December 14, 2009 - At long last, my leaving the Assembly after only nine months is vindicated. Maybe my soul can find peace...
At the age of nineteen, I realized that I am a gay man. I entered into a relationship and moved to St. Charles, MO. We rented half of a duplex and lived together for three years.
On August 15th, 1975, I arrived home about 5:30 p. m. to find that my new neighbor had a flat tire. He was standing by his car in a button shirt and pressed trousers. I was in my dirty work clothes after driving a tow truck all day. I offered to change his flat, and he readily accepted. Two hours later, I accepted Christ as my savior, and entered into the St. Louis Assembly. My neighbor was Larry A.
I returned home which was just next-door and started to watch TV. About 9:30 pm, God stirred within me not to stay in that house the night. I went next door to Larry and Diane's and informed him that God did not want me to stay in my house that night with my partner.
Larry called someone, who later I learned was Dan Notti, and informed him of my predicament. Dan called back several minutes later, and told me he had arranged housing for the night. Gary came over to Larry’s house and I followed him home. The next day, I went out and looked at apartments, but again, something in the pit of my stomach said no. I called Dan, and told him what I believed God was telling me. So I officially moved in with Gary and Joyce.
I was then taught about spending at least an hour in the morning with the Lord in prayer. Gary suggested spending the evening just reading the Bible; he and Joyce worked nights and did not have a TV, stereo, or record player, so I had to be quiet anyway. Bible study was on Wednesday (the Book of Exodus), witnessing on Saturday. Sundays we were booked all day. Thus the Assembly quickly became my life, all of my life.
We were to leave on Saturday morning for the drive to Fullerton. On Thursday, I came home to an empty house. Gary and Joyce had left for Tuscola, where one of the brothers was to replace the engine in their car. On Friday, Dan called wanting to talk to Gary. I had to inform him that Gary and Joyce were in Tuscola and would not be going. I had a wisdom tooth that was infected, and did not have peace about going. Dan told me that this was Satan trying to destroy the St. Louis Assembly. I was to pack my things and go to the Bel Nor house immediately. Or not go and be doing Satan’s will.
After I got to the Brother’s House, Dan told me when I was in Fullerton I was to invite a particular brother Dennis Patrick to lunch. So, Saturday morning we left. I drove 85% of the way there. I was put up in a ‘Brother’s Apartment’ were I was never left alone for more than three or four minutes. I actually went to the bathroom just to get a little privacy. The Leading Brother of the apartment had been told that I was ‘queer’.
I got word to Dennis that we should go to lunch, and we did, with eight other people. There was no private time to talk. I spent New Years day in the hospital ER with an impacted tooth, my jaw swelled out the size of a tennis ball. $100.00 for ER and another $100.00 for a dentist to give me an antibiotic shot wiped me out financially. Then we returned home to St. Louis.
A week after we returned, surprise, surprise, Dennis had been called by ‘God’ to come to St. Louis and Dan could go back to Fullerton. It seems that someone from St. Louis had reached out to Dennis during the conference and this was a sign directing him to St. Louis. Dennis would be coming to St. Louis in the late spring, I believe.
In early spring, Gary’s brother-in-law, David S., and his wife came over and we played canasta. This was after a ten-minute prayer to remove any hex or stigma associated with the cards. David’s wife was Joyce’s sister. We enjoyed a pleasant evening and were going to start doing this every Saturday.
David’s wife and daughter started coming to Sunday worship. A about a month later, I bought a newspaper on the way home. A story about a double slaying with a knife caught my attention. A mother and toddler had been stabbed multiple times. Drugs had been involved.
Later, when I saw Gary, he told me that David had left for Tennessee or Kentucky to visit relatives, so the card game was cancelled. The next week was very strange. Nothing was said or done out of the ordinary, but something was not right. I was praying that God would open my eyes to what was going on. During Sunday worship, I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach. After service, I asked Dan to take a ride with me.
He kept asking me what I wanted to talk about. It was hard, since I had no proof, no evidence, and only the feeling in the pit of my stomach. I finally told him that I thought David had something to do with the stabbings. He wanted me to return to the Brother’s House. As we arrived, Gary, Joyce and David’s wife were leaving. Dan talked to Gary privately.
When I got home later that night after witnessing, Gary and Joyce had already left for work. I didn’t speak or see them again until Thursday. On Wednesday, at the Bible study, Dan, Gary, Joyce and her sister were absent. Neither were they at home when I got there.
