Members in Action
This Will Change Your Life Forever
This is what you need to do,” Mary Paulsen told me back in 1984. It was my first invitation to become involved in ASI. Mary was the chapter president of ASI Northwest and had been active in ASI for quite a while. My wife, Lucille, and I attended our first ASI chapter meeting, and I was hooked. I owned an insurance agency in Boise, Idaho, so I joined as an organizational member and have been an ASI member ever since.
In 1985, we attended the ASI National Convention in Big Sky, Montana. By that time, they’d made me president of ASI Northwest. I had a heart attack in 1986, but we never missed an ASI meeting after that, national or local, until October of 2001 when Lucille had kidney failure and had to be put on dialysis.
In March of 2002, Lucille had two strokes, four days apart. She was paralyzed on her left side and was in a nursing home for four years from that point on. I went to the nursing home twice a day to take care of her dialysis.
When she passed away on May 24, 2006, I was rather lost. We’d been together since we were teenagers. We’d attended Gem State Academy together and gotten married soon after I returned from military service after being drafted during my senior year.
I decided to go to the ASI International Convention that August in Dallas, Texas. I got there, checked in, and headed over to look at the exhibits. The first one I came to was ShareHim. Harold Kehney, who had worked with me in the ASI Northwest chapter, grabbed me by the arm and said, “Irwin, this is just for you!”
“Harold, I don’t do that,” I replied. “I’ll pay for someone else to go who can’t afford to, but I don’t do that.”
“No!” he insisted. “That’s not what I said. This will change your life forever!”
“I may need my life changed forever,” I said, “but I don’t do that.” And then I walked away.
That was on Wednesday. I never went near that booth again until ASI was over and I was headed home. Then in November, as I was shaving one morning, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Irwin, you coward! If God can use fishermen, He can surely use an insurance salesman!”
So I promised myself I’d call Harold when I got to the office, but I didn’t reach him because he was out of the country. Two days later, he called me back.
“Irwin,” he said, “you called?”
“Yeah, Harold, tell me more about ShareHim.”
Before I got off the phone I was headed to Romania to preach my first ShareHim series.
Right after I got back from Romania, I got a call from Kenneth Mittleider, a vice president at the General Conference. We’d been in the first and second grades together.
“Irwin, how was Romania?”
“It was good!” I said.
“I’m so glad to hear that,” he replied,” because I’m going to Madagascar, and I need another speaker. Check with your kids and call me back today.”
By that time I was semi-retired. My son, Gary, and daughter, Jana, were working with me full-time in my insurance agency. They held down the fort whenever I needed to be gone. I talked to them, called Kenneth back, and soon was on my way to Madagascar.
When I left the Boise airport, they didn’t weigh my suitcase. They just pushed it right on through. But when I got to Atlanta, they weighed it because I was going overseas. It was 59 pounds—9 pounds overweight.
The ticket agent said, “I have to charge you $90 for those extra 9 pounds.”
“But I’m going on a mission trip,” I pleaded.
She looked at me, looked at my suitcase, and said, “They didn’t charge you in Boise, and I won’t charge you here.” Then she gave it a kick and sent it down the line.
When I got to Johannesburg, I had to fly an African airline. Their maximum weight for luggage was 44 pounds. Now I was 15 pounds overweight, and they weren’t tolerant. When they said 44 pounds, they meant 44 pounds!
I think the Lord woke me up in the middle of the night and said, “But they don’t weigh you!”
So when I got up in the morning, I put on three t-shirts, three polo shirts, three dress shirts, three pairs of pants, and two coats. Then I stuffed some of my electrical gear in my pockets. When I got to the ticket counter, my suitcase weighted 44-1/2 pounds, and the ticket agent said, “Close enough!” He gave my suitcase a kick and sent it on its way. It was 90 degrees outside, but I made it to the airplane and took off the coats and some of the extra clothing after I boarded. That was April of 2008, and I was 80 years old.
After that trip, Duane McKey visited our local ASI conference as a speaker. He had coordinated ShareHim trips all over the world, so he listened intently as I gave a report about my travels. When I left the stage, Duane grabbed my arm and said, “Irwin! I need another speaker!” “I’ve only been in the office for one day, so I don’t know…” “Get right back to me,” he said, undeterred.
Since 2006, I’ve been on a total of nine ShareHim mission trips. I’ve been to Romania, Madagascar, Tanzania, Zambia, the Dominican Republic, Cuba (twice), Zimbabwe, and I just returned from Peru.
I knew the missionary there. His name is Paul Opp, and he’s originally from my home town in Idaho. He operates the People of Peru Project, providing crisis foster care to kids in and around the city of Iquitos.
Every time I’d see him at an ASI convention, he’d grab my arm and say, “You go all over the world, but you never come to see me!”
He showed up at one of our meetings in Peru and saw me sitting in the corner. He looked at me, blinked, and told the group, “That ‘young man’ sitting over there in the corner—I’ve been after him for ten years to come over here, and here he comes without even telling me!” The trips haven’t all been easy. But, like Harold said, it will change your life forever. It has mine. I have a different outlook on life entirely.
The turning point was when I was shaving and I looked in the mirror and the Holy Spirit said, “Irwin, you coward!” Everything was different after that.
I’m 84 now, and my next trip will be to Kenya in January. And I’ve already registered, got my ticket, and got a place to stay for the ASI International Convention in Cincinnati. I’m going to do mission trips as long as I’m able.
God can use anybody. Just put yourself in His hands and He’ll use you. I’m regenerated every time I go. Sure, it’s hard work. It’s a steady 16 days of preaching. And that’s all you do. But you feel exhilarated on the last Sabbath when they baptize all the people and some of them were in your audience and you talked to them and they made a decision.
I made an appointment with the people at every church I preached at—all nine trips. I told them I would meet them in heaven on the second Sabbath by the Tree of Life. It’s going to be quite a group.