YOU DAMNED FOOL
By Susan Alamo
If the title of this book shocks you, then you are the person it is written to, for, and about.
“That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (II Thessalonians 2:12)
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16)
“And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23)
Where shall I begin? How do you cram twelve years between the covers? Twelve years of love, sorrow, tears, heartache, despair, torture, torment, success, and impending defeat, if our conspirators are successful.
Where did it all begin? How shall it end? I know where it all began.
The crooner-promotionist wasn't quite ready for it, but the stage was set. The prophecy of the minister who married them was about to come true. "God has something great ahead for you two." The Jesus Movement was about to be born. From here the story is best told by Susie. It was her spark that set the mighty fire of God in motion.
How does one live seemingly thousands of years in just five or six short years? Tony and I have done it. A thousand times over. As I look back, it seems incredible that about six years have passed—incredible that so much joy, so much fulfillment, so much achievement could be packed into those fleeting years. It is incredible that in such a short time, a seeming eternity of tragedy, torment, torture—downright despair—could have been ours.
It was the birth pangs of the Jesus Movement. It is the joy of seeing this beautiful, if at times awkward and flamboyant, child—this genuinely spiritual revival among America's youth—coming to birth and nurturing it, then coaxing it on, and at last seeing it stand firmly on its own feet.
Seven years ago, if anyone had told either of us that we would be pastoring a church, especially a hippie church, we would have laughed that person right out of the room. We prided ourselves that we were evangelists, taking speaking engagements in churches, Christian businessmen's groups, breakfast meetings, luncheons, and dinner affairs in stride. The hippie scene and its drugs, its free sex, the crazy, mixed-up world of the dopers, their nasty turns of mind and defiance of authority were far removed from our minds. To this day, God knows that I don't know the difference between a cube of sugar and a cube of acid. Yellow jackets, red devils, Nembutals, barbiturates, heroin, smack—they were just so many words to me. After all, I don't even take aspirin tablets, so all these other things were foreign to me.
I remember the first Pentecostal church I went to after I was filled with the Holy Spirit. They were singing "Victory in Jesus" and all the songs I had heard coming out of that garage when Jesus healed me when I was only nine. Yes, they also sang "What a friend we have in Jesus."
It was then that I finally knew. Those "fanatics down the street" who had slipped in to pray for me were Pentecostals, people who believed in the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, I was glad to say, I was one of them.
I, Susan Alamo, saw the hippie kids wandering up and down Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, loaded clear out of their minds on narcotics and slowly dying of malnutrition. They were kids from all over the world, dressed in all sorts of outlandish regalia, specifically designed by them and by those who were behind the scenes manipulating them to blow the minds of the establishment. They were long-haired, shabby kids wearing their badge of rebellion to a hypocritical society.
"This is what we think of the world full of adults who say one thing and do another. They tell us not to take dope and yet they line the cocktail bars and get drunk clear out of their minds. They make lewd films and speak to us of chastity and morality. They don't even buy their own types—their churches are empty.
"They tell us just to be good little boys and girls and don't ask any questions. ‘Don't do as I do,’ they say, ‘do as I say.’ They are a bunch of politicians deceiving the public, making all sorts of promises of peace and justice, of prosperity and plenty. Each one gets worse than the other. There's more war, more bloodshed, more starvation."
What these kids are really saying by their dress and attitude is, "You have made nothing but a mess, so we will burn down the banks and the churches, kill the establishment off and take over!"
But as I passed each one of these young people, my heart broke in two for them. I knew they were a product of our own making. They were not the Lost Generation. Mine was that Lost Generation. Mine was the generation of alcoholics, of the adulterers—the generation that had turned its back on God—and as I looked into each and every one of those faces, it was as if I were looking into my own soul. That was why it hurt so bad. They were the sins we had sown and now were reaping—a Godless nation that had turned into a Sodom and Gomorrah.
I was shocked to hear gray-haired grandmothers advocating arming the police and sending them out to kill these kids. I thought, "My God, this is no foreign element that has been dropped out of parachutes on us; these are our own children. We call ourselves Christian America, yet we allowed God to be taken out of our schools and the theory of evolution and all that it brings along with it in people's thinking to replace Him. We allow sex education even in our grammar schools—just another means of stripping our children of their morals under the guise of sophistication and education."
The adult world was so far removed from the realities of God that we were like a big ripe, juicy plum, ready for the adversary of our souls to pluck. Then we had the audacity, the nerve, to put the whole blame on our kids.
I didn't know anything about narcotics or hippies. But I knew God and His power. I knew our nation was sick nearly to death and was falling precipitately from sickness and sin, eaten up by it. I knew the only answer was in Jesus Christ. There can be no peace—not at any level or along any dimension—but in the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus.
Every time we drove or walked down the boulevards I would say, "Tony, there they are. There is the harvest field. It is ripe, but no one will go. No one wants to take the place of the lowly Nazarene.
"Honey," Tony would respond, "those kids are so spaced out, they wouldn't even know what you are talking about." But I could find no peace in my heart. Every time I saw one of those kids there was that awful pulling on my soul.
One evening, we left the Disneyland Hotel. Tony was the speaker. People had paid a pretty handsome fee to come to the meeting. We sat at the head table with about ten other people. They came gowned and jeweled. We had dinner; Tony gave his testimony. As usual, they were spellbound by it. They waited to greet us, telling us how much they enjoyed the meeting.
On the way home, Tony must have felt I was beside myself, crabby—sort of out of it. I had been nagging him for some time about the big expensive house he had bought out near Malibu beach.
You know, Tony, God has a special name for people like us."
"Yes, Honey, what is it?" Living in the glow of the success of the evening in its splendid setting, he undoubtedly was expecting me to come up with some term like "good and faithful servants of God" or at least something like "children of God."
He nearly flew out of his seat with my answer, in rage. "Yes, Tony, He says we are hypocrites! We are just entertainers for Christians."
"Get off it, Susan. Are you back on that hippie thing again? Now look, Susie, you might as well forget it. I simply am not going out into the streets with a bunch of doped-up hippies."
"Well, let me tell you something, Tony, and don't you forget it. I am going to the streets with them. I'm going out there Saturday night."
Needless to say, that was the last word said between us all the way home, or for the rest of the night. Early the next morning, I went to the tract society and got a supply of simple little Gospel tracts titled "Four Things God Wants You to Know" and marked them with our telephone number. Every time Tony passed the table where I had them spread out he looked at them with a mixture of confusion and disgust. He had been sulking the whole day. But he knew I meant business. I called some young people we had won to Christ during the course of our ministry in the speaking circuit and asked them to come over at five o'clock, that we were going to Hollywood Boulevard with some tracts, and win some souls for Jesus.
"Honey," Tony argues in outright desperation at my intransigent determination, "if you will let me, I can make the money off a couple of good promotions to buy radio and television time. Then we really can get the Gospel out. Honestly, Honey, you're going at this thing all wrong. Believe me, you will kill yourself, or maybe get hurt badly and you'll accomplish nothing.
"When I was in promotions do you think I could ever do anything by standing on a street corner handing out little pieces of paper? Please Susie, it's nuts. I'm telling you, Susie, it's plain nuts!"
"Tony, God isn't after your money. He's after your heart. He said it pleases Him that the world be saved by the foolishness of preaching the Gospel. I am going to the streets." I had prayed most of that night after we had our big blowup. Tony pouted. In fact, when the kids I had invited showed up at about four o'clock that afternoon, Tony had hardly showed his face all day. I knew that he and God were having it out, and certainly I knew who the winner was going to be.
Tony came down at five and said, "You know what you are doing? You're putting me on the spot. You know there is no red-blooded man on this earth who would let his wife go out alone in that mess." Then he looked at some cluttery-looking paper bags on the table and said, "What is that mess?"
"Gospel tracts." After I had marked the tracts, I set them out on the table in bags—ready for action.
"Do you really think that I am going up the Boulevard with paper bags full of little pieces of paper?"
I didn't answer. I told the girls to take some of the tracts out of the bags and we would carry them in our purses. We were on our way. We went to the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.
For the life of me, I don't know where or how Tony got the tracts (I surely didn't give them to him—not in the frame of mind he was in at the time I left the house with the girls. He says he certainly doesn't remember taking them from off the table). But there he was, standing on the corner with a handful of tracts. I had expected that God was going to win His bout with Tony, but I really didn't think He'd get Tony out of the house and down to that street corner as quickly as all that.
As Tony stood there, the inevitable happened. Coming down the street from the studios was a whole group of people. They all knew Tony well because he had worked with them for years. I stood there outside the bank watching, with my mouth wide open. It was so funny, and yet I knew that for my poor husband, it was nothing short of a living Hell.
"Hey, Tony, what are you doing out there on the corner? What are you passing out?" He was trapped. There wasn't a place in the world where he could crawl in and pull the covers over his head. Trapped. Trapped but good.
"Well," Tony stammered, "Jesus is coming back..." He had done it. The moment of truth—that moment of personal crucifixion for the sake of Christ had come. He had echoed those very words Christ had uttered to him back in the lawyer's office.
"Oh, Man. You're nuts." Off Tony's friends hustled on down the street, literally embarrassed for him. But Tony stuck by his gun. The next one coming down the street was a long-haired hippie.
"Hey, Man, do you know that Jesus is coming?"
The youth stopped and looked deeply at Tony. "Yes, I know it." There was absolute sincerity showing through the kid. Tony was quick to sense it.
"Would you like to ask Jesus to come into your heart and become a Christian?" Tony hadn't lost a stride, even though he never expected anything like this to happen. Tony by now appeared to be almost in panic. He ran over to me and began whispering. "Susie, he believes and he wants to get saved...what should I do with him?"
"Just stand him over here by me until we get some more." All that night, they kept coming and we stood by them next to the bank until we had quite a large group. About half through the night, we ran out of tracts.
"What am I going to do, Susie? I have no more tracts."
"They're at home on the table." Off Tony went, wasting no time. Back he came, carrying the Gospel tracts. Paper bags and all! Tony Alamo was turned on to the streets, never to get turned off. The Jesus People Movement was on—and in earnest.
We took the kids home with us. They were positively starved. Most of them spent any money they could come up with on narcotics and they subsisted nutritionally on candy bars, Cokes, and anything they could steal from the supermarket. Many of them had learned some basic techniques for concealing items of food taken in the stores, but even with this newly-acquired skill, it was not enough. Most of them were half dead. No parent would tolerate the situation these kids found themselves in if he had control of the situation and had even an ounce of care and concern for his offspring.
We fed them and told them how Christ died for them that they might live. We pleaded with them to stop and consider that they were destroying their minds, their very soul, and their bodies. A look of peace and deliverance would come over their faces as they submitted to the all-powerful Jesus. They were being baptized in the Holy Spirit almost at once.
