3.0 Introducing My Mother the Brave and Beautiful Bebs

by Elizabeth Stephens

 “What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow man. This is the whole law; the rest is mere commentary.”

Hillel the Great

 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Yeshua Ha’Moshiach

Helen "Bebs" Yaffe as a young girl growing up in Madison, Wisconsin.

a Helen “Bebs” Yaffe as a young girl growing up in Madison, Wisconsin.

My mother Helen Yaffe grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, daughter of Minnie and Louis Yaffe. I knew very little of her early life except that her parents owned a grocery store that she and her sisters worked in after school. Helen, aka “Bebs” was the second of the four daughters. Her eldest sister was Doris, followed after her by Sharon and then Miriam, also known as “Mim” who was quite close to her sister “Bebs.”

Mim recalls, “For some reason I always felt especially close to Bebs. We never called her “Helen.” Helen was Aunt Helen, your Grandma Minnie’s sister. The story of where the name Bebs came from is that Doris was not yet two when Bebs was born and instead of saying “baby”, she said “Bebs.”

Doris_Sharon_HelenBebsSharon and Doris both had dark hair, Bebs and I were blond. Maybe that made me feel close. Also there was a time when we could fit into each others clothes. Bebs and I often worked in our parent’s grocery store. We liked doing that. Doris and Sharon preferred doing things in the house.”

Grandma Silverman & BebsMy Great Grandmother Libby Dora (Press) Silverman was married to Aaron Silverman. She was the youngest daughter of Benjamin and Chiah (Ida) Press who lived in Kovna, Lithuania in the 1890’s. They had five children (three sons and another daughter. I don’t know their names).

My Grandmother Minnie (Silverman) Yaffe was born in Des Moines, Iowa and was the oldest of seven children. She had four sisters, Mary, Helen, Lillian, and Belle; and two brothers Harry and Mose.File4297

Minnie’s parents, Aaron and Libby Dora (Press) Silverman were from Des Moines, Iowa. They lived on 1136 Street.  Here’s a photo of my Mother “Bebs” visiting “Grampa Silverman” around 1940 or 41.

Grandmother Libby Dora Press Silverman and her husband Aaron Silverman. They lived in Des Moines Iowa.

Grandmother Libby Dora Press Silverman and her husband Aaron Silverman. They lived in Des Moines Iowa.

One of their sons, Mose who was born on May 6, 1893  served as a lieutenant in Company B. One Hundred Sixty-eighth Infantry in WWI. In one of their newspaper clippings the headlines read, “SILVERMAN IS LUCKY.”  Des Moines Officer Saved From Capture by Armistice.  Lieut. Mos Silverman escaped capture by the Germans by the signing of the armistice, according to a letter received Friday by his parents Mr. and Mrs. A. Silverman, 1136 14th Street. He writes that while out searching for the assault battalion for whom he had armistice orders, he wandered behind the German lines and ran into three German officers. All that saved him was the arrival of the battalion, to whom he delivered the orders, which notified the combatants that the war was over.”

After the war there was a wedding announcement in the local newspaper which read, “Of interest to DesMoines friends is the marriage of Mr. Mose Silverman, son of Mr. and Mrs. A Silverman, 2401 High Street and Miss Rose Goldstein of Denver, Colo., which took place June 5 in Denver, where the groom is engaged in the advertising business. Mr. Silverman is a graduate of Drake University and was a member of Company B. One Hundred Sixty-eighth Infantry.”

Rose Goldstein Silverman and Mose Silverman, my Aunt and Uncle during their early years in Denver, Colorado.

Rose Goldstein Silverman and Mose Silverman, my Aunt and Uncle during their early years in Denver, Colorado.

