1984 and 1985 – Family, Health, MCM, and a 10,000 Mile Road Trip

Mom wrote their story in 2014 in order to share their history with family and family to come.

I’m excited to now share their story with YOU!

In The Ziemke Story you will learn of their Christian Heritage, their early years, ministry, trying times, family, where they’ve been, and how they ended up where they are today!

We will endeavor to share a little bit of  The Ziemke Story each week as Mom wrote it to her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and beyond.


The third year of “Jesus of Nazareth”, we secured a loan to build a new church at 144th and Meridian and started building. The loan was $815,000.

Bridget worked in the Drama Concession stand and was also in the Drama as the Jewish bride every 3rd performance. She volunteered in the sewing room to make her own costume. Brenda and Brad continued their roles. We moved our offices to a double wide mobile home on the 144th and Meridian Property because we had sold the church at 1818 S Meridian. We rented that building for our services on Wednesday nights and Sunday, until we could get our new building up.

Quick Quotes from my letter to Mom March 12, 1984:

Having 3 teenagers is really something. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what makes them tick. Brenda gave Bridget $100 for her straight-A report card and took her and some friends to the mall Saturday to have a spending fling. Bridget got a dress and 2 skirts and a purse. Tonight she ordered a skirt, blouse, and shoes from the catalog. I guess that about spent it all. She really looks cute in the dress. She’s starting to wear her hair in different styles. Brenda sold her little Luv Truck and bought Gene’s Camaro. Brad is still working and going to school. He has been going with a girl at church.

We attended General Conference in Anaheim, California. Gene had a part in the Foreign Missions service. It was quite a production but he was a bit disappointed that some things went wrong. After conference, we went to Universal Studios and Sea World in San Diego. We even shopped a little in Tijuana. Brenda had driven separately with two good friends and left for home right after conference. She ran into rain and on a slick curve, ended up in the ditch. It did something to the steering mechanism which cost her $400 or more. We were so glad they weren’t hurt.



1985 was an eventful year. Brenda, now 20, was working at Barbee Mill and driving her little VW. Bridget turned sweet 16 in September and became a sophomore in high school. Her art work was chosen for display at Seattle Children’s Hospital. It was a picture of lambs done half in black and white. As the lambs jumped over a rainbow, the picture became colorful. It was reproduced on a wall of the hospital. I was sorry I never got to see it. Bridget loved art and was especially crafty. In school she enjoyed drawing and did some etching and clay molding. She got a 4.0  again this term. That included 4 A+’s and 3 A’s.

Brad drove either his ’69 Camaro or ’76 Chevy truck to work. He was really into working at “Freddie’s” (Fred Meyers) and loved it when they called him in to work extra hours. He even volunteered to work on Thanksgiving so he could make double time and a half. He placed 2nd and 4th in two categories of Decca State Conference, Food Marketing Division in Yakima.

Before this, while he was a young high school student, Brad worked at “Freddies”. I didn’t shop there because other grocery stores were closer to me but he had a sense of loyalty and didn’t want to be seen elsewhere. He did go with me one day to Safeway and stayed in the car until helping me load the groceries in the trunk. The now empty cart began to roll down the incline of the parking lot. I asked him to run and get it but he hesitated, not wanting to be seen. By the time I ran after it, it had crashed into a man’s car and broke the tail light. I asked the man if we could pay for the damages and he wanted to charge us something like $25.00. It occurred to me that there was a car parts store across the road, so I asked him to meet us there and I’d buy the new light. The part was much less expensive than the $25 he wanted.


A Church Photo from 1985

Bits and Pieces from my Journal, January 1985:

I made Bridget some popcorn, talked with Brad some when he came home from visiting Chris, and talked with Brenda when she came home from seeing Jim. All 3 kids came and sat in the living room and talked a bit. That was a special time. Conversations with my children are so precious at this time when I realize they aren’t going to be home that many more months and years.


Gene wrecked his newly restored ’57 Chevy yesterday. He was rear ended and that pushed him into the car ahead. All that work he spent on it and this is only the second day he took it out of the garage to drive. He is letting the insurance pay to restore it this time.

Our Health

In March, Gene and I went to Florida to visit the folks. We were both having some health issues. His asthma had worsened. He was also stressed to a point that he was “driven” to be busy all of the time. For instance, at one point, he was putting up colorful flags around the Jesus of Nazareth set. It was close to time for an evening performance and he thought he had to get these flags installed “right now”. It really didn’t matter. It could have waited until tomorrow, or even next week.

In May, Gene and I visited Victoria by Hydrofoil as a gift from the Brickles family for his 45th birthday. He worked in our garage and on cars every time he got a chance. It seemed to be a stress outlet for him. Our girls went on a Big and Little Sister Retreat.

In June, 1985, Brad graduated from Rogers high school on the honor roll. We had 30 to 40 people over for a graduation party afterwards in our upstairs bonus room. We gave him $500, just as we had done for Brenda.

I was having symptoms I could not explain. Part of it was depression. I was having hot brain headaches, dizziness, panic attacks, and sometimes unable to function or stay on task. If I left home to go to the grocery store or to run a few errands, I panicked that I may not get home within the time period allowed. I wouldn’t go to the mall or any large place without Gene. The large expanse made me dizzy. I needed to hold his arm for stability.  I was overwhelmed by all of the sights and sounds. It seemed my brain couldn’t block anything out but tried to process everything at once. It made me exhausted.

I met with a Christian counselor for lunch at the Purple Rhino and was embarrassed as I couldn’t stop weeping as we talked. My depression was probably due to several factors. I had a false sense of responsibility for anything I saw the need for in our ministry. I took it personally when people we had poured our lives into moved on to other churches. No doubt there was a hormone imbalance. Sometimes I wondered if circumstances were making me depressed, or oppositely, the depression clouding the circumstances.

A neighboring Pastor’s wife from Tacoma died of Cancer in March. At her funeral, there was standing room only. I felt conspicuous standing against the side wall weeping. Those attending no doubt thought I was missing a good friend. In fact, I was longing for the peace she seemed to have, laying there in the coffin.

To kind of pull away from my stressful life, I decided to take some college classes. I took classes at Fort Steilacoom Community College. My desire was to learn more about psychology. I added on a writing class and there was an hour between these two. A history class was available in that time slot, so I took that as well. As it turned out, I enjoyed the history class more than the other two. The professor was so knowledgeable and made history come alive to us. The other two classes were taught in a half-hearted manner with little to no feedback. Papers were turned in and not graded.

The doctor had diagnosed me with depression and gave me an anti-depression prescription. It made me so sleepy, I fought falling asleep in class. I asked for a change in medication and did better with the second one. I took Vivactil for a few months to activate the neuro-transmitters that seemed to have slowed or stopped, and was then feeling a lot better. Because of the writing class assignments, I wrote a few poems in the midst of my depression. I have recorded one here and more poems can be found here.

Time to Rest

Don’t call me to your busy life,

Don’t make me stew and fret.

I’ve had my share of busy-ness,

I can’t go back there yet.

The blue sky and her horizon,

Hold my gaze and my intrigue.

I must follow where she leads me,

Settled on a bed of ease.

The day may hold a store of prizes,

But I’ll turn and walk away,

This finite body that I live in,

Needs to rest awhile and play. 

I visited an elderly lady in our church about once a week. It was actually kind of a reprieve for me as well as an assist to her. It helped me put a focus on what was really important in life after all is said and done. I arranged for her to get “meals on wheels”. She had fallen a few times and couldn’t get up on her own. I helped her find a live-in provider. I bought her a hand bell to put by her bedside so she could ring it when she needed the provider to come into her room. Once, she tried to be helpful by combing her own hair and got it irretrievably tangled. I arranged for a young lady to help her comb it out and possibly cut some off. She had been a seamstress and gave me a couple pieces of fabric, one of which I have kept in her memory.

Meridian Christian Ministries

We were building the new church at 144th and Meridian and busy getting ready to move into it. This time we named it “Meridian Christian Ministries”. Gene had developed a group called “Minute Men” for mentoring and involving men in the ministry. I was committed to getting the women’s ministry office and library established. I purchased beautifully refinished oak desks for the office and ordered oak bookshelves and stained them myself. I had “leaders” among the women to keep in touch with those living in their geographical areas and leaders for various ministries to women.

I took on myself the task of planting all of the ground cover (Cotoneaster Dammeri) on the berm abutting the new church.

Children’s ministry fell under my oversight as well. Other involvements were working with the immigrant Vashchenko family, planning for hostesses at Jesus of Nazareth, and overseeing the drama dressing rooms. I was taking care of the family, sewing, mending, keeping Brad’s work clothes ready, and always had a lot of company. There were weddings and showers, and on and on. I had a goal to lose weight down to 120 – that might have been 10 or so pounds.

In January, 1985, we made the move from the old church at 1818 S Meridian to the new building at 144th and Meridian and dedicated it in April.

The Jesus of Nazareth drama in the Amphitheatre on our church property ran every Friday and Saturday night from July 6 to August 31, 1985. This season Brenda sold souvenirs and played a servant; Bridget was in the crowd scene and played the Jewish bride. When Brad wasn’t working at Fred Meyer, he acted as a soldier and helped Gene emcee on the last night. I had let someone else take over the dressing rooms. I sometimes subbed either there or as a hostess but mostly worked with the grounds crew just keeping chairs arranged and trash picked up. That was about all I could muster.

Even though we were fully involved in the drama, there was still the church work to tend to: services and meetings, funerals, weddings, and youth camp.

We often had special company in our home that had come to see the drama and stay over. In 1985, we had Samuel Hardt, cousins Gary and Linda and daughter Cindy, Marilyn Gazowsky and her friend, Sis Cole; the Bridges family, Lavonne, Cheryl and Gary Jacobsen, Aunt Eleanor and Aunt Pauline, Ron and Cindy and their kids, and Ron’s Mom and Dad and Sister, Linda.  Besides seeing the drama, we took several of them sight-seeing to Seattle, Northwest Trek, or the mountain and/or shopping and either served them meals in our home or took them out to eat.

We tried to take a day off here and there. One afternoon we took the motor home to Lake Mowich. When the drama was over, we had a Cast party. For days after that it was washing costumes, cleaning trailers, and putting things in storage.

We were just finishing that when Gene and Brad went elk hunting. The following Saturday (Sept 14) we had a birthday party for Bridget with guests and games. We played “Cookie Jar” and “Airplane”. Airplane is a fun trick-game where a blindfolded person stands on a board or table leaf on the floor and two people lift it a few inches while lowering themselves at the same time to make it seem the person is being lifted high. Then imaginary turbulence means they have to jump off. It can be exciting.

On Monday we took the family to the mountain for family night and came home the next day. Bridget had been going to tanning salons. I noticed she had a lot of new moles on her skin. I made her get them checked out with Dr Wicklund, our dermatologist neighbor. She went back to see him a few times, and since nothing had changed, she quit going.

A 10,000 Mile Trip

With all of the stress and busy-ness in our lives, we felt the need to get away. This was not only for a time of refreshing (a short sabbatical), but for new ideas and to find out what was happening in churches across the country. We planned to be gone for seven weeks. We left October 7, 1985 in our 1984 Minnie Winnie motor home. I was still on anti-depressants and wanted desperately to get off of them. While away, I started each morning on my knees in prayer until I felt strength to make it through the day. I tapered off the meds until I was completely off of them.

Charisma magazine had focused an article on the 10 fastest growing churches in America. They were all “spirit filled” churches of different denominations from Lutheran to Baptist to Pentecostal. It was our plan to visit as many of those as possible, accumulating wisdom and ideas. We met some wonderful people and recorded our trip in a Journal. One thing that surprised me, coming from our background of dress codes and holiness standards; there wasn’t any such thing in those churches. I asked that question specifically. UPC standards for women were basically long hair and modest apparel which included no slacks.

We attended services if we were there on a service day. Otherwise we interviewed key people, toured facilities, and picked up literature.

Other than that, we spent three days with family in Wisconsin, visited friends in the Chicago area, and Jimmy Larson at Calvary Tabernacle in Indianapolis. A highlight was getting to see my Grandma Tiller in Bellevue, Nebraska, after not having seen her for six years.

It was a good time to see the beautiful trees with leaves turning bright yellow, orange, and red; avoid over-crowded RV parks and extreme heat in the South and cold in the North. The trip took us almost 10,000 miles (9,850 to be exact). We ended the trip after going to the November 14-16 dedication of the new church Ron Ens built in Quesnel, BC. When we came home about November 23, I had the burning desire to get back to the Christian basics of accepting others where they were, letting God love them through me, and further developing an attitude of humility and servanthood. Our kids did a good job of keeping the home fires aglow while we were away.

Looking for a way to help financially, and also for diversion, I worked with a Home Party Sales company late in the year.

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