Night after night and day after day, we went out into the streets, spending most of our time there, often until four or five in the morning. The Strip and Hollywood Boulevard seemingly never close down. My feet would be so swollen and I would be so tired from pacing those hard pavements that I would beg Tony to take me home. "Please, Susie, let me get just one more."
We had no church or any place else to take them to, so all we could do was take them home with us. At times there would be twenty-five or thirty kids in the house at one time. There they were, kneeling wall-to-wall in prayer. It was almost impossible to get up the stairs or even to make it to the bathroom. We found ourselves feeding and helping so many of these shabby hippies that we were fast running out of money. We began shopping around for churches in the area, asking if it would be all right for us to bring them there.
In desperation, Tony once went to a man he had befriended when the man was trying to make a go of it in the business world. Tony's help had proven the key to his success. But now, in Tony's and the kids' hour of need the man turned a deaf ear. The churches weren't any better.
One of the biggest accusations against our work—and there are many—is that we are exclusivists, that we don't fellowship readily with others. Let's get the record straight. We're with anyone who really is doing the work of the Lord and who is true to the Scriptures. Before people make such accusations, they should know the heartaches we encountered when we sought people and churches to help us carry the load of a ministry that God started blessing from the very moment we stepped out and believed Him for the souls of these hippies. I wish to God that the response we got back then from the churches had come anywhere close to what we had gotten from the kids.
Some of the churches were very polite in their refusals to help us and the kids, explaining that they did not have accommodations and were not equipped to handle so many young people of this sort. Others, on the other hand, were downright rude and insulting, telling us straight from the shoulder that we were a couple of fools for becoming involved with such trash. They certainly had no intentions of getting involved along with us.
Some of our Christian friends warned us in a very paternal, but authoritative way, that what we were doing was very dangerous, and that they were sure we were going to be found murdered some day.
But little did our friends and our antagonists realize that we really had been out gathering gems. They were rough ones all right. But as the rough surface was chipped away, there was undeniably a big sparkling diamond that shined through. Each of them found a special setting in our hearts.
There were teenage girls, many of whom were only children trying to play the role of the sophisticated lady of the hour. Their actions and their lives were telling us they feared nothing. They were caught up in the drug scene.
But it was a different thing they told us after they were converted. "I was scared to death," one after another would say to me. "I had to stay loaded to exist. I was so possessed of fears that life was a twenty-four hour a day nightmare. I was afraid to go to sleep; afraid to wake up."
Big black boys, caught up in the revolutionary militant hate movement of the day, after becoming Christians were like big teddy bears--soft, gentle, harmful to no one. One of the boys said it all one day in a few succinct, telling words:
"I hated the white man. I hated his Bible and his God because I had been told he had enslaved me with his fear, with his Bible, with his God. But when I came to know Jesus as a real Christ, I began to feel sorry of the white man. I looked at him and thought, 'You poor creature, you're in worse shape that I used to be in. You are more of a slave than I was.' I wanted to tell him about Jesus.
"Fears, Man. I lived in nothing but fear out in that jungle. I knew the inevitable would come, that I would end up on a marble slab, in a prison, or in a mental institution. Man, you know what the story is out there."
They all became our children—black, white, Indian, Chicano, Jewish—especially those dear Jewish kids. There was a bond between those kids and Tony and me that was unexplainable to anyone. They were very much closer to us than children one gave birth to, and we guarded our flock like a mother hen. We still do that because we are vitally concerned about each one's problems and his growth in the Lord.
Often this is misunderstood by those writers of Jesus books or of articles on our work who don't bother to find out what is behind it. We have been much maligned by those who either fail to understand or else do not want to understand that there is a deep sense of loyalty to one another among us. Those kids regard us as more than just their friends or their spiritual mentors. They see us fully as playing the role of mother and father to them. Sometimes this, of course, rubs the real parents the wrong way, and we feel bad about it. But this relationship was established unconsciously right from the start of our ministry. We always insist that the kids keep in touch with their families by letter and by telephone. Our aim is never to alienate. We always rejoice when a youth and his family are reconciled through the bond of love that is Christ. Hundreds of them have been reconciled and even reunited. What joy it brings to everyone—especially Tony and me.
Because we loved each one of them so, and they returned the love back for us in such an unfeigned way, we shared with one another from the soul. We share in our tragedies, in our persecutions, those hurtful rejections, and in those many moments of happiness and rejoicing as one of the family gained a victory in the Lord or a new one was brought safely into the fold. We were truly one in the spirit and unquestionably one in the Lord. No one hurt without the others hurting. No one rejoiced but that each shared intimately in that joy.
We were in this Jesus People Movement for real.
As we added to our flock, the kids in the street—not just the ones we had contacted with the ministry—had come to know and trust us. This, of course, in the drug scene was doubly important. They knew we were not cops or informers planted there to have them busted, but we were there to help. This they realized, in their own uncanny way, right from the start.
Months became years—better than two years, in fact, since Tony won that first hippie to Christ. We began to pray for a building. But we apparently forgot to tell God when we put our order in for one, that we didn’t want it to be a dope den. This I have learned. Don’t ever ask God for anything unless you’re ready to receive it when He gives it to you! Through the contacts we had made in the streets, we received a telephone call one day that a peddler who had a dope den on Carlos Avenue and who was supplying much of the narcotics to the youth of Hollywood was in jail. He had sent a message asking if we could please try to get him out. I told the caller that we were not financially able to bail people out of jail. Besides, it wasn’t our function. We felt we ought to preach and minister to them so they could keep out of jail in the first place.
As I was talking, God started trying get a word in edgewise. He spoke to my heart. I asked the one on the other end of the line to hold the phone a minute. I ran upstairs to tell Tony. “If you feel the Lord wants us to get him out, then do it,” Tony said. I rushed back downstairs to the phone and told the caller and began some good old-fashioned horse swapping techniques. “I’ll tell you what we’ll do. I’ll make a deal with you. We will get him out if you promise to bring him here for one hour as soon as he gets out.”
The deal was struck and the caller kept his word. Within the hour, the dope peddler was sitting there in our house. He was no stranger to us, for we had run into him before the police put him in jail.
That was Ed Mick, notorious around Hollywood as a narcotic peddler, an eighteen-year-old boy with a lot of the world’s ugly miles on him. He came in from Arkansas, fleeing from a home background of two parents who were heavy drinkers. He had been raised, if one could call it that, in an atmosphere that involved drunken brawls and even gun-play. It mattered very little that his father was a policeman. That did not make for law and order around the home. Ed, after a series of shenanigans in Arkansas, was finally arrested in Arkansas on narcotics charges and fled that state to come to California. He wasn’t long in California before he began plying his trade at the Carlos Avenue den. His customers were never wanting in the hellhole called The Strip.
It is hard for Tony and me to look at the boy who since has become our son-in-law and even begin to imagine that he is the same boy who came to our house under those circumstances. He had long hair, hanging to his shoulders, and the look of a hunted animal on his face. He sat down, very unsure of himself, even scared. We didn’t spare words with him. What he had been doing in the sight of God had been very bad, a sin worse than murder. Drugs not only destroy the body they kill the very soul of man as well.
“You know, Ed, one of these days you will stand at the judgment bar of God and there you will be held responsible, not only for the drugs you’ve taken and for the deeds that have resulted from taking them, but mark our words, no unrepentent sinner shall enter the kingdom of Heaven."
In our dealings with people, we have always tried to make them see sin the way God views it. The Bible never sweet talks sin, but is out in the open with it. It doesn’t give the sinner a leg to stand on. It leaves him open only to throwing himself squarely upon the mercy of God.
Within the hour, Ed Mick knelt beside our coffee table, tears streaming down his face, asking God to forgive him of his sins, and asking Jesus into his heart. What happened to Ed Mick in those few moments was as real as any sinner’s conversion has ever been. There was no keeping him still. Even if we had wanted to, there was no keeping him quiet about what Jesus had done for him. The love of God was spilling out through him.
Within minutes of his conversion, he was back at this den of iniquity on Carlos Avenue, only this time it was different. Straight back to our house he came, bringing six of his customers with him—kids from the motorcycle gang.
It became a six-fold replay of Ed’s experience. Each of them knelt in prayer, taking Christ and His forgiveness into his life. They were saved, and saved good and proper.
It seemed almost as if it were an endless procession. These six went back to the den and brought others back to our house. They, in turn, were saved. Enthusiasm knew no limits. The de-drugged hippies got set on fire of the Holy Spirit.
“Tony, Susan, if we vacuum all the pot out of the rugs and sofas down at Ed’s place and throw all the stuff down the toilet, would both of you come to the dope den and preach to all those other kids?”
God knew our answer long before our excited tongues could formulate even the simple, “Will we ever!” Our ministry began opening so much wider than we could have anticipated. A whole new world of living had just been bought for us—for the simple price of one mixed up boy’s bail. We never felt God’s leading stronger in our lives, now that the gambit proved to be a success. God even honors some good old-fashioned horse trading when it’s done to bring glory to His name.
The kids took off excited as they could be, for once a sincere feeling of purpose ringing in their lives. It was only a very short while later that they were back.
“Everything’s ready. We’ve cleaned up everything. You can come on over any time you want to now, Tony and Sue.”
I will never forget that day.
It was a Sunday. Ed’s dope den was directly across the street from one of Hollywood’s more fashionable churches. People were entering and leaving the church, dressed in all their finery. They were oblivious to the fact that across the street the devil had been strongly entrenched on a fifth of an acre of real estate. Ed had been his faithful agent.
For me, walking into that dope den was like suddenly being pushed into a nightmare and into the pits of Hell. The place was packed with young people, some of them no more than children. They sat huddled on the floor, dirty and filthy.
Always, there is the exhibitionist. In that crowd, there was a teenage girl set on blowing our minds. She made her way down to the front, pushing and shoving. She was nude from the waist up.
Her efforts were wasted. I kept my cool and acted as if nothing had happened. Tony is nearly blind from glaucoma, and so he didn’t see her in the first place. Instead of her blowing our minds, we blew hers and the minds of the other kids who were in on the whole thing.
We ripped into that crew with Hell fire and brimstone. We painted Hell so vividly that later Ed testified that it seemed to him that he could just about see the flames leaping up from between the floor boards. When we finished the message, we asked to see the hands of the ones who believed what we had just said. To our amazement, every hand went up.
We made the next appeal even more pointed. “How many of you want to sincerely make a commitment to Jesus Christ, leave your life of sin behind you, and take up your cross and follow Him?” Again, every hand went up. We couldn’t believe it. We have never seen anything like this before in all our ministering.
