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.

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