#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

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

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

February 1982
The snow was piling up over the cars in the parking lot and wind gusts were rattling the windows and the front door of my apartment.

I looked up from my desk and saw the kitchen clock said midnight.

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

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

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

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

The wind kicked up outside and banged and rattled the front door. I glanced up and then started concentrating again on the ledger in front of me.

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

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

“Gotta have more income…that is the only answer…”

The door banged again.

“That is some wind!” I thought.

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

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

I checked the kitchen clock, it now read 12:15 am.

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

I pushed open the door and the sub-zero wind promptly blasted me with whirligigs of snow that powdered the walls of the apartment. A bundled figure came stumbling through the door. The form collapsed on the torn second-hand couch in my sitting room/kitchen.

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

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

He slid his gloves off, reached up and pulled the toboggan from off his head and face with a groan.

His brown hair had frost in it, despite the toboggan, and he slumped back on the couch. His bright blue eyes barely opened as he looked at me.

It was Tikietwo one of our prize catches from the fall crusade that Greg Ball and I had led.

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

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

Finally he looked up at me.

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

With that he lay down full length on my broken down sofa shivering.

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

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

Tag Teaming with Greg Ball

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

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

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

MCM’s new plan called for starting thirty new ministries in the fall of 1981 and then thirty to forty every year afterwards.

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

We agreed that if we could hook some leaders, some heavy duty sharps then they would bring other sharps with them.

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

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

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

It was cool for its time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we would start where we were strong.

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

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

And it worked.

**********

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

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

It was pretty simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#48 Training For Full Time Ministry

May 1981

It was a hot May day in 1981 and Phil Bonnasso and I were loading his car with our luggage.

“GLORY Brother- we are just like Luke Skywalker on our way to see YODA! We are going to learn how destroy Satan. Just think of it Tikie all the new pastors will sit at the feet of the masters. G-L-O-R-Y!”

Phil and I had gotten our assignments as Pastors and we were heading to a two-week so-called boot camp being run at Gainesville by Bob and Rose Weiner and others.

I was not sure exactly what we would be doing in Gainesville and Phil and I talked about it all the way down, with Phil shouting and claiming scripture and the two of us praying in tongues.

We had seen a number of the plans put into place at Auburn and they had been fairly successful such as starting Christian Clubs by finding or converting a professor and getting them to sponsor a Victory Club. MCM would have two or three students to work with Christian profs to front a club for MCM, in effect a MCM group, but not officially associated with MCM. These were examples of some of the action plans implemented by the local MCM ministries.

Phil and I also expected to further hone our witnessing skills and learn how to write and deliver a good sermon.

It was late afternoon when we arrived at the Gainesville House and we signed in at the registration desk after a six hour drive. We received a welcome packet with a schedule plus a large binder titled the Operating Manual.

At least 50 brothers and sisters attended this even and were going to serve as new Pastors (if married then the spouse would also serve alongside them) and Evangelists.

Now I had broken out the preppiest outfit I could put together. Those of you that were members will remember what it looked like:

Cordovan Loafers
Pink Shirt
Chinos
Blue Blazer (the kind that have the gold buttons)
And
A rep tie.

Big deal, you might ask, does it really matter what you were wearing?

The answer was: it did matter.

The next morning we all assembled in the Gainesville MCM House in their meeting hall with seven or eight tables and chairs in two rows, facing a raised platform on which was a table with 6 chairs facing us with a speakers pulpit.

Bob welcomed us and took us through the agenda.

“All of here are going to part of the  God’s New Awakening the greatest revival and movement of God in the world of all time. IT is a NEW THING?? AMEN?” he yelled as he cupped his ear for a response.

“Amen” we all shouted.

Bob and Joe emphasized, that although MCM would give seed money to get us started, we should begin raising outside support immediately.

Most of the first day we spent listening to Nick P, a successful roving MCM full-time evangelist and others, including Rice Brooks and Greg Ball talk about how they raised money. How they approached “good” churches (meaning independent charismatic churches)and put themselves forward as campus youth missionaries. They also stressed we should contact all of our friends and family to get money from them, especially any Christian grandmothers and grandfathers.

Bob told us when asking for money to, “Always overshoot the amount you need from each person. For example tell a business man you would like for him to give $ 500/month if you REALLY want $ 50/month. A good place to work this plan is The local Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association. If you tell them that souls that are at stake and ask each business man for $ 500…they will give you something, it might be $ 100/month. Always ask for a HUGE amount, then the amount you ACTUALLY get will seem reasonable.”

“If you can get ten of these successful businessmen to give $ 100/month you have raised $ 1,200 dollars per month (this would be the 2006 equivalent of $ 3000/month or $ 36,000/year).”

Then he and Joe talked us through how to find churches that would be receptive to sponsoring us.

“The best place to start are independent charismatic churches. Don’t waste your time in denominations and stress that you will be a self supporting missionary to change college campuses.”

Joe Smith took over, “Now, we are going to front you $ 10,000 (equivalent to $ 25,000 in 2006) to get you started. But we expect that each ministry starting in January (six months later) to begin paying us back with interest.”

In the book was chart detailing the “payments” to be paid back over a three years.

Now it sounded pretty generous for MCM to front us $ 10,000.

But I did not realize that Bob and Joe had been on their own “fundraising effort.” My understanding now is that MCM had “raised over $ 300,000 for the “great send out.” That is, they had the cash up front.

Also keep in mind that Bob encouraged us to raise enough money per month to support ourselves, and, maybe to support the ministry (advertising etc.).

There was another issue: if Bob and Joe had already raised this money specifically for the “great send out” why should the local ministries have to pay the money back?

MCM had cash for this venture coming from the members of the “1,000 club” (1,000 business man who apparently forked over $ 1,000/year to MCM) plus other money from other outside donors. By making the new ministries pay back the money MCM made money on the money donated. I am confident that none of the donors to the “great send out” knew that their donations would be paid back with interest.

In essence MCM [aka Bob and Rose] were double dipping. It was a twist on Robin Hood: Take from the rich”and then take from the poor”. It seemed a scam of massive proportions.

