Saturday, March 5, 2011

Herlong - The Sequel

When we last met around the final paragraph in Herlong - Part II, I left you with this parting paragraph:

 I was wondering what God was doing with us and what was up. How could I be so wrong. 
I was so sure God wanted us in Herlong, at least at the Sierra View Baptist Church. That awareness never left me, it nagged me and dogged me everyday. What was I to do?

Each day that I drove to the Dairy and worked those cold and long shifts pulling ice cream and loading trucks, my mind would go back to that high desert community of Herlong and those wonderful people in that little church. Each day I replayed the same tape in my head of the things they wanted and needed and what I had planned to do there. It plagued me to no end. As a matter of fact, it so plagued me that one after noon I picked up the phone and called Elbert H. 

We had a long chat about what might have went wrong, what was really the issue (s) and what could be done. I apologized for my departure, Elbert apologized for their response and behavior.  We decided that maybe we were really meant for each other and he invited us back to the pastorate of Sierra View Baptist Church.

Irene and I packed the car one more time. We gave our notice on our apartment. I gave my notice at Alta Dena Dairy. We were headed north once again to that little desert community in the middle of nowhere, somewhere precariously perched on the edge of the world. I was elated!

 We arrived in Herlong after another grueling 450 mile drive up Interstate 5 and Highway 395 packed to the gills with four, count em, four little girls. I believe this was in 1984 which means that Shannon was 9, Sonja was 8, Sharon was three, and Stacy was two. Fun, huh? 

We found a single wide mobile home in the only Trailer Park, no it wasn't a mobile home park, it was a trailer park in Herlong and we rented it. It was OK. It had a wood stove and it was next to the washer and dryer building. 

I was able to get work at the Sierra Army Depot in the civilian police department. I went to work attempting to do my best as the pastor of our little church. We still met in the community center building which as adequate. We started preaching teaching as faithfully as we could in that little church.

It soon became obvious why we had left. These folks had been taught, really indoctrinated with the "party-line" dogma and they were not going to be taught differently. Some of the differences centered on doctrine and some on practical issues. They truly thought that the pastor was "hired" to do everything. After all he is the "paid professional." Their expectation was that I would do all the work necessary to grow the church and add people, workers, and finances. Their expectations centered on a few key points:

  • I was to do all the work and  they receive the benefit and blessing
  • I was to lambaste all the sinners who came and visited but don't lambaste them
  • I was not to meddle in their personal and private lives
  • We were to be "agin" (against) all the "sins" on their legalistic and Pharisaical list of don'ts for independent, fundamental, sin-hating, devil-fighting, separated KJV only baptists.
  • I was to stop turning "liberal" by using the NKJV or NASB, teaching instead of preaching, discipling instead of just plain ole "soul-winnin" and including others into the body of Christ

Now you can see the trouble. I made the mistake of trying to teach the bible, like Ephesians 4, where the pastor/teacher equips all of the people to do the work of the ministry; I preached through books of the bible expositorily rather than "ride the favorite hobby horse" of the week. I did think a shepherd needed to be involved in their personal life as it was affected by their walk with God and level of discipleship. (oops, bad word) I wasn't willing in every sermon to rant and rave against all those things they were against.

We really came to a showdown when I began teaching the letter of Paul to the Ephesians verse by verse. Quite frankly, I really teach phrase by phrase which sometimes includes more than one verse. You should have seen "the bad moon rising" when I got to election. Of my goodness! Those poor Charles Finney Armineans thought I had offered a pig on the altar.

I ignorantly, immaturely, and naively thought that if I taught the scripture, taking the congregation through the exegetical process, and explaining it expositionally they would get it. I was wrong. At about the one year mark they decided once again, I wasn't the guy.

On one Sunday evening Irene, the girls, and I showed up at our usual time, 20 minutes early to straighten chairs, put out hymn books, and to freshen up our meeting area. The service was to start at 6:00 PM. 5:45 came and no one showed up, 6:55 no one, 6:00 no one, 6:10 no one, 6:15 none, and finally 6:20 came and no one had showed up for the service.

I told Irene that if no one else wanted to be in church that evening, I did. Calvary Baptist Church in Susanville met at 7:00 PM. It was about a 40-45 minute drive. We locked the doors, drove lickety-split to Susanville. Naturally they had already began their service but we hoped to quietly sneak in sit in the back and enjoy the teaching. Low and behold, as we walked in the back and looked at the back row for seating, who do you think we saw? That's right! Our entire little church had decided without telling us to abandon us and head into town. Awkward!

After the service, needless to say, it was a little tense. They acknowledged I was an excellent teacher and I seemed to know the scriptures well, but. There is always a but, isn't there? They wanted a preacher like Don E. and what they were use to. They decided not to "stand in my way." I could have the little community building and keep a going if I wanted but they were going to do something else. Now the "score" was tied! I left once and they left once. It was 1 to 1, bottom of the ninth, 2 outs, full count, and they threw a curve ball and I swung and missed. I was out.

So, I had my job at SIAD. I decided not keep the building or the name, we just sort of closed her down. The sequel ended like the original. We decided not to go back to LA again. We escaped California and wanted to stay gone. We moved into Reno, NV. Actually we move into Stead, NV.    Stead, NV was a community of homes that had served as base housing during World War II. Reno Army Air Base housed army units that flew in World War II. It was shut down in 1945. In 1948 the Air Force took it over and operated it as Reno Air Base. When Lt. Croston Stead crashed his P51 Mustang in 1949 and lost his life it was re-named Stead Air Force Base. When we moved in in late 84 or early 85 it was simply base housing turned into civilian duplexes for rent. We rented 12081 Himalaya Street.

That's the sequel to the Herlong saga. I eventually left Reno and moved to Cedarville, California and left Sierra View Baptist Church and Herlong behind. Later on Elbert H. became the pastor of the group, they renamed the church Bible Baptist Church and it is still in Herlong. I heard Elbert died a few years back, I sure liked that old man. Was always sorry we weren't on the same page.


welcome to my world of poetry said...

Very enjoyable to read and so interesting.I am sorry you have concluded it.

Have a lovely week-end;

Ma ~ said...

"Agin it"...:)

That is unfortunate. A friend of mind left our church for a place that DOES have pretty good preaching, but are very legalistic.

Sharon Kirby said...

It always makes me sad how we "folks" seem to get in the way of the Lord. How close-minded we can get, how shallow, how hard-hearted. Gregg, again I applaud your faithfulness in doing what you heard God calling you to do. Perhaps the whole Herlong episode was meant for you alone - to learn humble obedience through a wilderness experience.

And then, to tell us about it - so we can learn, too.


(p.s. OK, is that actually your record of Bad Moon Rising? Or did you get that off the Internet?? I just got rid of some of my 8-tracks. Where does the time fly????)

Brian Ray Todd said...

Your story is a true pilgrimage in which the Lord molded you along the journey for His purposes. I'm amazed at how differently each of our stories and leading by His hand through this time that He has placed us unfolds. What a blessing to hear your story. Hope that it all comes together in a book someday for all to enjoy.

Persis said...

Oh my, that must have been an interesting Sunday morning.