#50 I Fall Into A Burning Ring Of Fire Part 2

I Fall Into A Burning Ring of Fire Part 2

We had converted some campus leaders, including the President of the largest Greek Fraternity on campus. I will call him “Tiketwo” because he reminded me of myself, and people actually thought we looked and acted like brothers. He was a Methodist and dissatisfied with his church. Go back and read Parts 1-5 of this Blog and the same thing happened to him that happened to me; I hate to tell you.

He had a steady girlfriend who I will call “Sheilatwo’, because she looked like my old friend Sheila, only in this case we converted her as well and used her to pop Helen Ball into her sorority and snag about seven of her sorority sisters for MCM.

Tikietwo and Sheilatwo brought in, personally, at least twenty kids.

“Tiketwo” really, really looked up to me as an ideal”Christian, one who could do no wrong and that scared me.

And weighed heavily on my conscience.

So I started the daily Red Book and shepherding sessions, and casting demons out of kids who were just being kids and got them on board and committed, and started witnessing classes. We got a Christian Prof to front a Victory Club which in turn converted two baseball players through a jointly sponsored event with the respected Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Then, with almost no warning things begin to go downhill quickly.

First, Headquarters in Gainesville loaded us up with corporate literature and brochures for the tune of $ 4,000.  This ate big time into the war-chest that I had established on my own. As I mentioned our seed money from corporate had evaporated.

Second, about five thousand Forerunner Magazine Newspapers, at 50 cents a throw, begin to show up every other month. I mean stacks and stacks of these things. These cost us, if my memory is right, about $ 2,500 a whack. And there was no arguing with Gainesville about accepting or paying for these things, as I will show.

The Forerunner was Rose Weiner’s brainchild . Rose wanted to start A Mother Jones newspaper, but instead of being a leftie rag, she wanted a  rightie rag, it was chockfull of articles by Theonomy writers pontificating about the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth etc. etc. etc. Simply put the Forerunner celebrated the Manifest Destiny of America theory but repackaged to highlight the kooky and inane doctrines of MCM.

Well we were supposed to sell these things at best, or at least give them away. Either was very hard to do, it turned out.

So like a good trooper, and to get them out of the meeting hall, I organized work parties to put these things out in stacks on campus. And this was during autumn.

A very windy autumn.

And the wind blew the papers all over campus.

I mean no one was actually picking these things up to read them. At least the campus commie left wing rag had a sense of humor and some funny, if rather strange, cartoons. The Forerunner was about as interesting as the pages of  a dictionary if every page were the same. It was chloroform in print.

Now we had stupidly taken the time, and effort, to stamp our local ministry address and phone number on every paper.

This was infinitely stupid.

Because I got a phone call-from the campus police.

“Hello,” I said as I answered the telephone.

“Yes this is Captain Jim Smith of the campus police. I am trying to reach the person in charge of MCM at Big University.”

“That would be me, Tik Tok.”

“Well Mr. Tok you have managed to cover the university with your papers, they are every where, in the trees, in the fountains and complaints are coming in from all over the place.First you don’t have a permit to distribute papers on campus, second, even if you did, we must have approved paper boxes. Third it is going to cost us at least $ 10,000 to clean up the campus. I am going to give you a break… either you clean these up in the next 24 hours or I am going to bring you in on a misdemeanor charge of littering and creating a public nuisance. Any questions?”

So we went back and for fourteen straight hours we cleaned up papers.

And the Forerunner, literally being all over campus, piqued the interest of the editor of the student newspaper. Who, being a smart kid, called me up to try to find out WHAT we were doing and exactly who we were doing it for.

Our converting over 100 kids, the infiltration of fraternities, conversions of a couple of baseball players, and three sold out Saturday nights at the Maranatha Hall had gotten a lot of attention on campus. And our newspapers being literally everywhere piqued his interest, as I said.

When the phone rang, and it was the editor of the campus newspaper, I was to naïve to give it much thought. He asked questions about me, my background, where I came from, about Greg, what MCM was, who headed it and where we had come from.

About a week after Greg and Helen had left Jim, my co-pastor, walked in with a paper under his arm.

”See this yet?” he asked.

“Don’t tell me that you found another Forerunner in a bush,” I laughed.

”Tikie this is serious!” and he laid the newspaper out in front of me.

Front and center, the headline on the weekly campus news read “Cult on Campus?”

And below it in a printed frame was a photo of Greg and me on campus with about eight or ten students gathered around us praying.

The story read:

“Maranatha Christian Ministries came to town last month with a splash. Their new meeting Hall is packed out every week and their posters promise, “Real Christian Answer to Life’s Pressing Questions”. But who are they and what do they want? Despite their claims to lead students to an Abundant Christian Life their reputation at other college campuses tells a different story. “I would not recommend this ministry to any student,” said Dr. Herb Butz, Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Florida. “We believe that this group uses cult like tactics to entrap and cut off lonely or idealistic students, interfering with their studies and recruiting them to perpetuate the group and it’s goals.”

It got worse from there and they quoted me as Pastor Tikie and laid into the tactics we used including posing as a campus sponsored club when in fact this was not the case.

It also had interviews with fraternity members, where Greg and I had preached, accusing us of coming into the frat under false pretenses, stealing their members, then effectively cutting them off. The head of one frat said that I had posed as an official university affiliated non-denominational minister, which he said was a lie.

The article also questioned where our finances were coming from and that we expected the students to tithe and support us. It contrasted our taking of offerings from poor students with that of other ministries like Campus Crusade and the Baptist Student Union that asked for no donations.

Although there was much truth to this, there were some differences between what they wrote and what was actually happening. One inaccuracy was that we had not encouraged the fraternity and sorority members to leave their organization. I felt like that they could do more good inside the frats than if they left them.

But of course since we WERE MCM so we ate up all their free time, they began making radical lifestyle changes that we encouraged.  And, as I related, although I never claimed to be an official university sponsored chaplain, I never corrected the wrong assumptions made about me and MCM.

The article was a disaster.

We now had about 120 members, counting the ten that had come for the planting. It was a great start,but only a start. And now with the spate of articles about MCM Jim and I noticed that our first time visitor attendance dropped off dramatically.

Another part of the problem centered on our finances. Jim did not have enough outside support coming in for him and his family. We knew this was a problem upfront but thought it would solve itself once we had the ministry rolling.

So I was subsidizing him out of my $ 1,500 per month in outside contributions I had pledged to me. The rent, because of the wonderful location right next to campus, was about $ 1,800/month. The cost of our initial blitz had taken our seed money to zeros plus my own war-chest balance was now down to about $ 2,000.

Our offerings were only averaging about $ 300/week despite our success in numbers after three months. If I had any sense I would have calculated that at our giving rate we would need well over 1,200 college kids tithing out of their funds just to break even. Could we have gotten more out of them? Probably, but I was reluctant to hit these kids up hard, like Mike did at Auburn, because of the pain it had caused me as a new recruit.

I have mentioned that I paid a MCM tax of about 12% on my monthly $ 1,500 plus I threw 10% of that in the plate. And on top of that 10% of our local ministries gross income for the Ministry went right back to Gainesville.

Could it get any worse for me and our new church plant?

The answer, as you probably guessed, was yes, it could, and did, get worse.

Much worse.

 

#49 I Fall Into A Burning Ring of Fire Part 1

“I fell in to a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
and the flames went higher.
And it burns, burns, burns
the ring of fire
the ring of fire.”
Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash

February 1982
The snow was piling up over the cars in the parking lot while wind gusts rattled both the windows and my apartment front door.

I looked up from my desk to see the kitchen clock reading midnight.

Light jazz from the college FM station played quietly on the radio interrupted by the DJ’s breathless comments about the storm.

“At least 30 inches of snow in the next six hours, 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside, but with the wind it feels like ten below; stay inside and stay WARM!”

I took another sip of  bitter coffee and looked down at the Safeco check and accounting ledger on the kitchen table in front of me. I could not seem to make it work.

Oh, the accounts balanced alright but the cash flow frightened me.

The wind kicked up outside and once again the front door banged and rattled. I glanced up and then went back to solving the mystery of our account ledger.

“Can we cut anymore expenses?” I asked myself.

But I knew that our local ministry now ran on financial fumes. Unless I  went without food completely no other expenses could be cut. Not that I could see.

“Gotta have more income…that is the only answer,” I muttered.

The door banged again.

“That is some wind!” I thought.

Bang!… Bang! Bang!… Bang! Bang! Bang!…Bang! Bang! Bang!

I suddenly realized that this noise came from the slamming of fists on the front door.

I checked the kitchen clock again.  It now read 12:15 am.

Who in the world would be banging on my front door in the middle of a blizzard at midnight?

I pushed open the door and the sub-zero wind promptly blasted me with whirligigs of snow powdering the apartment walls. A bundled figure  stumbled through the door. It then collapsed on the torn second-hand couch in my sitting room/kitchen.

I heaved the door shut, bolted it and then turned to see who I had let in.

The figured shivered uncontrollably with the full face toboggan, complete with eye and mouth slits, completely covered with snow and ice. In fact the person had white with frost and snow covering their entire body.

The person slid their gloves off, and then pulled the toboggan from off.

His brown hair had frost in it, despite the toboggan, and with a groan he  slumped back on the couch. His bright blue eyes suddenly fluttered open.

Tikietwo, one of our prize catches from the fall crusade, looked up at me.

Tikietwo,” I asked him, “are you trying to commit suicide? Did you actually walk clear across campus in this blizzard?”

His short brown hair was now steaming in the warmth of the apartment and for a moment he said nothing but closed his eyes.

Finally he looked up at me again.

“Tikie, I had to see you tonight. I can’t take it anymore and I think I am about to have a nervous breakdown or something. Satan is after me, or maybe it is God. I really need your help…you seem to have all the answers.”

With that he laid his head back onto my broken down sofa shivering.

“Let’s get some of this rot gut stuff  into you and then we will talk,” I said as I walked over to coffee maker.

***************

Tag Teaming with Greg Ball

It had started well enough. In fact, it had completely exceeded any expectations we had about getting the ministry off the ground.

Our MCM kick-off started the last week of August coinciding with the frat rush at the large Midwestern University. I felt really blessed, because despite the fact that almost thirty new MCM churches were starting at the same time, I had been able to snag Greg and Helen Ball to help us.

The days of getting Bob Weiner for three weeks along with the Praise Band and more money than Fort Knox for a new ministry kick-off were over forever.

MCM’s new plan called for starting thirty new ministries in the fall of 1981 and then thirty to forty every year afterwards. The entire Ministry would be strained by this expansion effort.

So we approached this ministry kickoff very differently than MCM had in the past.

Greg and I agreed that if we could hook some leaders, some heavy duty sharps they might bring other sharps into the ministry with them.

We also decided to target some athletes –possibly using FCA as a way to get to them. Our goal was to grab kids who would then do our work for us.

We had no choice because we had limited funds and a few helpers.

We had two door openers: one was a ten minute movie about surfing and Christianity. It used west coast surfing terms and great colorful shots of Christian surfers and gnarly lingo.

It was cool for its time.

The other door opener was the video the Cross and the Switchblade that we would use to fill our auditorium the first Saturday after we opened. We would throw almost all of our initial seed money at this opening gambit; we would either succeed or flame out right at the start.

I figured if I could get Greg in front of four to five hundred kids in the first couple of weeks that we would nail some converts.

Our team was slim, about one fifth the size of the planting team that had arrived to open Auburn up.

Our single full time sister had been deemed too fat by Rose and would not be joining us until she had lost at least twenty five pounds or so.

This hurt, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Jim, my co-pastor, his wife, and two children arrived in mid-August. We also had three working couples and three working single brothers to help us get started.

I did not give much thought to this at the time, but the lack of working brothers and sisters and they cash they could have generated would prevent the ministry from every getting on a solid financial base.

But I knew how the frats worked, I knew the rules and I looked the part and so did Greg and Helen.

So we would start where we were strong.

I knew that there would be a few nominal Christians in the frat, I would locate the best of  them, pitch them on what Greg and I were doing (helping people live a more idealistic true first century Christian life), and then try to snag the leader or leaders. The leaders would then bring a bunch of followers with them.

These would reproduce, and before you knew it we would have a congregation.

And it worked.

**********

I looked through the IFC booklet at the Student Union before getting started.

Size predicts prestige in frats and I honed in on the seven largest ones; especially the ones that highlighted the fact that they had student athletes or student government involvement by their members.

It was pretty simple.

I would head into the frat before rush week wearing my button down shirt with khakis frat boy uniform. I would find the President and/or chaplain tell them we were reaching out to Christians and students in the frat and ask if we could show a cool surfing film.

I acted like we were an officially sponsored university group without coming out and saying we were. We had learned this lesson well at Auburn.

And I snagged us six events at the largest frats on campus during the first two weeks of school. We put posters up for the MCM event just like Randy and Ellen had at Auburn some three years earlier at Auburn.

