We pulled everything we owned out of our 10 by 50 foot Buddy trailer, and loaded the U-Haul truck. As a recent college graduate, I was eager for us to get into ministry. The word eager should be defined as “adjective – that which leads to stupid decisions.”
We first heard about New Life Center, of DeKalb, Illinois, from a preacher my dad wanted us to meet. My father had a psycho-emotional craving to be around important people. For most of his life, it was cops. For the rest of his life, it was preachers and cops. I inherited that trait, plus the never-met need to hear my dad say, “I’m proud of you, son.”
We went to a church to hear Bob Deyarmond. He was very charismatic, loud, and waved his arms a lot. He was also very, very large. When we were introduced, the preacher asked me to do music at a conference where he was speaking. I gladly accepted.
At the event, Deyarmond talked to me about the ministry he was creating in DeKalb. It was going to be a worldwide outreach, he just needed people like me to help make it happen. He offered me a job and said they would pay me one hundred dollars per week. (As a youth director I was paid seventy-five dollars and we drove four hundred miles every weekend, so one hundred dollars seemed like a huge raise.)
We first met Maurice and Viletta when we moved into the rental half of their large farmhouse. Maurice was retired from farming, Viletta, from teaching. They were a lovely, elderly couple, and welcomed us into their home.
The first sign of trouble at New Life Center happened one day after we arrived. “We can’t pay you,” Bob Deyarmond said. That was the beginning, and it only got worse. New Life Center was a disaster.
I told Maurice and Viletta about the situation. We were to pay one hundred dollars per month rent, and that was going to be difficult while I made nothing. “Those people have money,” Mrs. Brundage said. The most amazing thing is that we stayed for an entire year, surviving only by the graces of Maurice and Viletta, and other people like them.
We learned Mary was expecting our first child just before our move to DeKalb. On a cold January afternoon, while we were watching television, she suddenly felt a gush of water. We were terrified. I ran to get Mrs. Brundage.
“Oh, your water broke, dear,” she said. “You’ll have to call the doctor and go to the hospital. I’ll go get some towels and you’ll be just fine.” Mrs. Brundage was the perfect nurse and grandmother all in one.
Our beautiful daughter was born a few hours later. After a couple days, we brought our new baby home. The Brundages welcomed and cared for us as if we were their own children.
It was comforting to know Maurice and Viletta were just a door away. Every day, Maurice went to the yard to collect sticks for the wood stove in their kitchen. I remember Viletta sitting in the shade of a huge tree, snapping green beans while watching airplanes flying west from Chicago.
A year to the day after we moved in, we left the Brundage’s farmhouse. We thanked them for their kindness. Maurice and Viletta Brundage were the kind of people who are gifts to others just by living their lives.