#57 A Siren Song

“Square in your ship’s path are Sirens, crying 
beauty to bewitch men coasting by; 
woe to the innocent who hears that sound…
…the Sirens will sing his mind away 
on their sweet meadow lolling. There are bones 
of dead men rotting in a pile beside them 
and flayed skins shrivel around the spot. 
Steer wide; 
keep well to seaward; plug your oarsmen’s ears 
with beeswax kneaded soft; none of the rest 
should ever hear that song.”  Homer, writing of the fabled Sirens in the Odyssey

A Siren Call

[Editor’s Note: Phil  Bonasso went to University of Southern California in MCM’s so called “great send out” and established what became the largest MCM site on the west coast of the US. Later after MCM imploded he, along with Rice Broocks, Steve Murrell, and Greg Ball, founded Morning Star International (MSI) which later became Every Nation Church (EN). Amid allegations of financial misconduct and moral failings in the  churches he oversaw, Phil resigned from EN a short time after Tikie published his original posts. He is now listed as a missionary of Bethel World Outreach (BWO) and is pastor of a church in Los Angeles CA called Story Teller Church.  Although it is not clear from BWO’s website, Rice Broocks, an Ex MCM Pastor, is the Bishop of BWO and is on the board of Every Nation Church. BWO is apparently nested within Every Nation churches.]

1983

I picked the phone up on the second ring.

“Hello?”

B-R-O-T-H-E-R … TICKIE!…ohhhh it is so goooood to hear you s-p-e-a-k,” said a familiar baritone voice.

The unmistakable sound of Phil Bonasso’s voice came rumbling through the telephone handset. Phil had headed to USC in the great send out and was enjoying great success there.

I did not say anything. I had not spoken to a “MCMer” in over twelve months.

“Tikie, b-r-o-t-h-e-r”, he rolled the “r” in an almost Spanish way, “are you there???…is that you…?”

What in the world was Phil calling me for? Well, time to find out, I guessed.

“Yeah Phil, it’s me…it’s Tikie here…”

“Hey Bro…just calling to tell you I miss you…Karen and I have been thinking of you and p-r-a-y-i-n-g for you brother. How A-R-E you doing?”

I clipped my words “Fine, Phil, I am fine.”

“Look Bro, I know that things have been hard, and some unfair things have been said about you Tikie. I don’t believe any of the stuff I heard. I know your heart….,” he paused, “…And I know God’s anointing on you Tikie. I truly do. GLORY!”

I stiffened, all of his MCM jargon was grating on me, but I determined that I would be unfailingly polite, and besides, MCM was still tugging at me, believe it or not. I had gone into a black hole with regards to news of my old friends, and as far as I knew, Bob Weiner and the Pope were getting married next week.

Maybe Phil could give me some news about what was up with everyone.

And it was actually good to hear his voice. It was comforting in an odd sort of way.

“Thanks Phil, it was no big deal actually,” I lied, “I just needed to get out of MCM… to get away. The things I saw, they were just not right and I could no longer support them.”

The memories that I worked daily to keep out of my head were now back with Phil’s call, invading my brain and constricting my breathing. It was funny I would go days without thinking about MCM, then I would see a Bible, or cut on a Christian radio station by mistake, or see something that triggered the memories.

Good or bad memories, it did not matter, they all seem to hurt my head, paralyze me, and bring tears to my eyes.

That was why I liked work…it helped me block out all of that stuff, especially the memories.

“Of course Tikie, of course,” he purred into the phone. “There are some things that ARE bad, that we are working to… well, to change and clear up. I am leading this effort…” his voice dropped to a whisper, “from the inside Tikie…from the inside.”

“Great Phil, that is great,” my voice dead panned.

”I know you are hurt Tikie; sure I do. I feel it. I hurt with you Tikie; but I think about you Tikie. I think about what God will do here on earth. Could do…through you.”

“Guess what Tikie?”

“What Phil?”

“Jesus has appeared to me three straight nights in a dream…really…it is getting where I am afraid to go to sleep, really I am.”

“Uh huh,” I grunted.

“And do you know what He said to me Tikie? Can you guess what Jesus said?”

Sweat started beading on my forehead.

“What Phil, what did Jesus say to you?”

“He told me to call you Tikie. To get on the phone and call you. I have resisted it Tikie, because I KNOW you are hurting…but the L-O-R-D told me to call you.”

I was really sweating now. This stuff still had an effect on me and it surprised me that I was reacting to it.

“Tikie, you know God has his hand on you. You KNOW he does. And the reasons you left, I KNOW about, I know WHY. You saw the bad stuff, I heard about Nick and all that, and I know you burnt out, and I know that Bob had, well, beaten you up. Bob can be unthinking, we all know that. But Tikie, B-R-O-T-H-E-R- we are doing a different thing out here on the West Coast. We are building something new…”

I said nothing but maintained my death grip on the phone.

He continued, “Something that will do away with the BAD things and KEEP the good things. The GOOD things that we both saw, and loved, when we got into MCM and the work of His Kingdom.”

“Look Phil, thanks but no thanks, I am through with MCM.”

“So am I Tikie, so am I. I mean, God is changing MCM, we are doing things differently like I said.”

Phil continued “A few of us have talked, the good guys. You know, Greg, Phil, Jim, Rice and others. You know Roger [my former frat brother], you love him, you guys are buds. Roger is my right hand guy, he is. It is all sweetness here Tikie, no condemnation, we don’t allow those hard-core guys to meddle with us. No Nick out here…. NO Joe Smith, I told Joe and Nick STAY AWAY. And you know when I say things I stand by them…you know that Tikie! You DO know that!”

I kept listening.

”And Greg, why he was out here last month, he and Helen; well we were talking about you… we ALL were…the fact that none of us reached out to you…well shame on us is what I say. Shame on us! Shame on me!…Shame on everyone!…we should all repent and I am repenting now…it was a b-a-d thing, it was, but we will make it right, we can, you know Tikie, you and me, we can make it right B-R-O-T-H-E-R!”

Phil, thanks for the apology and it is great talking to you.”

This was starting to scare the hell out of me and my hand holding the telephone was now shaking. I had to get off this call.

Quickly.

“Hold on Tikie hold on for just another minute my friend. LISTEN TO ME and see if you bear witness, to that small still voice, no pressure on you…none W-H-A-T-S-O-E-V-E-R.”

“Look…you come out here, I’ll front the airline ticket, no obligation. None. You move in with me and Karen– we have a nice place with a pool. You will love it. We will study the word, just me and you…no Bob, no Joe, no Nick. I don’t like that guy. Never had. He is a bully. It is sunny out here Tik. Southern California. Beautiful. I have this place on auto pilot Tik. I do. God does ALL the work. And we will get into the WORD and God will start his work in both of us…just me and you …and Jesus… we can do anything with Him…we can build it our way…the way God intended it. We will learn from each other we will. None of this MCM junk…Tik…you can just preach the word, no counseling, no discipling…Roger and me…we are doing a different thing here with Jesus and we are going to change all of MCM. God is going to do it through us!”

Well I listened to this stuff for about ten minutes. And it almost gave me flashbacks… and there was a small part of me that was saying “hmmm… just preaching…just the word… just me and Phil, hmmm.”

But I sissy slapped that thought down after about ten seconds.

“No thanks Phil. I do want you to know that it was nice of you to call and please tell Karen and Roger hello for me.”

“Don’t say no Tikie…pray about it first. Okay, you pray about it and call me back, promise?”

“Okay Phil, thanks again for calling.”

