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.