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Joe's testimony

Joe

I'll just start with some of the basic facts.

I am the 3rd of 9 children. I was born to Joseph and Rita Pottle on Sept. 21, 1932 in Chelsea, MA. I was raised in the Boston area until the age of seventeen and graduated from Chelsea High School in June of 1950. The Korean War had begun and I enlisted in the US Navy on June 30, 1950. I went to the National Training Camp in Great Lakes, IL, completed my training in September of 1950 and on Sept. 21st (my 18th birthday) was shipped to the US Naval Air Facility in Yokosuka, Japan.

I served at that base until January 12th of 1952, when I transferred to the aircraft carrier USS Essex (CV 9). At age 19, I was involved in the Korean conflict aboard the Essex for two tours of duty, from January 1952 until July of 1953. I was discharged in Seattle, July 24th, 1953. I returned to Chelsea, MA and worked for American Optical as a maintenance worker until June of '54. It was during this time period that the first of many marvelous blessings came my way. Unknown to me at the time, God was doing a work in my life that would ultimately lead to my salvation. It began with my meeting the most wonderful person that had ever come into my life, Melzora (Melz) Ryan. It was love at first sight and we married on Oct. 9, 1954. In June of '54, my future father-in-law, fearing for his daughter's future, decided to give me an opportunity to change my "going-no-where" job for a professional occupation. I accepted his invitation and began my career as an Ironworker. (For those of you who don't know what an ironworker is they are the men who erect steel structures such as sky scrapers, bridges, towers, power plants, etc. I thoroughly enjoy walking on the "high iron"!)

Joe

While I was in the military I'd come to the conclusion that people are divided into two groups: those that lead and those that are led. I made up my mind that I wanted to lead not be led. Consequently, during my apprenticeship I went "all out" to learn everything I could about my new trade. I was determined to be one of the best. As a result of my effort, I was made a foreman, a leader when I completed my apprenticeship. From that day on until I had to retire, I had the privilege of leading men. On March 28, 1956, the Lord gave us the first of our three boys, Joe Jr. We were living in N. Reading, MA at the time and it was shortly after that the most important event in my whole life took place.

My wife, Melz finally had enough of my drinking and wild style of life. She grew tired of trying to get me to go to church, so she decided to take control of her own spiritual life and that of our son. I woke up one Sunday morning and Melz was dressed to go out with our son who was also dressed to go out. Melz informed me that she and little Joe were going to church. She told me I could stay in that bed as long as I liked, but she was going to church with her son. I became angry at what she was doing and, without realizing it I then did something that changed my whole life! Begrudgingly, I told her to wait a minute and I'd go with her.

Joe

We set off for a church that Melz had heard about in the city of Malden, MA. When we arrived, I had no idea about what was going to happen, but God did. After the worship and praise the Pastor got up to preach and before he started, he looked out over the congregation and spoke to a man in the audience and asked that person if he were a minister and if he were, would he join him on the platform. There was no response and so he repeated his request a second time.

As before there was no response. Then he said, "You sir, in the blue suit, are you a pastor?" By this time everyone was wondering who he was talking to. Melz turned to me at this time and said, "Joe, I think he’s talking to you, look around, you're the only one I can see with a blue suit on." I didn't believe he was talking to me but when I looked at him he was looking directly at me and pointing. I gestured to myself and he shook his head yes. I was in a mild form of shock. I spoke out and told him if he was talking to me he was mistaken, I was not a minister.

He then asked me if I was a Christian. I got agitated and asked him why he was speaking to me. He asked me once again if I was a Christian. I told him emphatically that I wasn't. He then asked me if I would like to be one, and invited me to come forward. By this time there was nothing going on except this two-way conversation between this Pastor and myself. The church was absolutely silent. I didn't know it then but my soul was hanging in the balance. God was dealing with me and none of this was happening by chance. The Pastor repeated his invitation for me to come to the altar. Today I realize that it was the power of the Holy Spirit convicting me and working in me that caused me to stand up and walk down the aisle of a church I had never been in before, all at the invitation of a Pastor who had put his whole service on hold, just to deal with one lost sinner. As I walked down the aisle I spoke to God and told Him that if what was happening to me was real then something had to change within me when I got to the alter.

