My dad arrived at the Fort Wayne Airport about 9:30 p.m. I spotted him coming down the escalator. He looked tired, but he had a smile of enthusiasm. “It must have been a good trip,” I thought. I had no idea!
I was in England quite a few years earlier, when I was 12. It was after the mission trip in Africa and the wildebeest hunt. We flew to London from Johannesburg. My mom and Laura met us at Heathrow Airport in London. They used my dad’s gazillion frequent flier miles. We spent a week in England before traveling throughout the continent of Europe. We visited Bath and Stonehenge while we were in England, too. I remember, at Stonehenge, my dad just sat on a bench forever trying to contemplate what it could be all about. It must be his consultant’s curiosity. I thought we would never leave!
My favorite part of England was the original Hard Rock Café. Some man served us, wearing a dress. My sister and I had done some homework about England. Well, most of it was Laura. She found out that London is where they built the very first Hard Rock Café. She also found out, somehow, that kids can drink one beer, when they are with their parents, at a restaurant or pub. So when we got to the Hard Rock Café, we ordered burgers and Laura and I ordered a beer. My parents were shocked! They said, “You can’t do that.” Then they looked at the man in the dress, “They can’t do that…can they?” Yeah, we got the beers. We found out neither of us liked beer – at least at that age.
“How was England?” I asked my dad.
“It was unbelievable,” he said.
I thought he was in London, but he wasn’t. He was in the north. A place called Sheffield. “I never heard of it,” I said.
“Neither had I,” he explained. “My friend, Walt, was the one who insisted that, with my work helping churches, I had to see what was going on there.”
“So, what was it like?” my mom asked, as we got in the car to leave the airport.
“You wouldn’t believe it,” Dad said, with more excitement than any person should have after a long trip. “You know, I’ve been all over the world – Asia, South America, Africa, Europe, India, Philippines, and the former Soviet Union. I’ve seen some exciting places where God is really changing lives. But I have never seen anything like this. It blew me away, the way God is impacting the lives of the people through this movement.”
“What’s the name of the church?” my mom asked. She can’t keep track of all the places he goes, either.
“It’s St. Thomas’ Anglican/Baptist Church,” he said. “I know it’s kind of weird. It’s a combination of an Anglican church – as in the Church of England – and a Baptist church. And, they gather in two different locations, in two different parts of the city. But both are Anglican/Baptist churches.”
“What makes it so special?” my mom asked. She’d heard my dad’s excitement about churches before.
He tried to explain. “It’s the culture. They have the closest thing to the culture of the New Testament Church I’ve ever seen anywhere. It’s part of their DNA. They behave like the people of the Bible, in the early church – more than I have ever seen.”
I joked, “I knew you were old, Dad! You knew people in Bible?”
“Funny, Jon,” he said. “No. But if you look at how the church grew – changed the world, impacted the Roman Empire. The way these early Christians lived. Their behavior was driven by their culture: their values, beliefs, priorities, attitudes, and worldviews. That culture is what we help churches get back to. It’s what really changes churches for good. The modern church has drifted so far….”
My attention span ran out at that point. My dad is the master of TMI – too much information! He had moved to lecture mode. He gets too excited about God stuff. But then he got my attention in a way that had never, ever, happened before.
“Something else happened while I was there. I stayed with Mick, one of the pastors, and his wife. One day Mick and I were having breakfast at his house and we were talking about…I don’t even know what!” My dad paused trying to find the words. “I heard God speak to me. It was clear, and audible.”
I’d never heard my dad talk like that before!
He continued, “The voice…God said, ‘You should bring groups from North America here. This is a movement. It is as much caught as taught. They are like vessels. They can carry this movement back to North America.’”
I thought, “That’s cool, now my dad’s hearing voices. I wonder what he had for breakfast.” I was skeptical and totally unprepared for what he said next.
“Simultaneous to that,” he said, “I got another, totally unexpected message. God said, ‘You are supposed to bring your son here – soon, and Pastor Bob.’”
At this point, I was thinking my dad totally lost it. It is one thing if God wants to talk to him, or if he thinks God is talking to him. But what does that have to do with me? And what’s the deal with Pastor Bob from our church? What’s up with that?
I just thought to myself, this is a long way from normal. People don’t just “hear from God.” My dad then said he had never had that happen before. It seemed so strange, even to him.
Before I could ask, my dad explained, “I didn’t know what to think. So I told Mick: ‘I think God just spoke to me.’”
Dad said he was uncomfortable sharing that with Mick, since they did not know each other very well.
“So, what did Mick say?” my mom asked.
“He said, ‘If God told you, then you better do it,’” my dad said. “But, I said, ‘Why? Why would God want me to do that?’ Mick just said, ‘You don’t always know why. Sometimes that’s not your job. Just be faithful to what God says.’ So, I’m telling you. And tomorrow I’ll talk with Pastor Bob.”
Personally, I wondered what planet this guy Mick was from. What kind of church was this? I figured it would never happen. The money had to be raised. As for me, it was just a few weeks before I was off to football camp. My dad understood the skepticism and used the old line, “If God is in it, it’ll happen.”
A week later, Dad had a luncheon appointment with his medical doctor friend. He was going to thank him for sponsoring his trip and report about it. It was a Tuesday, my day off at Home Depot. I was working on the farm and had just come in for lunch. We met in the kitchen. Seeing me, Dad got a last-minute idea and invited me to go along to lunch. I never turn down a free lunch.
At Applebee’s, Dad introduced me to Dr. Bill. My dad told the story of all he saw in Sheffield. He even told him the God-talking story. He told him he had a short window of time to take me to England. In addition, he told Dr. Bill that Pastor Bob would like to take his daughter, Alicia. I was surprised the doctor didn’t think my dad was a lunatic. Instead, he reached into his suit coat pocket, pulled out a checkbook and wrote a check for $5,000: for Dad, me, Pastor Bob, and Alicia to go to England! I couldn’t believe it.
The J-Dog Journey:
Where Is Life?
by Kent R. Hunter