Dan Rottenberg, a genealogist in Finding Our Fathers, A Guidebook to Jewish Genealogy wrote,

  • “As European Jews moved from country to country, they would continue to name children after ancestors but would alter those names to suit their new homelands.
  • ‘Names would be modified by only using the first initial, e.g., Abraham becomes Arthur or Alan.
  • Until the nineteenth century, whether or not to take on a family name was left to the individual Jew. Many family names were adopted from the town where the family came from.”
The Patriarch and Matriarch of the Silverman Family

The Patriarch and Matriarch of the Silverman Family

“Emperor Joseph II of Austria, who issued the Edict of Toleration for the Jews in 1781, was the first to require Jews to take family names—in Galacia, in 1785. Jews were given names based on the size of the registration fee they could afford. The most expensive names derived from flowers and gems, like Rosenthal or Goldstein; for a smaller amount, you could get a name like Stahl (steel) or Eisen (iron); and if you had no money at all, you would be saddled with a nonsensical name…”

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William Silverglatt, their daughter Sarah Elizabeth, and Miriasha (Schulman) Silverglatt

It may very well be that my Great, Great Grandfather William Silverglatt, may have had to purchase the right to use Silverglatt as his family name. Later he changed it to Silverman, which his three children, Aaron, Mendel, and Sarah Elizabeth were known by.

Rottenberg mentions that “In 1808 Napoleon required all the Jews of his empire to take family names, but his decree forbade Jews to take names based on localities or adopt names of famous families.”

On the other hand, in some parts of Europe, especially southern Germany, Jews were forced to change their names if they were of Biblical origin.

Under the Baden law of January 13, 1809, for example, Levites who customarily were named Levi were forced to choose new family names, most of which were derived from place names. Thus some Jews have had family names for less than 150 years.”

In attempting to figure out when the Presses, Silvermans, and Yaffes left Lithuania, Dan Rottenberg points to the historic migration of Jews during two periods.

  1. “By the laws of 1795 and 1835, the Russian government limited its new Jews to the newly annexed areas, since known as the Pale of Settlement” which included Kosvno, the district the Press family lived bounded by the Baltic Sea, Germany and Russia.
  2. To the south, was a town called Brody, located in the Austria-Hungary region. This was the “principal town from which in 1880 began the exodus of over 2 million Jews from the Pale to the United States, Britain, Europe, South America, and Palestine.”
  3. According to Rottenberg’s map notes, “In 1882, 500,000 Jews living in rural areas of the Pale were forced to leave their homes and live in towns or townlets (shetetls) in the Pale” [much like those in the film/play Fiddler on the Roof”]. 250,000 Jews living along the Western frontier of Russia were also moved into the Pale. 700,000 Jews living east of the Pale were driven into the Pale by 1891.“In 1882 more than 1.5 million Russian Jews who had managed to live outside the Pale were forced into it, so that by 1885 there were 4 million Jews living inside the Pale.”

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    Finding Our Fathers, A Guidebook to Jewish Genealogy by Dan Rottenberg. Map of the Pale, page 119.

  4. “Prior to 1918, Russia had no government bureaus to register births, deaths, and marriages. If pre-1918 records do exist, the Communist government there has been reluctant to share them with the rest of the world. It is know that in czarist Russia, Jewish communities kept their own circumcision books, marriage and divorce registrations, records of burials, cemetery lists and so on…few of these records seems to have survived (Rottenberg:120).”
  5. “The greatest single source of Jews since the Middle Ages, by far, has been Poland. In 1939 the Jewish population of Poland was 3.25 million. The Jewish population of the Soviet Union was about 2.8 million—but virtually all Soviet Jews then (and now) lived in areas that had once been part of Poland. Thus on the eve of World War II, nearly 40 per cent of the world’s Jews lived in Poland itself or in formerly Polish territories, and at least another 20 percent were descendants of Polish Jews who had emigrated to America.
  6. “Medieval Jews lived in Poland and Lithuania because they were among the last countries to be Christianized. Poland was still a pagan country until the end of the tenth century, and Lithuania did not accept Christianity until about 1400. Pagan kings, having no religion of their own to promote, were much more tolerant of Jews than Christian kings, who believed their salvation depended on the elimination of heretics. While the land of Israel may be the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, Poland is the more immediate ancestral homeland of most of today’s Jewish population.

“Jews have been in Lithuania since the eighth century, and in the eighteenth century their population numbered 250,000. For virtually all of the past six hundred years, Lithuania has been under the rule of some other country. It was once a grand duchy, but in 1385 it was united with Poland. When Poland was dismembered, the section that had been Lithuania came under the aegis of Russia in 1796. In 1918 Lithuania finally became an independent country, but this arrangement lasted only twenty-two years: Lithuania was overrun by the Nazis in 1940, was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1944 and is now a Soviet Socialist Republic.”

Benjamin and Chiah (Ida) Press. Taken in Kovna, Lithuania sometime before 1890. Notice the Torah in his right hand.