Tony and I took that group at its word and took them through the sinner’s prayer. The little girl who had pranced around half nude was now crying and was trying to hide herself with her hands. Someone threw her an old coat and she eagerly threw it around herself.
I looked square at Tony. “Where do we go from here? We have just inherited ourselves a dope den full of hippies!”
WE WEREN’T IN IT ALONE
I’m so thankful that God didn’t show us what lay ahead of us. He knows we probably would have backed out of it. Doubts, misunderstandings, situations where the only way to look was up, not knowing for sure where the next meal was coming from or where the rent was to come from. Persecution, even from the church people of Hollywood, harassments, beatings, arrests at the hands of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The cross that was placed on our backs was just too heavy to bear—for human flesh alone, that is.
Suddenly there were all these destitute kids, hungry and without a means of support. Tony and I had all but depleted ourselves of money—money we had gotten when we sold the Malibu house—and were down to our last few dollars. Where? Where was the money to come from? You’d better believe we prayed. And we did more than pray. Every one of us—we were all one big family now—worked together and pulled together.
We struggled through those lean, hungry days of our beginning, but we struggled through in triumph. The cross we had been given was really too heavy for human flesh. But there was one secret to the whole thing. We did not carry it alone. With what was to follow, we were glad we didn’t.
GOD KEEPS US IN BUSINESS
For the first six months of our new little church, I felt as if I were the chief cook and bottle washer. For that matter, I was. But, of course, there was a lot more to it than cooking and washing the bottles. Everyone pitched in and did his part well. But I would go back into the kitchen while Tony conducted the early part of the service, leading the kids in music—we had gotten quite an assortment of talent by now—and calling them to give their testimonies. Then it would come time for me. I would leave off my cooking, come forward, and preach.
Having been a Pentecostal evangelist at that time for almost twenty years, it fell to my lot most of the time to do the preaching. And preach I did, with a heart set on fire of God. There was real compassion and love in my heart for these aimless souls who would walk in—some of them obviously just to get a meal. Some came in hopes of finding something to satisfy their drug habit. Whatever their motive, I loved them deeply, and knew that if only they would repent of their sins and waywardness, the Lord would more than gladly receive them. Every week some of the precious souls would come forward and pray through—pray through to a new and rewarding experience of fellowship , first of all with God Himself, and then with such a happy fellowship of believers.
I have often reflected on it, and I know I am absolutely right. There is no higher society in all the world than the body of believers—no matter what they looked like, no matter how sinful they had been, no matter how much others looked down on them. These are those, who as motley a crew as they were, fellowshipped with the very living God Himself. In such a society, there is never a need for name-dropping. Always, instead, it is lifting up one name and one name only, the name that is above all other names—Jesus. Having once become part of that great society, what man calls high society seems so pitifully lacking, so hollow.
Those first six months in the dope den we shared whatever we had to eat. And having done that, all of us went back into the streets together. This, to us, had become our life.
It wasn’t long before the dope den was packed, with kids standing on the porch just to hear. Whenever we prayed or we sang, or even when I preached, no one would ever have to complain about being able to hear. We have never looked favorably on excessive emotionalism. The Kingdom is not built on such froth. But we have always believed in allowing the Holy Spirit to minister through His body. Whenever there was a time for prayer, everyone who wanted to entered in. I’m certain that most of the time God was very much tuned in to just about everyone who tuned in to Him. It was very noisy, but not unduly so. It was never, by any means, a match for the acid rock that was pouring out of Hollywood’s night spots and dens of iniquity. There was to be the day, however, that “Rock of Ages” and the likes of it would be able to do more than hold its own to any music the world could throw back at us.
Well, the inevitable happened. The neighbors went to the city attorney’s office and filed a complaint against us. That was bad enough, but at the time the rent came due on the “church” and we had no money to pay it with.
Tony and I, as it turned out, had a speaking appointment before the Long Beach Christian Businessmen’s Association. It was a dinner affair—not really formal, but a suit-and-tie situation. In short, just a good, comfortable meeting.
Those poor businessmen and their wives! In their wildest imagination, they could not have known what was in store for them that night. Moments after they were seated, they knew. I doubt to this day, however, whether some of them can still believe it. It was a crazy bit of mischief I had gotten into my head the day before. “Tony,” I said, “we’re going to take the kids along with us to Long Beach tomorrow night.”
You should have seen Tony’s face. Stunned, all he could say was, “Oh, Susie, no. They’ll throw us out of there.” “But, Tony, we’ve got to have the money to pay the rent, and this is where we’re going to get it. We will act as if we are so ignorant that we don’t know we are doing anything unusual.”
Poor Tony, God had gotten hold of him in an unusual way. He thrust him right into the heart of this ministry in a way that certainly wasn’t of his choosing. Now, not only had God ganged up on him, but his wife was pushing him into some strange doings. I almost felt sorry for him.
We made the scene at the restaurant, a pretty nice place. And I mean “We.” One hundred hippies of every sort imaginable trooped in there with us, as nonchalantly as could be. There were black ones and white ones and Orientals, all decked out in their most outlandish attire—headbands, beads, and all. They outdid themselves.
To use the words “shocked expressions” would be putting it altogether too mildly. The guests nudged one another, trying most unsuccessfully to act as if nothing unusual was going on. I was playing the same game. I flitted from table to table, shaking hands with people, just as if this were the normal state of affairs.
The preliminary part of the meeting over with; it came to Tony’s and my turn. As the people sat on the edges of their seats wondering what surprise we had in store for them next, I stepped to the microphone and said: “Brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus—if you are of the body of Christ, meet your new brothers and sisters.”
Then I called the kids forward and they laid into the old Gospel songs with all of their hearts, with all the zeal and joy of that new birth they had experienced. Then Tony called on some of the kids to give their testimonies. They told of their lives of sin, narcotic addiction, revolutionary activity, but most of all of their complete faith and dedication to a Christ who had died to give them this new life.
Many of the people just sat there crying, not the least bit ashamed to be doing it. This was the most marvelous thing they had ever heard.
They took a collection for us. We got exactly one hundred and fifty dollars—the precise amount we needed to pay the rent on the dope den.
We were in business for another month.
THE POLICE DO THEIR DUTY
We just had to have another building. Service after service, the kids would come, and one service was a repeat of those that had gone before. They just stood on the outside, unable to get in. But where on earth could we go with all these kids? We just didn’t know and we would have been kidding ourselves if we thought we could in some way or another continue worshipping in that little dope den.
We knew it was God’s problem, so we just turned it over to Him. We prayed and expected Him to bring us the answer.
Well, that answer came rather quickly in the person of a young man named David Koelzer. Into our group David had come, like so many of the rest. He had been a photographer in Detroit and decided he’d come to California to try to cash in on some of the gold he imagined to be at this end of the rainbow. One day he met some of our kids on the street—in fact, the very day he arrived here from Michigan. He came to the church in the den and was saved.
David now stepped in to fill, without hesitation, a need that we all had. He, out of gratitude to God and out of his enthusiasm for the work, gave us thirteen hundred dollars worth of stocks. That was a big and generous gift from one already letting God do good works through him. Tony and I almost literally ran over to cash the stocks, and immediately started looking for a building. We soon found one, a place on Crescent Heights Boulevard, a building that had been zoned for a church, and at one time housed a Congregational church.
David’s thirteen hundred dollars looked big to us when we received it. But our new landlords made it look completely insignificant in only a few minutes. We signed the lease; the rent was a staggering five hundred dollars a month. We paid the first and last month as they required, and one thousand dollars was gone. By the time we placed deposits for electricity and other utilities and built a platform, so long thirteen hundred dollars.
The den had been in the Hollywood section and therefore it came under the Los Angeles police protection. Our new place was just a few blocks away, but it was in Los Angeles County territory, in West Hollywood. The police in Hollywood quickly informed the West Hollywood sheriffs that “those two dangerous revolutionaries” were now in their territory. They went all out for us.
The sheriffs never bothered to find out what really was going on, or even what we were doing. They simply went after us with all the vengeance and brutality at their command. One after another of our kids, and sometimes groups of them, were arrested in the streets, taken to the West Hollywood station, and beaten and roughed up.
The whole thing seemed designed to terrify the kids so they would run. In that way, the police reasoned, the whole bad thing could be broken up. Divide and conquer. Here was a group of young people, coming out of every sin imaginable, trying with all their hearts to be respectable citizens, and they were being arrested and beaten. The only crime they now were committing was going out into the streets and telling others caught up in dope’s tentacles and in revolutionary movements to forsake their lives of sin and turn them toward God. Captain Lyle Fields, Sergeants Peterson, Laminsdorff, and Love: how their names stand out as the vile ones. These men and many others connected with them in those days should themselves have been arrested, tried, and convicted of the atrocities and inhumane treatment they put our kids through.
Tony was arrested on the streets with a group of the kids. All in the world they were doing was passing out Gospel tracts. On the way to the station, the sheriffs could be heard discussing what they were going to book Tony and the kids on. First it was one thing. That wouldn’t hold up, one of them decided. They would think of another thing, and then another. Then they concocted to book them on interfering with the police. The policeman definitely has the advantage in that situation because it is his word against the supposed offender.
In short, the police made arrests on just about any charge they wanted to. The kids were herded into the courtrooms in Beverly Hills like criminals. They were found guilty on any kind of charge they chose to place against us. And the court records are clear on this point. What they are not clear on is that we violated no known statute.
Having hardly enough money to hold ourselves together as a body, we naturally had no money to hire attorneys. We had to depend on public defenders. These men warned us not to mention anything about police brutality. If we did, it would make the judge extremely angry and he would find us guilty. The district attorney, knowing we were Christians of conviction and would tell the truth, would ask us very pointed questions. Invariably, we would answer truthfully. We would be found guilty of crimes that never were committed. One sheriff after another would go on the stand and tell the judge of things that never happened. Sometimes sheriffs who were not even on the scene at the time of arrest would testify against our Jesus Freaks. More than one hundred fifty of us were arrested in a short span of time for anything the traffic would allow: loitering, drunkenness, interfering with police officers. Anyone who ever knew how circumspect we tried to be in our Christian walk would realize all these things were utterly false.
As I sat day after day in the courtroom and saw one officer after the other go to the witness stand and swear to one lie and then another, I prayed out, “Dear God, please make one of them tell the truth.” This hurt beyond words. These were Tony’s and my children.
Our hippie kids would take the witness stand, raise their hands and swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth and literally stick by that vow, knowing full well they would be convicted. They told the truth, but no one would believe them. No one wanted to look behind the long hair and the fact that they were hippies. The judges and the juries invariably took the sheriffs’ word against theirs. It is impossible for justice to balance the scales when such a situation prevails.
