Sunday's Snapshot: Old Friend, New Friendship
His name is Gene Pfaffenberger (or, as he remarked the moment I met him, Eneg Regrebneffafp spelled backwards). He was my roommate, sovereignly assigned by the Powers Who Were at Purdue in 1956, during a year in which my accomplishment were limited to: A) Learning to play, and love, euchre; B) Learning that I didn't really like beer, and; C) Flunking out rather spectacularly.
We went our separate ways after that .. I was from the northside of Indy and he was from the eastside. After I'd met Peg and we were engaged, Gene's and I were discussing going out together, and He didn't have a steady girlfriend at the time. Peg and I thought he might appreciate meeting someone else, and through a somewhat tortured series of events, we wound up indirectly fixing him up with Judy Shaw, a classmate of Peg's. They hit it off well enough that they've now been married about 47 years.
Most of this I mentioned in my previous post.
Gene and I had a lot of fun in 1956-7 at Purdue, and kind of enjoyed each others' company. But Gene went on to get his engineering degree, while I went to work as a mailboy for an insurance company. Gene eventually retired a couple years ago after a long career highlighted by, among other things, several patents in his name.
What makes it really interesting, now, is that we weren't Christians in college. I left Purdue .. permanently .. in the spring of 1957 and knocked around a few jobs before going to work for an insurance company, meeting Peg, getting engaged, and then playing a part in Gene and Judy getting together. Then, in about 1964, I got back into church and later in the 60's, got serious about Jesus. That culminated in our going on a mission trip to Haiti in the summer of 1970, after which I ran into Gene at a Men For Missions (the mission trip sponsor) Breakfast.
I asked Gene if he was there for the same reason I was, as I was just leaving with the friend I'd ridden with. He said he guessed so and I left after saying we'd have to get together sometime. What I didn't know was that Judy had been going to White Harvest Methodist Church, and had some guys praying for Gene. One of them had asked him to go to breakfast, and he'd agreed.
Gene got saved not too long after that, and we chatted now and then. Eventually, in about 1973, I'd heard a mutual friend, Dick Green, had moved to New Orleans, and I was going to be there on vacation. When I got to New Orleans, I called Gene from a phone booth and asked him for Dick Green's number. During the call, I said Men For Missions was having another mission trip to Haiti the following summer and I suggested he go; he said "We'll go if you will".. I said "Deal". Some months later, then, we signed up for the trip, and I called Gene and told him. Sure enough, Gene and his family signed up also.
Said all that to say this: 4 years before, we'd given a testimony at a little church in Port-au-Prince, the night we arrived in Haiti. This time, 1974, we got to sit in the same church and hear Gene and Judy give their testimony. Then it hit me:
When I looked at Gene, I could remember what I had seen in 1956 at Purdue. And that was anything but Christian. I could also see what he'd become, a strong devoted Christian who'd take his entire family to Haiti to tell folks about Jesus. And when I saw him and what had happened to him, I saw myself and what had happened to me, too.
We live 500 miles apart, now. I wish we lived closer. When I see him, I see the wonderful transforming power of God, with a strong reminder that as he once was, so once was I. And the change God had wrought in Him, I could not deny in myself.
I think it's good to see, now and then, how dramatic a change Jesus works in lives of those who will simply trust and obey. Which accounts for that being my favorite hymn, and the first one I ever could sing without the music.
For there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey"