Discover Beautiful Camano tells stories of the people and places that make Camano the beautiful island it is: her farmers and their farms, entrepreneurs and their stores, gardeners and their gardens, artists and their studios, pastors and their churches. I write to learn her history, to celebrate her people, and, personally, to trace my family’s steps in the place we have lived and loved since 1947. In a previous post I told about my Grandfather’s farm Seacrest on southwest Camano Island. This post begins my transition to telling the story of Camano Chapel.
On the King’s Business
Doc Dodgson’s Christian faith was seamless with his practice. He charged three dollars for an office call and six dollars for a house call. If you couldn’t pay, you could come back for care. The bill went up. Doc sent out statements. Eventually, if a person stopped coming to the office, Doc moved them to what he called a “dead account.” That was for people with a big bill but no longer coming into the office. Doc just quit billing them after a while, absorbing the cost himself. “To my knowledge, he never sent anything to a collection agency,” Mom says.
Doc never went by appointments in his office. It was first come, first served. People sat in the waiting room till it was their turn. Mom, who helped out as his secretary for many years, would be anxious to have things move along. “I’d put my ear to the door and I would hear Daddy talking. I could tell he was talking to them about the LORD. That was not uncommon. Daddy would say that he was about the King’s business.”
Doc was part of Pentecostal movement. He believed in the Spirit guiding your actions. If he felt that the Spirit was encouraging him to say something about Jesus to a person, he did. Witnessing to people about Christ – the care of their souls, not just healing their bodies – was what was most important to him. It didn’t matter to Doc if people got impatient and left the waiting room. That was just how it was.
Doc wore a heavy overcoat three seasons of the year, and he kept two envelopes in it. One was some discretionary cash he had. The other envelope was “For the Lord’s work.” Whatever he felt that was. He helped people individually, whenever the LORD put it on his heart.
Doc was on the King’s Business when Gordy Montgomery walked into the doctor’s office.
Gordon Montgomery’s Healing
Gordon Montgomery was a wealthy plumber in Seattle whose doctors had “sent home to die.” Gordon and his lovely wife Penny had moved to a fenced estate on the hill above Indian Beach on Camano Island, across the street from where Bill Wayland lives now. They figured that Gordon might as well die with a beautiful view.
Gordon went to Doc Dodgson to see if he could help him. Doc, who was gifted at diagnosing what was wrong with his patients, and knowing that Gordy had been in the plumbing business, suspected it was lead poisoning. When the tests were run, that was what Gordon had. That gave Gordon a new lease on life. It also opened his heart to Doc’s witness of the healing grace of Christ.
After Gordon was converted, he became a strong supporter of Christian ministries in the area, including Youth for Christ that was being led by Ernie Epperson and a young chicken farmer named Otto Sather, a Christian Businessman’s Group who had a prayer meeting in Stanwood. It was attended by Doc, Al Hansen, who owned the TV repair shop in Stanwood, Norm Pfefarle, Nels Pierson and Paul Dunlap. Gordon also got involved in the start of a new church called Camano Chapel, working with Clarence Dirks, Hugh Cooney, and Doc Dodgson on that project. Gordon would be a strong ally to Camano Chapel’s new pastor, Rev. Bill Wayland. I’ll tell more of Clarence Dirks, Bill Wayland and Camano Chapel later. Now I just want to point out that Gordon’s new lease of life and new heart for Christ’s kept him busy.
Besides helping these Christian ministries, Gordon employed some local guys to help him build twenty to thirty foot boats. He also ran a small farm raising a couple of cows for beef. Gordon would enjoy a few beers with the guys. But when his wife Penny, who Bud says was “one of the most wonderful people you could have imagined,” Gordon spiraled down, drinking quite a bit. Bud, who was an alcoholic himself, remembers seeing Gordon at the liquor store at the top of Land’s Hill. That day Gordon had a guy with him to drive because he was so drunk. Gordon battled his addiction, spent time in rehabilitation, and found real victory over his disease in time. God used Gordon’s struggles in a powerful way in my Uncle Bud’s life decades later. That story goes like this.
Bud’s Burn, Bottoming Out and Prayer of Desperation
Bud was a traveling salesman and, as I mentioned, he was also an alcoholic. By the late 1980s his marriage to Aunt Marge was wrecked. Marge left Bud and moved into her own place at Warm Beach. Somehow he was able to keep his vending machine business afloat. But without Marge to hold down the fort at home when Bud was following up on leads, it was doomed. With Marge leaving, Mom agreed to help her brother out by working for him. Marge showed Mom what to do to run the business. Mom witnessed Bud’s distress at Marge’s leaving. It was a heart wrenching deal. Bud thought that maybe if he wasn’t an alcoholic, they could go to marriage counseling, and restore their marriage. One or two times he tried to get off drinking, but then fell off the wagon.
