Carl with Pastor Lowell Lundstrom in Minnesota.
How I eventually came to the Lord is a long story so for the short version I’ll start in Japan. It was there that I met my future wife, Masami. She, like most Japanese, was not a Christian.
When we decided to get married, the US military had to do a background check on Masami. The necessary paperwork was submitted, but the military did not get back to us for quite a while. About a one month away from the wedding I went to the military office to inquire about the long delay. I was told to step into a back room.
In this windowless room that was full of locked filing cabinets, a military official unlocked one of the cabinets and brought out a folder. He looked at me and declared: “You can’t marry this girl.” Stunned, I looked right at the official and said, “What do you mean I can’t marry her?” He replied, “You can’t. She’s a communist.”
Here’s what they told me. When you fill out the paperwork for this kind of background search, there is a section on a form that asks you to list all of the groups that your fiancée belong to. Masami, of course, helped me with her list. One group she belonged to was called “Minsei”. Actually, it was the union at the “Christian” orphanage where she worked. Minsei turns out to be a socialist-based organization. Masami was very active in the union, and had actually written letters to the Japanese government saying, for example, that she was against nuclear weapons. And so they classified her as a communist. I was told “you can’t marry her,” and that she would never be able to immigrate to the United States.
I looked at the officer and remarked: “But that just doesn’t make any sense to me. We are in Japan, of course people here are against nuclear weapons because of WWII.” He replied that the Air Force could not force me not to marry Masami, but that she would never be allowed to live in America because she was in the ‘computer’ as being a communist.. We decided to get married any way.
I didn’t know the “rest of the story” until only a few years ago, when Masami and I had already been married more than 20 years. It finally all came together when she shared something new with me.
When we were moved by the Air Force from Japan, we didn’t move to the US. God had something else in mind. We were moved to the Azores, a series of islands in the Atlantic Ocean west of Portugal and where the US Air Force had a strategic base.
Masami, I only learned recently, brought a Bible with her. The reason she had it was that it would be part of her plan to immigrate to America, You see, if any immigration or military official would tell her that she couldn’t enter America because she was a communist, she was going to pull out her Bible and declare, “I’m not a communist. I’m a Christian. Look, here’s my Bible.”
Well, it wasn’t a very good plan. Fortunately the Lord had a different and better plan. You see, when we got to the Azores, there was no Japanese television, no Japanese magazines … no Japanese anything. But she had her Bible. And so that’s when she started to read the Word of God.
There did ‘happen’ to be five Japanese people on the island. That’s it! Five ladies. And all of them just ‘happened’ to be Christians. These women started sharing their faith with Masami and challenged her to read the Bible. She did! Unbeknownst to me she was also asking them questions. One of the first questions she asked them was, “How do dinosaurs fit with the Bible?” None of those ladies or the Pastor of the church, who was a dear man, could answer that question. How interesting to me that that was the question that would get me so excited about the Creation ministry in the future.
It was at this time that Masami and I started to have marital problems. I remember coming home one day and telling her, “You know what? You need to go to church. I stayed with a family back in Virginia, they were Christians and they didn’t have problems in their marriage. You need to go to church.” I considered myself a Christian already. I’d been baptized and grew up in America, of course I was a Christian! How wrong I was!
Anyway, as a result of Masami already reading the Bible she was open to this suggestion. As we emphasize at Answers in Genesis, the Word of God deals with all kinds of different issues regarding every area of life. It says a lot about relationships … about husbands and wives, parents and children, and so on. God’s Word had already opened her heart. So, when we went to church on that particular Sunday morning, she got saved. The result? I didn’t have problems at home anymore.
The military transferred me from the Azores to Utah. By now, and for some reason (I would say it was God’s grace) immigrating to the United States was no longer a problem for Masami. I remembered the words the man in Japan told me prior to our marriage: “She’ll never be able to immigrate to the United States, it’s in the computers that she’s a communist!” God knows how to fix even computers.
To be honest, I was kind of glad to move away from the Azores. In Utah, it was a whole new world and, thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with the Christian church at all (since we were largely in Mormon country). Even though I had seen the Lord change Masami’s life, I still didn’t want anything to do with the church. As I said before, I believed that I was a Christian. The only time you really went to Church though was when you had problems. I didn’t have any problems at the time so I didn’t feel the need to waste my time sitting in some building.
After arriving in Ogden, Utah we started to look for a place to live. The military told us it was going to take 3-5 years to get a house ‘on-base’ so we started our search in the surrounding community. We found a little condominium and signed the papers to lease it. That same day I arrived at work to find a message from the base housing office. He explained that he had called several people who were ahead of us on the waiting list but that nobody returned the office’s call. We were the first persons who they were able to contact, so we went right to the head of the line and they offered us a place ‘on-base’!
This house was unbelievable. It was the base commander’s old house, and its backyard was the base’s golf course. We were only authorized a three-bedroom house, but … they were offering us a four-bedroom home. (More about the significance of having an extra bedroom a little later.) And the military even paid us extra money to live there. It was unbelievable.
Soon after we moved into our new house, one of our new neighbors was standing on our driveway, and we walked up to greet her. We introduced ourselves, and she said “You’re Carl Kerby? I know you.” I looked at her and said, “No, I don’t think we’ve met.” But she replied, “No. I know you somehow.”
She thought for a moment, and then all of a sudden, something clicked with her. “Yep, that’s it. You see, I’m the secretary at the church down the street. Your pastor in the Azores wrote a letter to us saying to be on the look-out for you both … that you were moving here.”
Now, in my head I was thinking, “Come on. I thought I was getting away from all that church stuff.” But my wife was getting excited just to know there’s a church waiting for us here. So Masami said: “Yes, I want to go to church” (I didn’t). And then imagine this: in the entire state of Utah, there was only one Japanese church, and guess where it’s meeting? In the church where she was the secretary.
Well, I took Masami to that church. I didn’t like it at all. There were about 250 people there—and that was way too big for me. I decided not to go the next time, and thought that Masami could just drive herself there. She had just learned to drive in the one-stoplight-island of the Azores. (She did not get a driver’s license in Japan, for most people take a bus or train to get around.).
This church was only about a mile and a half away from our home, so I thought Masami could handle that drive. But after the first Sunday, the Japanese church disbanded and moved to downtown Salt Lake City. That was about 35 miles away, and you’ve got to drive down a fast interstate and then drive into the city to the church. But, she really wanted to go to church. So every week, she was on me about wanting to go to church, but I’m just not wanting her to drive the interstate and in a busy city with the limited driving experience she’d had.
Well, I relented and drove her to church. I discovered that there were only about 15-20 people in that church. I couldn’t say that that church is too small, and so that’s where we started to go to church together.
About this same time, my brother had started having some personal difficulties. He had started doing the same things I had been involved in back in high school: drugs and alcohol. My worried parents contacted me, and I offered to have him come out and live with us in Utah.
We had a four-bedroom house and two children by now, and we had an extra bedroom just sitting there vacant. (Looking back I can see the Lord providing way before I even realized a need. Remember, we were only authorized the three-bedroom home. God k new what we needed in order to help my brother.) One of the conditions for him to move in though was that he had to go to church with us. He was having problems so, he needed to go to church.
Now, I’m not even a Christian at this point, but I’m already taking my wife to church and now I’m taking my brother to church. One of my greatest fears is that the church has many, many more people just like I was. Sitting in the church pews, listening to the pastor preach, and lost as a goose.
On May 15, 1987, evangelist Lowell Lundstrom came to Salt Lake City for a crusade. I think it was the first time in the history of Salt Lake City that a major evangelism outreach like this was held. The evangelist used the large Jon Huntsman Center at the University of Utah for the crusade.
I urged my brother go that evening because Mark Eaton, a basketball player for the NBA team the Utah Jazz, was speaking. Both of us loved basketball So, I said, “You’ve got to go hear this guy.” And that’s the night I got saved. It’s amazing now to look back on how the Lord prepared the way.
I just had a very encouraging event happen in my life recently. I was at a speaking event in Kansas. After sharing someone asked how I got saved and I shared the above testimony with them. They looked at me in amazement. “Lowell Lundstrom! We’re best friends with his brother!” the said to me.
What a small world. I asked them to please tell his brother to pass my gratitude along to his brother for his ministry and they did. But they also passed my contact information along as well. Shortly after this I received a call and was given Pastor Lunstrom’s contact information. I called and thanked him for his ministry and was encouraged to hear that he was now pastor of a church in Minnesota. I just happened to be going to that area and made arrangements to visit with him while I was there.
He and his family were such gracious hosts. They remembered the Salt Lake outreach very well. It was interesting to find out that Billy Graham had turned down doing an evangelistic outreach in Salt Lake City 3 times. I am so thankful they came in spite of the struggles. Please pray for Pastor Lundstrom, his ministry and his family. I was so encouraged to be with them. God bless you. (Remember, this is the short version!)