Like Those Who Dream: Chapter 9, Night Guard
-Roy Lessin, Meeting in the Meadow
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (NKJV)
It’s amazing how many jobs a person can have in a lifetime: I mowed lawns, babysat, washed cars, delivered newspapers, pulled weeds, cleaned shelves in a pharmacy, sold boxed greeting cards, sold Amway, hemmed skirts in the garment industry for $1 an hour, and prepared meals in a fast food restaurant, all before I was twenty years old. I thought things might slow down once I decided to study the Bible, but those jobs were just warm ups in comparison to the jobs I would be given as a student at Bethany Fellowship.
Bethany Fellowship was a self-supporting Bible College and Missionary Training Center. The roots of the college went back to 1943, when five families, all members of a small congregation called Bethany Chapel, entered into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. The families desired to give all they had to God and the furtherance of His Kingdom through world missions. Their vision was to train, send and support 100 missionaries. In order to pursue this vision they pooled their resources and purchased 62 acres of farmland in Bloomington, Minnesota. Here is where construction of the campus began in 1946.
Because the vision was to train and support missionaries, a work program was established on the campus. The profits from the work program were used to help support the Bible College and the missionaries who were being sent to the mission field. Another reason for the program was to teach future missionaries how to work with their hands. The first students came in 1948. At that time the school had a woodshop where children’s sandboxes, rocking horses and other items were manufactured. When I arrived in 1962, the work program was quite diversified and included the manufacturing of camping trailers, electric grills, and the publishing of Christian books.
A student worked four hours each afternoon and four hours on Saturday mornings. Students were often placed according to their aptitudes or interests, while others were rotated to various jobs. I was one of the “rotator students.” In my three years on campus my work included the sheet metal shop, the fiberglass department, the outside crew (maintenance), the lefse department, the spray booth, the print shop, and last but not least, the chicken coop. There were three jobs I hoped I would never get—the garbage crew, cleaning the grease trap in the kitchen, and night guard duty. As God would have it, before getting my diploma, I was assigned to all three!
“Night guard” was a one week job assignment given only to male students. I wasn’t sure when my turn to pull night guard duty would come up—I dreaded the thought of having to stay up all night watching the campus and then go to class in the morning, the only consolation was being able to sleep all afternoon in the dorm while the rest of the students were at their regular jobs. The job started about the same time everyone else on campus went to bed. Most of the time the night guard was stationed in the Administration Building, but every few hours the night guard was required to walk around the campus and check the grounds. In the winter, the furnaces in all the buildings were also checked.
It was still winter when I received my first official night guard assignment—had I known the special times (and the fun times) that would come from night guard duty I would have approached it much more enthusiastically. One of the fun times came the week before Christmas. One of my night-guard jobs was to make a big batch of powered milk. The milk was mixed up the night before and placed into large stainless steel containers. The containers were placed inside a stainless steel milk machine inside the dining hall. The machine kept the milk chilled and ready for use the following morning. When someone going through the food line wanted milk, they would place their glass or cereal bowl under a spout and lift the handle that released the milk.
Since Christmas was coming, I decided to add a slight twist to my milk-making duty. After making up the milk and pouring it into containers—the milk machine held three containers at a time—I added food coloring. I put yellow food coloring in one container, blue in the second, and red in the third. When morning came, and the staff and students entered the dining hall for breakfast, I took a ringside seat near the milk machine. It was quite amusing to watch the confusion, frustration, and perplexity on the faces of unsuspecting souls as they poured yellow, red, or blue milk into their glasses, or on their Raisin Bran!
The first time I was assigned to night guard the job began with an orientation from one of the staff members on the Maintenance Crew. I was told what to watch for, how to walk my rounds, how to check furnaces to make sure they were working properly, and what to do in case of trouble. I was armed with a flashlight and a stick. It was a good thing the Lord protected the campus, because the night-guard wouldn’t stand a chance against any real threat.
I didn’t mind my first two hours on the job—the Administration Building was nice and warm, I had a comfortable chair to sit on, and I was still wide awake. Around midnight, I had to leave the shelter of the building and make my first round of the campus. I was amazed how cold it was at that hour of the night. The snow made a crackling sound under my feet as I headed down the walkway with my trusty flashlight in one hand and my stick in the other. The campus was very quiet and as I walked from building to building checking furnaces, an eerie feeling settled over me—It reminded me of the time in the Army when I was given night-guard duty. My job was to stand guard in front of a missile site surrounded by a chain-link fence. Around 2:00 AM, fog rolled into the area where I was stationed. Before long I couldn’t see a thing. I got completely disoriented and felt my way around until I came upon some bleachers. I sat down in the first row, put my weapon between my legs, hunched over to keep warm, and waited for the sun to rise. “Eerie” defined the moment perfectly! If anyone had tried to steal the missile that night they wouldn’t have gotten any resistance from me.
Each time I had night guard I was always glad to get back to the Administration Building after completing my rounds on campus. Once inside, one of my biggest challenges was figuring out ways to stay awake. One night an idea came to mind that got me excited, “I should write a gospel tract!” I quickly found some blank notebook paper and a pen. I rolled my chair up to a nearby desk and started to write. I chose Religion Is a Drag as my title. By the time night guard duty was over the tract had been written.
Before having it printed, I decided to show it to one of my Bible teachers. “Could you please check this for me and make sure everything that I’ve said is theologically correct?” In a few days he gave the manuscript back to me and said, “Everything looks fine and I think you should have it printed.” With the help of some friends who worked in the print shop, I had a few hundred copies of the tract printed.
Sometimes I joined other students who wanted to do “street work” on the streets of downtown Minneapolis. On Friday nights, a bus would leave campus and drop us off downtown—here we would pass out tracts, talk to people on the streets, and even preach mini-sermons at places like the bus station. There was one girl on campus who would go out each time the school bus went downtown. She faithfully passed out various Gospel tracts each week but never saw any results from her labor. One Friday night she became very discouraged and decided to stay home. Someone from the team noticed her absence and sought her out. After hearing her story, he persuaded her to come along. Once again she walked the streets of Minneapolis giving out tracts. This time, however, something quite unexpected happened. A man approached and called out to her, “I am so happy I have found you,” he said, “a few weeks ago you handed me a tract. I took it home and read it. That night I gave my life to Jesus Christ. Thanks to you I have been saved!” Her story encouraged us all.
Over the months I gave away or passed out most of my copies of Religion Is a Drag. One day, to my surprise, I received a letter from the American Tract Society. It read, “We have come across a tract you have written titled Religion Is a Drag. We would like your permission to publish it here at the American Tract Society.” I was so excited! I sent back an immediate reply giving them my permission to publish it. A few weeks later I received a confirmation letter along with a check for $10.00 (it was my first time to have something published).
About twenty-five years later, while attending the Christian Booksellers Convention, I stopped by the American Tract Society booth and approached one of the older salespeople. “Excuse me, my name is Roy Lessin. Many years ago your company published a tract that I had written. It was called Religion Is a Drag. Can you tell me if you remember it and how it did for you?” I wondered if she even knew what I was talking about. “Yes,” she said rather quickly, “I remember that tract. In fact, it is still in our line…It has been one of our best sellers and has sold nearly a million copies since it was first published.”
Here is the tract in its original form…
Religion Is A Drag
Let’s face it! For you and a lot of other people, to become religious is a waste of time. The thing that’s important to you is pleasure. Truly, to become a religious person is an unnecessary hardship. Sure, there are lots of deeply religious people in the world today, but there are many who take a more realistic approach to life.
Drugs? Alcohol? Sex? Religion?
The drug addict says, “As soon as I take this fix, all will be well again!” while the drug eats away at his body like a cancer. The alcoholic says, “These next few drinks will bring release for a while.” And yet his character is cheapened, his home divided, and his money wasted.
Many say, “Sex brings the only real satisfaction,” and while their hearts burn with lust, they cheapen girl friends, destroy marriages, abuse themselves and still, unsatisfied, long for more.
Religious Jews have said, “I still have no peace.” Devoted Catholics have said, “I still fear death.” Active Protestants have said, “I’m trying the best I can and yet I fear all is vain.”
What’s It All For
I said religion is a drag and it is. Going to church is boring; having to read the Bible and to pray is a chore if God isn’t real to you. After all, what’s the use of “playing church” when your heart wants other things? Many realize this and have tried other means to find the answers. Yet they have failed.
What’s the path of your life going to be? Some have pursued fame and in the end have said, “What’s it all for?” Some have tried fortune and have had breakdowns because of the pressures. In a current magazine, the wealthy men of today have said, “I’m miserable!”
God Wants To Give You Something
What’s your path going to be? Don’t make it religion—that’s a drag, a waste of time. By the way, it’s also a waste of God’s time. God doesn’t want you going off in a hundred different directions. God wants to GIVE you something, and it is not a religious life; it's a REALITY. He doesn’t want you to know a set of laws, but a PERSON. He wants you to know His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is alive right now. He came to save you from a wasted life.
He wants to come into your heart and life and fill the empty place. That’s why you haven’t been able to find the answers in all those things you’ve been trying. You were made to know God personally, living within your heart and controlling your life. Jesus LOVES you. Jesus loves YOU. Sin has kept you from Him. Stop going in that direction you’re heading. Turn things over to Him. Tell Him you need Him. Let Him come into your life and learn what it means to have reality.Jesus said, “ Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is the One to come to—no one else. Will you come? Jesus also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” There is no other way. He is waiting. Right now put your life into His hands.
(Join us next week as we continue this journey of Roy's memoir, Like Those Who Dream. The book is available through DaySpring and Christian retailers everywhere.)
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