Mom was working in the shed next to the farmhouse where the “Merry Vend” business was. Bud was in the farmhouse, trying to get sober. He had a convulsion and fell back into the Franklin Stove in the kitchen. Bud didn’t realize that his whole back was being burnt and that his rotator cuff on his right side had been broken. He came out to Mom in the shed. She took him to Dr. Beckner in Stanwood and he sent them right away to Skagit Valley Hospital, where Bud was taken care for ten days. After he returned home, Bud had to have his dressing changed. Marge would stop by and do that some of the time. Mom did it the other times. She remembers that it was like hamburger meat, lumpy and red.
Back at home in that state, trying to come off booze, with his knee and shoulder and back hurting, Bud figured the only way to go on was to get some medication. But the Doctor didn’t want to give him more pain pills. Bud was left to his own devices, and to despair. He was really discouraged; he wanted to commit suicide. But as he puts it, “I didn’t want to be thrown into hell and be in God’s disfavor.” So he prayed, “God let me go so I don’t have to be in pain. If you can just take me like in star trek and disassemble me, just let me cease. Let me not be in pain and torture forever.”
Bud battled his alcoholism for the next couple of years. He would quit, then fall off the wagon. It was up and down. By now he couldn’t run his vending business. Mom ran it, even once making a twenty-thousand dollar sale to someone on the east coast over the phone. Bud’s drinking got so bad Bud was so bad, Mom would go into the house and now know if she would find her brother alive or dead. He would be lying in a sheet on a sofa by the fireplace that the Dodgson family had once gathered around to read the Bible and sing hymns. It was in the fireplace that Bud saw the vision.
That night Bud was laying on the couch and fell asleep. When he woke he was facing the fireplace and saw a tunnel going back down into the fireplace and a light in the tunnel with some movement of small figures. One figure came forward. It was Jesus with hands out, looking at Bud with love and understanding. Bud describes what he felt then as “a high beyond highs of joy of understanding and being loved.” Jesus looked at Bud and said “I’ll send a man.”
In telling the story, Bud recalls how at little Mabana Chapel, when he graduated to a new Sunday School class, his dad Doc Dodgson turned out to be the teacher of it. And almost every time Doc started with Acts and the story of Paul on the road to Damascus and the vision of Jesus Paul saw. “He really liked that story especially well, Bud recalls. God did send a man to help Paul, to open his eyes and get him steady and on his feet. God also sent a man to help Bud a couple of days later: Gordon Montgomery.
“I’ll Send a Man”: Gordon Montgomery’s Call and Care
Bud figures that Jesus’ calling Gordon to help him was the Lord killing two birds with one stones. Gordon had a strong sense that God was sending him to see Bud. And he had started driving in his car to Bud’s home three times. But he knew what a mess Bud was. The first two times he had turned around and rejected God. The third time when he couldn’t stand it anymore he made it through to Bud’s place. Later Bud asked Gordy what would have happened if he hadn’t of come. Gordy said, “If I hadn’t come, God would have sent someone else. He told you that he was going to send a man. You were going to have a man come with you and stand with you and be a brother in the LORD.”
Gordy and Bud met almost every day at Helen’s Kitchen in Stanwood. Gordy told Bud if he ever needed to he could call him day or night. Bud had so much respect for Gordy. Gordy was a man his Dad had led to the LORD and worked with. And because of his own struggle with alcohol, Gordy “knew what was happening,” as Bud puts it. Sometimes Pastor Bill Wayland would join them at Helen’s Kitchen. Camano Chapel was instrumental. Every time its doors were open Bud would be there. Besides the support of Gordy, Bill and the Chapel ministry, Bud was all in. That’s why this quitting alcohol this time worked, that and the grace of God. Bud knew that Jesus loved him. He knew this time it was do or die. He knew that he wasn’t going to renege. He felt God had given him the power to say “No” to drink and stay on course. Even with all that support and resolve it was really, really hard.
Driving by the liquor store on Lands Hill was one of the hardest things to do. When Bud drove by it he channeled King David, the author of many of the Psalms, the “man after God’s own heart.” Bud figured if praise helped David in hard times, it could help him. As he started coming by the liquor store, he would start shouting praise the Lord, crying hallelujah, giving himself to praising him, and lifting his hands. Cascading praise broke the power of that temptation. “That really helped me a lot,” Bud says.
When Bud was at the end of his rope, God gave him a promise that he was sending a man. Bud hung unto it. Meeting with Gordy changed Bud. It was the biggest miracle that Mom witnessed in her whole life. I guess she had a front row seat.