We had posters printed for our showing of the movie the Cross and the Switchblade and the ten of us spread across campus  putting up at least one thousand posters. The posters were beautiful and they cost us about $ 1,500 to have them reproduced locally.

We also signed a two-year lease on a large hall being vacated by a Jewish Group on the eastern edge of campus and right on the main drag.

It was near off campus housing and the student shopping area. It was a great place, but needed painting and carpets. By the time we had paid the first and last month rent and one month’s security deposit and completed the rehab of the space we had blown through all $ 8,000 left from our seed money from MCM corporate.

But I had built a war chest of $ 15,000 on my own. And we were tearing through that as well at a rapid rate. But I was not worried because I had a lot of confidence in Greg Ball the evangelist sent us by MCM corporate.

Greg Ball, in my opinion, was the best evangelist and preacher in MCM.

Whether in a small group or a large crowd no one could top him. His sermons were effortless, he had a boyishness about him that attracted both men and women, he was good-looking and fearless. He also had a hair-trigger temper and a manic focus on his goals that nothing could stand in the way of. Helen, his side kick and wife, was a sweet, beautiful and gracious southern girl who was an inveterate campaigner with the added benefit of keeping Greg’s testosterone in check. Well as much as that could be done, that is.

Greg, Helen and I quickly learned our roles and how to work as a team.

At our first frat we had about thirty guys and little sisters in the common room. We showed the surfer short movie, Greg did his, “Jesus is looking for real men and women to take over the world,” talk that lasted ten minutes. I would ask for people to bow and close their eyes and commit and then to look me in the eye and then to stand up. Greg, Jim [my co-pastor], Helen, and I would afterwards go immediately after those that committed; we would bee line for the sharpest ones there. Helen being a gorgeous blonde haired sweet talking Ole Miss graduate did nothing to hurt our efforts

The upshot was that at the end of the first week we had snagged about thirty kids including two frat Presidents.

That Saturday, at our first service, we had to turn people away at the door of the Maranatha Hall during the showing of The Cross and the Switchblade and I spent the entire movie out on the front steps witnessing to people who wanted to get inside to see what all the fuss was about.

After the movie, Greg stood up and ripped out a twenty-minute tour-deforce sermon;  the kind that would bring a grown man to his knees about Jesus and his suffering, and his looking for the faithful that would follow him, and, the fate of those that did not.

It was an exhausting night with many, many, prayer and counseling and “hootah” sessions. We were completely understaffed for such a response.

At about one a.m. that morning the hall had cleared out and the ten of us including Greg and Helen sprawled on the stage, exhausted and in awe of what had just happened.

Greg, if my numbers are right, we just topped one hundred commitments and we will be baptizing all week-long.” I said. We high-fived each other and Helen said a beautiful prayer thanking God.

Then Greg threw his head back and laughed “Brother God is just getting started.

Well the first month was heaven, Greg and Helen were there the first three weeks of our kick off. We had a church with over 100 converts at the end of that time. It was insane, in so many ways, of course.

One of my best memories is the night we gave it a rest and went over the Jim and Dana’s house (my co-pastor and wife). All of the MCMers who had joined us were there along with a few of our first fruit converts. Jim was cooking on the grill and Dana threw some records on and we were all dancing and singing…and Helen and Greg were jitterbugging like professionals.

Now Greg had a hair-trigger temper.  I interrupted him during one of his frat talks, I don’t remember why, but in the parking lot he dressed me down.

“When I am speaking NEVER interrupt me, because you are interrupting GOD when you do that!’ he shouted.

I was taken aback and had planned on confronting him about it afterwards, but the funny thing was he acted, five minutes later, like it had never happened. Walking into hall with his arm around my shoulder laughing and joking about the night.

I truly believe Greg to have been one the most gifted preachers and evangelists in North America (he still might be). [Editor’s note: After the breakup of MCM Greg founded a ministry focused on pro-sports players called Champions for Christ. After allegations of fraud and other improprieties Greg left CFC  after Tikie’s blog was published in 2006-2007. Greg also served on the board of MSI/Every Nation Churches but left the board. CFC continues to be dogged by controversies and is associated with Every Nation (EN) churches). 

But Greg had a temper and an ego, and his involvement in MCM, his ongoing collaboration with Rice Broocks and Phil Bonnasso and EN, served to warp and twist his personality until, in his mind, the ministry he worked in and his own ego became inseparable. An environment with more restraint, and a more honest assessment of leadership would have served Greg much better.

The first week in October Greg and Helen headed off for their next assignment…and our troubles began shortly  thereafter.

*************

#39 I Hit Bottom

 

I Hit Bottom

You may recall that my missing a shepherding meeting early in my experience with MCM had earned a rebuke from Marty, MCM Auburn administrator and my shepherd.

But that was all that came of it.

However, later on whilst I was still slinging pizzas 25 hours/week and with a full-time school load, I was thirty minutes late to set chairs up for a midweek evening service.

The rule was that the chairs must be set up by 6:00 pm in order to not interfere with the music group’s 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm pre-meeting rehearsal.

Well I did not get there until 6:00 and I proceeded to set up chairs during the music group’s warmup. Matt (the leader) did not say one word to me as I humped it to complete the chair set up in record time.

Well I get through with the set-up at about 6:45 pm, in time for the 7:00pm service. I am sweating like a pig by this time when suddenly Marty grabs me by the arm and pulls me into his office.

“Brother, you are have lax in your duties; you just completely disrupted the Music Group’s rehearsal and you are setting a poor example for the younger brothers. You need to learn to manage your time more wisely.”

I will tell you that I was dog tired, I was averaging not more than 5 hours of sleep a night, my Tuesday structures lab had run late because of equipment problems and I knew that after this service I would head to the pizza joint for a four hour shift while Marty was doing God knows what.

So I lost it.

“Look Marty, I just finished nine hours of class and study, my lab ran late and after the service, while you are fellowshipping, I will be slinging pizza and will be lucky to get to bed by 1:00 am. How dare you confront me on time management!”

I found my voice rising to a shout.

Which was utterly and completely stupid of me. I had just trashed the ministry administrator and my shepherd. Looking back on it I should have simply said, “Yes brother I was lax and I promise it will never happen again.”

That would have ended it.

In response to my outburst Marty raised his arm and then stabbed a finger into my chest, and with each jab of his finger emphasizing his points saying, “Brother, you have a bad attitude and I sense bitterness toward the ministry and what is God is doing here… What time will you get back tonight? [he meant from my pizza job]”

“Midnight,” I answered.

And thus was birthed my first “hootah session*” …to cast out demons of rebellion out of me.

For those of you who did not endure one or for those who are clueless about this MCM ritual, I will inflict this description of my hootah session on you.

First rest assured that Marty was not going to risk taking on these demons alone.

Not a chance on that.

For indeed, unbeknownst to me  but knownst to Marty, I had seeds of bitterness and a spirit of rebellion. If left unchecked, these demons would lead to my utter doom, and even worse I was contagious and thus could infect the weaker brothers. For demons it seems are much like the common cold  they can leap from brother to brother and perhaps from brother to sister.

So Marty recruited Joe, a morose frat boy convert that I knew and disliked in my earlier life, and Paul a red-haired well-meaning guy who seemed to permanently live in another dimension with angels, visions of God and apparently audible voices from unseen beings.

In other words Paul was a well-meaning, sweet spirited, kook.

Well, I left the service that night feeling pretty upbeat, Mike Caulk’s sermon was a good one. I had calmed down from one of my very rare blow ups. I thought that I should apologize to Marty while explaining that my blow up was caused by a lack of sleep and the pressure I was feeling from my heavy class load.

Silly me.

For when I returned at 1:00 am from my 4 hour pizza shift, smelling like a 160 pound garlic clove, there was Joe, Pat and Marty waiting on me in the entrance way.

Marty stood up when I walked into the floral wall papered entry way.

“Tik, I have been praying about you and have discerned that you are having some real struggles.”

I looked at Mike and then to Joe and Paul. “What in the heck was going on here?” I thought.

“Tik lets step into my office.  We are going to pray for you and help you get your life back on track,” Marty continued as he waved us all into his office.

I did not move but instead suggested, “Hey Marty, why don’t Paul and Joe hit the sack? I have thought about what happened earlier and would like to talk to you about it privately.”

Marty pushed his glasses up onto his nose. “Brother I spoke with Mike Caulk about this and we are in agreement that we need to pray over you and break this demonic strong hold over you, for you are in rebellion.”

So we stepped into the office and I sat down in a chair, and the others pulled their chairs up around me.

“Brother,” Marty intoned “You were in rebellion tonight and also exhibited the roots of bitterness. The old man was cut away and you are a new man for certain, but I have discerned demons in your attitude, demons that we must destroy or it will bring death.”

Paul opened his Bible and read a verse, I am too weary to look it up, but it was about the seeds of bitterness leading to death.

I said, “Look guys, I was not planning on getting into this in a group setting but I was simply worn out and tired… and I snapped at Marty. I am sorry, alright? I should not have snapped at you Marty, it was wrong.”

I continued, “But Marty, you might have asked me WHY I was late and maybe shown a little mercy, and maybe have even offered to help me set up the chairs.”

I said this in a reasonable tone, I had long since calmed down. But it was an idiotic thing to say.

Marty, Joe and Pat looked at one another then back at me.

Marty said, “This is EXACTLY what I am talking about Tik. You have a spirit of rebellion. Now you are blaming your sin on others. Your blaming YOUR temper tantrum on me failing to offer help shows that the seeds of bitterness are bearing fruit in your heart. You have obviously been mulling over some perceived  slights and it [the demon] is feeding on these thoughts.”

They proceeded to pepper me with questions:

“How was my prayer life, was I praying in the spirit?”

“Was I in the Word enough?”

”How much time was I spending studying?”

“Was I masturbating?”

I had to answer among other things that I  was, “Not praying as much when I first joined MCM. That I was to0 busy to pray as much as I wanted to. Blah blah blah!”

Joe chimed in, “But not too busy to play a game of football on Sunday afternoon.”

He was right.

Sunday afternoon I joined the brothers in playing in a football game organized by Miltie Toast and Mike Caulk during the fall and spring.  We went out to the drill field and proceeded to try break each other’s legs and collar bones while we slung a football around. This three to four hours after the church service on Sunday morning were the only relaxation I ever took.

They also discerned that I had a spirit of intellectualism because I countered their accusations with facts and made the mistake of mentioning that I was studying twenty-five to thirty hours a week in addition to my classroom time of seventeen hours a week.

“Guys,” I said, ”if you add it up that is 45 hours a week on school, twenty-five to thirty hours a week at Domino’s Pizza and another thirty hours at MCM not counting services. That does not include things like cooking dinner, cleaning up dishes at the communal dinner, or any other thing that pops up in the week that the ministry needs help with.

“That proves it Tik. You are not a good time manager. Why I have As and Bs and only study ten or twelve hours a week,” Joe said.

“But Joe, for goodness sake you are a business major and are taking 10 hours a term. No offense but my course load is a lot harder, I am taking 17 hours and engineering is a lot more strenuous than business.”

You might think that I would have learned to put a sock in it by now.

“Maybe you need to give it up for the Lord Brother and drop out of engineering school. I see a spirit of intellectualism in you as well,” Mike said in a threatening tone.

That did it.

I had to stop this madness or I would end up dropping out of engineering school and majoring in, say, basket weaving.

So I did the smart thing. I surrendered and confessed to the sins of rebellion, idleness, bitterness and mind worship and whatever else they forced me to confess. It was late, I was tired and in the back of my mind the threat of dropping out of engineering school pushed me into submission. I probably would have confessed to making love to the devil’s sister that evening if it would have gotten me out of Marty’s office and into my bed.

So they cast at least three demons out of me. When we finished it was 3:00 am just in time to get three hours of sleep and be up for a shepherding session with Marty’s sheep at 6:00 am.

But at least I was free of demons, right?

And lest you think I am exaggerating; what I just described was not unusual at MCM.

I can assure you it was typical.

************

*It is my understanding that these demon exorcising sessions became known as “hootah” sessions because when Bob Weiner started speaking in tongues, many times the first words out of his mouth was “Hootah… followed by some nonsensical chant, as in “hootah ala shaba randosomo.”

When Bob was casting demons out of brothers in the early days of MCM he would pray in tongues whilst casting out said demons with an utterance that began with “Hootah…”

Thus was born the name “Hootah session” or so the MCM legend had it.

#37 Abuse: Being Drained By The Ministry

“Truth is the daughter of time, not of power.”
Sir Francis Bacon

“Now make your fist into a ball, there you go, okay, I can see that vein now…very good Mr. Tok.”

The nurse in the white coat swabbed my arm with alcohol and then massaged my bulging forearm vein with her gloved finger.

