LOOKING BACK ON THE JOURNEY

I left Michigan a few days after retuning home from the upper peninsula… I had no idea where I was going or where I would end up. California was on my mind as I headed down Route 66… but I was open to anyplace where I could begin to put Love into action.  Driving through the Texas panhandle on a hot Summer’s day, I felt some resistance on the steering wheel and pulled over to the side of the highway to see what was wrong. I discovered that the right rear tire was going flat and needed to be changed. I checked the spare and, seeing that it was good, proceeded to take the defective tire off… however the first lug nut would not budge. I put all of my strength into it until finally there was a snap as the screw broke off. I tried the second one and it too broke off, just like the first. My frustration suddenly turned to fear as I imagined having to be towed away. I didn’t have a lot of money with me and worried about how I would be able to pay for the tow-truck and the repairs. Another car pulled over behind me and a young man got out to see if he could be of any assistance. After seeing the problem he went to his car and returned with some water which he splashed on the remaining lug nuts to cool them down before loosening them. He was a mechanic, and as we talked I shared my story. When the tire was changed, I thanked him for his help and asked if he felt it was safe to travel with two lug nuts missing. He assured me it would be alright to go a few hundred miles but recommended that I get it fixed as soon as possible or it might do permanent damage to the car.    

The panic had subsided by the time I pulled back on to the highway. I realized I would not make it to California as I had thought but would have to find someplace else to hold up… at least for a few days. Entering New Mexico, a feeling of calm came over me and as the Red Rocks, that lined the highway, grew in size and beauty, they seemed to be guiding me to where I was suppose to be. Gallup was still a long ways off, but I knew Rehoboth Mission, an Indian ministry my church had supported for many years,  was somewhere close to it, and I was sure I would be able to get some advise and assistance from them. I arrived at dusk and spoke to someone on the campus but they recommended that I return in the morning. I found a cheap hotel for the night and had no problem falling asleep.

The reception I got, upon returning the following morning, was even less friendly than the one I had received the evening before. I suppose my long hair had something to do with that. The Christian Reformed Church (CRC) was, and as far as I know, still is on the conservative side and Mr. Ed, the director of Rehoboth Mission, seemed to fit into that category. When I told him I had worked at Pine Rest however, he loosened up a bit and informed me that the small hospital they ran needed help and encouraged me to talk to the head nurse… and because I was from the CRC, he also agreed to let me stay at the Mission House until things worked out. I thanked him and drove the short distance to the hospital, where I met with Mr. Vern, the head nurse. I recognized him immediately as one of the head nurses at Pine Rest during my training to be a Psychiatric Nurse. He had left however, during the four years I served in the military. He did not recognize me, however… but when I told him about my training at Pine Rest he became quite interested, because he was very short on staff at the time. He assured me there would be no problem hiring me… all he needed to do was to check with my former supervisor, Mr. Stan, a personal friend of his, for a recommendation, and I could start work immediately. He told me he would call him that evening and would give me an answer in the morning. I wanted to ask him if he could call someone else as a reference instead, but thought that might sound strange, and so I walked away hoping that the recommendation would not be to bad. I should have gone with the sounding strange, because when I returned the following morning, I was told that the recommendation was so bad that the Board of Directors would never approve of my working there.

I was very disappointed of course, and it must have showed, because Mr. Vern suggested that I work as a volunteer with the construction team at Rehoboth for awhile, and perhaps in a few months he could use some local recommendations to get me in. I returned to Rehoboth and talked with Mr. Ed about volunteering. He was hesitant at first but said he would give me a chance to prove myself. I thanked him and started moving my things in to the Mission house… but didn’t feel real good about it. That evening after dinner, as I sat alone on the Mission house steps, a young Navajo boy rode his bicycle up and sat beside me. We talked a bit and I learned that he was from the outside community. He didn’t have a father and because his mother was sick a lot, he had dropped out of school to take care of her. Dusk was approaching and as he got to his feet to leave, he asked,”Are you going to stay here?”

