|At age 27 it was as if a veil dropped off my face and I could perceive what a wreck I was making
of my own life--and that of others. Holed up in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains, reading C.S. Lewis, and spending days at a time
just thinking . . . my Taoist illusions of moral neutrality dissolved. There really are, I recognized incontrovertibly, good . . . and evil.
And they are personal.
It was a shock - I'd always thought of myself as sort of a wandering do-gooder, a person who, though not committed to any one group of people
or any one place or any one set of responsibilities, nevertheless was a "helper" to anyone with whom I came in contact. It was devastating
to recognize that at heart I was, instead : an incorrigible sinner . . . like everyone else.
|Sometimes Jesus just reveals himself, and our blindness is suddenly stripped away,
like in Caravaggio's painting of the disciples' experience at Emmaus'
|"Uncle Mac" Sawyer and Aunt Helen (above left),
and "Uncle Maurice" Irvin (above right),
as missionaries, pastors, and educators,
influenced me throughout a lifetime,
but particularly as I moved in those directions
myself as an adult
|I found a room with a bunch of Colombian university students,
quickly learned Spanish, and basically immersed myself in
Colombian culture. I only spoke English a few minutes a week.
It was a wonderful, life-changing, formative experience.
|The next 5 years were spent wandering around America with a backpack , trying to figure out what life is about, "interviewing"
people I met and drawing them into what many remarked were the most profound--if not the weirdest--conversations they'd ever had.
|Yet, most of my biblical and theological education had been pretty ad hoc and fragmented so far. I knew if I was going to be an educator
in and for Christ's church, I needed a more solid, methodical, seminary education that would prepare me better for equipping the next generation
to carry on the torch passed to us by generations of leaders since the earliest church.
So , when Princeton Theological Seminary not only invited me to come study, but also promised to provide my support throughout either a Ph.D.
program or a three year Master of Divinity program, I put it before the Lord. Was this the next step? It made perfect sense.
To my delight, I felt very sure that he was indeed calling me to go and study there for three years. So I did.
|When I asked Merrill Tenney to have our picture taken together,
he snorted in typical dry droll Tenney humor :
"So you think I'll become famous
by having my picture taken with you?"
|In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Midwest District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance planted a lot of new churches in the Chicago suburbs.
As a single man, full of energy and idealism, I helped get three of them up on their feet and running, while I was at Wheaton Grad School.
|My favorite, & the dearest to my heart, was
the Wheaton Chinese Alliance Church, an
extraordinary multi-cultural experiment in seeing
if Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Americans,
Australians, Vietnamese--and even a couple
red-haired Irish, and some Africans!--could be the
Body of Christ together in DuPage County, Illinois.
Because the Holy Spirit is who he is, and because
the founding pastor, David Wong, and his
hard-working wife Nancy (top row, far right)
were committed to spending every waking hour
with prospective church members or inquirers or
us graduate students from Wheaton who were
attracted to this warm community, it blossomed
and bloomed and became a great center for
transplanted immigrants, and others of us
"marginal" or "mixed" people.
David and Nancy were a great model for what a
true pastor is and how he operates. I thank God
for their investment in my life at that point, even
while they had their own bigger project to do.
|Noting that most of the adults I knew in the quiet towns my dad
served as a pastor lived relatively uneventful lives of routine
and repetition, I thirsted for a more colorful and exciting life.
There were a lot of programs on TV in those days in which the
main characters kept "moving on" (Route 66, The Fugitive, I
Spy, Bronson, Maverick . . . )
I daydreamed about adulthood: traveling and picking up and
moving on, seeing new sights and meeting new people,
|Many missionaries sat at our table through the years and told
adventurous stories about far away places. In addition to the
frequent appeals and "calls" I heard issued in church and camp
and conference settings for young people to "go to the ends of the
earth" with the gospel, the idea naturally suited my growing itch
to see other places and live with other peoples.
|Class of '67
for a 17 year old , no ?
|. . . working with my hands, in the dirt, was a pleasure, not an
onerous duty. Always has been, ever since.
|Has there ever been a thundering bass
like Jack Cassady,
who anchored both groups?
|I'd stop and work for a few days,
or as long as a few months,
at some simple labor job :
make enough money to hold me,
and then I'd hit the road again.
Searching, exploring, asking questions,
reading, reflecting . . .
I got so used to falling asleep
on the ground, looking up at the stars,
with cool fresh air caressing my face,
|that when I moved "indoors" at age 27 I could not sleep in a bed.
Had to sleep on a nice hard floor.