This would not by any means be a summer of sitting on his front porch in the evenings watching the paint peel. No playing church here. I was so tired at the end of each day and wiped out the instant I hit the bed, I couldn’t even hear my wife say, if she ever did say, “Feeling romantic tonight?” We would be on the go morning, noon, and night. He was a man of action based on careful planning, objectives, goals, and much praying. We were coworkers, and only coworkers can truly learn from each other. Nothing like on the job training going from door to door to enroll kids for Bible School!
While touring Chula Vista one day and getting a good look at the city, one particular church building caught our attention. It was a very striking, unorthodox building in its shape which could be seen long before we got there. It then became apparent to us that the church had been built to represent Noah’s Ark.
I for one had never seen anything so innovative and daring in church architecture before. Pictured in the stained-glass windows were shapes of animals peeking out at us. It was so vivid that you could almost hear the noises of the animals in this jungle-boat, ark-church. Noah would have felt right at home I am sure.
We could not resist, so we turned into the church parking lot and found that the ark church doors were open to visitors. What confronted us in the foyer of this ark church was indelibly impressed upon our minds. Beautifully and strikingly carved in the walls were grazing sheep. There were sheep everywhere feeding in the pastures that were so pastorally captured by the skilled hands of the artist.
And we were all reminded of the words of Jesus in Luke 15:4-7,
one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open
pasture, and go after the one which is lost
“And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and
his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I
have found my sheep which was lost!”
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven
over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous
persons who need no repentance.”
HELLO – I AM PASTOR JAY FROM SHUNKHOLLOW
Just when I thought I had regained some semblance of control of the matters in the church, what first appeared as three refreshing streams suddenly became a strong-current river – Spirit River.
It was a day much like any other day, so I thought. But it would soon prove to be a day that would forever change the course of our ministry and lives like nothing before.
“PRIDE LIKE A WRESTLER GIVES US A HIGH LIFT UP, ONLY TO
CAN KNOW THEM, BUT EVEN MORE THAT WE CAN BETTER
COME TO KNOW OURSELVES THROUGH THEM,
EVEN IF IT KILLS US.”
I asked him what ministry he was talking about. He referred to the bars and night clubs close to our communities. The reason for going to these booze halls was that Skunkhollow was an intoxicated community with lots of drinking and alcoholics who went to these joints on weekends and spent their sparse money on beer, whiskey, and such.
At this point I know that I frowned and grimaced. I am sure that he saw it and thought that I was “Yella.” I quickly propelled my mind a thousand miles away from the prospect of such a thing every happening to me. My hands and my feet suddenly became freezing cold. I remember feeling something like being subjected to a holdup by an armed robber from Skunkhollow.
Once again my senses were all clouded by fear much as they had been in that parental alligator swamp not too long ago.
“I MEAN, GET CAUGHT IN THE RIVER CURRENT OF GOD’S PURPOSES
AND YOU COULD BE CARRIED AWAY IN AN IRRESISTIBLE,
POWERFUL COURSE. YOU MIGHT SWIM ABOVE THE
SURGE FOR A WHILE, BUT THEN YOU ARE
And yet somehow I was strangely intrigued. Even though I wanted to separate myself from him, there was an excitement in me as well. At the same time it was as if he were pushing me to say enthusiastically “Yes” or “Amen” right then and there. I am the type of guy who doesn’t even like it when a song leader in church tries to get the audience to clap in rhythm or a preacher forces the congregation to say amen in unison like a bunch of parrots. In short, I really felt that I was being put on the spot.
To this very day I have no idea why I shirt-sized myself to him. What in the world was I thinking! Then he prayed with my wife and me, and challenged us to pray about it, and said that he would be back on the coming Friday at about 5:30 p.m. He left as abruptly as he had come.
Either I had just been visited by an angel or a devil. At the time I wasn’t sure which. And what is more, ministry in bars!? What would my church board say? What would the church people say!? What if I would lose my church, my ministry, even my ordination just to go and save these drunks? And that with a no-name preacher from a little no-place called Skunkhollow! Quite ridiculous if you really think about it!
“You have taken away my gods which I have made…
Furthermore, he reminded me of those super-spiritual people who insist that they know God’s will for your life. Then you inquire of them as to how in the world they could tell you something so personal and private, and do so with such imposing certainty. Their response is that they had a dream or a vision which showed them that you are being called by God to be a missionary in Africa. I generally tell them that since they had the dream, they should go and do mission work in Africa.
IS GOD IN THIS MADNESS?
But then again why should it always be an easy find, when we think about what the Psalmist says about God in Psalm 77:19,
Thy footsteps may not be known.”
Think about it:
And again the Psalmist in Psalmist 18:9,
darkness under His feet.”
There it is again:
TO CLOSE SCRUTINY.”
The sum total of all of this is that there is often a thick cloud around God’s ways. God’s guidance doesn’t always make sense to the finite or even the highly religious mind. Some of God’s greatest plans in our lives start with very strange and small, curious, beginnings, like God in a baby lying in a manger in a little no place of a town called Bethlehem.
But then again, this little preacher from a little place could potentially be like the little cloud that first appeared to Elijah’s servant. Do you remember that? It was no bigger than a man’s hand. (I Kings 18:44) It wasn’t long before that little cloud grew and spread. It changed the face of the entire heavens, and then poured itself out in mighty storm with torrential rain and fierce wind. I saw a storm on the horizon when I thought about this little Skunkhollow cloud.
THE LITTLE CLOUD REAPPEARS
The little cloud in my sky reappeared just as he said he would at 5:30 p.m. on that late Friday afternoon. He was dressed in a black shirt with a white collar and looked to me like a Catholic Priest. He had a package with him, and when he came in the house he said, “Here, I went to the Catholic Bookstore and bought you this shirt. It’s on me. Why don’t you try it on and see if it fits!”
Lo and behold, for whatever reason, I went into our main floor master bedroom and tried on the priestly garb. Horrors of horrors, it fit perfectly. This can’t be happening! There we both stood looking like Catholic Fathers ready for confession or mass or only God knows what.
How can I even wear this uniform? I felt like a deserter! In my Reformed tradition, you shouldn’t be caught dead in this kind of Catholic garb, let alone dressed up in it and going to a bar. This was like betraying the entire Protestant Reformation.
My wife said to both of us that we looked very nice and distinguished. That itself sounded like Divine approval given the saintly and devout woman that she is. We had spent much time in prayer and now there she is affirming me in my Protestant/Catholic traitor’s uniform.
More than that, the stupid thing was a perfect fit. I could tell through her smile that she wanted me to go with Pastor Skunkhollow (as I began to refer to him) and with her blessing. I, more than anyone, know her look of approval as well as disapproval. To my amazement and even horror, this was the former!
It seemed like all systems were a go. I felt like I was going on a NASA space mission, and was hoping against hope that the countdown would be terminated because of unsafe conditions. You know how precise things must be for the flight. Ever-shifting atmospheric and celestial factors must line up just right to afford that small and fleeting window of opportunity. Yet, strangely, there was the sense in our spaceship that all systems were in order, and that all factors were right.
Before I knew it, I was kissing my wife and my giggling, amused kids goodbye, and was on my way with Pastor Skunkhollow to the bar-mission field. What was this strange, irresistible current that was sweeping me so helplessly into the unthinkable and frightening unknown?
(Please Go To THE SKUNKHOLLOW PHENOM Pt. 2 which will be posted shortly)