Also since the great send out was theoretically self-funding it could, and would, double or triple the amount of cash coming in for the MLTS. MCM was getting too big for three MLTS a year; so the ministry cut it back to twice yearly but increased the fees to generate the same cash.

In addition each site had to tithe 10% of all income plus a 2% offering. So in addition to paying the ministry back $ 800 per month ($2,400 per month in 2006 dollars) for 18 months (the overage was interest) we also had to cough up 12% of every nickel we had. Oh and my cash of stash I raised to help support myself? I had to give 12% to MCM HQ.

So MCM now had four income streams, MLTS, the 1000 Club (set up to fund the great send out), payback streams from local ministries of the $ 10k front money, and of course, tithes and offerings from local ministries.

The amount of cash coming into MCM by mid 1981 would be gigantic (I estimated it was over $ 7M per year in 2006 dollars compared to just $ 2-3M only three years earlier).

Of course this MLTS and Great Send Out Scheme only held up if:

1.The Great Send Out plants could actually pay the money back (of course if they could not then MCM broke even at worse), and if,
2.MCM could keep the pastors on the reservation…the ministry was in effect doubling and it would begin taxing Bob Weiner’s and Joe Smith’s ability to personally control and dictate events, and finally if,
3.There was not large-scale unforeseen disaster, like a major investigation of MCM tactics and cash flows that would expose the hypocrisy and viciousness of the ministry.

Well, we got together on the second day and begin working on witnessing and preaching techniques. We learned how were to go after the frats, sororities, football players, basketball players and cheerleaders.

The sharps that is.

“If you go after the sharp leaders then they help in bring others in and you can point to these sharps and then will attract others,” said Joe.

Bob pointed at the crowd “Some of you have afros and long shaggy hair. I expect you all to have short hair cuts by tomorrow morning. You are going to get nothing but the dregs if you look like a dreg.”

He then grabbed Phil Bonnasso and pulled him up on the raised platform. Phil was always wanting Bob and Joe to notice him, and this afternoon he would be noticed, but not in the way that he wished.

It was a typical exercise in humiliation and fear by Bob.

Phil stepped up on stage. He was wearing a disco silk shirt, platform shoes and polyester pants. His hair stood up in a thick black shock at least three inches in height, and in the back his hair flowed down in back to his shoulders.

“This is the kind of image that we CANNOT have on campus. Sleazy 70s” disco out fits and this…this…bush of hair. You look sloppy brother, get a haircut and invest in some decent clothes.”

Then Bob looked out over the crop of newly minted full timers’

”Tikie come up here on stage”.

Bob turned me around like a model. “This is what we need; the clothes, shoes and look that says we are the best, we are in God’s will and blessed financially.”

“See how Tik looks; all of you should try to dress and look like him.”

I was both embarrassed and proud at the same time.

But it gave me pause.

Okay, maybe some of the brother’s clothes were worn but many  had no money at all. I, because of the cash generated by my tire sales job (raking in $ 2,000 per month in 2006 $) was flush with money relative to many there.

Did Bob have to humiliate Phil, to make his point that we should have an updated wardrobe?

This was very typical of the way Bob handled things. He would pull up some poor guy or girl and humiliate them for their appearance, for not smiling, not dressing in up to date clothing, or  not performing to his standards. Then he would pull up a brother or sister who DID have what the under-performer did not have and praise them.

Studies of  of sociological cults show this behavior is common to such leaders of these groups. First the autocratic leader strikes fear into the hearts of everyone who is not producing or performing to his standards by humiliating the target poor . Everyone in the audience realizes “that could just as easily be me being humiliated.”

Then positive praise given to a performer would make all present  want to produce and conform.

I saw Bob Weiner, Joe Smith, Bob Nolte and their understudies Rice Broocks and Nick P use this classic technique over and over again.

“Sit down you two,” Bob said to Phil and me. He then pointed to Dennis Darville who was an up and coming evangelist. Dennis never got sucked into the “horrible” behaviors that MCM modeled and reinforced. Dennis was a preacher with a talent equal to Rice Broocks and Greg Ball. But having worked with him on outreaches and roomed with him he appeared a very humble and loving Christian.

Bob brought Dennis up on stage. “Okay, I looked in the parking lot before we got started and I saw a bunch of beat up clunkers. If you as a pastors want to be a REAL LEADER someday then you must drive a sharp car. Dennis has a Datsun (Nissen) 280 Z convertible. Kids flock to him when he shows up on campus in that car.”

“I expect everyone, when they get to their ministries drive a brand new sporty car, AMEN?” shouted Bob.

Well I was all into fancy new cars, and I had managed to save about $ 2,500 (equal to $ 6,500 in 2006 dollars) from my “tire and shock” job. But no one else, that I knew, unless their parents were wealthy and gave them everything wanted, had a nickel on them. They could barely afford rent much less new car payment.

But we all shouted back “Amen”.

*****************
By the end of the boot camp I had a real pit of fear in my stomach. I was in shock, because I was beginning to realize exactly how the ministry functioned.

It was a BIG STICK and small carrot approach. Every day at least one or two brothers or sisters found themselves humiliated for some infraction; stomped on in front of everyone. And at least one or two would be brought up and praised.

I also met Leo Lawson for the first time. Leo went on to pastor churches and to become the head of ENLI. My impression of Leo was not so good. The only one trying to spend more time with Bob Weiner than Phil Bonasso was Leo Lawson. In fact Phil commented on it to me.

Nick P was schedule to come up to my ministry in wave TWO a few weeks after Greg and Helen Ball were to finish up at my ministry.

By this time I was beginning to see the wisdom of lying low, getting out of Gainesville and producing big numbers in my ministry.

Big numbers meaning dollars and converts.

And the “ole Tik” was suggesting things like: “It’s not too late to go back after those job offers you had ” or “Working in your Dad’s business might not be such a bad idea.”

But I brushed these thoughts aside the only friends that I had were in MCM…and wasn’t this the ideal Christian Church that I dreamed of almost four years ago?