“I don’t know,” I responded, “It all depends on when I get my car fixed.”

“Yah, that’s what I thought.” He replied, “The good ones never stay here.”

I fell asleep on those words and when I awoke the following morning, decided I would stay, at least for awhile, to prove him wrong.

I didn’t realize at that time, just how insightful his words really were. Not that Rehoboth was filled with bad people, but that there were things going on at Rehoboth that were hidden from outsiders like me… and for good reason. Rehoboth brought in more “mission money” every year than almost all of the other outreaches of the CRC, primarily because the Dutch people, who make up a majority of it’s members, have big hearts for Indian people… but almost no heart at all for Black people. Offerings for Rehoboth brought in far more money than was needed to run it’s programs and with the excess money, ministries could be started in black ghetto areas or invested in land schemes… both of which were never very successful and the latter of which resulted in a very large sum of money being lost. These things would only be revealed to me much later however, after I had earned the trust of some of the insiders. Working as a volunteer with the construction crew, was one of the lowest positions at the Mission, however, it gave me a free ticket to the backstage of the Theatre, where I could observe, from some of the best missionaries the CRC had to offer,  the trickery that goes on behind the scenes of some of the many deceptive practices preformed by missionaries and Mission organizations.

There is a high rate of burn out on the Mission Fields primarily, I feel, because missionaries are taught how to appear compassionate without getting involved… or in other words, how to act like Jesus… without risking the possibility of crucifixion. 

THE SAVING OF SOULS

“Saving Souls” is what missions is all about… and the more you save, the better your chances are of being supported by a large-rich-anglo church. Unlike the supporting churches however, where new members are not really wanted or welcomed, unless they fit certain criteria… a mission church is open and excepting of everyone. A good revival may have several  people coming forward to be saved. The fact that some of them may have been saved once, twice or several times before doesn’t really matter because no-one ever bothers to ask what happens to the converts. I know of an evangelist who went to a school and held revivals every week… she was very successful and recorded 20 or 30 new converts at each meeting.  There were less than 500 students in the school yet she recorded over 1000 converts per year, and did so year after year, and no one ever questioned it.

I had always thought of Missionaries as super heroes… called by God to seek the lost souls of far off heathen nations, surrendering everything they had to live at the level of the people they served. I would soon discover however, that many Missionaries were on the field because they did not do well in seminary and for that reason no church had called them to be a Pastor. Others were Bible School graduates who would never be a Pastor of a large church but were good enough to be missionaries. Don’t read me wrong here, there are many great people in missions and some that have sacrificed everything, to serve the God they Love… others however, may start out with good intentions but soon get burned out on the assumed ignorance of the people they came to serve and end up living a life of luxury, while making the native people their servants instead.

I didn’t see myself as a missionary or evangelist at the time and therefore was quite surprised  when they invited me to become one of them, during the Navajo Fair. I was helping the construction crew set up the information booth the day before the Fair, when they asked if I wanted to work with them. ”How I would go about saving a soul?” I asked, in all sincerity.

“Nothing to it” he replied, “just tell them Jesus loves them and give them a pamphlet… the Holy Spirit will do the rest.”

“Should I tell them anything about myself?” I inquired.

“No, No, don’t make it to personal. Most of them will be drunk anyway so you would only be wasting your time.”

It sounded easy enough… almost to easy, and so the following morning I reported in at the booth and was handed a package of 50 pamphlets. I left at the same time as one of the missionary’s wives, with the instructions to return in about one hour for refreshments. I followed the missionary’s wife into the crowd hoping to get some ideas from her, but she was not a large woman and I soon lost sight of her.

I started walking through the large crowd, looking for opportunities, but, as I had been told the day before, many of the people were already drunk or drinking and I didn’t feel comfortable approaching them. After about 15 minutes I noticed a young boy leaning up against a post. He looked more confused than drunk and so I decided to give it a go. “Good morning,” I said, a bit awkwardly. “How are you doing today?”

