While attending a Bible Institute in northern CA, Louis was assigned to preach a twenty minute sermon. As his introduction, he chose to bellow a line the pastor in the Hayley Mills movie, Pollyanna, bellowed, “DEATH COMES UNEXPECTEDLY!”
It is debatable which was more startling, his delivery or his message! However, the truth of the pastor’s line seemed especially apt to Louis’s family and friends August 21, 2009. Even though they knew that Louis struggled with life-long food sensitivities, with being overweight, and related complications; they did not expect that when he had been sent home from the VA x-ray lab August 20, 2009, after completing the first part of a heart stress test, that he would stop breathing early the next morning and that the paramedics would be unable to revive him.
For those who enjoyed fellowship with him his unexpected death at the age of sixty-four-and-one-half years was premature. However, Louis was certain that Jesus will carry us through every aspect of death. After his death, Gracie found in the middle of one of his Bibles that he stuck a sheet of paper on which he copied a quote by Dee Henderson from the book, The Healer. “Death is the one thing everyone fears. Dying alone, afraid, before we are ready, leaving things undone…but Jesus is able to carry us through flood waters and tragedies, unbearable pain, and overpowering grief. He is trustworthy with the deepest hurts of our lives.”[i]
Louis was absolutely convinced that Jesus loves each of us. Perhaps this is why when given an opportunity to pick a hymn during a congregational hymn sing, he usually asked the group to sing, Jesus Loves Me.
Louis was born in a blizzard in Portland, Maine, on January 29, 1945, while his dad was serving in the Army there. He grew up in San Francisco and San Leandro, CA. He was the oldest of five boys and told tales of running across rooftops in San Francisco as a little boy. He confessed he tormented his brothers from time to time, but had many good memories of summers spent camping in Yosemite National Park in mid-eastern CA with his family. One of his first jobs was delivering newspapers. He tried playing many musical instruments and enjoyed learning to play and maintain the pipe organ at the San Leandro, Congregational Church where he was baptized as a child.
While earning an AA degree in chemistry and attending the University of CA at Berkley for a year, he worked in a post office, worked as an audio-visual projectionist, and as a cashier at the student union. He joined the Navy for seven years and was trained first as an electronics technician, then as a nuclear reactor operator on a submarine. During those years he tried out skiing, scuba diving and motorcycle riding. His descriptions of those activities were somewhat hair-raising, but ended happily in that he survived each!
During his last year in the Navy he met his wife-to-be, Gracie, June 27, 1971. They got engaged July 13, 1971, and married November 26, 1971. He told Gracie that he wanted to have two children naturally if possible and adopt as many more as he could afford, not knowing that she had told her girlfriends that she would like to do the same thing. Gracie thought this was a special confirmation from the Lord that they were meant to be together.
Just prior to leaving the Navy in September of 1972, some friends from the Presbyterian Church in Kingsville, TX, where they were attending, invited them to a meeting to hear the testimony of a young Air Force pilot who had received Christ into his life after he survived being ejected from his jet before it crashed. As the pilot finished his story, a woman sitting behind them stood up and gave a message in tongues, then interpreted the message in English.
The friends who brought them to the meeting were concerned that hearing the woman would send them running; instead, they sensed God’s presence in the message. They felt encouraged to grow in their relationship with God. They soon asked for and received from God their prayer languages, and more passionately pursued a deeper relationship with God for their thirty-eight years together.
While Louis found work at Stanford Research Institute and then IBM in San Jose, CA, Gracie finished her BA in Speech Communications from San Jose State University. They were members of Calvary Community Church and Louis took part in the audio-visual ministry of the church. Although they had both been baptized by sprinkling in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as children they chose to be baptized by immersion at Calvary Community to publicly acknowledge as adults that they each asked and received Jesus Christ as Savior from their sins and Lord of their lives through the empowerment and gifting of the Holy Spirit, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In 1975, Gracie graduated from SJSU in June. In July God supplied money through friends, family and acquaintances for them to go on a mission trip to Seoul, South Korea, and Taiwan. While in Seoul they visited the children they were trying to adopt.