Benjamin and Chiah (Ida) Press. Taken in Kovna, Lithuania sometime before 1890. Notice the Torah in his right hand.

Great Grandmother Libby Dora Press’s parents were from Kovna, Lithuania. This photograph was taken sometime before 1890. Evidently, they had five children, three boys and two girls. The youngest was Libby who married Aaron Silverman.

I’m not sure exactly when Louis Yaffe came over but it may have been during the great migration out of Lithuania prior to World War I, since Grandmother Minnie’s brother Mose served as a US Lieutenant in 1918.

According to Mim, my Grandfather, Minnie’s husband, “Louis Yaffe was from Lithuania where he was apprenticed to a man who had orchards.”

Dan Rottenberg in his genealogical index, wrote that Yaffe is a variation of “Jaffe (also Jaffa, Jaffin, Jofe, Joffin, Ioffe)—Widespread rabbinic family whose branches in Italy, Russia, Austria, Germany, U.S.A., and Britain all descend from Mordecai Jaffe of Prague (1530-1612) and his uncle Moses Jaffe, who traced their ancestry to Samuel ben Elhanan, great-grandson of RASHI (1040-1105).* The name is Hebrew for “beautiful.”

Mim recalled, “I think he was around 19 or 20 when he came to the U.S. He had a cousin in Milwaukee who was married to a cousin of Minnie’s. That’s how Minnie and Louis met. When they married Grandpa Louis was a farmer and took Minnie—a city girl—to the farm. Doris and Bebs remembered living on the farm. I don’t know if Sharon remembers it. I don’t. I was probably only 2 or 3 when we moved into the city of Madison.”

“Bebs majored in math in college, Doris in humanities (she was Phi Beta Kappa!) Sharon majored in music. She’s amazing. She can play anything she hears.”

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Your mother suffered from asthma all her short life. It was she who got us all to move to California. She first went to Colorado but the altitude was too much for her, so she went on to California. There she met your Grandma Minnie’s first cousins. She determined to stay in California, so soon after Aunt Lily and Belle and I with my grandfather Aaron Silverman drove from Madison, Wisconsin to Los Angeles.

Mim continued, “Bebs booked passage on a freighter after living in Los Angeles for some time. The freighter took her around the world and she got off at Haifa, Israel.

“Bebs” had saved her money to go on vacation to Hawaii, but the family told her she needed to spend her money in the homeland, Israel. As soon as Britain hauled down their Union Jack on May 14, 1948, Israel raised its flag featuring the Star of David. Israel’s engaged in a War for its Independence and she needed to support the cause. I am sure they wanted her to find a nice Jewish boy and settle down there.

The family seemed to have some means, so I was surprised that she was traveling alone during such perilous times. She must have been very brave.

From historic photos, I pieced together that my mother had traveled to many places before arriving in Israel. She had secured passage aboard a freighter bound to Tel Aviv.

Bebs aboard the LaSalle.

Bebs aboard the LaSalle.

From Tel Aviv she wrote on August 4, 1949, “It’s pretty doggone hot in Tel Aviv, but tomorrow I’m going to Jerusalem where they tell me it’s cooler. Here I am definitely not making the most of my time because I really don’t have the energy to move. Attended the transcription of the Town meeting of the Air Sunday-you’ll hear it in the USA in about 3 weeks. Also saw La Boheme put on by the Hebrew National Opera. I enjoyed it. More another time. Love, Helen (“Bebs”).

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So far this is the story that I’ve pieced together of my brave and beautiful mother Bebs early years thanks to Mim and others.  Although, I don’t remember her, my youngest daughter Taylor has said on many occasions, “Mom, she must have loved you very much.

*”No family can trace its ancestry back to Rashi in an unbroken line (Dan Rottenberg).

Regarding Rottenberg’s research on Rashi: “While it’s exciting to think about being related to Rashi, “consider the lineage I constructed after discovering in some old Hebrew books that the Marguilies branch of my family claimed to be descended from Rashi, the famous Talmudic commentator of eleventh-century France. Rashi is supposed to have been descended in the thirty-third generation from Johanan ha-Sandalar, who lived in second-century Egypt. Johanan was a great-grandson of Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, who was in turn the grandson of Hillel the Great, the sage who lived in Jerusalem during the time of King Herod and Jesus”  (Dan Rottenberg in Finding Our Fathers).

