SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Ron and Gloria Hanson’s life has been one filled with unusual twists, turns and adventures, with more than a few miracles thrown in for good measure.
The tale of their first Christmas miracle was recently published by PE News. You can read it below. But first, let me tell you “the rest of the story” (apologies to Paul Harvey).
Ron Hanson and Gloria Clevenger met as students at Evangel College in the fall of 1955.
That’s right, they have the distinction of being members of Evangel’s very first freshman class! Gloria came down from Excelsior Springs, Mo., and Ron drove to Springfield from New Richland, Minn.
More interestingly, though, they also have the distinction of being the first couple to meet at Evangel and get married… the very next year… when they were still teenagers… with three more years of college ahead of them!
Ron and Gloria Hanson celebrated their 60th Anniversary earlier this year. They are retired and have returned to Springfield, where, Ron says, “I speak occasionally, and we travel a lot, both in the U.S. and back to Africa.”
Back to Africa…
Did I mention that the Hanson’s served most of their lives as missionaries to Africa? And the two boys pictured in the feature story below are currently serving as missionaries to Africa? (Brent is doing university ministries in Kenya, while his brother Scott, is a strategic leader with the Live Dead program.)
How’s that for a twist and a turn? I’ll explain more in a minute.
The early Evangel years
I asked Ron, what was the response from their classmates when it became known that he and Gloria were married after their freshman year at Evangel.
“Jealousy,” he replied.
When asked to explain, he said, “I was a math education major and a biology minor at Evangel. The teachers were excellent, and there has never once been a hesitation about my decision to attend. There has never been a negative of any sort with my affiliation with Evangel.”
But why were your classmates jealous?
“Tuition was $10 a credit hour that first year,” he elaborated. “I took 16 hours in the fall of 1955 and 16 hours in the spring of 1956. That’s $320 for my first year of tuition. After that, we got married, Gloria went to work for the Dean, and I was able to finish my degree tuition free as the spouse of an employee. They were jealous, because it cost me $320 for tuition to earn a four-year degree from Evangel.”
I believe that is another record, and it certainly qualifies as somewhat of a miracle!
Speaking of the quality of his education at Evangel, upon graduation in 1959 Ron immediately landed a teaching job in Tacoma, Wash. — despite the fact that Evangel was not yet accredited — and after three years there, he received a National Science Foundation grant to earn his master’s degree at San Diego State University. From there, he taught and served in school administration in Northern California for several more years.
The mission field
Gloria often tells the story of being called to the mission field at the age of 8. Ron had a similarly early call, and actually stood up at a Billy Graham Crusade when he was 12 and committed his life to being a missionary.
What they didn’t know was how they would get there.
After all, he was not planning to be a pastor, and that was the only accepted route to missions within the Assemblies of God at that time. “We didn’t fit the A/G guidelines,” he said.
At age 36, a door opened, and Ron and Gloria took a decidedly different path to fulfilling their calling to the mission field.
“In 1976, Ethiopia opened up, and the Assemblies wanted to start a Christian school there,” Ron explained. “I had a masters in administration, and we got the call.”
While that school never materialized, that career transition was the key to the rest of their lives.
After a period of time in Ethiopia, the couple moved to Kenya, where they served in various teaching and preaching responsibilities from 1977 to 1983. From 1983 to 1993, they served in Tanzania as field chairman for AG missions. From 1993 to 2005, they were in Nairobi, where he directed the regional relief and development work for the Assemblies, spending many years serving in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. And in 2005, they moved to Tanzania to work with the Africa Oasis Project, digging wells to help reach unreached people groups.
“My theme was this — ‘To drive a road I’ve never driven, to reach a people who have never heard,’” said Ron.
Ron and Gloria retired in 2014… and that brings us back to that first Christmas miracle, in 1976.
As you read the following story, please prayerfully consider helping a new generation of students who are looking for miraculous ways to fulfill their calling. Your gift will make a world of difference, in a world that needs what our graduates have to offer. http://www.evangel.edu/yearend/
“O Christmas Tree” — By Gloria Hanson
The year was 1976. We had recently arrived in Ethiopia with our sons, Brent and Scott, ages 7 and 6. Our new “home,” a country in turmoil, was drastically different from California; there was nightly shooting around our house. Those were years of war and revolution. Because of the danger involved, we didn’t allow the boys to leave our compound except to go to school.
One enormous void was the lack of a Christmas tree. Early in the season we had encouraged Brent and Scott to pray that God would send us a tree, and they had been praying for the whole month. But it was now only two days before Christmas, and we still had no Christmas tree. A neighbor had generously shared some of her tree ornaments with us, but they were worthless with no tree to hang them on. We knew it would take a miracle!
That night, as my husband Ron and I sat in our small living room, the boys both sound asleep in bed, we heard a knock on our door. It was already 10 p.m., and we had no idea who it could be. No one came to anyone’s house at that time of night; it was simply too dangerous. But when we opened the door, a man stood there, holding a small Christmas tree. He offered it to us for sale, an offer we quickly agreed to, thanking God for this miracle. When the boys awoke the next morning, they found the miracle, the tree they had asked God for. To them, that small African tree was the most beautiful tree they had ever seen.
Afterwards, we attempted to find out who this man was, but no one knew, very unusual in a tightly knit African community. It was as if he had disappeared. Could this man have been an angel? We don’t know. All we do know is that God answered the prayers of two little boys their first Christmas away from their California home in a new country far away.
Ron and Gloria Hanson served as AGWM missionaries to East Africa for 37 years. Both Brent and Scott Hanson continue to serve in the region with their families.
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION — Dec. 22, 2016
ORIGINAL PUBLICATION by PE News: http://penews.org/features/o-christmas-tree