Tuesday, December 30, 2008

closing out the years

New Year's Eve at the Jesus House was a mix of closings and big celebrations. As mentioned in a previous post, in the early years we tended to be closed around Christmas and New Year's Eve because we were college students on break visiting our families. Years later, we had New Year's Eve celebrations, the first was organized by Loyd Boldman and people from Northern Kentucky. These events usually involved multiple bands and other performers. I believe the first time the Willouby-Wilson Band played the Jesus House it was a NYE Celebration. But back to our first year . . .

The first ministry year, 1971, Christmas Day & New Year's Day were on Saturdays so we were closed. On New Year's Day, though, some of us traveled to the Dayton area to hear Randy Matthews perform a concert at House of the Risen Son run by a guy named Jim Spicer. We knew Jim from the Cincinnati Bible Seminary and many of the musicians who played the Jesus House also played his place. Fast-forward 37 years and the guy who is the Senior Pastor at Highview Christian Church is (drum roll please) Jim Spicer. Yes, the same Jim Spicer. Jim is one of the reasons we will be able to host the next (and no doubt final) Jesus House Reunion Concert at Highview. A few days ago, Chris Adams said, "Having the Reunion at Highview will be like a home coming." Not only was Highview essential in establishing the Jesus House, but many of you were baptized at Highview. The first couple of years of Muster Weekend (more on that in April) we used the Highview building. For many of us, Highview was the church we attended on Sunday mornings. Most of the time we were walking in groggy because of the late night and because we probably just crawled out of bed. The people of Highview were always very encouraging. Many of them loved the ministry of the Jesus House and supported us in ways that included but were not limited to feeding us, making us welcome in their homes, feeding us, loaning us cars, feeding us, providing financial support and, finally, feeding us.

Many names could be listed as huge Highview supporters but since this blog is not intended to cover pages and pages, here are just a few:

David & Shirley Phillips - Dave was the Senior Pastor at Highview when the Jesus House started. Dave was also my first ministry mentor. Many times I dropped by their house to see if Dave was available to talk. He and Shirley always welcomed me in. Dave would offer me a seat and Shirley would offer me a sandwich. I always accepted the seat and turned down the sandwich. Ten minutes later, Shirley would bring me the sandwich I turned down with a glass of iced tea. God used Dave to prepare me for ministry. God used Shirley to prepare me for ministry. When the church was not sure about the wisdom of starting the Jesus House, Dave stood up for the vision and said, "God has placed this opportunity in our laps. We can accept it and see what happens or we can turn it down. It is something new and different and maybe uncomfortable for some of us, but there is no doubt it is an opportunity from God."

Bill & Vietta Keith - Vietta was the organist for Highview and Bill was a perpetual deacon who handled a lot of financial details for the church. At the conclusion of my first interview to determine whether or not I would join the Jesus House Staff, as I rose to leave the room, Bill held out his hand, shook mine and said, "My name is Bill Keith and I hope you get in." That was the first of many words of encouragement I received from Bill.
When I first met Vietta she was a stay-at-home mom of three who was attending college one class at a time. While raising her children, Vietta enrolled in one class each term at Miami University finishing first her Bachelor degree then her Masters. Once the children were raised she was able to enter and complete a doctorate program in counseling. Even though I remember all the peanut butter sandwiches Vietta served me over the years, she became a source of inspiration when I finally had the opportunity to enter a master's program at Fuller Seminary. I took one class a quarter for five years and completed an MA - Theology. Anytime I felt discouraged about the work or the pressures of attending grad school while working full-time and being married with children, I remembered Vietta.

These people, and many others from the summer and fall of 1971 had a huge impact on the genesis stages of the Jesus House. Without their willingness to accept God's call to do something strange and different, 14 years of unique ministry would have been lost.

This Week in History: Artists Who Performed at the Jesus House the Fourth (and Fifth) Weeks of December
1971 - Closed (Christmas Day)
1972 - Closed
1973 - Christmas Family Nite (This means an assortment of people performed.)
1974 - Closed
1975 - Closed
1976 - Closed (Christmas Day)
1977 - Closed (Christmas Eve)
1978 - Rich Mullins
1979 - Zion
1980 - Terry Fisher
1981 - Donnie Yazell
1982 - Closed (Christmas Day)
1983 - Closed (Christmas Eve)

Decembers With a Fifth Saturday:
1973 - Closed
1977 - New Year's Eve Bash featuring Rising Hope
1978 - Windfall (A New Year's Eve Eve Bash that included DANCING!!!!)
1979 - Hymn
1983 - Larry Bubb (Visiting from California!)

Where Are They Now?
David & Shirley Phillips are still ministering to people. David is the pastor at Pleasant Run Church of Christ, the site of the three previous Jesus House Reunions. We were permitted to use the church building because of Dave & Shirley's continuing conviction that the Jesus House was a ministry birthed from the heart of God. We hope to see Dave & Shirley at the upcoming reunion.
Bill Keith went to be with Jesus over ten years ago.
The last I heard from Vietta she was a therapist and professor. Not sure if she is still doing that or if she has retired.


MarcO said...

Happy New Years to all the Fishies from the "O's".

I am fairly certain that I recall Jim Spicer. He had a brother and a sister and the family was from somewhere near Dayton. I think both brothers went on to be pastors and Jim's sister married Ted Baxendale (there's a name from the past). I met them several times back when I hung around with Ted. I recall singing at a little country church that was probably one of the Spicer's first ministries.

Marc O'Hara

Gary Sweeten said...

Vietta was the founder of the Counseling Program at Cincinnati Christian University. She is remarried and lives in Northern Cinci.

Gary Sweeten said...

Marc, I heard that Ted B died a few years ago. Also, I hear that Jim Spicer is now Pastoring the church that originally sponsored the JH. Small world.