She pulled a very long sharp, hollow needle out of a sterile pouch and quickly stuck it into my bulging vein. The clear plastic tube fitted onto the needle was attached to a clear plastic bag.

And that clear bag started quickly filling with my warm crimson blood.

The needle and the catheter tugged on my arm, stinging me with cold while my chest ached in rhythm with the beat of my heart beat.

Turning my head to the right I saw another fifteen donors laying on tables row on row. Most of them, with the exception of Patrick a brother from MCM, were in their early sixties and had the washed out look of winos or derelicts.

It was early June 1979.

I had gotten the idea of selling my plasma from Patrick in early March 1979. That night Mike Caulk, our pastor, walked up to the podium during one of our week night fellowship meetings with a grim expression on his face

“Brothers and sisters the Devil is attacking the Ministry,” he said slowly.

A low murmur ran through the crowd. I wondered what this attack was, was someone ill?  Had there been a fire at one of the ministries? We, all 150 brothers and sisters, waited expectantly and anxiously as Mike looked us over stone faced.

“God, as you all know, told the elders in January that the Ministry needed to replace the old single engine ministry airplane.” [This was a single engine Cessna 210 that flew Bob, the top elders and the Praise Band from used to fly from  site to site].

I remembered that fundraising effort clearly.

There had been innumerable bake sales, car washes and door to door knockings where we carried buckets labeled MCM Christian Relief Fund to try to get people to throw money at MCM in the near freezing February weather for the new plane.

We had also staged a walkathon entitled Evangelistic Explosion 1978 to raise money for this new twin-engine airplane, a Piper Aerostar (new to MCM but purchased used).

I actually kicked in about $150 from my stash of $400 from my savings. At this point my savings were down to $ 250. This after entering MCM with almost $ 900 in the bank in November (that is about $ 2,700 in 2006 dollars).

I was barely holding my own with expenses; even  working 25 hours in the Pizza joint/week and even with the DOT grant that Dr. Carl had made magically appear.

All of this ran through my mind as the congregation waited for Mike Caulk to continue. He slowly shuffled through a stapled stack of printed papers that lay on the podium.

Then, looking up, Mike cleared his throat and said, “We found out yesterday that a piston cracked on one of the engines in the new plane. And the ministry plane is now grounded.”

He paused and said, raising his baritone voice to an almost shout, “Satan is attacking us in the midst of our success. But God will triumph here and we, his Green Berets, will answer His call.  The Ministry as a whole must raise $ 75,000 to cover the costs of replacing the engine by mid April. I am counting on the Auburn ministry to come through in a strong way, as usual.”

I sat with my mouth hanging open in disbelief as Mike outlined a series of fundraising efforts including a special offering and urged us all to give sacrificially that night.

I remembered the all-out effort to raise money for the new twin-engine plane in February; how almost every waking hour, not devoted to school, work, or the normal frenetic MCM activities had been devoted to getting money out of the community and out of our own pockets no matter what.

At that time Mike explained to us how this new larger and faster plane would enable the leadership to spend more time ministering. It would speed the work of evangelizing the world; it would carry more people and more equipment for the Lord. That the plane was a critical part of the plan to bring God’s Kingdom on earth in our lifetime.

But the cost of this new plane had never been mentioned.

I had never considered what this cost meant to all of us and the drain it imposed on our finances. And now this newly purchased ( apparently with no warranty) plane needed $ 75,000 of work to keep it flying.

Even now $ 75,000 to repair an engine is a large chunk of money and equal to  $175,000 in 2006 dollars. This seemed a huge sum to all of us in the Auburn ministry.

And it was.

And this amount, mind you, was on top of the money MCM had raised to buy this  two-engined plane just four weeks ago to tune of $ 300,000 (or almost a million dollars in 2006).

I remember thinking all of this but the thought went nowhere as I swatted it down.

Did MCM REALLY need a plane?

At the time MCM had about ~30 ministry sites and ~4,000 members. Campus Crusade dwarfed MCM in size yet CCC has never had a corporate plane much less a two engine twelve seater. But no one, including me, thought to ask that question, or maybe dared to ask it.

So the elders cracked the whip and we went into high gear fundraising mode.

I did not really have time to take part in the fundraisers; I never had any time but I was going to have to make time it seemed.

Marty told the sight single brothers in our shepherding group, “I expect the single brothers to lead the way here, the Auburn Ministry has committed to send in $ 5,000 (the equivalent of  15,000 in 2006) for this need.” He looked over the glasses that had dropped down his nose, sighed and continued, “And I am counting on each of you to bring in at least $200; we single brothers are the spear point of God’s Army.”

And this money had to be raised by by mid-April; a date that was less than four weeks away.

Now with my savings down to just $ 250, and my time, as I have already told you, stretched to the breaking point, I did not see how I could make this happen.

I had already crimped my studies for the marathon of fundraisers to buy the plane in February and my grades showed it. And to make my quota ($ 300) for the special needs offering for the  plane  I had thrown in $100 from my dwindling bank account.

I would flunk out of school if I was not careful, or be unable to pay my bills, or both.

But one night, just after this fundraising pep talk , Patrick, my roommate, let me in on his secret and it seemed like an answer to my prayers.

And that is why I was laying on a clinic table watching two pints of my blood drain into the bag. The bag was full now.

My arm really hurt now and I was chilling.

“Okay honey,” said the nurse who walked up and fingered the two pint bag of my warm blood,“I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

She unhooked the bag from the catheter but left the needle and the tube hanging from my arm.

She put the bag containing my blood in a centrifuge that sat on a counter a couple of feet from the table I lay on. Soon it started whirling around with the sound of a rusty mixer. In about two minutes the red corpuscles of my blood had been separated from the yellow/clear plasma in the bag.

She drained the yellow plasma out of the bag into a clear bottle, wrote on a label attached to it, and then brought the bag containing my red blood cells back to the chair. Then she re-attached this blood filled bag to the catheter still hanging from my arm.  She lifted the bag onto a pole and the blood, minus the removed plasma, starting draining back into my arm.

The cold blood hurt my arm as it streamed back in my body. It continued to hurt.

This part always hurt.

The rules of the plasma bank were that you could give plasma once per week. It paid $ 25 per drain. That was equal to $75 in 2006 money.

But Patrick and I were gaming the system.

For there was one blood/plasma center in Auburn and another one in Opelika, a town about 15 miles away. Patrick had a beat up Chevy and on Monday we would hop in his car and donate plasma in Opelika and then, on Thursday, we would walk to the center in Auburn to donate plasma.

So we doubled the amount we could earn despite the prohibition on more than one plasma donation per week.

In two hours total I could earn $ 50 per week ($150 in 2006 dollars).

But there was a drawback.

I started getting sick.

I could not recall having been sick enough to take to my bed since I was a little kid. I had begun doing this in March (three months) and ago I started being sick a lot.

First it was a bad cold, which I could not shake; that turned into bronchitis, then it was the flu. Then there were the headaches and I also found myself tired all the time.

But my plasma brought in about $ 200/month; the equivalent of $ 600/month in 2006 dollars.

This was equal to what I earned in slinging pizza in a month so it doubled my income. I banked some of this extra money replenishing my savings account; but about half of it went into the ministry offering plate or for the special needs offering that popped up regularly.

Like the plea to fund the repair to MCM’s twin-engine plane in April described above.

Or the plea the next month (May) to purchase a $ 200,000 meeting house for the new MCM planting in Argentina where apparently God had James Thomas speaking fluent Spanish after one week on site.

Well, we found out in April of 1979 that Auburn had once again exceeded its special needs offering goal by a huge margin and that MCM had been able to replace the blown aircraft engine.

Mike Caulk seemed very pleased and relieved

For my part I had thrown about $ 300 into the special offering for the plane, easily exceeding my required fund-raising quota of $ 200; most of this coming from my plasma money.

The entire ministry had been flogged for cash so that Bob and Joe would not have to fly commercial. I had literally been drained for some of this money.

Well, my grades and finances reached their nadir during  Spring term 1979 as I barely eked out a “2.0” C grade average. But that was enough, at least, to hold my term to term tuition DOT grant in place.

My engineering scholarship was gone forever with two consecutive terms of  grades below the required B average .

Lost.

With my work schedule, my rigorous engineering course of studies and my ministry efforts I also found myself permanently exhausted. And donating four pints of plasma a week was not helping me either.

I was sick and tired all the time.

#31 Kindness Is Shown Me

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

The large brown envelope addressed to me arrived in the mail at the Maranatha House on December 20th, 1978 during Christmas Break.

It lay there with its University of Auburn postal markings in the mail bin.

I was a nightmare come true for me.

And it would take me ten minutes to work up the courage to open it.

The Auburn MCM leadership, since I was such a “new baby” Christian, thought that it would be best if I stayed at Auburn during Christmas break. This rather than going home to work at my normal United Parcel Service (UPS) Christmas job in Birmingham.

This was the Christmas UPS student work program that paired students with regular UPS deliverymen to get all the Christmas packages and goodies out on time. It was an 80/hours per week job for three weeks in between fall and winter term.

The $ 8.00/hour pay was equal to $ 20/hour in 2006 dollars which was good money for a college kid in the US. I had gotten the UPS Christmas job two years ago after my Big Brother in the frat, Bill, with UPS connections, had recommended me and you might imagine that these Christmas jobs were coveted by students. I could clear almost $ 1,200 or about the equivalent of $ 3,600 in 2006  during the break.

It was a nice way to replenish my usually depleted bank account.

But, nonetheless, I walked away from that lucrative UPS job during the 1978 Christmas break to stay at MCM in Auburn in order, in the words of Marty, my shepherd, “To strengthen my faith.”

My shepherd, Marty, had then prayed with me about finding work to pay my way at Auburn.

You may remember that I had lost, or left (depending on your view of things), my frat job in early November. It had provided me with free room and board and was worth about $ 2,400/year in 1978 or about $ 8,000 a year in 2006.

It had been decided by my shepherd, and two of the older single brothers, that one of the jobs I had applied for in early December, slinging pizza, was a good once since I could work all day Saturday and every weekday night.

This work schedule meant that I could make all the MCM meetings and services (which occurred on Tuesday nights, Thursday nights, and Sunday morning and Sunday night) with little outside interference.

The pizza job hours were from 9:30 pm- 12:30 am five nights, from Monday to Friday, each week. I would get home about 1:00 am each weekday night.

On Saturdays I would work eleven hours from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. Sundays I would have off.

I would work about 25 hours per week.

I could study early in the afternoon and Saturday morning, or so this theory went. I would go to school during the day as usual.

The pizza job paid $ 2.25/hour (minimum wage in 1978) or about $ 5.75/hour in 2006 terms. Plus all the pizza I could eat and a red doughboy hat.

It meant that I was pulling down about $55 a week in wages.

With all that on my mind, there I was after “mail call” looking at a brown envelope with my name on it from my scholarship source “Tau Beta Pi”. My chest felt heavy. I already knew what it contained.

And this took no gift of prophecy on my part.

I opened the large brown envelope and looked at the letter inside it.

It was the kind that got blown out by the old fashioned “clackety clack” main frame teletypes of the 70s.

It read:

Dear Scholarship Recipient:

We regret to inform you that the Grade Point Average (GPA) you earned in the core engineering courses taken during the FALL QUARTER 1978 fell below the minimum 3.0 GPA requirements for scholarship maintenance.

Because of your failure to meet this GPA minimum requirement your scholarship has been temporarily revoked for Winter Quarter 1978 and your scholarship is now placed on probationary status.

In order for your scholarship to be reinstated you must achieve a GPA of 3.0 greater during Winter Quarter 1979.

If a GPA of 3.0 in core engineering courses is not achieved in Winter Quarter 1979 your scholarship will be permanently revoked.

Please be advised that a minimum core course load of 15 hours, excluding laboratory work, must be maintained each quarter for scholarship eligibility.

Please contact the office of admission and scholarships at the School of Engineering if you have any questions or if you think that this notice has been sent in error.”

I sat down in a chair with my head in my hands.

That scholarship paid tuition and books and was worth about $ 2,400 per term or $ 4,800/year in 1978. That would equal about $ 15,000 per year in 2006 dollars.

This was not an insignificant sum for a poor college student like me.

Not only had I lost my free room and board job at the Frat, now I had also managed to lose the other hidden part of my income at Auburn: my scholarship.

I was being bankrupted and my grade point average was being destroyed as an added bonus.

I am not ashamed to admit, that although I knew that this letter was on its way to me, I started crying.

I could not see my way clear. My finances and grades were both disasters now. There had never been room for much error in either; my shoe string finances, and the heavy course load required in engineering school, made my scholastic existence problematic at best.

On the financial side my new pizza job would clear about $ 200/month after taxes. The rent and food at the Maranatha House cost me about $ 180/month and I would tithe another $ 20/month.

Just enough money would come in to get by if I worked a double job in the summer, and, rebuilt my savings during that period.