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28.0 The Accident Report Read “Act of God”

James with his fellow  members Russ, Jim, and Bruce in 1976.

James with his fellow members Russ, Jim, and Bruce in 1976.

by Elizabeth Stephens

Jim, one of James’ former District leaders called and asked him to be at a meeting where his presence would act as a show of support. This friend had worked for the Buddhist organization as a paid employee and knew what had transpired behind closed doors. Several youth division leaders walked into the North American Headquarters to confront the leadership. After the morning prayers (chanting) ended, the former employee stood up and started to ask questions about the organization’s finances.

These questions were not received well and several leaders started swearing, others interrupting and saying let him finish, words were exchanged and shouting ensued. The group Jim had led decided they were not getting anywhere and departed without any sense of satisfaction.

A short time later James received a call from the head of the organization department who happened to be one of his friends. He then suggested to James to tell the group to lay low and remain out of sight. When James asked why he was told that two other staff were overheard “Let’s get our 357 Magnum and blow these guys away.” They asked themselves, how could this happen in a nice peaceful Buddhist organization?

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Many years later James confronted one of the leaders and asked if he had made that threat and he confirmed that he had planned to do so, later his wife held a gun to his head and said he’d better get ahold of his anger or he’d find himself dead. He decided to take her advice.

At this time our little bouncing boy was six months old and an opportunity came up for James to go to Japan. There was also time for James to extend his plans to go to the head temple and speak directly with the priests. He was studying landscape architecture at UCLA extension and was able to tour with a study group from UCLA extension which would travel to various gardens and sites.

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James had planned after the tour to then travel on alone to the foot of Mt. Fuji to visit the main temple of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. This was a time that our Buddhist faith was being tested.

The group was on tour for about 12 days when they came to the castle at Himeji. If you have ever read the book or seen the movie Shogun, it was filmed on this site. The group arrived by train and James had finished playing with some local children a game, rock, paper, scissors. As he was about to get off the train a young man sitting some rows behind him handed him an origami paper bird and said in perfect English, “Beware of the winds of Himeji.” They exchanged business cards and in the next moment the bullet train sped away. James proceeded to take the castle tour then back to the train station. In the back of James’ mind he reflected on this warning.

During the tour there was a violent wind and the Jacaranda trees where blowing everywhere, but the time was relatively uneventful. As the group was preparing to re-board the rain, James was bending down to put something into his bag and someone yelled at him in Japanese. As he turned to look, a two hundred pound sign fell on his back and knocked him to the ground. The wind had come into the train station from the opening in the roof where the old steam engines let out the smoke. The sign had been tied down usually, but this time it was not, and even that weight was not a match for the winds. The officials did not want to cause a scene so they called for a taxi to take James to a hospital. The tour group went on and only one member from the tour stayed behind with James. Thank you Tori for your invaluable help.

It is a frightening thing being alone in a foreign county not speaking the language and being injured. James went into shock and was not thinking clearly. He was taken to two hospitals and then went on a train to rejoin the tour in the major city of Kyoto. As he was being accompanied by an official of the government owned transportation entity, they tried on several occasions to test him to see if he was faking and there was talk of a bribe. The American Consulate told James not to take any money; even if it was called a gift it would be taken as everything was now settled. So when the large envelope stuffed with money was pushed across the table, James pushed it back.

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Kyoto Hotel.

James called me and his first words were he was okay but…… He then proceeded to tell me of his ordeal. I also told him of the assassination attempt on President Reagan that had just happened as well. It was very uncomfortable being at home taking care of our new baby and having your husband injured in a foreign country. I felt very helpless and chanted a great deal.

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James had budgeted his money to make it stretch. At the close of the tour he would be staying at very small hotels and hostels to save money. After his injury he was taken to one of the most expensive hotels in Tokyo, the Keio Plaza and told not to worry about the bill.

As he was checking out they wanted him to pay the bill himself. This was one of many incidents that happened to James. He did not go on his pilgrimage to the head temple but came home in a wheel chair. To this day we are thankful that he can walk and yet he still experiences numbness and tingling.

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James, our son Eric, and I. Photo by Chris Casler.

