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Short Stories: A Mom and Her Son — A Perfect Night Long Ago

bill gaither trio

Almost thirty years ago, my mother turned a Ruger .357 handgun towards her heart, cocked the hammer, and pulled the trigger. Mom died moments later, slumping to an ignoble end in her bathroom. Mom had tried to kill herself numerous times over her fifty-three years of life before finally succeeding. (Please see Barbara.) I have written about some of these attempts before, so there’s no need to rehash them here.

Mom and I had a complicated relationship. My Fundamentalist religious beliefs kept me having the relationship I should have had with her. While Mom professed to be a Christian, I didn’t believe her. I genuinely thought that if she would just repent of her sins, get saved, and start following the teachings of the Bible, all would be well. No mental illness, no drug ddiction, just love, peace, and joy. It would be years later before I truly “understood” my mom. It would be years before I understood how being sexually abused by her father affected every aspect of her life. Mom’s life was a trainwreck, but once I understood that abusive, violent men often drove her train, I could then love her as she was. Or try to, anyway.

In early 1976, I decided to study for the ministry. At first, I planned to attend Briercrest Bible Institute — an non-denominational Evangelical college in Canada. But, unable to meet the non-resident financial requirements for crossing the border, I chose to attend Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan instead. This singular choice, of course, changed my life, later affecting who I would marry, where I would live, and how I would spend most of my adult life. There’s a new show on TV called Ordinary Joe. The show details how the choices we make affect the trajectory of our lives. What if I had gone to Briercrest instead of Midwestern? How different would my life be today? Better? Worse? Who can say? Alas, life is what it is.

Mom was quite proud of me. I would be the first person in our family to go to college. While Mom never heard me preach, I know she was delighted that I was a preacher. A few months before I left for college, I asked Mom if she wanted to go to a Christian concert with me at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This would be the first and last time Mom and I did something together. Just Barbara and her oldest son, Bruce.

Mom said yes, so on the appointed day, we drove to Fort Wayne to hear the Bill Gaither Trio — Bill and Gloria Gaither and Gary McSpadden. Also performing were Henry and Hazel Slaughter. Before heading over to the concert, we ate dinner at a restaurant — its name long forgotten. Mom and I would eat dinner together one more time in the spring of 1978, introducing her to Polly, my beautiful bride-to-be.

A perfect night, forty-five years ago. A night when a mother and her son could be just that without Jesus, the Bible, or mental illness getting in the way.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Short Stories: The Day My Preacher Friend Fired Me

bruce gerencser 1987
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1987

In July of 1983, I started a new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in the rural southeast Ohio community of Somerset. Over the course of eleven years, the church grew from sixteen to two hundred people. However, by early 1989, attendance stood at fifty due to people leaving the church and the church ending its bus ministry (4 busses). That same year, I embraced Evangelical Calvinism and started a tuition-free private school for church children. My ministry emphasis went from evangelism and topical/textual preaching to edifying the saints and expositional preaching. While I still preached on the street and attempted to win souls, my focus was on the church congregation, instructing them in the “doctrines of grace.”

I started preaching at the age of fifteen. Last night, Polly asked me if I remembered the first sermon I preached, the text I used. She was surprised when I told her I did: An Ambassador for Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:20. A preacher’s first sermon is much like having sex for the first time — both memorable experiences, moments in your life you don’t forget. I stopped preaching in the spring of 2005. I pastored my last church, Victory Baptist Church (now closed) in Clare, Michigan, in 2003. I briefly thought about pastoring again, candidating at two churches: New Life Southern Baptist Church in Weston, West Virginia, and Hedgesville Baptist Church in Hedgesville, West Virginia. Though both churches were interested in me becoming their pastor, I declined, and that was that . . . almost. My friend, Bill Beard, pastor of Lighthouse Memorial Church in Millersport, Ohio, believed, at the time, that I just needed to get back on the proverbial horse and start preaching again. Believing that it was impossible for me not to be a preacher,– For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (Romans 11:29) — Bill was insistent that I get back to doing what God had called me to do. Bill even went so far as to offer to buy me an unused church building in Zanesville, Ohio, to start a new church in. He was sorely disappointed when I “prayed” on the matter and said no.

Three years later, Bill received my infamous letter, Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners. This letter detailed my reasons for leaving Christianity. Alarmed and disturbed by my letter, Bill jumped in his car and drove more than three hours north to rescue me from unbelief. After he returned to his home outside of Lancaster, Ohio, I sent Bill the following letter:

Dear Friend,

You got my letter.