Of course I could only make it if I contributed nothing to the routine and ongoing Maranatha special offerings (more about that later) that were above, and beyond, the required 10% income tithe that I was expected, and required, to contribute to the ministry.

Fortunately, I still had about $ 400 in the bank despite the fact that I had blown about $ 125 at MLTS last month. I had also thrown another $ 100 into the offering plate of the Auburn Ministry during November for some special request from MCM HQ; what it was now eludes me.

Perhaps I could land yet another job, a second job, to pay tuition. But then when would I study if I did this?

Oh, and apart from the time required for my pizza job, there was the time required for all of my assigned duties MCM and the official MCM meetings. [Please see the appendix at the end of this Part for my “official” MCM schedule for the first week of January 1978].

The total hours of official MCM meetings and duties ate up about 18 hours of my time per week.

My assigned duties would rotate weekly; perhaps I would have to clean all of the bathrooms, or perhaps I had to do the lawn and rake the leaves, perhaps I had to clean all of the common areas, or, perhaps it was my turn to set up and take down for the meetings. It was all the same: about 18-20 hours of labor for MCM per week as a single brother.

But just looking at this schedule of “official MCM duties and meetings” did not really tell the whole tale.

Why? Because it excluded the following types of requests which happened weekly, and even daily:

Brother we have two sisters moving in can you help load and unload the truck?”
or
Brother I sense you are having a tough time and need some deliverance- let’s get together” [Get ready for a two hour deliverance session” hootah”-the thought of these deliverance sessions alone would keep us “on the reservation”, so to speak]
or
Tik, This brother needs some deliverance are you available?” [this meant two hours of praying and casting out demons but at least some other poor sucker was on the hootah session hot seat and not me]
or
The Band is going on a gig can you load the van up?”
or
This week we are going to do the service on the front lawn of the student center lets load all of the chairs and equipment, oh and could you run back to the house we forgot the programs and flyers?”
or
We need these posters put up in all of the male dorms and frat houses, can you do it?”
or
We are sending a SWAT team in to help open up the South Carolina/Florida State/GA Tech ministry- can you miss a weekend of work and drive back all night Sunday so you can start the week with no sleep?”
or
“As a gift to the leadership lets imitate Jesus and wash and wax all their cars or give them a special gift to honor them”

It was almost impossible to say no to these requests without being labeled as “selfish”, “world centered”, “putting yourself above others”, “not having a servants spirit”,  or being labeled has having a “spirit of laziness”, or being infected with “worldly concerns”, or the other phrases in MCM’s special language.

Not doing this stuff would retard whatever chance you might have of going into the ministry full time, or at the very least, of being seen as an over-comer’ by the leadership.

Well I’ll stop this line of writing before I start retching up my lunch.

Okay, I am back and feeling a bit better now.

Yikes…I now see that I was in such a hurry writing the last paragraph that I forgot to include other optional things like the campus blitz days on Saturdays where we would go two by two witnessing, handing out tracts on campus for a couple of hours;

or
standing outside the arena before, during, and after basketball games handing out tracts;

or
starting front clubs at the university such as the Fellowship of Christian Students that was really a bait and switch scheme to get students into MCM;

or

the one thousand and one other things that helped market and sell MCM to the unsuspecting and ensnare fellow students; things which I have, thankfully, blanked out of my mind.

When you add in all of this busy work  the time commitment for MCM was  50 hours/week.

All right; enough already. I am about to start going crazy again.

As I said, the work at the pizza shop would consume 25 hours per week of my time.

And, of course, lest I forget, there was that little bitty thing we called engineering school.

I was scheduled to take 17 hours of class next quarter in engineering school.

As I have told you, the rule of thumb was about 1.5 hours of studying for each hour of class work. Total time for school and study should have been about 45 hours a week if there was any hope of making my grades.

So if one was brave enough to add it up the time required for school, work, and MCM activities totaled close to 125 hours per week.

For those of you still with me that is about 18 hours a day. Was sleep required?

I hoped not because this schedule showed I was running out of time to do even that.

And like I said I was running out of money too.

So I went to see the Marty, my shepherd.

He was my spiritual guardian, right?

The person who was my overseer, my big brother in the Lord, the one who would supply me advice and prayer and counsel and hold me accountable for the things of God and my  Christian walk  in this world.

Yeah, him. That one. As you can see Christ is still working on my attitude towards him.

I don’t claim to be perfect.

So I got with Marty that afternoon and laid out my time and finance problems. I showed him the letter from Tau Beta Pi putting me on probation, taking away my winter quarter scholarship, and threatening to permanently cancel my scholarship if my grades did not get back on track.

I also explained the time problem of 19 hours a day in a 24 hour day, the 19 hours to keep up with work, MCM requirements and school.

“Marty, I can’t see how this is going to work I am just overloaded,” I said, sniffling back tears.

“Brother, you are caught up in the concerns of the world, God will supply everything if you will lay it all before him, lay down your cares.”

He continued, giving me his over the glasses quizzical, “I know best, just relax,” look that came naturally to him.

“Perhaps, Tik, God is speaking to you. I think that maybe He is telling you that you need to lay down your ambition to be an engineer. And we (who was the “we” he was speaking of????) think that you have a ‘spirit of ambition’. This spirit needs to be broken. One way to break it would be to take a couple of quarters off from school, spend time building your faith, perhaps get a second job to get on your feet financially. You are being burdened by this worldly spirit of ambition. You may need to lay it aside for God.”

“Besides, we know that God has you destined for full time ministry,” he said as he sat back and waited for my reaction.

His tone of voice was very warm as he put his arm around my shoulder.

He continued to look over his glasses as we sat there for a minute in dead silence, side by side.

Truthfully at that point Marty’s suggestion of dropping out sounded appealing.

The money was not there to go back to school; at least not right now.

And the time was not there to go to school AND hold down two jobs. Not with my commitment to the activities and kingdom work for MCM.

And there was that issue of the worldly spirit of ambition.

I really did want to be successful in all that I did. I was always stretching myself and overreaching- or so it seemed. Maybe I did need to, “Lay down,” this, “worldly ambition,” this desire to succeed.

BTW: “Lay it down translates” into give it up as a show of submission to MCM. [More on MCM’s special language and the purpose of such a language in sociological cults will be written about in a future post by Tikie: the Editors]

Besides, hadn’t I heard a prophetic utterance from the head prophet Joe Smith, the main prophet of MCM himself, that I WOULD go into full time ministry and lead many thousands into the kingdom just last month?

God Himself had spoken directly through Joe Smith that I would be one of the mighty men of God, right?

If that meant laying down the spirit of ambition, in order to achieve this worthy goal of being God’s man, shouldn’t I do what Marty was suggesting and drop out of school for a while?

All of the pressure I was feeling would go away if I dropped out of school.

Juggling the studying, the working, the keeping up with my MCM duties and my study of the faith would all become easier if I did this.

If I dropped out of school I could concentrate on nothing but the kingdom and earning money. It would almost be a “spiritual sabbatical; giving it all over to God and the leaders of MCM, wouldn’t it?

But the old Tik, the Tik that is writing this blog, that old Tik, was stirring.

Well guess what?

Despite everything that had happened over the last three months he was still struggling to keep me, the New MCM Tik, from completely destroying my life and my future.

Oh the Old Tik was hardly conscious at this point, bound and gagged in that little closet in the back of my mind. He, the Old Tik, the real Tik, was surrounded  and tied up and gagged by a bunch goofy doctrines, weird sights, and strange utterances I had heard, and seen, over the last three months.

So far I had been able to almost completely ignore him and my doubts.

But somehow that rotten old Tik, that sinning worldly Tik, that Tik that had begged me not to walk away from Sheila,  on that bitterly cold December afternoon, shook off the bonds that had him tied and gagged in that closet in my mind.

And that rotten old Tik through a gargantuan effort of will, managed to get his hands, temporarily, back onto the controls of my life that day.

And I thank God Almighty that somehow that rotten old worldly ambitious Tik got loose and ran amok that afternoon.

Now, I had already learned already that it was not wise to disagree straight away with any recommendations of the leadership, especially those of your personal shepherd.

Despite Marty’s concerned manner and warm tone that afternoon, I knew that if I disagreed with him openly, or challenged him at all, he would immediately harden his positions and could make me do whatever he was suggesting.

But I also knew that the particular MCM phrase Mike had used that,  “Perhaps God is telling you,” meant that Marty, at least for the time being, had not decided on the final course I should take.

Not yet anyway.

It was a small opening and I had to act quickly to take advantage of it.

Now to be sure if he had uttered the phrase, “God is speaking to me,” or , “God has given us/you/me a word,” then any argument to the contrary, no matter how rational, was useless.

For then I would risk being labeled rebellious and seen as  possibly being influenced by some sort of spirit or demon if I challenged him on this word or direction for my life.

And if I continued in my resistance to this word then I would be hauled before Mike and Missy Caulk our pastors for the MCM crime of  rebellion against God. It was clear that those sheep who engaged in such arguments with their shepherds, or who exhibited any signs of independent thinking, apart from the advice of the leadership, would be hampered in their spiritual growth.

It would signal that they were not ready move up in God’s Green Berets and take on more responsibility. This, by the way, was especially true for women. [Editor’s note: We have a post coming up where Tikie writes about the hierarchy and the treatment of women in MCM]

Any challenge or resistance to the leadership could even lead to expulsion, apostasy, shunning, and being given over to Satan.

Looking back on this twenty plus years later it is really hard to believe that this is how things worked at MCM- but it is the truth!

So, knowing that any DIRECT disagreement with Marty would be counterproductive, I said the magic words, in MCM’s  special language that I was mastering.

The words used by sheep at MCM when they were cornered, “Brother let me pray about it.”

This phrase was the equivalent of saying, “Abracadabra ala kazam,” because it was like a special spell that would temporarily halt a MCM shepherd, or elder, in their tracks.”

But it only would engender a temporary halt.

Now I knew that he would not, and could NOT, come after me after I uttered those words. Nor could he force a decision on me, well, not immediately, anyway. Because I  had said I was seeking God’s will for my life. No one could argue with that. At least not right away.

After our counseling session I walked outside into the cold windy December afternoon.

The sun was setting in the cobalt blue winter sky as I plopped down on a bench across the street from the Maranatha House on East Magnolia Avenue.

Now the old Tik,  reveling in his temporary freedom, was thinking, “Now let’s see…exactly WHY are you here at Auburn? And what is the PRIMARY purpose that brought you here?’

Well the answer was pretty obvious to the old Tik :

I was not at Auburn to work in a pizza joint.

I was not at Auburn to be in a frat.

I was not at Auburn to socialize.

My primary purpose at Auburn was NOT to proselytize for MCM and build Bob Weiner’s Kingdom.

I was PRIMARILY here at Auburn for ONE thing:

I was at Auburn University to get an education and my degree and improve my situation so I could provide a good living and home for my future wife (whom I had not met) and my, as yet, unborn children.

Makes me a genius, huh?

Well I can tell you that many MCMer’s never figured that out. They did not graduate from college, and post MCM blow up, or after they crawled away from MCM, or were given the boot for some sin, they had nothing to fall back on.

Well that day the Old Tik was thinking  through all of this very carefully.  I knew very well what had happened to my friends and frat brothers who had gotten in trouble and dropped out for a quarter or two.

Vic, one of my good friends had done so last year. He had gotten a job with AlaGasCo as a utility man making $ 15,000 a year ($ 40,000 in today’s dollars) for just a term or two.

But once a person got used to that kind of money it was hard to go back to being a poor student. Vic never returned to school.

In fact, with the exception of Ricky, one of my converts to MCM (and a former frat brother), I had never known anyone to come back to school and complete their education once they bailed out…. even if they thought they would leave for a short time  to get their head back together.

Sp there I sat on the bench, shivering in the December cold wind, thinking this all through.

I had no one to talk to about this my financial and academic problems, not anyone who could offer me advice, other than Marty; or the leadership of MCM at Auburn.

And I, the Old Tik did not like the line of MCM thinking regarding my schooling if you haven’t figured that out yet.

But who else could I turn to?

I had pretty much told my parents to shove off. There was no way I was going to reach out to them. I would not have them see me crawling back to them.

Mom [my Frat RA] and I had parted ways… Sheila… nah, I had destroyed that relationship…my Big Brother in the frat, a graduate student in chemistry, Bill, would have been a good choice; but I had sissy slapped him and called him hell bound… Chris at the BSU- no way could I talk to him…not after calling him a “pretend” Christian and basically telling him to stick it. Going to him would be as bad as crawling back to my parents. Maybe worse.

Except for the brothers and elders at MCM I had no one to turn to, it seemed.

Then who else could help me?

For about ten minutes I sat there in the whistling December wind, and despite what I had told Marty earlier, you can see that not much praying happened.

Only hard thinking, problem solving thinking, if you will, on my part.

Then I had a thought.

It was one that both scared me and also gave me hope.