“What?” he asked, somewhat suspiciously.

“How are you feeling today?” I repeated… than added, “do you know Jesus loves you?”

“I am hungry,” he responded, seeming not to have heard my second question.

“I can’t give you money, but there is a coffee shop over there and I would be glad to buy you a sandwich if you like.”

He nodded his head and we walked over to the shop and set down at a table. I drank a coffee while he scoffed down a ham sandwich and drank a Coke. When he was finished he stood and thanked me for the meal.

I handed him a tract and watched him walk away. I looked at my watch and realized I had only 15 minutes left before reporting in and so I went back into the crowd looking for someone else to witness to. I handed out a few more tracts to people I thought looked sober enough to read them but most people just dropped them to the ground, before the Holy Spirit could enter them.

“How did it go?” I was asked as I approached the booth?

“Not so good,” I responded, “but I did have one good contact.”

“Well… any day you can save even one soul from Hell is a good day.” he responded reassuringly, “and how was it for you?” he asked as the missionaries wife approached.

“Praise God, I ran out of tracts after 30 minutes but managed to save 53 people anyway.” she answered joyfully.

“Wow, that is fantastic. Praise God! Wayne saved one as well, so thats 54 conversions in the last hour.”

“Praise God!” was her response, as she turned and looked my way.

I felt a bit embarrassed but also puzzled by her supposed success… how does one witness to 53 people in less than 60 minutes?

A few weeks later I was invited to participate in the weekly Sunday afternoon jail ministry. A group of men gathered at the church for a short prayer session before leaving the campus and again I was told not to get personal. We were only planting the seeds of Faith, and if they took hold, God would send others to nurture them to maturity.

It was my first time being inside of a jail and I must admit that it was a bit scary when the door was closed and locked behind us. The cells were filled with men of all ages, most of whom seemed to be in a hung-over condition. Some came up to the bars and the group I was with began talking with them. Tracts were handed out and prayers were said… I was quite impressed actually as I watched the interactions but didn’t feel I was ready yet to start up a conversation with any of the prisoners. The leader of our group came over to where I was standing… perhaps my inhibition was obvious because he pointed to a  door down the hallway. “They keep the juveniles over there, maybe you would feel more comfortable talking with them.”


Thanks.” I responded, as I headed for the door… embarrassed a bit, but also relieved to be out of the main hall where I am sure I looked like a fool. I noticed, as I walked through the door, that the cell was much smaller than the others in the adult section. Two men were talking to some of the 12 or more teenagers behind the bars so I stood over in a corner to listen. The cell appeared very uncomfortable… one open toilet, four metal beds without mattresses, and a metal table to eat their meals on. It was however, much quieter than the adult section, which is about the only positive thing one could say about it.

As I looked around the room, my eyes connected with one of the younger prisoners, sitting in a corner opposite me. He must have been waiting for me to notice him, because as soon as I did, he stood up and walked over to my corner. “Are you a Christian?” he asked, as he approached me.

“Yes I am.” I responded, a bit surprised by his question.

“So am I.” he replied, with a confidence I wished that I possessed.

“If you are a Christian, why are you here in this cell?” I inquired naively.

“ I go to church when I am at boarding school,” he explained. “My family lives on the reservation and my brother came to take me out because my mother is sick. When we got to Gallup he met one of his friends and they started drinking. I tried to get him to stop but he hit me and ran away with his friend. I tried to find him again but it was getting late and so I found a place in an alley where I could sleep. That is when the police found me and brought me here.”

“Did you explain your story to the police?”

“Yes, but they said someone responsible needs to get me out.”

“How many days have you been here?” I asked, beginning to feel sympathy for his predicament.

“Two days,” he answered, as his eyes began to tear. “Can you help me?”

“I would like to,” I responded, “ but I don’t know what I can do.”

One of the men evidently was listening in on our conversation, because he cleared his throat and when I looked over at him, he shook his head. “We need to go now,” he announced to everyone, “God bless you all!”

