The Perfect Form and the Perfect Storm

by Andy Wood on August 7, 2009

in Five LV Laws, Insight, Life Currency, Principle of Legacy, Turning Points

Seven or eight years ago, I was taking a shuttle from the Founders Inn Hotel on the edge of Regent University down to the shoreline in Virginia Beach.  It was just the driver and me, and to make conversation, I asked him, “Do you know where London Bridge Baptist Church is?”

“Sure,” he said.  It’s not far from here.  You know somebody there?

“No.  But I went there on my very first mission trip.”

“Why would anybody,” he wanted to know, “come to Virginia Beach on a mission trip?”

That night I didn’t know how to answer him – this man who lives in the shadow of Pat Robertson and CBN, Rock Church, and a host of other citadels of Evangelicalism.  Today I think I do.  It was the Perfect Form.

The Proposition

“Mission ‘73” it was called.  I caught a glimpse of an announcement in our church bulletin.  A youth choir mission trip to Virginia Beach, VA, for students who had completed the ninth grade or older.  Hey, I loved to travel and barely made the age cutoff, so I was sold!  I was still a spiritual newbie, and didn’t really know very many people.  But I was undeterred.

Mark Stone, the pastor of London Bridge at the time, was an old friend of my pastor.  We would go to this crossroads of vacationers, military personnel, and growing suburbanites and conduct Backyard Bible Clubs, help lead out in a church revival, and witness along the Boardwalk and beach along the Atlantic.

The Cast

I was among the youngest – and spiritually greenest –of the 64 or so to go on this adventure.  I was surrounded by people who were older, more established, and way more sure of themselves.  I certainly can’t remember them all, but the list included:

  • Fred Wolfe – our pastor and the revival evangelist.
  • Ed Keyes – minister of music, and worship leader before it was cool to be called a worship leader in a church.
  • Hayes Wicker – Summer Youth Director from Oklahoma.
  • Gordon Waller – former cop-turned-businessman with a heart for ministry.
  • Ricky Cagle – acknowledged leader of the youth group for a variety of reasons (not the least of which was his gift for getting other people to pull his practical jokes).
  • Wayne Dorsett – another leader with an incredible singing voice.
  • Terry Bryant – a purple-belt in karate with an infectious laugh and a strong testimony.
  • John Turner – comparatively quiet, but delightfully fun-loving.
  • So many more, whose names and faces I still remember – Jan, Patty, Jim, Pat, Ted, Jo, Tammy, Peggy, Sherry, Linda, Kathy, Jay, Ella, Mal, Cathy (another one), Gary, Larry, Donnie, Susan, Connie, Pam.

The Memories

Where do I start?

  • The Backyard Bible Clubs we held in the mornings and afternoons all over Virginia Beach.
  • Bro. Fred assuming the role of “Irving Perry (I. P.) Rainwater,” and giving us a mock guided tour of places on the bus intercom.
  • Jim Hoyt singing the ‘50s tunes “Little Darlin’” and “Teen Angel” along with Terry, Wayne, and Ricky as his backups on the beach.  We used that to draw a crowd, then…
  • Performing Celebrate Life, the ultimate 70s youth musical, in the church and on the beach
  • Leading my first-ever person to the Lord – a college student named Susie Trent – following the Celebrate Life beach performance.
  • Sitting in on my first argument with a non-believer about God as we witnessed on the beach.
  • Gary Poplin earning the nickname “Spook” because of how jumpy he was – especially around the church cemetery.
  • Trying to do stand-up comedy in an informal talent show (a disaster) and getting hooked off the stage.
  • Joining in the chorus of complaints about never-ending hamburgers, and being gently rebuked by (oh no!) Ed Keyes.  (If you know Ed, you know what I mean.  If you don’t, just imagine it was Jesus Himself.)
  • The hotel meeting room in Spartanburg on the way home, where Ed shared with a broken heart how disappointed he was that people were getting irritable and acting ugly, and in tears asked us to pray.  That night was my first glimpse of what revival could look like; it ruined me for it forever.

The Convergence

If a Perfect Storm is the convergence of forces to create the ultimate disaster, that trip, taken thirty-six years ago this month, represented something of the Perfect Form.  A lot of lives were formed over those 10 days as forces came together to create a life-shaping event.  The experience of having to serve God well or fail.  The need to put up with the same people for long periods of time. The opportunities to do eternally big things, even with young hearts.  The privilege of sharing quality time with spiritually-big men and women.  To be honest, we were so busy living it, we had no way of really understanding what was taking place.

Life certainly moved on.  There were more mission trips, and more co-laborers, and more fruit and more lives changed.  And the people who filled the buses moved on, too.

Hayes went on to be a pastor in Oklahoma, in Lubbock (where I happen to live today), and now in First Baptist Church of Naples, Florida.

Gordon went to seminary, then became a concert promoter for Dallas Holm, Bill Gaither, the Imperials and others.  He later got in a lot of trouble, and the last I heard is a fugitive living in the Philippines.  Still haven’t figured that one out.

Ricky became Rick.  He, too, went into ministry, and I had the privilege of serving as his associate in two different locations.  He’s still serving the Lord, both in ministry and in business today.

Wayne became a pastor in various churches in Alabama.  For a while, he and I tracked together location-wise.  He has since led two churches in Georgia, where he continues to serve today.

Terry emerged as a pastor, evangelist, and missionary – and one of the most gifted communicators I ever heard.  He married Sherry (who was also on that trip), and now lives and serves in Huntsville.

John served for years as a pastor in Alabama in various locations, then went to Pascagoula, Mississippi, where he has served faithfully for years.

Fred and Ed were to us and so many more the stuff of legend – serving together for decades until Fred went into conference/evangelism work.  Lo and behold, they are back together in Mobile again, having launched a new work a couple of years ago.  They remain spiritual fathers to me to this day.

My Perfect Storm

Years later there came a day when my entire world collapsed, and I had no one to blame but me.  Isolated and lonely, broken and useless, all I cared about was disappearing and somehow healing.

But guess who relentlessly called me and my wife and wouldn’t accept failure as the final word for me?  That would be Wayne.

Guess who tracked me down on a pay phone in a hospital and reminded me that I still had Jesus, and still had a choice?  Fred.

And who listened with love and prayed down the grace of Heaven over me?  Ed.

And who said, “Let’s get together, and it ain’t judgment day?”  Terry.

And who gave me the opportunity to tell my story on his radio program, and to this day invites whoever can to get together when he knows I’m in town?  Rick.

And who still treats me with grace and kindness whenever we’re together, and acts like we’ve never missed a beat?  That would be John.

“Why would anybody come to Virginia Beach on a mission trip?”  I know one reason.  Because in the economy and wisdom of God, He knew that down the road a perfect storm was brewing.  And knowing that, He called me to serve Him anyway. He knew that in an army that still turns on its own wounded, somebody would need to carry me to a place of healing and safety.  So in 1973 He looked at a couple of pastors and a gaggle of mostly-clueless students and said, “Get ‘em on the bus.  I’ve got plans.”



Daddy August 7, 2009 at 11:24 am

This ties into your scouting days in the fact that “when building a fire, it only takes a single spark to start a blaze.” In this case you didn’t have to rely on just a spark, you had a whole flaming torch to set off another fire in your life in that wonderful group of mentors and peers.

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