When the old year faded and this New Year began, I heard faint rustling like the swish of rayon and taffeta in the next room. Immediately, I recognized the flutter of anticipation and knew its source. I imagined that amidst eager chatter, bits of laughter and some last minute decisions, about which dress gloves best matched their ensembles, Aunt Ada and Aunt Mildred were preparing for Cousin Albert’s homecoming. Aunt Mildred was so excited I worried that if he tarried too long she would be sorely disappointed that the party had to be put on hold.
When I was a child my aunts, Ada and Mildred, had been guests in our home when a grand occasion was about to be celebrated. Whether dressing for a wedding, graduation, or a funeral, my two aunts twittered and swished about like teenagers! Maybe that is why their siblings always called them, “The girls.” Born and bred in the Midwest, they gave their hearts, lives and futures to Jesus Christ. Neither married nor grew dull with age; both retained that girlish desire to look pretty, proper, and tasteful, fitting for their time in history and their call to kingdom service. One thing about them, they knew how to dress for a state occasion—okay so it was a family occasion, but they easily conveyed family events into state occasions complete with hats boasting a whisper of veil, gloves both in summer and winter, and appropriate shoes.
Aunt Ada, my daddy’s next older sibling, the pretty blond at the end of a string of five girls, had a smile as broad as her angular face. When a young man came courting, she told him she was called to the ministry; Jesus held her heart. So he married Aunt Ruby instead. Aunt Mildred, my mother’s older sister also received a call into ministry and never married. She was completely and totally devoted to Jesus Christ, proper hats and ice cream!
Thankfully, Ada Blick and Mildred Horton became friends at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis. It was through their friendship that my dad met my mom, and as their only child, I was the only one who by birth could legitimately call these two my aunts. But on both sides of the family—to the Blicks and the Hortons, they were both beloved aunties. They went together like two peas in a pod. Both were ordained ministers in the Assemblies of God Church and together served tiny rural churches throughout North and South Dakota.
Aunt Ada and her siblings grew up on Hillview Farm in rural Clark County, SD. My granddad homesteaded the place, and when five girls were born, he despaired of having a son to take over the farm. Surprisingly, my dad arrived when Ada, the youngest, was eight years old. My dad did not farm. Like Ada, daddy heard the call to the ministry and followed his sister to North Central Bible College never to return to the land.
The second oldest daughter, Hazel and her husband, Albert Anderson, farmed the land when my grandparents retired. My Granddad and Grandma moved into the little house on the property while the Anderson brood took over the big stone house. Here three children were born, the youngest being Albert, Jr. or “Little Albert” as he was commonly called.
In each picture, Albert is the little blond boy. The little girl is his sister Cynthia and Given is his big brother. In the middle picture they are with an older Anderson cousin.
Like his Aunt Ada and Uncle Tomey, Albert, Jr. received the call into full time ministry. Unlike them, he would settle for nothing less than Central Bible College in Springfield, MO. Like my dad, he did not marry someone at college!
And the Anderson and Blick offspring say, “Thank you, Jesus!”
Both uncle and nephew married a farmer’s daughter.
My mother hailed from Nebraska and she and my dad moved out west with most of the Blick family in tow—that is except for Aunt Ada and Aunt Mildred who staunchly remained in the Midwest and Uncle Albert and Aunt Hazel who continued to farm the land.
Cousin Albert, fresh from Bible College migrated west along with the majority of the Blick family to Walla Walla, WA. There he met his bride, Aimee Filan.
My dad and mom dearly loved Cousin Albert. He often came and held evangelistic meetings at whatever church my dad served. In this picture, Cousin Albert is to the left, with our Grandmother Blick to his right. At the end of the table is Anita Filan, Aimee’s older sister who nursed at the hospital in Pomeroy, Washington where we lived. To the far right is my mother and I am the little blonde girl covering her mouth. It appears to be my 6th birthday dinner!
About this time, Albert married Aimee—and as a pair they were seldom apart. Theirs was a love affair made in heaven!
Aunt Ada and Aunt Mildred doted on all their collective nieces and nephews. They kept scrapbooks filled with photo Christmas cards and school pictures received from their siblings’ offspring. Today when I peeked into these weathered books, I found more photos of Cousin Albert and his family than of anyone else. I think Cousin Albert held court in a reserved corner in both their hearts.
In my aunts’ picture albums, I found this photo of Cousin Albert and his bride practicing a “special” to sing at the church in Fairfield, MT. The date is February, 1955.
Cousin Albert, like my dad, could sing! I mean these two could SING! They both boasted a set of lungs born of the prairie where you could belt out a song and let the wind carry it to the next county. My dad’s tenor voice was strong and straightforward, but Albert possessed a timbre that resembled how black velvet feels! When he sang, your spirit, soul and body resonated with the anointing that he carried. It simply sent heavenly chills up and down your spine!
“Oh love of God, how rich and pure, how measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure the saints’ and angels’ song.” I can hear him yet.
So this past Saturday evening was home coming for Cousin Albert. There it goes again—the rustle of heavenly fabrics as Aunts Ada and Mildred dress for the occasion. In earthly time, they have had a couple months to really pull off a big welcome home party!
The Blick family always knew how to celebrate and loved being together as you can see from this picnic held in Walla Walla in 1950. Albert is all smiles in the white shirt on the far left.
So I’m sure Aunt Ada and Aunt Mildred were in on the planning for his arrival, both rustling and bustling, creating a stir in heaven! I’m guessing, even though heaven is outside time, the preparations for Young Albert have been underway for awhile! He was that kind of man. Heaven wouldn’t just casually receive him one day with little notice or fanfare. No, Cousin Albert was the kind of man that heaven would prepare for in a big, bold way.
“Why?” You might ask.
Cousin Albert wasn’t famous. He never served large, or prosperous churches. He never sang at great crusades where tens of thousands thronged. He never boasted a nation-wide ministry with websites and webinars. As far as I know, he didn’t tweet. But Cousin Albert knew how to pray. He knew how to talk to God and God listened to him.
As my daughter Suzanne says, “Ministry is the family business,” but behind every attempt at touching another life for Jesus Christ, is prayer, and this family learned how to pray by listening to Granddad.
Every morning before the chores, Granddad was on his knees with his Bible, praying. He died when I was barely two, so I have no memories of his devotion to prayer, but I have heard Albert and his brother tell me about it. Tucked away in my heart is the story I have been told that he prayed that not one of his grand children would miss heaven. So I’m sure Granddad and Grandma are chief among Heaven’s welcoming committee for Cousin Albert.
And that’s why I think Albert lingered so long. Heaven knew his homecoming had to be special. People who make prayer a habit in their lives don’t just sneak into heaven. They get the full processional! The angels, the saints, and the Father himself welcome a prayer warrior like my Cousin Albert. I’m sure the trumpets blasted a full fanfare! I imagine lights and colors and sound and texture and taste and all the senses that earth can’t even duplicate being present to herald Albert’s arrival.
So let the party begin! Another family member has arrived on the golden shores, never to wander, never to roam. His assignment is complete. Well done, Cousin Albert! You leave us an example to follow. There is no higher calling than a life devoted to prayer.
I can see it all now. Aunt Ada beams from ear to ear as she rustles by in her taffeta! Aunt Mildred lifts the veil on her hat so she can enjoy another scoop of heavenly ice cream! Cousin Albert is young and vibrant–rejoicing in a life best spent in serving Jesus. Let the celebration begin!
It’s Albert E. Anderson, Jr’s. Celebration Day!