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Craig von Buseck
Spiritual Life

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More Discipleship Resources on Spiritual Life

More from Spiritual Life

Other articles and interviews by Craig von Buseck on

Related Teaching

Seven Keys To Hearing God's Voice

Seven Keys to Hearing God: Tuning In To His Frequency

Hearing God: An Amazing Story

Personal Prophecy and God's Guidance

Judging Personal Prophecy Through the Seven Keys

Gifts of the Spirit

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The Nature and Purpose of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit


The California Miracle

By Craig von Buseck Contributing Writer"Come out to California," my Dad's friend Eddie said with exuberance through the telephone line, "this is where it is happening."

It was 1970, and the California dream was alive and well in the hearts of many across America -- including my father. The voice of his friend boomed so loudly over the telephone receiver that my mother could hear him across the kitchen table. The turbulent sixties were over, and a new decade of hope lay ahead.

That's what my family needed at that time -- hope.

My 30-something parents were having difficulty stretching their two incomes from week to week in Erie, Pennsylvania. Devoutly Roman Catholic, they remained faithful to the decree to shun birth control -- five children under the age of 10 was the fruit (two more would come later).

To earn a living Dad worked the first shift as a designer for Marx Toys (maker of the original "Big Wheel"). My mother worked as a keypunch operator -- they'd call it data entry today. During those years we only saw my mother and father together on the weekends.

Dad's friend Eddie was enamored by the glamour of the Golden State, and things were booming financially. "You can get a good paying job screwing in light bulbs," he told my dad.

Craig von Buseck: The California MiracleThe offer sounded good to him at that point in his career, and so Dad decided to fly out to L.A. for a visit. Arriving a few months later it was all he had hoped it would be -- warm climate, sunny skies, palm trees, and plenty of jobs. Within weeks of his return my parents were making plans to put the house up for sale and move the family to the promised land -- California.

It was an exciting time. Dad believed that a new day was upon him, not only professionally, but in his spiritual life as well. The year before, my father attended a church retreat where he had come to the conclusion that he was in need of salvation. He had gone through catechism, and was faithful to the church, but he knew that there was an emptiness inside that was not being fulfilled through religious devotion. He came to understand that he needed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and when he made that commitment he was born again.

Dad was a seeker. He wasn't satisfied with repetitive religion, praying the same prayers he had prayed every day since he was a child. He was convinced that there must be some spiritual experience that was deeper. The media said that it was, "the dawning of the age of Aquarius," and so like many people in those confused days my father began investigating eastern mysticism and other philosophies, trying to find the truth.

Then one day a friend invited him to a prayer meeting. Dad accepted the invitation, not knowing what to expect. What he found blew his mind. The people were singing to God and raising their hands. One guy with a wiry beard was playing an acoustic guitar. He had a leather belt with a matching leather guitar strap that said, "Jesus brings joy." As soon as Dad walked into the room he sensed a peace that he hadn't felt in years.

"Man," he said to himself, "If this is what life is like in Jesus, I want some of it."

He clapped along to the music and joined in the hugging when it was time to greet the others in the group. A Catholic charismatic priest was talking about things my father had never heard of before -- the baptism in the Holy Spirit. By the time he was done speaking my Dad's heart was full, and he knew he had found what he was looking for. That night he prayed to receive this gift.

Mom, on the other hand, wasn't so sure. She was impressed by the changes she saw in my father, but she wasn't as quick to accept the raised hands, the tambourines, and the gospel folk music. And when they started praying and speaking in those foreign languages she really went berserk.

But for all her skepticism, she couldn't help noticing that there was something different about these prayer meetings. There was a special presence of God that she had rarely experienced before. And the people were different, too. They were friendly. They were kind. They were always helping one another. They were like a family.

In time, my mom grew more comfortable and began looking forward to the prayer meetings. But she was still uneasy about the tongues and those "words of prophecy" that some of the chatty ones blurted out just when things were becoming peaceful during the folk music sessions.

When my parents announced that they were planning to move to California these new Christian friends pitched in to help. My parents decided to give away most of the household items so we wouldn't have to haul them across the country. After all, we could buy all new things once the money started rolling in out west.

Since we were leaving the cold climate of Erie, we would have no need for our winter coats and clothes, so we donated them to some families who had lost their homes in a large fire. We also gave away our television, our beds, our couch and chairs. We even donated the baby grand piano to a Pentecostal church.

A few weeks before their scheduled departure, mom and dad were invited to visit a different prayer meeting across town. Mom was feeling more comfortable with these meetings, and she was even getting used to the "tongues." Other than the friend who invited them, they didn't know anyone else at this slightly larger gathering. It was a similar type of meeting to the one they were used to -- people with guitars, tambourines, and large, leather-covered Bibles.

