By Del Starr, a pseudonym, all rights reserved. Posted Oct 14, 2015

When the Saints Go Marching

Though the growing season wasn’t what Dianne would like (she loved tomatoes and here in Montana she could not even grow a real garden), Dianne was content. She and Peter continued to attend church. Before Tina was married she would sit with them but now she had moved to sit with Mark and his family. Little Jimmy, though, would come to sit with Grandma and Grandpa. It was comforting to be a part of this family and especially so, knowing that it was the only true family of God.

Peter’s daughter and grandson had come from California and now were living in a mobile home on the back of Peter and Dianne’s property. Often Illana and Dianne would study the Bible together and Dianne was heartened by the fact that Illana seemed to be absorbing and accepting the truths of the Seventh-day Adventist church. She would even accompany them to church upon occasion. This was the fulfillment of Dianne’s lifelong dream of being able to lead someone into the truth of the Sabbath. She shared more with Illana. They began studying the book of Revelation. Dianne explained to Illana that “this part should be here and you can see that these parts are a different portrayal of the same event, and that the book of Revelation was not written in chronological order so must be rearranged as one learned what it actually said…” She shared thoughts from Ellen White on the final events of the world.

Illana sat contemplatively, nodding her head every now and then, not saying anything but murmuring a low “mmmmm” once in a while. Dianne continued to speak and share Ellen White’s words with her until…it dawned on Dianne that it seemed that one was not able to read the book of Revelation for what it said, but must have an interpreter. Ellen White was, to Dianne, that interpreter. With God tugging at her heart strings, Dianne realized that there was a problem here. Was it possible that until Ellen White’s time, nobody had been able to understand the book of Revelation? Why was it that God made it so hard that a person could not just read it and accept it for what it said? Was it possible that Dianne was wrong about the book of Revelation?  Was it possible that the Seventh-day Adventist church was wrong about the book of Revelation?

With mixed emotions, Dianne felt the questions roar in her head. She had reached a point where she realized that she was not making any sense to herself, much less to Illana.

Excusing herself for a moment, she went into the bathroom and throwing her hands in the air cried, “Jesus please, show me Who You are!” A sense of peace pervaded her heart and she returned to the table where Illana sat waiting.

“Illana,” she said, “I’m very tired. Would you mind terribly if we put this aside for now and studied it later?”

Illana smiled graciously and closed her Bible. “That’s fine, Dianne, I’m tired too. We can get back to it later.” And Illana went home.

Thoughts pounded in Dianne’s head and she spent a long torturous night, thinking through what she had been saying and what the Bible said. God soon provided an opportunity every morning in which Dianne could read her Bible, isolated from people and telephones for an hour or two. By the leading of the Holy Spirit, she saw things she had not previously seen and understood things in a way she had not understood them before. Jesus was indeed, showing Himself to her.

Peter and Dianne were meeting once a week in a small group meeting in the home of one of the local church members, and here Dianne heard precious words one night, that she had longed to hear but had given up on ever hearing. “Dianne,” a member stated, “you really know your Bible.” Dianne’s heart leapt for joy even as she told him, “God has afforded me opportunity to read His word daily. I don’t know any more than what He has shown me.”

Meanwhile, Mark and Tina were suffering increasing problems. Tina was not allowed to go grocery shopping unless she brought home the receipt showing just what the money had been spent on. Not a penny was to go for sweets or any treats for the children. Quite often Mark would strike Tina but more than that and far worse was how he treated her. He would say things like, “Woman, get over here and do…” whatever it was he wanted Tina to do. When Tina would share her thoughts about the things of God, Mark would tell her that she was wrong, that he would not discuss it with her and that the Bible told him that he was not to cast his pearls before swine, intimating that Tina was a “swine.”

Tina accompanied Mark to Alaska. In the dead of winter, when she was heavy with child, Mark brought her back to Montana. Two more children were born to them in two years. The second son was asthmatic. Mark would not allow Tina to take the children for medical care. If they were ill, they suffered. Dianne would give Tylenol to Tina when she could. Mark would not allow it in the house and Tina could not buy it, for it would show on her receipt. The second son, though, would require hospitalization when he had an asthma attack and at least Mark would allow hospitalization for the small boy.

Tina was pregnant with Mark’s third child, her fourth, when she finally determined that she could no longer live with him. She filed the papers to obtain a divorce. When they were to be delivered, their son was once more in the hospital with asthma. Tina sat by his side. Mark didn’t bother. The other two children were safe with their grandparents.

The baby finally fell asleep and Tina was able to leave the hospital. She gathered her two other babies from their grandparents and headed home. When she walked into the house she couldn’t believe what she saw. Everything was gone. EVERYTHING!