I am certain that my letter troubled you and caused you to wonder what in the world was going on with Bruce.

You have been my friend since 1983. When I met you for the first time I was a young man pastoring a new church in Somerset, Ohio. I remember you and your dear wife vividly because you put a hundred-dollar bill in the offering plate. Up to that point we had never seen such a bill in the plate.

And so our friendship began. You helped us buy our first church bus. You helped us buy our church building. In later years, you gave my wife and me a generous gift to buy a mobile home. It was old, but we were grateful to have our own place to live in. You were a good friend.

Yet, our common bond was the Christianity we both held dear. I doubt you would have done any of the above for the local Methodist minister, whom we both thought was an apostate.

I baptized you and was privileged to be your pastor on and off over my 11 years in Somerset. You left several times because our doctrinal beliefs conflicted, you being an Arminian and I a Calvinist.

One day you came to a place where you believed God was leading you to abandon your life work, farming, and enter the ministry. I was thrilled for you. I also said to myself, “now Bill can really see what the ministry is all about!”

So you entered the ministry and you are now a pastor of a thriving fundamentalist church. I am quite glad you found your place in life and are endeavoring to do what you believe is right. Of course, I would think the same of you if you were still farming.

You have often told me that much of what you know about the ministry I taught you. I suppose, to some degree or another, I must take credit for what you have become (whether I view it as good or bad).

Yesterday, you got into your Lincoln and drove three-plus hours to see me. I wish you had called first. I had made up my mind to make up some excuse why I couldn’t see you, but since you came unannounced I had no other option but to open the door and warmly welcome you. Just like always . . .

I have never wanted to hurt you or cause you to lose your faith. I would rather you not know the truth about me than to hurt you in any way. But your visit forced the issue. I had no choice.

Why did you come to my home? I know you came as my friend, but it seemed by the time our three-hour discussion ended our friendship had died and I was someone you needed to pray for, that I might be saved. After all, in your Arminian theology there can be no question that a person with beliefs such as mine has fallen from grace.

Do you know what troubled me the most? You didn’t shake my hand as you left. For 26 years we shook hands as we came and went. The significance of this is overwhelming. You can no longer give me the right hand of fellowship because we no longer have a common Christian faith.

Over the course of three hours, you constantly reminded me of what I used to preach, what I used to believe. I must tell you forthrightly that that Bruce is dead. He no longer exists. That Bruce is but a distant memory. For whatever good may have been done I am grateful, but I bear the scars and memories of much evil done in the name of Jesus. Whatever my intentions, I must bear the responsibility for what I did through my preaching, ministry style, etc.

You seem to think that if I just got back in the ministry everything would be fine. Evidently, I cannot make you understand that the ministry IS the problem. Even if I had any desire to re-enter the ministry, where would I go? What sect would take someone with such beliefs as mine? I ask you to come to terms with the fact that I will never be a pastor again. Does not the Bible teach that if a man desires the office of a bishop (pastor) he desires a good work? I have no desire for such an office. Whatever desire I had died in the rubble of my 25-plus-year ministry.

We talked about many things, didn’t we? But I wonder if you really heard me?

I told you my view on abortion, Barack Obama, the Bible, and the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ.

You told me that a Christian couldn’t hold such views. According to your worldview that is indeed true. I have stopped using the Christian label. I am content to be a seeker of truth, a man on a quest for answers. I now know I never will have all the answers. I am now content to live in the shadows of ambiguity and the unknown.

What I do know tells me life does not begin at conception, that Barack Obama is a far better President than George Bush, that the Bible is not inerrant or inspired, and that Jesus is not the only way to Heaven (if there is a Heaven at all).

This does not mean that I deny the historicity of Jesus or that I believe there is no God. I am an agnostic. While I reject the God of my past, it remains uncertain that I will reject God altogether. Perhaps . . .

In recent years, you have told me that my incessant reading of books is the foundation of the problems I now face.Yes, I read a lot. Reading is a joy I revel in. I read quickly and I usually comprehend things quite easily (though I am finding science to be a much bigger challenge). Far from being the cause of my demise, books have opened up a world to me that I never knew existed. Reading has allowed me to see life in all its shades and complexities. I can no more stop reading than I can stop eating. The passion for knowledge and truth remains strong in my being. In fact, it is stronger now than it ever was in my days at Somerset Baptist Church.

