Fire in the Temple

Chapter 3

I raced into the City, down 19th Avenue, left on Fulton, right on Stanyon, right on Fredrick, and then I saw the fire trucks and smelled the smoke. I parked just up the street next to old Kezar stadium (original home of the 49ers pro-football team), jumped out, and ran to the door of the Hindu temple. Fire hoses snaked into the temple from the fire truck, and people were running in and out. The place was chaotic. I stepped back and saw, in almost foot-high letters painted on the walls, Christian phrases like “Jesus is the Way,” “Lord Jesus Christ,” and more. As I began to move in the direction of the basement where most of the activity was happening, David suddenly appeared carrying bags of his personal belongings and shouted at me to take the bags he was carrying, so he could dart back down the stairs to the basement. In a moment he was back carrying more bags, and we ran out onto the sidewalk and down the street to my car, into which we threw David’s few possessions. We hustled back to the temple, David disappeared again, and I simply stood in the middle of the room contemplating this place of the Kirtan rituals and studied once again the altar for the offerings to various Hindu gods. Then I noticed a little cluster of Hare Krishna devotees huddled in the back behind and to the right of the altar near the kitchen, which had been the source of some really good Indian food fed to the devotees and visitors like me. The little group of former hippies turned Krishna worshipers moved toward me and began yelling at me.

“You did this, you caused this” one guy was yelling at me. He never attended the studies in the basement, but I recognized him. “I just got here. How could I have done this?” I yelled at the guy. I was stirred up; the old fight or flight adrenaline was taking charge.

I was a young man, not big but not small, and I stood my ground and faced them. At that point David rushed by carrying more stuff. As I turned to follow him, two of the devotees grabbed me from behind and shoved me up against the door of the temple. One had his hands on my throat and was squeezing as hard as he could. I was almost out of breath when a fireman ran up behind us and swatted them away. I fell down gasping for breath and saw the devotees lying around on the floor after their brief encounter with a San Francisco fire fighter. Gathering myself up quickly, I headed out the door and up the street to the car. David was already inside it, so I jumped in, quickly started the engine, wheeled down the street, and somewhat dazed, headed for 10A Judson Lane, Mill Valley, my home in the student housing section on the campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. There was no place else to go, nothing else to do. I was excited, and I was also scared.

The adventure had only just begun.

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