Interview with ASSIST News Service
HOLLYWOOD ACTOR’S BORN-AGAIN MARRIAGE INSPIRES STRUGGLING COUPLES
May 2001 – By Mark Ellis
ASSIST News Service
MISSION VIEJO, CA (ANS) — Former Hollywood actor Bob Turnbull played everything from a murdered district attorney to a Coast Guard captain on television and films like “Hawaii 5-0,” “Cagney and Lacey,” “Petticoat Junction,” “My Three Sons,” “Camelot” and “Tora Tora Tora.” But there was one part he couldn’t seem to get right. His marriage.
“We were miserable,” Bob’s wife, Yvonne says. In the 1980s, Yvonne was the on-air nutritionist for “The 700 Club” TV show on CBN. “We didn’t know how to put a marriage together,” she says. “We didn’t apply what the Word of God teaches.”
Clashing repeatedly, the couple had reached their lowest point when God gave each of them a message of hope. “God gave us the same scripture – Romans 15:13,” Bob says. The ‘Revised Turnbull Version’ of Romans 15:13 says: “May the God of hope for your marriage fill you with all joy and peace in your marriage as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope for your marriage by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
That “revised” verse popped into his head while he was driving home from football practice where he was an assistant high school coach in Southern California. He rushed in the house to share it with his wife. He discovered that she had just been reading that same verse a few minutes before he walked in. “We both got goose-bumps, or as they say in Hawaii, chicken-skin,” Bob says. “It was hardly a coincidence.”
“In the Bible God promises us that life would be different if we trusted in Him,” Yvonne says. “We hadn’t applied our faith seriously. Sort of just playing at it, so we both said, ‘Okay God, now you’re REALLY in control,’ and we meant it.” From this renewed beginning, the husband and wife team have gone on to author nine books and travel many thousands of miles bringing a message of hope and encouragement to couples and families looking for practical ways to build lasting relationships.
Looking back, it was in Bob’s Hollywood days that he first discovered the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Bob attended high school in the San Diego area with Dennis Hopper, the costar of the 1960s classic “Easy Rider.” Knowing that Bob was possibly interested in a Hollywood acting career, Dennis called up and encouraged him to get on with his dreams.
“It was the propulsion I needed to go up there, but it shocked my mother as I packed and left the very next day,” Bob says. His first picture, “Dragstrip Riot,” he describes as a “horrible beastly film.” Indeed, it was recently included in a poll of the worst 100 Hollywood movies. “Quite an honor,” laughs Bob.
“At that time, unfortunately Jesus Christ was just a swear word in my mouth, along with all my many other swear words,” Bob further adds. Neither he nor Yvonne had a church background, but a ‘funny thing’ happened while he was making that “Dragstrip” movie on location on Malibu Beach. He began to notice actress Yvonne Lime, who just finished co-starring in “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” with Michael Landon.
“I thought I was going to make my Lover Boy moves on her,” Bob says. “I was sitting next to her at lunch, looked over at her and thought she was sick,” he says. “She was leaning over her plate and what I didn’t know was she was praying. It didn’t make any sense to me because I’d never seen anybody pray.”
“I grabbed her and said, ‘Are you all right?’
“She said, ‘Yes, I’m fine. I was praying.'” Bob laughed at her because he had never seen anybody praying. So for the next three days he stayed far away from her because he thought she was a “religious nut.”
“I then eased up somewhat and became chatty with her because I still ‘had eyes for her’. At the close of the filming she invited me to go to a church camp called Forest Home, which sounded to me like a prison in the mountains,” Bob says. His way was paid for by Henrietta Mears who was a legendary ministry leader at Hollywood First Presbyterian Church.
“The whole camp event was so powerful as I looked at the lives of these people,” he says. “They were loving and thoughtful – men and women alike – plus they were focused and had a purpose for their lives. I didn’t.”
“At this weekend conference I prayed, probably for the first time, and asked Jesus to enter my heart, my mind and my soul.” It was only a matter of days before he saw the reality of God in a variety of ways. “Suddenly I had eyes to see and ears to hear, and I said, ‘Yes, Jesus IS God and all of which I had been either ignoring or laughing at is really true’.”
As Bob’s relationship with the Lord steadily grew, his interest in the entertainment profession waned, and then he decided to go into full-time Christian service. After becoming a college-career director at a Lutheran church in North Hollywood, he was given an unusual opportunity.
In the 70’s he became the college-career director of the Penthouse Church of Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, which occupied the glass-enclosed top floor of a high-rise overlooking the beach. One Sunday morning as he stood in the pulpit giving the sermon, he looked down at the massive tourist throng on the beach. He decided, ‘That’s where most of the people are. Since they’re not coming to church, I’ll take the church to them.”
Bob made a vow to himself to start a beach service for the tourists within one year, but soon discovered mountainous obstacles through the state and city governments, the police department and the hotel association. Most people would have been discouraged, but one by one Bob started meeting with the governor, the mayor, and the police chief, graciously receiving approval from each one to waive existing statutes. Finally he found himself in the office of the manager of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the perfect beachfront location for the service envisioned by Bob. “One by one I told him that certain existing statutes had been waived or overruled,” Bob says.
“He looked at me, smiled, and said, ‘Oh. So it’s just you and me now, huh?’ After a lengthy conversation permission was granted on a “trial” basis to hold a 10:30 Sunday morning beach service that Bob titled Sun and Soul Talk.
After Bob spread the word through all the rock stations in town, 400 showed up for the first Sunday service. Governor John Burns then gave Turnbull the honorary title of ‘The Chaplain of Waikiki Beach.’ Today, the beach service still goes on – 33 years later through the courtesy of the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Bob met and married his wife, Yvonne, as a result of the beach service. She had graduated from college in the state of Washington, and chose to go to Hawaii for a few weeks on vacation.
“I was a new Christian,” she says. “I liked Hawaii and opted to stay a little longer, but I had to find work.” She heard about the beach service, and, being unchurched, decided, “Hey, this fits my lifestyle.”
She attended once (Bob was speaking on the mainland that Sunday), and a few months later was surprised when Bob walked into her office. Coincidentally(?) his Waikiki Beach Chaplaincy office was right next-door. “He walked in one day when everyone was at lunch. Then I realized this good-looking guy was the one who preaches on the beach. I thought, ‘I will definitely go again’. I started attending the beach service, and then Bob and I began dating. He put me into a lot of classes for new believers in the Bible Institute of Hawaii.” Three years later, they were married. Despite their same faith, they soon discovered they were woefully unprepared for marriage.
“We played the game like so many married couples do,” Yvonne says. “We put on the mask and let everyone believe we were OK,” she says. “Then we’d come home and put the boxing gloves on.
“Our personalities are strong, and there was always a power struggle, but we were too prideful to ask for help. We were Christians in ministry. How could we tell anyone our lives were falling apart?” Yvonne asks.
But God met them at their lowest point, giving them a reason for hope contained in his Word – Romans 15:13. Things didn’t change overnight for the couple, but it gave them a message things could be different if they truly trusted in God, which they finally did.
“We said let’s not just look at scripture but start applying it daily,” Yvonne says. “We’re very strong in our teaching about using the Word of God, but we’re also practical people, and always want to know HOW to apply it,” she says. “We could give those who attend our conferences and retreats tons of techniques apart from the Word of God, but it would have no power in it for real change.”
“That’s how we lived before,” she says, referring to the fact that they knew the Word, but failed to apply it under the power of the Holy Spirit. “As God spoke to us He molded us together, taking two headstrong people, and turning us into a team. It took us submitting our wills to Him on a continuing ongoing basis.”
Bob and Yvonne find no greater joy than hopping on an airplane to travel throughout the country leading seminars for those with difficult marriages. “Our heart is for struggling couples, particularly younger couples,” she says. “We want to ground them in the Word of God. Our greatest desire and personal leading now is to settle into a fellowship where we can mentor young married couples, and cut back on our 40 engagements a year.”
Both Bob and Yvonne now recognize the destructive power of the tongue. “I realize His Holy Presence is in her,” Bob says. “That makes a difference in how we speak to each other,” he says. “Before speaking to one another now we both use Martin Luther’s test: ‘Is this kind, is this necessary, and is this true?”
A few years ago, Bob thought he might want to make an acting comeback. So he appeared in shows such as “L.A. Law,” “Family Ties,” and “Highway to Heaven.” One very early morning, he left his house in Mission Viejo “before the chickens,” deciding he would beat the traffic from south Orange County up to Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles, where they were filming a “Highway to Heaven” episode.
He pulled into the location parking lot at the break of dawn, even before the production trucks arrived, and noticed one other car pull in at the same time. Presuming it was another actor, Bob went over to introduce himself. “As I put my hand out and said, ‘Hello, I’m Bob Turnbull,’ the man staggered back, sat down on a fire hydrant, and started sobbing.”
“Not knowing what to say to this type of reaction, after an awkward silence I asked him, ‘Is there something you need to tell me’?” Bob asked. “The man paused, composed himself and then said, ‘This is incredible. Two days ago my wife told me she’s filing for divorce. Yesterday my father and I decided our family company would have to file for bankruptcy. I am so hurt and depressed and while driving down here I asked, ‘God, is there anybody you can send to help me? And He sends me you. Why I say “you” is, and you don’t know this, but it was you who led me to Christ 19 years ago at a youth rally in Portland, Oregon.”
“That was an ordained hour,” Bob says. “We had all day during breaks to talk and pray and read the Bible. He rededicated his life to Christ.
Bob believes in being alert to God-given opportunities. “Seize the moment,” he says. “We need to go through those openings with full passion while our window-of-time-is-open until God calls us home.”
“I’m so thankful for where God has taken us,” Yvonne says. “He worked on the inside of us. Now we really enjoy each other. Only God could do that.”
Since Turnbull Ministries started keeping records in 1995, God has spoken through Bob and Yvonne to encourage 26,418 couples to rededicate their marriages or families to each other and to God, as well as 1,106 couples have either postponed or halted their divorce plans. Also, 1,797 people have made first time decisions to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior, and 12,211 Christians have rededicated their lives to Him. To God be the Glory.