Mark had taken the bedding (except for two blankets and one pillow), the food, most of the furniture, and even the baby’s formula. The children’s toys were gone, the TV was gone. The house was empty. Tina was stunned but not overly surprised. This was typical of Mark.

Turning the heat up a bit, she snuggled the children under the two remaining blankets and called Dianne.

“Mom, I don’t have any formula for the baby. Mark took it,” she cried.

Peter and Dianne listened to the whole story and then went to the store. They purchased enough food for a few days so the children could eat and took them to Tina, along with diapers, which Mark had also taken.

For the next few months, life would be hell for Tina but she could not know that at this point. She felt that with the help of the courts, she could get assistance from Mark and all would be well.

Mark moved back into the small mobile home that he and Tina had lived in for the few months after their marriage. He would come to the family home and taunt Tina, telling her what a bad person she was and how she would be nothing without him. Tina stood firmly upon her decision.

Winter was drawing on and Mark had drained the fuel tanks that contained the heating oil for the home. Tina blithely called the supplier and ordered more. Mark had taken her name off the checkbook and cut off every means of financial assistance she might have but he had forgotten about the account for the heating oil. When the truck came to deliver the heating oil, Tina also had them fill two five-gallon cans with diesel. These she stored in a closet off her living room.

The judge ordered Mark to provide funding for his family. Mark would have the check in his pocket when he came to pick up the children but would refuse to give it to Tina. (Later, in court, he said that his reason was he “wanted to see her beg.”)

Winter closed in.

Peter had now retired from his job as manager of the mill. After a brief vacation period, he and Dianne purchased a local motel. This would become their occupation.

The snow began to fall and it seemed to never quit. Tina was well off the beaten track with her babies and had no way to plow her driveway. Mark was living just at the other end of the property, but though he plowed his own driveway, he refused to plow Tina’s even though he knew that his son required emergency medical care at times.

When the snow was six feet deep in the driveway, a kindly neighbor finally plowed Tina’s driveway and she was able to drive away from the house. Peter and Dianne told her that she was not to go home again until the snow stopped. Tina moved into the motel.

Now Mark would come to the motel to harass Tina. While Dianne was at the front desk, he would storm in with his camcorder and, shoving it in her face over the desk, begin asking questions of her. Dianne would order him to leave and he would only reply, “I’ll leave when I get good and ready.”

On numerous occasions, Peter called the local pastor asking for help in dealing with Mark. He was ignored, for the most part. Since Peter had many years of managerial experience, he had learned that most problems can be diffused by saying, “I don’t know if this is happening or not, but if it is, it is not acceptable.” He now asked the pastor to take this approach with Mark but he was still ignored.

The problems continued. Sometimes Dianne had to call the police to have him removed from the motel lobby.

The weather became milder and Tina was able to return home. Mark again began threatening and intimidating her at home. Tina finally asked Peter and Dianne to come home with her and observe.

Leaving their own car a distance away, they rode with Tina to her home, where they stayed inside. Soon Mark appeared. Tina had obtained a restraining order against him and now asked him, on the basis of that order, to leave. The conversation was being recorded. Mark refüsed.

In frustration Tina finally turned to enter the house to call the police, but Dianne had already done so. Tina, fearful for what Mark might do with the children, returned outside. She told Mark that the police were on their way. “So what?” Mark taunted. After a while he did leave, however.

It was actually quite some time before the police arrived and they parked on the back side of Tina’s home. The car could not be seen from either the road or Mark’s home Peter, Dianne, and Tina told the police the events as they had transpired. Tina played the tape recording of the conversation and then handed the tape to the police. Mark was totally unaware that the police were there. He had driven into the yard, his father at his side, before he could see the patrol car. Undaunted, he stepped out of the car.

“I’m glad to see you here,” he told the police officers. His father walked over to Tina and thrust a slip of paper into her hands as Mark continued to speak. “You can be a witness to the fact that we are evicting her from this land!”

Peter and Dianne could not believe their ears. These people, one a church elder and the other a deacon, were evicting this young woman and these children from the home. In stunned silence. Dianne watched as the events unfolded. Was this the Christianity that she had so longed to possess?

Mark and his father continued their harangue to the police. Tina noticed the camcorder sitting on the hood of the car and now she walked over and picked it up, heading for the house.

Mark’s father grabbed her. “Give me that camera!” he blurted.

The officer reached for Mark’s father and, holding him by the upper arm, said to him, “Take your hand off this woman or we will take you to jail!”

“Oh,” said Mark’s father, “she was going up the steps and she started to slip. I just reached out to keep her from falling.”