That was the first and only time I spoke with Phil post MCM.

*****************
You can draw your own conclusions about why Phil called and his motives for doing so.

The conversation unsettled me that is for sure. My clothes had soaked through with sweat during that fifteen minute call.

Unsettling for me because for a minute or two it sounded good…everything once again wrapped up in a pretty bow, neat and settled, good vs. evil, working for the kingdom, a purpose for my life that involved a higher calling. And for that reason Phil’s call probably scared me more than the call I had with Joe Smith when I had tried to reach Matt and Allie.

For it made me realize just how weak and pathetic I was some twelve months after leaving MCM.

 

 

#54 No Where To Turn

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer , Lutheran Pastor and Nazi resistor, who perished in a concentration camp.

For two days I sat in my room. I did drink some water. But I went another two days without eating a thing. The thought of eating made me sick.

Then I had a good thought. I knew someone who could help me.

Matt and Allie.

They protected me in the early days of MCM. Matt had set me free, without meaning to, by his lack of hootahing craziness and by taking me into the Auburn band. They were my best friends in the world.

Possibly the only friends I had.

So I picked up the phone and dialed their apartment in the Maranatha House at Auburn where they served as full time pastors.

“Please Dear God, let Matt or Allie answer.”

“Hello?”

Matt’s soft Alabama accented voice came on the line.

“Matt, it’s me Tikie.”

“Tikie, what in the world is going on with you? I heard from Jim that you bolted. They called here wanting to see if you were going to show up. Where are you?’

”I am home, with my folks Matt, I can’t take it…and of all people I am sure you know why.”

A pause and then a  subtle change came into in Matt’s tone. I could not pinpoint what was going on but his voice sounded strained.

”I am concerned about you big time brother. About your salvation and your soul.”

”What????” I thought, “This does not sound like Matt, not the Matt I know.”

He used MCM goobeldy gook, and, unlike me, Matt had never used that language. In fact, he and Miltie had running joke about it and would imitate Marty’s use of that double speak.

My radar went up immediately.

Perhaps I had upset Matt by my snub of him at the recent leadership conferences and MLTS.

“C’mon Matt, don’t give me that junk. You and I both know that this thing is rancid. It’s wrong. You and Allie of all people; why you knew it before I did, and I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW THAT! So don’t give me that MCM official jive!”

“You are wrong Tikie… you need to come down here to Auburn or get to Gainesville…brother you need help…,”he paused.

Strange… it seemed someone was talking in his ear.Telling him what to say. Surely Allie was not feeding this junk. Other than Mitlie, Matt was the one guy I could be real with.  I always felt could take off the MCM mask, with no fear, in front of him.

“Matt, I am not getting anywhere near those people. Sure I’ll come see you, but we have to talk now Matt. What I have seen over the last ten months has sickened me. I should have seen it sooner or recognized it sooner, or admitted I was a stupid dupe.  I know you guys can help me… maybe we can help each other!”

Nothing on the other end…then this, “Tikie, you need to know that Joe Smith is here at Auburn, in fact he is standing beside me and wants to talk to you.”

My heart dropped and my knees buckled. This was unbelievable.

I called my best, and possibly only, friend in the world to honestly talk things over, and I get a one on one counseling session with Joe Smith instead.

The other guy with the flashlight in my nightmare was now going to counsel me.

“Tikie, what’s gotten into you son?” It was Joe Smith, Kentucky twang and all.

“You know better than just to run off without telling anyone what you are doing and where you are going. Satan is after you son…you just get in that car and drive on down to Auburn. You are in serious trouble and you need help NOW!”

I could sense the tension in Joe’s voice and the anger.

“But Joe…” I started.

“Tik, Tik… Tik- now you listen to me- Satan is grabbing you- I want you to down here now.”

I crouched down on my knees, the phone cradled against my ear, straining the cord and almost pulling it out of the wall. Tears streamed down my face and my stomach felt like someone was kicking me there, hard.

The voice on the other continued in that deep baritone twang, “Tik, I am very, very fearful for your eternal salvation and for your soul,” he said.

He was speaking as the official prophet and second in command of MCM.

“If you leave the ministry I will tell you that there is almost a 100% chance that you will backslide into sin, but there is an even more serious matter that concerns me.”

I grunted, and had now fallen almost face down into the shag carpet in my parents’ family room.

“The Bible,” Joe continued with his deep voice now taking on the tone of Gospel preaching, “says that it is better to have a millstone tied around your neck and to be thrown into the sea than to lead the little ones astray. When you moved into full-time ministry, Tik, you became a leader with great responsibility. If you leave Maranatha it could cause those you are shepherding to lose their faith and then their blood will be on your hands! And you will be cut off from the both the vine and your spiritual family and in turn be thrown onto the fires of hell!”

“Tik you not only will damn yourself but you could put other souls in jeopardy. A dog returns to its vomit; just remember what I am telling you and don’t say you have not been warned. I am giving you one last chance here and then I am turning you over to Satan.”

That was code for telling everyone to turn their backs on me at MCM, and believe it or not I knew that it meant that many in the ministry would pray against me, pray that God would break me, show me the evil of my ways, literally pray for my failure so that I would return beaten and defeated back to MCM.

But at least in that case I would have my mortal soul back, if nothing else.

“I have made my mind up Joe. I cannot be part of MCM any longer not as a brother, a member, certainly not as a pastor. It may have started with good intentions…but MCM has gone bad.”

“Fine Tik. Fine. You have made your bed, now sleep in it.”

And this time I got hung up on.

I was doomed.

I could not get up. My Mom found me laying on their carpet still crying about an hour later. She called my Dad and they were making noises about taking me to the hospital, but I managed to get myself back together enough to talk them out of that.

Nothing mattered to me, my life’s purpose was not only over, but my purpose had been an evil thing.

But at least I wasn’t part of hurting anyone anymore. I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling.

I had said a simple sincere prayer the night of the blizzard.

But had Christ answered my prayer that night, or had Satan?

Or had I just been talking to myself?

**********

[Note the following is based on e-mail exchanges between Matt and Tik in 2006]

Auburn- at the same time- in Matt and Allie’s Pastor’s apartment in the Maranatha House: Auburn Alabama

Tikie, on a personal note, it was one of the lowest days in my history with MCM. Joe Smith had been ‘counseling’ with us all that day–delving into areas that he really had no business, like a physic does, suggesting things as to why Auburn was failing. What was wrong with us and our faith. He had been there for three days and I was whipped.

And then you called.

Oh, and another thing…my tone ‘might’ have been simply to try and prove myself in front of him, but I can’t honestly say I would have changed my response had Joe Smith not been there. I was in, as you said, hook, line and sinker.

So we sit there listening to Joe talking to you- really coming down on you hard. Allie and I vividly remember is him interrupting you every time you started to talk with …..”TIK..TIK……TIK!…TIK!…. he simply wouldn’t let you talk. I remember us cutting our eyes at one another, just silent, listening to our friend get chewed up.

Finally Joe hangs up the telephone, turns to us, and says about our best friend, Tikie, a guy who has given five years  to MCM, “Well, we now wash our hands of him and give him over to Satan. I don’t want you two having any contact with Tik. He is cut off from us now. He has made his choice… Now, Allie why don’t we go out and get a bite to eat and save you some work in the kitchen?”

The whole incident shows the pure intimidation factor of Joe Smith, he had us both by the throat and knew it.

That was the turning point for us, for late that night Allie said to me “Matt this thing is wrong and we have to get out.”

