Sunday, October 26, 2008

What Happened to Terry Fisher?

As mentioned in the previous entry, most of the Jesus House Staff was dismissed at the conclusion of the first summer. I was honored to be part of that staff and yes, I was dismissed along with the others. I stayed around till the weekend because an old friend of mine, John Gould was scheduled to play the Jesus House for the first time. I decided it would be a good final evening and allow me the opportunity to say goodbye to the crowd. John was a big hit from his very first time at the House. For those of you who know him, that is no surprise. John has always been an incredible musician. His preciseness on guitar is a marvel. In addition, I've been listening to him sing since the fall of our senior year in high school and I've never heard him sing a bad note.

Another high school friend drove from my home town to transport me at the conclusion of the evening. All my worldly goods were packed into his car.

Also in attendance that final evening were Dave Phillips, the senior pastor at Highview Christian Church and Richard Engel, the chairman of the board. I appreciated their presence.

Midway through the evening they pulled me aside and asked to talk with me. They had been walking around the grounds praying and the Lord put me on their hearts. The three of us walked outside and they asked me two unexpected questions. The first, "How firm are your nomadic plans?"
"Not very," I said, "Why are you asking?"
Then came the shocker.
"If the church agrees to pay your tuition & books for one seminster at the Bible College and provides you with free housing, will you agree to get a job and continue attending school and pay for it yourself?"
I was stunned by the question and the offer.
The piece they did not know was just a few weeks earlier, I saw how my limited knowledge of the Bible made ministry at the Jesus House difficult. People were continually asking me questions for which I had no answers nor understanding. I prayed that God would provide me with an opportunity to learn the Bible. Now, just a few weeks later, the prayer was being answered.
They told me that I was not required to continue on staff at the Jesus House but if I wanted to I could.
I accepted it all; the opportunity to go to college and learn the Bible, the money for tuition and books, the free place to live and the offer to continue with the House.

The next few months I adapted to studying the Bible in a scholastic setting, lived with a family from church, ran the Jesus House on Saturday evenings, worked at a fast food place to save my next seminster's tuition and continued learning how to run the Jesus House. It wasn't easy, especially with the smaller staff, but God was doing some incredible things in our midst. The biggest lesson I learned that first fall was how any ministry or church grows. The lesson started with a high school senior named Cindy.
More details in the next installment.

This Week in History; Musicians who Performed at the Jesus House the fourth Saturday of October
1971 - Grant Hammond & the Jesus House Singers
1972 - Ron Elkins; Jackie & Brenda
1973 - Ray Terrell; Apocalypse
1974 - Andrew Culverwell
1975 - Crossroads (Their first time!)
1976 - Rich Mullins
1977 - Cannot tell. Too many names crossed out!
1978 - Steve Young
1979 - Zion
1980 - Zion
1981 - Zion
1982 - Zion
1983 - Willoughby-Wilson Band

What's will all those years of Zion playing the fourth week? They used to celebrate their birthday as a band by playing the Jesus House. They usually played around Christmas time too.
Since October is a month that often has a fifth Saturday, here are the people who played on a fifth Saturday.
1976 - Creation INC.
1977 - Becky & Karen; John & Dedra
1981 - Willoughby-Wilson Band
1982 - Willoughby-Wilson Band
1983 - Cathy Snyder

Where Are They Now
The building we used for the Jesus House was originally a judge's house and part of his estate where he bred & raised horses. After the judge died, the family sold off the estate which became the housing development around the House. During construction the building was the office for the construction company. After completion of the housing developement, the building was sold to the Christian Evangelising Fellowship which then used it to start a new church. Once established, Highview Christian Church took over responsibility for the mortgage on the property. The church grew pretty rapidly bought property nearby and eventually contructed a new church building. After years of sitting empty, the building became The Jesus House and continued as such for 14 years.
After the Jesus House closed in January, 1985, the property was sold to a new church. In the fall of 1985 my wife and I were driving around on a Saturday evening and she asked me to take her by the House. My wife did not know me when I ran the House and had never been there. As we drove by the property, I was shocked to see Rick Mapes car in the parking lot. I was hoping he had not forgotten we closed the place, so we stopped and knocked on the door. We learned that Rick was there teaching the current owners how to control the heating. The new owners were very gracious and allowed me to take my wife on a tour of the property, explaining how we used each room. The pastor of the new church was a woman who was living on the upstairs level with her family.

Not sure how long that church lasted but the property is now owned by a private family who is in residence. As you read these memories of the ministry, you might be tempted to drive by the House, perhaps even stop to look around. Please respect the privacy of the current owners and stay off the property. During past Jesus House Reunions, they have allowed us to tour their home. We've not yet been in touch with them to see if that will be possible at our next reunion. If so, you'll know in advance.

