Interview with Christine Roskam
TYG: Where is your last name from?
Christine: It’s German—actually, just north of the Dutch border. It’s actually where my ancestors are from—one half anyway. I’m half German, half Norwegian. I fit in the Northwest really well, I think.
TYG: Your look looks good in the Northwest—your hairstyle, your face, it looks good here.
Christine: Thank you!
TYG: Where were you born?
Christine: I was born in Virginia—my Dad was in the Army. I was born in a military hospital that doesn’t exist anymore—they closed it down. [By a strange coincidence, Christine was born at the same hospital as the TYG Graphic Designer!]
TYG-GD: What did your Dad do?
Christine: He was Chief Warrant Officer. He was in charge of food operations, and was working in Greenland. We were living stateside, and he would come back and forth from Greenland. But he retired when I was five years old, and then we moved to California. So we lived in the Bay Area, because he worked for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. They call it AAFES [ay-fuss] for short, and they run all the PXs and cafeterias on the military bases. It’s run very much like the military; the head guy of that whole organization is a general, and they’re really closely tied with the military. So we lived in the East Bay—my Dad worked at the Presidio in San Francisco until I was thirteen, and then we moved to Seoul, South Korea. We lived there for three years. […] That was a really fun, interesting time, and I have a lot of fond memories.
TYG: So what was it like in Korea back then?
Christine: It was in the early 70’s, and they were just starting to be an industrialized country. […] Seoul was a big city then; it’s even bigger now. You know that song, “Gangnam Style”? We lived on a hill on the other side of the Han River from the Gangnam district. It wasn’t the way it is now—that song […] is making a parody about the rich people who lived in that area.
TYG: You should totally see it on YouTube—it’s hilarious!
Christine: I know! He’s really funny. But he’s making a statement—here, I don’t know if they understand. He’s very political.
[…In Seoul,] we lived two miles from the Army base at the top of a hill that had embassies all the way up. […] My Dad was there because he ran the food operations for all the military bases north of Seoul, and up towards the DMZ.
TYG: The demilitarized zone?
Christine: Right. So we lived there until I was sixteen, then we moved up to Washington, because [my Dad] got stationed at Fort Lewis. We lived southeast of Olympia in a town, and I went to my last two years of high school there. And that was culture shock, more than Korea! [laughs]
Christine: Because it was such a small school, and in Korea I was with people from all over the world. In Seoul, there were soldiers married to people from all sorts of countries; they had kids, and I went to school with their kids, or embassy kids, or kids of important business people in the city. So I got to meet people from all over. In fact, one of my friends, the daughter of the people in the embassy right next to where I lived—the Malaysian embassy—I never knew anyone from Malaysia! So that was really interesting. Then when I moved to Washington State, everybody was Caucasian, and they were wearing jeans and logging boots and flannel shirts, and chewing tobacco.
After high school, I went to school, then I worked for the State of Washington in Olympia for a while. And then I transferred with my job to Seattle in the early 80’s. All my friends were into playing music, and I knew somebody who introduced me to some people. I had picked up the bass, and was playing the bass guitar, and the friend introduced me to some people who had an all-girl punk band, and they needed a bass player. So that’s when I started performing in a band. I’d played music all through school: the clarinet.
TYG-Editorial Assistant: Not much call for a punk clarinet!
Christine: Well, you’d be surprised. [laughter]
TYG-GD: What was the name of your band?
Christine: That band was named “Baba Yaga,” after the Russian fairytale.
TYG-GD: So how long did you play in a band, and did that become your main income?
Christine: Most people I knew weren’t playing music to make money. In fact, if you wanted to be famous, your odds of that were pretty low. Things are different now—there was very much an atmosphere in Seattle that everybody was just having fun, and it was all DIY, “do it yourself.” We had our home recording studio… not for [Baba Yaga], but for another band I was in. From the early 80’s until the mid-90’s, I was in bands. I worked in a music shop [during the rest of the time.] In the 80’s we did a lot of recording of cassettes.