Well, Bill McCaig was a visiting speaker and ‘felt the call’ to take over. The Auburn ministry chewed him up and spit him out in a matter of weeks. Allie and I packed all our belongings and headed to Ann Arbor to be part of Mike and Missy’s fellowship. Little did I know, it would be the long journey that would eventually settle us back in Alabama, 50 miles from Auburn, but one million miles from MCM.

#53 A Drowning Life Guard

“Tikie, it is hard for a drowning man to be a life guard.” Mike Caulk, former MCM Pastor in an email to Tikie, dated 2006, comforting him on his guilt in  being unable to get his converts out of MCM when he walked away in 1982.

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

I could see them running down the dark hallway with huge torch-flashlights in their hands. Bob Weiner and Joe Smith were looking for me.

Bob pointed in my direction with his handheld light and called to Joe, “There he goes… that way!”

I took off running to my left, turning onto another darkened hall that ran at right angles to the one that they both hurtled down.

 I passed door after door,  I was out of breath and knew I could not keep running; for my legs ached and my lungs burned. I reached out and turned the knob on one of the doors. It opened and I stepped onto a landing at the top of a dimly lit stair case.

Peering over the side of the stairs I could see, below me, another door marked with a flickering EXIT sign.  

Excellent!  I could still get out. Pounding down the stairs I heard the door at the top of the landing swing open.

“I see him!” shouted Bob as the beam of his flashlight swept the stairs I was hustling down.

“Tik Tok you better stop running, your soul is in mortal danger!” I heard Joe’s bass voice boom above me.

My hand hit the knob on the exit door and I turned it, hard. But it would not budge. I heaved my entire body into the wooden door, banging my forehead against it… the wooden door was hard…very hard and uncomfortable…hard…I had to move…hard…uncomfortable…hard…

My eyes shuttered open, the wooden kitchen table top was about a quarter-inch away, and a pool of drool  seeped onto the open Safeco ledger and accounting book underneath me. I sat up and looked around. Completely quite reigned.  The only sound came from the faint hum of the electric kitchen clock on the window sill beside me.

“No wind, no rattling…the blizzard must have blown through during the night,” I thought.

I walked over to the front door of my apartment and slipped on my over boots. My nose wrinkled at the smell of burnt coffee wafting over from the still hot pot in the kitchen.

I tried to open the front door, but apparently snow jammed against it.

Then putting all my weight and strength into it I managed to wedge the door open about 18 inches. Snow came cascading into the apartment and I stepped through the open door into about 2 feet of drifting snow.

I now stood on the open steps at the front of my one bedroom apartment.

The only sound came from the light whistle of a breeze pushing over the drifts of snow that rolled out over Main Street and onto the campus about a half mile away. Ice glistened from the tops of the gabled slate roofs of the dorms. Not a soul in stirred.

My lungs and nosed crackled as I drew a deep breath of the cold air. For five minutes I stood there watching the sun break over ice  blue horizon. I did not move and don’t remember even a stray thought entering my head for a long while.

Even today, I think, because of that morning, I love brutally cold winters and blizzards. I have taught myself to skate and ski…and to me there is nothing better than skating on a New England Pond in 20 degree F temperatures with the wind at my back and no sound but the scrape, scrape, scrape of my skates and the grunt of my own breathing. That morning the cold air also refreshed me and heightened all my senses.

For I knew what I must do now.

I tell you I did not even understand completely what this action would mean, and what it would do to me, or even what the consequences, good, evil, or indifferent, were.

I simply knew that I could not keep on.

The future be damned. Suddenly I simply did not care.

And I am glad I could not reason through the chain of events I now unleashed on my insignificant life.

Could I, would I, have gone through with my resolution if I had KNOWN what was in store for me?

Now, Dear Reader, if this were a novel or a good screen play, at this point I would turn, around walk back into my apartment, and have leveled with Tikietwo.

I would have told him, “Look my friend, get the heck out of here, don’t even think about dropping out of school and let me tell you in detail why MCM is a sociological cult.”

And I would also write to you, if in a novel, about how I had an epiphany of the nature of MCM that morning and how I was free as the cardinal that I spied flitting from frost covered fir tree to fir tree.

And Tikietwo would then throw his arms around me shouting, “Thank you for saving my life Tik, you are so brave and such an example of a Godly and courageous man.”

Well, this is NOT a novel, and it is NOT a screenplay (at least not YET) and so this is NOT what happened. For life is not that simple.

Rather than looking at my departure from MCM as the Jail break from MCM by one of the gang from the Mission Impossible movie, a better analogy would be of an exhausted guy, neck-deep in muck and quick sand, who has just grabbed a thin, and not so strong, vine. And using that one vine he  has to pull his way, hand over hand, out of the pit, or drown in the gunk that is starting to pour down his nostrils.

To quote Mike Caulk, “Tikie, it is hard for a drowning man to be a life guard.” And that drowning man at this point was me.

So I walked back into the apartment, scrambled some eggs, fried some bacon,roused TikieTwo from his slumber, and fed us both breakfast.

“Look Tikietwo I think we need to give this more prayer; about you going full-time I mean. Let’s plan on talking to your folks about all this, you simply cannot drop out of school.  Your witness is desperately needed there.”

I figured that would hold him in place for a while. In the meantime I had to continue to pull on that vine and get out of the muck of MCM to save my own skin.

Then I could worry about Tikietwo.

But as you will see, I was unable to help Tikietwo.

I should have known that the MCM’s multi-layered defenses would soon kick in and label me as Satanic, a Judas, demon possessed, a liar, and a thief.

So I saw Tickietwo off that morning back to his frat house with a promise from him to make no rash decisions.

Then I  got out my $ 5.00 plastic snow shovel (lesson learned: never skimp on snow shovels) and begin the four-hour job of shoveling my car out of the parking lot.

By 2:00 pm I was ready to go and with the streets now ploughed and salted  I headed over to Jim and Dana’s (my co-pastors) house.

Jim was about half way through shoveling his drive, so I grabbed my $ $5.00 special and spent the next hour shoveling and grunting with him. Finally we were through.

“Jim, can we sit in my car for a minute. I need to talk to you.”

I did not want to go in his house, I wanted to be on my own turf and I did not want Dana involved, I really liked her, and I was afraid she could, and would, sway me from doing what I was now determined to do.

Jim gave me a puzzled look and said, “Sure,” and we got into my car.

“Jim, I can’t keep doing this. I want out, and I am getting out.”

He looked at me and said slowly, “Uh-huuuuh.”

I explained about Tikietwo and my discussion last night.

“Look brother you are just exhausted, and you are too emotionally caught up with your sheep and their traumas. I have seen this happen before. You cannot bear all of their burdens, you have to trust God. He will take care of this flock Tikie …you can’t do it all.”

“Jim, stop it alright with the pat MCM answers? It is not about the work load, it is NOT about Tickietwo, it is about EVERYTHING.”

“That is just plain silly…” Jim started to say.

But I cut right over him saying, “I mean EVERYTHING is wrong…look you are a sweetheart of a guy and you are smart too. You saw what went on when Nick was here. That is just a symptom of all of MCM. But it is even more than that, it is Bob, Joe, the whole she-bang- and what we are putting these kids through. You have been to the same staff meetings I have been to. It is about ego, pride, ambition money, and numbers; it is not about Jesus, and certainly not about God’s love.”

He smiled, “Tikie. Look, you are just worn out and I know the finances are getting to you. Let’s go inside, let Dana fix you some supper. Let’s get on the phone and call Bob. You’ll see… you are just in a funk.” He put his hand on my shoulder with a grin.