We were glad to be back together, but this was just the beginning of an intensive search that would last for the next 3 years. This involved going to different workshops-Erhardt Seminar Training, Creative Personal Interaction, New Trust Network, Essential Experience with David Crump who worked with , Sexual Self Expression, Communication teams for Stewart Emery, visiting ashrams, hanging out at the Muktananda ashram in Santa Monica, designing a center for Rajneesh, Yoga at 3HO Happy Healthy Holy Yogi Bhajan’s Center, Insight Meditation, Rebirthing, crystals, astrology, charts, palm reading, spirit guides, a séance, New Age workshops, deep tissue work, acupuncture, and even Amway.

29.0 Goal to be First Buddhist Amway Diamonds

by Elizabeth Stephens

James was a driven man trying to find the truth. Through his accident in Japan, we had met a friend of a tour member who had become the attorney who was handling our case against Japan National Railway. Tim asked if he and his wife could stop by one evening. Someone wanted to visit us? What a surprise! Fantastic. We loved company.

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Tim our sponsor, Dave and Jackie our downline, and James and I excited to be building our own business.

We were searching to expand our community and  for people who wanted to have deeper working relationships. Although the visit was fairly brief, we knew after a few minutes that it was strictly business and although cordial, we felt a bit uncomfortable and disappointed that it was not social. It was only to show the plan and we felt used, but we decided to join in the business as we felt it was an excellent opportunity. If you know anything about the process, sponsors look for people who are well networked and socially involved, in business terms you are a “bird dog” that may lead them to others who might also be interested in building a business. We were naturals because we were already highly trained as Buddhists and had no fear of talking to others. So, we had simply moved from being “evangelists” for Buddhism to “evangelists” for Amway.

However, there was a part of this business strategy that we were never very comfortable with. It was the part where you share the business plan; we thought it would be better to share our Buddhist faith. After all what was the most important to us was our faith not the money issue.  I remember sitting outside a Mercedes dealership, we were supposed to be dream building and yet we were talking about our faith.

During the meantime, our first daughter Sheila was born and we became a family of four. She was such a delight. I remember the extended family was so happy to have the first girl in thirty years. There was a joke that we had a baseball team of boys and now we have the first girl.

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Here we are dedicating our daughter to the Buddhist faith. Although we were surrounded by those who believed in God, we were still devoted to our Buddhist faith and consistently visualized being on stage as the First Buddhist Amway Diamonds.

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James, Eric, Sheila and I at Myohoji Temple in Etiwanda with the local Nichiren Shoshu Priest following a consecretion ceremony.

Early in 1984, our upline Diamond challenged his distribution network leaders to get serious about their businesses and show the Amway plan 90 times in 90 days. We believed that we were destined to be successful distributors and and would not have to worry about money again. That was a definite plus although we had never been driven by money and yet the thought of having enough without scrapping by month after month was appealing.

That summer, James and I had consistently shown the plan morning, noon, and night, including follow-ups where we picked up decision packs and hoped to sign others up as distributors. Los Angeles was in the midst of the Summer Olympics and some Olympic events were being held in Santa Monica.

James began to have terrifying dreams about blood running in sinks, spirits coming out of closets and was asking more and more questions at the Joint Headquarters for which he received no answers. Meetings were scheduled with visiting leaders from Japan which I also attended, but the high level leader dismissed me as a woman and acted in a very condescending manner to our honest questions, although we had been involved in building the movement in the US for nearly fourteen years, he had only been a member in Japan for about ten years. Cancelled meetings, threats, and then a general disinterest from those in the organization. We began to doubt the sincerity of the leaders. Were we merely pawns to them? What happened to humanistic Buddhism, world peace and human revolution?

At one time, James even sent a letter to all the Young Men’s Division who had signed a pledge that we’d help each other if any one of us ever though about going taiten (leaving the faith). Only one finally answered the letter, Dave M. It was as if the doors were closing left and right, but there was a big door about to open for us both.

After James’s accident in Japan, he’d left the design build firm he was working for in Pacific Palisades and got a job doing architectural blueprints in Santa Monica. Although he liked the owner, it was a humbling step down for him working in an ammonia laden room delivering blueprints to his peers. One day, a young female architect named Laurie came in to his shop and asked him, “Do you know of any Christian churches in the area?”

James responded, “No. I’m a Buddhist, but some of my Christian friends may know of one.”