While in Taiwan they were asked to share their faith in a little church. The mission leaders prayed and felt that God asked them to also ask Louis to give the main message in a huge church in Taipei. Louis shared what he thought the Lord gave him to say which included the Scripture, II Chronicles 7:14, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land”(NKJV). After the service, Louis was informed that the message had been broadcast on radio to a potentially vast audience in Asia……he was glad he did not know that ahead of time. J
In September Louis was in Virginia at an IBM school when Gracie got word in CA that their first but youngest son they planned to adopt was born in CA. although the baby’s father was Ethiopian and lived in Ethiopia. They hadn’t picked a name so decided to pray individually about the name and then report their results to each other via phone. Gracie felt led to read a few Scriptures none of which had anything to do with naming a child as far as she could tell, but the last two Scriptures were in 1Timothy and 2John. She told God she did not understand what name God was telling her, but whatever Louis said she would agree to. Louis called soon afterward and reported, “I don’t know why, but I think the Lord wants us to name the baby, Timothy John, which they later found out means [gift of God, worshiper of God].
Six months later they started foster parenting an eleven year old girl and six months after that they also started foster parenting her eight year old sister. Louis handled the challenge with calm and patience, for the most part, even one day when they discovered that their oldest foster daughter had shop lifted some clothing. After confronting their foster daughter, Louis then took her to the stores in the mall to confess what she had done and try to make restitution. Through the years he usually handled other challenges from the children with faith and love for which Gracie is forever grateful.
In 1978 when Louis was given the opportunity by IBM to move one hundred miles north of New York City, they decided to move. Their youngest foster daughter returned to her mother before the move. Then soon after they moved their oldest adopted son arrived in NY from Seoul, South Korea, about three years after they had started to adopt him. He was eight when he arrived in the USA and his English consisted of the ABC song and Jesus Loves Me.
About eight months later their oldest foster daughter returned to her natural mother in CA. which was a tough circumstance for Louis and Gracie to prayerfully orchestrate.
Although neither of them was very athletic, Louis was much more adventurous than Gracie and he tried out ice skating, roller skating, bike riding, water skiing, and body surfing in the ocean with their children. He took some movies of the boys playing soccer and football, and of various children receiving academic awards.
He loved having the kids pile into bed to read the Bible together first thing in the morning, or when they were older read the Bible around the breakfast table. He loved celebrating Jesus’ birthday with a candle lit angel food cake and campaigned to have the Christmas tree stay up all year long. He was quick to hold hands with those around the table to thank God for the food God provided.
When he found that they were expecting their first child naturally in 1979 he prayed a prayer of dedication for the baby. Early in the pregnancy the baby died, which was difficult to accept.
In 1981 they moved west of Boulder, CO with IBM and their oldest daughter was born with Louis in loving attendance in the delivery room.
While in Colorado Louis served as an elder at a Presbyterian church, he joined the volunteer firemen, and he watched the boys learn to cross country ski and run a 5K race. Then in 1983 they moved back to NY for IBM and their youngest daughter was born with Louis in loving attendance.
He and the children spent a good deal of time cutting up wood for the wood coal furnace, but besides promoting work, he frequently orchestrated many fun filled trips camping, or to amusement parks, or historic sites. He took his ninety-year-old grandfather, his mother and youngest daughter to New York City to tour the Statue of Liberty. He and the girls learned to play bagpipes and got to march in a St. Patrick’s Day parade in NY City.
While working at IBM he invited a young co-worker to go on a Christian women’s retreat weekend. Some of the other women on the retreat reported to Louis that they were concerned because it did not seem that she had a positive experience, so Louis was amazed when the young woman told him that his invitation and the weekend itself dramatically turned her to deep devotion to Christ. She eventually left IBM, graduated from seminary and has been involved in full-time campus ministry for Intervarsity since. So touched was she by his invitation that she gave Louis and Gracie a special plaque at her wedding reception to thank them.
He was rewarded for his hard work at IBM with an IBM President’s award that allowed him and Gracie to spend ten days in Hawaii, and he had some great adventures on business trips for IBM to Japan and various cities in the USA. But he had some regrets about all the hours he had spent working at IBM, when he looked back in later years, and he wished that he had spent even more time with the children.
