My Dad, Charlie Green, passed peacefully into eternity yesterday, August 17, just three days short of his 96th birthday. Appropriately, my daily Bible reading included Proverbs 10:27 “Fear of the Lord lengthens one’s life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.”
The One who “forms us in the womb” gave Dad an astonishing range of abilities:
he would quote long passages of poetry,
used a vocabulary that had those of us around him reaching for a dictionary,
started firing a boiler at a tomato-processing plant in his early teens,
was a chemist in a uranium-processing plant,
ran a munitions assembly line at night during WWII while attending Bible College,
was a watch maker,
qualified as a master electrician and master gas-fitter,
played the steel guitar and baritone horn,
started and ran his own construction business for over 20 years.
The hardest part of that 20-year period was when the local electricians’ union boss thought the union should have more say in the management of the business. Dad clearly thought otherwise and was never reticent to say what he thought. He had 45 employees at the time and, on the orders of the union boss, some of them began to sabotage his company. They destroyed or stole tools, they worked slow, they put sugar in the gas tanks of his pickup trucks, destroying engines. Those actions put him deep into debt, but he refused to declare bankruptcy. Rather, he found other sources of revenue—but it meant more work. He and Mom ran a laundromat and a string of hot-drink machines. I remember many nights where I was either with Mom, helping to clean and mop the laundromat or with Dad helping to service the drinks machines. The steady stream of quarters mounted up and all the debts were paid. Meanwhile he streamlined the business and entered a period of greater prosperity.
While running the business, he moved the family to a 30-acre farm where we had fruit trees, grew sweet corn, melons, tomatoes, beans and other vegetables, kept milk-cows, a couple of horses, sheep, chickens and turkeys. He wanted to teach his kids to work—and eventually he succeeded. My Dad and Mom paid their biggest compliment when they said of anyone, “He/She is a good worker!”
At the point when the business was most prosperous, my sister, Deyon, and I attended a YWAM School of Evangelism near Lausanne, Switzerland. When we visited home after that SOE, Dad and Mom saw the changes in our lives and were hungry for what God had done in our lives. Dad put the business on hold and the two of them attended the SOE in Switzerland in 1976.
Not long after that school, the Lord worked miraculously for Dad and Mom to start YWAM in Western Colorado and acquire a large, high mountain property for training young people. He closed the businesses and for years they worked in tandem with street outreach teams in Hollywood. When a young person, usually a run-away, gave their lives to Christ, they were given the opportunity to go to YWAM, Cimarron, Colorado. There, Dad and Mom would teach them life skills with a strong focus on character development. Hundreds of young people developed disciplined, fruitful lives. They could learn to cook, bake, cut timber and run a lumber mill, drive heavy equipment, maintain a hydro-electric plant, mine coal, raise their vegetables, fish for part of their protein and hunt deer and elk for the rest. They didn’t have to pay to stay at the camp because Dad and Mom had made it self-sustaining.
Dad and Mom were both pilots and for years Dad had a Cessna Centurion, six-seater airplane. When the camp was well established, he was approached and offered a job by the founders of a large company. He flew to work four days a week and built up an electrical department of over 200 employees at their industrial company. The income he earned was used to keep developing the YWAM camp. Dad and Mom continued working and living in the Cimarron valley, running the general store that was part of the YWAM base until they were in their late 70s and early 80s. Then Mom had a fall on icy snow and broke her wrist and they had to move to lower elevation.
They had a house built for them back in our home town of Grand Junction where they lived happily for several years before declining health and strength required them to move to assisted living and then into a room in a complex that has 24-hour nursing care. We would not have expected Mom to outlive Dad, but she has. She is 93 and her abilities to perceive and communicate are increasingly limited. They have been inseparably together for many years, (they celebrated their 75th anniversary in June this year) so we don’t expect Mom to survive much longer without Dad at her side.
A week ago, I was about to set out on a 100-mile high-altitude hike on the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado, when I received news that my Dad had taken a fall and broken his hip. He had had good balance and mobility until very recently, so I knew this was likely to mark the beginning of the end of his life. My two dear sisters, Deyon and Charlotte, contacted me and encouraged me to continue with the planned hike. My friend of 65 years, Doug Sparks, and I completed our hike a week later and the day after I returned home, Dad slipped away.
I sit here with tears of gratitude and loss welling up.
Anyone reading this might think that this dynamic couple had no time to be parents or to have friends. But we were surrounded by friends. Four or five families would often meet at Church on Sunday morning and decide to have a picnic dinner in the mountains around our town. Each family would have prepared their dinner “to go”, just in case. The parents and kids were all close friends and have remained so.
When the business and financial pressures were the greatest, Dad still almost always took Wednesday afternoons off in the summer so our family and the other families could go water-skiing together. They also took us skiing in the winter. Dad and Mom very rarely missed one of my football games or wrestling matches. Dad wasn’t very good at verbalizing his love, but he said it in so many ways that we could not miss it. In later years he became softer and much more ready to hug any and all of us and tell us how much we meant to him.
As I read over this summary, all too brief for a life so well lived, I feel not just gratitude and loss, but a sober reflection on Luke 12:48, “When someone has been given much, much will be required.”
A memorial service will be held at Canyon View Vineyard Church, Sunday September 8th, 2 p.m.