Changed Lives: Glimpses of God’s Glory

fraudWith the immanent conviction and sentencing of Wall Street investor Bernie Madoff-arguably the worst frauds in American financial history-we begin to wonder, ‘Is there any good left in the business world?’ It would seem that corporate greed and shady ethics are the rule, and sadly, corporate responsibility and honesty are the exception. However, a story emerging out of Modesto, California with ties to the Northwest appears to give us reason for hope, and cause for reflection.The story begins in the fall of 2002, when Vancouver Seventh-day Adventist Church placed a substantial order for new pews with the highly regarded and established Overholtzer Pew Company, based in Modesto, CA. As Senior Pastor VJ Puccinelli for the Vancouver church recalls, “We were building the new Vancouver church, and the time came to place the order for pews, so we sent Overholtzer a deposit check for $9,500.”

Late in summer of 2003, the church received notice that Overholtzer had run afoul of the IRS, and their assets were
being liquidated by the IRS. “As we later learned,” VJ continues,” one of Overholzter’s employees had absconded with money, not paid taxes, and IRS sold off their assets to cover the back taxes. It was a devastating blow for the Vancouver church to lose nearly ten thousand dollars, but many other churches were even harder hit, losing deposits of thirty or forty thousand dollars.”

Pastor Puccinelli maintained a connection with the former Overholtzer salesman, John. As time went on, and John went to work for another pew manufacturer, Imperial Wood Works, however he let Pastor Puccinelli know that he hoped to refund their deposit. Pastor Puccinelli had his doubts.

Conventional wisdom proved to be wrong when a check for the full refund of Vancouver Church’s $9,500 deposit turned up in the mail. As it turns out, Overholtzer had been in business for decades, and was owned by a Baptist Brethren man who had retired many years back. When his congregation learned of the unfortunate fraud, and the financial losses suffered by so many churches with pending orders, they took it upon themselves to assume the debt owed to those churches. All in all, that Modesto Baptist Brethren congregation assumed approximately $500,000 of debt for which they had absolutely no responsibility.

Pastor Puccinelli explains, “That Modesto church took it upon themselves to accept an enormous Christian responsibility, to make sure that the church’s name and reputation was not sullied. I wonder how many other Christian churches would voluntarily take on such a debt?”

Pastor Puccinelli continued to maintain his friendship with John, and believed that John’s integrity and honesty turned out to be a credit to his Baptist Brethren faith. Several years later, in October 2008, the story continued to unfold as John moved with his family to Prineville, Oregon. John’s wife, Barb, was intrigued by a flyer for prophecy oriented meetings presented by evangelist Jac Colon who was speaking at the Prineville Adventist Church. She urged John to attend with her. Although they missed only one or two nights, they attended the bulk of the meetings, and were convinced that what they were hearing was true.

In January 2009, wanting to clarify what they had heard, they attended some of Jac Colon’s meetings held in Bend.
This confirmed their convictions, and they have begun to worship with the Prineville Adventist church each Sabbath, with joy in their hearts. John and Barb are sharing with family and friends about their new understanding of Scripture.

As John and his wife prepare to turn to the next chapter of their commitment and walk with Christ, it is worthwhile to appreciate the bigger picture of the Lord’s will and perfect plan. With the monumental example of the Baptist Brethren in mind, it is also worth taking a moment to consider how the character of Jesus Christ is a witness to those around us.

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