Phil and I drove home that afternoon and I begin plotting my fundraising scheme. Believe it or not by working two full-time jobs and going from church to church and hitting up businessmen I was able to raise a “war chest of over $ 15,000, equal to $ 40,000 in 2006 in June and July. Plus I had monthly support pledges of over $ 1,000 (equal to about A$ 2,500/month in 2006) by the end of July. Of course I had to give 12% of this $ 15,000 back to MCM in a tithe and offering and any support I received.

I actually took Bob’s advice, and by having my father co-sign the note, I bought a brand new Ford T Bird courtesy of a $ 300/month car payment. It was a ridiculous buy for a poor new preacher!
**************

I said my goodbyes to Matt and Allie who were staying in Auburn to pastor the church there and to Miltie who was heading up to Michigan with Mike, Missy and ten or twelve Auburnites.

For a week or so after coming back from the Gainesville boot-camp I had toyed with the idea of asking Mike and Missy if I could go with them to Michigan working as a lay brother and finding a job as an engineer.

But my pride stood in the way. Besides, didn’t I have a Word from God over my life about saving thousands? How could I ignore the Word of the Lord given by His Prophet Joe Smith?

So I loaded up my stuff at the end of July and headed cross-country for a rendezvous with my new ministry co-workers.

As I turned the corner at Magnolia Avenue I saw the famous marquis sign out front of the MCM house and it read “Are you Ready for what God has for you?”

I gunned my new T-Bird, turned up Magnolia Street and thought “I sure am!”

 

#44 Whacky Revelations

The ministries at MCM found themselves under constant assault from International Office HQ in Gainesville (IO) with seeming crazy and whacky revelations and schemes from God.

These schemes were able to take hold with Bob, Joe, and Rose because, even though their work aimed directly at colleges and universities, they eschewed what they called, “The spirit of intellectualism of this age.”

In other words any rational objection to a scheme that popped into their minds irritated and upset them.

But despite how crazy these schemes and revelations sometimes appeared they actually served some practical purposes.

I will admit, most probably, that Rose and Bob really believed these crazy ideas were from God and would aid the ministry in the same way my Uncle thought that the box he bought from guy on a street corner for $10 contained a working stereo.

The box contained four bricks.

First these schemes served to keep the sheep busy with kingdom work. The elders knew that a person busy, busy, busy on Kingdom business could not spend much time pondering the real mess MCM was. “Idle hands are the devils workshop,” as my Grandma Reese used to say.

It also helped show which MCM member might harbor doubts; for failure to take part in what seemed like crazy and lunatic schemes demonstrated a sheep might be wandering, or even worse, displaying a spirit of intellectualism.

Finally these projects and ideas that came, apparently, directly from God, served to show that the leadership still received revelations from on high; the demonstrated that God still moved through MCM in these end times.

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

Rose Weiner (Bob’s wife) had a revelation about groaning…and one morning, at MLTS, she read from Romans the following passage:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Now this was the sort of quack pot stuff Rose was famous for and she took this passage to mean that if we were really in tune with the Holy Spirit that we would start groaning during our public prayers.

The fact that MCM members were NOT groaning during our public prayers was proof that the sheep were NOT praying seriously  hard enough and that was why the ministry was not growing FAST enough (well, not fast enough to suit Bob and Rose).

So at one MLTS Rose announces all from the front stage and tells the crowd  in the main tent session that we are going to dedicate ourselves to praying; and that and that we will pray, “In the Spirit with groans as Paul directed us.”

Out loud during MLTS, for one hour.

All of us.

Together.

The implication, of course was that if your out loud praying did not elicit the groans Paul mentioned then you were one of the problem children who were not praying according to the spirit; nor dedicated enough to the kingdom.

“We will intercede out loud together in a mighty way and the Spirit [the Holy Spirit] Himself will begin interceding with groans expressing things we do not and cannot understand,” she shouted, her long blond hair swinging about her shoulders as she jumped up and down making her point.

Someone should have shown Rose the scripture in Matthew which reads: “But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut the door, pray to you Father in secret.”

Matt, Allie, and I are sitting apart from our flocks (we are all in full-time ministry by this point) in the far back of the auditorium. And like everyone else at this MLTS session we knelt in front of our seats on Rose’s orders.

And the place begins buzzing like a giant beehive with people praying in their shabalas or kolachackas or whatevers. After about a minute Rose lets out one long grunting groan and sure enough a chorus of unbelievably strange groans and grunts start being issued by about 4,500 participants all around us.

No one at this MLTS session would be a non-groaner, because being a non-groaner meant that you were a non-spirit led person.

Being a non-spirit led person was a bad thing. Bad… bad… bad….

Okay one more time:

Groaning =good.
Not groaning =bad.

Let’s try it again:

Being open to Rose’s revelation no matter how silly it was = good. Rejecting Rose’s revelation no matter how silly it was = bad.

So 100% of the people around us there are groaning and grunting.

Actually some people started wailing. I cannot describe how weird the thing was.

Really weird.

It was doubling unnerving with the chief groaners Bob and Rose on stage groaning and grunting into their microphones and with the sound system amplifying their groaning volume ten or twenty times.

I occasionally have nightmares about it still.

Me, I’m still sitting in seats up with Matt and Allie, not with my sheep.

I am trying to get into this praying and groaning revelation of Rose’s, but even in my anesthetized MCM state I am thinking, “Man, this is really bizarre.”

Holding my, breath I am waiting on this to pass and for Rose to go on to the next nutty and weird thing.

I am just hoping that her next revelation does not involve Saran Wrap and cooking oil.

Then I look over and catch Matt’s eye.

He gets this grin on his face and leans over and whispers, “Sounds like 4,500 constipated people sitting on the big white thrown, if you know what I mean Tik.”

And he winks.

And the three of us, Matt, Allie and I, get the giggles right there, chortling and trying to hold back the laughter; I swear I thought I was going to have internal injuries I was laughing so hard.

