- Bellfountain Community Church
A Book of Christmas Miracles
Bellfountain Community Church and Friends
Bellfountain Community Church
The history of the Bellfountain Community Church goes back to 1889, with construction
of the church building occurring from 1899-1890. The church is located on a hill near
the junction of Dawson Road (which leads to the historic Hull-Oaks Lumber Company)
and Bellfountain Road, in the tiny unincorporated town of Bellfountain, Oregon. The
church began, and largely remains, ecumenical at heart. When services began in the
1800’s the 1st Sunday of the month would be a Methodist service, followed the next
Sunday by a Christian service, then a Baptist service, and finally a United Brethren
service. Today we are a non-denominational church that only asks that members: accept
Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and that the Bible is the Word of God. The church motto
is: Enjoy God, Love People, Serve the World.
First, we enjoy God. Greg Klein and Luke Krieger are our pastors, but Jesus Christ is our
senior pastor. Sunday school begins at 9:15 with church service at 10:30 am each
Sunday. There are men’s prayer groups, women’s Bible studies, mother’s in prayer, and
other worship, prayer, and study meetings throughout the week. This small church
supports an active youth outreach. The church has an AWANA program and hold
Vacation Bible School in the summer. Church members are active in the regional Youth
for Christ program. Christmas and Easter are special times for the church as
congregation volunteers join to decorate the church to celebrate what Jesus means to us.
This is a community church at heart and we love people. At Bellfountain Community
Church we try to treat each congregation member as part of God’s family. This is a
praying Church where the congregation is asked for prayer requests and praises at each
service. There is often a problem restoring order after greeting time as members enjoy
visiting their friends and families. Several years ago the church acquired Bellfountain
School, located across the street from the church. This is the site for receptions, local
meetings, and even sporting events in the historic gym (home of the 1937 state boys High
School basketball champions1). The church also hosts an annual Wild Game Feed and
Family Camp. Church members provide food to support families after funerals.
The church also tries to serve the world by supporting missionary work locally,
nationally, and abroad. We are blessed to live in a beautiful part of the world, surrounded
by God’s many miracles, with streams, Douglas-fir lined hills, verdant Christmas tree
farms, and rolling farms and vineyards. We try to share those blessings with others by
supporting selected missionary work. The church has an active Helping Hands program
to support those in the community who need chores or firewood or have other special
needs. The church adopts needy families at Thanksgiving and Christmas to provide gifts
and meals, sends boxes of presents to Operation Christmas Child, and supports Christian
charities that provide farm animals to Third World communities. Come by and worship
with us sometime. For more information on Bellfountain Community Church visit:
Blakely,Joe R., The Bellfountain Giant Killers: The Story of a Small Oregon High School and
its Miraculous Championship Season, Bear Creek Press, Enterprise, Oregon, 2003
1. Little George’s Christmas Miracle………………………………………………..6
2. The Home Coming………..……………………………………………………....8
3. A Sled for Troy…...………………………………………...……………………10
4. A Tuba for Christmas…….…….….……………………………………………..13
5. Papa’s Oil Well…………………………………………………………………..16
6. A New Shoulder for Christmas…………………………………………………..18
7. The White Skates…………………………………………………………...……22
8. Love at First Bite……………………………………………………………...…24
9. Sweetie Pie……………………………………………………………………….27
10. The Muppet’s Version of “The Cat Came Back” with an Addition……………..30
11. The Christmas Chores Caper………………..……………………………...……31
12. My Forever Friend……………………………………………………………….33
13. The Toy Ferris Wheel……………………………………………………………39
14. My Best Christmas Gift Ever!...…………………………………………………41
15. The Best Christmas Present Ever………………………………………………..44
Why a collection of stories about miracles and Christmas? Maybe because the greatest
miracle of all is that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that
who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16. For me there is a
personal family connection with Christmas. Christmas was always a time of supreme
joy and family fun, and of countless unexpected and even undeserved blessings. There is
also the inevitable share of sadness.
Maybe because Christmas was so difficult for my mom and dad when they were growing
up (See Little George’s Christmas Miracle and A Sled for Troy), they always showered
my brother and me with generous presents. Of course that was fun! But more than that
Christmas was a time for family and community to celebrate the gifts we had each
received. There was the Christmas tree with its magical decorations; the special cookies,
fruitcakes, and candies; the beautiful church service; and the Christmas cards from family
and friends. We even celebrate the Christmas season with an enormous open house. Our
two bedroom and one bathroom house would be crammed each year with our friends as
we treated them to pinwheel sandwiches, spicy meatballs, hot hors d’oeuvres, ham,
turkey, cheese and crackers, fresh veggies, and an array of desserts. And I got to spend
this time with the mother, father, and brother I loved.
Ice’s at Christmas 1960
There is also darker connection for me to Christmas. My father died on Christmas Eve
and I flew back to the San Francisco Bay Area Christmas Day to be with my mother.
Two of the most painful things about that day were collecting his personal items and the
presents under the tree. We had to go to the police station to pick up the personal items
dad had on him when he died. These weren’t anything special: an old wallet with credit
cards and a little cash; a coin purse full of loose change, a small pocket knife, and dad’s
wrist watch. But they were a part of the father I loved and had lost. Then at home there
were dad’s unopened presents under the tree. Both my mother and I had the inescapable
wish that dad had just lived one more day so that he could have opened his Christmas
presents. The Christmas season was difficult for me for several years afterward.
But in time I have come to remember more of the good and recognize how special even
that last day of my dad’s life was. My dad had a heart of gold but he also had chronic
heart disease. His first heart attack was during a church sermon at the First
Congregational Church in Redwood City, CA. During the sermon he began feeling
tremendous pressure on his chest and was having difficulty breathing. My parents had
promised my brother and me that we could go to the park after church and play in the
sand box. But despite our protests, my mother rushed dad home and the doctor came
over to treat him (the days of house calls). One of the greatest miracles in my life was
that my father survived this and many other heart episodes to guide and encourage my
brother and me into adulthood. He was able to see us graduate from college, earn
advanced degrees, get rewarding jobs, and he even got to be a grandfather (my nephew
My dad was always a scrounger. He loved to recycle and re-purpose stuff he found. I
once built a barn with all the discarded nails he had picked up from construction going on
across the street from his house. No where was this love of scrounging more elegantly
displayed than when he was dumpster diving at the local supermarket. At this time my
parents were feeding a herd of 20 or more deer that would come to their back door. My
parents supplemented commercial feed with bagels, cookies and cakes, bread, and fruit
gathered from the market dumpster. That last day my retired and senior dad (not much
older than I am now) had climbed into the dumpster and had emerged with a treasure
trove of goodies for the deer. When he got home he proudly announced to my mom, “I
hit the jackpot.”
Dad disappeared down the stairs and out the back door with his deer goodies. Mom was
never to see him alive again. After he didn’t come back up the stairs mom called a
neighbor who was a fireman. The neighbor found dad down the hill in a clump of brush.
He was dead from a sudden and massive heart attack. It is hard to no longer have such a
special person in your life. It is especially hard when it is Christmas and everyone
around you is celebrating and enjoying the season.
But over the years I have come to appreciate the real miracle that dad’s life represented.
He was born under difficult circumstances but was raised by a loving grandmother. He
fought and was severely injured during World War II, serving on the aircraft carrier
Hancock, but married the love of his life, a girl from far away Oklahoma, during that war.
After miscarriages and a difficult pregnancy his wife had twin sons born on Valentine’s
Day. He survived numerous heart attacks and was one of the first patients to receive a
chest in-planted defibrillator. Even that last Christmas Eve he was filled with the joy of
“hitting the jackpot” for his deer and was feeding them when he died. So I dedicate this
book of Christmas miracles to all the moms, dads, brothers, sisters, uncles, animals,
grandparents, in-laws and other family members who have shown each of us their love.
And I thank God for the miracle of my life, my wonderful family, and a wife who has the
spirit of Christmas all year long.
Dr. George Ice, December 2015
The story collector
Grandpa George with his grandson Gary Scott, 1984. Note the matching haircuts.
Little George’s Christmas Miracle
Story by Drs. George and Gene Ice
George Emery Ice Christmas 1924 with his new peddle car.
