Born APRIL 7, 1902
God’s truths can be as real when taught in a novel as they can when preached in a sermon. Paul Hutchens became skilled doing both. His single goal, whether preaching behind a pulpit or teaching over a typewriter: changed lives. God blessed Paul in both endeavors.
TWO SALVATION STORIES
Paul was raised in a large family in Thorntown, Indiana in the Sugar Creek township. He grew up attending the local Friends Church. After graduation, he attended a Friends college. There, God used a stranger to spiritually awaken the young student.
During an afternoon walk back from a grocery store, a man Paul had never met began walking beside him. Paul, carrying a bag of groceries, answered four questions the stranger asked him about his spiritual condition. Before the day ended, Paul prayed, inviting Jesus to take charge of his life. He transferred to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago to train for the ministry. One day while home between semesters, Paul spoke to his father about his spiritual condition. There, beside the family barn, Paul led his father to the Lord.
HUNDREDS OF DECISIONS
Paul graduated from Moody, was ordained a Baptist minister and traveled successfully as an evangelist. It wasn’t uncommon in his services, held mostly in the Midwest, to see dozens of responses for salvation in any church where he preached. In 1924, he married Jane Freerks. She sometimes played the piano for his meetings. Life was grand!
God greatly blessed that decade of Paul’s ministry. In South Dakota in 1928, there were fifty-nine decisions at one church, followed by seventy-nine converts during services in another town. During that time, Paul struggled to recover from a serious chest cold following the flu. A break in his active schedule allowed a visit to a doctor. The X-rays suggested Paul’s pulpit ministry, which had brought nearly 2,500 individuals to the foot of the cross, might be coming to an end.
A NEW DIRECTION
The doctor’s diagnoses: tuberculosis. Paul spent four months of bed rest, then an addition-al 15 months in a sanatorium in Santa Clara, California. He planned to return to fulltime evangelistic work. That wasn’t to be. At the sanatorium, someone gave him a copy of “Writer’s Digest” magazine. He read every article. It inspired him to try his hand at writing.
His first couple of attempts at magazine articles were rejected. Then he wrote a non-fiction book titled “The Know-So Christian” (see link below). He tried his hand at a Christian novel. He decided God was leading him to “provide easy-to-read, carefully plotted stories which would exalt the Name of Christ.” Paul wrote a total of twenty-one novels for adults. He’s best remembered for writing even more titles for a younger audience.
BACK TO SUGAR CREEK
By the late 1940’s, children’s book series like “The Bobbsey Twins” and “The Boxcar Children,” were popular, but there was a need for Christian-oriented books. Paul saw the need. He wrote in his diary, “I believe God is giving me wisdom and guidance to write a boy’s story that will reach thousands for Christ.” God did. A total of thirty-nine times during the next three decades.
The stories taking place around Sugar Creek involved seven boyhood friends. Inspiration came easily: Paul grew up with six brothers. Over the years, letters have poured in about the positive influence of the “Sugar Creek Gang” series. Although aimed at a pre-teen audience, all ages have been touched by the adventurous tales incorporating the Christian faith. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Moody Broadcasting turned the books into dramatized radio programs. They’re now on CD’s. Since 2005, some of the stories have been turned into movies (see website below).
God equipped Paul to reach others for Him through both the preached word and the written word. Paul faithfully did so. God turned the final page of Paul’s life on earth in 1977. Since then, the book series he left behind continues influencing new readers.
LET ME KNOW: How has Paul’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.
- Hutchens, Paul. My Life and I. Cascade, Colorado: The Sugar Creek Express, 1962.
Learn more about Paul from the following additional resources————-
Sugar Creek Gang websites-
Online books by Paul (Two non-fiction books, now in the public domain)-