“Is there nothing we can do for him?” I asked, as we returned to the car.

“No, that is not our responsibility,” he answered, “besides, most of what he was saying was probably a lie anyway… they are good at telling you exactly what you want to hear.”

“But what if he was telling the truth?” I continued. “He said he was only 14 years old and his only crime was being out on the street after dark. Jail is not the place for him.”

“You are getting to involved,” he cautioned, “Don’t worry about him, someone will most likely come by today to get him out. If we tried to help all of the people who ask us for help on Sundays, we would never get any other work done during the week.”

“So what is the purpose of going there,” I blurted out, somewhat sarcastically, “just to pray with them?”

“That’s right,” he responded sharply, “Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have against sin, and that is what he needs the most of at this time.”

I realized that I was putting him on the defensive and so decided not to pursue the matter any further… but already I could see a line being drawn, and I was very close to stepping over it.

The following Sunday we returned to the jail and I went straight in to the juvenile section where I found the same young boy sitting alone on the table. There were two new boys lying on the cots, both appeared intoxicated, but all of the others boys, from the prior week, were gone. “Didn’t expect to see you here.” I greeted, as our eyes met. 

“No one has come for me yet.” he said, disappointedly.

“I am sorry to hear that,” I responded, “ I wish there was something I could do for you.”

“Why can’t you take me out?” he asked, tears forming in his eyes.

“I wish I could but I don’t think they will let me.”

“But can you try?” he pleaded, “I don’t like being here and I don’t know how my mother is doing. I want to go home.”

“I can ask…”

“No he can’t!” came the answer, from the mouth of the same man I had talked to the Sunday before. I was not aware that he had come into the room. “They will only release you to family. If you know a telephone number of someone we can call them but that is all we can do.”

“I don’t know of anyone with a phone.” he answered.

“Than there is nothing we can do.” the man responded, coldly.

The boys eyes began tearing as he stood up and without saying anything, walked to the back of the cell and laid down on one of the cots, covering his face to hid the tears.

I too was speechless… but not because I didn’t have words to say, I just knew this wasn’t the time or place to say them. I walked out of the room with the words stuck in my throat. As the guard open the door that lead to the outside, I asked him if there was someone I could talk to about the boy and he suggested that I come in the next morning to meet with the Judge. I returned to the car and waited for the others to come out. No one said anything on the way back to Rehoboth, but it was obvious that in their minds I had come even closer to crossing the line. 

I didn’t sleep at all that night and the following morning I asked Mr. Juke, the foreman of the construction unit at Rehoboth, for permission to have the morning off. I drove to the jail and asked at the front desk if I could see the Judge. They told me that he was in court at the time but would be out in about 15 minutes and would be able to see me then. As I took a seat in the empty hallway my mind began to question my actions. I had been court marshaled in the military, fired from a great job a Pine Rest, and now it looked like I was heading for trouble again. ‘Was there something wrong with me? Were the causes I choose to defend really that important… or was I really only interested in making waves? Was the boy sitting in the cell really worth losing my relationships with the very people at Rehoboth who could give me another chance to prove myself?’    

“Mr. Matthysse, Judge Rinaldi will see you now.”

“Yes, Thank You.” I responded, a bit nervously.

He was hanging up his robe as I enter the office, “Good Morning, Sir.”

“Good Morning,” he responded, “Have a seat, I be with you in a minute.”

I introduced myself and we talked briefly about my home state of Michigan, a place he had never been to, but had heard a lot about. I tried to think of something in response but, as often happens to me in superficial conversation, nothing came to mind. There was a brief pause and then he looked straight at me and asked, “So what is it that you wanted to see me about?”

I told him that I was concerned about the young boy in the cell and asked if there was anything that could be done for him. He explained to me the problems they had with trying to track down relatives on the reservation. He admitted that it was not good to keep them in custody but added that once they picked them up they could only release them to an adult family member. That was the law. They were being held for their own protection and if something happened to them after being picked up, the court would be held responsible. 

“Does it have to be a family member?” I inquired.

“Well not really, it could also be someone appointed by the court… but there are no funds to hire anyone.”

“Could I volunteer for that position, Sir?” I offered, without putting much thought into what that might entail. “I  am really concerned for that boy and would be happy to take him home.”

“Hmmm… that would solve a lot of our problems,” he responded, “but how often could you do it?”

“Everyday if need be, Sir.”

“Okay, let’s give it a try. I’ll have him released to you today but you must come back and give me a report on where you take him and who you give him to.”

“No problem, Sir. I will be happy to do that.”

We shook hands and I went back into the hallway to wait. Twenty minutes later the door opened and the boy walked out, unsure of what was happening. A smile came to his face as soon as he saw me and after I signed the release form, we walked to my car.

“Are you hungry?” I asked, as we pulled out of the parking lot.

“Yes, I am,” he responded, “the food is not very good in jail.”

I took him to a small restaurant where we had an early lunch and than drove him on to the reservation to a small compound of hogans about twenty miles passed Window Rock. There was much jubilation on the compound when he got out of the car and I realized, at that moment, that everything he had told me was the truth. The mother had recovered from her illness and the brother had retuned home after two days of drinking, but had no recollection of what had happened to his brother. Their gratitude was obvious even though they were speaking to me in Navajo, and although I would never run into the boy again, in the twelve years I lived in New Mexico, the satisfaction I got out of bringing him home was exactly what I needed, for it answered my questions and gave me the assurance that I was doing the right thing.

Missions and missionaries are generally more liberal than are their supporting churches, and for that reason, certain subjects are forbidden to be discussed or acknowledged, for fear of losing support. Homosexuality is one of these subjects to be hidden in the closet.

  

HOMOSEXUALITY

By the time I got to Rehoboth, I was aware of homosexuality. I had seen it in the military and even had comrades who were gay… but these were worldly people from whom one could expect ungodly behavior. My Christian friend Ted, whom I worked and even lived with for a time at Pine Rest, was also gay, although I didn’t realize it at the time I knew him. I would later come to this conclusion after his, and some of the other staff (and I would assume patients as well)  died untimely deaths from unknown illness’s caused by a deficiency in their immune systems. I would never have expected to find homosexuality at Rehoboth however, because I was always lead to belief that it was a Godly community of men and women, chosen by God himself, to be his messengers to the Indian people… and it wasn’t until I became one of these messengers, that I was allowed to enter into the closet.

I had yet to identify myself with any group, in regards to sexual orientation… perhaps the main reason being I was not sure of which I belonged. I had never had a sexual partner and, although I certainly was physically aroused by individuals and even fantasied sexual acts with them at times, their gender was never a factor. I have always Loved and been Loved by many, and although at times it could have ended in having sex, it never did.

MY LOVER’S LOVE

I hesitate to say this,
for not all will understand,
but I’ve known a thousand lovers,
since the fire first began.

Their gender, age, and colour
never mattered much to me,
it was always in the moment,
that our love would come to be.

But in time the flames would falter,
as fires always do,
for passion cannot feed itself,
the lover it consumes.

The flames died out some time ago,
I don’t remember where or when,
and I’ve been coasting on the memories,
hoping just to reach the end.

But something strange is happening…
some might say I’ve lost my mind.
For a new fire now is burning,
but it seems a different kind.

My bed no more is empty,
for I lay at my Lover’s side,
and when morning’s light has broken,
I no longer try to hide.

For the flames that once consumed me,
are now beginning to refine,
and that person I’d forgotten
I now desire to be mine.

I am the Lover of my Love…
my Lover’s Love am I.

In other words, I guess I would classify myself as bisexual in orientation… however I am getting away from the point. I discovered that many of the single teachers and staff at Rehoboth were either gay or lesbian and it took awhile for me to accept this fact, because they were really neat people. Never, that I am aware of, did any of them ever attempt to abuse or try to influence the students in any way. They were dedicated Christians who cared and loved the students as much and maybe even more than some of the more conservative missionary staff who’s goal it seemed was to hammer and chisel away on the character of the students, until they fit into the school’s mold.

Because homosexuality and marital difficulties on the mission field are not acceptable behavior, frustrations and guilt often leads to pornography, pedophilia, and, for those couples pretending to be happily married, spouse and child abuse or extramarital affairs. This happens far more than is reported and is usually covered up, for fear of losing support. 

Over the years I have come to know many gay and lesbian individuals, most of whom are committed to their work far more than married individuals can be. They are the teachers, the healers, the innovators, and the stay until the job is done people, that have always been there in time of need… how unfortunate that the ones doing most of the work must hid their identity to please the donors.   

Another subject that must be hidden from conservative christian support churches is speaking in tongues. Although acceptable in Pentecostal congregations, it could mean loss of funding if a missionary or mission organization is suspected of condoning or participating in this kind of worship.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES

I had known about speaking in tongues before arriving at Rehoboth. There was a group called The Door, in Grand Rapids, Michigan that I would attend occasionally. They were a break away group from one of the large conservative churches that for awhile had quite a large following. Some of the people who attended spoke in tongues but it was not a common occurrence. It got my attention at the time, however… but so did Buddhism and witchcraft.

Then there was that time in Casa Grande, Arizona when I attended a Pentecostal church service with a group from Teen Challenge. I had just left The Solid Rock Commune because its leader had a vision from God that I would marry his 15 year old daughter, just days after I handed him most of my life savings to prove I was serious about living with them. I was looking for direction and that is why I showed up at the Teen Challenge Ranch on a Sunday morning. During the service a lady stood up and began speaking in tongues and when she had finished she translated it for all to hear. “I am the voice of GOD and I have spoken to you in Tongues so that you will know that it is ME. GET IN YOUR CAR AND DRIVE.” Of course I assumed the message was for me and that is when my Journey started.

Although that experience was very real to me, I still was not convinced that speaking in tongues was anything more then just the gibbering of highly emotion people or a prelude to a message the translator of the tongues wanted to share, since the lady who translated was a friend of the people I was with and very possibly was told of my situation prior to the service. For that reason I did not expect to find people who spoke in tongues at a conservative place like Rehoboth. It never came up in any conversations and it was never mentioned from the pulpit. It wasn’t until I got to know Julie Ensign, who took care of the young boys dorm at Rehoboth, that I was made aware of a small but significant number of missionaries who did speak in tongues, but only when they went to Albuquerque for a weekend.

~~~~~~

Perhaps some are wondering why am I bringing these things to everyones attention? The answer is simple… every Sunday morning people sitting in the pews of churches, synagogs, or temples, are fed half truths and even lies by supposed Saintly Pastors, because someone has decided that the full Truth would be to much for their congregations to understand. Ignorance is, I believe, the cause of all of todays problems and it is the goal of all religions to keep mankind under their control… but for what reason? I will let you answer that by asking yourself this question, ‘How long would you be allowed to keep your membership in the congregation you now belong… if you stopped putting money into the collection plate?’

But what about those missionaries and lay-people who spend their lives on the mission fields doing good work in the name of their God … am I saying that they are all liars and deceivers? Not necessarily… although many may have to stretch the truth or color it to please their donors, most of them are good people who would do good things for others even if they had no religious affiliations. My problem is not with the good hearted people  who must jump through hoops, hiding their true identities, in order to get funding for their projects… nor is it with the pastors and heads of mission programs who deceive their congregations with lies, for they are well aware of what they are doing and must live with that knowledge. Rather, my concern is with those people sitting in the pews Sunday after Sunday who, like an audience watching a great magician, are mesmerized by the performance, even though they know that what they are seeing is only an illusion… for although we all have knowledge of the Truth, most have chosen to wrap their nakedness in the fabric of fantasy, refusing to accept responsibility for the role they have played in creating our reality.

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