When the music leader finished the last song there was the usual spontaneous singing where people made up their own words. Mom was even getting used to this part, and she sensed the presence of God in a special way during these times of worship. As the people grew quiet, someone across the room began speaking loudly. My folks had learned that this person was giving "a word" -- a prophecy through the Holy Spirit, given to edify, exhort, or bring comfort to the people of God.

Often these were general messages, words of hope or love from the Father to His children. But this word was very specific:

"My children, don't leave this city"

There was more to it than just that phrase, but that was all my parents heard. They looked at each other with a quizzical expression. "Could God be speaking to us?" they both wondered. They quickly rationalized the notion away. "Surely this couldn't be for us. We've come too far to change our plans now. Besides, are these 'words' really from God, or are they just an emotional outburst?"

They decided to ignore the "word" and move ahead with their plans. It was a fateful decision.

In the months since Dad went to California things had changed in the economy. America had moved into a recession, and things were slowing down fast. Though my parents had their house on the market for several months it had not sold. But my parents were still determined and so they both took a leave of absence from their jobs. Before leaving Pennsylvania, Dad called the realtor and told him to contact him with any reasonable offer.

Some friends threw a going away party for our family. A makeshift band sang some folk songs, accompanied by their acoustic guitars, including a recent hit from the Kingston Trio:

Lord, I'm one, Lord, I'm two, Lord, I'm three, Lord, I'm four,
Lord, I'm five hundred miles a way from home.
Not a shirt on my back, not a penny to my name.
Lord, I can't go back home this-a way.
Lord, I can't go back home this-a way.
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.

"I don't know if I like those words," my mother nervously declared, as she laughed with her friends. She quickly put it out of her mind.

Craig von Buseck: The California MiracleThey packed our belongings into a U-haul trailer and headed out west, their hearts full of excitement at the adventure that lay before them.

It wasn't long, however, before things began to unravel. On the way to visit friends and look for jobs in Arizona, my sister and I came down with croup and had to spend several hours in the emergency room. Once we arrived in Arizona my four-year-old brother was severely injured when he fell onto a barrel cactus. Dad's friend had to use wire snips to remove the large fishhook cactus needles that had embedded into his tiny leg.

After a week of job-hunting my father had no prospects, so we packed the van and headed to California. Friends from Erie who had moved to Los Angeles invited us to stay at their house.

But once in the Golden State we didn't receive the welcome we had expected. The recession had hit California hard, and the jobs that were so plentiful just months before had simply vanished. The family that had opened their home were dealing with difficulties in their own marriage, and the welcome that they had extended on the telephone did not translate to a welcome in person.

For a week Dad pounded the pavement, looking for employment, earning just one job possibility -- an opening for a toy designer with Mattel in New Jersey. Of course, he was already a toy designer with a home and roots in Pennsylvania, and the financial offer was not worth a move to the Garden State.

Toward the end of the second week my parents decided to take their five children to the park to let us release some pent-up energy. As they sat in the van watching us twirl on the merry-go-round, the stress of the situation overwhelmed them. Dad put his head in his hands and leaned forward on the steering wheel thinking to himself, "What have I done?"

After a moment he looked over at my mother and suddenly a realization came over both of them -- they should not have left the city. They remembered the prophecy from the prayer group, and right there decided to pack their things and return to Erie. Dad called the realtor and asked him to take the house off of the market. We were going home.

Sadly, the tribulations of this journey were not yet over. More than half way back to PA we stopped at a hotel in Indianapolis. "We've been having some problems with crime in this area," the motel manager warned. "You better buy yourself a tamper-proof lock for your trailer." Dad took the man's advice and bought the best lock he could find.

Despite his efforts, at some point in the middle of the night thieves broke into the U-Haul and stole all of our belongings -- except for the rocking horse that was strapped to the roof of the van. We arrived back in Erie to an empty house, with only the clothes on our backs, and that delightful rocking horse. As we laid on the floor of our home that first night the lyrics to the Kingston Trio song played over and over in my mother's mind:

Not a shirt on my back, not a penny to my name.
Lord, I can't go back home this-a way.

Our family was living those lyrics. But in that moment of despair we witnessed the love and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father, and the amazing kindness of committed Christian brothers and sisters.

When our new Christian friends heard of our dilemma they rolled up their sleeves and went to work to help us get back on our feet. Folks returned some of the things we had given away. Other people brought over used toys and furniture. Some delivered groceries and milk to our door.