I was also troubled by your suggestion that I not share my beliefs with anyone. You told me my beliefs could cause others to lose their faith! Is the Christian faith so tenuous that one man can cause others to lose their faith? Surely the Holy Spirit is far more powerful than Bruce (even if I am Bruce Almighty).

I am aware of the fact that my apostasy has troubled some people. If Bruce can walk away from the faith . . . how can any of us stand? I have no answer for this line of thinking. I am but one man . . . shall I live in denial of what I believe? Shall I say nothing when I am asked of the hope that lies within me? Christians are implored to share their faith at all times. Are agnostics and atheists not allowed to have the same freedom?

I suspect the time has come that we part as friends. The glue that held us together is gone. We no longer have a common foundation for a mutual relationship. I can accept you as you are, but I know you can’t do the same for me. I MUST be reclaimed. I MUST be prayed for. The bloodhound of heaven MUST be unleashed on my soul.

Knowing all this, it is better for us to part company. I have many fond memories of the years we spent together. Let’s mutually remember the good times of the past and each continue down the path we have chosen.

Rarer than an Ivory-billed woodpecker is a friendship that lasts a lifetime. Twenty-six years is a good run.

Thanks for the memories.

Bruce

Bill never responded to my letter.

I saw Bill one more time a few years ago at a funeral service I held for a former member of Somerset Baptist. We briefly talked after service. I’m sure Bill was disappointed over the secular service I performed for our fellow church member (the deceased had left Christianity), but he said nothing. Two years ago, Bill — true to Jesus and Fundamentalist Christianity to the end — died.

Now to the subject of this post: the day my preacher friend (Bill) fired me. I could write thousands and thousands of words about my friendship with Bill Beard (and his wife, Peggie). Today, I want to focus on a story that took place in the fall of 1989. At the time, Bill was pastoring a Nazarene church he had started outside of Thornville, Ohio (now called Together Ministries Nazarene Church). Bill asked me to preach a revival for his church. Bill knew that I had embraced five-point Calvinism, and I knew his church was Arminian, with many members, including Bill and his wife, believing in sinless perfection (an absurd theological belief if there ever was one). I am sure readers sense an MMA fight waiting to happen.

Bill was a southern gospel aficionado. He had a different group scheduled for each night of the six-night meeting. On the first night, a quartet sang a dreadful song that suggested there were steps to salvation. I believed they were preaching heresy, works-based salvation. So, when it came time for me to preach, I made an “off-handed” comment about the song. Later in my sermon, I made an “off-handed” comment about “sinless perfection” — the belief that Christians can reach a state where they no longer sin. I put the word “off-handed” in quotes for this reason: I never made off-handed comments when preaching. I invested hours in preparing and crafting my sermons. Polly “fondly” remembers my epic OCD sermon outlines. Before I had a word processor or a computer, I would write my outlines long-form, and Polly would type them for me.

Many preachers are known for chasing rabbits, turning their sermons into a hot mess of incoherence. Polly’s father was a consummate rabbit chaser. Great with people, but a terrible preacher. I mean t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e. I worked with my father-in-law for two years, hearing him preach hundreds of sermons. I tried to teach him how to outline a sermon and deliver a coherent, structured message. But, Dad couldn’t make the magic happen. I, on the other hand, never chased a rabbit I didn’t intend to chase; and shoot, skin, and eat for dinner. I destroyed all of my sermon outlines — dumb idea, Bruce (please see Short Stories: The Night I Set My Life on Fire) — in the early 2000s, but I have no doubt I put handwritten notes on my sermon outline for the first night of the revival service that said: works-based gospel song, sinless perfection. These were prompts meant to remind me that I needed to point my shotgun at these rabbits and shoot them dead. And I did.

I was quite proud that I, as a preacher of the true gospel, had preached this gospel to several hundred Arminians. Good job, right? God was pleased with me, right? Right? I brought several Calvinistic acolytes with me, Rick and Lewis — men who daily immersed themselves in the doctrines of grace. Rick and Lewis, both single men in their late 20s and early 30s, praised me for my defense of free grace, my denunciation of works salvation and sinless perfection. Bill and his church had a far different view of my sermon. Shocker, right? Jesus, I poured gasoline on a centuries-old blazing theological bonfire.

The next day, I was sitting in the Somerset Baptist auditorium, pondering and praying about that night’s sermon. Through the oversized oak auditorium doors walked Bill. I was surprised to see him, but it was not uncommon for Bill to stop by the church when he was out and about (this was in the days before cellphones). Bill, of course, wanted to talk to me about the previous night’s sermon. Bill told me that he and his church’s board had decided not to have me preach again. Bill was profusely apologetic, but I understood why he was firing me. Bill handed me several hundred dollars, thanked me for preaching, and left. This was the first and only time this happened to me. At the time, I believed I was fired for preaching the “truth.” Years later, I concluded that my dismissal was the result of arrogance and disrespect. As a Calvinist, I knew there were certain theological subjects I should avoid when preaching to an Arminian congregation. Instead, I disrespected the congregation by stomping on their cherished beliefs.

Bill would later leave the Church of the Nazarene due to perceived “liberalism.” Bill, who had no post-high school education, was asked by denominational leaders to take classes part-time at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Bill was exposed to ideas that directly challenged his rigid, absolute Fundamentalist beliefs for the first time. (Bill was King James-only.) Unfortunately, he rejected out of hand what his professors tried to teach him, leaving his church and the Church of the Nazarene denomination.

Bill took his outrage and rigidity to a new church, Lighthouse Memorial Church, and a new denomination, Christian Union. I preached special meetings for Bill’s new church. (Bill and his wife donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a new church building. Bill farmed 2,000 acres near the church.) I have an old VHS recording of a sermon I preached at Bill’s church. It is the only extant recording of a sermon I preached. I plan to have it converted into a digital recording that I will share on this blog and my YouTube channel.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Short Stories: County Road F

gerencser family 1960s
Gerencser family, Easter Sunday, 1960s. My grandmother was the secretary to the CEO of Ohio Art. She often bought us toys made by Ohio Art. Notice the cap gun tucked in my suit jacket. A hitman in the making. 🙂

In the early 1960s, my parents moved from Bryan, Ohio, to San Diego, California, searching for the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. I moved along with them, as did my siblings — as if we had any choice. Of course, we never had any choice as we moved from Bryan to Ney to San Diego to Bryan to Harrod to Farmer to Deshler to Findlay to Tucson. And that’s all before my parents divorced when I was fifteen. I would then move four more times by the time I left for college in 1976. Numerous moves, numerous schools, numerous houses . . .

After searching in vain for the pot of gold, my parents packed up their meager belongings and moved to a farmhouse on County Road F just north of Bryan. We lived there for a year or so. We never lived anywhere for very long. Someone asked me if we moved all the time because my dad was in the military. I replied, “no, he just never paid the bills.”

I have had a lot of pain and trauma in my life — both physical and psychological. But mixed in with these experiences are funny stories. Every place we moved to and every house we lived in has stories to tell. County Road F is no different. Three stories come to mind.

Mom enrolled me for second grade at Pulaski Elementary School. The morning the bus arrived to pick me up for my first day of school, I became sick and couldn’t go to school. This went on for several days before Mom took me to see Dr. Jackson at the Bryan Medical Center (now Parkview Physicians Group). Dr. Jackson quickly diagnosed what was wrong with me, wrote a prescription to take, and sent me on my way. And sure enough, by the next day, I was as good as new, ready to ride the bus to school. Years later, Mom told me that Dr. Jackson had prescribed sugar pills, a sure cure for first day of school blues.

In the spring, I was playing outside with my brother and sister. We spent most of our waking hours outdoors. Mom subscribed to the “out of sight, out of mind” school of child-rearing. As we played in the ditch near the road, I found a nest of garter snakes outside the drain tile. Fascinating, right? I went and got my red Radio Flyer wagon (actually, the wagon belonged to my siblings too, but as they will tell you, as the oldest child, I “owned” everything), gathered up the snakes, and put them in the wagon. I then pulled the wagon to the back door and called for Mom to come and see what I had in the wagon. I learned on that day that Mom was afraid of snakes — I mean really, really, really afraid. She shrieked and quickly retreated to the safety of the house. And what did her ornery little redheaded son do? He dumped the snakes in the yard. Mom “feared” those snakes for months, even though they are harmless.

While living on County Road F, we attended Eastland Baptist Chapel in Bryan — a Southern Baptist church plant. Mom always made sure we dressed up for church — no slumming it for the Gerencser children. One Sunday night, my brother and I, dressed in our Sunday best white pants, went down to the nearby creek to “play” before church. After arriving at the creek, we noticed a “beaver” swimming in the shallow water. This is the same creek where I saw a “water moccasin.” Thanks to books from the Bryan Public Library, I would later learn that the water moccasin was actually a black water snake, and the beaver was a groundhog (woodchuck).

My brother and I, wearing white pants, shirts, ties, and shoes, plunged into the water to catch the juvenile groundhog. I carried the groundhog back to the house, put him on the front porch, and put a board over the steps so he couldn’t run away. And then MOM saw us! I am sure we got an ass whipping, though all I remember is the “beaver.” I caught a beaver, just like those rugged frontier men I read about. Our escapade caused us to miss church, one of the few times the Gerencsers weren’t present and accounted for at whatever church we were attending at the time.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Short Stories: My First Brush With Death

1970-nova-ss
1970 Nova SS, I bought it in 1975 for $600

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

When did you first realize that you were not invincible? As I attend baseball and softball games this summer, I can’t help but notice how full of life the players are, ready and willing to face all the challenges that come their way. I, too, remember a time when I thought I had the world under my thumb, bending it to my will. I was fearless, arrogant, and full of life, taking on risks that this older version of me would never undertake. From narrowly dodging a semi-truck with my bicycle to climbing under a stopped freight train on a dare, I was known as a boy who loved to push limits, with no thought of what might happen if I miscalculated and came up short. As daredevils know, every successful dare makes one more brazen and willing to push beyond limits. On one hand, such people often accomplish great things, but they are also those who, when coming up short, find themselves needing medical treatment or bail money to get out of jail. There’s a fine line between foolhardy carelessness and taking risks in hope of great reward. Even after successfully making it to age sixty-three, I readily admit that I am not always sure where that line is. I suspect that my tombstone will say, He Died of One Stupid Decision Too Many. There used to be a television program titled, 1,000 Ways to Die. This show detailed the numerous, sometimes humorous, and often foolish and bizarre ways humans have met their ends. Some of my foolish stunts would have made for a great episode or two.

In the summer of 1975, I turned eighteen. I had returned to Bryan, Ohio, from Arizona, and moved in with my mom. I quickly found employment at Foodland, a local union grocery store. To avoid providing me insurance and full-time benefits, the grocery scheduled me to work forty hours one week and thirty-nine hours the next week. I didn’t care. Who needed insurance and benefits, right? My job as the dairy manager was just a means to an end — providing the money necessary for me to keep my car running and spend every night and weekend running around with my friends. My mom rarely saw me. After work, I was out with friends until late, and weekends were often spent doing group activities. Having recently had a bitter breakup with an Arizona college girl whom I was certain was going to be my wife, I had no interest in dating, so group social activities with my friends provided a balm for my hurting emotions.

After moving back to Ohio, I bought a 1960 Mercury Comet — black with a white top — for $200. Over the course of the summer, I put thousands of miles on the car, traveling all over the tri-state area. One Saturday, a bunch of my friends and I decided to go Clear Lake, a nearby body of water in Indiana. I drove, packing eleven friends in a car meant to hold five or six. With nary a thought for safety, off we went to the lake, spending the afternoon swimming and engaging in non-stop horseplay and flirting. Soon it was time to return home. I deposited each of my riders safely at their homes until only a boy named Kenny and I were left in the car.

Kenny was a couple of years younger than I. I knew Kenny through our attendance at First Baptist Church in Bryan. As we were headed towards Kenny’s home, he asked if he could drive my car. Now, I knew he didn’t yet have his license, but the fact that Kenny had grown up on a farm had, I thought, provided him with the necessary skills to drive an automobile, so I said yes! My car had a six-cylinder motor — 144 cubic inch displacement. Top speed was seventy miles per hour. Off we went with Kenny behind the wheel. As Kenny pulled the car onto Williams County Road 15.75, it began to fishtail a bit in the loose gravel. I thought, at the time, no big deal, Kenny will straighten out the car. Instead, as the car increased its side-to-side motion, Kenny panicked, lost control of the car, and drove it headlong into a ditch bank, rolling the car over twice. In a split second, everything around me turned upside down, and when the car finally came to a stop, Kenny’s head was sticking out of the space once occupied by the front windshield and I, having been thrown from the front to the back seat, found myself with the detached seat lying on top of me. Both of us were, surprisingly, unhurt, though I was so disoriented from the crash (perhaps I had a concussion?) that I went to a nearby farmhouse and walked in without knocking, asking if I could use their phone to call the Highway Patrol. Outside of a few scratches and bumps, Kenny and I were unscathed. Unfortunately, my car was totaled.