Now Jim was smart and good guy. If he had started in on that demon possession stuff I would have driven off with him in the car all the way back to Alabama. Somehow he knew that.

He a fireman trying to talk a jumper down off a ledge. And I was the jumper with no parachute.

“I don’t think so Jim. It’s over for me… really it is.”

“Now Tik, just cut that talk out. You know you will be one of the top guys at MCM. Everyone compares you to Rice or Greg.”

“Don’t you get it Jim????…I don’t WANT to be like those guys. The comparison to them makes me sick to my stomach!”

“Okay Tik, I am going to tell you something. Something Dana and I know that you don’t know. Something that we were not going to tell you for another forty-five days or so.” He cocked his head knowingly.

“We have a word for you from the elders.”

I can tell you that a feeling of doom and dread, a premonition of disaster, came over me. A dark cloud was heading over the horizon right at me and I got a sick feeling in my gut. I could taste acid in my mouth.

He leaned into me.

“Your name was submitted by a sister to the elders,” he said. Then he sat back.

He meant a sister had submitted my name to the elders for an arranged MCM marriage.

I felt like puking as bile gurgled in my throat.

“It was submitted about two months ago, and if you did not get the Word (meaning if God did not tell me) Dana and I were going to talk to you about it in March.”

I was clueless, there was not a sister that I was now attracted to anywhere in MCM, or that I had even flirted with since my infatuation with Ellen.

“I think that this whole thing is God showing you that you can’t make it without a helpmate. I certainly could not make it without Dana. You need to get married,” Jim continued.

It was true. Dana took care of everything for Jim so he could concentrate on the ministry, plus, along with our single staff sister, she handled counseling the sisters.

I shook my head. “I can tell you Jim that this is not of God, that I do not bear witness and that I am out of here… Gone!”

“The elders DO think it is God, and I think what you are going through is simply God speaking to you about your need for a helpmate. We all agree it would be a perfect fit, this sister has the gift of prophecy and she will complement your warm approach. You are simply too nice Tik, you take too much of the brother’s and the ministry’s burdens on yourself. She can help you with that and balance your personality.”

He told me her name.

I was aghast. And a light clicked on for me.

I was going to be stuck with one of the single prophetic sisters who would, “Kick me in the ass”, keep me from, Being “too nice and not tough enough,” and help hold me on the MCM reservation.

That did it. Whatever bond that held me in placed snapped. I swear I heard the thing pop in that car.

“Jim, I’m out of here…you are either coming with me or you can step out of this car. This whole thing is no good, I can’t keep inflicting this MCM crap on people. I have tried to do it differently up here… to protect the brothers from the bad stuff, but it is of no use… the whole thing is rotten. No one can fix it.”

Jim, a really nice and soft-spoken guy, a guy I liked a whole lot, and now he had a look of terror on his face.

“Don’t do it Tikie, I beg you. You will be walking out on God, walking out on the brothers that you have brought in, you will be walking out on Dana and me. Look I am a good pastor, but well, we both know that you are the guy that makes this thing spark. What about my family? This whole thing could come apart on us. You are deserting us… your family…my family…you just can’t do that.”

I was crying now, he was right, everything he said was on the money.

Jim was a great guy, his kids, seven and five years of age, called me Uncle Tikie and Dana was like an older sister. And I knew this place might flounder without me.

“Look Jim, you know MCM is rotten, I know your heart, why don’t you get out too? Let’s get the brothers and sisters at our ministry together and tell them that we are out, why we are out, and let’s go back to real-life.”

Now we were both crying.

Jim said through his tears, “God is in this Tikie, sure there are problems, but this is God’s movement and this is my family. And I will live or die with it. Don’t Tikie, please don’t… come inside, let’s talk this over, you know Dana has a great heart and head, let’s spend some time in prayer. Okay?”

I started the car.

“Jim I am loading up tonight then I am out of here as soon as possible. And that is that. Maybe I am deserting you and God, I just know I have to go, I must go, no matter what. Now get out of the car or you are coming with me, I MEAN IT!”

He opened the door and got out.

“Tikie, let me pray for you.”

“Sorry Jim, I am past being prayed for. You are a good guy…God bless you.”

I pulled out of his drive way and turned the corner and drove about a half mile and pulled the car off to the side of the road. I had to. I find it impossible to drive when crying.

I finally got control of myself. “Okay, I gotta get moving, I gotta get the hell out of here.”

It did not seem real, and I felt like I was watching a movie of myself loading my suitcases in my apartment.

I really did not have a clue about what I was going to do and where I was going. I had about $ 200 in my checking account. And because of the snow storms the banks were not shut, and I had neither a credit card or ATM.

That realization set me back. I could not leave until in the morning. I had to have some cash. I went and fueled my car with the money I had on me. When I walked back into my apartment the telephone was ringing.

I picked it up.

It was the guy with the flashlight from my dream last night.

Bob Weiner.

With a really cheery happy sounding, “Hi Tikie, brother are you doing okay?”

He sounded so NICE that he scared me. In fact I had heard Bob passionate, angry, I had heard him plead, cajole and beg. But I had never heard him sound chirpy and light hearted.

“Yeah Bob, I am doing fine. “

“Look Tik, I spoke with uh…(two second pause: was he looking at his notes?)…uh…Jim, and he tells me that you are well, thinking about leaving the ministry? Is that right?”

“That pretty much sums it up Bob, I can’t take it anymore, I don’t feel right about what we are doing…I mean what is really in this for the kids we are bringing in? I think we have lost our way somehow.”

“Now Tik, we all get in the dumps, why even I do on occasion [big laugh]. But Rose, well, she has a way of snapping me out of it. Everyone needs a break and rest…you have done great work, super work I say, why I think you have the potential to be one of our top evangelists. Joe and I both think so. Look, I want to get you out of that depressing snow for a couple of weeks. You have been working non-stop for six months. We’ll get you down to Gainesville, you know, let you kick back a little while…let you unwind and we’ll give you some good one on one ministry with Joe Smith and me. Okay? I have already ordered a first class airline ticket for you, you can fly out in the morning. It’s done, it is on HQ… okay?”

Wow, it sounded great, first class tickets, Bob himself wanting to minister to me…he sounded so warm and reassuring. And it would be good to get back to some warm weather…then I snapped to.

Bob– I appreciate the offer. Overwork is not the problem; the problems are…well the whole thing is not right. What we are doing is wrong.”

“Look Tikie,  sure the ministry needs some course corrections.  That is why we need guys like you. God has given you so much talent, don’t waste it… honor the talents He has given you.”

I would have much preferred a screaming match with Bob; this was NOT what I had expected.

He was so pleasant.  Somehow he KNEW where to go with the conversation and he was starting to reel me in. But I kept hold of the vine I was clinging to; and no matter what he said he could not convince me that the cold, muck filled, quicksand pit I was in was a nice warm swimming pool. I had seen too much, done too much, done too many bad things to others.

I had looked into the heart of the ministry and it repelled me.

Bob, sorry, I am checking out.  Call it quitting. Call it whatever you want but I am through with this thing.”

“Tikie I am really concerned about you; about…your walk… your soul…don’t walk out on God. Please…”

I had to end this thing now.

Bob, I gotta go. I’ll think about what you said but I am hanging up now.”

And I put the receiver down.

I had hung up on Bob Weiner.

I had to. I thought if I kept listening to him I would wind up on that airplane and then I would end up in Gainesville and never leave.

I slept fitfully that night. The phone rang about four times but I did not answer it. Early the next morning I called my parents.