My mom, Rubye Pearl, and dad, George Emery Ice, each grew up under extremely
difficult circumstances. My mother’s family lost everything when her dad was shot in
the back and killed in a dispute with a neighbor over a watering hole in rural Oklahoma
(See “A Sled for Troy”). Equally difficult was my father’s childhood. His mother died at
childbirth and his father, already raising two other boys, couldn’t face another mouth to
feed. With the grief of his wife’s death and the difficult prospect of raising another son,
he gave little George up to his maternal grandparents, the Howards. Little George lived
with his grandparents and Uncle Jim in Oregon City, Oregon. At some point early on in
his childhood his grandparents had a falling out that is rumored to have been about great
granddad drinking away the mortgage payment. After that it was just grandma, Jim and
They lived in Oregon City and money was short. One example of how desperately poor
they were is that little George had poor eye sight and needed glasses but the family
couldn’t afford them and so he went without. I later learned that one of the reasons my
dad didn’t play any “traditional” sports like basketball, football, or baseball, was that he
couldn’t see the ball well enough to play. He did enjoy wrestling and would go to
Portland to see professional wrestlers train and spar with them. Dad didn’t get a decent
pair of glasses until he was old enough to earn the money to buy them himself.
One Christmas the stockings were pretty bare at the Howard home. His grandmother
took little George to see Santa. When Santa asked George what he wanted for Christmas
he said, “I want a car.” His grandmother had that sinking feeling in her heart that only a
parent can know. She knew there was no way she could buy such a frivolous present for
her beloved grandson. That Christmas Eve his Uncle Jim decided to go watch a show
downtown. At the show they were giving away a grand prize of a miniature peddle car.
God must have known who needed that car the most because Jim won that car.
Christmas morning little George awoke to the car you see him standing next to in the
George went on to fish for salmon with his beloved dog, Pat, below the Oregon City
Falls; serve on the aircraft carrier USS Hancock during World War II; marry a girl from
Oklahoma; became an electrical engineering pioneer; and raise a family in California.
But the pride and joy of that special Christmas made him love Christmas for the rest of
his life. When I see the picture of my dad and his peddle car my heart is warmed at the
thought of my loving and wonderful father’s joy. God’s miracles can reverberate across
generations and the special miracle of Christmas continues to inspire after more than two
George and Rubye Ice’s Wedding Picture
Matthew 19:26. But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but
with God all things are possible.”
Dr. George Ice and his wife Becky live in Alpine, OR. George’s dad once earned the nickname from his
Bible Study group as the “Wheat” based on Matthew 13:12-- His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he
will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable
fire." Dr. Gene Ice is a retired synchrotron radiation physicist and division director with the Oak Ridge
National Laboratory in Tennessee.
Story told by Dr. Jim Christensen
Staff Sergeant Art Christensen with his son Jim
Nobody seemed to know where he was. The war in Europe (World War II) was coming
to an end but where was Merlin Arthur (Art) Christensen? Art was a staff sergeant in
Patton’s 8th Armor Division. He had served in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
During the European Campaign he fought in the Ardennes, Central Europe, and the
Rhinelands. He had received the Purple Heart and was a three-time winner of the Bronze
Star. But now no-one seemed to be able to find out what had happened to him. Art had
been somewhere in Europe when he disappeared. Frantic attempts by his parents to find
out about Art, including countless trips to Denison, Iowa to visit with military officials
continue to be fruitless. There was no indication of any kind whether he was alive or
dead. Art was just gone.
Christmas Eve 1944 the whole Christensen family gathered together at Art’s parent’s
farm. Young Jim Christensen looked forward to the Christmas Eve party with it’s
Christmas tree, heaps of food, and family crowd. Jim had been raised by his
grandparents after his mother died in childbirth, but he, like the whole family wondered
where was his dad?
There was fresh snow on the ground and the family cars kept coming. The Christensen
clan filled the house with the warmth of laughter, good food, and love. But the question
that hung over everyone was, what has happened to Art?
The party was getting late and Jim’s uncle turned to his wife and said, “You better hurry
up ma, it’s starting to snow.” If the snow got too deep it was hard to drive to the road.
Grandma went out to the kitchen to gather some leftovers. Then she heard one of the
men say, “There’s a car out there.” The family looked out the window to see a man
sliding out of a cab. The family poured onto the porch and grandma took two steps out
from the crowd and tentatively asked the stranger, “Art, is that you?” His weak response
was “Yes ma. It’s me.” Immediately Art was surrounded by his family. The men shook
hands and the women hugged each other. The cry went up from everyone, “He’s here!”
Art had been severely injured and had returned to America with 41 pieces of shrapnel in
his body. He had been in an army medical facility for 40 days recovering and was just
beginning to be able to speak again. Art Christensen was finally home from the war.
Luke 15:20-24 “And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way
off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and
kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your
sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves,
‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals
on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it; and let us eat and be merry; for this son of
mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ And they
began to be merry.”
Dr. Jim Christensen and his wife Betty were beloved members of Bellfountain Community Church. Jim
was a longtime radio minister who preached in 34 countries. He is the honorary chaplain for the 8 th Armor
Division and continues to dedicate his life to God.
A Sled for Troy
Story told by Rubye Ice to Dr. George Ice
Troy “Plow Boy” Scholl
For my brother and me, our uncle, Troy Scholl was an almost mythic figure. He had a
ranch in Oklahoma with cattle, chickens, turkeys, and horses, where we visited each
summer. The ranch had a pond where you could put your fishing line out in the morning
and reel in a big channel catfish for dinner at night. He and his wife were state champion
archers and taught us how to shoot bows and even make our own arrows. Troy had
played college football for Tulsa University where he was a feared running back with the
nickname, “Plow Boy Scholl.” He had gone on to play professional football, first in New
York and then in Canada. He had fought in Europe in World War II and carried shrapnel
from Normandy so close to his heart that he couldn’t return to professional football.
Instead he worked as a physical therapist at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in
McAlister, Oklahoma. To most people he was Mr. Scholl or Troy, but to us he was just
Part of what endeared Unc to us was his unabashed rascally behavior. As a boy he had
worried his mother sick jumping freight trains and riding them from Oklahoma to
California and back. He would just disappear and then reappear months later. Later as our
supposed guardian during summer months, he picked up a cold watermelon each day on
his way home from work, and ate the heart out of the melon before leaving the scraps for
us when we returned from our Grandmothers for the evening.
Troy grew up in Eufaula, Oklahoma, one of the four Scholl children with an older brother
and sister, and a baby sister. His baby sister, our mom Rubye, described him as angry
and mean as a child. He could turn on a classmate in school and hit him for no apparent
reason and was often out at night getting into mischief. Even with the stern discipline of
his older brother he could not be controlled. What made him so angry? Maybe it was the
death of his father.
His father, William Scholl, was a well-to-do rancher. He and his wife, Margaret, had a
ranch, cattle, a car, and one of the first farm houses to have electricity. They were doing
so well that each of the two older children had their own horse. Life was good. But then
tragedy struck. There was a dispute with a neighbor about a watering hole. The farmer
used the water for his crops. The rancher used it to water his cattle. The dispute got
William Scholl on his horse about 1919
One day William rode out to check on his cattle. Normally he wore a pistol in case there
were predators or rattle snakes. For some unknown reason, this particular day he didn’t.
Something happened at the watering hole. He was shot in the back and killed. Troy was
5 years old at the time. When they brought the body back to the ranch Troy climbed into
the wagon to see his dead father. It was the beginning of a difficult time for Troy and the
rest of the Scholl family.
When William was alive the family had prospered but now there was nobody to run the
ranch. Margaret was left with four children and without an income. And it was the
beginning of the Depression for the United States and the Dust Bowl for Oklahoma.
The family lost the ranch and struggled to pay the taxes on their little house. Somehow
Margaret kept the family together and fed them with the chickens and pigs she raised
from scraps. Most nights it was cornbread and milk for dinner. It is hard to understand
how little some people had during that time. There was never money for Christmas
presents. Most Christmases the only present the Scholl kids got was a bag of oranges and
nuts from the church. But one wonderful Christmas was different.
The church hosted a Christmas Eve service and families brought presents to put under the
church Christmas tree. When it came time to open the presents everyone was shocked to
see someone had placed a present under the tree with Troy’s name on it. It was a brand
new snow sled. For this boy, who had nothing, this was like being given the moon. Troy
grabbed his sled and, without saying a thing to anyone, ran out the church door and up
the hill to try his new sled. The congregation laughed together at this display of joy and
determination. Troy had a treasured toy to focus his active and adventurous spirit on.
To this day we don’t know who put that sled under the tree for Troy. But it was an
anonymous miracle of love for a boy who was having a tough time in life and had not
“earned” any reward by his own actions.
Troy went on to play college football at the University of Tulsa and then professional
football in the US and Canada.
Matthew 6:1-4 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be
seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So when
you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the
synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have
received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand
know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your
Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Rubye Pearl Scholl Ice celebrated her 97th birthday September 2015. She lives in San Carlos, CA and is
the mother of George and Gene Ice.
