was pink and I was wearing a strange grin. A tremendous sensation of well-being came over me as something unpleasant left my body. I became so relaxed, I almost fell off the pew. And I was so warm!
Deep breaths began filling my lungs. I didn't know a human being could breathe so deeply. Such freedom! My father and mother! I loved them! I forgave them - so easily! All those ugly memories, the scars on my personality, were healed. I had been delivered of all the oppression!
But the breathing! I was so deep, so pleasing, so precious to inhale abundantly of God's free air. LeRoy put his arms around me in a joyful hug. When his fingers touched high on my back, they sank softly into tender, feminine flesh for the first time. Those hard knots were gone! We both cried and praised God.
Within several weeks I was happily displaying my new fingernails to all who would look.
Life is so exciting in Christ! I just love Jesus. And I know He Loves me!
He now provides more opportunities to be genuinely helpful to other people - people in need - than ever before. But now! - Jesus has set me free to do it!
The scripture is so true, "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."
March 12, 1990
In the months following these experiences I spent many hours with my mother in a time of reconciliation and witnessing to her. As the years passed by our love and respect for one another grew.
I spent the last two weeks of my mother's life with her and was by her bedside when she died.
What a joy it was for us as my Dad visited us in Pittsburgh and we celebrated with him as God healed him of curvature of the spine. Although I had always felt close to my Dad, we grew even closer in the years before his death.
I thank God that I have been freed, not only for service, but that I was freed to minister to my parents.
Evelyn Dick #735