August 31st……..“TELL US ABOUT SOMEONE IN YOUR LIFE WHO TRULY CHOOSES TO LIVE OUT THEIR CHRISTIAN CONVICTIONS AS THEY DAILY ‘WALK THE TALK’ OF THEIR FAITH”.
“STAND BACK!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WATCH OUT, IT’S GOING TO EXPLODE!!” Those are just some of the super excited exclamations that came from a family whose Mercedes rear brakes had “hung up” and erupted in flames. In terror, the father managed to steer their ‘ball of flame’ off to the far right shoulder of the north-bound lanes of the Interstate 5 Freeway in southwest Washington State. Thankfully, the family had escaped the vehicle and were a safe distance away as they stood there in helpless horror on that drizzly, cold Fall Sunday afternoon. The person they were calling out to was a total stranger that appeared out of nowhere and hobbled towards them with a pronounced limp to his gait. This man approached the flame-engulfed car with a fire extinguisher and was about to pull the pin of his powder-loaded device. Keep that thought folks, cause I’m gonna hold you in suspense here and digress from this scene, for the moment, to divulge more of the background story of that “Good Samaritan” and what led to this amazing interaction.
It was July of 1979 and our father, Russell Noorlun, had just come from the operating room where he’d had emergency exploratory surgery. Shocking news entered our family’s life because Dad had now been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Our Norwegian patriarch was convalescing after his surgery at the Bess Kaiser Hospital on Greeley Avenue in Portland, Oregon. One day, while the whole family was visiting our beloved Poppa, into the hospital room walks a handsome young man in a nice suit and wearing cowboy boots while carrying a Bible. A stranger to us, this young pastor and his fine family had just moved to the Northwest from Powell, Wyoming. His name was Landis Epp and he had just been called as the new pastor at Battle Ground Baptist Church.
Within a matter of minutes, our entire clan came to love this dear man of God as if he were a part of our family unit. Just think, to be a brand new stranger in town and yet he’d heard about Russell’s cancer and without hesitation had come to introduce himself and let our family know he was there for us in any way we needed.
In the Old Testament book of Proverbs Chapter 27, Verse 2 it says, “Let another man’s lips praise you and not your own………”. It is with joy that I do just that here in this short story about this dear and godly man who has ministered to so many in his 43 years of life there in Clark County Washington! Ya know folks,…..NOW is the time we should take the opportunity to uplift and encourage those special friends among us for all that they do in our life………..once they’re gone from us and step into eternity it’s too late and their honorable deeds can only be eulogized for the survivors.
Landis has always had a giant heart for people!! Another Bible verse comes to mind. First Corinthians Chapter 9 and Verses 19 – 23 (paraphrased) “……..I have become all things to all people……….I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” Not only was Landis a trained seminarian in sharing the Gospel (Good News), but this dear man could identify with countless folks in the community. Everyone from car mechanics (Landis could “turn a wrench” with the best of them) to meat cutters (Landis had learned the butchering trade to help get him through seminary) could relate to Landis and he to they. It wasn’t long before the big heart of this Christian man began reaching out to the community as he became a chaplain for the Battle Ground Fire Department while still ministering, full-time, to his congregation at Battle Ground Baptist Church. Eventually, Landis, and other dedicated people began what is known as County-Wide Chaplaincy and touched even more lives with their love and caring.
One of this dear man’s hobbies was riding motorcycle, that is, until one day when Landis hit some loose gravel and ended up laying down his bike and sliding for a long, painful injury to his leg. Of course, his family and our entire congregation praised the Lord that his incident, although very painful, had not been worse. Needless to say, that injury resulted in our pastor having a distinct limp for quite awhile.
Landis blessed me with the opportunity to accompany him, with his big Ford pickup and camping trailer as together we headed north on our way to Camp Arnold in the shadow of Mount Rainier not too far from Seattle, Washington. It was time for a grand Fall Men’s Roundup for many of the Conservative Baptist Churches around our State. There, we as brothers in the Lord, enjoyed a weekend of great food and fellowship and excellent teaching/preaching from Dr. Earl Radmacher and Dr. Ronald Barclay Allen from Western Baptist Theological Seminary.
Remember now, our good Pastor Landis Epp was still very much convalescing from his motorcycle injuries and his limp was almost to the point of using a cane to traverse the camp grounds.
After an uplifting time and waving goodbye to our Christian brothers at Camp Arnold, Landis pointed us southbound on the Interstate 5 Freeway as we headed home to Battle Ground, Washington and our respective families. Just south of Longview, Washington we both noticed a car on fire on the far side of the northbound lanes. To my shame, if I were driving, I would have thought to myself, “Ohhh, that’s too bad” and kept on driving. NOT Landis!! He pulled the pickup and camping trailer off to the right side of the freeway and climbs out to pull the seat forward as he grabs a fire extinguisher and says, “You watch the rig here, I’m gonna try and put out that car fire.”
Dear Landis had absolutely no idea who those scared people were, but out of a Christian caring heart, there he went, hobbling across the southbound lanes, across the grass median and he, carrying that fairly heavy fire extinguisher, hobbled across the zooming traffic of the northbound lanes till he reached the car fire. That kind-hearted soul could have had his leg buckle and give out at any time, but the good Lord obviously had His angels holding him up for that wild hobble.
As it turns out, the Mercedes rear brakes had hung up and caught on fire. As the family yelled, “It’s going to explode!”, Landis replied, “It’s not hot enough yet for that!!” So, pulling the pin on his fire extinguisher, crippled Landis managed to get down alongside of the car’s rear fender well and fired the charge of powder up onto that brake fire. Our hero then managed to limp over to the other side and was successful in firing another charge of powder from the passenger side to those flaming brakes, as well. The fire was OUT!!!
The terrified family were in shock and awe over what they had just witnessed!!! A stranger, and an injured stranger at that, had literally come out of nowhere and put out their car fire!!
In deep gratitude to this amazing ‘Good Samaritan’, the father of the family offered a gift of money as a heartfelt thank you to Landis. When my brother in the Lord once again hobbled across that crazy busy freeway, he got into the truck and shared with me about how they offered him some money for what he had just done. Landis had told them, “I didn’t come over here for money……….your car was on fire!!” 😉 I count myself as deeply blessed to have Landis Epp as one of the heroes of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!! 😉 ><>