40 years ago this week, I cashed in my US Savings Bonds, loaded up my ’73 beige Chevy Nova, and headed to the city of Angels for Bible college. I didn’t know that I knew anyone there at all! Imagine, leaving Hicksville, Colorado for the Megatropolis of LA, 12 million persons, and not knowing a soul!!!
I soon found out, via the hype of our college Veep, that if you decide not to “piddle in the middle” you could get the ”most on the coast.”
It was at Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College that I would meet friends that still speak to me. Good guys like Brad Courtney, Ken Walker, Steve Bender, Everett Napuanoma, and, BMOC Tim Adrian, his dad, Ken, and a few others.
I did run into 3 others I knew well from our Rockies, Danny, Rhonda and Tim. Good thing I did. On registration day, Rhonda introduced me to a local pastor, Tom McCrary, who needed a flunky. He hired me on the spot for $50 a week to lead the music, paint, clean, visit and recruit as many other students to attend Faith Baptist in Riverside as I could. This would include stuffing 7 Baptists in my car for each church service and driving the 40 minutes to Riverside from San Dimas. I made this trip to the church at least 6 days a week and the $50 basically covered gas and eats. BTW, I learned to play the Harmonica on the LA Freeways to redeem the time. Better than road rage and there was no texting back then, so…
I was soon out of Savings Bond money, had nothing in reserve for the second semester and could barely come up with the cash to eat on Sunday nights at the local Greek greasy spoon AND slip a couple of dimes into the table-top TV for some worldly entertainment. Two things about Bible college back then: TVs were not allowed and you were on your own on Sunday nights, the cafeteria wasn’t open.
But those were good days. We were a soul-winning bunch of knuckle heads. It was all about leading people to Christ. Not like we didn’t have quite the pool of people to talk to, since our area was carpeted with 12 million people.
One of our guys in the dorm had a little portable TV that we would put a blanket over on the bed and we would surround it on our knees and catch a bit of Hollywood until someone came in the room to find out why he heard shooting (Saturday afternoon westerns). We’d quickly silence the one-eyed monster, throw the blanket over it and act like we were in a prayer meeting. Spiritual we were!
Rats!!! Rats were everywhere in and around our dorms. The old campus was built with secret passageways and tunnels in case of a foreign attack. The rats loved these areas. Some of our dormies worked as security guards and carried some powerful flashlights. Of an evening, we would shine the lights on the vines of the rear wall behind our dorm to reveal several rodents ascending and descending the wall on the vines.
Let me tell you, it’s no fun when, on a cold winter’s morning (40's) with no heater in the dorms, you tip toe in your bare feet, eyes still crusted halfway shut, over to the closet, open the door and a rat bails from the upper shelf on to your foot. My roomies probably thought I'd gone to Pentecostal dancing! Because of this infestation, food was strictly prohibited in the dorms.
We had a very nice little guy with a withered hand who closed up at KFC every night. Somehow he managed to drive his motorcycle with that withered hand, carrying buckets of chicken, buttered corn on the cob and what not to his buddies in the dorm. He had to leave some bribery chicken off at the guard shack and then lightly tap on our doors to let us know the golden brown Baptist manna had arrived. Strange that our dorm monitor never got wind (7 secret ingredient seasoned wind) of this near nightly ritual. We ‘d just toss the leavin’s out behind the dorm toward the wall, thus the “rat race” out yonder. “Big Bob” Diggery could insert a piece of chicken into his mouth and pull the bone out clean as a whistle in two seconds. That dude was amazing! All 450 pounds of him.
Nobody could ever have had a more entertaining roommate than I had in Tim Adrian. His antics antedated ROTFLOL, but nobody could ever be more ironic, come up with better pranks or have more fun than Tim. I swear, his mind must have spent 20 hours a day cogitating trouble. And look at him all these years later, on the executive committee of the BBFI! (Now BBFI PREZ!!!)
Well, that was 40 years ago. My best buddy, David, joined me for the second semester. It wasn’t long until we were both summarily dismissed from the school. We were pulled out of Dr. Eli Harju’s History of Israel class to be interrogated by the discipline committee for infractions that threatened national security, or something like that. Poor Bro. Walker (dean of men) was sent to accompany me to my room to get packed up and sent down the road. I don’t know which of us was more embarrassed as he watched me pack up several snacks (rat bait) from my drawers. I sure do like that brother.
So, this week it’ll be 40 years since the day Pastor McCrary gave me my first ministry position. The roller coaster of ministry has taken me to minister in churches in California, Baja, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska. I've been able to travel to places I'd never have dreamed and preach to people only here-to-fore seen in National Geographic. Wow, what a ride! It’s been a blast. I’ve made 46,427 mistakes, preached or taught about 8,200 times, won a few to the Lord, married the best gal on the planet, had 3 great kids, oh, and I get to pastor the best little church in America.
And it all comes down to this one very simple truth, God is faithful! Well, that and He is so much better to me than I deserve.