As wonderful as he was as a husband and father, he faced character challenges in himself with mixed results, as he saw it. He frequently prayed about what he viewed as his flaws or about what others tried to convince him were his flaws. In more recent years he told Gracie he prayed in his prayer language about the areas of his character and thought life that he felt did not please the Lord, and God gave him victory and encouragement through the process. Gracie remembers one time in particular that demonstrated his true heart and character as she knew him. As chairman of the elders at church in NY, he publically made a very judgmental statement that some took exception to including his wife and pastors. He took their objections to heart and stood up before the congregation the next Sunday and apologized publically for his unfair comment. Throughout their marriage many people came to Gracie and praised Louis’s good character and she was grateful to have a life partner who was committed to growing in loving relationship with Christ and others as long as they lived………even if at several points Louis and she were so at odds with each other that Gracie suggested they should live in opposite sides of a duplex! J
In 1997 Louis and Gracie were convinced that God was orchestrating a move for them from NY back to CA. Within six weeks they sold their house and the new/used bookstore Louis had run for five years as part of a bridge to retirement he took from IBM, during a time that he began to accumulate more and more physical health challenges including two angioplasties and two cataract surgeries.
He was co-administrator of a five bedroom eldercare facility in Sonoma, CA and delighted in being a part-time engineer at a small train amusement park for nearly three years before retiring from IBM and moving to northern , CA.
He was trained to drive a church bus and hired to drive a city bus for a few years. He, Gracie and the girls earned their ham radio licenses, and Louis did some volunteer work for the Red Cross. Also, Louis and their oldest daughter went to a Foursquare Church Camp one summer and Louis was a devotional leader for one of the boys’ cabins. He volunteered to try to fix a pipe in the boys’ bathroom. In the process the pipe broke and the water for the whole camp had to be turned off. Louis ended the wrenching story with his eyebrows raised in amazement. He said, “Even after all that, the director of the camp liked me so well he invited me back!”
During the years in northern CA Louis felt the Lord’s direction to pursue being trained as a pastor. Through the years he had been interested in doing so, but now the Lord made the way for both him and Gracie to receive training at a Bible institute. They never saw themselves as being pastors to a congregation, but rather as encouragers to other pastors. They lacked four classes from completing their certification when more health issues prompted Gracie and him to move to the Portland, OR area where their eldest daughter and her husband lived.
Through the years Gracie was grateful for his calm wise presence in numerous medical challenges that he, or family or friends faced, as when their oldest daughter drove across town with her finger stuck in the lid of a container so Louis could rescue her. By the time he liberated her finger all present including Louis were crying and she flung her arms around him and thankfully sobbed, “my hero!” Gracie fondly called him “Dr. Lou.”
At the Bible institute, Louis and Gracie first heard of East Hill Church Family. They watched a DVD featuring Pastor Ted Roberts teaching. East Hill was about five minutes away from their oldest daughter’s house so while visiting their daughter before they moved to Portland they decided to attend a Sunday service at East Hill. Their son-in-law dropped them off at the front door and went to park the car. The doors were already closed and it looked like they might be late when a young man came walking briskly toward them extending his right hand. Gracie opened a door for him and said “welcome” to him and shook his hand. He said his name was Jason and that he should be welcoming them. Gracie laughed and said that they were waiting for their son-in-law, Jason, to park the car.
When they got into the auditorium they were surprised to see that the Jason they had welcomed into East Hill was the speaking pastor for the day. His message focused on the importance of participating in small group Bible fellowships. In the bulletin a Scripture verse was printed that Louis had mentioned on the way to church. About a year later when Louis and Gracie had become members at East Hill they felt that at least in part, the Lord had allowed them to have that experience in order to affirm the process of Jason Albelo becoming Sr. pastor at East Hill.
Louis was convinced the Lord wanted him and Gracie to become members at East Hill Church Family. Gracie argued that East Hill was too big and didn’t need them as much as a smaller church might, but she finally agreed to honor his sense of direction. She was soon glad she had because God brought them great reassurance of His loving, healing presence in their lives through East Hill.
Before their move to Portland, OR, Gracie had loaned a member of their home Bible study a book written by an Episcopal priest who had received his prayer language from the Lord. Their Bible study friend was from an Episcopal background, was a year older than Gracie and had earned a BA in Speech Communications as she had. He and Louis both enjoyed watching football games and using computers, but for all they had in common, he returned the book to Gracie and said he wasn’t open to the gift of tongues. The next night he committed suicide.
Two weeks later Louis and Gracie moved to Portland. God allowed them to have a break in a long list of stressful circumstances one day soon after they moved. From time to time through the years Louis had been told he resembled Santa Claus. At the age of four his youngest daughter was convinced he WAS Santa. But another memorable time he was thought to be Santa was soon after they arrived in Portland. They were driving in their burnt orange Nissan fastback with the windows down. They stopped at a red light. While they were waiting for the light to turn green they noticed an adorable little Hispanic boy on the curb to their right. He was about four and was dutifully standing on the curb holding his mom’s left hand with his right hand. Solemn business! Louis couldn’t resist waggling the fingers of his right hand in greeting to the little boy. They saw the little boy’s eyes widen. He looked up at his mom and said in awe, “Santa!” Then he looked back at Louis with an eager little smile as he raised his small left hand and waggled it in greeting to “Saint Nicko-louis!”