I thought of the one person I could seek out for advice and help.

Dr. Carl.

My engineering professor and advisor.

Remember him?

Sure, he was a real hard ass, and pretty much an all-around jackass (what you saw was what you got) but he was a straight shooter, and, I knew in my heart, despite all of his efforts to appear hard and gruff, that inside he really cared deeply about his students and graduate assistants.

He had talked me into coming into the particular major I had chosen two years ago. He had helped me get that scholarship that kept me in school.

And I knew he cared about me.

School was out, but Dr. Carl had a couple of grant programs ongoing, and I was pretty sure that he and his grad students would probably be working on these projects during the break.

Life takes many turns and twists as you know.

There is a great book  called the Tipping Point which discusses how the big things in our lives, and in our society, many times hinge on what, at the time, appear to be small and insignificant decisions.

One example of a small decision that changed the course of my life, and the lives of at least one hundred and fifty other people, was my decision to spend time with Ellen and Randy and to invite the Praise Band and Bob Weiner to my frat House in October 1978.

And another example of this was  the decision I made, on that cold December afternoon in 1978, to seek out Dr. Carl for advice.

It was a decision that reverberates in my life even today as I type this on my Dell laptop, sitting in an American Airlines Boeing 737, winging my way cross country on this warm sunny May afternoon in 2006.

Consciously or not I (the “old Tik”, that is) was seeking guidance from someone who had nothing to gain or lose  from the decision I was facing.

I was looking for someone who would counsel me impartially; someone who I knew would try to give me advice that they believed would best for me and my future.

I should mention, by the way, that Dr. Carl was, and is (for we still talk on occasion), a self- proclaimed agnostic.

Not quite an atheist, but almost one.

As I headed up the steps of Ramsey Hall I knew I was in luck. Because I could see the cheap florescent lights on in Dr. Carl’s office. It  told me he was working that afternoon.

Dr. Carl was a genius and had been one of the lead engineers, right out of grad school, on the US Apollo Lunar Program in the late 1960s. When that had dried up he had gotten his PhD from Purdue University and had now been at Auburn about ten years.

His specialty was now nuclear structures.

He was at his desk wearing his favorite green cardigan sweater. Yes, the kind with leather patches on the elbows that you see profs wear in the movies.

He looked up at me as I walked in.

“Mr. Tok, what are you doing here? I thought you would be in Birmingham helping Santa and his elves deliver Christmas goodies (he knew about my usual Christmas gig with UPS).

“Dr. Carl. I have a serious problem.”

“I should say so after your surprisingly abysmal academic performance this past quarter. Pull up a chair Mr. Tok.”

He said this while brushing his long hair out of his face. He closed the book he was taking notes in and his pony tail swung behind him as he turned to face me.

“Well, I am not here to talk about the problem with my grades last quarter… but another problem,” I said.

He put folded his arms into a prayer position and cradled his chin in his hands.

“Okay- shoot… tell me what’s the matter?”

“I have a sudden money problem. I left the frat and lost my free room and board that went with it.”

“Good decision,” he said, “nothing but a nest of rats in that frat house anyway. Terrible place to live and too many distractions for a good student like you. Well done.”

“And now I got this.” I pushed the letter about the scholarship loss across his desk.

He looked at it for a moment.

“Hmmmmmmmm,” he murmured.

”You have to get your grades up…and you can…if you apply yourself.” he said looking up at me, his bangs hanging down just over his eyebrows.

He pushed his hair back over his forehead ; crossing his arms behind his neck and cradling his head with his hands.

“I know, and I am going to do better next quarter, but… well, I am out of money… and I can’t pay tuition in January. It’s that simple.”

“I see, let me think about this for a second Mr. Tok.”

He sat there for a moment and leaned back. He then turned in his chair and stared out of the second floor window to the street below where the last leaves of autumn whirled down Magnolia Street like dervishes.

After a moment he turned, picked up his telephone, and dialed a number.

“Bertha, hey it’s me Dick down here in Nukes. Hey, I have a good student of mine, a good kid, who is in a bit of trouble and can’t pay tuition, scholarship trouble, you know what I am talking about… eh?”

He paused listening into the handset.

“Okay, how do we look on those DOT grants that came through last week?”

“No, he is here, yep, uh huh…Tik Tok is his name…no I have a couple of forms here…uh huh… yep… okay then… what time?…okay, thanks Bertha.”

He hung up.

“Okay Mr. Tok, it’s your lucky day. That was Bertha in the bursar’s office. We have three DOT engineering grants that just came through last week. Two are already spoken for but one is still available for any student that we choose to recommend.”

“What is a DOT grant?” I asked.

“Free government money… courtesy of the Department of Transportation and Uncle Sam,” he said as he laughed. “Graft, handouts, hell; call it want you want… I call it tuition money for the needy!”

“Now these grants don’t have the cache of a Tau Beta Pi scholarship, nor are they guaranteed (my scholarship was backed by the Tau Beta Pi Endowment and as long as I made my grades I got the money). They just come in over the transom, so to speak, usually at the end of the term, if they come at all.”

He reached into his drawer and pulled out a triplicate form.

“We just got three grants each for the winter and spring terms and one has not been spoken for. Like I said I don’t know when and if we will get any more… and in fact we may never get another one!”

He continued, “It works like this. You have to get two faculty members in your college to recommend you. I have a form here and Ralph (he meant Dr. Jenkins in Hydraulics, another one of my profs) will sign this with me. Our signatures on the form will approve you for the DOT grant. You get your transcripts from the registrar’s office and take them with this signed completed grant application to the bursar’s office to Bertha Jones. And, voila, you get your tuition paid, courtesy of Uncle Sam.”

He paused, “As long as you maintain a “C” average your tuition is at least covered for the next two terms.”

I could not believe it.

This hard ass of a guy, and one of the toughest profs in the school of engineering, was doing me the favor of a life time.

And he wasn’t even a Christian. Note my thinking with the word: even.

UGH!

“Dr. Carl, I don’t even know what to say… thanks, thank you, THANK YOU!”

I stood up and walked over to give him a hug I was so overcome with emotion.

“That’s Okay, Mr. Tok.” He waved me off. “Just consider it a Christmas present.”

Merry Christmas Mr. Tok!”

Merry Christmas Dr. Carl.”

Appendix:

Tik”s Schedule for the first week of January 1979 with regards to MCM “official meetings” and duties assigned by Marty his shepherd and administrator of the Auburn Church:

Sunday
am- Meeting set up
am-single brothers Bible Study
am- morning worship service
pm- evening worship service
pm-service take down and clean up

Monday
am- Dicipleship group
pm- kitchen cleanup

Tuesday
am- Dicipleship group
pm-kitchen clean up
pm-meeting setup
pm- evening worship service
pm-service take down and clean up

Wednesday
am- Discipleship group/victory group on campus
pm- kitchen cleanup

Thursday
am- Dicipleship group
pm-kitchen clean up
pm-meeting setup
pm- evening worship service
pm-service take down and clean up

Friday
am- Discipleship group/victory group
pm- kitchen cleanup/witnessing on campus

Saturday
am- Discipleship group/witnessing on campus
pm- kitchen cleanup

#26 Walking Away

November 1978

On all my mid-term I scored grades of Cs and Ds. Mathematically I knew that pulling my grades up to a B average for this term was impossible.

And Sheila?

Well, other than one or two lunch meetings, and a note or two for her and from her, we were incommunicado.

In fact I pretty much had cut myself off from my former friends and they had cut themselves off from me.

Other than my Christian clan  all of the frat members avoided me. And JD was leading the charge to have me thrown out as President.

I spoke to Marty, my shepherd in Maranatha, about JD’s plan to impeach me; but he showed me numerous scriptures that demonstrated that, “We overcoming Christians will be persecuted and scorned for our Kingdom work.”

Furthermore, he said that I should rejoice in what was happening and, besides, at least fifteen people had come to Jesus because of me and my stand.

Marty said, “Those souls you have played a part in bringing to Jesus are eternal stuff, Kingdom stuff, and the very proof that God is leading you in His powerful work.” He then quoted the scripture about the flowers not having to toil and work.

The day before the monthly Frat business meeting I told Marty, “I have to miss the Maranatha service tonight.”

He did not like it, but when  I told him I had to be there and that it would be a chance for me to witness to 120 frat members he smiled and said, “God’s blessing on it, I bear witness to this decision, Tik.”

That was MCM speak for, “Okay you can do it.”

And, as it turned out, this was to be my last frat chapter meeting.

As I walked into the chapter room I saw JD sitting at the ornate desk used by the frat President and about 120 brothers, lined up in in row upon row of folding chairs, facing the small raised speaker’s platform.

“Oh,” JD said as he stood up from the ceremonial president’s chair, “I was getting used to sitting here. This certainly is a surprise seeing you here Tik and it is not even dinner time!”

Laughter reverberated throughout the room.

The meeting moved along in a boring fashion just like every other chapter meeting I had attended since being initiated as a frosh.

I called the members to order and the treasurer and members of the house corporation made their presentation. Usual stuff: money in, expenses out, we were going to have to replace the roof next year, and eventually the air conditioning system, which was on its last leg.

Then the new business session started as I slammed down the gavel on the small table to my right .

JD immediately stood up from his front row officer’s seat walked to the speaker’s platform and, like an attorney making a plea before a jury thundered, “Brothers I have a serious charge to make and I want to bring a motion to the floor.”

He stood for a moment looking around the room and tucked his thumbs into his belt loop before going on, “Our President, Tik Tok, has been derelict in his duties, he has been absent from almost all activities over the last month, he would hardly qualify as an active member much less as a President. I would like to move that we bring a vote of impeachment against him and then vote to remove him from office.”

Well the place went crazy, with a small group of my pledge brothers defending me; but none of my Christian frat clan because they were all at the Maranatha Service that was now underway.

I looked over at Mom and, as usual during a chapter meeting, he was saying nothing, just stroking his red mustache, seated in a stuffed wing back chair just to my right.

It went back and forth, and I, in my Maranatha arrogance, thought of Jesus being,“Silent before his accusers”.

It is embarrassing for me now that I was comparing myself to Jesus and the martyrs for the faith; but there you have it. They were innocent of the charges against them, but I was guilty as charged that night.

For the truth I had been given a job for which I was paid in free room and board, and had, for all intents and purposes, walked away from this job.

JD was rallying his forces and everyone was jabbering and interrupting each other and it looked like they could get a vote for a move to start impeachment proceedings when Mom stood up and then walked next to where I was seated.

Mom rarely spoke at these meetings, other than to occasionally pull two quarreling members apart before they came to blows.

He placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Hold it brothers. Tik here has not said a word. Brothers, if Tik will commit to doing his duties, to making all our events, to attending all chapter and business meetings, can we just drop this garbage.? This is going to tear our frat in half.”

The place went silent. And everyone looked at me.

What was I could I say?

I hardly had time to breathe with the 40 hours plus of MCM activities, and I was falling further and further behind in my studies. I knew that it truly was either Maranatha or the fraternity. There was hardly time for my studies; much less my job as Frat President, that was apparent.

I needed to take a stand here in front of my accusers, it seemed to me. Isn’t that what Bob had said the first day I met him, “To be either hot or cold but not lukewarm?”

The reality was that the frat held no appeal for me anymore.

Maranatha was the eternal stuff, the real stuff, the Kingdom, and Jesus, and changing the world. Saving souls, right?????

And I made what I confess to be a snap decision.

In the world I was now inhabiting, the world of radical overcoming Christianity, the World of Seeking First the Kingdom, the World of God supplying everything I needed, the world of making Jesus Lord of All, why, my decision made perfect sense.

But to all my frat friends, to “Mom”, to everyone who knew me before MCM entered my life, it was an insane decision.

It seems insane to me now- looking back at that night.

I swallowed and looked up at the 120 faces staring at me.

“Fellows,” I said softly from my seat, “JD is right. I have been neglecting my duties. ”

“I have been neglecting them because I have a new life  for I am a now radical follower of Jesus. And that new faith makes it impossible for me to act as President. So I resign effective immediately.”

No one said a thing. Not a person moved or seemed to breath. I could  feel Mom’s hand on my shoulder; his grip tightening there.

“Not only that I have come to realize over the last four weeks that this fraternity is no place for me to be. It has no appeal to me. I am seeking the things of God, and again, I invite you all to seek Him with me. Because of my commitment to Jesus I am also resigning my membership in the fraternity immediately.”

Bedlam broke loose.

JD let out a loud laugh and three of my friends, members of BSU, walked over and tried to speak with me.

But I pushed past them, ignoring Mom’s plea of, “Tik hold your G*d d*amned horses” and walked over to where JD stood.

I handed the ceremonial gavel to JD.

“It’s your’s now JD,” I whispered and then walked out of the chapter room and down the hall to my sleeping room.

I locked the door, took my phone off the hook, and knelt to pray, ignoring four or five knocks that pounded on my door for the next hour or so.

