Zion’s Inn

Chapter 12

The Soul Inn did not last for long. It was under the direction of a Baptist church, with its congregational, democratic form of government, so the house was subject to the will of too many congregants who did not especially like our use of the storefront church. Toward the end, there were only a few of us left living at Soul Inn, and one by one the residents moved on to various places. Some even returned home.

San Rafael, the largest town in Marin County and also the county seat, still had reasonable rental prices. The smallish home we rented was a bit too small, and this was the time that David and I began painting houses to support our ministry work, but only on rare occasions did it provide sufficient money for us.

Three couples living in the same house did not work out for long. After about six months, the Hoyts and Philpotts moved to a larger house on Greenfield Avenue, also in San Rafael. David and I transformed its large basement into living quarters, adding three additional bedrooms. We didn’t care much about permits; we only cared that it worked.

Our consistent problem was what to do with young women who became believers in Jesus and had nowhere to go. Many times we simply placed them homeward bound on trains, planes, or buses. Some had no home to go to, so we had to do something.

David had the idea first. He bought a Volkswagan van—yes, a real
“hippie-mobile”—and painted “Zion’s Inn for Girls” on the side. David and I used that van for our painting business and also drove it for the street evangelism in the City. It was extremely useful.

Soon girls began to move in, mostly for short durations, but some stayed long enough to get stabilized once again. During this period we somehow made friends with a Marin County judge, Peter Allen Smith, who began sending girls to us as a kind of diversionary practice, rather than sending them to jail. He required that Bobbie and I become foster parents, and we did this for a number of girls. It also meant that some court-provided money was coming into the house. Our contacts with Marin County and the City of San Rafael and the good reputation we were able to build with these local governments allowed us to open two “Christian Houses” especially for drug addicts and alcoholics—again a sort of diversionary assignment rather than to jail. This ministry worked out wonderfully well, and some of our top leaders emerged from these houses.

It was here on Greenfield Avenue that I began a Tuesday night Bible study, a tradition that has continued to this day, although in different locations. Someone who began attending the meetings and occasionally leading them was Martin Rosen, who was then with the American Board of Missions to the Jews (now Chosen People Ministries) and who later became “Moishe” Rosen of Jews for Jesus. This connection with Rosen lasted many years, and he and I often worked together doing various kinds of ministries. My oldest daughter Dory was an administrative assistant to his first secretary while she attended high school.

Within a short time, the front room of Zion’s Inn could not accommodate the crowd, so we moved the study just one block down the street to John Wesley Hall at the United Methodist Church of San Rafael. It was at this Bible study where miraculous events began to occur again, mostly healings. I was shocked at this, seeing it happen right in front of me and fairly often. Those who know me know I am a terrible skeptic, and it takes a lot of evidence to convince me.

Family Miracle Story

I will tell the story of one rather incredible miracle. It was about a week after David and Victoria moved to Walnut Creek. My painting work had not been going well; it was before I developed a real painting business employing some of the young men and women living in our houses (yes, many more houses were to come), and one morning we had nothing to eat.

At the breakfast table sat Bobbie, Dory, Grace, and Vernon, who was either an infant or about to be born. In addition, there was Kathy Granger, Linda Patton, and Sher Keaton. Bobbie had boiled some water for the few tea bags we had left. And that was all we had. I can still see us, a motley crew for sure, and we prayed and asked God to take care of us. As if on cue, there was a knock on the door. I answered it, and there stood two people, a man and a woman, both about my age, and they were holding several white bags. They held out the bags toward me, and I took them, carried them back to the kitchen, came back, and received another bag or two. They turned to leave, and I thanked them as they retreated down the stairs and climbed into a newish white panel van (I did not yet know what was in the white bags). They drove off, and I returned to the kitchen. There on the table was a full breakfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes, and milk—the works—exactly enough food for the lot of us. We thanked God for His provision and loved every second of that meal. When we finished, it began to dawn on us what had just happened. Somehow we did not get it right away. But then we realized that someone, perhaps angels, had appeared to answer our prayer.

We examined the bags and the food containers, top and bottom. Even on the bottom of the paper plates there was no indication by whom or where the cups and plates had been made. Nothing. Not a clue. I had never seen the people before and I never saw them again. After all these years I am still amazed. After that event, I rarely worried about our needs being met.

That was breakfast; there was still no money for lunch or dinner. I do not recall how it was we survived, but we did. Never again would Zion’s Inn for Girls ever suffer want. And it was not pennies from heaven that turned things around. It was ads placed in the Marin Independent Journal that read, “Seminary Student and Crew,” that God used to bring us what we needed. 

It was after about one year at Zion’s Inn that David and Victoria moved to Walnut Creek to begin a new work. David and I were both type-A leaders who knew how things should be done, and thus we had times of conflict. I have often wondered what might have been, if we had been able to continue working closely together.

My daughter Dory reminded me just recently of one memory from the Zion’s Inn days that needs to be told. My daughters Dory and Grace shared a bedroom that David and I had constructed in the basement. One mid-morning, I returned to the Greenfield house or Zion’s Inn and saw fire trucks blocking the street. A jolt of fear ran through me as I realized the trucks were parked right in front of our house. As I rushed to the scene, I found my family—Dory, Grace, and Bobbie—standing in front of the house, watching smoke billow out of the basement. Dory, who was crying and shaken, told me that when the girls went to school, a space heater must have been left on and started the fire. She was scared to death I would blame her, and I did my best to let her know it was all okay.

The smoke from the fire made the entire house uninhabitable. The landlady, Gloria Ladd, graciously stepped in and offered us the use of a house she owned in Ross, a mansion really, that happened to be vacant. We lived in that sprawling Victorian type house until the Greenfield place was ready to reoccupy.

Until more recently, I forgot about this incident, perhaps because it brings up my lack of caring for my own family during the turbulent years of the JPM. Times of awakenings are wonderful, but there is a price to pay. Those involved will often go through very trying times at minimum, and some of the stories I hope to relate toward the close of these memoirs are not comfortable to recount.

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