About a week passed and Laurie returned to pick up another set of blueprints. She said to him, “I’ve got a something I want to give you. I’ll drop it off tomorrow.” As she was leaving she kindly said, “I’ve been praying for you.”

James was sincerely moved by her concern. The next morning when he opened up the shop, there was a package with a card on the back step. The card read, “Seek and Ye Shall Find, Knock and It Shall Be Opened to You.”  The two books were, Beyond Buddhism by J. Isamu Yamamoto and More Than A Carpenter by Josh MacDowell. He devoured them. He was challenged by the prophecies that had come true in Jesus’ lifetime. It was difficult to deny that He had been an historical figure.

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Another evening, he met Craig about 10 pm after one of his house meetings and asked him more about this Jesus. Craig invited him over to his house and shared with him for awhile and loaned a Bible to him and said, “Why don’t you go home tonight, get down on your knees at the foot of your bed and ask God to reveal Himself to you.”

Fair enough,” he responded. So that night when James came home he pulled out a Bible and started reading it. The passage that caught his attention was Second Peter 3:10 which says, “The Day of the LORD will come like a thief in which the heavens and earth will pass away in a roar and all the elements will be consumed in intense heat. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” He became increasingly troubled and asked himself, “What if I’m wrong? Although we as Buddhists believe in reincarnation, what if there is only one life and there is no exit from hell? What if the Christian hell is real? I’ll be lost forever.”

It was about day 76 when James made a decision to visit Clarence, a Nazarene pastor in his  Santa Monica Church office. His father Carlton had introduced him to him earlier and James had shared the Amway sales and marketing plan with him.

But that day was different. James was extremely exhausted and spent, but he was doing what he had to hoping that our fortune and karma would change. It was our worldview at that time.  However, during that meeting with the pastor James, who had grown increasingly uncomfortable with the lack of answers from fellow Buddhist leaders, asked Clarence a number of questions about this man, Jesus. After an hour with the Pastor, Clarence asked him if he would like to ask Jesus to be his Savior and to ask the Holy Spirit into his heart. James wrestled in his spirit.

He said, “I don’t want to invite a spirit into my heart, but then again, the Holy Spirit is God. God created me. Who better to give control of my life to, but God?” So, he’d come to the realization that Jesus was God and accepted the Lord, Jesus Christ as his Master and God. When he came home that afternoon he walked in the door and he said to me, “I’m no longer a Buddhist. I gave my heart to Jesus.”

I pondered what the ramifications of that statement were to be. We had a floor to ceiling altar, a three door model, with exotic carved wood scenes of cherry trees and dragons(Butsudan), which is a house for the scroll we prayed to. We’d paid over $7500 for it as we were going to pass it down through generations. We were serious about our commitment. We had led many people into Buddhism. James had converted over 54 people himself. We were senior leaders. In addition we both had special smaller scrolls (amamori gohonzons) that we carried on our persons that were only given to members with exceptional devotion and years of service. We’d even taken vows when we received them never to quit the practice of Buddhism.

James then said, “Pastor Crites and his wife would like to come over this evening. Do you mind?”

“Not at all.”  I liked company and did not mind.

31.0 Baptism, Christian Wedding and the Pursuit of God

by Elizabeth Stephens

We were having a hard time adjusting. The Church was so different from what we were used to as Buddhists. The small Nazarene Church that we attended included congregants who were literally born in the nursery and were now retired.  In many ways, it was a perfect spiritual nursery of sorts for us.

Each Sunday morning, we would sit by a saintly couple in their eighties named Paul and Elizabeth who became our spiritual grandparents. Paul had taught at Pilgrim Bible College in Pasadena (founded in 1921) and both were precious examples to us of kindness and tender loving care. In the  months after our conversion, we must have been invited to believer’s homes at least ten times.

On Sunday evenings, the sanctuary resounded with beautiful hymns echoing through the halls from the upstairs meeting rooms. I later found out that the Vineyard was meeting there. Sundays were full for us. Bible study, followed by the service. On more than one Sunday afternoon, we were invited over to Paul and Elizabeth’s for lunch.  Elizabeth and Paul were so Christ-like in their care for us and our children as well, pulling out a couple of phone books for them to sit on at the table since they did not have high chairs.

