Like Those Who Dream: Chapters 22 and 23
-Roy Lessin, Meeting in the Meadow
Chapter 22: Half of a Desk
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)
As we began to make preparations to return to the States in the spring of 1971 we received a letter of encouragement from Don Leetch, and a letter from Dean Kerns with a check enclosed to help with our travel expenses; Included was a note that read, “Get in touch when you arrive.”
Before leaving the Island I wanted to buy Char a new dress. We didn’t have a lot of cash at the time, and needed most of it to cover our upcoming travel expenses. However, I was convinced that a new dress was something the Lord wanted me to provide for her. It was so much fun for us to go shopping together in search of the right dress. Char’s eyes fell on a beautiful red dress that we both loved…To this day, I smile inside whenever I think of Char in that red dress, and remember the blessing it was to her once we got back to the States.
As the plane from Puerto Rico to Los Angeles flew over the waters of the Caribbean, I was once again amazed at the sight of the clear aqua-blue color of the sea…It was an image that spoke of new things ahead, of seeing God’s plan more clearly revealed to our hearts, and discovering afresh the beauty of His ways.
When the plane landed at LAX we walked to the baggage return area, picked up our five suitcases, set them outside on the sidewalk, and waited for our ride. As I stood there, with everything we owned in the five suitcases that stood at my feet, I became filled with peace. In that moment, the voice of the Holy Spirit dropped a thought deep into my spirit, “Everything you own materially is in your suitcases. Whatever is added to your life from this point on will never be able to add one ounce of peace to your heart, and whatever is taken away from you will never be able to diminish that peace.”…
With no possessions, no money, no bank account, no house, no car, and no job, I couldn’t have been more content, more secure, or more confident in God’s plan for our lives.
Once in Los Angeles it didn’t take me long to contact Dean. My phone call to him was packed with surprises. He started off by telling me about a family he knew that had recently moved to Europe. “Before leaving,” Dean added, “they placed many of their furnishings and kitchen items—including pots, pans, bowls and dishes— into storage. They turned it over to me with the following instructions, ‘Please give these to anyone that you feel is in need of them, at no charge.’”
Dean told me that he believed the Lord had made it clear that Char and I were the ones who should have these items. He went on to add, “There is one more thing…they also gave me the keys to their car. It’s a Chevy station wagon. That is yours as well.”
After Dean’s call I learned some more news that helped us get settled. There was a family, not too far from Fellowship Press, that was leaving the area for a few months and wanted someone to house-sit their place and look after things while they were gone. The outside of the house needed painting and if I was willing to get it ready for a painter we could stay in the house for free. It was too good of an offer to pass up. Within a few days of our return to the States we had a temporary place to stay, transportation, and a good start on furnishing our own place once our house-sitting responsibilities were completed.
With a car to drive and a place to live, I decided to meet with Don and Dean at Fellowship Press and see if there might be a job available. During our meeting I updated them on my experience in Puerto Rico and the things I learned about Christian literature and the selling of Christian books. As we talked we found that our hearts were being drawn together in a deeper way around a vision for Christian literature.
The demands of their responsibilities at the print shop left them with no free time for anything else. Since my time was free, we discussed the possibility of how we could work together. The plan we agreed upon was that I would work part-time for the print shop and focus the rest of my time on selling Christian books and working toward developing some products that could be printed at Fellowship Press. (The goal was not to grow the size of the print shop, but to set something in motion that could one day release Don and Dean from the print shop.)
There was limited space available in the print shop, so Don and Dean cleared off one half of a desk and made it available as my work space. Initially, my part-time work for Fellowship Press consisted of finding new accounts that would bring in additional business to the print shop (this would help pay my salary). The rest of my time was focused on setting up book tables and selling Christian books at various Christian meetings and conferences.
Once things got underway everything moved fast. Within a few weeks the work I was doing away from the print shop was demanding most of my time. In addition to the book tables, I was also beginning to come up with some new product ideas. I knew an illustrator/designer was needed to turn the ideas into products. To me, Russ Flint seemed like the perfect choice.
Russ and I had been friends since I had met him while attending Homewood Community Church (the same place I met Don and Dean). Russ had actually worked at Fellowship Press for a brief time while in college. When Russ finished college he took a designing job with Harry and David in Medford, Oregon. After talking it over with Don and Dean, Char and I decided to make a trip to Medford to see if Russ and Cheryl might want to move and become a part of what we were doing.