And all the while the place is groaning and grunting in the spirit.

But all I could think of is, “Get these people some ExLax!”

To this day I am not sure how we did not get thrown out of the place by the Maranatha Usher Gestapo; probably because they were too busy with the grunting and groaning revelation.

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

Now whatever the latest Word, or revelation, was from MCM IO in Gainesville, Marty, my then shepherd, would go at it implementing the latest Word whole hog.

For he was a True Believer in every sense, he was Lenin’s Trotsky or Stalin’s Beria.

As an example of this occurred  one Saturday morning.

I was on my way out to my pizza job when Marty stopped me in the back parking lot asking if I would give him a hand.

I said, “Sure”.

He opened his car’s trunk lid and there must have been 100 plastic gallon containers stacked inside and also in his back seat; the kind that distilled water comes in.

“Tik, can you help me load these out here in the parking lot please?” he asked.

“Marty, what in the world are you doing with these things?” I asked holding up one of the empty gallon jugs. I noticed that he had rigged a garden hose up and had a bench with a bottle of bleach laying on it along an eye dropper next to this bottle.

“At the ministry retreat last week [for full timers help in Gainesville] we heard a Word from God that we must do practical things to get the church ready for the coming end times; just like Joseph did for Pharaoh. We were told to start storing food and water in preparation for these bad times.”

“But why the water and bottles and bleach?” I asked.

“Well,” said Marty, “the most vital element we need is water, and in the coming troubles if our water supply goes out we will need to store enough water to get the ministry through this time of trouble. I am going to fill each bottle with tap water from the hose and put a drop of bleach in it to keep it fresh.”

Marty might just have said, “Little Green Men have moved into my office” based on the look I gave him.

I had just completed a course on water management and hydrology. One of the modern miracles we take for granted is pure, potable water. With clean running water diseases like typhus, cholera, and diphtheria quit making routine appearances in the USA. And the death rate for infants and children plummeted by over 50%.

“Marty,” I continued, “where are you going to store the water for these times of trouble?”

He pointed to the back house, a two-story structure, yet to be renovated.

“In there, I figure I can stack these bottles four or five deep on the second and third floors.”

I shook my head.

Should I let him continue this insanity or bring him a dose of reality?

This was not just a rhetorical question for me. For if I did not stop this nonsense I would be filling and toting water bottles for eternity.

Or until some other quack-pot scheme from MCM came along.

But if I challenged him then I could be seen as being in rebellion and questioning a Word from the Lord. The risk of rebellion seemed to outweigh the work of toting water bottles for eternity into the back house.

I could already feel my arms aching.

“Marty, I just completed a course on water and hydrology and I would like to point a few things out.”

He sat down.

“First, the average human needs, at the very least, 4 gallons of water a day. I can get out the text-book that shows this for you if you would like.”

He kept looking at me. I could not tell if I was going to get whacked or thanked at this point; because I was pretty certain I was exhibiting a spirit of intellectualism.

“So if we take 180 people [the number in our ministry at this point] times 4 gallons of water per person per day we will need to store up 720 gallons or 720 of your jugs of water per day for each day in this upcoming time of trouble. That equals about 5000 gallons per week for the people here now. Or 20,000 gallons per month.”

“And there is one other problem.  My guess is that the back house has about 12,000 cubic feet of storage space and that would only hold about 6,000 gallons of water. So you only have space for one week’s worth of water, or so, for everyone here. But even if we decided to store 6,000 gallons in the back house we would still have a serious problem.”

Marty cocked his head, “What problem would that be, Tik?”

“Well, it is a wood frame structure, and I am sure that if you stored, or tried to store, 6,000 gallons of water the building would collapse like a house of cards. Water is VERY Heavy. Maybe God will just make a miracle happen like the manna from heaven that fell on Moses when these troubles come.”

What I said was true.

A quick look in around your town would show standpipes or water tanks made of steel or concrete. They are very strong for water is HEAVY. And these standpipes usually hold about 500,000 gallons of water or about one week’s worth of water for the area they serve. Electric pumps bring the water up and gravity brings it down. Kind of scary thinking about it, that we are exactly one week away from dying of thirst or dying of cholera.

At this point I shut up and waited to see what would happen.

Thank goodness, he actually looked relieved.

“Thank you Brother for a sharing, let me pray about this.”

And that was the end of our preparation for the times of trouble and my toting 6,000 gallons of water up three flights of stairs and having the back house collapse on me and kill me.

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

But the whacky revelations continued unabated and MCM latched onto them as if they were actually written in the Bible and thus created more work for the plantation slaves.

#40 Status, Hierarchy, and Subjugation within MCM

 

Status, Hierarchy, and Subjugation

One of the reasons that I had joined MCM was that I perceived  it as an egalitarian Band of Brothers and Sisters focused on God’s Kingdom. For Paul wrote that no one part of the body was more important than another in his letter to the first century church at Corinth.

But hierarchy and status mattered within MCM, and, I would soon find out how that status affected me!

Based on interviews with a number of ex-MCM members (including Mike and Missy) I believe this description of the Auburn site applied to other ministry sites as well. Having said that some sites were more lenient than Auburn, and, believe it or not, some were much stricter.

Regardless, all of MCM operated under this system of hierarchy, status, and subjugation.

***********

I was, when writing this Part, tempted at first to use the military analogy of soldiers and sergeants; but the idea repels me both because of Bob’s use of the term God’s Green Berets and the dishonor it would do to the men and women in the armed services.

A much better analogy, in my opinion, is that of a plantation.

For each MCM site was, in some ways, like a plantation; complete with slaves, overseers, house servants, production, quotas and the threat of being sold down the river minus your family. Members constantly threatened with banished and shunned like my mentor, Peter, who after being thrown out of MCM, was never heard of, or mentioned, again.

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

At the lowest level of the MCM plantation hierarchy were the slaves; the single brothers at the bottom of the MCM heap.

These single brothers lived together communally and footed the bill for the meeting-house and for the pastor’s apartment.

They had neither private lives, nor any privacy at all, and must be ready at a moment’s notice for action. Additionally they did jobs such as keeping the meeting-house, grounds, and living quarters in order and they acted as gophers for ministry staff. Their personal needs, when they conflicted with those of the ministry, were never considered. [See my description of one of my  hootah sessions for details]. In fact the ministry reveled in this on-call life style and sold it to the brothers as proof of their being the spear point of God’s Green Berets.

Now there were grades within this lowly single brother hierarchy.

At the bottom of this grade were the grunts that were brand new baby Christians, those that had not born any fruit (brought in converts) or those were not deemed sharp enough to have the potential to go full-time. These low-level grunts condemned to a life of servitude, might, just might, be able to break out of this rank if they worked hard enough, and, if they brought enough converts in.

Or so they believed.

Next in status within this grade of single brother/slaves were those who were bringing in converts, or, were contributing significant sums of money because of a having a professional job. My friend Peter, due to his lucrative real estate business fell into this latter category prior to being banished.

And at the top of this lowest level were those single brothers that were slotted for full-time service, like yours truly. These brothers MIGHT have a shot at full-time paid ministry if they were diligent enough, if they were submissive enough, if they contributed enough, and if they continued to bear fruit (bring in new converts).

That’s a whole lot of ifs and with no promises.

Worse yet, did any of the ones who were striving for full-time ministry really understand what they were signing up for???!

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

Another group inhabited the lowest order of MCM- the single sisters.

It is a coin toss as to who had it worse: the single brothers or sisters; but my money is on the single sisters.

For the single sisters were also called upon at all hours to  work for the ministry just like the single brothers.

And single sisters had an extra burden to bear. That burden required exhibiting the traits of femininity that MCM considered Biblical. Any sister that did not show these traits was in for a rough time.

So, in addition to the burdens of the single brothers  the single sisters had to deal with other requirements imposed on them by MCM.

  • They had to dress in a feminine manner, but they must not show too much leg or cleavage for then they were “tempting the brothers.”
  • They could not be too aggressive or masculine, nor seem too independent. If a brother challenged a teaching precept or an elder/shepherd then he would be chastised; but the thinking was,  “Boys will just be boys,” and, “Potential leaders always test the boundaries”. But any female, who dared challenge or question the leadership, ran the risk of being labeled a Jezebel. And being labeled a Jezebel was being equal to Satan’s bride. Do it more than twice and you got the boot. Because, having a Jezebel among you was worse than a plague carrying rat eating at the communal dinner table.
  • The single sisters had to give money, perform  feminine ministry work, and also bear fruit (bring in converts)…and perhaps, just perhaps, they would get the privilege of marrying a brother whose destiny was  full-time ministry. More than likely a brother that they barely even knew.

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

Ranked above the single brothers and sisters  in the hierarchy were the overseers.

These overseers on the MCM plantation were the older brothers and sisters, many who were single themselves, who acted as shepherds. Now when I say older I don’t think there was a shepherd at MCM north of thirty years old.

These shepherd’s lives were not much easier than the slaves/sheep because they were accountable for all the actions of their sheep. If a sheep acted poorly it reflected poorly on the shepherd and any bad action by their sheep brought into question the shepherd’s spirituality and ability to properly lead and discipline their charges.

Those overseers who were too lenient with their charges would be disciplined for, “Not being a proper role model.”. If they were too easy on their charges they could ruin their chances of making it into full-time service; for wasn’t that the goal?

These shepherds had to lead by example so when their charges found themselves assigned a job, like renovating the back house for the sisters, the shepherds had to be there as well. And they had to set an example in hard work and diligence.

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

Oh, and there was a hierarchy within the ranks of the overseers, or shepherds, as well.

One might easily get the impression that the single sister shepherds had no power within MCM.

I would argue that this was not the case, and that, in many ways, some of these sisters who were shepherds had as much, or more power, than the single or married brothers who were overseers/shepherds.

Within the group of sisters who acted as shepherds there were those deemed prophetesses. These prophetesses  were deemed to have special insight or intuition from God.

This elevation of some of the sisters, who supposedly possessed this special gift prophetic gift, derived from Rose Weiner.

Many of Bob’s goofball proclamations originated in the nonlinear, non-logical, and nonsensical mind of his wife Rose. Anyone who got on Rose’s bad side was dead on arrival in the ministry. Most of the full-timers were scared stiff of her and for good reason. Those that crossed her might find themselves a deacon in Iowa City, or worse, thrown out of the ministry altogether. And likewise, anyone that she deemed of God or Chosen of God was considered anointed and untouchable.

There is no doubt in my mind that the power behind the throne of MCM, and behind the elevation in power of certain full timers, was Rose Weiner.

Now at the local level, at Auburn  this small coterie of prophetic single sisters, in the Rose Weiner mold, also held sway. For indeed, all the prophetic sisters in MCM descended from either Rose Weiner or her sister-in-law Mildred Russell.

It worked like this: anyone that Rose or Mildred shepherded and deemed having the prophetic gift became a MCM prophetess. And anyone that these prophetesses shepherded, who supposedly had this anointing, was also deemed a prophetess.

For example Missy Caulk was once Mildred Russell’s hand-maiden (translation full-time servant). She was marked as prophetic by Mildred. Any sister that Missy shepherded at Auburn, and she marked prophetic, now also became a prophetess. And so forth.

These prophetess sisters, because of their descent from Rose and Mildred, had a lot of power within MCM.

In fact it was almost a requirement for a full-time staffer to marry a prophetess. For this meant that each pastor’s wife could mark a line of succession back to Rose and Mildred. This was yet another way for these women, and the elders of MCM, to control the pastors and local sites. In a future post I will share how I narrowly escaped just such an arranged marriage.

Now Auburn mirrored what happened at MCM corporate with Rose and her insights..

These prophetic single sisters influenced things behind the scenes and could either mark a brother or sister [meaning discern and proclaim that the sheep’s problems were of Satan] or they could receive a word from God which could alter a person’s life radically.

Maybe for good, maybe for bad.

Marty, my shepherd and site administrator, aside from Mike and Missy, was the other fulltime employee at Auburn, and, because of this, he wielded great influence at Auburn. My portrait of him is correct; he was a true believer, dry, dogmatic and fanatical.

There was only one other person, aside from Mike and Missy Caulk, who rivaled my shepherd, Marty, in influence and power within MCM, and she a single sister prophetess.

In a later post I will show how a word from this sister, and a clash between this prophetess and Marty, changed my life radically while I was at the MCM Auburn ministry.

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

Now one group that I did not mention, thus far, in my discussion of the hierarchy of the MSM, was the band, or as we called it at Auburn, the music group.

Music was very important to MCM, extremely important.

In my plantation analogy the house servants were the members of the music group. These were the privileged few who did not have to chop cotton, tote water, and act as slaves, and sometimes enjoyed a few of the  benefits of the plantation setting.

In MCM music set the tone for each service, allowed us to worship God, and showed everyone that God was in control and blessing us. Our internal and external services centered on the Auburn music group who provided this musical sound track.

The music group set the pace for all the meetings and ensured that the sheep were prepared for the message from God by plowing their hearts  with inspiring music.

And if you were kind enough to read the earlier parts in my story you can see that the national music group for MCM, the Praise Band, made a huge impression on me. They were a primary mover in all outreaches, second, only to Bob Weiner and Joe Smith, in influencing on the crowds.

The music group was so important to MCM that members of the group at Auburn were exempted from the normal routine and mundane duties that I have listed like setting up for meetings, cleaning and maintaining the house, cooking, and most importantly the spur of the moment requests that chewed up so much of the member’s time.

Now Matt, the band leader, who I have already introduced you to, had a level head, played a mean guitar player, and was also spiritually mature  He became the music group leader early on after the Praise Band left Auburn in 1978.

It was important to have an accomplished actor as leader of the music group because the leader must be perceived by the flock as in tune with God and the Spirit, really experiencing the worship of God, and catapulting the crowd at the service, if you will, before the very throne of God.

A service was solemn, worshipful, introspective, joyous, or militant, or maybe all these in one service, based on the music chosen and the attitude of Matt, our music group leader.

But the music group leader also must be a thinker who, although appearing to be swept away by holy worship, or raucous celebration, had to continually think about the next song and the agreed upon (from preparation in the staff meeting and rehearsal) direction.  Was he to hype the crowd up and then bring them down into slow soft worship? Or would it be all joy and celebration and militancy?

It all needed to appear spontaneous (to be of the Spirit’s leading- there was nothing worse in MCM’s eyes than an order of service) but it was also carefully rehearsed.

Another purpose of the music group and leader was in providing the sound track for the Movie of the MCM service. Try watching a horror movie without a soundtrack. A movie sound track  may evoke fear, or for  a love story dreamy music may play when the lovers reconcile. Without an appropriate sound track the emotion induced by a movie becomes less palpable.

So it was at MCM, for music both set, and manipulated, the emotional tone of those participating in the service.

For Bob Weiner  learned from Hollywood that music could capture, and would channel, the emotions of people in just the direction he wanted.

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

Now the plantation was always facing requests for more money, special offerings, help for other campus plantings, and the occasional quack-pot schemes like preparing for food and water shortages that would come at the end times.

The people who dealt with all these requests and oversaw the plantation’s day-to-day activities were our senior pastors Mike and Missy Caulk.

Now, although Mike and Missy Caulk were at the top of the MCM Auburn heap it would be wrong to think of them as the plantation owners. They were more like share croppers who got a very small cut of what the ministry produced. They had all the responsibility, but none of the bennies.

They served totally at the mercy of the elders including  Bob and Rose Weiner and Joe Smith.

Mike and Missy had absolutely no job security, and, if they did not produce and/or if they did not submit to the HQ requests they could be taken out on a moment’s notice.

In fact they had a double dilemma: if they grew too quickly and the ministry grew very large they could attract the big fish that might come in and steal it from them; relegating Mike and Missy to mere bystanders or worse.

This happened in Gainesville when that ministry took off and grew rapidly.

Of course if Mike and Missy did not grow the ministry (grow in the sense of increased attendance and contributions) they might be dismissed and sent away for help and counseling into one of the smaller ministries.

As I mentioned Missy Caulk was one of MCM’s prophetesses  because she had been personally discipled by Mildred Russell, Rose Weiner’s sister-in-law, who was one of the top women leaders within MCM. I eventually met Mildred, at the University of Georgia and I will tell you she was one scary sister.

Missy had also worked as Bob’s personal assistant for two years in Paducah and was thus doubly trusted.

Mike and Missy’s marriage was a MCM arranged marriage. I am not sure how they fared in their early days of marriage when the Ole Miss ministry started but by the time they got to Auburn they seemed to have ironed things out.

Any idea that Mike and Missy had it made as pastors at Auburn, or that they were living the life of luxury, would be fallacious.

Their entire lives were subject to the wishes and whims of the elders meaning, at this time, Bob Weiner, Joe Smith, and Bob Nolte

Here is how Missy described their experience in working with Bob and the rest of the  leadership (keep in mind that they pastored, at that time, one of the most successful sites at MCM).

“I never felt like I was “given” Auburn. WHO wasn’t somewhat intimidated by Bob ?? I think that is part of the whole manipulation thing that occurred in MCM. Some men control like being Santa Claus, other out of fear and intimidation. “

But eventually they would overcome their intimidation and fear and set an example of how Bob and his reign of terror could successfully be challenged.

But that would come much later.

One example of how Mike and Missy’s lives were subject to the whims of the elders had to do with a VERY personal issue: children. Missy and Mike wanted to start a family. And they had to submit desire this to the elders.

In Missy’s words:

The worst thing to happen to me was that I was 27, Mike was 30 and we wanted to have a baby.”

Bob said, “NO, you have enough babies to take care of ……..spiritual babies.”

However, God intervened and we got pregnant with Christa at Steve and Beth McDowell’s wedding in Memphis. As it turned out 4 other couples in leadership at new churches did as well……….so he really didn’t say anything after that… But, I did cry my eyes out for weeks……….surprised you didn’t hear me Tikie!”

Bob could not, thankfully, control biology and ultimately he could not subvert, as much as he might unknowingly try, the will of God.

For God’s sake the man was abusing a newly married twenty-seven year old girl, for Missy was no more than a girl at the time!

This example alone should suffice to show how the pastors and the full timers were both victims and victimizers. Mike and Missy desperately wanted to serve God, but were caught in a system that they both intuitively knew was wrong.

And they were being abused and abusing…it was a terrifically bad system that Bob and others bear responsibility for.

But Mike and Missy tried to make the best of it.

#39 I Hit Bottom

 

I Hit Bottom

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

But that was all that came of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I lost it.

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

I found my voice rising to a shout.

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

That would have ended it.

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

“Midnight,” I answered.

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

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

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

Not a chance on that.

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

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

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

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

Silly me.

For when I returned at 1:00 am from my 4 hour pizza shift, smelling like a 150 pound garlic clove, there was Joe, Pat, and Marty waiting on me in the entrance way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They proceeded to pepper me with questions:

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

“Was I in the Word enough?”

”How much time was I spending studying?”

“Was I masturbating?”

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

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

He was right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That did it.

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

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

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

But at least I was free of demons, right?

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

I can assure you it was typical.

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

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

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

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

#38 The Secret of Money and MCM

“Follow the money.” Deep Throat, a source quoted by the reporters who broke the Nixon White House Watergate scandal in the 1970s

The MCM Business Model

As I worked up the courage to start this blog one of the questions that I kept asking myself included this one: “What was behind MCM’s finances?”

I now believe that MCM had stumbled onto, probably by accident, a business model that generated cash for the ministry. Now don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think Joe, Bob or Bob Nolte (who never came to Auburn and who I never spent more than a few minutes with in five years) were NOT in it for money.

Oh, they loved the nice cars, and fine clothes and the private plane that flew them around the country. But I do not believe that money was the primary motivator for them.

Now, you might think that the tithes from the local churches or the special needs offerings that continually disrupted the local ministries, and the lives of the sheep, would be their main source of income.

But this was not the case. The special needs offerings were inevitably for capital expenses; a new meeting-house purchase, a plane purchase, a car purchased for some elder. But I do not believe that these offerings, as hard as they were on the sheep, went for operating expenses like the elder’s salaries.

I mentioned in a earlier post that there were four reasons that MLTS was so important to MCM, and, in that post, I covered three of those reasons.

The fourth, and most important reason, that MLTS was so critical to MCM was that it was a primary source of income for the elders.

Let’s take a moment at look at MTLS strictly as a business venture.

Registration at MLTS cost about $ 50/person. That would be the equal, in 2006 dollars to roughly $ 150. MTLS at that point was held every four months during the late 70s and early 80s.

Or three times per year.

Eventually MLTS would move to an every six month schedule, but fees would go up.

With 3000 members paying $ 150 (in 2006 dollars)  every MLTs kicked out $ 450,000 (2006 equivalents) every four months or about $ 1,350,000/year in 2006 dollars.

This represented a HUGE cash and profit generator for MCM.

You may recall that at each MLTS was a tape and book store hawking tapes of the speakers at MLTS and also of sermons from Bob, Joe and other MCM elders.

You may recall my destitute band, at our first MLTS, blew almost all of our money (we pooled it) on a tape set containing teachings from Bob and Rose Weiner. At each MLTS the ministry sold hundreds of such boxed set teachings to the faithful.

S0 if we add-on the cut from the sales of books and tapes and other “impulse purchases” that occurred and Maranatha was generating, in 2006 dollars, in excess of $ 1,500,000/year from MLTS each year.

Using very high estimate for expenses, including speaking fees paid to  both MCM leaders and outside speakers,  I would submit the ministry brought in over$ 1,000,000 of net, tax-free (church, remember?) per year in 2006 dollars. Remember that $ 1,000,000 is free and clear and net of all expenses! And that does not include the $ 20,000- $ 30,000 in speakers honoraria paid each year to Joe and Bob from MLTS.

At the end of this post I have generated a pro-forma P/L for MLTS in 2006 dollars along with my estimates of cash flow and profits for the average ministry using my own estimates

So if we looked at MCM’s finances it was MLTS that made the profits and paid the way for Bob and Joe and their vision of taking over the world.

To reiterate, in terms of a business model, MCM hosted and made money from Christian Seminars.

Now the big risk, in holding concerts and seminars, or running a utility or airline, for that matter, are the high fixed costs involved. If I rent an auditorium including the people to keep it open etc. I have essentially the same cost whether ten people attend or one hundred do. So I might spend $ 10,000 to rent a hall for a night and only have 20 people paying $ 100 each to attend. In this case I lose $ 8,000.

But once I go beyond this fixed cost I make tons of money. Let’s say I rent a hall for $10,000 and I have 1,000 people show up and pay $ 20/head. Now my revenue is $ 20,000 but my fixed costs of $ 10,000 have not changed one bit.

But MCM had none of the “fill the seminar” risks that I just outlined. Every member HAD to attend MLTS. So MCM knew exactly how big (and how much to spend) on an auditorium and bam- they made money every time.

If you throw the tape and book profits on top of this you can see why MLTS was a money machine!

MCM had a cannot lose money-maker in MLTS as long as they could keep the number of members up and control the flock so that they wanted, or had to, attend.

For the profits for MCM were certainly not with the struggling campus ministries that depended on the tithes and offerings of poor students like me and a few others with full-time jobs.

MCM was dependent on MLTS for funding and for any disruption to MLTS would quickly crater their cash starved enterprise.

Don’t get the idea though the MCM did not squeeze every nickel beyond MLTS from these poor students.

The tithes and offerings covered staff overhead and such.

The campus ministries themselves barely broke even with tithes just covering pastor’s salaries and the “houses and meeting places” being funded by rents charged to the single brothers.

Please see addendum number two for a pro-forma P/L for an “average” campus ministry using what I believe very reasonable and conservative estimates.

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

It is not an exaggeration to say that all the sufferings of the sheep happened so a group that hosted Christian Seminars could have guaranteed profits and cash flows.

***************
Addendum # 1
A Financial Analysis of MLTS- Pro-forma Profit and Loss for 1978

I will use 2006 equivalent dollars in this analysis, these are “ball park estimates” for one MLTS are based on my recollections and estimates. Please note that from 1978-1982 three seminars were held per year according to my notes.

Revenue from registration fees (3000 X $ 150) $ 450,000
Revenue from purchases (estimates) $ 25,000
Rebate from travel agents (3000X $ 20) $ 60,000

Total Revenue /MLTS $ 535,000 or $ 1,605,000/annually

Expenses
Speakers Fees (4 X $ 12,500) $ 50,000
Auditorium Rental $ 50,000
Audio/Stage Personnel Expenses $ 10,000
Travel Expense for Staff and Speakers $ 15,000
Flowers, banners etc etc $ 15,000
Miscellaneous $ 10,000

Total Expenses/MLTS $ 150,000

Net Profit $ 385,000 or $ 1,115,000
Or 71% net profit as a % of revenue

Note: Joe Smith and Bob Weiner would be paid $ 12,500 in speaker’s fee according to these estimates.

All travel reimbursed for speakers and MCM corporate staff I believe .

These expense estimates are based on my work in the medical industry in setting up conference and seminars.

At this time MCM was hosting three MLTS per year so the net profit in 2006 dollars would have been about $ 1,155,000.

Note that Joe Smith and Bob Weiner, using these assumptions, would have netted $ 37,500 each in personal income from speaking fees in 2006 dollars.

Addendum # 2
Estimated P/L for the Auburn Ministry for 1979

For comparative purposes I will use 2006 dollar equivalents. This analysis is based on my best estimates for the ministry which I believe to be conservative. It must be also taken into consideration that the Auburn Ministry was one of the more “well off” ministries in MCM.

Assumptions:
130 members
Average income per member in FY 2006 $ 20,000/year
Tithes per member: $ 2,000/year
Total of tithes: $ 260,000/year
Special Offerings per member: $ 200/year
Total Special Offerings: $ 26,000/year
Rent per single brother: $ 2,550/year
Total Rent from 20 brothers: $ 51,000/year

1979 Proforma Profit and Loss Estimates Auburn MCM using 2006 Dollars

Total Tithes and Special offerings $ 325,000
Rent from brothers $ 51,000

Total Income: $ 376,000

Mortgage $ 46,000
Utilities $ 14,000
Repair Reserve $ 8,000
Salaries/benefits $ 170,000
Payback of startup costs $ 10,000
Promotional Outreach Effort $ 20,000
Misc. $ 10,000
Benevolence $ 5,000
Tithe to HQ $ 26,000
Special Offering Repatriation $ 26,000

Total Expenses $ 374,000

Net Profit $ 2,000

Notes:
The cash flow back to HQ is the sum of:
A. Payback of startup costs: $ 10,000
B. Tithes to HQ $ 26,000
C. Special offerings $ 26,000

Total cash to HQ $ 62,000

Discussion

Cash Flow from the Ministry sites
If Auburn represented a “typical ministry” then the total cash flow in 1978 from 26 sites back to MCM from the sites would have been:

26 X $ 62,000= $ 1,612,000 = cash flow back to MCM from the individual ministries in 2006 dollars/ year

This cash flow was used to pay all overhead costs, salaries, travel, fundraising, publicity, startup funding etc. and my estimates are that this overhead burden was equal to at least 51%.

Net “profit from Ministry sites would equal $ 789,000 in 1006 dollars

Cash Flows from MLTS in 1979

$ 1,605,000/year
Profit for 1979 MLTS:
$ 1,115,000 profit for MLTS in 1978

Conclusions:

MLTS contributed 60% of “net” profits to MCM in the late 1970s
The campus ministries provided the ready-made and must attend  audience for MLTS the money seminars put on by MCM.

Additionally the Campus Ministries provided cash flows to cover corporate overhead etc. and to bail out Corporate MCM in time of crisis.

Finally the Campus Ministries provided a “farm league” for future evangelists and pastors who would be sent out to recruit and provide yet more “must attend” people for MLTS.

#37 Abuse: Being Drained By The Ministry

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

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

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

She pulled a very long sharp, hollow needle out of a sterile pouch and quickly stuck it into my bulging vein. The clear plastic tube fitted onto the needle immediately filled with blood which began draining into the bag attached.

The clear bag was quickly filling with my warm, crimson, blood.

The needle and the catheter tugged on my arm, which now felt cold, and my chest ached with the rhythm of my heart beat.

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

It was early June 1979.

I had gotten the idea of selling my plasma from one of the brothers, Patrick, back in early March 1979.

That night Mike Caulk, our pastor, stood up in one of our week night fellowship meetings with a grim expression on his face

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

A low murmur ran through the crowd. I wondered what this attack was, was someone ill, had there been a fire at one of the ministries?

We, all 150 brothers and sisters, waited expectantly, and anxiously, as Mike looked us over stone faced.

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

I remembered this fundraising effort clearly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I sat back in my chair as Mike outlined a series of fundraising efforts including a special offering and urged us all to give sacrificially that night.

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

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

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

I had never considered what that cost meant to all of us and the drain it imposed on our finances.

And now the new (bought used by MCM apparently; with no warranty) plane needed $ 75,000 of work to keep it flying.

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

And it was.

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

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

Did MCM REALLY need a plane?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My arm really hurt now and I was chilling.

“Okay honey,” said the nurse who walked up and fingered the two pint bag,

“I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

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

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

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

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

This part always hurt.

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

But Patrick and I were gaming the system.

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

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

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

But there was a drawback.

I started getting sick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Caulk seemed very pleased and relieved

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

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

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

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

Lost.

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

I was sick and tired all the time.