Neither Tony nor I go around making a big thing about denouncing Communism or Fascism as some of our fundamentalist preacher friends have been sidetracked into doing. We don’t see one under every bed or behind every closet door as some seem to imagine. But let me tell you this, there is a real threat to our land and it is very dangerous. It was in these dreadful hours that we were living through that we could see where the real dangers lay.
No, they’re not under the beds or behind the doors. They are on our television screens, teaching in our schools and colleges, organizing group and therapy sessions, often referred to harmlessly as “rap” sessions—all efforts at manipulating our youth. Many of the participants are not even aware of what they are doing. They are dupes, without which Fascism and Communism would fail to survive. The majority of these people don’t even realize what they are advocating. They really believe with all their minds that they are fighting for a free world, to free man of poverty and racial discord and imbalance. We would want nothing more for this world ourselves. But all of these things, the way these persons are going about to achieve this result are driving us to become a police state—just as it is so easy to believe in the time of the crisis they bring on “for our protection.” A nation that is forced into this inordinate demand for protection against unruly elements is very poorly protected indeed.
Where we have failed is at the law-making level. We sat silently by while one law after the other was torn from the books. Certainly we must have police, but the strength of a nation cannot be placed alone in the hands of the local police. When it is, that nation already has fallen.
When the sheriffs got Tony to the station and locked him up, one very big one came over to the bars and taunted him. “If your God is so big, let me see Him get you out of this jail.”
“Why you sound like that devil that stood at the foot of the cross and said, ‘If Thou be the Son of God, come down off that cross!’” Tony replied. “And you know something? Jesus came down off that cross, and I will come out of this jail.”
The officer went into a rage. “Why you phony Jew…You don’t even believe in Jesus Christ. You’re making a racket out of religion.”
“It is true that my people did not believe in Christ,” Tony replied, “but Jesus said that in the last days before His second coming He would turn back to the Jews and that they would be preaching to the Gentiles.”
They were tense days, and I am sure there are times when we must have shown how really human we are. But I’m absolutely certain that God gave us answers to taunts that were not born of flesh and blood, but of His Spirit.
One Sunday night after I had preached the message and prayed for the sick, the sheriffs came in with a warrant to arrest me. There were about twenty of them, some of them in uniforms with steal helmets, some in plain clothes. They came in as if they were looking for a desperado.
As they entered the building I walked up to them and said, Elizabethan English to the hilt: “Whom seekest thou?” “Susan Alamo,” they replied. “I am she.”
I promptly walked out. I knew they were looking for an excuse to beat the kids and to say that the kids had attacked them. The warrant they had for me was for interfering with police officers. The incident in question had happened, so the warrant said, at three o’ clock in the morning. I had been at home in bed, sound asleep, and knew nothing about it.
Nonetheless, down to the station they took me, starting a barrage of name calling and accusations. A female sheriff giggled as they threw all types of abuses at me. She searched me, reminded me of what a vile creature I really was.
Finally they took me back into the office. One of the more burly sheriffs said, “I hope you understand there is nothing personal about this thing. We are just doing our job.”
“You know,” I said with all the force in my voice I could muster, “Hell is screaming tonight with a bunch of Roman soldiers who are still pleading their case, that they crucified Christ because the captain told them to.”
When I went to court, the charges were dismissed. But by now, there was no let-up in the sheriffs’ attacks against us. At first they would get us in the streets. Then they came to get me inside the church. Now they were boldly entering the church at will, and even though as a church and place of worship its sanctity is supposed to be inviolate according to the laws of this country, they were making their accusations against us stick. They were getting almost one hundred percent convictions against us. All the hell of their fury was being lashed out against us. We know there are false claims of police brutality and that the police have extremely trying tasks to perform. But we knew also that there is, in very harsh reality, such a thing as actual police brutality. The Los Angeles County sheriffs were pounding this into our heads, forcefully.
They entered the building one night at two or three o’clock in the morning and shot tear gas in on forty to fifty kids kneeling in the basement praying. Then they closed the doors and held them shut on the kids. Kathy frantically begged them to open the doors, pleading, “You will kill the kids!”
One of the sheriffs, the kids never saw again. During the tear gas incident Kathy watched him wring his hands and say, “My God, I didn’t know it was going to be anything like this.” One of the older sheriffs took him away from the scene.
They began making nightly raids on the church, almost always with the pretense that they were looking for runaways. Youths who have been placed with us by social workers and probation officers and those who were with us with the permission of their parents were arrested. When the parents would call to find out why their children had been arrested, the police told them that if they let their child go back there, they would file charges against the parents as well, “It’s nothing but a dope den and a place for sex orgies,” they would tell the parents—any kind of filthy slander they felt like putting out against us. We were absolutely defenseless.
The police would hand out such stories to the press. Fortunately, however, many of the reporters had been around the church to see for themselves. They knew there was no truth to the propaganda the sheriffs were putting out. The press refused to print the slanders.
Here’s the truth of what was really going on. Our kids were bad for business. They were standing in front of the nude bars and the pornography shops, passing out their Gospel tracts, appealing to the people to repent of their sins. It began to cut into the sale of dope and smut literature. Business began suffering at the nudie bars. People don’t enjoy their sins with someone standing at the door saying, “No drunkard shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven; repent of your sins, Jesus is coming.” The businessmen got up in arms against us, and the Chamber of Commerce saw us only as a menace to the wellbeing of the Strip and environs. Thanks be to God, we were.
Part of the police tactic would be to raid our church at all hours of the night, create all sorts of noise and confusion, and solicit the neighbors to sign petitions against the noise that was being created. It was almost no time before a warrant was issued against us for operating, of all things, a public nuisance.
Can you imagine it? A church that literally was getting hundreds and hundreds of kids off narcotics, restoring them to society as upright citizens in every way, a public nuisance! This place of ours a public nuisance while only a half a block away homosexuals were driving up and down the streets soliciting young runaways; while prostitutes were everywhere along Sunset Strip selling their wares so they could support a drug habit that had grown too expensive for them? With these and other evils running rampant just around the corner, our church, of all places, was singled out as a public nuisance! My God, my God, how the Devil runs his world.
I soon became worn out. Neither Tony nor I was eating half the time. Many days we went all day and far into the night with our only food being a hamburger we caught on the run. Adding to my fatigue and the strain was a lump I noticed in my breast. I went to a doctor and she verified my fears. “You have cancer. We’ll have to get you to the hospital as fast as we can.”
I knew the doctor was right, but I just couldn’t bring myself to tell Tony what the situation was. I knew I had to make some decisions before God. One of those was that I could not go to the hospital. It was all we could do between the two of us to keep the church open. There was no money. Some of the fundamentalists churches in the area came to our rescue as best they could, raising money, but fearful lest the sheriffs hear that they were in collusion with us and come cracking down on them. However much they tried to raise money for us, with all those mouths to feed, the heavy rent to pay, and all the money it was costing us in court costs, there never was enough.
I made my decision before God, one that I have never regretted—not even when I passed literally through the valley of the shadow of death in the winter of 1971-72 a couple of years later. I would have made the same decision all over again. To me, it really wasn’t a decision. There was no choice.
GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
If a convert from the streets decides he wants to stay, an older Christian is assigned to oversee him. This older Christian sticks by him, eating with him, praying with him, studying the Bible with him. He even lives and sleeps in the same quarters with him.
We do not allow them to leave the premises for the first sixty days, at least not alone. These first sixty days are critical to those who have heretofore lived undisciplined lives, full of falling prey to the least temptation that comes along. Wherever the new convert goes, the older Christian goes. The reason for this is that the older Christian knows all the old tricks because he had been on the same trips.
We have to provide this type supervision to keep the young Christian from bringing narcotics back into the buildings. Anyone thinking this is not a real and present problem in the ministry to drug addicts has never had any real contact with the problem. Christ makes all things new and old things pass away, but it takes some doing. The Devil and bad habits don't go down without the discipline of the Christian do's and don'ts. If we are criticized for these precautions and their seeming austerity, all we can say is it works. In this business, no half measures can be taken.
The younger Christian early goes back to the streets from which he came. Only this time he is paired up with an older Christian. The "baby" Christian, as the new converts are called, listens while the older Christian witnesses. Many of them get to chomping at the bit to get going on witnessing themselves, but we hold them back until they are ready, until they acquire a good understanding of the Bible and get a feel for how to use it effectively. It's the best training in the world for those who want to see Christ work through them.
Our church was founded upon prayer and prayers never cease: They continue twenty-four hours a day. Anyone who is a member of the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation is not startled in the least to have an overseer waken him at four or five in the morning with, "It's time for your prayer hour." There are overseers over the prayer room around the clock and everyone's name is on the prayer list. They are called by the overseers at all hours of the day and night.
One of the first things one hears upon entering any of the buildings at the four locations run by the Foundation are the voices of the youths going up in prayer. They pray in English or French or Spanish--whatever language is native or comfortable to them. They pray in tongues if they choose. They pray in earnest and they pray in Holy Spirit power. We never once seek to underestimate the power of such prayer. We've seen too many miracles to take prayer lightly.
It seems the overseers are everywhere. They are in charge over the Bible-reading groups and there are overseers for the kitchen crew. We have fifty or so chefs and an equal number of other kitchen help--the peelers, the preparation crew and the cleanup men.
If anyone is looking for a crash pad, forget it right now. Run, don't walk, from the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation.
Everyone is treated the same way at the Foundation, regardless of the status of the family from which each came. Whether a youth was raised on the welfare check or came from a plush home in Beverly Hills replete with maids and cooks, each shares equally in the work. Regardless of the menial chore each might be given, the response is the same; a smile and a big "Praise the Lord." Food? Whatever we have, we share, and no one ever complains.
We have seven and one-half acres where our church is; ten and one-half acres where the girls' dormitories are and where the married couples stay; one hundred sixty acres that the boys farm during the spring and summer months; a fifty-acre property for raising livestock.
It's the craziest thing about that farm and downright amusing. It seems that most of the boys who ask for farm detail are Jewish, many of them used to steel and concrete existence of cities such as New York, as remote from farming as one could imagine. There's no more astute and enthusiastic farmer than young Bill Levy. Bees and honey, chickens and eggs, cattle and watermelons, goats, lettuce or pigs--just mention them to Bill and he will rattle off more pertinent information about how to raise each than many lifetime farmers could do. The boys don't call him "Pig Swill Bill" for nothing. He loves every minute of it, the son of a Jewish copy editor for the New York Times. Bill and many other fellow Jews who have turned to Christ through this ministry have made an art out of farming--the very last persons in the world one would think would take much of an interest in it.
The boys grow about everything: Watermelons, cantaloupes, squash, radishes, carrots, watercress—everything.
Tony laughs out loud about our Jewish farmers. One night he came home and was hardly able to contain himself when he told me what Danny Shapiro and Bob Kitchner said to him in their thick New York accents: "Ya know, Tony, this is really what we always wanted to do." There's no disbelieving them.
Tony loves to go roughing it up with the boys on the fifty-acre property. It reminds him of his days in Montana. Tony and the boys truck in livestock from Bakersfield: cows, calves, lambs. They bring in grain and supplements to fatten up the animals, ready for the slaughter. With an operation that now consumes four to five tons of food a day, this and the farm are vital.
Early in 1972 we found ourselves suddenly in the chicken and egg business. One day a chicken farmer called us and said he was going out of business and offered to give us, outright, his chicken farm. This meant thousands of chickens being thrust at us. We had a few chickens right along, but never anything like this.
But our boys were up to it. They soon learned the tricks of the chicken-raising operation and how to handle and market the eggs. There for a while we must have been the only mission in the world where one could order his eggs--and as many as he wanted--any way he wanted them. We soon were marketing the eggs though our thrift shop and in a few other outlets. Soon we had our eggs in nearly every Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles.
Fortunately, we were able to get a handsome price for them. A disease had played havoc among the flocks which had been supplying the city and egg production was down, forcing prices up. Our flock--and it must have been the hand of the Lord--did not get ravaged by the disease. Soon our eggs were sought after in an exclusive Jewish market in Los Angeles, a feat not as easy to accomplish as it might seem.
The kids are an affectionate sort, naming their animals no matter how short-lived the critters might be. One of the favorites was a grossly misunderstood mule. Some visitors take a dim view of him as he quickly comes up to greet them. But he is as gentle as a kitten, desiring only to play. Everyone knows a mule is not supposed to be this way. He's supposed to be stubborn and he's supposed to refuse to move when he decides to balk. But not this one. He is his happiest when the boys let him enter into the work games. He doesn't hesitate when they lead him up and lead him all over the place to help do the work.
Our gang always laughs when they remember a column our good friend Bill Willoughby of the Washington (D.C.) Star-News wrote about poor old Cheeseburger. Bill, as you noticed, is helping to write this book. Cheeseburger had been one of their favorite bovines, but Cheeseburger's grand finale was about to come and he must have sensed it. Here is how Bill described it in his column of April 22, 1972:
POOR OLD CHEESEBURGER
SLEEPY HOLLOW, Calif.--Poor old Cheeseburger must have sensed something in the air one Saturday afternoon not so long ago. With a kick, a snort and a cloud of California dust he bolted through the fencing and up the mountainside, likkity split.
Now then, a lot of those Jewish fellows and those other city dudes weren't all that much at being ranch hands. But I want to tell you something for certain. They learned how to be that afternoon.
Cheeseburger represented the main ingredient for the next day's Sunday dinner for hundreds of brothers and sisters who are associated with what just has to be the strangest church in all the world--the Tony and Sue Alamo Christian Foundation in this aptly named hamlet a few miles north of Saugus.
What it all boiled down to, Tony told the brothers, is that they either retrieve Cheeseburger or else the Sunday dinner was going to lose a lot of its gustatory appeal. Cheeseburger made it to the table on time.
I spent this week and part of last out at that strange little church, gathering material for a book I'm under contract to write. I came away with material for at least two, and possibly three, other books. If you ever want to see where the action is, go visit that place.
First of all, it is extremely strange because it undoubtedly is the only church anywhere in the world where half and more of the persons who respond to the altar call for salvation are Jews. And if that fact is baffling, consider this one. In the church alone there are 800 to 1,000 persons every month who respond to the invitation to accept Christ. What that means, then, is that at least 400 Jews a month are coming to a realization that Jesus the carpenter was the Messiah promised to Israel. In a year's time, this amounts to 5,000 or so who are undergoing this transition—and transformation.
This matter of Jews turning to Christ is an extremely sensitive subject to be writing about because people who don't understand what is behind it often become extremely volatile about it. But it's an issue that no religion writer worth his salt can avoid. Already it is emerging as the most likely candidate for the top religion story of 1972. Mark my words.
My column scooped the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press by two weeks on another strange story that emanated from the church. The hippie converts by the hundreds registered to vote—former revolutionary, radical hippies, of all things, registering to vote Republican at that. As a writer, it did my heart proud, of course, to get the story way ahead of the others, right in their own backyard. That and 16 cents will buy a cup of coffee most places.
Fundamentalist and evangelical Christians rejoice at this sudden turn of events wherein Christianity in one more way reverts to its earliest form. The first several thousand Christians were not Gentiles, but Jews--8,000 of them accepting Jesus as Christ in Jerusalem alone beginning with the first sermon preached by the Apostle Peter. Their people also see it as a sure sign of Christ's second coming.
Many Jews, understandably, are angry over what is taking place. Until they understand what makes evangelical theology tick, and even their own, of course, the misunderstanding will have to persist. Evangelicals cannot be disloyal to the command of Christ to make disciples of all people--Jews first, and others along the way.
Tony and Sue Alamo are Jews. Tony was one of the big names in music in the Fifties. He had an incredible conversion experience nearly eight years ago. Since then the Alamos have taken to the streets. It was their activities along Hollywood's Sunset Strip and Hollywood Boulevard about six years ago that triggered off a major phase of the Jesus People Movement.
They are fundamentalist to the hilt--as one of the hippie converts told me, "They preached fire and brimstone until I almost could see it come up through the floor. But, in the condition I had gotten into, that's exactly what I needed."
I interviewed 35 to 40 of the Jewish converts. As a person, they still consider themselves to be Jews—only with what they feel to be correct views about who the Messiah really is.
Two of the young adults I interviewed were the children of a copy editor at the New York Times. The editor's son, Bill, was among the many converts who have come by way of the Alamo church's ministry. One day the father, overwhelmed by the dramatic change in his son's life, talked with him by phone, and the son prayed for the father's salvation then and there. It happened.
The father then brought a fellow editor at the Times home with him, and in the course of the evening, brought out a record album produced at the Alamo's hippie church. "I want you to hear the kids from my church," the new Jewish Christian told his astonished Jewish colleague. Not too much later that evening, he called his son here in Saugus again. "Bill, I've got a fellow worker here who wants to accept Jesus. What do I do now?" Bill led the editor in the "sinner's prayer" right over the telephone. The result: At least two Jesus Freaks running around loose in the offices of the New York Times.
This strange new community here raises most of its own food, including its beef and lamb. That's how Cheeseburger got into the act. A lot of these Jewish kids from New York relish in the ranching and farming chores, Sue said. "They try to go at it scientifically and it's really interesting to watch how they take to it."
But poor old Cheeseburger. He was a wee bit tough after that Saturday afternoon escapade. Should have made knockwurst out of him.
The day a copy of Bill's column arrived at the church, we read it aloud during the service. The kids just couldn't contain themselves. Cheeseburger was gone, but not forgotten.
Our own youths run into a tightened fist from time to time. Satan seems to unleash his power through some individuals more than others. But we never send them out into such a situation as these other kids ran into. We always make sure that there are plenty of strong-looking young men that make up the team. It is senseless to deliberately run into a loaded situation unprepared.
One night we had six rabbis come to our church property in Sleepy Valley. Word had gotten to them of the number of converts our ministry was having. They were in a rage. They demanded to see Tony. Well, they saw Tony, and this is one time Tony’s Jewishness countered them point for point and then some. Tony always has a gang of fifty or so boys around him. They like to hear what he has to say, or they are on hand for the never-ending line of instructions he gives just to keep the operation running as smoothly as possible. He would never be lacking for a bodyguard if it ever came to something such as that.
Well, these rabbis began denouncing him for what he was doing and for the kind of work he and I were running. They began making threats that if we didn’t let the Jews be, there was going to be some real trouble. Tony tried to explain that there was no attempt on our part to single the Jews out more than any other people, that we just took people as they came and in the need with which they came. Ours was just the job of preaching the Gospel to everyone in these end times.
When he started asking them questions about what the Scriptures said, he had them right up against the wall. They were distressed by this converted Jewish layman’s understanding of the Scriptures in which they supposedly had been trained. The boys couldn’t hold back their delight, and this angered them all the more. Before long, these men who had come out to set the record straight, had backed their way off the property, and hastily went away down the highway toward Los Angeles. We haven’t heard from then since.
Our success has been chronicled many times on the television stations, and on some occasions when I have appeared, the questions were pointedly aimed at the conversion question. But I refuse to make an apology for the number of Jews who are being converted. This is God’s work. It is His Word and His Spirit doing the convicting. We only happen to be some of the people He is using.
GET RID OF THE ALAMOS
Let’s back up for a minute. I got so excited talking about the way our little church has grown and how the kids—especially those Jewish boys—have taken to farming and ranching that I forgot to relate to you a very important thing. That’s how we got the properties in the first place.
It’s not that it has been easy to hold onto the property, since, believe me, it costs an enormous amount of money just to keep our hundreds of kids fed, let alone keep up the mortgage payments. Fifteen hundred or so meals a day, count on it, it’s a big responsibility any way one looks at it. But God has always provided, often in ways we never dreamed of. That’s the way of the walk of faith, though, and it gets to be exciting.
It was a wonderful transition, first of all, from our own home where we held out for so long to our little dope den on Carlos Avenue, then to our much more spacious church out near the Strip. But we clearly needed to get out, away from the city, out into the open. We weren’t running from the hostilities of the police—be sure, for a while at least, they followed us out into the country—but one couldn’t help but get the feeling that we weren’t exactly the best kind of people in the world for dopers and prostitutes and revolutionaries to be associating with. We felt we just had to set up operations in a more healthful situation.
Of course, we had quite a little bit of help from the officials to prod us along the way. You see, it wasn’t just the merchants and the police who didn’t like having us around. Have you ever heard an officer of the state called a district attorney? Or an arm of the local government called the building commission? We met both on unmistakable terms. They were bent on raising hell for us so that we could enjoy what is now Heavenly by comparison.
By now our scrubby little kids, their ranks swelled considerably, were the talk of the town. We were all over the place. People couldn’t help but realize something was taking place in the name of the Gospel of Christ. More than any other place on earth, the Jesus People Movement had taken hold in one of the most damnably wicked spots on earth. Strange doings indeed.
The dope pushers were getting saved, left and right. With Christ in their hearts, there were walking off and leaving the stashes. That’s bad business, especially for the hoods, the Mafia type, who put up the money to finance the operations. The dope pushers were out there carrying Bible—some of them half the size of an encyclopedia—preaching the Gospel and warning the others to repent. It became warfare of good against evil.