Monday, October 13, 2008

That First Crazy Summer

Did we know what we were doing?
The day Randy Matthews asked me to join the staff, he couldn't completely describe what I would experience because no one had ever done that before.
So what was it like?
I found a very brief journal I kept during my first weeks on staff. These few details will give you a sense of what it was like. I've left off the last names of the people mentioned, except in one case!
Remember, this was 1971.
- Sunday, May 9, Joined Highview Christian Church and was accepted by the Steering Committee to move into the House and join the staff. (I was glad since I had already been living there for about a week and already done at least one speaking engagement. This was for a local task force on drug abuse prevention. They had a student panel, all of whom were doing drugs, but were there to speak out against drugs. Each of the three students were baptized the following week.) Later in the day, talked with Debbie about accepting Christ and baptism. She was baptised.
- Monday, May 10, Staff traveled to Indianapolis to speak and sing at a public high school. Three high school students were baptised; Pat, Cathy & Susan.
- Tuesday, May 11, Baptized Mike Stevens and his friend Marvin.
- Wednesday, May 12, Staff traveled to Washington Court House to speak and sing in an assembly at a public high school. After the assembly we spoke in classes. I was assigned to the speech teacher. Twelve people from the school were baptized that evening at a local church including the speech teacher. Those baptized were; Evan, Katie, Greg, Monica, Ann, Becky, Cheryl, Brenda, Pam, Kathy, Cheri, Dianna.
- Thursday, May 13, Baptized Connie.
- Friday, May 14, Concert night. A group of high school students came from Northern Kentucky. Earlier that day, Randy and I drove to their church so he could sing at their spring banquet. Anytime he had a singing opportunity that included a meal, he always took someone else on staff. It was nice seeing them at the House that night. After the Jesus House closed we drove to Fountain Square and witnessed to people about Jesus.
- Saturday, May 15, Talked with Linda about accepting Jesus then baptized her.
- Sunday, May 16, Nothing
- Monday, May 17, We took the day off.
- Tuesday, May 18, Talked with Annette. Baptized Bob.

Over 100 people, mostly high school students, received Christ and were baptized the first year. One sunny afternoon, walking from the Jesus House up to Highview to baptize someone I thought, "I am so tired of being wet!" As soon as I thought it, I reprimanded myself. There was another part of me that intuitively knew I was experiencing something pretty special.

Some of you who were not attending the House that first summer might have noticed that I identified the concert as occuring on Friday instead of Saturday. That is not a clerical error. The first summer we were open, the concerts were on Friday evenings. Beginning with the fall, we moved them to Saturday because of competition with high school football games. The first couple of years, we were primarily reaching high school students. In later years, the crowd grew to include college students, then young adults.

Besides the details listed above, our normal schedule, if there was such a thing, involved spending time in the afternoons with students who were already Christians and the non-Christian friends they brought by the house. Once they were gone, usually by nine or ten in the evening, the druggy kids began showing up. We were usually up till 2:00 am talking with these folks. Consequently, on most days we did not wake up till almost noon.

Life at the Jesus House that first summer was in constant flux. By mid-June, Randy Matthews went on the road for a month to perform concerts all across the country. His first album had been released on Word Records and the label wanted him performing and selling records. Steve Scott went with him. Two guys with a few pairs of jeans and a guitar traveling in a little sports car. While they were gone, Grant and Jane Ann Hammond moved into the House to help while Randy and Steve were gone. During their absence, the Steering Committee decided to replace Randy permanently with Grant. As I reflect on this decision, I am ashamed that it happened. I will not go into all the details, nor point a finger at anyone who was involved, other than myself. I did not initiate the action, nor did I agree with it, but I did not do anything to prevent it. When Randy & Steve returned from their tour, they were each handed letters informing them that they had been dismissed from the staff. Since they had been living at the House they were told to immediately remove their personal items and move elsewhere. As you can imagine, they were hurt by this action. I am grateful that both men were eventually able to forgive us. Those of you who were around the Jesus House in later years will remember that Randy performed at the House many times.

With the arrival of Grant Hammond, there were some radical changes. Grant stopped the late night discussions with the druggies. He believed it was not productive, nor did he want people in the building past 11:00 pm. By the end of the summer, attendance began to slow down, not as many students were becoming Christians, not as many baptisms. With less of an evangelistic edge to the ministry, I was getting kind of bored.