When the patrolman asked who was driving the car, I, knowing I would get a ticket for letting Kenny drive, lied, telling the officer that I was behind the wheel. This lie, along with four speeding tickets I would accrue in the coming months, caused my insurance rates to rise to $100 a month. Not only did I have an accident and four moving violations on my record, my replacement car for the Mercury was a 1970 Chevrolet Nova SS — 350 cubic inch displacement and 375 horsepower. I went from a car that couldn’t go faster than seventy miles per hour to a car in which I buried the speedometer needle on more than one occasion at one hundred and forty miles per hour.

This accident was my first real brush with death — at least the first one that impacted me psychologically. The car didn’t have seat belts, so Kenny and I could have easily been ejected from the car. We were lucky to have escaped serious injury. Of course, at the time, our luck was attributed to the providential care of the Christian God. I have often wondered what might have happened if I had let Kenny drive while ten other teenagers were beside us in the car. I can only imagine how much carnage there would have been had the car been stuffed full of happy, I’ve got the world by the tail teens when it rolled over twice. Imagine how much differently this story might have ended had everyone who had gone to the lake still been in the car. Fortunately, they weren’t, and all of them graduated from high school, married, and had children (and now grandchildren) of their own. This would not be my last brush with death, but it was my first — that moment in time when all of us come to realize for the first time how mortal and frail we really are.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Short Stories: 1976: The Lutheran Girls

bruce gerencser 1976
Putting water in the radiator of my 1970 Nova SS, March 1976

The winter before I left rural northwest Ohio to enroll in classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, my friend Randy Rupp and I drove up to Irish Hills in Onstead, Michigan, to do some skiing. Nestled in a miles-long strip of closed-up tourist attractions on U.S. Route 12, Irish Hills attracted scores of skiers each winter. (Irish Hills Ski Lodge is now closed.)

Randy was an expert skier. Having skied all over Europe, Randy was a stud on the slopes. I, on the other hand, had never skied before. Randy headed off for the highest slopes while I wowed the girls on the kiddie slopes. My one and only time skiing turned into a disaster in short order. The snow was quite slick, having an icy coating. Irish Hills used a j-bar lift to tow skiers from the bottom of the hill to the top. I had a difficult time positioning my ass on the j-bar. As the bar began pulling me up the hill, I lost my footing, flipped, and the j-bar towed me upside down up the hill. The lift operator, seeing my dilemma, stopped the lift and helped get me right side up. Boy, was I embarrassed. Way to impress the girls, right? And believe me, Randy and I were there for the girls.

I quickly decided that skiing wasn’t for me, and I headed for the warmth of the ski lodge. Randy later joined me. It wasn’t long before we met several attractive girls — Lutherans from Toledo. We flirted back and forth, and decided we would come to Toledo the next weekend to meet them. As with skiing, Randy was an expert when it came to women. I, on the other hand, was a novice.

The following Saturday, Randy and I made plans to meet in Bryan and drive to Toledo. I was living at the time with my mom on Route 6 west of Bryan near Edgerton. I was running late, so I sped down the highway, coming to the intersection of Route 6 and Route 2. As I looked at the intersection, I didn’t see a car anywhere. The light was red, and with no car in sight, I decided to run the light. As I turned north on Route 2, imagine my surprise to see a highway patrolman sitting along the berm. Knowing I was toast, I pulled over. The officer asked for my license. He said, “sir, you are from Arizona?” I had lived back in Ohio for months but had never gotten around to getting an Ohio license. This meant, of course, that the officer couldn’t just give me a ticket and let me go. Instead, he arrested me and took me to the Bryan Police station for processing. I faced jail unless I could post a $200 bond. I frantically called Randy, and after two hours, he showed up with my bond money. Hours behind, we finally left Bryan for Toledo.

It was late when we reached the Lutheran girls’ home. Randy told the one girl’s father that we were having car trouble — a lie — and asked if it would be okay if we spent the night so we could “fix” our car in the morning. He said okay. I can say that nothing sexually happened on my end that night. For Randy? That’s his story to tell. 🙂 The next morning, the car magically repaired itself. We attended church with the girls and then drove back to Bryan. We never spoke to them again.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser