One Will Be Taken

Chapter 11

After a while, people in the Haight knew who I was—the preacher or the reverend—mostly because I often carried a big, black Bible. This was in 1968, and I didn’t want people, especially cops, suspecting I was one of the many dope dealers peddling their wares everywhere at that point.

LSD and marijuana were the usual, but speed and heroin soon crept in, and the turf rights to sell that stuff in the Haight were something to fight over. It was also safer to get dope in the Haight than in the Fillmore District, which was only a short distance away.

Added to that were other kinds of groups, like the motorcycle gang that moved in. One day around noon, a hippie ran up to me and dragged me down the street to a house where something awful had happened the night before. A young hippie kid had been thrown through a window by the bikers and had landed head-first right on the sidewalk on the less frequented side of Haight Street. I had already heard about this death, so I didn’t know what the big rush was.

We climbed up to a second-floor apartment, empty of furniture but not of people, since about ten young hippies had moved in and were now squatting there. Some of them had witnessed the murder; now they had a place to stay.

Among the group were two youngish girls who did not fit the typical hippy look; in fact, they appeared to be fresh from a midwestern farm. I think there were seven guys and four girls, but the kid who had brought me to the place was mainly concerned about the girls. They were naïve, innocent, and vulnerable, and he knew what was likely to happen if they stayed in that apartment.

The four of us went into a side bedroom and talked. One girl was nervous and obviously uneasy; the other could hardly wait to have a good time. The kid and I did our best to warn them, but it was not working. After a time, I left with a heavy heart.

The next day I made it a point to drive into the City as fast as I could to check on the girls. The door of the apartment was partially ajar, so I gingerly stepped in and saw sleeping bags all over the floor. There they were, mostly naked, some still stoned, and one couple doing the deed, but the one girl could not be found—the one who showed some fear the day before.

My presence was not appreciated, so I started to leave but then decided to check the rest of the rooms. In the back, perhaps a pantry off the kitchen, I found the one I was looking for. She was partially dressed, and I could tell that some clothing had been ripped off her.

She recognized me, ran over, and put her arms around me and wouldn’t let go. We stood like that for some minutes. I simply said, “Let’s get out of here.” I walked her to my car and drove back to Marin, and the next day the girl was on a Greyhound headed out of hell.

“One was taken, but the other was left” (see Luke 17:35).

I tell this story to say that this was not uncommon. Kids turned up from everywhere, thinking the way to happiness was through chemistry, free love, and rock and roll. What they found was altogether different. By 1968 the Haight was a snake pit, but still they came, and the work of direct personal evangelism picked up steam.

Other Christian groups started to appear. The Living Room with Ted Wise, Danny Sands, Lonnie Frisbee, Rick Sacks, Jim Dopp, Steve Heathner, and others came to do what they could. The Clayton House, a block up from Haight Street, was up and running with the Assembly of God’s Dick Key. Teen Challenge sent folks in to evangelize and gave me a place where new believers could live for a time, though it was some distance from the Haight.

In Marin, we were opening new Christian houses, disciples were being developed, and the work was becoming more complicated and stressful. The early days and months, when I walked the streets asking the Holy Spirit to lead me to whom He wanted—those were the best times. The “love and peace” Flower Children were mostly already gone, but kids from afar were still flocking to the City to tune in, turn on, and drop out. Many did not survive it.

The hip, glory days were gone, but the Jesus People Movement, which we did not know about yet, was just taking off.

Leave a Reply