A very strange limousine was seen in Beverly Hills California. I took this picture during a major life transition. This car symbolizes my first introduction to this new world that I had entered. Having never been there before, it all looked so strange to me. It was a brand new season of my life that began with a prayer and a pursuit of full time ministry. I had no idea how God was going to answer that prayer but it ended up in a place totally unexpected.
Dear Dave Reddout,
“I am writing to see if you have any need for help with “Stained Glass Ministries” in Amsterdam.” I sent a letter to him in May of 1986 testing the water to see if God may send me to help. Dave’s ministry was for singles in the Netherlands and I was praying desperately for God’s leading and for opportunities to leave the railroad job and work in full time ministry.
This letter and the following prayers for an answer brought me to ponder what it would take to put my life on hold for one year while I worked in Amsterdam. I was impatient as I waited for a response but I laid out plans that would work if the answer was “yes, c’mon.” These plans would come to fruition later in a way I was not expecting.
I got a response and it was a “not at this time.” I was so disappointed. But my prayers continued with the hope that God would bring them to fruition in His time, in His way.
So, through the summer I went through the man dying of AIDS, and a deep heart change that postured me for hearing the radio broadcast introducing me to Love In Action. Therefore, when Anita called me about the House Leader position she mentioned that the commitment was for one year. What? Did you say one year? Well, I had already set plans in place for how I could make a commitment to a one year ministry position.
The Union Pacific Railroad was offering buyouts for people who were willing to give up their jobs. After Anita’s call, I received the paperwork for the application to Love In Action. While I was filling out the information there, I was talking with the UP about applying for the buyout. I just knew that Love In Action would accept my application.
God’s Impeccable Timing
It dawned on me that the Lord and I had agreed on when I could leave the railroad. I had thought that when the clown ministry had become too busy for me to manage it and work at the railroad, then it would be time to quit. But the funny thing is that the day that Anita called me I had just started a new job at the railroad that was so busy that I couldn’t have kept up with clown ministry while I was at work. I did some phone calls and arranged dates while I was at work some times because the job I had was really easy and I could do it with time to spare. The new job was totally unmanageable in a day’s time. That day, I went home totally depressed because it was the kind of job that would never have been caught up. So, when Anita’s call came, it was my ticket out of this new overwhelming job that I hated. Gee, could it have been God’s special timing?
I was seeking accountability from the pastors that were at my church about the decision to go to Love In Action. One conversation stuck out to me. “John, I believe if you don’t say yes to this opportunity, you may never say yes again.” The encouragement aligned with a time of prayer earlier in the year. A man prayed over me with a prophetic word, “John, you will readily accept a challenge, and you will work in mission work, both foreign, and local.” This was certainly a challenge, and it was a mission work. And… it was called Love In Action International. I could see the writing on the wall all around me that I needed to pursue this opportunity.
Ok, so some practical details are turning quickly, but I had to consider facing the reality of the relationships that would be impacted by this move. I had just begun the process of integrating my daughters back into my life. We spent three to four days each week together. And, I had a girlfriend I was spending a lot of time with. Much less, I was building some awesome new friendships. The clown ministry was growing and becoming really active. What was God’s answer to all of this? How could I just pick up and leave Omaha for a one year ministry position 1500 miles away? There was no pay involved so I would have to figure out how to financially manage all of this.
I talked to my dad about this and his response was, “John, I am very concerned about you doing this. You have always struggled with keeping commitments.” I said, “Dad, you are right, that was the old me. But I am different now. I’ve grown up.” I was sad that my dad wasn’t supportive and it concerned me. But, I continued to move forward believing that this was God’s time, and God’s plan.
There was a pretty big bump in the road that aligned itself with this opportunity. Vileen and I had begun to struggle in our relationship. I was feeling challenged about my heart with hers. I had become scared to remain open with her and had begun to close off my heart. When I saw this opportunity, in my selfishness, I believed it was a way out of the relationship that was admirable. I talked with Vileen about my struggles so, she was aware that I was troubled. But I figured that when I left Omaha, that would be the end of our dating relationship. Little did I know that God was sending me to a place in life where I could get some much needed healing for myself.
A Doctrinal Challenge That Brought a God Answer
I filled out my life story, the applications, and had talked with Anita many times but one conversation I’ll never forget. “Anita, is Love In Action a “Spirit Filled” ministry?” What I was asking was, are they Holy Spirit filled, do they speak in tongues? I wanted to make sure they were in line with my doctrine. Her response was, “John, of course. We can’t do anything without the power of the Holy Spirit.”
She wisely answered that question! But her answer was the first of many that would challenge my pride of doctrine. God’s response to me was “John, would you have not gone if her answer would have been “no.” I was humbled and more ready to move to another part of the country with new people, a new church, and yes, my doctrinal boundaries would become expanded by the experience.
Waiting, Waiting, Waiting
I was on pins and needles every day waiting to hear back from Love In Action on my application. I finally got my answer. They accepted me! Now it’s time to get the ball in motion. The plan I set in place for a one year departure would have to now become a reality.
It was time to talk with my kids about the plan for my move. I don’t handle conflict well and changes in relationships are really hard too. So, when it came time for me to sit down with them, I told them I was leaving but I tried to paint it in a positive light. I talked about the way we could write each other and talk on the phone. They both cried and I didn’t know what to do with all of that. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for how to handle their feelings so I avoided dealing with it. Oh, if I could only go back to do it differently I would, but life just isn’t that way. I saw this as such a positive thing that I overlooked their feelings in the whirlwind of preparation.
It was no less than an a Miracle!
The Union Pacific Railroad accepted my “buy out” and the check was in the mail. I would receive $30,000 for quitting my job. I put the house up for sale and began telling people I needed to sell my furniture and household items. Literally within two weeks, my house sold. In just a few more weeks, everything else was sold without even placing an ad. I was ready to pack up the remaining keepsakes and a few things I just couldn’t replace. I put them in long term storage for a later date when I would settle in again to something more permanent. I only had this one year in mind.I only had two months to get everything ready to go. I was to leave on December 26th for California.
My Father’s Blessing
My dad sat down with me one day to talk about my decision. I was totally surprised at his response now that he’d thought more about it. “John, I want you to know that I think your decision to go to Love In Action is a good thing. I am supportive of your plans.” I can’t tell you how good it felt to know that I now had my father’s blessing to move forward.
In talking with Anita about what I would do once I arrived in San Rafael. We thought maybe I could clean houses, or work at a bank part time to bring in a little income to help. I put my buy-out money in a special savings account to pay the things I needed to pay such as child support and insurance expenses. The lack of surety in all of this was both exciting, and challenging at the same time. I really had never read anything on ministry to homosexuality, nor did I really know anything about Love In Action or other ministries like this.
So, I was really going blindly into this new opportunity. It was totally built on faith that God knew what He was doing and I was just following along. I am sure many found it uncertain. But they just didn’t say anything to me about it. It was an entirely new world that I had never explored.
My friend George told me he’d like to make the trip to California with me. We made plans to go through Southern California and see some things there along the way. I was really excited to see a part of the country that I never thought I’d be able to see.
Leaving the clowns and FOCAS was really hard. The clowns decided to keep the ministry going so we set those plans in motion. The FOCAS group had a big going away party for me. I felt really loved and appreciated there. There was no discussion with Vileen about our relationship other than that we’d stay in contact with each other regularly. She knew we were struggling but there wasn’t a decision to break up when I left.
Pastor Dennis, Vileen, myself and Diana
FOCAS Thursday evening group
Vileen and the cake “Look Out California! Here comes John!
I couldn’t wait for the future to unfold. I was leaving a job I absolutely hated and moving into a brand new challenge ahead.
Christmas day came and we all celebrated together. I was pumped and ready to go. Afterwards, I packed my car with all of my worldly belongings to take with me, other than the things that didn’t fit and were in storage. I left a space just big enough for George and his suitcase.
The next morning we started our journey across the land for California. I couldn’t help but think about the radical folks who had made this same journey years earlier in their covered wagons. In some ways, it was the same for me. Going westward with no idea what I was going into but it was a great adventure.
All during the drive questions kept going trough my mind about what this place would be like. How do they help homosexuals? What is this small “low-key, charismatic” church really like? What will I do with my time?
George and I loved the experience of driving out together. Seeing he mesas in New Mexico and Arizona were amazing. We finally got to California and all I wanted to do was to see Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and other well known sites. Of course, the beach was high on the list too.
After our whirlwind tour of Southern California we drove north along the California coast which was absolutely gorgeous. We finally arrived in San Rafael. Of course this was before GPS or Google Maps and we had no idea where we were going.
We stopped several people to ask for directions but none of them knew the street we were looking for. Anita had given me some ideas of where they were located but none of those descriptions helped so we finally called the office. “Hello, John! Welcome to Marin county. What, you need directions? Oh, here’s Frank, he can help you.”
Talking to Frank for the very first time was so weird. But Frank gave us directions to the office. It was all so surreal. To say “strange” wouldn’t describe what I was feeling at this point. But at the same time, it seemed I was right where God wanted me to be.
We got to the office of Love In Action. It was on the second floor so walking up the stairs a flood of questions went through my mind. As I entered the door I was greeted by a man named Roger. Then Anita came out, along with Frank. They talked a little then sent me and George on our way to the house I would be living in. Anita had described their house this way. It was an old house near a bus stop. The girls lived upstairs as she and Frank did as well. There were five other men who lived downstairs where I was going to stay.
Well, when I arrived at the house I realized it wasn’t that old, it was in a suburban area and there didn’t seem to be a bus stop near the house. But, I was happy to find the place to be what it was. It was previously a two bedroom, one bath home, that had been remodeled. This made it seven bedrooms and four bathrooms. It was pleasant and comfortable. They had planned a space for me. My bedroom was all set up and I felt so loved already just by the fact that they had gone through so much to prepare for my arrival. George stayed the first night and then I took him to the airport to send him home. He was such a good friend to have gone all this way with me. I really don’t know what I would have done if I had done this all by myself. God had prepared the way and I felt confident that I was in the center of His will each step of the way.
The first day in San Rafael was a blur to me. While I had only prepared for one year, little did I know God had other plans. I spent the next 22 years of my life giving myself exclusively to a ministry life that brought me into thousands of lives and changed me dramatically. An amazing mystery is about to unfold.