I was relieved that I confronted the issue of ignoring my duties head on.

And I would talk to Marty about moving into the Maranatha House in the morning.

But I had a nagging fear as I stood up from an hour of prayer to crawl into bed.  How in the world would I come up with the money for room and board now?

As I went to sleep that night I recited the scripture, “He will supply all my needs according to his riches in glory.”

I was leaving the fraternity and walking away from the world.

#25 A Slippery Slope

November 1978

That evening I made my way back to the frat house after the MCM meeting.

I had almost forgotten about the chapter meeting that evening and about JD’s threats after the drama of the healing spectacle at MCM that night.

But the door to my room was open and waiting on me was Mom, sitting at my desk, with a frown on his face.

As I walked into my room he stood up and said, “Tik, you and I need to have a serious talk.”

Then Mom motioned for me to sit down on my bed while he took a seat at my desk chair.

I knew why he was here.

I had just gotten back from a Maranatha service and had missed my fourth chapter meeting in a row. And as President, heck, even as a plain old chapter member, that was not supposed to happen.

“Tik,” he said, “you need to know that JD [the frat. VP] tried to get the brothers to vote on impeaching you tonight in the frat chapter meeting. He could not get it to a vote. But he had thirty of the frat brothers on his side. The place was in an absolute uproar.”

“What?!!” I exclaimed. Thirty frat brothers out of one hundred and twenty siding with JD?????.

I sat back against the wall that my bed was nested against and put my hands to my head.

“I don’t think all thirty wanted to impeach you, they just wanted to send a message,” said Mom.

He crossed his arms.

“I took the floor and defused it. I told them you were going through a phase and that I would talk to you tonight.”

“It’s not a phase I am going through!” I said. “I don’t think this is any of your business talking to the chapter about my spiritual life or my walk with the Lord.”

“Yeah…well it IS my business when the Frat President is ignoring his duties and sending this place in a tizzy. Not to mention the fact that I see a good friend of mine jumping into a pit of alligators, or worse, Tik.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” I asked.

Mom looked closely at me, and then before speaking he stroked his red mustache like he did when he was about to say something he knew you would not like.

“It means this: I don’t know who, or what, these people  are but I don’t like what I see, that’s what,” Mom said.

“Look Mom, you would not understand anything I am doing… you have rejected the gospel and this stuff would not make sense to you, regardless. The brothers and sisters at Maranatha are real Christians, that’s all.”

Mom sat back and pointed his finger at me, “This is exactly what I am talking about Tik. How do you know anything about me and God? But you know what?  Maybe you are right, maybe I don’t know crap about religion, so to be sure I called your old friend Chris whom I suspect DOES know about ‘this stuff’, as you put it.”

Chris was the head of the Baptist Student Union (BSU).

“Why did you go and call Chris?” I asked.

“And why shouldn’t I?” asked Mom.

As he crossed his arms he continued, “Hey you just said I could not POSSIBLY understand this stuff so I called an expert, a guy who went to preacher’s school after college, or whatever it is they call it. Well guess what? Chris thinks these guys are a cult. He has already had calls from three sets of parents here at Auburn whose kids are involved in this crazy group. These parents are worried about what they are seeing in their kids. How they are acting.”

I sat there for a moment.

“Tik not only are you spending almost all of your waking hours on this thing, Marawhaever, but frankly, you are changing- you are becoming a different person. No one can have a normal conversation with you.  It’s all scriptures, and stuff about God and Jesus… you have practically tried to convert the entire frat, and some of the frat brothers, and not just a few of them, don’t like it”

“Well, Mom,” I said, “I am a new man in Christ of course I am changing.”

“Tik, like I say, you are a grown man, but I just hope you know what you are doing here. If this keeps up I will tell you JD is going to get you impeached. And I am not so sure that I won’t support it.”

“C’mon “Mom”, things are going to settle down.”

“Maybe,” he said, “ But why should you have the title and perks of the office if you are never here and you ignore your job? And, by the way, that is not the only thing you are ignoring.”

“What are you talking about, ‘not the only thing?’ ” I asked.

I was getting angry.

“I checked the grade book; that is another thing I did today,” Mom said, grimacing.

Mom was Dr. Carl’s teaching graduate student, my engineering professor, from whom I was taking two courses this session. Dr. Carl, as I have mentioned was also my student advisor. Mom assisted Dr. Carl in the lab, taught lower level courses, and helped Dr.Carl grade tests and exams.

“Hey, you can’t do that,” I sputtered pulling myself out of the bed I was sitting on.

“Well, I did,” said Mom. “Tik, you have got to be kidding- a “D” on the first structures examination.???What in the hell is that about!? This stuff should be child’s play for you. Dr. Carl tells me that you also have been late for at least five classes and you have skipped out on two classes. This is not like you. You and I both know that these engineering courses have to be treated like a full time job.”

“Look, Mom, I have it under control. I don’t need your help… so stay out of it okay?”

“Like I said Tik, like I said you are a grown man. But if you have any sense you will listen to me. Just cool your jets for one more minute. Chris wants you to come by to see him.”

“Why?” I asked

“Get off of it Tik, it’s about everything we are talking about. He has found out some stuff about the Maranootha or whatever hell they are called, and he wants to show it to you. Call him, he said he will meet you anytime, anywhere.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said.

Well I did not go to see Chris.

I was to busy, discipleship groups in the morning,  classes, trying to cram study time into lunch and any free time during the day. Nightly three to  four hour services and Maranatha witnessing sessions on campus, putting up posters for special events, helping set up for Maranatha meetings and my shepherding sessions with Marty’s group all got in the way of my seeing Chris.

There was not time for anything. And my grade showed it.

On all my mid terms I scored all “Cs” and “Ds’.

And as for Sheila?  Well other than one or two lunch meetings and a note or two for her and from her; we were incommunicado. In fact I pretty much had cut myself off from my former friends and they had cut themselves off from me.

Other than the “Christian Clan in the frat” all of the brothers were avoiding me.

And JD was leading the charge to have me thrown out.

I spoke to Marty my shepherd in Maranatha about it but he showed me numerous scriptures that said that we would be persecuted and scorned.

Once again he said that I should rejoice what was going on in the frat and besides at least sixteen people had come to Jesus because of my leading the overcoming life.

Saving souls and overcoming in this world why that was eternal stuff, that was Kingdom stuff, and proof that God was leading me and that I was doing His work.

#24 My Troubles Begin

It was no shocker, but I was still disappointed in myself. I continued to stare at the test as if that would somehow change the score circled in red at the top of the page.

I had garnered a test score of 76, or a middle C, on my thermodynamics test, the one I had failed to study for because of my “kingdom” activities during the last two weeks.

This term I had scored grades of  Ds and Cs on every test thus far. It was my poorest performance since entering Auburn University over two years ago. In fact, last year I had scored A grades in 10 of my engineering courses and a B in the remaining two. My freshman year GPA had only been just slightly lower. And for this I had been awarded a full books and tuition scholarship by Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society.

If I could pull off high Bs and one A on all the remaining tests and exams then a B grade point average for the term was not out of reach for me.

But if I did not earn that B grade point average for the term  then I lost that books and tuition scholarship.

However, on the Kingdom front everything was on a roll, it seemed.

Four more of my frat brothers had made a commitment to Jesus. They had started attending Maranatha Services and were being shepherded and discipled by older MCM brothers.

This meant a total of 15 people from my frat had become radical Christians in the span of about four weeks. “At this rate,” I thought, “within one year over 150 people will have come to Jesus through me.”

My heart glowed with pride.

Joe Smith had promised that tonight that God was going to heal people just like He did in the first century church.

Of course, if you have bothered to slog your way through my story thus far,  you know that as frat President I was supposed to attend a weekly Chapter Night meeting. At these meetings we reviewed the week’s events, talked about issues and projects, socials, fundraisers, and made our plans for the coming term.

In addition there was the infamous  pass the gavel session, where the chapter gavel was passed from member to member and each brother had up to five minutes (if they wanted it) to discuss what was on their mind.

So once I again I was scrambling.

My head hurt.

First, I did not want to miss the show of first century miracles that were supposed to occur tonight at the MCM House according to Marty, my shepherd.

Second, I did not want to miss the preaching on, “The right relationship with Jesus,” that Joe Smith had said, “would be fundamental to my faith.”

Finally, but no less importantly,  I did not want to disappoint my older brothers and my Shepherd at Maranatha, that is, my new family.

So I was going to try to wiggle out of yet another frat chapter meeting tonight.

I headed to JD’s room.

As Vice President JD led a number of committees but was he also second in line if for some reason I could not fulfill my duties. This had happened occasionally in the past, but it was a rare occurrence.

JD’s bedroom door was open and I could hear the sound of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s hit song Give Me Three Steps blasting out of his stereo system.

I peeked in and saw JD with his head buried in a text book. How he could get any studying done with rock music blaring was a mystery to me.

I knocked at his open door. No response.

Again. No response.

So I stepped in and reached over and cranked the volume down on the stereo.

JD looked up immediately.

“Run out of people to proselytize Tik?” he laughed.

“Well you are barking up the wrong tree if you are looking to dunk me in a swimming pool and have me blabbering like a baby!”

JD and I had a very strained relationship at best and it was all over the frat house that twelve of the brothers had become Jesus Freaks and that our sleep in slut, Rhonda, had moved out of the house and back to her dorm room.

“I hear you broke up Rhonda and Ricky as well…,” then he snickered.

I was not taking the bait.

“Look JD I wanted to see…”

Before I could finish JD cut me off with, “Tik, if you are up here to see if I am going to cover for you for the chapter meeting you need to save your breath. I am not your f**k*ng baby sitter and nurse maid.”

His face was red.

“Calm down JD, why are you so upset?”

“I’ll tell you why, hot-shot. You are everybody’s golden boy, you crap golden apples as far as the brothers, well at least some of them, are concerned, and your red-headed stepmother (he was referring Mom our resident advisor) keeps his protective apron around you.”

He stood up and sneered at me.

“If any other frat officer, like yours truly,” and he pointed at his chest with a thumb, “missed a business meeting and three chapter meetings, skipped out on two of our post game parties, played hooky during the Gamma Delta social, and then failed to show up Thursday afternoon for this term’s pledge report out, they would be hauled before the chapter and thrown out of office; if not thrown out of the frat altogether.”

He was right of course, as President I not only had ceremonial responsibility to welcome the sorority girls, to pat the pledges on the back and make them feel special; I had an obligation to preside over the frat’s business at meetings.

But the Kingdom came first, right?

Weren’t the frat brothers just playing camp? Wasn’t the frat house a den of debauchery every Saturday night after a home game?

“JD, you know that nothing important is going to happen at the chapter meeting tonight. The only thing on the agenda is Jack’s monthly plea to give the upper classmen priority parking spaces, that’s all.”

“How do you know that Tik…what makes you so sure???” and he grinned and pushed his chair back against the wall.

He looked very satisfied with himself.

“We both know that there is nothing urgent that is going to come up that’s why,” I said.

“Well, I can tell you one thing, if our Frat President, Mr. Tik Tok is not at the meeting then I am going to move that we start impeachment proceedings against him and have him thrown out of office.”

I laughed, he was joking and needling me.

“I am NOT kidding, Tik,” he said.

“Listen, twelve  of our brothers are missing practically every frat function thanks to the proselytizing of our Frat President; whose MAIN job, by the way, is to rally the frat around the chapter not get members to desert,” he almost shouted.

He sat back down, but his voice grew louder as he said, “And YOU, MR PRESIDENT,” and JD then saluted me with two fingers, “YOU have been missing in action, AWOL…no has seen from you or heard from you in the last four weeks; unless of course its meal time. You always seem to make those surprisingly enough.”

My face turned red this time.

Okay, I did not like JD, he was cynical, he was a smart ass, he was crude, but this time he was right.

What could I say?

“JD I have done a lot for the frat,” I said. “Things will get back to normal once the rally is over at Maranatha.”

“But would they every get back to normal?” I thought.

“Yeah, okay, you did a good job as rush chairman last year, I grant you Tik. But you SUCK as a President and you know what pisses me off, you are not doing JACK around here and you are getting free room and board at the expense of every cotton picking dues paying brother.”

I was completely conflicted.

I had my duty to the Kingdom, but I had a job to do at the frat as well. I knew the ups and downs of being frat president; all of it.

But the mantra in my head ran, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and these things will be added unto you.” I was going to seek the Kingdom first no matter what.

That was what over-comers did. They did not worry about the world.

“Well JD, I understand how you feel, but I will not be at the chapter meeting tonight and as VP you will need to cover for me.”

“Suit your own self Tik. Do what you think is best. But you can’t say I did not warn you.”

JD crossed his arms. My stomach was turning over.

I decided to head down to the Maranatha House and skip dinner with the frat. brothers.

I just wasn’t hungry.

