Dear IARBC Family,
Pastor Cletis Leverett knocked on our door in Ketchikan, Alaska over 36 years ago. I was a civil engineer at the time and had been working for a contractor on a hydroelectric powerhouse project along the Columbia River in Washington State for a couple of years. The company I worked for won the bid for a hydroelectric powerhouse project in Ketchikan so we were transferred there and joined the rest of the team. I was living my dream of building things…big things… as I had wanted to be an engineer since I was a young boy. The project site was a relatively short distance from Ketchikan, but it was a remote site accessible only by floatplane or boat. Sandy & I initially lived in Ketchikan and I commuted to the project site each day by floatplane. Angela was about 2 years old and Danny was born soon after we arrived in Ketchikan. We were young parents, early in my career as an engineer, and we were loving this fantastic adventure. But God was using these things, and of course, people to draw us to Himself. As very self-righteous, devoted, unsaved Lutherans, we did not understand the gospel. But God, in His grace, did give us a respect for his Word. He caused us to question what we believed and he put people into our lives who, like Philip, joined themselves to our chariot. We are convinced that God sent them to us as part of His plan to draw us to Christ for salvation.
There had been a born-again couple in our Lutheran church in Washington (they eventually left for an evangelical church) who took an interest in us. They invited us to do a Bible study with them outside of church. Though we had never heard of such a thing, we agreed to meet with them. We studied the Book of Romans using Warren Wiersbe’s book “Be Right”. We were so ignorant of spiritual things and Biblical Christianity that we thought the magazine “Moody Monthly” was a psychology magazine. But God was drawing us and we began to read. After reading the first five chapters of Romans we decided that because infant baptism (sprinkling) was nowhere to be found, we would never baptize any of our future children. We thank God for this couple. They loved us, took us into the Word, and wanted us to come to Christ. But even though they meant well, they did not ask if we understood the gospel, or if we wanted to trust Christ, but instead hoped we would just get it. We didn’t, at least not yet. We were open, searching, but a little confused about what all of this meant and about what to do next.
God took care of that and moved us to Ketchikan. Shortly after getting settled into our home we started attending the only Lutheran church in town. We had always believed that church was important so it was not anything new for us to start looking. But this time it was different. We attended the church, but came away empty and unsatisfied. Having been generational Lutherans, and pretty proud of it, this was huge. The church that had always been a major part of our lives was now an incredible disappointment and it was the only one of its kind in town. Growing up in Bloomington, Minnesota, there were so many Lutheran churches to choose from that if you did not care for one you would have plenty of others to choose from. That was not the case in Ketchikan. There was one, and just one, of pretty much everything. We had no idea what to do.
It was just a matter of days before I came home from work, and found that something very interesting had happened that day. Sandy greeted me, gave me a hug and a kiss, and told me that a Baptist pastor had knocked on our door that day. He was out inviting people to send their children to VBS. As Angela was only 22 months old he instead invited us to church…a Baptist church. We were both quite proud of our Lutheran heritage and always felt that we were superior to Catholics as we were “reformed”. We had also had the impression that Baptists were radical, Bible thumping know-it-alls. But God does amazing things in the heart when He is drawing people to His Son. Both of us were actually interested in this pastor’s invitation. I feared what my mother would think if she found out, but was willing to risk it as she was thousands of miles away and perhaps would never know. Sandy told me that this Baptist preacher had a kind disposition…a habit of knocking on doors…and that he had a raspy, but sweet, voice. His name was Cletis Leverett. This divine encounter was really no different than the one in Acts 8 between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. God was drawing the Ethiopian to Himself. This man was searching and reading the Scriptures, yet needing someone to guide him. God sent Philip to join himself to his chariot and the Ethiopian came to Christ. We were not saved right away, but Pastor Cletis Leverett was instrumental in our coming to Christ and our call to the ministry. You never forget the people God used to bring you the gospel. To this day we thank God for these people. There were several people over several years. But Pastor Cletis Leverett and his wife, Doris, will always be special to us.
Pastor Leverett went home to be with the Lord 17 years ago and Doris joined him in heaven a week and a half ago. I would guess it was a sweet reunion with one another in the presence of Christ; the one they both so faithfully served for decades. After pastoring in Kentucky, the Leveretts became career missionaries with Baptist Mid-Missions serving in Kodiak, Alaska, as a missionary evangelist, and as station supply in several places including Ketchikan.
We made the drive to Bunker Hill, Illinois last weekend for Doris’s funeral. Berean Baptist Church of Bunker Hill had been their sending church from the very start. Pastor & Doris had always spoken glowingly about Bunker Hill and the dear church family that had sent and supported them for so many years of ministry. It was a joy to meet the people there and see their love for the Leveretts. It was a joy to tell them “thank you” for sending the Leveretts and that, in God’s providence, there was a day when this Baptist preacher knocked on our door in Ketchikan, Alaska. I can hardly contain the tears even as I write to you today. God is so good.
The funeral was a wonderful tribute to the Leveretts and to the Savior they loved and served. It was also a time to be challenged about our responsibility to carry on the legacy of a life of faithful service. It was an occasion to see the Leverett children again and reflect on the life and ministry of their parents. It was an opportunity to see friends in ministry and to rejoice in the wonderful fellowship and bond we have in Christ with so many people. We met Jeff Warix, Senior pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Bunker Hill, and his wife, Debbie. Sandy, due to her role as the Dean of Women at Faith, got to bring greetings from their daughter who is currently an RA at FBBC. We were delighted to see Ryan Witt, Assistant/Youth Pastor, and his wife, Darcy (Burman) as well. Both are FBBC grads and have been at BBC in Bunker Hill for a good number of years. The fellowship was sweet.
I had planned to share a little about the Leveretts and our trip to Bunker Hill, and then move on to other things, but those things will have to wait until another time. I trust that you have been encouraged and will praise Him through this time of reflecting on His mercy and grace.
I thank the Lord…
That God provided salvation through Christ.
That God, in His mercy and grace, draws people to Himself.
That God uses people to bring us the good news of the gospel.
That, by the grace of God, Sandy and I came to Christ many years ago.
That God radically transforms those who trust Him and uses them to serve Him faithfully.
That God raises up people and churches to send laborers into the harvest fields of the world.
That we enjoy true fellowship with other believers because of our common bond in Christ.
That God is still sending us into the lives of others with the gospel.
And that God is still saving people through the power of the gospel.
To Him be all the praise and glory!
Tim & Sandy
“Because of your partnership in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5)