One day we received a telephone call from someone who heard of our plight. "We have a farm and we have just brought in the harvest, but there are still some vegetables in the fields. You're welcome to come and glean what you can." It was like Ruth and Boaz. It was late August, and local farmers were bringing in the fruit of the growing season.

We walked through the freshly-harvested fields and picked what had been left behind by the reapers -- carrots, green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn -- we filled several boxes. As a little child this was merely a fun excursion into the country for me, but for my parents it was a gift directly from heaven. They would feed their family for several days with this blessing.

As we loaded the crops into the van the farmer's wife came out to greet us. "We were recently given some clothes to store in our barn. They were left over from the fire a month ago. The cold season is coming, and you might find something in there for your children." This was another unexpected blessing.

We followed the woman over to the barn and opened the large wooden door to see stacks and stacks of boxes, full of clothes. Right at the edge of the barn was a number of white boxes. We opened the lid to one of these and my mother gasped in amazement. There before our eyes was a box filled with the winter clothes that we had given away just weeks before. We opened another box, and then another, and then another -- God had made sure that all of our winter clothes were saved and stored away in the barn of this farmer that we didn't even know.

The next day my mother kneeled down in front of one of our only possessions at the time, a wooden crucifix, and cried out to heaven. "Lord, I don't believe you want me to go back to work with five little kids to take care of." At the time her children ranged in age from 2 to 10 years old. My father still had a week left in his leave of absence, and so he decided to apply for a job at the local newspaper. Perhaps they needed an artist. A friend gave Dad several brand new pairs of pants, and let him borrow a jacket for the interview.

When he arrived at the Erie Times-News the editor asked if he saw the ad in the paper for the artist position. They had been looking for someone to fill the job for more than a month, and were not able to find anyone with the right qualifications. After looking over his portfolio the editor quickly offered my dad the job. "We'd like to start you off at this salary," he said, writing the figure on a piece of paper and sliding it across the desk to my father. Dad unfolded the paper, looked down at the number scribbled on the note and lost his ability to speak. "Will that be sufficient for you?" the editor asked. Dad couldn't talk and so he merely shook his head yes. The amount that was on the paper far exceeded Dad and Mom's combined income -- the Lord had dramatically met the need.

With tears in his eyes he met his family in the van out in the parking lot, shaking the piece of paper triumphantly over his head. We gathered as a family that day and thanked God for His grace and His mercy to us.

Dad and Mom learned some valuable lessons as a result of that California experience -- chiefly, to put God first in everything you do. After that adventure my parents were no longer led to places where other people said "it is happening." They learned that the "happening" is in the Spirit of God, and as a believer you go where the Holy Spirit leads. You go in His timing. And once you get there, you obey His instructions.

Our family also learned a valuable lesson in trusting God. Even when things seem bleak, they are in His sovereign hands. A pastor recently said that faith in God is living life on the edge of happy negligence. We just don't worry about what will happen in our lives because we know that if we are living for the Lord, putting Him first, He will take care of our every need -- just like He did for my family. Sometimes it seems like he waits until the final moment, but He is never late.

Dad retired from the newspaper a couple of years ago. All the kids are grown now with children of our own. As often as we can, at Christmas time, all seven kids travel back to Erie from across the United States with our spouses and children, our vehicles loaded down with presents to exchange. The ground is frozen in Erie in December and so we park our vehicles in the backyard of the beautiful brick home that Dad and Mom bought a few years after the California miracle.

Craig von Buseck: The California MiracleEvery year my mother walks through this lovely house, past the opened presents flowing out from under the Christmas tree. She weaves her way around the little grandchildren -- and now the big grandchildren. She passes her children and their spouses, all of them born-again, some working in full-time ministry. She strolls through the recently renovated kitchen with countertops brimming with delicious food. She steps into the breakfast nook where she looks out the window into the yard at all the vehicles parked on the frozen lawn. And each time her eyes fill with tears as she looks at the bounty that God has provided, and she thinks back to that fateful trip out west.

"Thank you Lord," she whispers softly, the steam from her breath fogging up the window. She wipes the glass with the sleeve of her sweater, and then the tear from her cheek as she honors God for His faithfulness.

Early in our lives we saw the hand of God leading us, protecting us, and providing for us -- He is still doing that for us today. The California saga was a watershed for our family, but God is just as faithful, just as kind, just as loving to us today as He was then.

Read "ChurchWatch," Craig's Blog on

Read other articles and interviews by Craig von Buseck on

Order your copy of Craig's book, Seven Keys to Hearing God's Voice on Shop CBN

More Discipleship Resources on Spiritual Life

More from Spiritual Life

Craig von BuseckCraig von Buseck is Ministries Director for He looks forward to your e-mail comments.

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