A Tuba for Christmas
Story by Dr. George Ice
A musician’s instrument is a source of pride and joy. Every story about how a personal
instrument is acquired is special. This is the story of how I got my tuba and its
connection to Christmas. It reminds me of a wonderful friendship, family, and
I first played tuba at Menlo Atherton High School, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Band
class and practice began at 7:00 in the morning, which allowed those taking it to cram an
extra class into their schedule. Unfortunately, the school policy changed our senior year
because of the mistaken (or perhaps correct) perception that most band members didn’t
want to take an extra class and get up so early in the morning. But my brother and I were
in college preparation classes (biology, algebra, physics, English, German, economics)
and couldn’t afford to lose one of those classes. We had to give up the high school band.
I did play tuba in the California Youth Symphony and local community band, but after I
went to college, I didn’t have access to a tuba. Tubas are expensive. So I didn’t play the
tuba for a couple decades.
My mother always wanted my brother and me to continue playing an instrument. At
some point she and my dad made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. They promised to forgive
a loan they had provided me if I agreed to acquire a tuba. They made no stipulations
about the type or quality of the tuba or whether or not I played it. They just wanted me to
have access to an instrument so if I did want to play it I could. Money was tight (hence
the loan) so I began the search for a cheap, but serviceable tuba.
At this time my brother-in-law was living in Las Cruces, New Mexico; serving as an
instructor in mathematics at New Mexico State University. Robert (Bob) Roberts was
not only my brother-in-law but also one of my best friends. He was a gentle giant who
stood 6’9’’ tall, had earned a PhD in science education at Oregon State University, and
could play the piano, guitar, mandolin, flute, and fiddle. Bob and I had numerous
adventures together when he was living in Corvallis but he had moved to find work, first
to teach at the University of Oklahoma and then at New Mexico State. Unfortunately
Bob became ill after he moved to Las Cruces and was diagnosed with cancer. I was able
to rearrange my work schedule and get back to help Bob with chemotherapy treatment he
was taking at home. It involved an infusion for several hours each day and my job was
to connect the chemo bag to his “port” and make sure there were no air bubbles in the
line. Bob was not doing very well while I was there but after treatment he got somewhat
better, although he was still very weak and sick from the drugs.
One day, while I was in my office in Corvallis, the postman delivered two enormous
packages from Las Cruces. When I unpacked them I found two cases designed to hold a
tuba (body and bell). The tuba body was inside one of the boxes but the bell was
missing. The tuba body looked like it had been run over by a truck.
I called Bob to figure out what was up and this was his story. He had seen an ad in the
paper for an auction at a local High School. One of the items listed was a tuba. When he
got to the auction they were auctioning just the cases. The tuba bell was missing and the
tuba body was so heavily damage the High School didn’t think anyone would want it.
Bob knew I was looking for a tuba so he bought it for me. What made this act especially
poignant is how sick Bob was at this time. It would be less than a year before Bob would
lose his fight and die of the cancer.
So I had fulfilled my obligation to get a tuba and it could even play in a fashion. But it
really needed some work. In Salem I found Case Instruments Repairs and they agreed to
straighten out my tuba for a reasonable price if I agreed to not have a set finish date. We
struck an agreement and they began their repair work. At that time my job took me to
Salem frequently so I got to check on my tuba and saw it in many different states of
disassembly and repair.
I also needed to find a bell for the tuba. Online I found a musical instrument dealer who
specialized in used tubas and tuba parts. They had two bells that would fit my Conn
♭BB recording bass (tuba). One bell was originally from a Sousaphone and the other
one was from a much older tuba. At first I was tempted to get the Sousaphone bell
because it was brass, like the tuba body. But I eventually decided to get the older bell,
which was gold and silver plated. When the bell came it fit both my tuba and the bell
After months of work Case Instrument Repairs called and said the tuba was ready. It
looked wonderful, especially considering the state it was in when I got it. They even felt
so bad about how long it had taken that they re-brassed some of the parts. Tuba
Christmas was coming up and so I got to play it along with 100 other tuba players at the
Elsinore Theater in Salem. My brother came from Tennessee and Case Instruments
loaned him an incredible (brand-new, five value) tuba so that we could play together.
Brother Gene later admitted he was terrified he would get a ding in the borrowed tuba.
Brother Gene and me at 1994 Tuba Christmas in Salem, OR
I’m not a very good tuba player and I don’t play my instrument very often. But I
occasionally sit in my living room and play a song or two, and think of the generosity of
my parents, my former brother-in-law and friend, and the fun I have when I am with my
brother. My tuba reminds me of the magic of Christmas and the Holy Spirit.
Palms 100:1 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Dr. George Ice is a retired forest hydrologist, who worked in Corvallis, OR for the National Council for
Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. for 35 years. He is currently an elder at Bellfountain Community
Papa’s Oil Well
Story told by Betty Jo Nantz Browning
Bobby Nantz rides a horse on the ranch in front of the family Rock House
Many of the themes we find in this collection of Christmas miracles surround desperate
financial conditions for families. The Nantz family story is one of these. They scratched
out a living on a small ranch in west Texas, but Mama and Papa had a lot of mouths to
feed. Papa had busted broncos before he was injured in a fall that crippled him for the
rest of his life. He planted a small crop of cotton on the ranch that the whole family
helped pick, grew some cattle and chickens, and worked at odd jobs. Mama had 15
active children to feed.
So just how poor was the family? Papa had complete belief in God and resisted
government assistance, but everything purchased was precious. One memorable night
Papa was driving to town on an empty tank of gas. He was headed to pick up Mama
from the hospital but didn’t have enough gas to get home. As he drove he lifted his head
up to the Lord and asked that somehow he be able to get home. Just then a skunk ran
across the road in front of him. Papa grabbed a tire iron and killed the skunk. He was
able to trade the skunk skin for enough money to get the gas he needed to get Mama
home. The kids mostly wore hand-me-downs clothes but they each got a pair of new
shoes at the beginning of the school year. One morning before school Betty Jo went to
put her shoes on but only one of the shoes was where it was suppose to be. She looked
and looked but couldn’t find it. The family couldn’t afford another pair. That year Betty
Jo had to go to school with only one shoe. Decades later one of her brothers confessed he
had hidden the missing shoe.
Somehow the family survived and grew. They faced the joys and sadness of a family
including losing a son to World War II. But Papa and Mama always believed in God and
The Nantz farm was surrounded by other properties where small oil deposits had been
found. Seismic tests showed there should be oil on the ranch and an oil man had drilled
seven times on the Nantz farm. But so far all they had found was “Dusters.” Then Papa
heard God in a dream tell him they needed to drill deeper. The oil man knew Papa was a
man of God and listened to his story. He had just gotten a new drilling rig that could drill
deeper. He said, “Mr. Nantz, I believe what you have told me and I know you are a man
of God. We have new equipment. So even though we haven’t found anything on your
property so far, I’m going to drill one more well.”
The drilling equipment rolled onto the ranch and the drilling began. Suddenly the whole
earth shook with a deep rumble. Papa was sitting on the porch when the oil man raced up
to the house. He jumped out of his car and yelled at Papa, “Mr. Nantz, tell your wife to
grab her Sears and Robuck catalog. We’ve hit a gusher. If we hadn’t capped it your
house would be covered with oil.” Papa had his oil well and it was a lucrative one. The
first thing they bought was his and hers matching Studabakers. That Christmas the
Nantzes could afford to be generous with their children for the first time. The rest of
their lives Mama and Papa would be comfortable. But before and after, and through it
all, Papa believed that God would provide.
Three generations of the Nantz family celebrate at a reunion about 1955. Far left
are Mama and Papa Nantz. Becky Nantz Herring (Ice) is at the bottom center with
her head down. Betty Jo Nantz (Browning) is immediately behind Becky.
Nehemiah 9:15. “Thou didst provide bread from heaven for their hunger…”
Betty Jo Nantz Browning lives with her husband, Mike Browning, in Abilene, TX.
lifelong commitment to God. She is the mother of Becky Ice.
Betty Jo has had a
A New Shoulder for Christmas
Story by Dr. George Ice
People ask me how I injured my shoulder? There were of course many injuries and
accidents that led to the degeneration of the shoulder but the simple answer is “I had too
much fun with that shoulder.” I played baseball, basketball, football, softball, whitewater
kayaked and canoed, lifted weights, golfed, cut and split firewood, built barns and
garages, planted trees, grew gardens, and just had too much fun. But my shoulder was
shot. It had come to the point that if I sneezed hard or rolled on my shoulder at night it
would partially dislocate. I couldn’t raise my arm above my shoulder. It was a problem.
Reluctantly, I went to see a doctor. Actually, I saw several doctors. They all said I
needed a full shoulder replacement. What a miracle it is that we now have the
technology to replace joints that are so badly worn or damaged they no longer work. But
my surgeon, Dr. Donald Pennington with Samaritan Health Services in Corvallis, warned
me that this was a painful and long recovery. During shoulder replacement the doctors
must cut and then reattach some of the muscle/tendons around the joint to provide access
for installing the new prosthetic. Being an avid golfer I decided to schedule my surgery
for November when the golfing is wet and cold so that I could hopefully recover to play
again the next summer. All I asked for Christmas that year was to have a new shoulder.
