Before our salvation and although we faced many difficulties, Howie and I were happily married, were raised in loving non-Christian homes and mingled with happy friends in the secular world. Before we became Christ-followers, Howie and I had never opened a Bible and were confirmed agnostics. However, when Jesus invaded our lives, we were immediately given a great thirst for Scripture. Through it and the work of the Holy Spirit, we were soon anchored into God’s sovereignty, call to suffer, ownership of our future and acceptance of the terminal, degenerative disease which Howie and my son bore.
As soon as Christ redeemed us in 1976, He began sending troubled people to our home on a beautiful, tranquil rural road outside a tiny town in Pennsylvania. The tsunami of souls included drug addicts, violent men, the physically and sexually abused, alcoholics, three women who were recently released from a mental institution, a lesbian who along with her husband and girlfriend had three-in-bed, a rapist who had just been released from an institution for the criminally insane, suicidal people, adulterers, and three men just released from long prison terms…a murderer and two thieves. The thieves were among our first “houseguests” and yes, we were robbed. We rushed a woman to the hospital with no pulse after her 13th suicide attempt; her life was saved, but not her soul. Another gal, a cute, petite cheerleader-type, shared on her initial visit that she had “killed” her first husband. When I very hesitantly inquired, “How did you kill him?” she calmly replied, “By blowing his head off with a gun.” A jury had found her not guilty by reason of self-defense. God sent them all to our door the first three years of our walk with Him; we certainly weren’t out recruiting them.
We were extremely naïve and could easily have been type-cast as Robert and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Some of these people lived with us, creating many exciting scenarios through which God was teaching us about His faithfulness, human nature and our responses to living a life with little semblance of our control. God was pleased to protect our family from those who might harm us, but we were definitely jolted into a new life; our adventures in faith had begun!
At this time in our 14-year marriage, we had rarely attended church. As new believers, we began visiting various liberal churches until a year later, we finally arrived at our first Bible-preaching, Bible-teaching church. We were accompanied by our first wave of troubled people.
As we eagerly rushed to the pastor, elders and even seminary students, pleading for help with our little flock, we were met with this repeated response: “We can’t help you.” Left with no human help, God in His great mercy began revealing His solutions to problems through the Scriptures and His Spirit. Both of us had been given skills to break down knowledge in our secular jobs. God used those skills to find ways to apply the commands and promises of His Word to the adversities we were personally facing. As we experimented with how to implement His truth, we discovered that certain applications produced results, such as the Renewing Your Mind Outline and the way to forgive. Then we passed the “bread” to others, for whom it was also helpful.
We witnessed few, if any, “successes” our first three years, which led Howie to remark, “I don’t think we are in this for fruit but for obedience.” A good reminder to all disciplers! We had no idea in the first few years that God was developing a “ministry”—we were just two ordinary people who loved God and others, opened the home which belonged to Him and desperately wanted to help people come to know Christ and to grow in His wisdom. Because of his health issues, in 1979 Howie was no longer able to maintain his job and we were cast on the provision of Christ for our livelihood. At that point we had already made the decision not to charge for our services.
After nine years of “field testing” the implementation of God’s principles, we left the lovely countryside of Pennsylvania. We moved to the urban desert of Phoenix, Arizona in 1985, finally bowing to the Spirit’s insistence against our personal wishes. People in our new community encouraged us to put the concepts we had learned in writing, which to that point we had only passed on verbally. The original Called To Obedience manual, The Home: Called to Obedience manual and the Called to Disciple training manual were hand-written and a dedicated friend spent untold hours entering the transcripts into an Atari computer. The “ministry” was named sometime in the late 1980’s.
In Phoenix, once again troubled people were drawn to our home, the arena of the ministry…some to live with us and be discipled; others just to be discipled, to be fed at our table, to pray or to just hang out. Our house eventually expanded to seven bedrooms filled with people, as we continued to experience a modern day “loaves and fishes” story of provision with extremely limited financial resources.
Years before, when we discovered that God had created a “ministry” without our awareness, we chose never to promote it, but rather if it were to spread, it must be done so through the Holy Spirit’s movement and direction. There has been pressure to release the materials for group teaching, but our primary focus remains to be committed to keeping the core of the teaching to a one-on-one or couple-to-couple format. It is in this intimate setting of accountability and grace that we witness life-transformation and the desire of many who are discipled to disciple others. Although we did not plan or anticipate it, a multiplication ministry was born. We are blessed with a growing army of disciplers who invest their time and energy in the lives of others. Volunteers in a variety of capacities are the backbone of the ministry. As you can see, CTO’s unfolding has not been through great human strategy!
Shortly after Howie died in January 1995, God led me to a church where Randy Murphy was the adult ministries pastor. He had been looking for a counseling methodology, which was biblical as well as practical. In my widowhood, Randy became a personal shepherd and an enthusiastic unofficial overseer of the expanding ministry. Len and Janee Garrett, who were instrumental in leading Howie and me to Christ, moved from Indiana to Phoenix to volunteer help with the ministry. Len waded through mounds of paperwork involved with incorporating the CTO ministry into a 501-C3 non-profit organization, the status of which was granted in October 1997. A volunteer board was formed, which continues to guide and oversee the organization. Since we do not charge for services, we rely solely upon the donations of faithful givers.
God was pleased to bless me with a second very happy marriage to Tom Patton in October 1998 and together we continue to disciple, coach disciplers, write, edit, travel for and serve the ministry in a variety of ways. As CTO spiraled out the Phoenix area to other parts of our nation, the management of it became more demanding and complex…way beyond Tom and my abilities to handle! God called Randy Murphy out of the church pastorate to become executive director of CTO in January 2008. Not only does he oversee day-to-day operations, but also he, along with his wife Janet, disciple leaders, while he trains and coaches disciplers, travels and teaches seminars and workships in churches. We are very thankful for his great enthusiasm, giftedness and amazing time he devotes to the advancement of God’s Kingdom!
By word of mouth, God continues to move the ministry into other areas of the U.S. and also to a number of other countries. People are being raised up to translate the CTO materials into their nations’ languages. Increasingly, we are experiencing the interest of ministry and church leaders who see the great need to help their people with problems. A number have been and are currently being trained through their personal discipleship to equip others in their sphere of influence.
In conclusion, I heartily concur with Billy Graham’s statement that he is only a “spectator” to all that God has done. What a mighty, good, creative and steadfast God we serve!
By His grace,