As I walked down Magnolia Street I became angry with JD and his attitude. I thought about all of the rude things that I had seen him do to people over the years. I found my face getting hot as I replayed the crudity of his accusations.

I knew that the chances of me being impeached were about nil, but I also knew that JD would raise a stink about me and about my absences. He would get a handful of the brothers in his corner.

But the real damage would be to my reputation and would put me under the microscope of all the frat members.

I walked into the MCM house and found my shepherd Marty seated behind his desk. I explained how upset I was and that I was worried about what might happen at the frat. tonight.

Marty paused and thought before he spoke, sitting back in his chair and crossing his arms over his chest.

“First, what is happening to you is exactly what happened to the early Christians,” he said slowly.

“They were persecuted for the beliefs and stand. That is what Jesus meant when he said ‘I did not come to bring peace’.. our stand for Jesus are going to bring the attacks of the devil. We should rejoice that this is happening.” And with that he uncrossed his arms and pushed his glasses back up onto the bridge of his nose.

Now I did not feel so happy about this persecution, for I knew I actually deserved it. Although JD was crude, he was correct, I was shirking my duties for which I was paid in room and board.

“Look Tik you are in the frat right now because God has you there to harvest souls. Maybe He will call you out of the frat. That may happen. This is all in God’s hand and as long as you are doing His will then it will be okay.”

“But, “ I said, “the Frat pays my room and board and it amounts to $ 2,400 a year that I save in living expenses by being President.”

Now in 2006 that may not seem like a great deal of cash but in inflation adjusted dollars it represents about $ 7,000/year in today’s dollars.

And for a poor guy like me that was a small fortune.

How would I ever make up that budget shortfall?

“God will take care of his faithful Tik. Remember that you do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

He was right, I thought, I had no previous persecution in my life because I had never done anything for Jesus.

Of course this felt uncomfortable.

This persecution happened because I was overcoming the world and saving souls. This made the devil attack me. Surely God would figure out how to finance my schooling if I lost my position of frat President.

Right?

Jesus would take care of His Green Berets, I was sure of it.

#20 Tug of War

Tug of war

I was walking down the stairs with Marty after one of our morning shepherding group meetings. Marty put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Tik, I am looking forward to seeing you tonight at the service. IT will be Bob’s last you know.”

I stopped on the stairs.

Tonight our night was our frat chapter meeting.

And tonight was my first monthly business meeting as Frat. President. In this meeting we would review the finances: cash in- vs. expenses vs. surplus and also vote on any issues that the frat members brought up.

In fact tonight, because of our excellent rush results (thanks to Sheila’s help from the party with her very large and old line sorority) we would propose a reduction in dues for the frat brothers.

I needed to be there, and in fact, was obligated to be there. I was elected President, it was my responsibility, and they paid me for it in free room and board.

Seemed pretty easy and simple to me.

I explained to Marty why I would need to miss the MCM meeting tonight.

Not only that but after the chapter meeting I simply HAD to hit the books- I missed a study group last night and that spelled danger.

Going to engineering school, at least for me, was like riding a bike at 20 mph just in front of a giant steam roller moving at the same speed. Everything was fine as long as you pedaled like mad. But slow down or stop and you would be run over and crushed. And I could feel the steam roller gaining ground on me. For I had studied little in the last two weeks due to all of my MCM activities.

A new look appeared on Marty’s face that I had not seen yet.

I am struggling now to describe it, so here goes: it was irritation combined with an attempt to soften it into compassion.

I mean, his face said, “You are irritating me,” but the tone of his voice was all compassion, sugar and honey.

“Well Tik, I understand what you have in front of you tonight, but this is a really critical time for your Christian growth and walk with the Lord. You are a baby Christian and babies need lots of feeding. It would be a real mistake for you not come to the service tonight. Besides there are at least seven sheep now from your frat, if you don’t come they probably will not come either.”

I really did want to be at MCM tonight and to hear what this new Prophet was going to say to us on behalf of God.

I wanted to this more than anything.

But there were lots of things that I wanted to do in my life, but did not do them, because of other things I was committed to; things I was both ethically and morally committed to do.

But Maranatha did have one thing right.

I was a man-pleaser and did not like to let people down. Now I was torn, do I let my new Shepherd down or my frat?

But what about my studies?. I simply had to study at least three hours or so tonight, say from 8-11 pm…and then I remembered that I was committed to Mike’s prayer group the next morning at 6am.

My heart sank.

“Look Tik, God looks at our heart and our actions. If you are truly committed to him then His things must come first. That is the difference between overcomers and watered down make believe Christians,” Mike intoned.

That decided it for me.

I would see if JD our frat VP would cover for me this one night. Then I would leave as soon as the service was over at 8:30 pm for the engineering library to crack the books.

“Don’t worry about me, ” I told Marty. “I’ll be there tonight.”

At the frat house I looked for J.D. our Vice President.

As I have told you we were NOT friends. He had run for President against me last spring.

I won becoming the first junior President of the frat. As a consolation prize he  was elected Vice President. He continually second guessed me at the frat, I understood why, it must have been hard to have someone with less experience running “his” fraternity.

Now I would have to tell him I would miss my first business meeting which only occurred once per month.

As luck would have it JD was in Mom’s room. Mom was also graduate instructor for Dr. Carl. And Dr. Carl, who you have already met, if you have made it this far, was a not only a prof. for two of my classes this quarter, but was also my student advisor.

Small world, huh?

Looking back on it Mom did a good job of looking out for us and trying his best to keep a bunch of 20 year old males in line and from burning the house down.

Last year one of our guys had gotten some bad grades and decided to drop out and go to work for the Power Company. Mom had escorted him down to the Dean’s office and “un-dropped him out”.

The kid was still in school.

Mom and J.D looked up as I walked into Mom’s room.

“What’s up Tikie?” Mom yelled.

J.D said nothing to me. He seemed to concentrating on blowing smoke rings with a lit cigar that was hanging from his mouth.

“Well I was actually looking for JD to see if he could cover for me in the chapter meeting tonight.”

Mom’s red eyebrows cocked up and JD momentarily forgot about the smoke signals he was trying to send.

“Got an emergency Tik?” Mom asked.

It was unusual for the president to miss a chapter meeting much less the monthly business meeting. I had missed last week’s chapter meeting and had gotten a little grief from the frat members because of this.

And now I stood there telling them I was going to miss two in a row including tonight’s business meeting.

I stood there trying to figure out what to tell them…then Bob’s admonition came to my mind that, “Jesus said don’t hide your light under a bushel,” sounded in my head.

So I said, “I promised some guys I would attend a church service tonight.”

“But I was sure that Chris’ study (Chris head of BSU) did not start until 8:00 pm on tonight,” “Mom” said. “Our business meeting starts at 7:00 pm and we will be finished by at least 8:00 pm.”

Chris of BSU and “Mom” were allies but not friends.

Neither really approved of the other, but “Mom” saw Chris as a restraining influence on us and Chris appreciated the fact that “Mom” really tried to look out for our welfare, well at least as he saw fit to.

JD was silent; watching me as he puffed his cigar. Had he spoken to Sheila about what and who I was involved with? I knew they were friends.

“No,” I said, “it is not a BSU function; it is a new ministry called Maranatha.”

“You mean that guy that was here with the band a while ago  who was yelling and screaming like some two-bit carney?” JD asked.

I nodded.

Mom laughed, “You are a grown man Tik, at least you ought to be one. You really have an obligation to be here at this chapter meeting, for God’s sake you are the guy in charge here.”

“Sorry guys, I made a promise.”

“Bullshit Tik!” said JD. “You made a promise first to the frat.”

“I know JD,” I said, “but that was before I made a commitment to put Jesus above everything else; to commit myself to him like the early Christians did.”

Mom twisted his red mustache.

“Tik everyone knows you are a straight arrow religious guy.”

Mom continued, “You know I don’t go for that crap; but I have never given you a hard time about it! You go to Rat’s and Chris’s studies almost every week and are at Sunday School every Sunday morning. For Pete’s sake what is so special and urgent about tonight’s church meeting?’

“Look,” I said standing up,”I realized I was a lukewarm Christian and have to take a radical stand for Jesus. He died for me so the least I can do is to put Him first.”

JD waved his hand at me.

“Cut the preaching Tik, alright? I don’t need it and I am not going to listen to it. So stop it. I am going to cover for you, okay? But what do you want me to tell the brothers? Huh? ”

“Tell them truth,” I said.

“You really want me to tell them that you have cracked up?” snorted JD. He walked out of the room in disgust.

I started to leave.

“Wait a minute Tik, have a seat,” said “Mom.

“What in the hell’s gotten into you Tik?,”  asked Mom. “I can’t remember you missing more than one or two chapter meetings since you were initiated as a frosh over two years ago. Now you have missed two straight. What is going on with you?”

“Don’t push me Mom I made a commitment to go!”

I caught myself, I was almost yelling. Mom continued to stroke his mustache.

“Tik- who is this group that you have gotten yourself involved with?”

“They are committed Christians, that’s all .”

I turned and walked out of Mom’s room and went down the hall to the door to my room.

As I put the key in the lock I looked down the hall and there was Mom, standing in his doorway, stroking his mustache and looking at me.

That evening was Bob’s last night to preach, at least for a while.

The Band was in great form and I ended up talking to Becky, the little sister who had broken down at the frat house. She was on fire for Jesus!

The service broke up around 8:45 pm and I reached for my backpack. I was planning on heading to the engineering lab to try to catch up on my studies.

All of the sudden Sam and Marty were by my side.

“Brother, we were so glad to see you here. I know that God will really bless you for your commitment tonight. We are going to be doing a study with a young man who is on the verge of making Jesus Lord and we would like you to sit with us, to give him your testimony and perspective on the study.’

“Will you help us Bro?”

What could I say? They had sacrificed last evening for me, so I would do the same for this new kid. Isn’t that what Jesus would have wanted?

I stuffed my back pack under my chair and went upstairs with Sam and a blond-haired kid who looked like he was 12 years old.

I was excited. I was going to help Marty and Sam bear fruit for the Lord.

My engineering studies would have to wait yet one more night.

#17 A Completely New Family

Saturday October 1978

The crowd in the stadium rose as one and cheered, “Waaarr EEAAAGLE!” as Auburn scored a touchdown.

But at that moment my mind was on other matters.

First, there was my problem with Sheila. She had called me to make peace after our blow up about who was, and was not, a Christian… and to talk about my involvement in Maranatha.

To seal that peace, and because, well, I missed seeing her, I had made a non-date  date with her to go to the football game. Now I had done something really rude to a very good friend. I stood her up and left her hanging at the frat house for at least an hour by herself.

I felt bad about this, well, at least part of me did.

But that part of me that felt bad, the part that was ruminating on how in the world I could have done such a thing to a good friend, was being challenged by someone else.

A new comer.

The new comer that had been forming in me over the last seven days. A soon to be tyranical new comer that I gladly welcomed in to my head, my heart and my soul; that I happily fed, watered and eventually, as you will see, let take over every aspect of my life.

The new comer, the other part of me, that was saying, “The Kingdom must come first” and the one reciting Marty and Bob’s words about being an, “Over-coming Christian and setting an example for the Body.”

I thought, “All this-worldly stuff, ALL of it is of no consequence. My luke warm Christian and heathen friends in the fraternity are not of God. The dead Christian groups like CCC and BSU that never bore fruit are nothing but fronted social clubs.”

I glanced around at the screaming football fans and the revelry taking place in the stadium; all of this was temporal, I thought, while the Kingdom was permanent.

These eternal things were what the only  important things, or so I told myself.

Or was it this “newcomer”, the “new” Tik, that was thinking this?

“I should get away from this debauchery ….especially since God has picked me out for leadership,” I thought.

Isn’t that what Jesus would do, separate himself from the sinful stuff and the drunken harlots and whore-mongers?

And that new  part of me, the part that was on fire for Jesus, the part that was totally committed, the part that saw problems with watered down Christianity; well, this new part of me was shoving the old Tik into the same small closet that held some of the weird doctrines and practices that I had seen so far during my involvement in Maranatha.

Now to be fair I was NOT thinking in those terms.

Well, not exactly.

But I certainly was experiencing what sociologists, including cult experts like Janha Lalich, term cognitive dissonance, which apparently all sociological cult members seem to experience to some degree. Cognitive dissonance seems to occur frequently with those who are just moving into such a sociological cult (I will speak to cognitive dissonance and how individuals are assimilated into such groups later on).

But now my thoughts now focused on what MCM termed the old man versus the new man I was becoming; as I sat silent among the throngs cheering and screaming fans around me.

In fact Maranatha (Marty, Bob, Randy and Sam, thus far) had actually told me that the old man might try to come back. For sure Baptism in Faith and the  Baptism of Fire in the Holy Spirit would help prevent that the return of that dead old man.

