Lumberjack Preacher

People of all ages—from 17 to 84—have joined our four mission trips to India. We have found something remarkable about people of any age: When they are willing to put themselves in God’s hands, it is amazing what God can do through them.

Take for instance Blondie Rohlf, 72, a man who worked in timber and mills most of his life. He had never preached a sermon when he volunteered to go as a speaker to India. He was willing and could read “reasonably well.” I was busy recruiting for a 10-team, 50-village mission in Andhra Pradesh, India, and said, “If you are willing and can read reasonably well, you can do it.” So, after selling his four-wheeler and some other items to raise money for the adventure, and after practicing a DVD sermon on a neighboring church, he was ready.

Friendly, outgoing and with a great sense of humor, Rohlf was a natural, loving the village people and being loved in return. His daughter, Irlene, gave the health talk each night and his granddaughter, Stacy, told the children’s Bible story. They saw more than 1,500 people baptized from their meetings alone. “It was a life-changing experience,” Rohlf said, and Irlene and Stacy echoed that sentiment.

But the story doesn’t stop there. There is a “reflex influence,” said Ellen White, with work that is done for the salvation of souls in far off lands (Testimonies, vol. 6, page 27). People on mission trips carry their cameras and camcorders, capturing the sights and needs. When invited, they give an enthusiastic report, and the spirit that comes back not only impacts the person coming home but also touches those who hear their report.

Sensing a great need for church buildings to enfold the Lord’s many new “lambs,” Rohlf asked permission to make a low-key appeal for funds in his Medford, Ore., Sabbath School class. An unbelievable response netted $40,000, which, when matched four ways, resulted in funds to build 16-20 churches.

When the children of the church raised $500 for church buildings in India, a member, inspired by the children’s enthusiasm, said in Rohlf’s hearing, “I have a check for $1,000 in my pocket that I will give if you can get someone to match it.” He passed the word around and soon there was $1,000 more. Then he attended a class reunion in which $50,000 was donated for churches in India.

Rohlf volunteered for another series in India and, though retired, drove a school bus all year to raise the money for the trip. Only a broken foot kept him from going the second time.

The “reflex influence” has been spilling on a host of people whose awareness of our mission and its needs has been heightened and whose concern for the finishing of God’s work at home has been deepened. •

May 01, 2003 / Oregon Conference