On July 1, yesterday, I spent a good part of the day with an old friend, Jim Lichtenstein. We don’t see each other that often, but have intertwined significant aspects of our lives through the years.
My first acquaintance with him was in December 1966 in Pasadena, CA when I was a freshman student. I had a date for Saturday night and she told me that her good friend was coming down from Spokane, WA for the Annual Ministerial conference. Maybe I could with her and her friend and her husband, the pastor of Spokane to look around in Beverly Hills. I went.
We parked our car and walked window shopping at big expensive department stores. It was a lot of fun. Jim Lichtenstein pastor was so nice to me and took an interest in me. I had known no one and it was so nice of him and his wife to pay this attention.
I sent him a thank you note. I was surprised that he responded with a letter of his own. We corresponded a few times; he was always timely in writing.
The next year I was transferred rather quickly to Ambassador College in Bricket Wood, England. I wrote to him and he wrote back right away.
After graduation from College and being assigned in the field ministry in Sioux Falls I continued to write. Phone calls were expensive, but letters were cheap. There were no churches at that time between Sioux Falls and Spokane. Every summer Jim Lichtenstein would take a month to visit all the brethren in Montana. I was hoping that somehow I could get out there and see him. Our congregation was assigned to Penticton, British Columbia for the Feast. We would go through Spokane! I did see him at the Feast and then afterward stayed at their house in Spokane for several days. They had two children, both with disabilities….David and John. They took me out to Grand Coulee Dam. This was fall of 1969. I always marveled how to me this “senior” minister was so kind and gracious to me.
Jim was now transferred to Philadephia, PA and lived across the river in Cherry Hill, NJ. When I was married at the end of December 1970, my wife and I drove out East to tour around. We stopped by to see Jim.
The Lichtenstein’s had another child, a girl. Also, born with serious medical problems. I marveled how they took these big trials with children so in stride…or at least, it looked that way to me. Her name was Laura.
In 1975 we had our son Michael born. He came two months early and weight dropped to 3 lbs 2 ozs. I naturally called the Lichtensteins about our trial when my son’s life hung in the balance. They sent me an unexpected gift of $50…a lot of money for them and me at the time.
When I married in 1982, Jim drove up from Kentucky to be best man at my wedding.
Then Jim started writing for church publications, at that time the Good News magazine. He had very well developed thoughts on various subjects. This got me going and starting to write as well. At that time there was no email and we sent our manuscripts back and forth.
A big event in the early 80’s was the personal computer. Jim and I both bought the IBP PC….with a floppy disk drive. Also a copy of WORD from Microsoft. Version 1.0. Almost unusable because it was so clunky, but now you could edit and move things around and not have to retype entire manuscripts. What an invention! We continued to send things back and forth for evaluation. He was at times harsh and direct. I looked up to him as a mentor and will always regard him as one who had a great impact in my life.
Our paths parted for several years. It was a tough period in Jim’s life. I did see him briefly on church visits from when I worked in California, As with lots of relationships, sometimes there are paths that you go on that take you to different places.
But, in the last few years, we reconnected. Jim was remarried and lives in the Chattanooga, TN area. I had occasion to go there and was able to get together with him.
This past weekend Jim was up here in Cincinnati to support his grandson who was hospitalized. We spent a good part of yesterday reminiscing and talking about what’s transpired in the last 51 years of our lives. It was good to talk about this and cherish the good, the important and reflect on the trials.