But I was warned to stay away from that old man- the old Tik. The old Tik had been cut away and buried in Baptism. I must not, “Let him drag himself out of the grave” (an actual quote and teaching of MCM).

Isn’t that what Bob and Marty had told me to do?

That I was to, “Mortify the flesh, to kill the old man daily and let the new man come to life?”

Isn’t that that was what discipleship and total commitment to Jesus and His Body required?

The shepherds over us, I had been told, were to help discipline us in our walk with Jesus. They held us accountable for staying close to God, for watching over our spiritual well being, and, to help us keep the old man, and our former life, in the grave where Water Baptism had put him.

Friday night (the night prior) during my brief chastisement session Marty read the following verse to me: “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool that repeats his folly.”

I looked around me at the hundred fifty plus frat brothers, dates and little sisters of the frat. Some were drunk, most were yelling and cheering. Thousands of people moved their shakers in clockwork rhythm as they yelled, screamed and hugged each other. It seemed to me, at least, that I was the only one in the whole crowd not in this worldly groove, if you will.

Despite this was I like the dog Marty had spoken of last night that was returning to it’s vomit?

Were the frat activities and all of this worldly stuff going on at the game the vomit that Marty and the Bible spoke about?

How about Sheila?

I knew in my heart that Sheila had rejected Maranatha, despite our effort to patch things up on the phone.

We were good friends. I did not like the term just friends because it implied a diminution of our relationship. But where did Sheila, my friend, fit in with God’s plan if she were not going to be an over comer?

Where did any of my old friends fit in?

A mere seven days into Maranatha and I had already categorized people as either old friends or my new friends; actually these new friends were my  new family to quote Marty, Randy, and Bob.

New brothers and sisters in Jesus they were.

An eternal family of God, for me, it seemed.

In my mind I was also starting to categorize activities as either eternal and of the “kingdom or of the world; that is temporary, fleeting and sinful.

Reality broke in as Auburn intercepted a pass sending the crowd into more fits of  screaming and cheering.

I thought, “Why can’t these people scream and yell about the miracles and  the goodness of God who gives them their very breath? Sheila said she thought the Maranatha service was strange the other night, but no stranger than what is going on here with 80,000 people yelling and screaming about a zipped up ball of air.”

Then Jenny leaned over and put her head in my lap; her strawberry blonde hair now hanging down to my shins.  And then she passed out with a small sigh.

“Sorry Tik,” laughed Mom. “I think the excitement was too much for her today!”

I stood up, cradling Jenny’s head and then laid her gently down onto the vacant stadium bench seat.

“Hey Mom I just can’t get into this game.  I think I am going to head back to the frat house.”

He smiled, “Worried about Sheila, hey?”

I just nodded and headed out of the stadium to find my bike. I had dropped it in the grass outside the stadium.

I hoped it had not been stolen.

It was there where I left it, thank goodness. I got on it and started pedaling aimlessly up campus.

About five minutes later I found myself sitting on the same brick steps near the Haley Center where Sheila and I had spent many an hour talking. I just looked across the empty green common while the roar from  loudspeakers and the crowd in the stadium washed over me.

I was tossing all of the thoughts I had about God, Jesus, the world, the Kingdom, my old life. my old friends and new-found family around and around in my head.

Suddenly something snapped inside of me. I jumped on my bike and sped to the Hill, and Sheila’s dorm, pumping my legs as hard as I could.

With a force of will the old Tik had broken his out of that partially closed closet in my mind and had taken control again.

At least for now.

Now men were not allowed into the women’s dorms with few exceptions.

But I knew that the side door by one of the patios at Sheila’s dorm was always open and it would allow me to bypass the Pinkie on guard (these were the security guards employed by Pinkerton; we called them pinkies).

I made my way up to Sheila’s room and knocked.

No answer.

I went down to the social room on that floor and got a pen and paper and then scrounged for scotch tape with no luck.

Just to think, I was on the verge of discovering post-it notes in 1978!

Oh Well.

I scribbled the following: “Sorry I was so late, I tried to find you at the frat house and the game. Please forgive me & call me! Your Friend, Tik”.

Then I scrawled at the bottom of the note.

“PS: Your are the ever BEST friend ever!”

I slid the note under the door to her room.

Back at the frat house I scrounged for some food in the walk in freezer. There was some frozen fried chicken that Annie, our cook, had put in baggies; so I threw it in the oven and watched the band for the post game frat party set up in our social room whilst I listened to the game on the radio and chugged a coke.

I was not required to come to the frat parties, the social chairman was, but it was expected that I would be there as the President.

And sure enough I was almost always was at the post game frat parties, but never took part in the hard-drinking and carousing. I just hung around and talked and occasionally got talked into a dance by one of the little sisters or Sheila.

Funny, Sheila was not a frat little sister, heck she was not even officially associated with the frat, but she usually came to our post game parties and hung out with me. We would laugh at the antics of our friends, occasionally dance and jitter-bug if we liked the song being played. By 11:30 pm, just prior to the party closing down, we would usually find ourselves sitting on the six-foot high retaining wall, at the back of the Frat parking lot, kicking our legs and talking about life.

But I could not attend the frat party tonight. Tonight was the love feast being put on for all the new brothers and sisters.

So I ambled down Magnolia Street to the Maranatha House with my potluck contribution under my arm. As I walked up the street I could see people streaming into the front door.

The stage was still in the meeting room but that morning we had put up about 20 tables seating 10 per table that morning.

The  head table on the stage where the Praise Band Equipment usually played had Bob Weiner, some visiting pastors and Mike and Missy Caulk, the Auburn Pastors seated at it, in places of honor.

Two members of the Praise Band were strumming on acoustic guitars and as I walked in  they broke into song. I saw Bob with a microphone,seated at the front table, holding it to his mouth, singing loudly into it.

That seemed quirky to me, but I shook it off and plopped down at a table where a couple had just taken a seat.

They wore the same preppy clothing, popular at that time, as I did, he with parted short hair, and she with dimples, dark hair in braids and blue sparking blue eyes that seemed to flare brightly when she smiled at me. I smiled back and before I could speak we all joined in singing with the band.

After a couple of these songs Bob Weiner stood up and said, “Praise God- this is our third week at Auburn and we are seeing a mighty revival here. It is part of the new thing that God is doing on His earth. Tonight for the first time the new Body here at Auburn will break bread together like the early Christians always did.”

He pointed us to the scripture in Acts on how the new church broke bread and fellow-shipped together routinely and weekly.

He continued “This is our new family our brothers and sisters in Christ, our adopted family because we are adopted sons of God and heirs to His Kingdom. Amen????”

There was clapping and shouting.

“Tonight we are going to enjoy some Godly music, some food and we will have about ten baptisms tonight!!! PRAISE GOD ALMIGHTY! JESUS REIGNS!,shouted Bob.

“AMEN BROTHER!!!”came a shout from the crowd and there were cheers,  applause, and stomping of feet.

Bob waited until the noise subsided.

It was a dramatic pause. Bob had/has an unbelievable sense of timing; of how to build a story; of how to build drama when he spoke…even into the announcements like this. During this pause, and as the room grew silent, his face showed keen anticipation.

I found that the anticipation of what he was about so say growing in me as well.

“… and on Sunday night, after our blow out Sunday Morning Worship Service tomorrow morning, I will be speaking on an extremely important topic, a true revelation from God, that will prevent the hurt and injury that we see today in the world. You see God’s church, the Body of Christ, is called to be different in every way from the world. For those of you who have made a commitment to Jesus, that are committed to being radical over-comers,  you simply will not want to miss this session on Sunday night.”

“What is he going to be speaking about? What could be so revolutionary?” I wondered.

“…tomorrow night I will be speaking on God’s perfect choice and his plan for your life and you life-mate. It is an exciting topic and a plan that God has given to us, His Church and His Apostles in this end time. I will show you how God intends to bring brothers and sister together into holy and noble marriage with none of the hurts and the scars that the world leaves people in the sinful and lustful dating game that the world plays!”

“Amen?” he shouted and cupped his hand to his ear.

“Amen!” we all shouted back in unison.

“Wonder what in the world all that stuff was about?” I thought.

After getting through the pot luck line with a plate of food I sat back down at the table next to the young couple.

“We have been watching you at the services since last Sunday night,” said the girl. She introduced herself as Allie.

“This is my husband Matt.”

“You seem so on fire so alive to Jesus,” she said as she tore off  a piece of bread from her plate and popped it into her mouth.

It was a very nice compliment she gave me, I thought, and I liked hearing it.

It turned out that Allie was in nursing school and Matt was completing his master’s degree in sociology, or something like that. Although Allie was only one year older than me, and Matt four years older; their maturity levels, both as people, and as Christians, were much, much higher than mine.

They had both come from a charismatic Christian church in Montgomery and were dissatisfied with their walk and what they saw in the commitment to Jesus by other members in that church.

We spent the entire dinner talking about Jesus and what He was doing and the gifts of the Spirit and our mutual radical commitment to Him.

It was evident that they were far better versed in scripture and had a much deeper walk with the Lord than I did; this despite my constant attendance at the Baptist church and Bible studies on Campus over the past two years.

I did not know it then but Matt and Allie were to become my surrogate parents, at least that is the way I saw them, over the next three years while I was at Auburn.

They were  to become refuge for me at Maranatha when my “shepherds’ started whacking out and going nuts. Which happened often I would soon find out.

Matt and Allie were sincere and humble with a true desire to know God. Like others, including me, they were being sucked into a machine that did not reward humbleness, piety, or a servant’s spirit.

Ultimately, like almost all of us, who found their way to MCM, they ended up paying the price in hurts and scars and torments. Those who were the most sincere, the most devout, and humble ultimately paid a greater price in the arrogant and controlling atmosphere that Maranatha became, or actually, I think, already was.

It was also Matt and Allie who introduced me to a couple that would also have an affect on my life:

Karen and Phil Bonasso.

But all of this would come much later.

But tonight was simply was a night of fellowship and fun all centered on the Bible, and Jesus and Maranatha.

Matt introduced me to Mike and Missy Caulk (their real names are used with their permission) the new pastors at Auburn. I did not mention to Mike Caulk that I had met him earlier that week. I did not think he would remember that encounter.

During my conversation with Mike Caulk I learned he was an ex-Marine and had been quarterback for the Marine Corps football team. He seemed like a very personable and genuinely funny guy.

I immediately liked him. I was glad he was going to be our Pastor.

Throughout our conversation, however, which lasted about ten minutes, I noticed that Mike Caulk’s eyes would periodically follow Bob around the room. I could not put my finger on it, but it seemed that Mike Caulk, a big striking muscular guy, a handsome looking guy with a face a sculptor would love, was in awe of, and, it seemed to me, intimidated by, Bob Weiner. Mike watched Bob like a dog would watch a harsh master intent on the master’s every move and awaiting the inevitable punishment.

At the end of the service Bob called Mike and Missy Caulk up to the stage.

“Now,” Bob said, “I am going to be here preaching at Auburn only two more nights more, at least for right now”

There was a groan from the crowd and shouts of “stay longer and don’t leave.”

“Now, now,” said Bob, “it is God that is doing the things here..I am just sowing the seeds. Trust me I will be back and keep tabs on things here!”

And he laughed.

“Next week you are going to have a real treat in store. You see I am the evangelist that lays the ground work that gets the Ministry going; the one ploughs up the earth and plants the seeds. But starting Monday the person who will water and tend the soil is coming.  A person who will help build up this work into the mighty fortress of God.”

He paused.

“The man who is coming has a deep and passionate understanding of God. He is a true and real prophet of God in these last days: his name is Joe Smith. He is anointed by God and will be a true blessing to all of you. He will prophesy over you and change your lives.”

Then he looked at Mike and Missy Caulk.

“Now of course,” he continued,” these are your pastors Mike and Missy Caulk who are coming from Oxford, MS to lead this ministry. Praise God!”

And with that he waved Mike and Missy to stand up.

There was shouting and whooping like at the football game this afternoon. Then Bob said something really odd, something I thought strange at the time; something that has stuck with me verbatim some thirty years later.

He said, “We are counting on Mike and Missy Caulk to make this place grow, we have invested a lot of time and money in this ministry…. and they had better not mess it up!

I may be disremembering (is that a word??? If not it should be!) some twenty-seven years later, but the entire place seemed to let out an audible gasp, at least I am sure that I did.

Both Mike and Missy had a stunned expression on their face.

Bob seemed oblivious to all of this and yelled out: “Let’s close with the song ‘what a mighty God we serve’! And tomorrow morning invite all of your friends for I will be preaching on the mighty blood of Jesus!”

I stayed for another hour talking with Matt and Allie and visiting with Mike Caulk.

As I walked back up “mag” towards my frat house I thought, “What a great family I have become part of.”

Maranatha would become my complete and total “family”, in almost every sense, over the next five years.

And I would come to learn, in time, that this “family” was also completely and totally dysfunctional.