Another day not long after that, God continued to bring healing and encouragement and understanding to them as they unpacked. Gracie unpacked a copy of the book, Pure Desire by Ted Roberts. Gracie had bought the book a few months before they moved to Portland because a friend had asked her to read a chapter Diane Roberts had written in the book so that they could discuss it.
After unpacking the book Gracie flipped it open to read some more of it since she and Louis were planning to attend East Hill Family Church where Ted Roberts was still pastor. Her attention was drawn to a sketch of a rope tied as a noose as an illustration for the deadly effect sexual addiction can have on individuals. Gracie showed it to Louis. After their Bible study friend had hung himself Gracie had been told by his family that the police told them that he had been accused of sexual misconduct. Whether or not their friend was guilty, the illustration and text of Pure Desire helped them understand how the accusation may have fueled their friend’s deadly action.
God then continued to bring healing and encouragement to Louis and Gracie through the book, Going Deeper, by Ted Roberts and Pam Vredevelt. Louis signed Gracie and himself up for membership classes at East Hill, and later they signed up to have a home group for the study, Going Deeper. Louis visited some of their neighbors and one of them committed to come to the group.
Louis and Gracie were reading Going Deeper in different rooms of the house. When Gracie read in the introduction that Ted had been stationed in Kingsville, TX, she called out to Louis, “I wonder if Ted and Diane were in Kingsville when we were?”
Louis answered, “Wait till you get to chapter eight!”
Louis and Gracie were amazed to realize as they read chapter eight that about thirty-five years ago they had attended the meeting Ted had organized and describes in chapter eight. It was the first time they had heard a public message in tongues be given and interpreted. While the friends who had brought them to the meeting were concerned that the experience might send them running, it in fact encouraged them to open themselves to the Holy Spirit more fully than ever before; they soon received their prayer languages and passionately pursued a relationship with Christ that dramatically affected the rest of their lives together.
When Louis arranged to meet with Ted and Diane after a Wednesday service to share their story, Louis shared his amazement with them in part by quoting a sentence Ted used in one of his recent sermons. “Nothing just happens.”
As though to confirm this conclusion the Lord allowed them to experience another connection to Going Deeper in a meeting Gracie had with Pam Vredevelt shortly thereafter. Louis drove Gracie to and from the meeting with Pam. After her appointment Gracie reported to Louis. “I shared a Scripture with Pam that I read this morning. I told her about a note about intimacy with God that was printed next to the verse that I read. It was written by Steve Fry [a former youth pastor at Calvary Community in San Jose when they were members.] Pam exclaimed in amazement, “Steve’s wife Nancy was my roommate in college!”
Louis and Gracie marveled how God had reassuringly moved in their lives. At a time when they were so shaken by the death of their Bible study friend who was not open to the gift of tongues, God dramatically reminded them of how and when they had more fully opened their lives to God and His choice to minister to them through the gift of tongues.
Just before they moved to northern CA, a woman from their church told them she had been praying for them and wondered if they ever considered buying a retreat for pastors. They had not, but, did after she asked them. The house they bought two blocks from the ocean did not seem to be a retreat to anyone but them, however six months after they moved in they met a pastor and his wife who came over to have dinner with them. In the course of the conversation the pastor shared that he and his wife felt the Lord wanted them to be a part of a teaching retreat for pastors, in particular pastors from poor areas in countries in the continent of Africa.
Six years later when they moved to the Portland area to be closer to affordable medical care and to their oldest daughter’s family, they bought a manufactured home. They still did not see a way God was opening for them to buy a retreat for pastors, but when the pastor and his wife who had visited them in northern CA needed a place to stay, Louis and Gracie felt led to share their manufactured home with them for nearly six months.
When Gracie looked in one of his Bibles after Louis died and found the paper on which he had copied the quote about death from the book, The Healer, the paper marked the location of the 23rd Psalm. Reading the Psalm then and later with her children celebrated the hope and assurance offered from God that as Believers we “will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (NKJV)
Louis believed this, and his life demonstrated to his wife Gracie and others that, we can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 NKJV