My mother answered.

“Mama, I am calling it quits… I am coming home, is that okay?’

“Are you sure honey? You seemed so happy when we came to see you in October.”

They came just as Greg and Helen were on their way out and they had been both dazzled, and taken in, by what was going on; they were especially taken with Greg and Helen.

“Mama, I just can’t keep this up; not sure what I am going to do. Can I bunk in with you guys for a while?”

She laughed, “What a silly question, honey you have always bedroom here, now don’t ever forget that. Why don’t you come to work for Daddy?’

“No way,” I thought. But I said, “We’ll see.”

I headed across campus. I stopped by the Maranatha Hall and laid the operating manual and the Safeco Ledger and Accounting Book on the desk. Then I headed to frat row.

To TikieTwo’s frat house.

I pounded up the stairs and rapped on the door to his room.

It opened.

It was him.

“Oh, uh, hi Tik.” His normal ear to ear grin was gone.

“Hey Tikietwo, I need to talk to you. About me. I’m leaving.”

“I know, Jim and Janet (our single sister) were here last night. They told me not to talk to you; that you were in trouble… that they were trying to get you into counseling down in Gainesville. That you had fallen in sin.”

“No…that is not the case at all Tikietwo. Not at all. I should have leveled with you the other night. But I had to straighten my thinking out. C’mon, I’ll buy you breakfast. I need to help you see what is going on with me and to help you with your thinking.”

He did not move.

“I can’t talk to you Tik…not until I talk to Jim or Janet. Jim told me you might come by here and that I should have you call him if you did. Look I have to take a shower. I have an early morning lab… so… well… I’ll call you later.”

The door shut.

I walked out and sat on the steps in front of the frat house. I could make him understand I was sure…but that would have to wait. I could feel the ministry pulling at me; my own prize, Tickietwo, had literally slammed the door in my face.

What would become of me?

If I stayed and tried to reason with him I would end up talking to Jim , Dana, and Janet and I might get sucked back into MCM. Perhaps Bob was flying up here even now to meet me in person.

I did not trust myself. I had to go and go NOW.

So I headed out-of-town with my car crammed with my clothes, stuff, and every nickel of cash I had. It was eighteen hours of driving to Alabama and it seemed like it was eighteen days.

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

I pulled up to my parents’ home and before I opened the car door my mom was out of the front door and at the car. She gave me a hug.

But I didn’t hug back. It was like I was dead.

And I was.

I knew that my life was over.

I had jettisoned all my college friends pre-MCM. My high school friends were scattered all over the southeast. Everything I had given myself to over the last four and half years was in vain.

The only thing I left in my life was my kid brother, who was still at home, and my Mom and Dad.

I wasn’t hungry even though the last meal I had eaten was breakfast some forty-eight hours earlier with Tikietwo.

There was nothing to say to my parents and no answers to their questions.

For my parents did not even know what questions to ask; for they could not possibly understand what was happening to me and had happened to me.

To them it seemed that I had simply decided church work was not for me and I was going to go into engineering.

But from my view I was cast adrift and, for the first time in almost five years, I had no one telling me where to go, what to do, no mandatory prayer sessions, no calls to Gainesville, no witnessing plans, no special offerings and fundraisers, no clubs to organize, no tracts to hand out, no posters to put up all over campus, no “hootah” and counseling sessions with the brothers, no all-night prayer meetings, no sermons to be listened to or prepared; no Red, Green,Blue, Brown or Pink books to work through, no satellite MLTS meetings, no MLTS conferences, no upcoming road trips to other ministries, no earth shattering revelations or prophecies to look forward to, no certainty about life and my purpose.

No marriage or marriage partner.

No heaven.

No nothing.

Only darkness

#52 A Simple Prayer

Sometimes the simplest prayers are the best” 

Johannes Oecolampadius, the reformer of Basil, 1526

MLTS: Tulsa, Oklahoma 1982

Just after my appearance before the magistrate, we took our 120 plus kids down to MLTS, my notes are sketchy, but I think it was in Tulsa.

On the second afternoon at MLTS I was on my way to one of the workshops when I spied Nick P, Leo Lawson, and Bob Weiner heading down the hall towards me.

Bob looked up and said, “Tik come with us,” and he motioned with his arm. We sat down on some couches in an alcove. Leo, by this time, stuck to Bob like a scab on a wound. It actually reminded me of some mob figure with a body-guard.

He glared at me through slitted eyes, while Nick P leaned back with his arm draped behind Bob’s shoulder.

Nick began, “Tik, although your ministry has shown great growth in numbers we wonder about your ability to lead the ministry and to grow it financially. You have got to really develop your style and your leadership image. It is important that your flock see you in the correct light. You see you need to…”

Bob cut Nick off with his usual brashness, “Tik, you’ve got to set the pace, the brothers and sisters will only follow Jesus, the Word, and  the Ministry to the degree that you do. Let me tell you when I look around MLTS I can spot the real leaders…do you know how?”

“How”? I asked.

“Well leaders and winners congregate together; they hang out together. I mean  who is Greg Ball  hanging around with? Why with Rice [Broocks] and Dennis [Darville] that’s who… and Leo, here,” he elbowed Leo Lawson, “Leo here hangs out with Nick and with Joe [Smith] every chance he gets.”

“Okay,” I said.

I was hoping against hope Bob was not suggesting I start hanging out with Nick.

Leo looked up at me and said, “I noticed you spending time around some brothers that are struggling.”

“That guy,” Leo looked over at Bob, “you know Bob, the guy at Auburn, what’s his name?  Tik is spending a lot of time with him, what’s his name?”

“Max,” said Nick, “His name is Max Hatter.”

“Matt,” I corrected him.

“Regardless,” said Nick, “that ministry is on the skids, after being one of the strongest in the country. Even your ministry, Tik, is bringing at least 75 more people to MLTS than that one and Auburn has been around for five plus years.”

“Winners hang around winners Tik. The guys who are struggling will sow doubt in your mind, and will bring you down. You need to polish your image, okay?” and with that Bob dismissed me with a wave of his hand.

I got the message. And I turned my back on my best friends.

I am ashamed that when Matt and Allie asked if I wanted to join them for dinner that night I said, “I have plans”.

And I conveniently forgot about our usual breakfast at MLTS where we caught up and gossiped and laughed at Phil Bonasso’s latest antics to get noticed.

And at the leadership conference in Dallas two months later I walked right by an open seat next to Matt and Allie, my “old” best friends, the couple who had been my refuge at Auburn and who had made my life livable there, to take a seat next to Helen Ball while Greg opened up the session.

It was as if Matt and Allie no longer existed for me.

I knew, that Matt knew, by this time, that I was avoiding and ignoring him.

I did it so I would not be, “Brought down,” as Nick put it. So I would be seen as a winner by the MCM leadership. I closed my heart to Matt and Allie and set my face towards the leadership with my ambition to secure a place in the top ranks of MCM.

It was a terrific betrayal of their friendship and I feel my face burning as I write this.

As Matt later told me, “Allie and I thought we had lost you forever Tikie.”

*************
Blizzard- Midwest 1983
Well, all of this, that I have shared with you, was flashing through my mind as I poured a cup of coffee for “Tikietwo”, my sharpest convert, the night of that terrible blizzard in 1983.

Tiketwo cupped his hands around the steaming coffee and blew into it.

“So what made you risk your life tonight? You really have me worried traipsing over here in a blizzard,” I asked.

“I just can’t take it any more Tik,” he said. The the snow from his pants and shoes was melting, puddling on the carpet.

