On the Road with Paul and Oliver

Chapter 16

In the spring of 1969, Paul Bryant, Oliver Heath, and I set out in Ollie’s new, red Volkswagen bug for Mobile, Alabama. The little car was stuffed with printed material ready for handing out along the way. On the road we stopped at every college or university we came across. I would haul out my guitar, set up someplace on campus, sing some songs, and preach short little sermons when a crowd gathered. Our California license plates were usually enough to attract atten- tion, and I looked somewhat like a hippie, which few had ever seen up close in many of the places we visited. After the short preaching, we would hand out literature and talk individually with those who were interested. Paul and Ollie were exceptionally adroit at personal

evangelism during such times.

My friend, Prince Altom, arranged our visit to his Southern Baptist alma mater, Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. Word had not trickled down to the campus police, and we were ordered off the campus and threatened with arrest. But after some pressure from the students, the school officials understood we really were Christians and not troublemakers. They made an abrupt turnabout, welcomed us, and gave us freedom to do our ministry.

Secular schools all along our route received us to some degree. I doubt this would happen now, but it was characteristic of the Jesus Movement to be welcomed on campuses of all kinds. Of course, the “One Way” theology we constantly proclaimed ruffled some feathers, but it seemed to us then that God’s hand was upon us.

In most places we visited, no one was aware of a spiritual awaken- ing or revival happening. However, the news media knew about it to some extent and alerted many to the events taking place in California,

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and that opened doors for us as we went. Some churches welcomed us, and some did not, but the group most open to us was youth who were trying to emulate the hippie thing. In almost every town we vis- ited there was someplace where the kids hung out, maybe a coffee house, a café, or a park. We only had to drive around a short while to find the spot.

Paul, Ollie, and I were not exactly naturally outgoing people, but during this period we were able to easily approach a group of kids and start handing out literature. Conversations ensued, and almost always some would trust Jesus as Savior. Since we were meeting the kids mostly on the street, on the campus, or in a hangout, we didn’t give an altar call or invitation of any kind, which was what I practiced in my pastoral min- istry. Instead, while we talked, people simply experienced the new birth.

This, too, was typical of the Jesus Movement; people seemed to be specially brought to us, and then, in some way, were touched by the Holy Spirit.

A Texas Story

I will relate an event, one of the many wild and crazy things that happened on that trip. We were in Houston, Texas. Dr. Francis DuBose had arranged for us to visit several churches he knew from having lived there. Somehow, we were also invited to one of the flag- ship churches among Southern Baptists, First Baptist Church of Dal- las, where Dr. W. A. Criswell was pastor. While we were in Houston, we discovered a scheduling error: we were to be in both Dallas and Houston at the same time. In fact, on that one Sunday morning we were supposed to be in two Houston churches and the one in Dallas. We had to split up. Paul and Ollie covered the Houston churches while I drove the “bug” to Dallas.

It was a dark and stormy night, however, and the windshield wip-

56       Chapter 16

ers were not working on Ollie’s car. Over two hundred miles separate the two great Texan cities, and I left after a Saturday evening youth gathering in a huge Houston church. For hours it poured, and I was scared to death. Every car on the road seemed to be traveling at top speed, and I had to lean out the window and use my left hand as a wiper blade in order to see the road ahead. I finally made it to Dal- las about four in the morning, found the church I was to speak at, parked across the street, and tried to get some sleep. In a while the rain stopped, but soon the police pulled up behind me and made me get out, while they questioned me, patted me down, and checked the inside of the car for contraband. I explained what I was doing and why I was parked there, but they made me move. I circled around for a while, found another spot, but soon they were back and I had to move on. To kill time I simply drove around the downtown area of Dallas and waited for the sun to come up. Tired, dead tired, and par- tially wet, I was in no shape to do any preaching.

Around seven a.m., and right on the same block as the church building, I happily entered a little

café and took a chair at the counter. The place was packed, and I waited as the guy behind the counter kept going back and forth in front of me, serving other customers. Though I tried to smile at him, he would not serve me. Finally I got up some cour- age and asked for a cup of coffee. He stopped in front of me, put his hands on the counter, leaned forward, and in a loud voice said, “We don’t serve your kind here.”

I was wet; I was tired, and now I was mad. Sliding off the stool I stood there and said, “I am a Southern Baptist preacher, and I am preaching at the church next door. You can bet I am going to be talking about this little incident.” With that, I walked out.

After a couple of hours, folks began to arrive for the Sunday school gathering I was to address. (I was also to give a testimony at the main worship service later on.) When the young man who was leading the class saw me, it was evident he was taken aback. He hesitatingly

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allowed me to speak to the college age group, which was really large, and before I spoke I was able to get some coffee and donuts down me. With a simple explanation of what was going on in San Francisco, I emphasized how God was working things in a way I had never heard of before. I basically talked about a miracle-working God.

Those young men and women, who were not much younger than me, received me warmly and mobbed me when I was finished. As I was preparing to go to the main auditorium, the contact person, the guy who was somewhat startled at my appearance, told me there had been a change and I would not be able to give a testimony after all. I accepted that, said I understood, and instead of leaving to head back to Houston, I found my way into a balcony and got to listen to the great Dr. Criswell preach. It was worth the trip to Dallas.

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