Berachah House

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.

Chapter 13

Berachah House

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

Christian one.

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.

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