Paul gave us a book by A.W. Tozer entitled, Pursuit of God which fueled our desire to prayerfully pursue God. And then another book by John MacArthur on Worship, The Ultimate Priority.  One afternoon James was a bit depressed and I overheard Paul share a meaningful Scripture which gave us both great solace in our anxiety, “Be still and know that I am God.”  We found much encouragement in fellowship with the saints, young and old. We were now family.

 

Pastor Clarence recommended that we get Baptized and redo our marriage vows. Consequently,  we decided to have a Christian wedding, a  re-commitment ceremony and among those we invited were those Buddhists who had originally attended our Buddhist wedding 7 years before.  However,  it wasn’t too much of a surprise when only two Buddhist members showed up because we knew that those who went taiten or quit the faith as we had now done were often shunned. As Buddhists, on Sunday morning we would recite the “Precepts for Youth” at Young Women’s Division meetings and one well known statement resounded in my mind, “we will march over the bodies of our taiten members.”  Radical religious commitment makes for a difficult transition in any faith community.

This was the cover of the invitation drawn by James. As you can tell, we are kneeling at the foot of the cross. Sunday, October 21, 1984. After Church, James and I drove down to the beach with our family where we were to be baptized.

Baptism and Wedding Invitation.

Baptism and Wedding Invitation.

File2498 It was a beautiful October afternoon when Pastor Clarence baptized James and I in the Pacific Ocean.  If you’re in Santa Monica it’s where Pico Boulevard intersects with the Pacific not far from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium where we used to attend many Buddhist monthly General Meetings. Our group was waiting with towels and encouragement on the sand.

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First we were baptised in the Pacific Ocean that afternoon, and then in the evening we all met at the Church for the renewal of our wedding vows and a celebration dinner.   It was quite a different mix for our second wedding as we had only been Christians for a short while. Of course, the entire church attended, along with a few of our neighbors,  a few Amway distributors who had become our good friends and mentors, two Buddhists who had maintained their friendship with us and two former Buddhists who had become Christians.

Early that evening we all met back at the Church and after prayer,  James gave a short testimony about our recent conversion, which was followed by encouraging words from Tim, who was our sponsor in the Amway business, and Craig who was a Diamond and had not only helped us with our business, but spent time with James sharing the Good News about Jesus.

Tim our Amway sponsor giving a brief message.

Tim our Amway sponsor giving a brief message.

 

Craig an Amway Diamond sharing his testimony and an encouraging message at our wedding.

Craig an Amway Diamond sharing his testimony and an encouraging message at our wedding.

Wendy, who had spent time at L’Abri the Christian retreat center with Francis Schaeffer had happened to walk into the Church  when we were sharing our testimony and decided to attend.   We asked her if she would sing at our second wedding. She beautifully sang, “The Lord’s Prayer.”

File2501Our father Which art in heaven Hallowed be thy name Thy kingdom come Thy will be done on earth As it is in heaven Give us this day our daily bread And forgive us our trespasses As we forgive those who trespass against us And lead us not into temptation But deliver us from evil For thine is the kingdom And the power And the glory, forever, amen

Our re-commitment Ceremony also known as our second wedding was officiated by Pastor Clarence, the pastor who shared the plan of salvation with  James and I. We are eternally grateful to God for the tender counsel and care Clarence and Judy provided as we came into the community of faith.

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James and I taking our first communion after redoing our marriage vows. It was a moving moment for the both of us.

 Reaffirming Our Marriage Vows.

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Our “First Kiss”

After the ceremony, we gathered together in the fellowship hall for potluck dinner. One of our old Buddhist friends was a baker and she graciously made a cake for the celebration. It was an emotion filled day with a lot of new friends and new memories.

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 One of our Buddhist friends who is a baker made the cake for us.

James and I cutting the cake. Eric awaiting a delicious dessert.

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As we continued in our new faith we felt like we wanted to study and do more. Someone suggested two churches in the San Fernando Valley, Church on the Way and Grace Community Church. Since James was reading the book on Worship by MacArthur, he decided to attend a service one Sunday night at Grace Community Church. The Pastor, John MacArthur was preaching through Matthew, line by line. Although we loved the little Nazarene Church in Santa Monica, we were moved by the Holy Spirit and felt a strong sense of calling that compelled us to consider attending Grace. We were hungry to learn the Scriptures and it seemed that God was calling us to a new chapter in our lives.

 

…. A historical note. On this day in history October 21, 1512.

  • Martin Luther joined the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg.