Two of the seminary students of the newspaper classified ad,
“Seminary Student and Crew” were Paul Bryant and Oliver
Heath, in their first year at Golden Gate Seminary. Both had
established ties with Southern Baptists and were, in fact, raised in
SBC churches. Perhaps because of that, they wanted something new
and different, and they found it with our Christian House Ministries.
Paul and Ollie joined with us in 1968. The requirement was singular:
a desire and willingness to follow Jesus. Ollie went on to start
a Christian house in Mill Valley, and Paul established Berachah House
in San Anselmo, a town in Marin next door to San Rafael.
Berachah means “blessed” in Hebrew, therefore a house of blessing,
and it definitely was. Gloria Ladd owned both houses, the Greenfield
house called Zion’s Inn and the house on Knoll Road in San
Anselmo we called Berachah House.1
Every bedroom in the house was claimed days before we took
possession of it, with two occupants in each of four small bedrooms.
No one paid rent, no one turned over their money to Paul, and there
were no demands, but now eight young men needed to go to work.
Thus was born a house painting business. At one point we had three
crews going, and I spent my time giving estimates based on $5 per
hour per painter and making sure the crews were properly equipped.
We could paint most houses in one week, and we did good work. With
three painters per job, a customer got a house painted for around
$600 plus materials, which was a good deal then.
1 Gloria, sadly, ended up with a wild Pentecostal cult, and due to strange
prophesies, murdered both of her teenage sons and wound up spending the rest of
her life in a psychiatric prison. It was a horrible event that shook the tiny Christian
community, and it still impacts it to some degree.
Berachah House 43
A young man who came to the Tuesday night Bible study on Greenfield
in 1968 was Mark Buckley, who later married a young woman in
the ministry and also started a construction crew. Mark contributed
greatly to our Christian House Ministry and became a house leader
and a pastor—really an amazing man. I still have the hammer Mark
gave to me back then (some forty-five years ago now), when I worked
with his crew putting shingles on the sides of a house he was working
on in San Anselmo.
Mark married Kris Kenner, and together they operated Solid
Rock, our Christian House in Novato. Mark later became the founding
pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Novato and oversaw
the Christian bookstore there, one of several we opened. Mark and
I, along with Kenny Sanders, whom I will discuss soon, became very
close and essentially guided the JPM in Marin. Mark later moved to
Phoenix, Arizona, and founded what soon became a large church.
A tall, thin, longhaired hippie named Greg Beumer lived in Berachah
House, as did Malcolm
Dawes; they both played guitar
and became key members
in our band, Joyful Noise.
Most of the practices for the
band in its early days were at
Berachah House. Greg wrote
his first song with a Christian
theme entitled, “You’ll Never
Get to Heaven on LSD,” and it
became the most popular of
all the songs Joyful Noise ever
performed. Everyone liked to
think up new verses with substances
or behaviors well-suited to the hippie life but ill-suited to a
At the house, Paul taught a Bible study for kids who attended
Drake High. I recall an incident that occurred at the house, which
reflects some of the trials and tribulations of running such a place.
It must have been Easter, 1970, and one of the occupants of the
house had arranged for the people who showed up at the regular
Tuesday night Bible study to gather Easter Sunday morning wearing
44 Chapter 13
nothing other than sheets. He made it clear: even under garments
were not acceptable. No, everyone was going to greet resurrection
Sunday with nothing on besides a sheet.
The mother of one of the girls who attended the study at Berachah
House called me. Her daughter had told her mother what was
afoot. Not too pleased, I rushed over to the house, learned that Paul
was away in San Diego with his family, gathered the occupants, and
let them have it. The instigator would not back down but tried to justify
himself with weird, icky-gooey, spiritual talk. Seeing that he was
about to prevail, I was forced to utter a phrase that served me well
during those years: “You have two choices—101 South or 101 North.”
Highway 101 cuts through the county north and south and was the
main way in and out. His choice was south, meaning San Francisco, so
I dropped him off at a freeway onramp.
Berachah House survived for a couple of years but folded when
Paul married. It was one of the first of its kind, and perhaps thirty or
more young men lived there. One of these was Kenny Sanders. When
I first met him, I could not see his face for the longish, tangled hair
that obscured it. Kenny, whose father had been one of Martin Luther
King’s attorneys, was one of the first black hippies to show up, and he
became a major part of our ministry in Marin County and later on in
Petaluma in Sonoma County.
Kenny later led a painting crew, was a fabulous painter, a part of
Joyful Noise, the founding pastor of Church of the Open Door in Petaluma,
and along with Mark Buckley and me, a director of the entire
ministry. He married Mary Jensen, who was a student at San Rafael
High School and led the small Christian group there; Mary was a tireless
evangelist whose witness led to the conversion of Bob Burns,
who became one of the pastors in the Church of the Open Door family.
Kenny and Mary later had three children, and Kenny became a medical
doctor with Kaiser Permanente. Now retired, Kenny is attending
seminary2 and doing mission work along with Mary.3
2 Most of the leaders in our Bay Area ministry never attended seminary or
Bible college. They were self-taught people who took advantage of the continuing
stream of discipleship programs we involved ourselves in.
3 Mary Sanders became an artist, and her consistent testimony and witness
saw many come to Christ as a result.