I’ve had a number of knee surgeries over my ill-fated sports adventures so I knew what
the surgery would involve: no food after dinner the night before, washing and scrubbing
to avoid infections, an early trip to the hospital, visit with the doctor prior to surgery,
surgical preparations, anesthesia, the surgery, and finally the recovery in the hospital.
When I met my young anesthesiologist he turned out to be a University of California at
Berkeley graduate. We visited about Cal and our times there as students while he
prepared me for surgery. He told me I would start to feel a little dizzy and then I awoke
in the recovery room with my shoulder strapped to my chest. At least it was still
Dr. Pennington visited with my wife, Becky, after the surgery and told her my old
shoulder was even worse than they had expected. It had been wearing the socket joint
away and was about to become completely unstable. It definitely needed to be replaced.
The next few days I was in Good Samaritan Hospital on pain mediation with my shoulder
completely immobilized. I enjoyed ordering the hot turkey sandwiches at the hospital but
I also looked forward to getting home.
When I got home Becky took great care of me. And I remember church family coming
over to provide encouragement and comfort. Memorably, Diane McGowan brought over
a dozen of her famous bran muffins, which were greatly appreciated (although my dog
got at least one of them through nefarious means).
Nurse Becky caring for me at home
Slowly I began to be allowed to take my arm out of the sling and to stretch the shoulder
to increase mobility. Then light exercising was allowed and I began going to physical
therapy. Finally, more vigorous exercising was allowed and the doctor OK’d me to putt a
golf ball and to take “mild” swings with a pitching wedge. After months of recovery,
stretching, and physical therapy Dr. Pennington OK’d me to swing a driver and begin
playing golf again. I was thrilled, but then the fog set in.
All I want for Christmas is a functioning shoulder!
Those of us who live in the Willamette Valley know that the fog can sometimes settle in
the valley and create miserably cold and damp conditions. So just when I got the OK to
begin playing golf again it was bitterly cold and dreary in the valley. And the fog had
decided to settle in for an extended visit. But Oregonians also know that when it is foggy
in the valley it can be sunny on the coast. So after impatiently waiting for the fog to lift I
convinced Becky that we needed to go to the coast so that I could see if my new shoulder
We headed over to Waldport to play at Crestview Golf Course. I had never played there
before so I didn’t know what to expect. It is a small 9-hole course up on the coastal hills,
nestled amongst the vacation houses and residences of the area. When we got there I
found out they don’t have a driving range so I wouldn’t be able to test my shoulder or
warm up. My first full swing of a driver would be on Hole One.
With caution I took my first full swing since getting my new shoulder. It wasn’t a
particularly long drive but it was down the middle and this first hole is fairly short. I was
fortunate enough to hit my next shot onto the green by “clubbing up” with a longer iron.
I was on the green but I was a long ways away from the hole and the green had two tiers.
My ball was sitting on the top tier and the hole was nestled in the middle of the bottom
tier. While I hadn’t been allowed to swing my irons and woods for months I had been
allowed to practice putting. I saw a break in the putting line to the hole because of the
slope of the green. I started my putt to the right to compensate for the break and hit it
with just enough force to go over the slope on the green but not so much that it would roll
off the green. I watched as the ball rolled down the hill, break to the left, then straighten
out and fall into the hole. On my first hole after complete shoulder surgery I had made a
birdy (one under par)!
Playing golf in Hawaii to celebrate a year without joint replacement surgery.
Sometimes golf is frustrating even when we are grateful!
I wish I could say that my golf game was transformed after my shoulder surgery and that
I’m now playing on the Senior Professional Golf Association Tour. Not quite. But I can
play and enjoy golf again and I go out and play with Becky or my friends without pain.
But that first hole was an answer to prayer and my Christmas wish for a new shoulder.
Matthew 21:22 “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.”
Dr. George Ice and his wife Becky are members of Diamond Woods Golf Club. George has a 9 handicap,
which isn’t too bad for a senior golfer with an artificial shoulder, artificial knee, and compromised back.
But, like all golfers, he wants to get better.
The White Skates
Story by Diane McGowan
I’m one of eight kids born into a Norwegian family living in Minot, North Dakota. My
father was a carpenter who provided for the family but, like many others in the area, we
were poor. But we didn’t realize we were poor. While there was no extra money for
fancy clothes or presents, there was always lots of love. To help make ends meet we
rented out rooms to up to six Minot North Dakota College students. We also hosted a
foreign exchange student, and we still remain friends. Often our family and the students
would gather around the piano to play, listen, or sing.
Christmas was always a special time for our family. Stockings were hung and filled,
usually with a piece of fruit and some nuts. We always got excited when we found an
orange in our stocking. One memorable year my parents accidently put a lemon in one of
my sister’s stocking and she got quite the ribbing. We also had a family tradition each
Christmas Eve of everyone entertaining the rest of the family with their own God-given
talents. It could be reading to the family from the Bible, singing a Christmas song, tap
dancing, telling a joke, or playing a song on the piano. There was always the excitement
of performing for the family and the joy of receiving the blessings of brothers and sisters
giving of themselves. Dinner Christmas Eve was always lutefisk (a dried, preserved
whitefish), lefse (a flat bread), and mash potatoes covered with rich melted butter. At
midnight we went to a Christmas service at our church.
Again, we didn’t have money for fancy presents, but there would be a small present for
everyone under the tree. This could be a scarf, homemade mittens, or socks. There was
seldom a “big” present under the tree for anyone, but one year I dared to expect I might
get something I really wanted. A pair of new ice skates.
Behind our house was the Mouse River, a source of adventures in both the summer and
winter. When the Mouse River froze over it was a great place to go ice skating. I’d
shovel off the snow and make my own ice rink. There I could skate as much as I wanted.
I loved ice skating but there was one problem. My ice skates were men’s, black, handme-down ice-hockey skates. I wished for new women’s white ice skates that I could
glide around the ice on. But we almost never got frivolous presents like that so it
remained only a dream. Then one Christmas season my mother asked me to come
upstairs. Out of a box she pulled the most beautiful white ice-skates I had ever seen. I
was in love with them. Mother asked me to try them on and they fit me perfectly.
Mother said they were for my sister but secretly I knew they were for me.
When Christmas came there was a shoe box wrapped under the tree with my name on it.
I excitedly opened it up only to discover a pair of used white women’s ice skates. I was
crushed but tried to hide my disappointment before I rushed downstairs to cry. Mama
heard me downstairs and asked if I was OK. I made my best effort to hide my
disappointment but it was pretty obvious.
Later I learned that my sister had earned her own money and bought herself the new
skates. My mother had me try them on to see what size would fit me. She had found the
used skates and bought them for me.
When I look back I remember how much fun Christmas was even when we didn’t get a
“big” present. I only remember getting one other big present (a ring with a turquoisecolored stone). And sometimes we don’t get exactly what we want, but it is the love
behind the present that is the real miracle. It is ironic that the Christmas I focused so
much on a “big” present (the ice skates) was the most disappointing. My mother always
said that “If you aren’t happy it’s your own darn fault.” I choose to be happy
remembering my white skates, my wonderful family, and the magic of Christmas in
Minot, North Dakota.
Diane and her family in Minot, North Dakota
James 5:13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him
sing songs of praise.
Diane and Mac McGowan are members of the Bellfountain Community Church and live in Alpine, OR.
Diane plays the piano as part of the worship team at Bellfountain Community Church and is a quilter.
Love at First Bite
Story by Rita and Bob Christensen
Bob and Rita Christensen with Bello
Bob Christensen was serving in Germany as an E4 (Corporal) for the US Army. Rita’s
family rented apartments to US servicemen. Bob’s superior, Sergeant First Class
Anthony (Tony) Trevisono and his family roomed at Rita’s family house. Bob was not
only Tony’s favorite subordinate, but also a frequent visitor at the house. Rita was often
away working but Bob and Rita would eventually collide.
One pleasant warm day Rita was back home sitting in her favorite chair on the porch.
She decided it would be nice to have a cool drink so she went into the kitchen. When she
returned there was a young US serviceman sitting in her chair. That was her chair! She
looked at her German Shepard, Bello, pointed to Bob and commanded, “fass” (bite). Rita
got her chair back.
Most men might be discouraged by such an initial meeting but Bob saw something in the
feisty young German girl. He found out she loved Kandy Korn so he began to bring it to
her when he visited. Just as important, he discovered that Bello could be “bribed” with
raw eggs and ground hamburger. The eager young Bob even found out that Rita’s dad
liked coffee and Cuban cigars so he made it a point to bring those along as well.