The drive up to Harry and David was beautiful. Tall pines, lush green meadows, and rolling hills dominated the landscape. In the natural it was hard to imagine why anyone would want to leave this setting to live in smog-filled Southern California. Char and I were warmly welcomed to the Flint’s home and spent a couple of days talking and praying together. During our visit there came a strong indication that God had been speaking to their hearts.
Russ was willing to step away from his job and join us. I was elated! I contacted Don and Dean and told them about our time with Russ and Cheryl. We agreed to all meet together in Lodi, California (a half-way point) to seek the Lord and find out what our next steps should be. The time in Lodi turned out to be a pivotal moment for all of us. Our main purpose was to hear from the Lord and decide if He wanted the four of us to work together…
We rented a motel room for the day and spent the time talking, reading the Bible, and praying. By the end of the day we were all assured that God had called us individually and collectively to work together. The commitment of the four of us to begin a new work was born in Lodi that day. (At the beginning the new venture was called Outreach Publications, eventually the company name was changed to DaySpring Cards.)
With the addition of Russ, more office space was a must.
Directly across the street from Fellowship Press was an old one-story business building called the “Arcade”. It had a long hallway with various sized offices on each side. Each office had a glass front that allowed a complete view of the working space inside. We packed up our things from Fellowship Press and moved across the street. We picked the second office on the left. It was a small space that was divided by a paneled wall which cut the room in half. We set up two desks and a working area in the front half of the office and used the back half for storage.
It was an amazing thing to realize that God chose to start a new publishing company with four people who were not trained as business men, who had no cash reserves, no investors, and no long term business plan…In Lodi, God called two former pastors, a former missionary, and a Bible college art graduate to launch a company that we knew could never make it without God’s help, blessing, and favor.
It Took Something More
It took something more than a vision by Russ, Don, Roy and Dean to start DaySpring Cards; it took a call from God. It took something more than human efforts and natural abilities to accomplish anything; it took the gifts of God. It took something more than material resources, financial plans and marketing strategy to see the business grow, it took the prosperity of God.
It took something more than a sales force and sales techniques to bring the product into the stores; it took the favor of God.
It took something more than nice art and good copy to make DaySpring’s products successful, it took the anointing of God.
Jesus said that without Him we could do nothing. There is only one way to start, build, maintain and continue to expand a Christian company – It must never turn away from its total trust in the Living God, its total obedience to His Word and its total dependency upon His Spirit. If He is to be glorified through what we do He will try our hearts and test our motives; He will purify our faith and make straight paths for our feet; He will call us to a higher standard and direct us down a different path.
He will not let us get away with things that other companies seem to get by with or let us deal with people in ways that serve our own interests. He will not allow us to look at our competition as our enemy but rather as His friends. He will not allow us to substitute favors for fairness or place profits above people. In order to use us as a light He must keep us from darkness; in order to share His heart with others He must fill our hearts with His love.
We must seek His favor in all we do and depend upon His power to accomplish the thing He has called us to do. We must seek His perfect approval and long for Him to say, “This is DaySpring, a business with whom I am well pleased.”
Chapter 23: Jesus People
There are people who make a difference in our lives because of their character, their example, and their practical expression of the love of Jesus Christ. These are the people who are truly God’s ambassadors to us and to the world.
Russ and Cheryl moved south shortly after our meeting in Lodi in the summer of 1971. He joined me in the Arcade office and we started doing more creative work and product development. I started doing most of the writing and Russ did the art and design. The birthing of our new business came at a time when a spiritual awakening was taking place on the West Coast. It was an exciting time to be in Southern California. In the late 60s and 70s God stepped into the midst of the hippy culture and captured the hearts of thousands of young men and women. They were radically changed from free love to holy love; from drugs to the new wine of the Holy Spirit; from dropping out of society to coming into the Kingdom of God. They were called Jesus People.
The heartbeat of the movement was in Costa Mesa, California in a small church called Calvary Chapel, led by Pastor Chuck Smith. The church was less than an hour away from where we lived and we kept in close contact with the spiritual change that was taking place in the area. Weekly, young people were turning to Christ, being baptized in the Pacific Ocean and coming into the church to grow in Christ. A new wave of evangelism swept across Southern California. New praise and worship music was being written by rock musicians who had a new song to sing and a new faith to proclaim.
Don, Dean, Russ, and I wanted to connect with these new believers and place into their hands some witness items that would help them express and share their faith. One of our first products was a line of six mini-stickers. These stickers were first designed to be bumper stickers, which were very popular at the time. When we decided to print them as mini-stickers instead of bumper stickers they quickly caught on. They were printed on brightly colored, florescent paper with short proclamations of faith and a graphic image. Some of the sayings included “Hallelujah, Jesus is Lord”, “I Know the Author of the World’s Best Seller”, and “One Way—Jesus Christ”. We called them Glo-Goers…We spent many nights sitting at our dining room table assembling small packages of Glo-Gloers, sorting them into sets of six, and putting them into plastic bags before stapling a label at the top.
At this time I had only written two Gospel tracts. One was as a student in Bible College, and the other was written before our family had moved to Puerto Rico. With the Jesus People desiring more witnessing material I had the opportunity to write a new series of Gospel tracts including:
What’s Better Than a Happy Face?—A Happy Heart.
He is NOT Jesus Christ Superstar—But Jesus Christ the Lord.
Some People Let the Stars Control Their Lives—Why Not Let the One Who Made Them Control Yours!
Soon, postcards, posters, and poster calendars were added to our product mix. One of our posters had a bright blue background with white letters that read “Jesus is Coming!” The second coming of Christ was a strong theme among the Jesus People.
We were a little business that was growing fast!
As the summer drew to a close it was time for my family to move from the place we had been house-sitting in Glendora, about five miles from the Arcade where Russ and I were working. Through some friends, we were offered a house to rent that seemed ideal. It was in good condition, had plenty of space, and was affordable.
We packed up our things and moved; however, it would turn out to be one of the most unusual moving experiences we ever had. As soon I walked into the house I had no peace. I immediately knew we were in the wrong place and needed to leave. I told Char not to unpack (she ended up spending the day writing letters as she waited on me to come up with a new plan). I contacted the owners and told them we would not be staying. It was an awkward thing to do and embarrassing to say the least. Thankfully, they were very understanding and extended mercy to us.
We relocated to an apartment complex a couple of miles from the Arcade. We moved into the former manager’s apartment. It was a little more expensive than the other apartments, but it also had a few extra features. We couldn’t believe we were living in such a nice place. It was good to know the Lord had given us His peace. The apartment was strategically located, not only because it was near work and close to where our children would go to school, but also because of the relationships we would build with others who lived in neighboring apartments.
One of our neighbors, who lived two doors down, was a single mom with two young daughters. One day, as we were about to enter our apartment, Char looked at me and said, “I believe the Lord is prompting me to bring a bag of groceries to Carol and her girls.”
Char’s sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit started when she was young in her walk with the Lord at Bible College…
She reported to work one afternoon and was given instructions by her supervisor. She was also told not to spend time talking while she was doing her work. During her work assignment, Char did spend time talking with another student. At the end of the day she was convicted by the Holy Spirit about not following her supervisor’s instructions. She decided to humble herself and tell her supervisor. When she did, her supervisor smiled and without any word of condemnation said, “Charlene, I am so happy to know that you have heard the voice of the Holy Spirit and were willing to obey Him.”
When we got into our apartment Char went straight to the pantry and filled up a grocery bag with various food items. She walked over to our their apartment and knocked on the door. A few moments later Carol answered. When she saw Char standing there with a bag of groceries she was surprised.
After a cordial greeting, Char said, “When I got home this afternoon the Lord put it on my heart to bring these groceries to you.”
As Char extended her hands and gave the bag of groceries to her, Carol’s eyes began to tear.
“Do you know what I was doing just before you came?” Carol asked.
“What?” Char curiously replied.
“I was with my girls at the dining room table. I had just finished thanking the Lord for our meal when I heard your knock at the door. I didn’t know where our meal would come from because there is no food in the house.”
Char was deeply touched and so thankful she had obeyed the Lord, and was used to bless our neighbor when she was in need.
(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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©2022, Roy Lessin, Meeting in the Meadow. ©2021 DaySpring, used with permission. All rights reserved.