Praise God, something did happen. Something wonderful! So wonderful that it still is with me, more than 57 years later! I asked Jesus to forgive me for all my sins and to come into my life and take charge and He did. It felt like a load was lifted from my shoulders, the guilt was gone and the Lord made a new man out of the man who stood before Him. He has been my Lord and Savior ever since that momentous Sunday in 1956. Then to add to this awesome event I realized that my darling wife was standing beside me rededicating her life to Him also. Thus began over 57 years of following Jesus. It has not been all sunshine and roses. There have been many ups and downs and through them all I can attest to the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ who has promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us.

Because of our accepting Jesus into our lives, another wonderful thing happened. My father-in-law, Wesley Ryan (Wes), who had been a backslider for thirty years, came back to the Lord. He had a startling conversion and everyone knew that he was truly born again by the new life he lived before all men. (He passed away about a year after his conversion.) Before my conversion, I was working at the Boston Edison Electric power plant, helping to build an addition to the plant. The job was to last five and a half years for me. I had served my apprenticeship of two years and was now a foreman with my own crew. I was well known around this huge job site, I fit the description of a tough Ironworker in every way. I drank with the men, gambled with them and was afraid of no one. The men on these types of construction jobs are a tough, in your face kind of men, who only used the name of God for one reason and that was to curse by.

Joe

It was into this kind of a situation that I was returning after my meeting the Lord on that memorable Sunday morning. On Friday I was one of the guys, on Monday I was supposed to be a changed man, a Christian. I say "supposed to be" because, when I arrived on that Monday morning, I didn't know how I was going to handle this whole situation. I decided I would take it slow and easy. So I started to make excuses as to why I didn't want to play cards during the lunch hour with the men as I usually did, why I wasn’t smoking anymore and they heard how my language was dramatically improved.

One of things I use to do was to collect the money from the men for the gambling bets that they placed on the numbers racket from the horse races. I had to fake my way out of that also. I didn't go out drinking with the guys after work as I usually did. It wasn't long before they began asking me what was going on, what was wrong with me and it was at this juncture in my life that I had to make the break, the big decision. I asked myself the question, "Did something really happen to me on that Sunday morning or was it all in my mind?" It was a pivotal point in my life. Do I confess Christ as my Lord and Savior and move forward, or do I ignore what happened, say nothing, and go back to my old ways? It was a battle and I realized now that it was a battle for my soul. I went home and discussed this with my wife, prayed about it and decided that I had made a decision to follow Jesus and I wasn't going to turn back.

That was the most significant turning point in my entire life. It opened the floodgates of Heaven and also the floodgates of Hell. I returned to the job site the next day, determined to let the men know about the change that Christ had made in my life. It was in the change shack that morning that I witnessed to the saving power of Christ in my life and what He meant to me. The mixture of reactions was amazing. It went from, "I don't believe it" to "You got to be kidding" “to outright laughter and ridicule.”

From that moment on, I lived through one attempt after another by different men to show the others that what I said had happened was phony, that I was no different now than I was before and no better than they were. They did everything they could to intimidate me, to embarrass me, to make me get angry and swear, for I could swear with the worst of them. My crew tried to make me look bad so that I would lose my job. It went on and on for months but through it all the Lord was with me. Slowly and begrudgingly, they saw that the changes in my life were real and some even began to respect my stand for Jesus Christ.

I began a new life in Christ Jesus. I endeavored to be a good husband, father, worker, friend, and faithful member of our church, Calvary Temple in Malden, MA. The Pastor was Edward Skane who'd spoken to me in front of his congregation - and an amazing thing is that we had grown up in the same neighborhood and he remembered me! Our families became good friends. I became very involved in the church as song leader, youth leader, usher and anything else that I could help in. In June of 1958 our second son, Craig Stephen was born and then in December of 1959 Keith Wesley was born. We had a healthy, happy family. A small but nice home, a thoroughbred Collie named Lord Mark, and we were quite content with our lot in life.