Eventually Bob got the nerve up to ask Rita on a date. They visited the beautiful city of
Heidelberg, famous for its university and ancient castle. The date and Kandy Korn must
have gone well because they continued to see more and more of each other. Love
Christmas was coming soon but so was the end of Bob’s tour of duty in Germany. He
was scheduled to return to the United States in January. With this significant deadline
looming, Bob mustered up the courage on Christmas Eve to ask Rita to marry him. She
said yes. There were just a couple obstacles still in their way. First, Bob needed to get
permission from Rita’s dad, and second, he needed to complete the Army paperwork for
marrying a German citizen.
On the first count, Bob wavered. Instead of meeting Rita’s dad and asking his permission
to marry his daughter, Bob asked Rita to do it. Bob pleaded with Rita saying “I don’t
think I can get time off to talk to your dad, can you do it?” Rita’s mom and dad were not
thrilled that there little girl was considering marrying this American, but eventually
agreed. Next there was the Army and government paperwork. Everything had to be
done in triplicate and in both English and German. Despite the extensive and expensive
translations, Bob got his paperwork as soon as possible, but it was not going to be
processed before he was sent back to the US. Bob asked Tony for a 6 month extension of
his tour of duty and somehow Sergeant Trevisono was able to arrange it. The picture
below shows Bob and Rita along with her parents and the Trevisono family on Christmas
1957 in Germany.
Christmas 1957 in Germany. Bob and Rita are at lower left of photo. Rita’s mom
and dad are in the upper right. Sergeant First Class Anthony Trevisono and his
wife are in the upper left and lower right corners with their three children. Bob has
just proposed to Rita.
While Bob had gotten the needed reprieve, it wasn’t smooth sailing to their wedding and
Rita’s coming to America. Eventually the paperwork went through and March 7, 1958
they were joined in a required civil ceremony by the local Bȕrgermeister. A week later
an Army chaplain married them again in a church ceremony. Rita and Bob argue that
going through two weddings within a week helped to cement their marriage, which is
now approaching six decades.
But there was still some uncertainty even after two weddings. Many German girls had
married GIs and gone to America only to return. It was hard to adjust to such a foreign
environment and to be away from family. And Rita didn’t speak English! Just to be safe
Rita brought enough traveler checks with her so that she could buy a plane ticket back to
Germany if she needed to. While Bob was being transported across the Atlantic in a
troop ship, Rita flew to the US on a flight that had three separate emergencies and
extended unexpected stops. These stops delayed her arrival in the US by nearly a full
day, almost derailing her plans to meet Bobs Aunt and Uncle in New York so she could
wait with them for Bob to arrive. But she and Bob eventually got together once again.
Was it love at first bite? Maybe not, but with a little Kandy Korn and raw hamburger
magic Bob was able to win Rita and even her dog, Bello.
Proverbs 31:10 An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.”
Bob and Rita Christensen live between Alpine and Monroe on Alpine Road. Bob and Rita are long-time
members of Bellfountain Community Church and Bob is a past elder.
Story by Dr. George Ice
Sweetie Pie making friends with Kelsey Ice
This story doesn’t start out particularly sweet but it gets better. My parents, George and
Rubye Ice, had just lost their cat, Klicker. Klicker, or formally Klick Klock, was one of
those amazing, confident, loving pets that everyone wants in their lives. When my
parents lived in Redwood City, Klicker had formed an early bond with our dog, Lucky.
When Klicker got in a confrontation with a neighbors cat she would lure the other cat
over the fence into our yard. Once in our yard, Lucky would chase the cat away, giving
both the dog and Klicker great satisfaction. After Lucky died and my parents moved into
the hills above San Carlos, CA Klicker quickly adapted to the brush and hills in their
backyard, becoming the queen of the mountain. I can still picture her patrolling the hill
below my parent’s house for mice and curled up on the couch in the family room. But
Klicker had passed on at a ripe old age after years of love. Then along came Sweetie Pie.
Ilene, my folk’s wonderful, longtime friend, knew they had lost their cat. Her daughter
had just found a stray cat across the San Francisco Bay so she brought it over to San
Carlos, “just to give it a couple days and see if they liked it.” It didn’t seem to be a
particularly good match. My mother and father had a white carpet. This cat had long,
lustrous black fur. My parents were rapidly approaching retirement. Here was a
rambunctious young cat full of energy and spunk. While Klicker had patrolled the hill
below their house, it was a dangerous area for a cat. Coyotes frequented the hill in search
of a meal and cat is on their diet. But the cat purred when held and was friendly and
sweet, although obviously scared from the disorienting hour-long trip across the bay.
They decided to give the cat a chance. Tellingly, they named the cat Sweetie Pie because
it had such a sweet disposition.
It was pure luck that I was visiting my parents when this new cat was “delivered.” Each
December the American Geophysical Union holds its annual Fall Meeting in San
Francisco, CA. This is annually the largest meeting in the world of astronomers,
geologists, hydrologists, physicists, and other geophysicists, attracting as many as tenthousand participants and nearly as many oral and poster presentations. The meeting
afforded me a chance to visit my parents, staying at their home at night, and driving up to
the meeting in San Francisco each morning.
I had arrived early in the Bay Area for the AGU meeting and my mother and I were in the
process of cooking a family-favorite Christmas treat, Aunt Bill’s Candy. Making Aunt
Bill’s Candy is a tricky process, involving the caramelizing of milk and sugar and
cooking the candy for just the right amount of time. Right in the middle of this process,
Ilene showed up with the cat. After Ilene left we let the cat wander the house to get use
to it while we completed the making of the candy. At some point while I was stirring the
hot thick gooey candy I smelled something that wasn’t quite right. When we went to
investigate we found that the new cat had pooped in the middle of the living room (on the
white carpet). My parents were generous enough to recognize that the cat had not
learned where everything was yet, including its cat box. The cat never had another
accident in the house, but my enjoyment of Aunt Bill’s Candy was forever compromised
by this experience.
Aunt Bill’s Candy
Ingredients: 3 pints white sugar, 1 pint whole milk or cream, ¼ lbs butter, ¼ tsp soda, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 lbs
Directions: Pour 1 pint sugar into a heavy aluminum or iron skillet and place over low fire. Begin stirring
with a wooden spoon and keep the sugar moving so it doesn’t scorch at all. It will take almost half an hour
to melt the sugar and at no time let it smoke or cook so fast that it turns dark. It should be about the color
of light brown sugar syrup. As soon as you have the sugar started to heat in the skillet, pour the remaining
two pints of sugar together with the milk or cream into a deep kettle and set it over low heat to cook slowly
(while the other sugar is melting in the skillet). As soon as all the sugar is melted in the skillet begin
pouring it into the kettle of bubbling milk and sugar keeping the kettle on very low heat and stirring
constantly. The real secret is to pour a very fine stream of the melted sugar from the skillet into the kettle
when the melted sugar will form a firm ball in cold water. Once all the sugar has been mixed in the kettle,
turn out the fire and add soda, stirring vigorously. Add the butter then let it set for 20 minutes. Add the
vanilla and use a wood spoon to beat the mixture until it is dull. Add the nuts and put the mixture in a pan.
When the candy has cooled, cut and wrap individual pieces in wax paper.
From the kitchen of Rubye Ice
The following day I made my trip up to San Francisco to attend the AGU meeting. My
mother had a bridge game arranged with some friends and needed to drive there, but there
was a problem. The cat was loose in the house and if they opened the garage door the cat
could escape. In my parent’s house the garage is downstairs with a steep set of stairs
leading up to the main floor. My dad assured my mother that when they opened the door
he would be at the entrance to catch the cat should it try to escape. The decision was
made to open the garage door so my mom could go to her bridge game. The garage door
opened, and my mother began backing out her car. My father stood on patrol at the
garage entrance for the cat. Suddenly a black blur raced past him into the open. Despite
his good intentions there was no way my father could possible catch the meteoric cat as it
raced out the garage door and into freedom.
There is nothing as demoralizing to a man as assuring his wife that he can help her and
then watching helplessly as his good intentions go wrong. But there was no escaping the
fact that the cat was gone. Here was a cat that was not familiar with the area and was
now loose outside where coyotes and even mountain lions roam. There were the obvious
fears that the cat would try to somehow find its way back across the bay. My father
walked the streets and hills calling and looking for the cat. He visited with neighbors.
He went out again and again, but no cat.
When I came home that evening from the AGU meeting there was a pall over the house.
The new cat was lost. Despite all efforts there seemed to be little hope of finding the cat.
The next day my dad repeated his efforts to find the cat, hoping it was in the
neighborhood but it was nowhere to be found. Hope faded. There was the guilt of a
mistake that seemed un-repairable.