Mark, meanwhile, was being told by the other officer that the restraining order meant that he was not to come onto the property where Tina was living.

“How long do I have to obey that order?” Mark demanded.

“Until the judge removes it,” the patrolman said sternly.

Dianne’s eyes felt like ping pong balls as they moved from one to the other. “Hey!” she called out, “Mark’s taking the car!”

An officer ran to the car that Mark had started and had begun backing out. “You get out of that car,” the officer ordered.

“Why?”

“The car is to stay with Tina,” the officer replied.

“But she took the camcorder,” Mark retorted.

“I don’t know anything about the camcorder,” the officer said, “but I have this piece of paper that says that Tina is to have the car and you will get out of it NOW!”

Meekly, Mark shut off the engine, opened the door, and climbed out.

The officers now ordered Mark and his father to leave. Things began to calm down. Dianne knew that now the church would help to protect Tina against Mark, since there was proof of their claims. She didn’t want to harm Mark or his family, she only wanted Mark to leave Tina alone in relative peace.

But that was not to be.

Mark continued at every opportunity to make life hard for Tina. Her attorney suggested that rather than fight with him, Tina should go ahead and vacate the home. Dianne understood the wisdom of this but still railed against the idea that a man, supposedly anointed of God, would cast out into the cold, a young mother and his own grandchildren.

In his own defense, however, Mark’s father stated that only Tina needed to leave. The grandchildren could stay. How loving!

Tina and the children now moved into another mobile home on the back of Peter and Dianne’s property near where Illana was living.

But now Mark would come to Peter and Dianne’s home and make trouble. He hollered at Dianne and Tina, calling them ugly names. He flew his plane over them and buzzed the houses. It seemed to Dianne that he did everything in his power to make life miserable for everyone.

Peter finally decided that it was time to go before the church board, asking that someone please tell Mark that they did not know if this was happening or not but if it was, it was not acceptable. At the occasion of the next church board meeting, Peter, Dianne and Tina were in attendance. Mark’s father was in attendance also.

Tina spoke first and told of the suffering she had experienced at Mark’s hands. Peter then spoke of the qualifications for church positions and the requirements that God laid on those anointed to those positions. He told of the many times they had had to call the police. He told of the incident when Mark had tried to take the car when his father had evicted Tina. The reaction was sudden.

“I’m not going to listen to any more of this,” one woman on the board stated as she jumped from her chair. “This is just revenge! It’s all a pack of lies.” And with that, she flounced out of the building.

The doctor now spoke. “Peter,” he said, “you are a liar.”

Now it was the pastor’s turn. “We have homes we need to get to and it is getting late. We don’t want to hear any more of this. Good night.”

The church had spoken.

Peter, Dianne and Tina left. The only conversation that ever took place with the pastor again was when the pastor told Peter, “The church does not get involved in domestic disputes. This needs to go to a court of law.”

Solemnly, Peter agreed. The church…didn’t care!

Sometime later, after the matter had gone to court, the pastor said to Tina, “They pay a lot of tithes, you know, and they donated the property where the school stands now. And we are wanting to build a gymnasium and are hoping that they will donate that property too.”

Dianne and Tina understood the church’s position.

Mark had taken the children for the weekend, including eight-month-old Allan, with whom Tina had been pregnant when she filed for divorce, and was now returning them. He and his mother brought them to the motel and his mother handed the baby to Peter and said, “Allan fell and got a little bump on his head.”

There was the normal confusion of corralling four young children and transferring their care, and nobody really took a look at Allan until Mark and his mother left the motel.

“OH, MY GOD!” Screamed Tina, “I have to take Allan to the hospital!”

One side of Allan’s little head was swollen to about twice its normal size.

At the hospital the nurse remarked, “This baby’s head is like mush!” Allan was admitted and the following morning, CT scans were arranged for him. It was determined that he suffered from a skull fracture on one side and there was a possibility of another fracture opposite. The other one was much smaller and it could not be determined that it was, in fact, an actual fracture.

Children’s Services Division was called by the hospital, which is mandated to report injuries of this type. Mark was questioned and after an initial denial that the injury had occurred while the baby was in his care, said that the baby had fallen on a board at the bottom of the stereo.

Tina took the baby to the pediatrician who told her that the baby’s injuries did not match the father’s description. The father stated that the baby fell on a lateral board and the injuries the child sustained were round, like the heel of a hand.

There were surely questions left unanswered. Children’s Services Division ordered that Mark not be alone with the children.

Dianne determined that she could no longer attend the Seventh-day Adventist church. Once more she was a cast-off. Once more there was no hope of becoming a part of the family of God. This time, however, she questioned that the Seventh day Adventist church actually was the family of God.