The Jesus freak I am talking about in these memoirs is me, and
in this chapter I will talk only about those things that I was personally
involved in and therefore have some remembrance of. I
do have my journal, newsletters, old friends from that era with whom
I talk, and other materials that comprise my Jesus People archives,
but here I am touching only on my own personal experience. And I
caution readers: I may have some details wrong or slightly off.
That said, this chapter is focused (after a bit of detour) on David
Hoyt’s move to Atlanta, Georgia.
Another Story First
When David finished his work in Lancaster, he moved back to
Marin, and we saw the opening of Zion’s Inn. This was in 1968, and
David and I started painting houses to make money—of which we
had very little. Our first job was right up the street, and it consisted of
painting out some rooms on the second floor of a commercial building.
On the bottom floor was a business, and on the second floor was
a large apartment. (The building is still there in San Rafael, and I drive
by it frequently.)
First day on the job (and we had passed ourselves off as experienced
painters), we put a water-based latex paint on a wooden door
rather than the oil-based paint we were told to use. Frankly, we didn’t
know the difference; at least I didn’t, since I was the one who messed
up. That slowed things down, as I had to sand all the paint off after it
dried and lost a whole day. But we learned, and David and I found we
were good at the painting. And the money was not bad for back then
$5 an hour apiece.
David Moves to Atlanta
After painting for a little more than a week, we came to the last
room, a large one, and it was crowded with furniture covered by
white sheets. David and I never bothered to look under the sheets
while working there, but after we finished and peeked out of curiosity,
we found a number of pieces of very nice, but old furniture. The
owner then asked us to get rid of it, and we quickly said yes. I still
have two pieces, a beautiful antique corner table and a kind of club
chair. It was the very furniture we needed at the time, and I continued
to cart the stuff around for decades. I never could figure out if that
was a miracle or not.
Just before concluding the job, we were asked to paint the front of
the building. I recall doing this alone, since David was on another job,
but one day I was working at the very top of the second story when
some guys showed up and started yelling at me. They were from the
local painter’s union and were angry with me, a non-union worker,
for taking their work. Of course, I had no idea how that could be and
did not even understand about labor unions.
There was nothing else for me to do but continue painting, all the
while trying to ignore them. If I had climbed down off the ladder, a
fistfight would surely have ensued. When they saw I was not budging,
they started to shake the heavy, old, wooden ladder, the top of
which I was perched on. Finally, I had no choice; I descended with just
enough aggression in my manner that they could see I was ready to
fight. Before I reached the ground they fled. It is not always possible
to turn the other cheek—a lesson that stayed with me.
I decided to push my luck and was soon putting ads in the local
paper for more paint jobs. Over the years the union caused me some
grief by throwing paint on jobs I had finished or intimidating those
who had hired me. I had to keep it up, however, as I had a whole house
full of people to feed. Despite all the harassment and threats, the protecting
hand of God was upon us.
Back to David’s Move
David eventually moved to Walnut Creek, over in the East Bay.
There he began Upper Streams, and soon it was a thriving ministry.
After some time there, I think in 1969 or 1970, David packed up with
wife and some of the folks from Upper Streams and moved to Atlanta,
Georgia. David’s ministry grew greatly then, not only in Atlanta, where
they managed to rent the large and majestic former French Embassy,
but they also spread the Jesus Movement to eight additional states,
engaged in street evangelism, founded Christian houses, and started
Bible studies. As far as I know, it was David who really took the Jesus
Movement to the Southern states.
After some time, David invited me to visit him and the work in
Atlanta. I gladly did so, and on one of those trips I met a Roman Catholic
priest named Ed Sweeney in some kind of charismatic fellowship
in Atlanta, and we became good friends right away. As will be seen
in the next chapter, he played a large role in the tragedy that was to
There is much I could say at this point, but I will relate only one
memory. It was of an evening at the Atlanta house when I was preaching.
I stood with my back against the front door and faced the grand
staircase that rose up from the large entry hall. Before me was a minimum
of a hundred, maybe even two hundred kids, taking up every
square foot of room. I don’t think I had ever seen anything like it—a
real outpouring of the Holy Spirit, where hundreds were coming to
know Christ. It far exceeded anything I had seen in northern California’s
Bay Area. The ministry in Atlanta was growing day by day, and I
knew it all was both a huge privilege and a burden for David to manage.