On Thursday, Dan called me at work and told me that David was at Gary’s house, my home, and was going to give himself up to the police, who were on their way. I waited an additional hour to go home, and arrived with Dan holding my clothes and alarm clock in a plastic trash bag. His only comment was, "Where have you been?" I was then informed that I was being moved to the Brother’s House.
That was the last socializing that I had with the Assembly in St. Louis. I moved into the Brother’s House where the only conversation was centered on religion. No one would even discuss the weather or any other chitchat. It became a cold and sterile place to live. Everyone was causal and polite, but not friendly.
About this time, the main Brother’s House was split due to occupancy regulations. It seemed that Paul and Debbie had not applied for one. When they did, because of the University just across the street and the fear that the neighborhood would turn into frat and sorority house ghetto, only one non-related person was allowed to live there. That meant that three of us brothers would have to move, since Dan was returning to Fullerton.
Surprise, Dennis and his wife showed up just as we were to move. Into a three-bedroom house we piled. Dennis and his wife took the second floor two rooms and the three of us were crammed into a 10’ x 8’ bedroom. Somehow, I got the top bunk in the bunk beds. Our clothes were in chest of drawers in the hallway.
The third bedroom was deemed the prayer room. Dennis placed a special ‘prayer’ rug on the floor. In the two months I lived there, I never saw anyone use this room except Linda who would do her ironing there. Still the silence was deafening. Before, some of us would go out for a cup of coffee or the special was a ‘Fudge nut Sundae’, but I was never invited. Whether it was intentional or not, I was what the Amish call, being ‘shunned’.
Dennis never did find a job. His wife was a registered nurse and got a job right away. Dennis needed his time to pray and contemplate. After about six weeks we had the first house meeting. We were informed that Jerry, Paul, and his wife could not be responsible for the upkeep of the main Brother’s House and grounds. We were going to be assigned different jobs, both for the houses were we lived and the main Brother’s House.
I said a quick prayer, "Lord be with my mouth, and give me the words to say". I suggested that a sign-up sheet should be used instead. Let those who felt so moved, ‘volunteer’ their time for the main brother’s house. Dennis turned on me; this is the first time he actually talked to me directly and said that I should feel privileged to do chores at the other house. I stated that I would be feel privileged if I had the privilege of living in the other house. The meeting was adjourned.
The next two weeks were unbearable. Psychologically I was beaten to a pulp. The other brothers would turn and walk away without saying a word when I tried to start a conversation. The sisters would smile politely and walk away. I continued to cry out to God for direction and finally fell on the passage, Gen 12:1, "Abram, get thee out." So I left. A week later, the brothers dropped off my clothes at my mother’s house. Only Paul spoke, saying, if I wanted to come back, give him a call.
Amazing, 33 years later, this adventure still bothers me. Was I led to the ‘brothers’ as we called ourselves, to be there when David needed to turn himself in?
All in all I came very close to committing suicide in the first six months after leaving. I acquired a straight razor at an antique mall, stole 24 sleeping pills, bought a bottle of Jack. About 10pm I went into my bedroom were I was staying. I slowly took the pills 3 or 4 at a time, washing them down with the Jack over about a four-hour period. When I was just about to fall asleep, I would use the razor.
But for whatever reason, I still had my Bible with me. I began to read, and call out to God for compassion, understanding, and guidance. This went on all night and well into the next day. When I finally got up from prayer, it was around noon. I was stone sober, without a hangover, and well aware that God still loved me, even though the Assembly did not.
I ran into Paul Martin twenty years later at a McDonald’s during lunch with a couple of employees from Boeing, where I was a contract programmer. We exchanged brief hellos while in the ordering line. After getting my order I went and sat down. A few minutes later Paul poked his head around the corner, had a tract in his hand, smiled, turned without saying anything or dropping the tract, and left.
From time to time, I had tried to find my brothers and sisters in Christ. These people were my family, my friends, and my confidantes. And they had vanished. But Jesus Christ has always loved me unconditionally. No, George or Dan, I didn’t make a ‘perfect’ clean vessel, fit for the master’s use. God has used me just as I am, warts and all. Many times I have gotten into deep discussions and have led people to the Lord because I don’t come off as a ‘religious, holier-than-thou Jesus freak’.
Jesus didn’t come for the perfect because they don’t need Him. The last perfect man was hung on a cross. Although I know Him and He knows me, I do not believe I am in the same class.