My years as a tongue speaker: Part 2 – The call to the hippies

During my years at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern Baptist), I was anti-Pentecostal and did not yet know what was meant by “charismatic.” As far as I was concerned speaking in tongues was of a demonic origin, and short of that it was at least wrong doctrine. We had little or no fellowship with Pentecostals. In Marin County that would have been limited to the Assembly of God churches or maybe a Black Pentecostal church of some kind.

One night in February of 1967, while I was driving home from my part time job as shoe salesman at the J.C. Penny store in Corte Madera and while listening to Scott McKenzie’s “When you come to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair,” it was as though God spoke directly and personally to me: “Go to the hippies in San Francisco.” That was it and that was all. The very next day, a rainy Thursday evening, I did just that and the adventure began.

That night, while peering through the window of Hamilton United Methodist Church on Waller Street, a young hippie approached me and wanted to know if I wanted to meet someone who knew a lot about religion. I jumped at the chance, thinking this is the hand of God and said yes. He brought me just a few doors away to an old Victorian house and introduced me to David Hoyt. David was living in a house full of lesbians; he was the token male and body guard for the ladies, and his room was under the stairs that climbed up to the second floor. It was really just a janitor’s closet, but David had made it into a bedroom, which was probably about the same size as the jail cell at Lompoc Prison from which he had just recently been released. David had entered prison at age 19 as a biker with a conviction of drug smuggling from Mexico. He had become a jail house guru of sorts and had decided on Hinduism as his religion of choice. By the time I met David that evening, he had risen in the eyes of Swami Baktivadanti to being one of the chief devotees at the Hare Krishna Temple on Frederick Street, just blocks away from where David was then living.

We began a Bible study under the stairs, just David and I, but in a few weeks David moved to the basement of the Hare Krishna Temple. To continue the studies, I had to get permission from the swami. After a couple of meetings with the elderly man, he gave me permission to do the studies on the condition that I first had to attend the Kirtans, or Hindu worship service, after which I could hold the study.

More people started attending the studies, which continued for some months, until a Saturday morning when I received a phone call from David asking me to rush to meet him at the temple. I jumped in the old Ford station wagon and did just that.

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