After a period of time, I went to New York to help build the World's Fair complex and we lived in Brooklyn until the job was completed and then back to New England to Chelsea, MA, the place of my birth. From there we moved to Malden, MA where I bought a home that we lived in for about eleven years. We joined the Assembly of God church in Revere, called Parkway Assembly of God. It was at this church that I first started working with the Royal Rangers, the Assembly of God boys' program. I became the Outpost leader and from there to the leadership of the Southern New England District I eventually became the District Commander. I developed a bond with the men of the district that has lasted to this day and is one of the highlights of my Christian walk. Eventually, I was invited to join the National Staff of the Royal Rangers program under the leadership of one of the most loved, and respected men I have ever met, Johnnie Barnes. I had the absolute privilege of becoming a personal friend of this wonderful guy.

Joe

From local Pow–Wows, yearly camp-outs for the boys, to the staff of the National Camporamas, then to the staff of the NTC, the National Training Camps for training RR leaders and on to the staff of NTT, the National Training Trails. The circle of Christian men who directly influenced my life continued to grow. Men such as Johnnie Barnes, Floyd Larsen, Ollie Dalaba, Sam Mazzola, Danny Parker, Spike Dodge - and it goes on and on, I could fill pages with the names of these men. The Royal Rangers Program became one of the most wonderful memories in my life time.

It also gave me one of my more painful memories, which I choose not to reveal for it is in God's hands. Around 1972 I moved my family to a beautiful home in Chester, NH where we lived until 1979. It was in the year 1979 that God brought about another momentous change in my life. I was helping to build the Nuclear Power Plant in Seabrook, NH and it was in that year we experienced the worst winter I could recall. Coming home late one night, driving in a blinding blizzard, cold and tired, and when I got home I was forced to shovel snow by hand for a couple of hours because my snow blower had broken down, and I had to get my truck off of the road. It was at this time that I made what I thought was my decision, to make the biggest move we had ever made as a family. That night, I told my wife Melz that we were going to move out West to California and she agreed to it.

It is only in hindsight that most of us finally see God's hand involved in everything we do. I guess it has to be that way for we walk by faith not by sight. I now know without a shadow of a doubt that God was directing all that was happening to me and my family. So - in April of 1979 we packed my pickup and our car and with much trepidation and a sense of adventure and with many admonitions from family and friends the Pottle family headed West for California. I should say that was our plan, our goal. Once again I found out how much God is influenced by our plans. It says in Proverbs 16:9, "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Previous to our heading out, our sons Joe and Craig had already left home and both of them ended up in Portland, Oregon. This had a bearing on our final destination for we decided to stop off and see them before we went to California. All things were working together to bring about God's will and purpose for our making this move.

Chain of events; Joe went to California, he could not find work and so he headed north and ended up in Portland, OR. Looking in the newspapers for an apartment to rent he came across an ad for a live-in manager to manage an apartment complex. He and his wife Robin decided to take a chance. They applied and were hired. They were there just long enough for us to arrive for a visit. They had decided that managing was not for them and had given their notice to quit. We arrived, sat down in their kitchen to catch up on what was happening to them and Joe out of the clear blue sky asked his mother if she would like a job. To keep this short, she said, "yes" and that was the beginning of another whole new chapter in our lives.

Melz went on to manage the complex for eleven years, right up to the time of her going home to be with the Lord. In those eleven years she touched every life that she met in the complex with the love of Christ. She transformed that complex and led many to the Lord. As a testimony to the fact that God does direct our coming and our going, I have to record this one particular event that happened the first week Melz began managing the apartment complex.

The week she began her job was the week the people where to pay their monthly rent. At the end of the week only one tenant had not come to the office to pay. Melz waited another day, this was Friday and when that person didn't show up to pay the rent she decided to go up to the apartment and talk to that person,for they did not have a phone. According to the record book the tenant was a woman who had lived there for a few years. Melz knocked on the apartment door a few times and no one answered. She was about to leave when she heard a faint voice coming from within the apartment.She knocked again and heard a faint voice telling her to come in. What she found when she opened the door shocked her. The apartment was dark, all the blinds were drawn shut, there were no lights on. In the darkness she could make out the form of a woman lying on the bed. The smell of the place was nauseating. What my wife walked into was a women dying of cancer and so weak she could not get out of the bed to even go to the bathroom.

From that moment on Melz took care of the woman. She bathed her, cleaned the apartment and fed her. She opened the blinds and let the light shine in and she also let the light of God's love shine in. She immediately began telling her about God's love for her. The woman told her of her worst fear, that of dying in bed, in the dark all alone. She accepted Christ into her heart and told Melz that those fears no longer existed. The following day she went home to be with the Lord.

Think about what I just told you. Our God, the Creator of the Universe, saw this one individual, alone, frightened, dying of cancer, with no hope, and lying in a bed in an apartment, in Portland, OR. What did He do about it? He got a family in Chester, NH, to pack their belongings, leave their home and travel across the entire country to Portland, OR. There, to take a job that was supernaturally set up for them, so that my wife could find this individual and show and tell her of the love of God. Because of this another child has gone home and all Heaven rejoiced. That one incident made our move worth it all. Our God never fails.

In August of 1986 a very traumatic tragedy hit our family. Melz and I had gone away for three days and when we returned home we were met by our son Keith who was waiting for us in our home. He informed us that while we were away our son Craig had died. It was sudden and unexpected and the rug was pulled out from under our feet. It is a long story and I won't get into it now. What I will say is this: When we went away our son had not made his peace with God. We had the added weight of thinking that our son was unsaved when he died. That made his death even harder to bear.I have already said, "Our God never fails." This is as true a statement as we can make. We did not find out until the next week that a faithful brother, Wendall Burkland, had visited my son and on that day he was asked by Craig for the first time if he would pray for him. When he did he told us that Craig got down on his knees and asked God to forgive him of his sins and asked Jesus to come into his heart. Wendall told me that Craig was on his knees for almost three hours crying out to God for forgiveness. I can rejoice today for God's promises are true and my son is with him today. We sorrow but not as the world sorrows.

While living in Portland I decided to start up my own steel erection company with my two sons Joe and Keith. It was 1987 and God blessed us with success and our company grew and prospered. The main reason we prospered was that we had one other partner, His name is God. We got a reputation as an honest, consistent, reliable and trustworthy company, for which I thank God. The company is still going strong in 2013.

In 1987 I experienced a consistent pain in my chest and my wife took me to the hospital. They thought it important enough to keep me there and check me out. I was put through all the tests and when they were completed I was diagnosed with a deteriorating heart. The doctor told us that they didn’texpect my heart to keep beating for more than 2½ yrs. I was told that I had to cut down on my activities and to try not to exert my heart. This meant that I had to back off in my business and do less. This was very hard for me for I had put in at this time in my life 33 years in an occupation that I enjoyed. It is very obvious that God was not through with me for I am still here and my heart is still ticking and will be until He decides it is time for me to go home. In June of 1989 I had another episode happen in my life that ended up life threatening. In 1984 I began to have headaches that came off and on. They came suddenly and at unexpected times, but not too frequently. As the years went by they began to increase in frequency and in intensity. In 1988 the headaches came frequently and consistently and the pain was almost beyond my ability to handle. I saw many doctors and up to this time none of them could tell me what the problem was.

In 1989 it got so bad that I just didn't know what to do. Much prayer went up for me but it got consistently worse. One Sunday at church my friend Wendell Burkland came up to me and told me he had a friend who was a brain surgeon and asked if I wanted him to call him and see if he would see me. He did this and his friend set a time for me to come to his office. His name was Dr. Brett. After just five minutes in his office he told me what was wrong. I had a rare brain disease. A blood vessel had moved against the nerve that controlled the left side of my face and as it was beating it was steadily wearing the insulation off of the nerve and that is why the pains came slowly and then progressively worse. Not only did he tell me what was wrong, he informed me that of the doctors that performed this operation he was the one who had performed most of those done in the North West. The following Monday he scheduled me to enter the hospital and to be his first patient of the day.

It was a very serious operation and the chance of something going wrong was very high. He had to go up through the back of my head to the top of my brain with a tiny camera and an artificial piece of insulation and put this insulation around the nerve. Needless to say the operation was a success and in three hours, five years of pain was gone. Once again God was merciful and worked out all things for my good. My recovery was just as amazing and was and is a testimony to God's faithfulness.

I firmly believe, without a doubt, that it is a very good thing that we cannot see into the future. If we could, we wouldn't be able to handle it. For another traumatic time was waiting down the road for me. It was to exceed everything that had previously happened in my lifetime.

In 1990 I took my wife Melz on a trip to Japan. We were having a wonderful time. She was enjoying everything we got to do. We were accompanying our Pastor, Allan Hamilton on his speaking tour for the Four Square Church in Japan. One day Melz collapsed while crossing a street and passed out. We took her to a hospital but they could not find out what was wrong. I immediately made reservations to take her home.When we arrived I arranged for her to be admitted to the hospital.She was tested thoroughly and after the testing the doctor came out and told me the terrible results of the tests. Once again I had the rug pulled out from under my feet. He told me she had cancer and that they gave her only two months to live. When Craig died I thought I was climbing a very large hill, now I felt like I was climbing a mountain. It was very hard not to cry out against God and ask Him why. Then to make matters worse, even with all the prayers for her, Melz went home to be with the Lord in only six weeks. The only thing I could be thankful for was that she did not suffer.

On this earth she was my life, the most wonderful gift God had given me and now she was gone. I have to say it took some time for me to come out of this one. The words that the Holy Spirit gave to me were simply, "Trust Me." That is what I had to do, trust my Lord and not to question, but to trust. Not try to understand; trust. I can now look back again with perfect hindsight and see so much more clearly. God gave me 36 wonderful years with a wonderful woman and 36 years of beautiful memories. I know of many men who have memories of living with of an unfaithful wife. I have only good memories and I know Melz is with her Lord and with her son Craig and one day I will see her again.After all that has happened, I can say with uplifted head that I am a blessed man. God has been so good to me and He wasn't going to stop.

One day shortly after Melz had gone home and in a way that I will tell to anyone that asks was how God brought another jewel into my life. Her name is Vondelae, we call her Voni. She was on the staff of the church I was attending. I never really noticed her before but one day that all changed. A chance meeting with her that took place in the Administration building of the church, a lonely man on the spur of the moment had an impulse to invite her to go out to dinner with him and her acceptance of my invitation. A wonderful dinner overlooking the beautiful Willamette River, pleasant conversation, and a relationship that neither of us expected had begun.We saw each other more and more and before we knew it we were both hooked and not on phonics. One day I asked and she said yes and on May 17, 1991 we took the plunge and have not looked back. It has been 21 wonderful years with a wonderful woman and I am thankful to my God for His faithfulness.

Voni was a missionary for twenty years in the nation of Brazil. Because of this, the Lord opened a ministry for us. I had received my license as a minister in the Four Square Church and this opened a whole new world for me. The door opened for Voni and me to go to Brasil as missionaries and for 10 years we traveled and taught in Brasil. We lived in the city of Natal for 10 years. As we taught God's Word, He blessed us in so many ways! We are thrilled at the open doors and the lives we were able touch for Him. We have traveled all over Brazil and I have met so many of Voni's friends plus the new ones we both have made. In 2001 we bought an apartment in Natal and sold our home in Florida in 2004. As for my heart condition, I have had to have a Defibrillator placed in my chest to watch over my heart but it is the Lord who counts my days and it is in Him that I have placed my trust.

In these past few years we've had a few other health challenges – but it is God Who keeps us going. We loved and served the Lord and His people in Natal until the end of 2011, when health problems caused our children to say we HAD to return to the USA.

We are looking with much interest at the days that lie ahead. The world is expecting something special tohappen. They (nor I) really know what that is. No one knows except our God.But I do know this: God is still on His throne. He has set a time for His Son to return. I have lived for Him for 57 years and I am not about to turn back now. It's almost over and Voni and I intend to be part of that heavenly celebration that is soon to take place when Jesus returns for His Bride, the true church. I want my legacy to be, "He loved God and he was a man of God.”

Today it is October 7, 2013 and I am bringing this testimony up-to-date. We are 81yrs old and living in CherryWood Retirement Community in Portland, Oregon. Both Voni and I are recouping from some physical problems but are looking for the Lord to heal us and to open the door to what He has for us to do. The Bible says that, “THE LATER YEARS WILL BE GREATER THAN THE FORMER YEARS” and we are believing for this to happen.

Joe Pottle

Joe


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