Just before Labor Day Weekend, the Chairperson of the Steering Committee, a great man named Richard Engel stopped by one afternoon to deliver the latest news from the Committee. The remaining original staff were being dismissed and only Grant & Jane Ann were being retained. We were given till the weekend to leave. Joanie, a very free wheeling lady, hugged everyone in the room, packed her VW and was driving back to her home in Lexington within the hour. Mike & Pat were pretty angry. They also left that day. I decided to stay through the weekend because a high school friend, John Gould was going to play at the Jesus House for the first time Labor Day Weekend. It was also going to be our final Friday night concert.

"Wait a minute!"
"You just said 'everyone' was dismissed."
"Yes, they were."
"What about Terry Fisher. I happen to know he was still there many years later."
"Oh, but was it the same Terry Fisher?"
"Of course it was."
"I guess you'll have to come back next week to find out what happened."
"What do you mean, wait till next week?"
"I have to go now. I have an important meeting to attend."
"No! Don't do this to me."
"Sorry. Signing off now."
"Come baaaacccckkkk...."

Tune in next week to find out what happened to Terry Fisher. Was it the same Terry Fisher? Was he replaced by an evil twin? Or a better version of the original?

This Week In History: Artists who performed at the Jesus House the third weekend of October.
1971 - Kent Odor
1972 - Terri Senters
1973 - Marc O'Hara
1974 - Latter Rain
1975 - Rich Mullins (known in those days as Richard Mullins!)
1976 - Ed Guttfriend
1977 - Terry Fisher, Terri Senters & some guy named Bryan
1978 - Lisa Allen & Karen Hess
1979 - Ed (No last name is recorded.)
1980 - Carolyn Randall
1981 - Randy Morris
1982 - Rick Marksberry & Homestyle (Bluegrass!)
1983 - John Gould

Where Are They Now?
Grant & Jane Ann Hammond lived at the Jesus House until December, 1971 so they were there approximately six months. They decided the life style of the place did not suit them. Grant was still a student at the Cincinnati Bible Seminary. Jane Ann had graduated the year before. A few years later they moved to Toronto, Canada as missionaries and the last we heard from them they had moved to Jane Ann's family farm in Washington Court House, Ohio. By then they had one son named Christopher. We've not heard anything from them for many years but would welcome any updated information. Grant was an incredible guitar player and very gifted musician. He formed the original Jesus House Singers, a group of high school students who sang with lots of enthusiasm but also sounded good! For a brief time, before the Jesus House started, Grant traveled with Randy Matthews, played electric lead and sang background vocals. Grant co-wrote several of the original songs on Randy's first album.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Early Days

The seeds for the origin of the Jesus House began during the summer of 1970 when two Mt. Healthy High School students had life changing spiritual experiences. Mark Pratt traveled Japan with a high school singing group. Rick Coyle spent the summer working at a Christian camp. When school began in the fall, these two high school seniors decided they wanted to find a specific way to tell their friends about Jesus. With permission from their church leaders, they began a Thursday evening “Bible Rap” at Highview Christian Church. They invited their friends from school, who in turn invited other friends until a small group turned into a large group which turned into an even larger group. Because Rick & Mark felt inadequate to handle the size as well as some of the questions which were being asked, college students from Cincinnati Bible Seminary (now Cincinnati Christian University) were invited to participate as leaders. One of the students who volunteered his time was Randy Matthews, a gifted singer and songwriter whose music brought an extra level of excitement and interest. The crowds at this Bible Rap would number 50 one week, 100 another, with the high being 250 for a special concert by Randy. Many of these high school students were accepting Christ and were being baptized during the Bible Rap evenings.

The popularity of the weekly Bible Rap prompted the student leaders, the Elders of Highview and Dave Phillips, Highview’s minister, to brainstorm ways of expanding the ministry to these high school students. The church owned a piece of property which contained a large house that had served as the congregation’s first building. It sat vacant for several years with the congregation unable to sell it. Randy Matthews envisioned turning this building into a site for concerts & Bible studies with a full-time live-in staff.

By March of 1971, this was becoming a reality. Many of the people involved with the Bible Rap participated in an event called Spiritual Revolution Day which began with a rally on Fountain Square, a march through downtown Cincinnati and a concert that evening at Taft Auditorium. Arthur Blessitt was the featured speaker for the day. Randy Stonehill and Randy Matthews along with a variety of others performed music. Among many other events of that day was the first time Randy Matthews and Terry Fisher met. This meeting led to Terry visiting the Jesus House a week later. It was not yet open for business. In fact, it was the first day that people were working on the building; scraping walls, cleaning, and painting. This was in preparation for the opening of the ministry. During the day there was a break in the action while everyone trooped up to Highview Christian Church to baptize a girl named Carol. While returning from that baptism, Randy asked Terry to join the staff of the Jesus House. His reason was because of Terry’s drug background. Randy knew they were going to be dealing with a lot of high school students who were doing various forms of drugs and no one else on the staff had any experience with drugs.