”The school load, the work load at my frat, the Bible Studies and witnessing. My parents were here yesterday and they have become convinced that I am in a cult and are threatening to cut me off financially.”

I continued to listen, not saying anything, stock still in my chair.

He smiled and said, “I want to be like you Tik. Nick prophesied over me that I would be a warrior and full-time for the ministry. I want to quit school. I think God is telling me to quit. I will get  a job and study full-time under you and help you with the ministry. I want to work full-time in God’s Kingdom. I am totally and radically committed to Jesus, just like you Tikie.”

I stared at him.

Did he really want to be like me?

Did he really understand what I did and went through?

I glanced over at the Safeco ledger book on my small kitchen table.

We were about two weeks away from running out of cash. Supposedly we were to pay MCM corporate back $ 800/month for the $ 10,000 seed money, but after a shouting match with Bob Weiner, Bob Nolte, and the finance guys I had gotten us a 90 day reprieve.

And here was this sharp, brilliant, good-looking guy in the palm of my hand.

He would do whatever I wanted him to do. I could probably get him to hock his late model car and throw the proceeds into our offering plate on Sunday to buy us another month of operating cash.

But unknown to him the old Tik was running amok; yelling and shouting in my head. That Tik would not go back into the closet. Not anymore. And the old Tik was asking some pretty tough questions:

“Do you want this kid dropping out of college on your conscience?’

“And if he drops out does he REALLY know what he is doing?”

“Does he REALLY WANT TO BE THE TORMENTED PERSON YOU ARE?”

And even worse were the questions like:

“Can you live with yourself if you keep sucking people into this …thing… whatever it was… whatever it has become?”

I looked at Tikietwo.

Then I said softly, “Look its late and you are exhausted. Why don’t you rack out in my bed. I have a little work to do and I’ll get some sleep on the couch. Let’s talk about all this in the morning.”

Reluctantly he agreed and thirty minutes later he was snoozing in my bed.

I sat back down at the kitchen table.

What was I doing with my life?

Was God in this? Had He ever been?

Could I continue doing what I suspected, no what I now knew, was wrong?

Could I perpetuate the lie of God’s Green Berets?

And what about this young man who trusted me…and the forty other young brothers who were looking to me for answers? What of them?

But this ministry was my life, my family, my home, MCM was everything I had.

Without MCM I was nothing.

I bowed my head.

Dear Jesus, please help me, please.”

#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.

 

#47 The Great Send Out

Editor: Tikie’s story now continues in chronological fashion. In 1981 the elders of MCM decided to take a great leap forward and double the number of MCM ministries in one year. Tikie was part of that expansion.

The Great Send Out- June 1981

Well, in 1980 all the shepherds who were labeled as having full-time potential gathered in Mike Caulk’s office.

This was a called Monday afternoon meeting and we did not know what to expect.

Matt and I thought that perhaps Mike and Missy were going to plant a new ministry, or God forbid,  an announcement  on some new crazy venture was going to be made.

Mike waited until we were all in his office and he looked around. “As you folks know I just returned from Gainesville yesterday. God has shown the elders that it is time for us to break out and to  get ready to build the Kingdom and to start moving quickly to set up the His true church.”

I glanced around; everyone listened intently to Mike’s words.

He continued, “There is an immediate need for pastors and evangelists and full-time sisters, and we have to find these at each ministry.”

Everyone started murmuring and talking: my heart leapt with anticipation.

This was it.

We had talked for three years about His kingdom coming and the great explosion of converts, and now it was actually happening.

“Well we are going to photograph all you high potential brothers and sisters (all of us gathered there). You will need to write a two page essay on your walk with Jesus, your conversion experience and what you have accomplished in the Kingdom. Also we are going to contract with the University to video tape a five-minute session of the brothers preaching on a topic of their choice. Here is the schedule, we start next Thursday and we will be filming at the campus a/v studio.”

And he handed out a schedule to the ten brothers standing there. The sisters would not audition, but would send their photos and essays to HQ.

Matt, Phil Bonasso and I were hugging and slapping each other on the backs; with Phil jabbering about the, “Great commission and the fields being white with the harvest,”…actually all three of us were doing this non-stop.

I was so excited that I could hardly sleep.

I asked myself what was Bob Weiner looking for in the video tape? He was NOT looking for a sermon on the “power of the word”.

He WAS looking for an energetic preacher who could snag a couple of hundred souls. Someone who would stand out on campus. He was looking for  the total package.

Now Marty had already cautioned me, “Don’t get your hopes up Tikie, we don’t think you are ready to be a Pastor, maybe not even an evangelist, perhaps you need to go out as a lay helper.”

Well this time Mary was correct, and I wish I had followed his lead here.

So I went to work. I picked my five-minute sermon – one that I thought that would stand out from what I figured the pack of 100 sermons on the power of the Word that would be filmed all over MCM that week.

Later in life I read where Winston Churchill used this same over-prepare and appear spontaneous approach.

In fact I have now to spoken publicly in front of hundreds of people many many times. I am not ashamed to say that I used the approach that I learned while with MCM.

We all met at the video recording studio, and unlike the other Auburn brothers, I was rehearsed. During my sermon used the same arm and hand gestures that I had seen Bob use. In fact I tried to imitate Bob’s sense of urgency as well as his intonation and it seemed to work; during my five minute sermon (MCM pablum) the other brothers and Mike Caulk were actually taking notes.

And it is the same approach I used in planting the church for MCM later on. I can assure you that some part of me was sincere about whatever message I delivered; but the overriding goal was simple: be named a Pastor and not an evangelist.

And it worked. It was canned, it appeared natural, but was unnatural, and the message tailored to create and effect that said “WOW” by those who listened. Later Bob told me that my five-minute sermonette had been among the best.

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

Six weeks later at a concave at MCM Auburn the great assignments were announced and  a huge map showing where we would be going pinned up to a wall.

Now it turned out that Mike and Missy would be leaving for Ann Arbor to plant a church.

Matt and Allie  would be heading up the Auburn Ministry after Mike and Missy left.

Phil and Karen Bonnasso and my former frat brother Roger would be going to USC in Southern California.

The Auburn ministry sent about 80% of their  brothers and sisters out to other ministries.

I would be going, as a Head Pastor, to a large midwestern university along with a couple I had never met and a single sister I knew slightly from another ministry.

Well it was a huge night for the Auburn Ministry and a festive night when the appointments and maps were put up in the main meeting room. In about 8 weeks most of us would all be heading out to our new jobs as full timers, or to temporary jobs that we would take until we went full time.

Mike Caulk announced that there would be a boot camp in Gainesville for all new pastors in about seven weeks and I would be attending that class.

***********

The afternoon our assignments were announced I stopped by to visit with Dr. Carl, my advisor and professor in engineering school, and to show him the latest iteration on the senior design project I had slaved over.

“Well Mr. Tok, you must be pretty happy about this- you pulled yourself out of your slump and you are going to finish up with just above a B average. I think you were capable of better…but not bad, not bad after the slump you went into.”

I grinned, a not bad from Dr. Carl was like anyone else doing cartwheels in front of me.

“How did your interviews go?” he asked.

I had snagged six interviews for jobs: one with a major oil company (this at the height of the energy crisis of the early 1980s) two with Gulf explorations companies, and one with a huge multi-national company as part of their nuclear power development program.

It was pretty exciting and thanks to Dr. Carl’s prep for the interviews and his rigorous instruction over the last three years I had landed four offers for more money than I could imagine.

