Elmer Luka with Dave Lesher and Loyce Carver at the construction site of the current headquarters church building in Portland, Oregon.

A Cross-Country Quest

April 01, 2015

He and his wife sold their home, packed their belongings into a panel truck and trailer, and set out to find a people who preached the whole Word of God.

By Elmer Luka

What a privilege it is to be a Bible Christian, washed in the Blood of Jesus, and be counted among the redeemed of the Lord! This wonderful Gospel lifted me out of sin when I was a defeated young man on a downward way.

Our family, which included eight children, lived in Decatur, Illinois, where my father was a minister. My mother died when I was seven years old, and it seemed that the bottom fell out of my life.

At the age of seventeen, I thought I should have been having a good time, but the things of the world did not satisfy because God was dealing with me. He put such a burden on my heart. I was lost and knew it.

I wanted to be a carpenter, so I learned the building trade. One of my jobs was to screen in a porch for a family with the last name of Phillips. When I told them my plan to join the Army, Mrs. Phillips said that she would send letters to me.

We corresponded and Mrs. Phillips encouraged me to seek the Lord with all my heart. Then one February evening, while in the service of my country at Fort Lawton, Washington, I found myself willing to pay any price if God would only put the assurance in my heart that I was born again and ready for Heaven. I got down on my knees in that tar-paper barracks and prayed a simple prayer next to my Army bunk and a pot-bellied stove. I said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” It did not matter what my buddies thought. I was bound for a devil’s Hell and wanted a way out.

There was a lot wrapped up in my prayer that night. On other occasions, I had made up fancy prayers and thought they might avail, but that night, I prayed from my heart. Oh the change that took place! In a moment of time, Jesus came in and gave me such wonderful peace and joy. He rolled the burden away and gave me a “know-so” salvation.

God was with me in the months that followed. I went overseas and found that God did not leave me; He went one step ahead of me all the time. I wrote of my salvation to Mrs. Phillips and she read my letter to her daughter, Helen. Over the next several months, I continued to write of my progress with the Lord and she continued reading the letters to her daughter. Helen became convicted by my enthusiasm and prayed through to salvation in September of that same year. I was in the service for two more years and God kept me living a Christian life.

After being discharged from the service, I returned to Decatur and began dating Helen. We married on December 31, 1947, and God blessed us. The church that we attended taught only salvation, and we began to feel the need for something more. We did not know what to call it, so we prayed that the Lord would lead us into the fullness of the Gospel. One day, the Lord laid it on our hearts to find a people who preached the whole Word of God. We sold our home and furniture and piled everything else in a paneled truck and a trailer that we pulled along behind. We strung two little hammocks in the back of the truck for our boys to sleep in. A friend had sent us literature from an Apostolic Faith Church in Los Angeles, California, so we headed west across the country looking for the people of God.

Along the way, we encountered some ice on the road in the night. We came over the brow of a hill and my headlights suddenly reflected a glare. Instinctively, my foot hit the brakes and seconds later, the weight of the trailer we were pulling spun our small panel truck sideways. The truck rolled over and came to rest on its side, but miraculously, none of us were hurt. We were all able to climb out through the window. We had the truck towed and then stayed in a motel that night. As I looked up into the night sky, I wondered why God had let this happen. We had felt the Lord’s leading so clearly to leave our home, and we had trusted Him to bring us across the country. The next day, as we traveled over that same stretch of the road in the daylight, we saw the answer. Just beyond the place where we had slid off the road onto the shoulder were deep canyons on either side. Who knows where we would have ended up if God hadn’t stopped us before those cliffs! His protective hand had been over us. That incident strengthened my faith and my desire to draw closer to God.

It was as though a Voice spoke from Heaven saying, “This is it! This is what you have been looking for!”

I will never forget the Sunday morning we opened the doors of the Apostolic Faith Church in Los Angeles, California. It was as though a Voice spoke from Heaven saying, “This is it! This is what you have been looking for!” God gave us that witness. Brother Loyce Carver was preaching that morning on the subject of sanctification—the very thing we were looking for. Some of the people said the sermon was so strong that they thought we would never come back. Well, we came back!

During the sermon, Brother Carver also said that a person must be saved to sing in the choir or play in the orchestra. He was very firm about it. He came to speak to us after the service and I told him that I wanted to get started working for the Lord right away. I said, “Sign me up.” He replied, “Well, you just stick around here for a little while. We will see what you have and then we will talk about it.”

Before long, the Lord gave us the opportunity to help in His work. My first job was participating in the street meetings. It was wonderful to be involved in the work of the Lord!

When they began to send people to help build a church in Tehachapi, California, I offered to go and help, too. For one year, we got up at five o’clock every Saturday morning and made that trip of 100 miles in the morning, worked all day, and drove back at night. The conversation while going and coming did not center on secular things, such as how much money we were making or what was in the daily news. Instead, we talked about the blessings of God, and who was receiving their deeper experiences. A revival broke out during that time and it became a period of spiritual growth for me. I enjoyed every minute traveling to and from that church; I was thrilled to do it.

Some months after our arrival in Los Angeles, we began to hear about the annual camp meeting in Portland, Oregon. Something in our hearts just purposed that we would go. I told my boss that I liked my job, but I had something more important to do. He then laid me off, so we started for Portland, and arrived the Wednesday before camp. The folks there extended a hand of fellowship to us, and we felt their love right from the beginning. Both my wife and I received the experience of sanctification while there that year.

We also heard about the baptism of the Holy Ghost, but were wary of it. When we returned home to Los Angeles, the revival was still going strong. One night in a prayer service a young lady received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and spoke in German, a language unknown to her. My wife and I were able to understand what she was saying, and we realized then that the baptism was real and of God.

We also knew that the Lord had caused us to see this. He was letting us know that we were in the right place, with the right people. We both prayed and received the baptism.

There have been so many incidents down through the years which have increased my faith that I cannot name them all. My wife and I raised four children in the Gospel, with the Lord as our Friend and Healer and Guide. We have had the privilege to pastor three different Apostolic Faith churches. Since our retirement, we have also lived and served in Dallas and Portland, Oregon.

Thank God for victory! I thank Him for the joy and the peace He put in my heart. The Gospel is alive. It is real! As I grow older and see the end coming, I want to be my best for Jesus. He has done so much for me, and my life is all His.

About the author

Elmer Luka was called to the ministry in 1960. He became a pastor in 1984 and served in three locations: Eureka and Los Angeles, California, and St. Louis, Missouri. Beginning in 1950, he supervised many of our construction projects including building the churches in Eureka and St. Louis, the parsonage in Los Angeles, and our headquarters church and office buildings in Portland, Oregon. He also constructed violins, and wrote on the inside of each, “By Elmer, for the glory of the Lord!”