The next month and a half, students showed up nearly every day after school to work and prepare the building. A gifted artist from the Bible College painted seven large murals in the meeting room. A smaller room was painted four shades of purple, one on each wall with the colors extending across the ceiling in triangles to meet in the middle.

The first Friday of May, 1971 was the official opening of the Jesus House. The place was packed with teenagers; everyone excited to finally have the place open. Randy sang that night along with another musical guest whose name has been lost. An audio tape of the evening still exists in the special Jesus House Hidden Archives!

The first Jesus House staff was: Randy Matthews, Steve Scott, Terry Fisher, Mike Buckingham, Pat Buckingham, and Joanie (last name forgotten, Joanie if you read this remind us of your last name!)

Next week: That first crazy summer!

This week in history: Artists who appeared at the Jesus House during the Second Week of October.
1971 - John Gould (the first of many!)
1972 - Steve Kroger
1973 - Larry Pennington
1974 - Rick Roberts
1975 - Rising Hope
1976 - Corban Weekend featuring Grant Edwards, speaking and special music guest, Jon Owens.
1977 - The Paul & Dave Band
1978 - Madison Getman Jr.
1979 - Jim Bankowski
1980 - Larry Bubb (Terry Fisher's Birthday!)
1981 - Steffins-Brigance
1982 - Rising Hope
1983 - Singing

Where Are They Now?
In the history section, you may have read some names you do not recognize. So where are all these people? Good question. The last we saw Pat Buckingham she was preparing to marry a Boston Celtic. Not sure if she did. The last time we saw Mike Buckingham (they are brother and sister) was at his wedding in 1976. Steve Scott, originally from Indiana has lived in several states and run various businesses. Joanie is from Lexinton and the last we heard she was still living there.
Unfortunately, not a lot of details, not because we don't love these people but because we've lost touch. Remember, in those days there was no email, facebook, etc.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Introduction to the Jesus House

The Jesus House started the first weekend of May, 1971. The place featured weekly Christian music concerts in a large house located in the Mount Healthy area of north-west Greater Cincinnati. This blog is going to cover some of the history of the House including lists of former concert performers, updates on staff, photos from the past, and thoughts from Terry Fisher, the writer of this blog. If you have old photos that can be used on this blog please email them to Terry,

This blog will also promote the upcoming Jesus House Reunion, to be held at Highview Christian Church, May 2, 2009. More details, including a list of artists will be forthcoming. A new blog posting will be added each week.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading the blog.
Spread the word.

This week in history: Concert performers who appeared at the Jesus House the first weekend of October:
1971 - Len Mink
1972 - Restoration
1973 - Grant Hammond
1974 - John Gould, Rich Davis
1975 - Sandy Wagner, Andy Danzel, Ric Marksberry
1976 - One Lane Road
1977 - Sharon Wilson
1978 - Wild Olive Branch Band
1979 - Rob Rodebush
1980 - Dave Workman
1981 - Messinger, Tim Root
1982 - Kevin Boys
1983 - YWAM - "Toymaker & Son"
1984 - Sorry, no records kept of this year.

Where Are They Now?
The founding Director of the Jesus House was Randy Matthews.
Many of you might know Randy's name as one of the originators and innovators of the music genre that became known as Contemporary Christian Music.
When Randy began his singing career, he called it Gospel Rock both because of his appreciation for rock & roll music but also because of his family's Gospel Music roots. His father Monty sang in the Jordanaires.
While Randy was a student at Cincinnati Bible Seminary (aka Cincinnati Christian University) he was asked to help lead a weekly event at Highview Christian Church on Thursday evenings where dozens of high school students were gathering to discuss the Bible. Randy's musical talent and charisma help attract more students. When Randy learned that the church still owned a large house in the neighborhood with a large meeting room, he conceived the idea of The Jesus House.
More will be written in later blogs about this beginning.
Near the end of the first summer of operation, Randy left the Jesus House staff to devote himself to a full-time Christian music career. For many years, Randy performed 200-300 concerts a year, traveling all across the U.S. as well as frequent trips to Canada and several to Australia and England.
Randy recorded many albums on a variety of Christian labels. Some can be found online through resale web sites. To date, none of Randy's recordings have been officially released on CD.
So, what is Randy doing today?
He's a pirate!
Specifically, Red Beard the Pirate.
Randy performs childrens shows at several Florida resorts in his persona as Red Beard. You can read more about Red Beard on his web site. He also has a CD of original pirate songs! Check him out: