Thursday, February 4, 2016

"One Way, Man!"

Fall of 1969.....
First quarter at Gadsden State Junior College. Our parents thought dear old GSJC was the epitome of a college education. Those who attended lovingly referred to it as "Harvard On The Hill". It was like High School 2.0
That first quarter, being a newbie, I had scheduled 8 a.m. classes. Why? Because for 12 years, starting time for school was 8 a.m.. Imagine my glee when I discovered that you could, dare I say it? Start your classes at 9 a.m..  And if you were truly bold and rebellious (and of course if they offered it) you might even stretch it out till you didn't have to show up until noon. 

But it was here at GSJC that I first ran into the movement. I was walking between the Hut, which was the gathering place for social interaction, and the library, when I first saw him.  Now keep in mind that if you weren't from this period of time, then your view of history may be a bit skewered. Much like questions I get sometimes from younger guys at Rapha. "Dude, were you at Woodstock?" See what I mean? Just because I was alive during the 60's doesn't mean I was a hippie or drove a micro-bus. Hello!!! I live in Alabama, the counter culture had not yet arrived on the afternoon bus. I digress. I was headed toward the library when I encountered this young man who looked like the real deal counter culture type. Bell bottom jeans with patches sown all over them....T-shirt blowing in the breeze. Blonde hair that went well beyond the acceptable level that grownups attempted to enforce. And a gait that was as free as any breeze blowing that day. As we met on the sidewalk, he flashed a big goofy grin....held up his hand, index finger extended, and proudly proclaimed..."One way, man!"  One way? No doubt a subversive communist infiltrator sent to Gadsden, Alabama to corrupt the youth. Asking around, some friends of mine told me that the "ONE WAY" symbol was part of a movement that had sprung up on the West coast a few years back. One way to heaven....Jesus is the One 
way. Hippies,as the old folks liked to call them, were being saved. Here's the wasn't happening in the churches. It was happening on Sunset was happening in coffee houses and gathering places. Jesus was invading time and space in a place that no one would ever have suspected. 

Within the next few weeks, I found myself, thanks to one Jim Bentley, connected to Campus Crusade for Christ. John and Marilyn Bruce, part of the CCC team, quickly became someone I wanted to get to know better. They were as California as you could possibly get (or at least in my Southern mind). Jim took on the responsibility of turning the front part of the CCC offices into a coffee house. Not our typical church sponsored endeavor where good intentions are not necessarily conducive to good designing. This coffee house would have the personal touch of one who was majoring in art. Jim was from Alabama, but his brain was from a galaxy far, far away. 

The room quickly turned into a psychedelic frenzy. Can you say "day-glo paint"? We brought in huge wooden spools used by the phone company that held the wire necessary to run the lines. Jim painted checker and chess boards on the top of the spools in day-glo. Painted the pieces for the games also. Now throw in walls that were alive with movement and waves...and turn on some black've got yourself a coffee house. Well, what do you name such a place. Hmmm...let's see. Oh yeah, the way the building was situated, we could not use the front door. You had to go around to the side and come through the other door near the back. You guessed it. The name of the coffee house was THE OTHER DOOR. 

Over the coming months the Other Door became THE place to be. A place where Jesus was defined for a whole generation that grew up here in Gadsden. It was a radical place in that we were hearing things from Scripture that we'd never heard in our churches or Sunday schools. It was coming from people not much older than ourselves. The Kingdom of God was being revealed to us in a way that would impact some of us for the rest of our lives. We were told that we were part of God's Kingdom and that we could effectively change our city and schools for Christ. As the Jesus People movement grew on the west coast, we began to get our feet wet in the wave that came to Alabama. Seeds were planted in our hearts back in '69 that are still bearing fruit today.

I have no idea where that young man I encountered on the quad that day who flashed the "One Way" sign is. I do know that he is probably in his middle to late 60's now. I pray that the fire that burned in his heart is still alive and well today here in 2016. I thank that young man for what he did for me. His single act caused me to ask a question, and the answer I got started me down a path that has led me to where I am today. 
Those were incredible days....
But hey...
So are these.
"One way, man....One way to heaven!"

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