I paused…,”Well Dr. Carl I have four offers…”

“Very good Mr. Tok- who are you going with? Wow- to be twenty one again and have the world by the tail!”

His face framed by his long hair broke into a broad grin.

“…but…” I continued, “…I have decided to turn them all down…”

Before I could finish he broke in and his face widened to a true smile, “Great! That’s great; so are you going to take Dr. Jenkins and me up on the masters offer?’

They had approached me a month ago about a teaching assistant job, it paid a pittance but it came complete with free tuition and fees for a master’s degree in engineering at Auburn.

I am sure if the MCM “Great Send Out” had not occurred I would have stayed in Auburn with MCM and done this two-year gig, gotten my masters and my life now would now be completely different.

“Uh …no…,” I answered.

He sat up and peered at me through his long bangs.

“Then what are you doing?”

“Well, you know this group I am with?”

“Look Mr. Tok, this group, I know all about it because Mr. XXXX (he meant “Mom” our frat RA and the engineering graduate assistant who had left last year with his masters) was aghast at your involvement with it. Although I never mentioned it I was pretty sure that these people were responsible for both your financial and academic problems three years ago. So what are you going to be doing with them?”

“Well, I am going to be a full time worker for them.”

He looked at me for a full minute.

“Well, if you were my son I would give you an old-fashioned whooping right now. What a complete and utter waste of talent! Look, Mr. Tok, we all know you are a religious fanatic, it’s a free country right, but do you have to throw away all of your talent and hard work to boot?”

I looked out of the window for a moment.

The old Tik was rattling around again; making noises and whispering in my ear. What about my education, and what about the money I could earn; could I really walk away from these job offers? And what about the problems  in MCM that Miltie had spoken of and that I knew were real?

But I shook off those growing concerns.

“Dr. Carl you have been a great friend and mentor to me. But I have to do what God is telling me to do.”

”And are you SURE this is God?” he asked.

“I am sure it IS God, I am sure of it!’ I said.

But I wasn’t at all.

#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

#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.

#16 Starting to Break Away

Saturday Morning

I slept in on Saturday morning with not a dream all night, nothing.

I awoke to Jenny’s laughter in the hallway about 9:00 am. Jenny was “Mom’s” girlfriend and my room was next to Mom’s (Mom as noted was our male frat house-mother with the flaming red hair). Apparently she and “Mom” were finishing a conjugal shower that morning.

Another typical morning at my frat house.

Funny thing was, even though this was my second year living here, none of this stuff had bothered me before. Now I thought, “I can’t believe our supposed role model, our graduate student advisor, is shacking up in the house every night with his girlfriend.”

Those thoughts and feelings were starting to build inside me.

Regardless, by 9:00 am I was speeding my way to the Maranatha House on my bike with my Bible and Red Book slung over my shoulder in a backpack. Marty had mentioned last night that our MCM discipleship group was going to start working through the Red Book or Firm Foundation studies “methodically” before we went to Opelika that morning to unload the tables.

And he really meant we were going to be methodical with the Red Book Study.

In fact, our group of brothers would take about 5 months in meticulously reviewing these studies. Saturday morning’s session was held in the same third floor room as on Wednesday morning. To my surprise both Ricky and Fred “my” newly saved frat brothers, from last night, were waiting  in the room for the session to start, as was Robert “my” earlier convert.

I glowed with pride as I realized that one-quarter of Marty’s sheep that morning were my converts.

For that is how I thought of them: “my fruit” or “my converts.”

As we waited for Marty to get started I wondered briefly if Rhonda, Ricky’s girlfriend, was in a girl’s study like ours. So far I had had little interaction with the sisters, as we called our female counterparts, other than some brief conversations.

Marty said a prayer and then we moved around the half circle of his seated sheep with each of the brothers confessing their sin as had they had done last time.

The confessions seemed pretty real to me: lusting after girls, not reading the Bible, or not praying enough or pigging out at Mama Goldberg’s etc.

When it was my turn to confess sin I was stumped yet again. So I blurted out that I regretted missing the discipleship session yesterday and asked for everyone’s forgiveness for letting them and the Body down.

I glanced up to see that Marty had a look of satisfaction on his face.

Then we started working through the first study of the Bible Study by Bob & Rose Weiner called Firm Foundations.

It had a red cover so we all called it the Red Book. The first study was entitled God’s atonement and provision of sin. It was a very detailed review starting in Genesis and discussed our sin natures, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life, and our rebellion.

One key point that struck me from the study was the emphasis (by the study and by Marty) that the blood of Jesus not only atoned for our sins but also delivered us from sickness, the curse and demons.

This was new to me.

Marty made a big deal of this; that if we were covered by the blood in faith we would not get sick, and not only that, we would be delivered from curses as long as His blood covered us.

“Curses?” I thought, “Like the evil eye? What in the world did this mean?”

But no one else seemed to have any question about this point so I filed it away in my little closet in the back of my mind where I was storing a number of those strange MCM doctrines and practices.

We prayed  about individual requests from the MCM brothers and then it looked like we were through.

The session had gone much, much longer than I had anticipated. When we got through with the prayer requests, and our discipline session, it was about 11:15 am. There was still time for me to meet Sheila at the Frat House porch at 12:30 pm before the ball game.

“Now brothers,” Marty said, “as you know we are having our first ever fellowship dinner tonight. All are welcome to come, but we are not advertising this and the dinner really is to welcome all  the new brothers and sisters to the Body; to let them get to know the staff and those who have come here from other ministries to plant the Auburn Fellowship.”

I knew about this, of course, because Bob had mentioned it during the Thursday and Friday night services. I was looking forward to meeting and talking to Marty and Missy Caulk, our pastor and his wife, who I had met briefly, and the older brothers and sisters who had come full-time to Auburn from other MCM sites.

It sounded fun.

It was a potluck dinner and I was planning on bringing a dish of something, not sure what, that I would scrounge from the frat house kitchen.

“Since we don’t have any tables here so the Jewish Community Center in Opelika has agreed to let us borrow twenty folding tables and chairs,” intoned Marty. He continued, “So we have rounded up three pick -up trucks and we will all head out to Opelika to pick up the tables. Then we will come back and put all the meeting chairs up and set up the tables in the big room.”

Marty looked us over and asked, “ Amen???”

I did not answer.

I had a semi-date with Sheila, not that we were boyfriend-girlfriend or anything like that, but the fact was we had a date.

In fact I had set it up this date.

I did some quick mental calculations. Opelika was at least 30 minutes one way from Auburn. So we had at least a sixty minute round trip plus 30 minutes to load tables at one and another 30 minutes to unload table at this end and whatever else we had to do.

For sure I was looking at least 2.5 hours of work here. At least.

My watch read 11:30 am now.

At the very earliest we would be through at 2:00 pm. I was supposed to meet Sheila at 12:30 pm and head to the game at 1:30.

I raised my hand. Marty looked up at me.

I was about to tell Marty what was going on about my plans with Sheila; but Marty’s words last night about “God’s Green Berets”, and his words on, “Being a leader,”  “setting an example”, “encouraging the others,” and “the single brothers being unencumbered,” came roaring back to me.

“Yes Tik?” he asked.

“Uh…. Could I use the phone in your office?”

“Sure, go ahead. The rest of you guys hit the restrooms and meet out back in the parking lot in five minutes. We have a lot of work to get done!” Marty barked.

For those of you youngsters, this may seem hard to believe, and it is even hard for me to think back to those days, but, there were no cell phones, texting, answering machines, PDAs, pagers or any of such things.

These were the days of IBM type writers, carbon paper, secretaries and receptionists.

Canceling a meeting, or getting in touch with someone on a few minutes notice, was really tough. I ran to the office grabbed the phone and dialed Sheila’s dorm room.

Ring. RIIIIIIIINNNG.

“C’mon’,”I muttered, “ANSWER!”

Rinnnng. Rinnng. RInnnnnnnnng.

No answer. I hung up.

Got to think quick.

I dialed her sorority number.

Riiing….Rinngg Rinnnng… then pick-up:“Alpha Alpha Alpha Sorority” said a female voice.

“Hey, its Tik Tok here I am looking for Sheila X.”

“Oh Hi Tickie, its Wendy. Hows it goin my main man?”

“Great Wendy. Hey I am in a hurry… have you seen Sheila?”

“Yeah, she was here earlier, but she was on her way to the library…I think… I know she had her books with her.”

I dialed the frat house.

There were two public phones on the second and third floor. Other than that only “Mom”, the steward, and I had private phones in our rooms. Remember there were NO cell phones in 1978!

Riinnng. Rinnng. Rinnnggggg.

I tried the third floor phone. The brothers were notorious for letting the phone ring off the hook.

One more shot I rang Mom’s room phone.

No dice. Strike three.

Suddenly Marty was standing in the office door.

“Hey Tik we are all loaded up and ready to go and we are waiting on you!”

With a sinking feeling in my stomach I walked out to the parking lot. Maybe I could find a phone in Opelika and reach Sheila.

In Opelika I called from the Jewish Community Center’s one phone. It was 12:30 pm when I dialed the phone… exactly when I was supposed to meet Sheila on the Porch of the Frat House and head to the game.

I took one more shot at calling the frat house phone while the last of the tables were loaded onto the truck by our MCM team of brothers in Opelia.

Rinnnng. Rinnnngggg. Rinnnggggg.. Rinnng.

Then BINGO!

“HELLO” yelled a voice.

There was the normal frat house Saturday game-day afternoon pandemonium in the background. Yelling, screaming, laughing, then a girl giggled very close to the speaker.

“Hey, its Tik here. Who is this?”

“Its JD, Tikie, whats going on?”

Just my luck, JD of all people.

JD was Vice President, a tough hombre whom I had beaten in the election for Frat President last May. He had a visceral dislike of me ever since we were pledges and I was elected Pledge class President when we both ran for that office and I beat him.

He had the manners and attitude of a pig, as far as I was concerned.

A girl’s laughter in the background cut in really loud and then I made out her slurred words among the cacophony of sound, “C’mon JD baby- you promised me a DRINK! WOO-HOOO!”

“Hey JD,” I found myself shouting, “HEY HAVE YOU SEEN SHEILA?????”

“NO!” came the answer, and then away from the phone I head him yell, “PEGGY YOU SEEN THAT LITTLE BLOND HAIRED [expletive deleted] SHEILA?”

Loud laughter from both of them almost deafened me.

“I AM SERIOUS JD, I NEED YOU TO FIND SHEILA AND ASK HER TO COME TO THE PHONE.”

I was almost screaming and then through the glass door of the J Center in Opelika I saw Marty stop and look quizzically across the hallway and into the office where I was standing.

I lowered my voice.

“JD, please, as a favor to me, can you bring Sheila to the phone?’

“Do I always have to do your dirty work????… OKAY,” he shouted, and I could hear shouts and more laughter in the background.

Waiting…one, two, three minutes, no JD, then “click, buzz”. Someone had hung up the phone.

I frantically dialed back.

RINNNNNG….RINNNG. RINNGGGGG.

It rang and rang but no answer.

Marty stuck his head in the door. “Hey you okay?’

“Yeah,” I answered, “no problem at all.”

“The trucks are loaded…are you ready to go???”

Well as you have probably guessed we got back to the Maranatha House at 1:45 pm.  I snuck to the office and tried both public phones at the frat house and then rang “Mom’s” phone.

No luck. No answer.

I went back to the parking lot to help finish unloading the tables and then setting them up with chairs etc.

Finally we were through.

It was 2:15 pm. Almost two hours after Sheila and I were supposed to meet.

“See you tonight guys,” said Marty.

No thanks… no nothing.

I flew on my bike back up  West Magnolia. I dropped the bike in the back parking lot and sprinted up the back steps to the rear porch of the Frat House. No one was there other than a couple of completely drunken pledges and our pledge trainer; who had passed out in his own vomit.

The grills were still hot and the Kegs still had beer, but everyone had left for the game.

“Maybe there is hope,” I thought and jumped on my Bike and shot off for Cliff Hare Stadium.

It was 2:15 pm.

The game started at 3:00 pm but seating in the student section was on a first come first serve basis. The frat section (where we staked our claim) was at the turn of the stadium, right at the five yard line half way up in the student section.

The band was playing and I could hear the yell of the crowd as I neared the gigantic brick oval.

Entry to the student section was through two special gates. All you had to do was to show your student ID.

The line was backed up about 50 yards from the gate outside and I could see, past the gate, the same line snaking up the ramps. This was exactly why the frat group usually left at least an hour and a half before kick-off: in order to stake our claim on decent seats.

“I’ll be lucky if I can even get to the frat section by game time.”

The wait was excruciating and once through the gates, using my knees and elbows and ignoring the rude looks and comments like, “Hey no breaking buddy,” I made it up the ramp in about 10 minutes.

I walked out to the sunlit stadium. The students were jammed together and  overflowed into the aisles. Looking up into the sun I could make out, about 20 yards away, the section where we usually sat.

The frat was there all right.

I could see Mom’s (our male house-mother) flaming red hair and mustache. He was sitting with Jenny his live in girlfriend. The game was underway and I bulled my way through the crowd, ducking a couple of haymakers thrown by drunken irate upper class-men along the way.

Finally I made it.

I scanned the section the frat brothers and little sisters occupied. No Sheila!

One more time. Nope, she was not there and there was not a seat to be had in our section.

Mom caught my eye and motioned me up to him with his arm while he put his girlfriend, Jenny, on his lap. I made my way to the seat he had just created for me.

“Running a little late huh Tik?” he shouted.

I nodded.

A lump was in my throat.

I had stood Sheila up.

Mom leaned over and spoke, “You know Sheila was looking for you at the house before the game ? She was wandering around the frat house like a little lost puppy for about an hour with this doleful look on her face.”

“Yeah, I was running late Mom, I tried to leave word at the frat house that I was going to be a bit late but someone hung up on me.”

He put his arm around me and gave me his “I am the older, more wiser, man than you” look.

“Tik, look at me. Sheila clearly has a thing for you. Seriously You DO know that don’t you, you are not that stupid are you?”

“She sure does Tik…no kidding.”

It was Jenny chiming in.

“You guys are both crazy,” I said, “Sheila is like a sister to me, nothing more or less.”

“Well Tik,” said Jenny, narrowing her eyes, “that may be, but I can tell you one thing: your sister is really pissed off at you for standing her up today.”

With that she pulled a flask out of her purse removed the cap simultaneously saluting me with it and offering up a swig of bourbon.

I shook my head no.

She turned the flask up, put it to her lips, took a long pull and then handed it to Mom. Mom did the same; taking a long swig of the cool liquor inside.

He smiled at me and said, “From the look on Sheila’s face I think you are going to need some of this brew before the weekend is through ole Tikie my friend. ”

He and Jenny burst into laughter.

Looking back on that day it was actually not such a bad suggestion.