“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Psalm 14:1
Though in my mind, the relationship between god and I was strained, I was still very much a believer well into my teens. All that my preaching experience had done was sully my vision of becoming a minister. After a few days I prayed and asked god if the whole thing had just been a test and sensed that the answer was yes. So I was off the hook when it came to the ministry and for the next several years the thought rarely entered my mind.
I was now finally a teenager and things were beginning to look up for me. I had made some friends at school and was starting to enjoy my life. This was mostly due to the fact that i found the best way to deal with the bullying, that I had received for so many years, was to react with attitude. During this time of my life my sense of humor developed and is still something that I hold dear. Unfortunately my life was getting ready to take another turn, one that I never expected.
Just before Halloween my parents sat my brother and I down and told us that we would be moving to Branson, Missouri. I loved our house and I can still walk through it within my mind remembering every single inch of the home exactly as it was. Moving was out of the question, I finally had friends, I was getting good grades, and everything had been going so well. It was then that my father said that god was telling him to move us to Branson and when god speaks you don’t question it. I seriously wish he would have questioned it at least slightly after how it all turned out.
See, the local Sheriff, my fathers boss, had recently met a man who told him that god had sent him a vision. In the vision the man was to build a boys ranch, near Branson, that would lead many young souls to the lord. The man then told the sheriff that he could help in the venture and that anyone else who the sheriff thought might be interested could help out as well. My father was promised a large house on the land purchased for the boys ranch, a huge salary, and great benefits. If it sounds too good to be true, believe me, it was.
A couple of months later we moved to Branson. When we arrived on the property we found that there was no power and we had no idea where the fuse box was. It was close to midnight and exhaustion was the main thing on all of our minds. It took about an hour for my father to find the fuse box and get the lights on, once he did the reality of the situation sunk in.
The huge house that we were promised, hadn’t even been built yet. We were relegated to two small unconnected rooms in what had once been a summer camp. A third unconnected room contained the kitchen, in which a dirty clogged up sink with water that had sat for who knows how long, and a stove that had a single burner that worked. My father reassured us that everything would be worked out the next day and we should just get some sleep and worry about it in the morning.
The next morning, the man who had made all the promises showed up. He was the epitome of a con man. Slicked back silver hair, an immaculate suit, false teeth that were far too big for his mouth, and a woman hanging off his arm that might have been, though I have no way of confirming it, a prostitute. This was not the godly man that we had all been told so much about.
My father asked him what the situation was and was told that the construction team that would build our house had been delayed and we would need to find a place to live for a short period of time until it was ready. We were also told that we couldn’t stay in the cabins any more than a couple of days because it had recently been condemned. We were more or less homeless having sold our former home shortly before moving to Branson. I was at a complete loss for words, my entire world had been destroyed overnight and I didn’t see any hope in the near future.
Dad has always been resourceful and he was able to find us a place quickly. After telling the landlord our situation we were allowed to immediately move into a small upstairs apartment in the nearby town of Forsyth. It was small but it was better than the unconnected rooms we had spent the last few days in and unpacking allowed our minds to be off the bad situation for a while. That is until we met the downstairs neighbor.
The neighbor I speak of was an old man who was angry about everything. What was worse that if he heard even the slightest sound from our apartment he would beat on the ceiling for sometimes 15 minutes at a time. A memorable night occurred when we flushed our toilet, he started banging and shortly after an ambulance arrived. My father asked what had happened and the EMT said that a large piece of drywall had fallen onto the mans head. I still laugh when I think of how that must have looked. The EMT also asked how we could stand living above the man when he noted that the ceiling looked like a piece of Swiss cheese. The old man was fine and was still there when we moved out later.
Mom and dad enrolled us into school the day after we moved. I hated the new school basically for no more reason than to hate it. The kids were weird, the games they played at gym were weird, the layout of the school was weird. Everything about the place drove me nuts. Even the bullies there had a slight charm to them which made their bullying incredibly humorous for me.
There was one bright spot after the move and that was our search for a new church. We attended a bunch of churches in the area and it gave me the opportunity to notice just how different Christians from different denominations could be. We visited several non-denominational churches that were not “spirit-filled” enough for our liking, we visited a charismatic church out in the country that was way too “spirit-filled” with kids running up and down the tops of the pews, and people shrieking and dancing during the middle of the sermon. Finally we found an Assembly church in the area and stuck with it throughout our time there. Coincidentally, the minister of the church had been trained by my Grandmother’s brother, before getting his own church.
The new church was lively and had an enormous youth group. All of the kids were friendly and I really enjoyed myself there. The teen class talked about taboo subjects like sex, homosexuality, and doubt without the apprehension that most churches in the denomination would have. It was really a great experience for me at the time and I made some good friends. The youth group was a bit different from other churches I had been to. Outside of Sunday morning, the youth held services separate from the adult congregation. This allowed us a freedom to express ourselves that you wouldn’t find in much churches.
I distinctly remember one night that at the time shook me to the core. During the prayer service a friend of mine asked for prayer and when asked what his need was he said.
“I have been having terrible doubts, I don’t think I believe in god anymore”
I was completely confused. How could he not believe in god? God existed, it’s obvious, how can anyone say that they don’t think god exists? My mind was swirling with this new notion that someone could stop believing in god, when another shocking thing happened. One by one many people in the room started to share that they too had numerous doubts and at times it was hard for them to believe that god existed. My shock turned to anger. Was this a church or a house of satan? Who gave these people the right to outright question god in his house? I went home that night and searched my bible for wisdom. I came across the scripture that is at the beginning of this blog. It was obvious, these kids weren’t sinful, they were just a bunch of fools and didn’t know right from wrong. I felt better knowing that I hadn’t ever been that foolish and shortly after fell asleep.
For part 6 click here.