TYG: Cassettes don’t seem too hard—you just have one input.
Christine: Actually, we had a board that had 16 lines.
TYG: Why that many?
Christine: Well, if you look into music recording, you’ll see there are all different kinds of machines you can use to do it. This one is called a mixing board. So you have the tape that it eventually goes onto, but you have all this ability to have different input from different instruments to layer things, so you don’t have to record everybody at once through one microphone. The drums could have one microphone, and the singers could each have their own line into a board. So we would mix our own. So I did a lot of shows—I was lucky enough to be connected to a really great group of creative people. Most people who were doing it were fun. Some of the people I knew back then went on to become famous; Nirvana hit it big, Soundgarden… name a band from Seattle, and I probably knew them. The last band I was in was called My Diva. It was a three piece, and the drummer from that band grew up in Tacoma with one of the guys from Alice in Chains, and they used to jam in their garage and talk about how they were going to be famous one day. Well, one of them became famous. My friend became famous in another way, but not rock star. He was in a whole other world of music. So I got to have a lot of fun, do a lot of interesting shows with a lot of touring bands from around the world.
Parallel to all this, through my 20’s and 30’s, I was always interested in mind-body health, and the mind-body connection in healing. I pursued that interest through a lot of different avenues, like astrology, and yoga, and hypnosis—I did training in all of those things. Then in the mid-90’s, I decided to go to massage school, to use my hands as a way to help. One of the main reasons I went to massage school was to promote “healthy touch.” I didn’t get a lot of that in my family of origin, so it was really important to me to be able to have good boundaries with touch, to promote the healthy use of touch in healing. The more I studied, the more interested I became in energy work. It was a way for me to be able to channel my sensitivity in a positive way, instead of being kind of a victim of it. I’ve learned how to be able to see how your energy flows through your body, maybe where it’s not flowing as well; and just by sitting with you, and maybe touching you—I don’t have to be touching you, but I can put my hand on your shoulder, or on your feet—I’ve learned to be able to access that energy flow from different areas in the body and to help. The great thing is, it’s like—say you have a friend who’s troubled, and they need someone to talk to. If you sit and let them talk to you, without trying to solve their problem for them, usually that person will come to a point where they have figured it out for themselves, and they feel better. And they thank you! They’re thanking you—and you haven’t really done anything but listen! That’s a really big gift to give somebody. Well, I do that with your body. I’m always looking for the health in the body. I’m not looking for any disease that might be there. In the way of healing I’ve learned, we look at the body [in terms of how] much health is there: you wouldn’t be breathing, you wouldn’t be alive! So by accessing that health, and what it’s doing in your body, it kind of helps inform the other parts. So you have a hip that feels tight, and sore, but your other hip might be feeling ok, or some other part of your body might be feeling ok. I can watch that energy flow, I can be with it. It will go around that area like there’s a…
TYG: Blockage? Obstruction?
Christine: I don’t like to call it blockage. We call it an inert fulcrum. It’s a place that usually has movement, but it’s somehow become bound, or blocked, so the movement isn’t as free; it’s contained. Basically it’s your body trying to protect itself. That can happen because of a physical thing, or an emotional thing; it can be from the outside or the inside. So just by sitting with that, and getting connected to the flow of the energy in your body, amazing things happen, and things will start to shift. It’s not always predictable what might come up during that session—somewhere else might actually be the center of that imbalance.
TYG-GD: Do you still provide these services?
Christine: One of the reasons I moved to Yachats is that I have a deep wish to help people who are in transition. The more I talk to people, after moving here two years ago almost… Yachats is a special place. People come here whether they know it or not, for transformation.
TYG-GD: That’s what Max Glenn was saying!
Christine: I liked that interview, and I agree with him! In Yachats, a lot of people come towards the end of their life—that’s one kind of transition. But I think a lot of people come here who have emotional and/or physical things happening. And whether they know it or not, that process is—I think—heightened by being here. I’ve experienced that myself.
TYG-EA: How did you come here?
Christine: Well, it was a process of exploring. I was exploring Oregon for about six weeks. I thought I was going to live in Portland. I went there to help a friend who needed an assistant to help her recover from surgery, and it just coincided with me wanting a change from Olympia. But I decided I didn’t want to live in the big city. So I just started exploring, and was making my way down the coast. Well, I kept running into people who told me how much I would love Yachats, once they got to know me a little bit. So what did I do? I went to Belovèd, two years ago in August…
TYG-GD: What is Belovèd?
Christine: It’s a festival that happens in Tidewater every year, for like the last seven years. Well, I met somebody from Yachats there, and then it was like “Okay, I’m hearing you, Universe!” [laughter] So I made a trip here, and that person was my first friend. The minute I drove into Yachats, my heart said “Yes!” It wasn’t a mental or logical thing at all. This is where it feels good to be. […] I got really lucky when I came to town, because I used to go to the Green Salmon all the time, I met Matt Buonaiuto, and he’s the one who told me about Steven Bursey and Michelle Korgan looking for somebody to be a caretaker at the bed and breakfast at Heceta Head. So toward the end of January almost two years ago, I moved in there to the apartment in the basement. So they hired me to be their caretaker, and I lived there for 15 months! Which is a story in itself. [laughter] It was amazing—such a beautiful place, and a really great experience.
I got a lot of great nature photographs while I was there, observing the birds. I didn’t know I had such a great connection to birds until I moved there. Well, I thought I did, but not as many. The peregrine falcon became like a friend.
So then last year, in the off-season—I was working both jobs—I started working at the Green Salmon two days a week. Then in April I moved to town, and started working there more.
TYG-GD: Is there anything else you wanted to tell us?
Christine: […] I’ve found that I do have an affinity for people who are in some sort of transition, who really want the assistance that I can give: somebody who can witness, and support them—not telling them what to do, just supporting their own process. And I want to volunteer. I haven’t put myself out there yet, but I do want to volunteer with people who are close to passing. […] People have a hard time letting go in that transition, and the healing work that I learned calls that “portal sickness.” I work with tuning forks—it’s called accutonics—and you use them on the body where accupoints are, and also just in the field around the body. […] I’ve found I can ease that transition for people. I did for my Mom when she passed. This is one of my favorite stories—even if she hadn’t been my Mom.
My Mom was not a touchy person—she really didn’t care to be touched much. But when she was older, and declining, she would regularly tell me she was ready for a session—so I was giving her sessions two to three times a week. It was helping lower her pain level, and she was more comfortable. It didn’t cure anything—she was going to die anyway. But it helped her comfort level and [was] palliative care, basically. Then what happened to her, at the end of her life [was that] we would talk to her and say “Are you ready? Is there anything you need to say or do?” You know how people want to wrap it up. She would say she was ready, but there was still this fear that she had, evidently, of letting go, and she was just hanging on. So I did a session with her, just in the field around her with the tuning forks, and sat with her and watched her energy flow. She had some of the symptoms that people show when they’re getting close: she was agitated, and doing that [session] really helped her be able to calm down and get some rest. We left her alone—we had her on baby monitors—for about 45 minutes, and then we decided we’d better check on her. She’d passed! I’m sure that time I spent with her helped her be able to release, to go through her dying process with more ease. And that made it easier for me, too…
So that’s what I want to do: I want to help people who are suffering, suffer less, and also help the people who are helping them. Like my family members: everybody was tired, was stretched thin and stressed out. So, when I was staying in Portland before I came to the coast I was helping my friend who was still in the hospital. She was worried about her blood pressure. I would go into the room, and I could see on the monitor [that] as soon as I came in and sat with her, her blood pressure would start going down. And it wasn’t just her—that happened around my Mom, too.
TYG: One thing I think you’d be really good at is not only with older people, but with younger kids! I think you’d make a great volunteer at YYFAP!
TYG-GD: There’s a lot of transition going on!
Christine: Oh I bet, yes…
TYG: Thank you so much!
Christine: Thanks for asking me!
2nd Interview with Max Glenn
TYG: Alright! Between that high school community, and when you moved to Oregon—we didn’t cover that at all.
TYG-Graphic Design: Right, all of a sudden you picked up a bride, and then you were out in Yachats!
Max: [laughter] Oh boy. We kind of skipped over my career, didn’t we.
TYG: Yes! So what happened immediately after you left high school?
Max: Well, I went to college. And as to what happened immediately, I told you I had a scholarship to the Oklahoma State University to become an Ag[riculture] teacher. I told you that, but then I didn’t tell you about my call to ministry.
During my senior year in high school, my best friend and I were scrimmaging in basketball at the noon hour, and I jumped up to shoot, and he ran into my knee—burst his spleen, and he died two weeks later. He had come from a large family in Arkansas, and worked for his neighbor on a dairy farm, and went to high school. His family was not a church family, so he went to church with us, and he really got excited about this Jesus thing! He accepted it, and got baptized, and he began talking about being a minister. He wanted me to be a minister too, and I say “No way, I’m going to be an Ag teacher.” Two or three months after he died, one Sunday morning, a power got ahold of me. I hadn’t even been thinking about it or anything, and [the inner power] just took me up front and I announced to the church minister and to the congregation that I was going to become a minister. Then I gave up my scholarship at the Oklahoma University, and because I was going to be a minister, I went to Bible college and then worked my way through college. In hindsight, I could have kept my scholarship and then gone to seminary, but I didn’t. I went to Phillips University in Oklahoma and graduated from there. Then I served my first church when I was a junior in college, and it was in Western Oklahoma, in Freedom—125 miles from where I went to school. So I’d drive out there on weekends, and in the summer I’d live out there.
Then I went to seminary in Indianapolis because I thought I was going to be a missionary to Africa, to Congo, but I was… linguistically challenged. [laughter] So I decided I was going to specialize in rural communities, working particularly with those isolated rural communities that are marginalized by society—kind of the tail end of states. So that’s what I did!
After seminary I went to Colorado, up in the mountains above Denver, in Evergreen. I was the first full-time minister for a church there. Then I was called to come back to our national staff of my denomination, the Christian Church Disciples of Christ. I was director of rural churches. We had about 5,000 congregations in the United States and Canada that I worked with. Then I became the founding director of CORA [Commission on Religion in Appalachia]. We had eighteen different faith groups—the first thing that the Catholics were involved in after Vatican II [the Second Vatican Council]. So we had all these different denominations working together in the 13 state Appalachian area, from the northern tier of counties in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, clear up to the southern tier of counties in New York state. So that seemed like a small territory after I’d been working in the United States and Canada, those thirteen states, but that’s a big, big chunk of turf!
The purpose of our organization was to help these denominations and faith groups examine their current mission operations, and re-direct them to the current needs. An example of this was Presbyterians that created a bunch of hospitals. They turned their hospitals over to united mine workers. My denomination brought the first school into Eastern Kentucky—Wolf County—it was a residential school, so the kids all came and lived at the school.
TYG: A boarding school?
Max: Yes, it was a boarding school, and it was the only school in that part of Eastern Kentucky at the time. But it was established, and we were still putting several hundred thousand dollars a year into this boarding school, and there was a brand new public school just down the road. So we had to raise the question, “Should we still be operating a school when there’s a public school down the road?” Our purpose in providing the school had been [to] provide the first school! So, they closed that out and re-directed their efforts somewhere else. That was the purpose of the organization, to work with Catholics and Protestants and all these groups to help them re-assess their operations in the mountains of Appalachia. My background and training was in planning, research, and community development, so that was my focus—to help those religious groups re-direct their efforts to community efforts.
TYG-GD: It’s very meta-level, in a way. Were you still preaching?
Max: Oh yes, sure. But we worked with grassroots groups and helped organize local groups. The government came in; Appalachia was a laboratory for a whole new approach to government functioning; it was a laboratory and a pilot for the government’s approach to regionalization. Appalachia was one region; upper Great Lakes was another region.
TYG-GD: What do you mean by “government”? How did the government and a religious association combine?
Max: Well, we were non-profit. We had nothing to do with government. But the government’s approach was to put together multi-county approaches—like we have a multi-county approach here: Linn, Benton, Lincoln counties work together. The idea was that you would put more of the resources in those multi-counties. The government established pre-determined growth centers; in other words, they would determine [that] here’s where everything should grow. So maybe Newport would be the growth center for our area. And all the government money would go into Newport. It wouldn’t come out here.
TYG: That’s horrible!
Max: That’s right, I agree! And so our job was, then, to start what was called “head of the holler”. So we would start at the head of the holler and we would bring the people together in their community and their neighborhoods, and say “What do you want? What do you need?” So they often-times organized little cottage industries. The women did quilting, but they often only got about a quarter an hour for all the labor they put into the quilts! So there were two or three things that I did that really made a difference. One was, we were able to change the way the government allocated its money.
TYG-GD: How did you do that?
Max: That’s a good question. I had a professor in the graduate school of Economics at the University of Tennessee, where we were located in Knoxville (my office was across the street). He called one day and said, “Max, I have a graduate student and he wants his research to make a difference, not be on a shelf somewhere. Do you have any ideas?” and I said “Yes!” Out of that conversation, this graduate student developed a study of the 30 worst counties, the hard-core counties in eastern Kentucky: poverty, economics—he had about 14 different criteria to evaluate the counties. That was back in the days of mainframe computers. So it cost me about $300 of mainframe time at the university. The research was done free, because it was part of this student’s doctoral program. So when I got that report, I took it to Washington, sat down with the Director of the government’s Appalachian Commission, that worked with representatives for all the governors of the thirteen states. He liked the study so much that he took a copy of it and made a trip and visited with each of the thirteen governors. And they decided that they would change their policy. Always up until that time, whoever could write the best proposal got the money. Of course, the neediest communities didn’t have the expertise to develop fancy proposals and get the money. The result of our study was, they set aside a pot of money reserved for the neediest ones off the top, and then they allocated the rest on the best proposals. And it was that shift that changed the way they allocated their funds—it made sure that the neediest ones got the priority. That was significant change. Now, nobody wrote about it, nobody bragged about it, or got any credit for it.
So that’s been an important part of my work, Allen. I’ve discovered that if you don’t care who gets the credit, you can do a lot of things. But if you’ve got a big ego, and you think you have to get credit for everything that happens, you don’t get much done.
TYG: I think I know the feeling.
Max: [laughter] Another example of what we did: I got a call from Washington, from OEO [Office of Economic Opportunity]—this was back when government was really functioning, and there was a war on poverty, in 1972 or 73—and they said, “Max, could you put together a low-income crafts group? We’re putting through a dummy proposal for $300,000. If you’ll create an organization of low-income craftspeople, we will provide the funds. We will also provide an organizational consultant to help do the leg-work and help organize it (from the Booz Allen Hamilton Group.) So we put together an organization of about 5,000 low-income craftspeople.
TYG-GD: What do you intend by “craftspeople”?
Max: Largely women in quilting and crafts, like the kind of crafts we’re seeing this weekend at the Crafts Fair here—cottage industry. And then we had some connections with some Congressmen’s wives, and a Senator’s wife, and a couple of other women, who established an outlet for crafts in Georgetown. So women who were making quilts, and getting a quarter an hour for labor and not selling their quilts for very much, were able to sell them for several thousand dollars. This changed the whole thing. […] Those were the kind of efforts we made. We started credit unions among low-income people. One of the most successful things was that we had a revolving fund that was put together by several of the churches, and we would make loans of up to $500 to help start a business—micro-loans. It’s amazing—these were low-income people, and every one of [the loans] got paid back.
That was a fun time in my career, working in Appalachia. We fought strip-mining; a lot of environmental things happened. One time, Duke Power Company—the “Friendly” power company, in North and South Carolina—owned seven or eight coal mines in Eastern Kentucky. The miners went on strike, and it was becoming pretty violent. I was on national panel, in front of TV cameras, to try to resolve that, with the former Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz and others. We were not able to get it resolved, but [the interview is interrupted by the sound of a blender.]
TYG: What is strip mining?
Max: They were just taking the top off of mountains. One of the tragedies in West Virginia [is that] there was a large dam where they put slag heap from their coal operations, and the dam burst, and it completely destroyed 14 communities [the Buffalo Creek disaster, 1972]. Hundreds of people died, but the company’s response was that it was an “act of God,” when in fact it was a dam that was not engineered and not properly constructed and that was faulty. […]
So we worked with the people, and listened to the people, and helped them get their voice. I was talking about being on this panel, called the Brookside Mine. It wasn’t resolved by this high-level panel, but when coal miners went to New York, to Wall Street, with their mining outfits on, and demonstrated in front of Wall Street telling people what the situation was, they started dumping their Duke Power stock! As soon as the stock began affecting the company, they settled the strike immediately. So those are the kinds of things I’ve spent my life supporting and helping.
TYG: So is that where you met Marie?
Max: No, later… After the Appalachian work, then I went to Buffalo, New York, and created a new, non-profit organization called the Buffalo Area Metropolitan Ministries [BAMM], and we had Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish communities all working together. I was there less than 24 hours when the federal judge court order for school desegregation came down. This was in 1976. It was a time when Louisville, and Boston, were having really violent desegregation efforts in their towns. And the Civil Rights Commission and Justice Department both came to Buffalo and examined the situation and it was going to be worse in Buffalo than in Boston or in Louisville. They came to me privately, and said, “Max, we need someone to work behind the scenes to keep things cool. You’re it.” I’d been in town less than a month when that happened. So we set about doing that. A federal judge appointed me Chairman of the Citizen’s Monitoring Committee, so we had, on my committee, the strong leaders from each of the ethnic groups: the woman from the Black Caucus, and a guy from the Hispanic [community], and all these strong people. We were the eyes and ears for the judge in the community. We did keep it cool. They developed some really neat things: magnet schools, etc. It was a very successful effort, but it was not easy.
TYG-GD: You said you kept it cool, but how? Did you coordinate a message in church, or how?
Max: The community got involved, and BAMM was asked to work with the community. CETA [Comprehensive Employment and Training Act] was a federal granting program, and they funded us for 150 staff to work in the community. A lot of them were former teachers. We had bus aides that were adults who rode the buses; there were teacher’s aides for the classrooms.
TYG-GD: So you’re talking about people directly involved with the schools trying to keep fights from happening?
Max: People working with the community.
TYG: Why would there be fights?
Max: Well, the word was that if the bridges aren’t there, you can’t bus our kids out of the community. So there was a thread that somebody would blow up the bridges. They didn’t do that…
TYG-GD: Blow up the bridges? I wasn’t here at the time, so I only have a vague idea of what’s going on here… This is when black students were integrated into white schools?
Max: Yes, they wanted a balance, so they were bused from one neighborhood to another, from the black neighborhood to the integrated school.
TYG: So who was threatening to blow up bridges?
Max: Well, that was people in the community who didn’t want their white kids going to school with black kids. But it worked out—they created magnet schools for specialized things, and that was helpful. That’s just another illustration of how my work has been working with communities in crisis, and helping them find solutions that the community wanted, and helping the government who’s involved with the community listen to them, and involve them in their planning. That’s where I’ve set my career.
TYG-GD: That’s fascinating!
TYG: So how did you meet Marie?
Max: That’s an interesting story! I was in Oklahoma, and I was executive of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches…
TYG-GD: Wait, hang on, let me get a timeline here… So you were in Oklahoma, and then you went to Tennessee?
Max: Well, I was born and raised in Oklahoma, then I went to Indiana for seminary. Then I went from Indiana to Colorado, for my first church in the mountains. After a year and a half, they were looking at me for national staff, so they brought me back to Indiana where our headquarters was in Indianapolis. Then I went from there to Knoxville, TN, to head up the Appalachian program. And then I went from Tennessee to Buffalo, NY. Then I came back home to Oklahoma as the Executive of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches.
TYG: And that’s where you met Marie.
Max: One of the things [was that] I had staff that monitored the Oklahoma legislature, but I was on the national board of the church’s Public Witness programs. Marie was in Colorado at the time, and she worked for the Colorado Council of Churches and the Colorado Hunger Program, and she was on that board too. So we were in Washington, DC for a meeting of our board. We had an afternoon free, and Marie invited me to go out to the zoo and see the panda bears that were given to the United States from China. So that’s how she hooked me. [laughter] Now, she tells the story differently. [more laughter]
TYG-GD: We saw the pandas, didn’t we, Allen!
Max: We had done a study on hunger and poverty in Colorado in 1980, and we wanted to identify who and where the poor were. Marie called me from Denver—the study had gotten some publicity, and was very well done—and asked “If I came to Oklahoma, would you share your research methodology with me?” and I said “Sure!” I tease her that she had other ideas. [laughter] Her counter-response is that she had a son in school in Oklahoma. Anyway, we’ve been married for just over 30 years now.
I want to talk just a little bit about Oklahoma. First of all, you’ll be interested to know that when I first went, the image that this organization had was that it never did get outside the capital city, Oklahoma City. It was a state-wide organization, but people out in the state didn’t know about them, didn’t see them. So the first thing I did [was to] hold listening conferences all across the state to bring people together, to say, “What are your needs? What can we do to help your community meet the needs it has?” So we did all that, put all that together. That was a nice exercise. But it wasn’t until 1985 when the triple whammy hit Oklahoma. The first whammy was when the oil industry went bust. The second whammy was when Penn Square Bank went under. It was the first bank closure in Oklahoma, and we had more bank closures per capita in Oklahoma than any other state. The third thing, what we were involved in, was the farm crisis. The United Methodist bishop and some farmers came to my office and said, “Can you help save these farmers who are losing their farms?”
TYG-GD: Why was there a farm crisis? Was it environmental? Was it banking?
Max: It was economic. One example is a friend that wanted the Farmer’s Home Administration [FmHA]—they made operating loans to farmers so they could buy their seeds and operate—a farmer friend went in, and he needed $50,000 for his operation for the next year, and then when harvested his crops, he’d pay off his loan. Well, he was told by Farmer’s Loan, “We won’t give you $50,000. We’ll give you $200,000, because we think you need a new barn, we think you need new machinery, and all of this.” So the farmer was forced to take a loan for $200,000, rather than his $50,000. So then, when economics and prices and everything went down, he couldn’t pay it back, so they foreclosed on him! But anyway, that was the crisis.
Willie Nelson gave us $25,000 after his first Farm Aid to create a farm crisis hotline.
TYG-GD: [primarily for the Publisher’s benefit] Who’s Willie Nelson?
Max: Willie Nelson, the musician.
TYG: I’ve never heard of him.
Max: He’s a famous country musician—he’s older. He’s one of the Nashville country music stars, and he’s still going. Anyway, he had this Farm Aid concert to help farmers, and we got the money, and we set up a farm crisis hotline in our offices. We were averaging about 1,000 calls a month from distressed farmers. The woman that answered the hotline for me [her name was Mona Lee] was a former teacher and school principal, and she just lacked one semester of having her doctorate in counseling, so she was ideal for that—and she’d been a farmer, and they’d lost their farm. Her husband died in her office because of the stress of what they were dealing with. But Mona Lee documents over 500 lives that she saved from suicide. We didn’t save them all, but we saved a lot of them. So my background that I talked to you about in the first interview contributed to this. So, I worked all across Oklahoma and concentrated on the farm crisis. We did make a difference in saving a lot of lives and helping. I worked with the Save A Family Farm Coalition federally.
TYG: So how was this all resolved?
Max: Well, there were some changes in the federal law, and many farmers are just out of business.
TYG-GD: So is that when farms started aggregating into these huge agri-businesses?
Max: To some degree. The plains states were hard-hit, particularly. Oregon wasn’t hit quite as hard, but we did have quite a few. I came as a consultant out to Oregon from Oklahoma and helped work with the Oregon farmers, and the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. They were the ones who had a program working with farmers, so we did a lot of that.
I went from there, then, to Utah, and became a director of Shared Ministry in Utah. We had five different denominations, 59 different congregations within Utah, southern Wyoming, and western Colorado.
TYG: So, let’s get back to Marie!
TYG-GD: In your last interview, you said you’d moved here from Alabama. So how did that happen?
Max: Well, that was in 2000. Let’s go back to Marie. While I was in Oklahoma, and executive of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, Marie went back to seminary and got her degree from the same seminary that our new pastor, pastor Bob Barrett, graduated from recently. So Marie was on my staff, and she worked with hunger programs in Oklahoma. One thing that she did was that she organized women clergy, and provided a support group to them. But the major thing that she did was to identify all the homeless shelters in Oklahoma. She got an architect to work with her. She visited all those homeless shelters, and they had funds to help those homeless shelters upgrade and winterize and everything. The governor of Oklahoma gave us $800,000 to help homeless shelters, and Marie was in charge of developing a homeless program from scratch. Nobody had ever had that kind of a program before. Oil companies had overcharged for their oil—not the homeless shelters, but clients and customers—so they were fined, and had to come up with big money. There was no way the money could go back to the individuals who had been overcharged for oil, so it was given to governors to disburse to communities, for whatever they needed. Well, the governor of Oklahoma at that time was strongly wanting to do something for the homeless. So he gave us the $800,000—which was the Oklahoma share of that pot—so Marie set about developing a program to disburse that money.
When we went to Utah, Marie became a pastor in Ogden, UT, and I worked with her some there. Then, following Utah, in 1996, I decided to specialize the last of my ministry in working with congregations that were in transition. I took specialized training in helping work with congregations and communities in change. So if the pastor had been leaving, or there was a troubled situation, I would go in and help. So that’s what I did the last number of years. Marie also got some of the training, and she did the same thing. That’s why we were in Alabama: she was pastor of a little church in Gadsden, AL, and I was pastor of the church in Anniston, AL, where I was helping them envision their future. Their minister had gone, and they needed to decide what they wanted to do, and what God wanted them to be in the future—what were the needs of their community they ought to be addressing. It was my job to help them do that, in less than two years. So we called ourselves the “fast pastors”. [laughter] So we had to go in, get acquainted quickly, and help the congregation develop a new vision, a new purpose. So we came from Anniston, AL, to retire.
TYG-GD: Did you just retire here in Yachats, or did you actually preach here?
Max: No, neither of us were pastors in Yachats. I did do an interim over in Lebanon in ’96 and ’97. Then we went from Lebanon back to Miami, OK; then to Gulfport, MS; then we went to Hutchinson, KS; from Hutchinson, KS to Anniston, AL; and from Anniston to Yachats.
TYG-GD: Wow. And do you know what to do with yourself in just one place?
Max: Well, we are just doing lots of things, you know. I’m enjoying being on the YYFAP board. I served a term on the City Planning Commission, but I decided I could do a lot more by working with the community. My current project is working with the community to get a new bank in here.
TYG-GD: Any progress?
Max: Oh yes! I just got out of the City Council, and they’re writing a support letter. We’re asking the Bank of the West to do a timely and smooth transition to a new institution. What we’re offering is a turnkey operation, because we’ve got a building, we’ve got seven staff who are competent bank staff; they’ll be losing their jobs, so we want to keep their jobs. So we want someone to come in, buy the building from the Bank of the West, and set up an operation.
TYG: Well thank you so much!!
Max: Does that fill in some gaps for you, Allen?
TYG: It sure does—thank you so much!
Max: You’re welcome!