In the middle of the night the next evening I awoke to a commotion at the front door. My
mother had heard something at the door and dad had gone out to investigate. Outside he
found Sweetie Pie meowing in the shrubs next to the entry way. The cat was hungry and
afraid but it came to my dad. He quickly brought her in and shut the door. Sweetie Pie
Sweetie Pie back in the house after escaping during the Christmas Holiday
Sweetie Pie turned out to be a loyal and loving cat. As my father’s health faded he began
to take afternoon naps in his bedroom. Sweetie Pie would always accompany him as my
dad listened to “books on tape.” There in the bedroom Sweetie Pie would curl up by my
dad and they would sleep together for hours. My dad’s snoring didn’t seem to faze
Sweetie Pie in the least. They were buddies.
Some friends once gave my wife and me a door mat with the saying, “Yellow Labrador
retrievers are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy in our homes.” The same
can be said for every dog, cat, and other pet that brings joy to a household. Sweetie Pie
didn’t live too much longer after my father died. She came down with feline diabetes and
my mother couldn’t administer the shots Sweetie Pie needed. But I’ll always remember
this cat that had such a rocky start but was a loyal companion for my parents and ended
up being every bit as sweet as her name.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrated his love for us in this: While we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.
George Ice and his wife Becky live with their irrepressible yellow Labrador retriever, Peanut, and
enormous but friendly cat, Mr. Gray.
Peanut and Mr. Gray share some space
The following song is adapted from the Muppet’s version of “The Cat Came Back.” It
substitutes the names of Bob and Rita Christensen who are dedicated animal lovers (now
with their beloved cat, Lucy, see also Love at First Bite) and then adds the stanza about
George and Rubye Ice’s cat and its misadventures leaving the house.
Muppet’s Cat Came Back Lyrics Modified with Addition
Bob and Rita had a cat that Bob said they couldn’t keep
So Rita put her up for sale at a price she thought was cheap
She took her to a neighbor to ask him for advice
He said, “Leave the kitty here. She can help me with the mice.”
(Chorus) But the cat came back, she wouldn’t stay away
She was sitting on the porch the very next day
The cat came back, she didn’t want to roam
The very next day it was Home, Sweet Home.
Then Rita met a man who was driving way out West
He would take the cat along as a special honored guest
The steering wheel was wobbly, he drove into a tree
The car was just a total wreck as anyone could see
So Rita bought a gun from the Human Cannonball
Bob put the cat inside with Tri-Nitro Toluol
When he pulled the trigger, the cannon made a roar
The neighbors all surrendered ‘cause they thought it was a war
Then Rita gave the cat to a man who had a bomb
When he took the cat away, she was acting cool and calm
And then the bomb exploded, it made an awful sound
They searched and searched for ages but the man was never found
George and Rubye had a cat that was brand new to their house
She was sweet and very loving to George and to his spouse
But while backing out the car the cat ran out the door
They thought that she was gone they wouldn’t see her any more
The Christmas Chores Caper
Story by Barbara “Barb” and Bruce Ashenbrenner
‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was
stirring, not even a mouse; the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes
that St. Nicholas soon would be there. The children were nestled, all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads; and mama in her kerchief and I in my
cap, had just settled down for a long winters nap; when out on the lawn there arose such
a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter? From Clement Clarke
Moore’s The Night Before Christmas.
I awoke with a start! It was 4:00 A.M. on Christmas morning, 1999. I had heard a
strange noise outside. There it was again! It was someone trying to start the 4-wheeler in
our barn! “Who would be wanting to steal our 4-wheeler on Christmas morning,” I
thought in those few split seconds of wakefulness.
We live on a small farm and were raising Holstein dairy heifer calves at the time. We
had over 150 calves on milk in calf hutches in the field. Every morning and every night,
we took bottles of milk to the calves using our 4-wheeler and small trailer to haul them
out. We had part time help, but they weren’t expected to come to feed calves on
“Bruce…. Bruce… wake up. Someone is in the barn stealing our 4-wheeler,” I said in a
panicked voice. Bruce sat up and heard the noise as well. Away to the window we flew
like a flash, so to speak, and there were our two children, Shiann (age 12) and Stuart
(almost 10) out in the cold, with the bottle cart full of bottles. “I thought you knew how
to start this thing”, we heard Shiann lament to her younger brother. “I do. I don’t know
why it won’t start,” he replied with frustration.
“Hey, you two.” Shiann looked out from the barn. There was her Dad, standing at the
front door in his underwear holding a baseball bat. “What are you guys doing?” he
We have had livestock since the kids were young, and they were always fed on Christmas
morning before we began our Christmas present opening. We would barricade the kids
from access to the Christmas tree, and they had to stay in their rooms and hallway until
we came in from doing the chores. Of course, they would be calling from their windows,
“Hurry, Dad!” I was always excited about Christmas too, so I would get into the house
first while Bruce finished the clean up. Then he would s-l-o-w-l-y walk to the house
from the barn, petting the dog and playing with the cats on the way. The kids would be
yelling from their bedrooms… “Come on, Dad, hurry!”
This year they thought they would surprise us. They had talked to our employee on the
side and asked her exactly where all the bottles should go, as this changed weekly. They
had a little map of the calf domes in the field and had it all planned out. Christmas Eve,
they got all of their chore clothes ready. They set their alarms for 3:00 A.M. They knew
I was a light sleeper and they would never make it through the kitchen without me
hearing them, so Stuart snuck into Shiann’s room. They popped out the window screen,
and walked in their socks to the garage to get their chore jackets and boots.
The Christmas Chores Caper Culprits: Shiann and Stuart
They had made all of the milk and filled all of the bottles, fed the 25 newborn and
youngest calves in the barn, gave grain and hay to all of the sheep and the weaned calves
before attempting to start the 4-wheeler. They had never tried to start it that early and
when it was that cold, and did not know to use the choke!
Bruce went out and they hurriedly fed the hungry, and somewhat surprised, calves.
Arriving back in the house, they all jumped into our bed with their freezing cold hands
and feet, giggling and expounding on their adventure.
We had our Christmas morning earlier that year, with lots of hot chocolate and a story to
tell. It was one of the best Christmas presents ever!
Ephesians 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your
father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well
with you, and that you may live long on the earth. And fathers, do not provoke your
children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Barb Ashenbrenner is a member of the Bellfountain Community Church worship team. Her husband,
Bruce, is an elder at the Church.
My Forever Friend
Story by Cristen Sullivan
This story begins 21 years ago when I was just beginning my journey into my teenage
years. I am one of six children and often felt out of place and different. I Was loved but
an easy target for being teased as I loved things not typical of a child. I loved school and
anything to do with books or learning. I loved to please my parents. I loved Kenny G. I
loved cooking and sewing. I loved playing cards and puzzles. I wore glasses. I was
gullible and naive. I was a tomboy and didn't relate to anything girly. I was different.
We grew up on 5 acres and always had a menagerie of critters, mostly horses. The horses
were mostly my older sisters’ passion and she got the family started in them but they
were definitely a family affair. My parents were 4H leaders and we always had 4-8
horses most of my childhood. I liked the horses and even had my own but I didn't excel
at them like my sister did and preferred doing school work or playing baseball or football
in our pastures with my youngest brother.
My older brother and sister each had a dog and I longed for a special friend of my own
from the moment they got their puppies. They named them Kenzie and Willie after the
McKenzie and Willamette rivers and they quickly became part of the family. A few
years later, one spring afternoon we had a family come look at a horse we had for sale
and they said that they would pay the full price for the horse if we took the two puppies
that were in the back of their truck. My parents didn't even want us looking in the truck
but it was too late for that. Two darling black fluff balls were soon staring at the faces of
six small children. Needless to say, my parents couldn't say no even though they knew
they should. We now had 4 dogs and my Dad was not impressed.
Bear and Bandit were soon their names and I had laid claim on Bandit. But there was a
problem. These were going to be big dogs and Dad said they had to live outside. I tried
working with Bandit and training him but he was a lot of dog for me being only 12, and
they were hyper puppies. I remember being disappointed but not saying anything
because I had so badly wanted these puppies. What I really wanted though was a dog
like Kenzie or Willie who were like shadows to my brother and sister. They followed
them everywhere, slept on their beds, kept their secrets, and were a shoulder to cry on.
Soon spring turned to fall and I had given up on the idea of an inside dog of my own. I
started the 7th grade and was more out of place than ever. I still had short hair, didn’t
have any friends, and certainly didn’t wear the right clothes. I remember just trying to fit
in enough to make it through each day with minimal ridicule. I was always in the top of
my class academically and loved school, but felt like I could be friends with my teachers
more than my peers. My older sister on the other hand was definitely part of the “in
crowd” and I always looked up to her as someone I wanted to be like. She always had
lots of friends and soon boyfriends. But I never really felt like she even noticed me or
my interests. I thought she didn’t really pay any attention to me now that she could drive
and had a boyfriend. What I didn’t realize was that she was very aware of what I was
feeling. My older sister, who didn't share any interests with me, understood what I
needed and longed for.
Bear and Bandit were turning into pretty good albeit big and goofy family dogs. I
dressed Bandit up as a carousel animal in our local parade and he and I were starting to
work as a team. My brother Kevin had claimed Bear as his and we took turns taking care
of them. At some point we made a large kennel for them as the Oregon rain produced
mud covered dogs who liked to jump on everyone and everything. I didn't enjoy taking
care of them in the winter and sort of regretted even wanting them that day they were
presented to us. They were not what I was really wanting. They were large and
awkward and tried to constantly escape their kennel when I would feed them. Bless our
neighbors as Bear and Bandit frequented their place quite often on their joy runs.
Being a large family of 8, we didn’t ever have much money but my parents always made
us feel special and loved. Christmas time was a great example of this. We had several
traditions that always made the holiday something to remember. The first was our
stockings that could be opened as soon as we woke up and were stuffed full of treasures.
My Mom and Dad still give each of us kids, our spouses and our kids stockings every
Christmas. I look forward to them every year! Once Mom and Dad were up we would
have a breakfast of overnight French toast and a sausage and egg bake. Then we would
open a few small presents in the house. All of us had our own wrapping paper so we
knew whose presents were whose and we would open them up as a family. Then we
would get to go out to the barn, which was usually decorated with a large bow, and each
of us kids would have one large special present. A few of my memorable presents were
bikes, a snowboard, a horse bridle, and a huge stuffed teddy bear. So much thought went
into each gift and we were always so excited to see what awaited us.
Never in my wildest dreams could I believe what awaited me on that Christmas morning.
My parents had gotten me my own puppy! Not only that but they got this puppy because
my older sister knew that I needed her. My older sister who I thought didn’t even notice
me had spent the past 2 weeks hiding this sweet little puppy in our house so I could be
surprised on Christmas morning. And surprised I was! We already had 5 dogs. Never
would I have imagined that my parents would let me have a dog to call my own and more
importantly a dog who called me her own. I was head over heels in love with this pot
bellied little puppy from the moment I saw her.
Kodi soon became the companion that I had longed for; she never strayed far from my
side. My freshman year of High School, I had a writing assignment about my best friend.
Of course, I wrote about Kodi.
Kodi was truly a Christmas miracle; looking back it still makes no sense that my parents
would add a 6th dog on top of 6 children! But they knew that I needed her and got her for
me anyways. Kodi saw me through some of the toughest seasons of my life. She was
always there for me and instantly calmed me if I was stressed or anxious. She got me
through middle school where I was constantly bullied and ridiculed. She got me through
losing a family friend that was like a brother to my siblings and me. She got me through
the shooting that took place at my High School and the loss of safety and security that
came with that. She stayed by my side while I was in bed for a month with mono. She
survived our family house fire and moved into town with me in an apartment while our
house was being rebuilt and I was going to the U of O. (We both decided that city living
was not for us!) She and I shared our own little cottage on my sisters’ property after
College. And she stayed by my side all of the years that I spent depressed and alone as a
20 something girl now wanting a man to share my life with. If I didn’t have her to come
home to all of those years I really don’t know if I would be where I am today.
I also believe that God sends us what we need when we need it. I spent so many years in
fear of losing Kodi because she was so special to me. When I met Jesse, some of that
fear faded as I knew I wouldn’t be alone when I lost her. But when you have a best
friend for that many years that got you through so many life situations, you know it still
won’t be easy. After Jesse and I were married and decided to start a family I really
started to appreciate exactly when Kodi entered my life and, for the first time, when she
would exit my life. Kodi tolerated people other than me but small kids made her very
nervous. She couldn’t predict their behavior and would nip at their heels trying to herd
them. I knew that Kodi was destined for a specific time in my life and I would soon have
to transition to life without her. GracieAnne was born in November of 2009 and Kodi
departed in February 2010. I couldn’t have planned a more perfect time for her to leave
me than when she did, after my first child was born but before that child got very active.
I will never forget her and love that my girls have a “Kodi” stuffed animal that keeps her
memory alive in our family.
1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God.
Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.
Cristen and Jesse Sullivan are members of Bellfountain Community Church and live in nearby Alpine on
Bellfountain Road. Cristen is active in the church and Jesse is a member of the worship team.
The Toy Ferris Wheel
Story by Jeri Johnson
It was gone! The wonderful, beautiful, tin, hand-cranked toy Ferris wheel was gone. I
had dream about having it for my very own. Now it was gone!
My family wasn’t desperately poor but we weren’t rich either. We had plenty to eat and
we were always warm, but there wasn’t a lot left for frills or expense toys. I lived with
my parents and big brother in Los Angeles, CA. I was one of those children that come a
little later to a family, in fact, 10-years after my brother. But despite our age difference
he was a wonderful, protective brother.
Near our house there was a mom and pop five and dime store2 that we visited three or
four time as week. It was owned by a nice Japanese-American family with whom my
parents were friends. While everyone else was busy looking at hardware, candy, or
kitchen utensils, I was in the toy aisle visiting the beautiful toy Ferris wheel. It was tin,
white with an intricate blue design, more than a foot tall, and had a key that could be
cranked to make the Ferris wheel turn. Each seat had a piece of candy neatly wrapped in
cellophane. I loved the Ferris wheel and enjoyed visiting it each time we went to the
I told my mother the Ferris wheel is what I wanted for my Christmas present. She told
me, “I don’t think Santa can make that Ferris wheel so you shouldn’t expect to get it for
Christmas.” There was always some fear each time I visited the store. Would the Ferris
wheel still be on the shelf? Each visit the Ferris wheel was still there. I could just stare
at it for hours. Then one visit near Christmas I was stunned to find that the Ferris wheel
was gone. Could it have been moved? Was it somewhere else in the store? Each time I
went to the store I was hoping to see it had returned, but it was gone.
5&10 Stores, for those too young to remember them, were the equivalent of a cross between today’s
dollar store and general store. Many of these “five and dime” stores had counters where you could get a
“blue plate special” or a milkshake.
I was distraught and wailed to my mom, “the Ferris wheel is gone.” My mother
comforted me, saying, “Don’t be disappointed. Some other little boy or girl is getting the
Ferris wheel for Christmas.” Maybe I should have been comforted but sometimes it’s
hard when you’re a child and you have a dream that now someone else is getting for their
Christmas. But there was no getting around it. The Ferris wheel was gone and I resigned
myself to no longer seeing it at the store.
Our family opened our Christmas presents on Christmas morning. Dad would go under
the tree and distribute presents to everyone. One of the presents under the tree was a big
wrapped box for me. When I opened it up I found the toy Ferris wheel! But this present
wasn’t from Santa; it was from my brother.
My mom had let my brother know that my heart was set on getting the toy Ferris wheel.
He worked at a local bowling alley and had saved up enough money to buy the Ferris
wheel for me. My brother had given me my dream. Later that day he drove me to San
Gabriel for pony rides. Of course Saint Gabriel is a messenger sent from God and He
showed me his love through my brother this most memorable Christmas. My brother is
gone now but I will always remember this special kindness to his little sister and I look
forward to thanking him in person someday.
Luke 11:13 “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children how
much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Jeri and Dan Johnson live on Alpine Road near Glenbrook, with their boarder collie Ziva. Dan has
participated with the Bellfountain Community Church Helping Hand crew to serve neighbors but he and
Jeri are devout Catholics.
My Best Christmas Gift Ever!
By Greg Atkinson
I grew up on a farm in the Willamette Valley of Oregon with my mom and dad and 2
brothers. Those days are a big part of who I am today and what I have done with my life.
It is still one of the most treasured and wonderful periods of my life.
My parents were teachers and then an administrator in nearby schools during most of the
year but we always were working around the farm. Chores included feeding and
watering the animals, cleaning the stalls, and harvesting from our garden and the fruit and
nut trees. We were all especially busy during the summer months when school was out
because of the family haying business. This was one of my favorite times of the year
because we were working and playing hard together!
But my other “favorite” time of year was the Christmas season. Of course we still had to
do our work chores daily on the farm and it was wetter and colder, but I loved all the
festivities of Christmas time. There were the lights, the special music, happy people,
cookies, the Christmas tree decorating, and the school-break (especially long and
wonderful when it snowed!). Christmas also meant going to church and celebrating
Jesus’ coming to earth and His birth as a child in a manger. Oh, and of course my
favorite part of Christmas was the getting and giving of gifts from and to one another
Sometimes these gifts were small and homemade but they were always special and
cherished by all. There were the “big” gifts like a special sweater, a pair of boots, or even
a puppy or a bike! I still can remember many of these times and gifts more than 40 years
later. But the Christmas I remember the most and have celebrated every year since is
when I was 8 years old and I received my best gift ever!
It was on Christmas Eve and, as usual, we had gone to church where we sang many
Christmas hymns and had a short message from the Bible retelling the coming of Jesus
into our world as a child. But this time the Christmas story was different. This time God
spoke to me personally and opened up my heart to really see and know that He came to
give me His gift of Himself!
It was that night on December 24th I asked my parents to pray with me and I knelt with
my mom and dad at their bed and received Jesus’ gift of forgiveness and everlasting life!
And on that night Jesus came into my life and gave me a new heart and a personal
relationship with Him forever. This was when I received My Best Christmas Gift Ever!
It always will be!
Ever since that night this Christmas Gift has defined my life and what it is all about. I’ve
been a college wrestler, a husband and father, a youth minister in Germany, a pastor in
Guam, and now the manager of a fitness center. But in everything I do I try to follow
Jesus’ new commandment, John 13:34 “So now I am giving you a new commandment:
Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” I celebrate
every Christmas thanking God for His Best Christmas Gift to me. I thank Him also for
my parents who shared His message with me at home and took me to a church that told
this message from the Bible about the real meaning of Christmas. I hope you will accept
God’s Best Gift to you too!
The Atkinson Brothers: Older brother Ken, younger brother Steve, and Greg
John 3:16-17 For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, that
everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son
into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.
Greg Atkinson is the manager of the Sunset SNAP Fitness Center in Corvallis, OR. Several Bellfountain
Community Church members who workout at SNAP include the McGowans, Ices, and Smiths.
The Best Christmas Present Ever
Story by Gene Ice
As brother George has said, Christmas was always a special time at the Ice house (See
Introduction). Father and mother’s firm belief in Christmas magic was infectious.
Everyone got into the spirit of the season with elaborate cleaning and decorating of the
house, cooking of Christmas treats and a frenzied search for just the right Christmas gifts
for parents and brother. George (I called him Gary because our father’s name was
George) and I had a tradition of shopping at the Woolworths for a plastic model for each
other. We were particularly fond of aircraft carrier models, as we had spent hours reading
about the exploits of our father and his shipmates on board the U.S.S. Hancock during the
Second World War. We would circle the shelves with plastic models and choose one
while our sibling was choosing another one for us on the other side. We would then pool
resources to find a gift for father and mother. Battery powered shoe polishers were a
favorite for Dad and the clerks at the local women’s wear store always seemed to know a
scarf or costume jewelry necklace that we could afford for our mom. Before gift
shopping however, came the decorating and the candy making. Mom organized the candy
making with brother Gary and I as reluctant assistant chefs and eager taste testers, while
father provided the muscle for stirring the thick candy as it cooled.
As we grew older, Gary and I took charge of decorating the outside of the house and our
efforts bordered on the possessed. Our father gave us a start with a large wooden
snowman that we propped up in the middle of our front yard. Other decorations included
a reindeer with a bright red light bulb nose. Later, Gary and I found abandon carpet rolls
that we wrapped with red and white plastic to make gigantic candy canes for the corners
of our porch. We then circled the roof with lights. One year we hand carved white foam
scavenged from a dumpster to make icicles that we attached to our gutters. The realistic
icicles were incredibly exotic in the San Francisco Bay Area where it only snowed once
during our childhood. The house really looked like it had been transformed into a Santa’s
village until a particularly windy evening spread our handy work across the
neighborhood. Undaunted, we re-hung the icicles until we got a nearly windproof system
Christmas 1976 however, I knew would be different. My parents had moved to a new
house, my brother was married and I was in love. I had met Rosalyn several years earlier,
but at the time she had a boyfriend. Indeed her boy friend was a fellow kayaker and I
somehow thought it would break a kayaker code to ask Roz out. Nevertheless, I was
mesmerized by her and was uncharacteristically tongue tied when near her. Then, I
learned that Rosalyn had joined the Peace Corp. This news told me that maybe Roz and
her boyfriend were not that close and gave me the nudge to ask her out for a date before
she disappeared from my life. Screwing up the courage to ask her out proved tough for
me, but eventually I blurted out a somewhat garbled invitation to a movie and dinner at a
favorite pizza place. Roz eyed me suspiciously thinking that I had invited her to a
pornographic movie, but I quickly explained that the movie entitled “Journey to the
ragged- not raw- edge” was not a Fellini flick, but rather a 16 mm video shot by local
canoeists of their adventures on the northern lakes of Canada. Having cleared up this
embarrassing hurdle, we set the date and things moved very quickly from there. The two
months before her Peace Corp assignment were incredible. Now however, Roz was off
on her assignment to Chile, and despite a letter every day, it was not the same as being
with her. I longed to see Roz and wanted to share a tiny part of her adventures in Chile.
Over months of letters and despite a nearly two-week delay in correspondence, we
decided that I would visit over my Christmas break. This would be exciting for me, as I
had never traveled to South America, let alone a country run by a tyrannical dictator!
Augusto Pinochet, Dictator of Chile from 1973-1990 and Commander-in-chief of the
Chilean Army till 1998
I knew this was something I needed to do, but dreaded missing Christmas with my
parents. My parents were naturally disappointed but they supported my decision and were
very curious about my reasons for abandoning family tradition. I went so far as to send
them a cassette tape that basically told them that Roz was the girl for me, and that I
needed to spend some time with her during her Peace Corp appointment. They saved that
tape and gave it to me years later.
As a way of trying to spend a little holiday time with my parents, I arranged to meet them
at the San Francisco airport during a long multi-hour layover I had before flying to
Florida and then on to South America. I also planned to spend several days with them on
my return. When I arrived at the San Francisco airport, my mom met me with the news
that dad had suffered another heart attack. He was in the hospital but was adamant that I
should continue my trip. He insisted that I should not attempt to visit him during my
layover. I knew that this meant he was probably in such bad shape, that he didn’t want
me to see him and feared that one look would convince me to stay so I could spend some
last hours with him. My mom practically pushed me onto the airplane and was equally
insistent that I continue with my plans. With a heavy heart and knowing that I would
probably not see my father again, I boarded the plane and headed to South America. I
said a fervent silent prayer for my father, but I must admit I had but a mustard seed of
My father, George Ice, shown here at the Heart Center for Sequoia Hospital
celebrating the center’s One Year Anniversary. George was the Heart Center’s first
patient and always enjoyed a good hug from a nurse.
In those days, communication was primitive from where Roz was serving in the Atacama
Desert, and I knew with her location and with our extensive travel plans, I would have no
contact with home for the duration of my two weeks in Chile. My trip to Chile was
everything I had hoped for and more. It was incredibly exotic to experience Christmas in
the Southern hemisphere where Christmas trees wilted in the heat, and vendors called out
on Christmas morning hawking fresh bread from the street. I saw a graveyard of steam
locomotives outside Santiago, traveled to see the great evergreen forests of Southern
Chile and spent time in the driest desert in the world- where no rain has ever been
recorded. Roz and I ran from an angry mob of Chileans who were mad at Americans for
criticizing the Chilean dictatorship and dined on exotic dishes made with fresh food from
the Pacific Ocean and local farms. I simply had amazing adventures, and what awaited
me when I returned faded from my consciousness.
She married me! We passed our 35th wedding anniversary two years ago!
Then, as I began my return trip, I began to dread the news I would receive. I was
ashamed and feeling guilty for having had such a good time and simply couldn’t bring
myself to call my parents house until I was back in the San Francisco Airport. With
trembling hands I dialed the familiar family phone number. The voice on the end of the
phone left me speechless and eternally grateful. It was my father! He cheerfully asked if I
wanted to be picked up, which I definitely did. He acted like there was nothing unusual at
all. Father had made another of his miraculous recoveries and seemed in good spirits and
quite pleased that I was back. What an incredible turn of events. My gratitude and relief
was beyond words. I was and continue to be completely overwhelmed by this unexpected
gift of my father’s life. It was the greatest Christmas present ever. Later, when my father
died on Christmas Eve, I was comforted by the unexpected additional years we had with
father. These were years when he got to meet his grandchildren and continued the Ice
family traditions of joy for the unexpected miracles of Christmas.
Isaiah 12:3 As fresh water brings joy to the thirsty, so God's people rejoice when he
Gene Ice is a retired Corporate Fellow of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and lives in Oak Ridge
Tennessee. He and wife Rosalyn are elders in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., and have now been married
for more than 36 years. They have a son Gary Scott, and a daughter Kelsey who lives in Salem Oregon not
far from her beloved Uncle George Gary.