The prostitutes, now much more attractive because of the radiance of the Gospel in the faces and their personalities, were taking their new found message to the men on the streets. “Get right with God, Man. Jesus Christ is coming back soon. Cut out all this foolishness.”
The teen clubs along the Strip, which allowed juveniles to do and see everything the older set was allowed to see elsewhere in the Los Angeles area, were starting to feel the pinch. They were beginning to lose customers. Some of their former clients, instead, were standing outside the doors, not waiting to get in, but passing out Gospel tracts, witnessing of their faith in Christ, warning the kids of the evil of their ways.
The nude bars and the pornography shops lining the area were losing customers. Some of them were even closing. What was happening, at least in part, was that there were so many Christians out on the streets that anyone who was not a Christian was ashamed to go into those places, knowing someone not only would preach to them when they entered, but they also would be preached at when they emerged from their night out on the town. An uncomfortable feeling was setting in along sin’s Great White Way. And we were standing guilty.
Even the Los Angeles Times recognized that something was changing in Hollywood. Their writer, however, looked upon it as a bad thing, this depressing thing that was coming over the area’s economy, this thing that was changing the area’s image so very fast.
And who got the credit for much of this ill-fated turn in the fortunes of sin? The Times quoted the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce as putting a very large part of the blame on the Jesus Freaks. And who were those Jesus Freaks? Whether they realized it or not, as we count things, the Chamber was giving us the highest of compliments. It had gone to Hell before we ever showed up. We were only trying to bring it back to its senses. Our little ragamuffins were doing it.
The Times article didn’t appear until April 1972. By that time we were quite well established in the country, out in the mountains. But our kids still worked the streets incessantly, coming in by shifts by the bus loads and the carloads–sometimes even by the truckloads, whatever happened to be running at the time.
A couple of years before the article appeared, the hue and cry was: “Get rid of the Alamos. We don’t care how you get rid of them. Just get rid of them.”
Our antagonists joined forces with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department. Every imaginable cruelty was imposed upon us. The Sheriff’s Department started a character assassination campaign against us that we were Communist, that we were people of disreputable character and that we were exploiting the kids for all they were worth. But taking our cue from the story of the Israelites, the more they persecuted us, the more we grew and the stronger we got.
Every evening the church at Crescent Heights was packed. Kids, and by now, a few adults, were sitting on the floor, all the way up the stairs and out into the kitchen. They heard. They believed and received. But conquering was yet another thing. I mean overcoming the complaints that were hurled at us. One complaint after another came into the Sheriff’s Department. Finally the sheriffs called in all the other government agencies. The big showdown was at hand.
One day a letter arrived, sent from Tim Hanson from the District Attorney’s office. Hanson’s letter told us to appear at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department at a set time and place. Tony and I were nonplused. What was behind the District Attorney sending us a letter to appear at the Sheriff’s Office, especially after about one hundred fifty of our kids had been arrested and beaten by them. The letter had said there was a question about our zoning for the church.
Tony and I knew instantly that it could be nothing more than a setup to arrest us. We were onto their devious ways and naturally were suspicious of them. It was decided that I would make the appearance and Tony would stand by and look after the affairs of the kids and of the church. When I got to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, it was easy to see that we were right. Several of the club owners and the neighborhood stooges were there. When I went into the office, Tim Hanson asked, “Where do you get your money to operate that church?”
“Your letter stated that you were asking us to come in regarding a question on the zoning of our church at Crescent Heights,” I said. I was not dodging his question about financing. That is something we are very much in the open about. I just wanted to keep him to the point, because I knew he was out to get us any way he could. The faces of those others in that office told me the same thing.
“Do you know what I think?” Mr. Hanson shot back. “I think you’re a couple of thieves and I am going to close that church and see to it that you and Tony both go to jail for a long time.”
“You will never close that church,” I said. “Jesus said, ‘Upon this rock I build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’”
“Oh, you make me sick,” he said shaking his fist. “You and everyone like you, running around talking about God. There is no God. All of you people should be locked in mental institutions and one of these days you will. When every one of you is put away, it will be a better place in which to live.”
It looked as if Tony and I and our kids had been had. Hanson didn’t like us for anything. But help from the East! An Oriental man was sitting with Hanson--a man who had been called from the Building Commissioner’s Office. He refused to have any part of Hanson’s harassment or accusations against me.
“Mr. Hanson,” he said, “we asked Mrs. Alamo to come here on a zoning question. As far as I am concerned, the building is zoned for a church, and as far as a person’s religious beliefs are concerned, to me, every person has a right to worship his or her God according to the dictates of his or her heart. I feel this kind of abuse is completely uncalled for.”
I could hardly believe what I was hearing. But I knew this good human being meant every word of what he was saying. Oh God, but did I praise God within my very being at that moment! His blessed Holy Spirit had inspired a man to speak out boldly against bigotry and injustice. I never cease to marvel at His wonderful ways.
The Oriental man turned toward me. “Thank you, Mrs. Alamo. Good luck to you and your church.”
The onslaught of accusations and complaints didn’t let up however, notwithstanding the bright episode afforded by that Oriental man. We were dragged into the Beverly Hills courts day after day. My cancerous condition was taking a heavy toll on me, and I became so ill and so tired. But evil men know nothing of mercy.
The array of persons who testified against us became as a circus at times. Some of the men had feminine hairdos, walked with a swish and even carried purses into the courtroom. The area seems to crawl with homosexuals and impersonators. But these types are acceptable, and all the damned-of-God perversions they carry on.
One of the principal complaints against us was a 300 pound man—oh, more than that even—who was known openly to be a Communist. This same man was responsible for opening many of the teen clubs in Southern California. These were the very places that were turning literally thousands of kids on to drugs. In one of his clubs, a boy had been murdered.
Ironically, it was this citizen who pressed the charge that our church was operating as a public nuisance. And he made his complaint stick! When we were found guilty of operating a public nuisance, we knew we just had to find another place. But we had no money. You just can’t move to another place because you have to. It takes money and lots of it.
We begged for nickels and dimes. But again we asked that same question we had asked ourselves so many times before: “Where can we go?” There was no place but to the Lord. We gathered together. We fasted. And we prayed. “Please, dear God, give us a place big enough to move around in.”
In the sweltering heat of summer, we had held our services with all of us packed into one room, with all the windows down and boarded up. We had to do this, because if the neighbors heard the Gospel songs and they called the sheriffs, that was all they needed to make things all the rougher for us. We had freedom of religion all right. We enjoyed it with the sweat pouring off our faces and down our clothes. We worshipped God and sang His praises. Those three sons of Israel put in the fiery furnace had very little on us, let me tell you. At least it felt that way.
We prayed in the basement, because when we started agonizing before God, imploring Him for the souls of lost mankind, at times we get a bit louder than people generally do in the denominational churches. That basement had no ventilation outlet whatever. Several of us came down with pneumonia. We got so wet from the perspiration that going out into the night air became too much for our bodies to withstand. We saw it was impossible to go any further at Crescent Heights, so Tony and I started looking in the California mountains for something else. We love those mountains, to us, one of the finest beauties God has put on the face of the earth. One evening as we came back into the city, we looked out all around us at those beautiful California mountains, rolling on for miles, far beyond what the eyes could see and Tony turned to me and said, “Look, Sue, at all this earth that God has made, and there’s no place for God’s people. Where, Sue, where can God’s people go?”
I, too, felt his dejection. There are times when it gets to a person, no matter how many souls are being saved or no matter how much God has blessed in other ways. I tried to encourage him, telling that God was going to provide. But Tony has an indomitable spirit. He wasn’t really losing hope. His God is more faithful than that.
Day after day, we went on these trips. They were, in a sense, a welcome break from the routine. That was one reason Tony had liked the place up at Malibu. It was far enough out into the open that a person could all but forget the city even existed. And it had an almost enchanting beauty, with mountains, abounding at times with flowers, rising almost straight up out of the Pacific Ocean. There were fewer prettier places in all the world, we were sure. The house was beautiful, even pretentious. Tony had been used to that type of thing before he was converted. I really didn’t care for it. I guess I made things miserable for poor Tony and even disappointed him when I prevailed upon him to get rid of the place.
That wasn’t my motivation behind it, but perhaps if we could find a place in the mountains for our church and for housing our hundreds of children, maybe this would restore something, at least, of what Tony enjoyed in life. I am certain it has. Just one look at him on the ranch with those boys is a sight to behold. Boys don’t really ever get over being boys and I’m so glad they don’t.
One day as we turned off the old Sierra Highway that once had been the main route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, we saw a sign: “Ranch for Sale.” It was down an almost deserted dirt road.
We stopped. A man was sitting on his front porch, his pickup truck parked in the yard. He was drinking a can of beer and reading the newspaper. We got out of the car and walked up to the porch.
“Is your ranch for sale?” Tony asked. “Yep.” “What are you asking for it?” The man took a long swallow out of the can. “Fifty thousand bucks. Haven’t you read the paper? A big airport is going in at Palmdale. Why, this property is going to be worth a fortune.”
“Well, thank you, and good luck,” we said. We drove away, leaving the man sitting on the porch. He’d have to count someone else’s fifty grand, not ours. We were broke. I mean flat broke.
We drove on down the highway and saw the real estate office sign. We stopped and asked the man in the office about his listings. He went into great detail to explain to us what he had available. “I’ll tell you one thing,” he said, “you’re a couple of fine looking people, and you sure won’t be bothered with any trash out here. I’ll tell you, and this is just between us three, we know how to take care of people around here. Why, we had a bunch of trash hippies move in here, and we just condemned the building and took a bulldozer and demolished the thing.” Tony and I exchanged glances. “Thank you, sir. I guess we’d better be going,” and off we went. Little did the man know.
The land we had been crossing was for the most part mountain desert. Occasionally there was a ranch and the rundown roadside cafes, some of them closed, others just barely managing to stay open, catering to the few people scattered in the area. The new expressways had all but cut the life out of this once buzzing area. Sierra Highway was something of the past.
Suddenly we came to a quiet, verdant hamlet. Mammoth live oaks out along the small streams, interspersed with other varieties of trees. The sign said Sleepy Hollow. That it was. In the entire village, all that remained of the past except for the homes was a lone tavern on the northeast fringe. Once the area had abounded in watering holes to quench the thirst of many a local citizen or those passing through to or from the gambling casinos of Nevada.
At the sign designating a certain property as Sleepy Valley, we spied a rather modern-looking building—about the most modern we had seen on that end of the highway. A sign on the building read, For Sale or For Lease. We stopped the car and got out.
The windows were broken out and the place had been pretty well vandalized. It had been a restaurant and night club in times past. But now the tables were smashed. The booths were in bad disrepair and broken glass littered the floor.
We walked around the property. A babbling brook of crystal clear water ran southward through the property, here and there covered with big, lush green patches of watercress. Grape vines, as big around as a man’s arm, climbed high into the trees. The mountains were not so greedy but that they allowed a small patch of good, fertile land between their climb and the incline of the brook that would be perfect for raising a few flowers and some vegetables. There would be all the water one could ask for the irrigation. There was a beautiful big black willow in the front of the parking lot. The majestic spreading oaks, some of them sprawled over at least an acre of space, dominated the scene.
“Wow, Tony, this is a Garden of Eden! Oh, Tony, if only our kids could have a place like this.” I wanted the place so bad, I could almost taste the soil.
“But,” I said to Tony in dismay, “if that man up the highway is thinking in terms of fifty thousand dollars for that place we saw, the price of this place could be half a million.”
We held our hands and prayed. Then we went home and Tony called the owner. “Yes,” he said, “the place is for sale—or lease.” He wanted to meet with us right away to talk about a deal. Cautiously we warned him that we wanted it for a hippie church. “Well, that’s all right with me,” he said. What a change from what we had found up the highway earlier. Our hearts were set at ease. Our new found friend wanted to please. He could smell the green coming.
Soon we had made a deal to lease the property, with the option to buy. We had agreed on two thousand dollars down, with three thousand dollars to close the escrow any time within the year.
Tony and I sold nearly everything we could get our hands on. Some of the kids sold their watches–even their rings–for two and three dollars apiece. We went to everyone we could to get a dime from and finally got the two thousand dollars together.
Our convivial friend met us, took the two thousand dollars and stuck it in his pocket. We all signed the papers, the deal had been struck, and our friend left. We woke up a short time later to what had actually happened. This outstanding citizen of the Golden State had sold us a piece of property with eight thousand dollars worth of back taxes hanging unpaid on it. He thought the people would eventually run us off the property with our hippie church. In the meantime he had beaten Tony and me, and all our kids, out of the last money we had.
We loaded the kids into an old, broken-down bus and every other vehicle we could get our hands on and headed out for Sleepy Hollow. Actually the place goes under the name of Saugus because it gets its mail from there. Saugus is five or six miles down the road from Sleepy Hollow toward Hollywood and Los Angeles and serves, along with Newhall, as the trade center for the area.
When we arrived, the kids were just overwhelmed with joy. Our first very own place! And, at long last, they were out of that hot, mean, nasty city that had been so hostile to them. They ran all over the place oohing and aahing. They ran into the mountains. “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus,” all the way. Suddenly a farmer came down over the mountain top brandishing a shotgun, calling them every four letter word possible.
“You hippie dogs. You bunch of niggers. I’ll kill you just like I would kill a dog.” He looked and sounded as if he meant it. We treaded the ground softly, making sure we didn’t step foot off our own property. The man who sold us the property didn’t mind that we were going to set up a hippie church on the property, but this was not exactly the Welcome Wagon people who were on hand to greet us.
The irate man called the Sheriff’s Department, and since Saugus and Sleepy Hollow are in the far reaches of Los Angeles County, we had some of our old familiar friends back with us again.
You should have seen the Newhall newspaper when it wrote about the incident. It was made to look as if the hippies had descended out of Heaven to take over the hamlet. We made colorful material for newspapers reporters.
It is understandable why people become fearful when hippies start taking over in an area and establish their communes. The hills in California are full of them, and most of them are not what is the least bit commendable. People right away thought we were going to be nothing more than a hippie commune and they didn’t like it a bit. It wasn’t long before they began realizing that our hippies had something different about them. Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit made that difference.
We set about doing our business, cleaning up the place. We tore the bar out, built a platform in its place, and set up a church. The newspaper article suddenly changed the nearly abandoned highway into a well traveled thoroughfare. People drove up and down the highway, gaping at the hippies. We were an overnight sensation. Thanks to that farmer with the shotgun.
But the man with the shotgun was not exemplary of most of the citizens in the Saugus area. By and large, it is a very conservative area, with a population made up mostly of Midwestern and Southern people who transplanted to the Golden State. Too, there wasn’t anything unusual about the fiery evangelistic services we began holding there. Many of those people had grown up going to such services and it was sort of nostalgic for them. They loved the church, homely as it might be. And they fell in love with the kids. Such a contrast to the people in the city. They came to the church and they stayed. It became their church.
There were two of the Pentecostal churches not awfully far away which rose up against us because they began to lose some of their followers. Those churches caused us a lot of trouble, but we were able to weather that storm with no great difficulty.
But there was Mustang Sally. She had her vendetta with us right from the start and she’s still at it. We just laugh about it now, though. Over across the street from our tavern turned church the middle aged woman lived in one of the several small homes. She was unmarried and had a lot of time on her hands. Our kids finally put some spark into her life, and she, in turn, is providing some of the humor that stems from an individual’s frustrated conflict. We are very human out in Sleepy Hollow, and there’s no denying that the kids, even though they pray earnestly every day for Mustang Sally, have enough devilment in them to rather enjoy her antics.
Every now and then, for instance, she would drive past the church in her green Mustang making motion pictures of what we were doing. After nicknaming her Mustang Sally, the kids would pose for her every time she came in sight, doing some of the silliest cavorting you ever saw in your life. Sometimes Tony and I would have to tell them to knock it off, but I’ll have to admit that we didn’t look too intently in their direction whenever we knew Mustang Sally was up to her tricks. She’ll never be forgotten, you can count on that.
Before long she had recruited the services of two older women and they set about contacting all the government agencies. This time she scored and she scored big.
With perfect timing, the Health Department was out after us on a sewer complaint. They waited until Friday to serve us with a three day notice to take care of the situation or else to remove ourselves from the premises. What in the world could be done on such short notice–and especially over a weekend? And what about money? That job would cost $3,500 and we could do little more than raise a dollar among us. We had depleted ourselves.
Where could we go, but to the Lord? We prayed and we prayed. And we praised God that we were counted worthy to suffer for Him. But why did that woman have to pull that trick on us at this stage of the game? We had not had a chance to get our feet on the ground at all. We were doing the best we could and we had dedicated the building, the property, and our very lives to the Lord. Was this to be our undoing?
Not really. For out of that same tract of unpretentious homes another woman stepped forward the next morning. She started going to our church and loved it dearly. “Don’t worry about it,” she said calmly. I was anything but calm. “I have called in a contractor, and I am going to pay for the job.”
Pandemonium broke loose among us. God’s working nearly drove us out of our minds, we were so happy. God’s in the plumbing business too. Mustang Sally must have overlooked that fact. There for a while, for a few frenzied hours, we had just about overlooked it, too.
God, please bless Bill Born. Always bless him and keep him in the palm of your big hand. Bill must get saved and he knows this is what all our hearts here ache for him. He’s not far from it, or at least we keep telling ourselves. Heaven just wouldn’t be Heaven without dear Bill and Esther Born.
Bill is not a Christian, but a Jew. And when we first moved into Saugus he was president of the Newhall Chamber of Commerce, a very civic-minded man. He had heard so much about the hippie church in the community that the curiosity got the better of him, and he came to see for himself what was going on. He talked with us and with the kids. We could tell he was genuinely interested in us. Bill and Esther come to the church often, just for the fellowship and camaraderie it affords. Bill has always come when we have needed him, and never has hesitated to lend a helping hand. Every time the altar call is given and the converts start down the aisle, I just look over Bill’s way. I have seen the tears run down his face as the kids come forward. “I always wonder what ever would have happened to these kids if this church were not here.”
Just about everyone who comes to the church falls in love, not only with the kids, but also with their music. Back in 1969 when Bill first visited the church we had sixty-five pieces in our band and about one hundred thirty voices in our choir. It is bigger now, and would be even bigger if we had the room. That day will come, by God’s grace. Of course, the music program is Tony’s baby all the way. His many years in the music field, when he was one of the leading crooners in the United States during the 1950’s have been the very heart of our music department. It is part of Tony’s very soul. He inspires the kids through his knowledge of music and they work enthusiastically and hard together. It is an honor, they feel, to be in the music program.
I remember the first time Bill Willoughby visited us from Washington, D.C. It was on a Sunday, April 18, 1971. He had met some of the kids on streets of Hollywood that morning and he no sooner had gotten out of his car then three of our young girls came up to him and announced, “Jesus is coming soon.” Bill was convinced, after several more pairs of our kids stopped him along the way and told him the same thing, that the Alamo group was in the Jesus Movement for real. At first he wasn’t sure he’d come out to the afternoon service the kids had invited him to, but along about three o’clock he was there.
Bill, the religious news editor of The Washington Star, had been the first newspaperman to spot the Jesus Movement for what it was, having reported on it for the first time more than a year before he met us when he ran across the “Jesus Freaks,” as they were called, on the Berkeley campus of University of California. As he was dictating his story over the telephone from San Francisco to his newspaper in the nation's capital, his good friend George Cornell, religion writer for the Associated Press, overheard him dictating it.
“Bill, that’s a good story. Do you mind if I use part of it in a week or so?” Bill had already broken the story to his own newspaper and he was glad that Cornell felt the same way about the spiritual awakening that seemed to be taking place among the country’s youths. “Sure, George, go ahead. I know this is the beginning of something great.”
Soon after Bill’s and George’s stories came out, other newspapers and national magazines began taking note. “Jesus Freak” and “Jesus People” soon became a household word in America, and later, around the world.
It was the music that impressed Bill Willoughby the most. The following day, back in Washington, spread across all eight columns and on the front page was the big, bold headline: “Hippies Turn to Jesus.” Bill could hardly wait to get back to his hotel room that night after the service to write the story. He was so enthusiastic about what he saw and heard that he wrote it in the first person. We’ll never forget that story, the first of several he has written about us since. Copies of it were being sent to us from people all over the country.
“Jesus Christ would have liked the services by Hollywood’s Street Christians,” Bill’s story started out. “Certainly, He couldn’t have kept from tapping His feet to the music.”
I must confess, I had not thought of Jesus in quite that context before, but believe me, I’m sure He would be tapping His feet right along with our kids if He were to sit out there in the audience. It is absolutely contagious.
The first Fourth of July we were in Saugus, Bill Born invited us to march in the big Newhall parade. Don’t think we didn’t jump at the chance! To think that only a few months earlier we were forced out of the Hollywood area as people not wanted, and now we were people who were welcomed as part of the local scene. Such a turnaround in fortunes!
Well, we assembled there. More than five hundred of us, wearing red, white, and blue crosses on our shoulders, with the big band and the even bigger choir. We marched down the streets, singing and playing,
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, Glory, glory, hallelujah, His truth is marching on.” Tony and I were as proud as peacocks. Our kids, snatched from sin and degradation, from rebellion and anarchy, to this. It was just too much.
People lined the sides of the streets by the thousands. They began crying and applauding and waving their arms. They fell in love with those kids at first sight. Although there were several bands entered, dressed in full uniform, our hippies walked off with the sweepstakes prize–the best in the Fourth of July Parade. This little bit of Americana just thrilled our very souls.
But what thrilled me most, and Tony has remarked about it so many times, is this. There, directing the traffic and obviously impressed with what they were seeing coming from our motley crew, were members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The Newhall sheriffs had come to know us, not as subversives or hippies with ulterior motives, as the West Hollywood and the Hollywood forces had done. They saw in us useful citizens, who wanted only to serve our God and who weren’t ashamed to honor the country God had allowed us the privilege of being born into.
As I looked out over those beaming policemen and the cheering and crying crowd, the Scripture came to me: “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand.” Then I thought of the many times I had told the police and others who had resisted us in Hollywood, “You are fighting God, and you can’t win.”
Here was our kids’ first public showing and God had opened the door to the hearts of the people, even as He had said He would. No man can ever shut it.
After our triumphal entry into the life our new-found home in Saugus-Newhall, there has never been a civic function to which the Alamos and their hippies were not invited. Tony I soon were receiving invitations to speak to the Rotary and the Kiwanis and the Optimist Clubs. The Elks even had us over, and numerous churches began getting friendlier toward us.
And pardon the sense of pride—in human terms—Tony and I felt when the new country club at Valencia, a suburb of Newhall, named us the outstanding citizens of the year. In Hollywood, we were considered nothing but riffraff, the scum of the earth, not fit to be seen on the streets ministering to the dopers, the prostitutes, and the rebels of the earth. As frosting on this sumptuous new cake, we were chosen the man and the woman of the year by the Newhall Chamber of Commerce and were feted at a luncheon at the country club. The red carpet had been rolled out for us and God only knows how much we are grateful to Him and to these wonderful people for that.
But we are grateful also to our wonderful kids. It was the kids the people were responding to. Out of a period in the country’s history when the media were playing up only the bad things kids were doing—the people responded when they saw the lives and the witness of kids—citizens of their heavenly home, but citizens of earth as well. In many ways since, the people of the area have shown their appreciation.
It wasn’t long after we had arrived in Sleepy Hollow that fire began ravaging the mountainsides in the Saugus area. Our new church, still in the remodeling stage, was threatened and so was the hamlet itself. If you’ve never seen a California forest fire, you’ve never really seen much of a fire. Southern California is semi-arid, and when a fire gets started, it is virtually impossible to bring under control. Every year thousands of acres are destroyed by this enemy of mankind.
As the flames swept down over the mountain top where the man with the gun earlier had threatened to shoot our hippies as he would a dog, the kids geared themselves for the worst. Everything all of us had was in that little church. It was holy ground to us, our very own special outpost as we made our sojourn through this world as pilgrims from another land. All voices were praying without inhibition: “Jesus, Jesus, protect our church.” We sounded like a large drone of bees.
And we worked like bees, too. Every available kid was down at the brook using every available container that could be found, wetting down as much of the space as was possible and storing as much water as they could for the final big onslaught. The odds were altogether too much against Tony and the kids. It looked as if the whole earth were on fire as the sky-high flames leapt over the top of the mountain and on down the slope. The fire department had told us to abandon the area for our own safety. They stood helplessly by. All the equipment in the world would not be sufficient to stop that attack from Hell itself. Forest fires, by their intensity, create their own winds and fan themselves along. Forget it. Everything was about ready to go up in flames.
But suddenly, out of nowhere, the wind changes. The Spirit of God pushed back those inexorable flames, back over the mountain top from which they came.
“It’s unbelievable,” the puzzled firemen exclaimed. Little did they know that indeed the power of God is believable. God had answered those prayers. Not only had He saved our church—really nothing much to look at, at all—but He had saved Sleepy Hollow as well. Even the unbelieving were exclaiming, “It’s a miracle from God!” They were ever so right.
An elderly man from across the street, where the cluster of small homes sat, came over and profusely thanked the kids. “Thank God for you kids. If you weren’t here, every house in this tract would have burned to the ground.” Thank God for God.
Early in 1971, the most frightening earthquake California had in many years set the whole area to fear and trembling. Tall buildings in Los Angeles weaved perilously. People feared for their lives. Maybe those Children of God, a most despicable bunch of impostors who warned that California was soon to fall off into the ocean were right. A large group of the Children of God, in a highly publicized exodus, made their way to Texas. But even without the antics of these people who have prostituted the Jesus Movement and the Gospel of Christ, Californians are more than a little bit jittery whenever the earth begins to rumble. After all, there is a serious geological fault that runs north and south through the state, and many fear that much of the state indeed could go the way of Atlantis.
Saugus, as it happened, was where the impact of the earthquake was felt the most. Two years later there are hundreds of reminders left to help the citizens keep its impact in focus. New spans of highway, elevated above the valley floor to bridge a chasm, lie as heaps of concrete and steel rubble on the ground beneath, dangling, curled up beams of steel showing where the road once had been. Fearful as it was, our boys, always eager for excitement, just as almost any other boy who had been born has ever been, were out on the trucks helping to evacuate people wherever they were needed. They worked feverishly, not worried about loss of sleep, of fatigue, or ever concerned about food or water.
After the shaking, there was the massive cleanup that was necessary and the rebuilding. Our boys, some of whom never had a hammer in their hands before, organized into work crews. Soon they were helping to restore the many nearly demolished stores of Newhall, cleaning up debris, rebuilding the buildings, even helping to put the merchandise back on the shelves. Newhall and Saugus, whether they realized it or not before that time, had been hosting a valuable asset in crisis—a ready and willing, almost untiring work force. The kids went at their new task with as much zeal as they do in going out to witness of the saving grace of Christ. Contrary to the charges of liberals, our kids are far from being dropouts from society. They have a keen social awareness that results in actions—not merely words. Ask the residents of the Saugus-Newhall-Valencia area in Southern California if ever there is any doubt.
One errand of mercy the boys particularly enjoyed was rebuilding the home of a widow with five children. Her home had been almost totally demolished. In very short order, for extremely little cost, these young men completely rebuilt it—complete with a new paint job inside and out and some of the fanciest paperhanging that can be imagined. The widow’s home came out of that earthquake much nicer than it had been before.
Not all of our service in the community comes as the result of havoc. Contrary to popular notions, we Californians do have some pretty normal moments in our lives. The Canyon Country High School had no bleachers at their school. One day, representatives of the Jaycees came to our church in Sleepy Valley to see if we would help build the bleachers. Of course we would. We were delighted to be asked. The people of the community still talk about how the job got done to this day.
To our surprise one day after Tony and I were speaking at Antelope Valley College, the football coach from the Canyon Country High School rose to his feet and told a story.
“We had no money to build our bleachers with and we needed them in a real way to accommodate those who liked to root for the home team. We didn’t really know what to do, but someone from the Jaycees came up with the idea of contacting the Alamos and their hippie church to see if they could turn some of their manpower loose. The Jaycees came back later and told us they had made arrangements for Alamos’ kids to build the bleachers. Naturally, we were excited about the whole thing.
“We all gathered at the school grounds early one Saturday morning. But Alamos’ kids were not there. We waited for a while, and in disgust I said, ‘Well, it figures. A bunch like that would do something like this.’ “Just then we looked up over the hill and here came about fifty big, long-haired guys with picks and shovels in a cloud of smoke.” “Okay, men, Let’s go!” they said.
“I never saw anything like them. They never stopped until lunch time. Then they sat down, prayed, opened their Bibles and read while they ate. If anyone asked them questions, they stopped, politely answered our questions and went back to their reading. I was around the kids all the time and I will be truthful; I would never have believed what they really are if I hadn’t seen it myself.”
One more skeptical person won over to the fact that the Jesus People Movement is for real. And many others, too, have been able to see for themselves.
All of our foundation cars—painted red, white, and blue—have become as much as part of the Saugus-Newhall community as is the Thrifty Drugstore. With forty to fifty vehicles of about every description and condition imaginable coming and going all the time, as egregious as the red, white, and blue paint makes them, the kids have become second-nature to the communities. “Oh, there’s the Alamo kids,” the people say. Often they will holler and wave to them.
We take contracts with the Department of Interior and demolish surplus or obsolete buildings for them. Not only do we earn some of the money that keeps the kids sheltered, clothed, and fed, but the boys get to demonstrate and sharpen up their skills. We also are able to acquire materials that are useful in our never-ending construction projects at the centers. Some of the boys are skilled in painting and in other phases of building.
This supplies a ready labor force in the community. One of the boys, an architect, works regularly for a prefab housing firm in the Saugus area. The kids take on jobs for various civic organizations—anything that is available.
The way we operate must have impressed one businessman. In the winter of 1971-72 we were having one of those periodic rough times when the bills were stacking up and we didn’t have the slightest notion of where the money was to come from. There was demand against us to come up with a huge sum, just so we could hold onto one of our needed pieces of property. New kids were coming in all the time, adding to the needs and the responsibilities. We don’t have the heart to turn anyone down who really wants to walk down the road we are taking in following Jesus.
The eleventh hour had already passed and deadline time was near. Tony had been out on one of the properties, working at times until three and four o’clock in the morning, not knowing a regular night’s rest. I kept up my end of things. We were dead tired when it seemed finances were crushing in on us from every side. “God,” we prayed, “You know we’ve been trying to do Your will. We’ve been doing everything the best we know how. We’ve been trusting You. Lord, you’ve got to help us out of this situation. Lord these are Your boys and girls. This is Your work. We’re trusting You to come through on time.”
Well, the next day it happened. Can you imagine it? Out of a clear blue sky, we were informed that an anonymous businessman in Saugus had given our Foundation $40,400! I’ll tell you, the Millennium had as good as come that day in Sleepy Valley. Not only were all our bills and obligations met on time, but God had also allowed us to make a giant step forward in our program for providing better facilities for our children.
We still have our problems with the press, with people who are so prejudiced against us they cannot bother to find out the truth about us, with an occasional youth who decided to turn sour on us and give a distorted picture of things to the public, with parents who didn’t care a tinker’s damn about their kids before we got them, but who suddenly feel they must “rescue” them from us and our “perverting” of their minds. We still have trouble with the District Attorney’s office, even though long ago the Sheriff’s department that operates in our section of the country has given us a clean bill of health. We often don’t know where the next funds are coming from or what we’re going to do with the next batch of kids who want to become part of us. There are a thousand and one other problems that still face us and I suppose hundreds more waiting their turn to show themselves.
But praise be to the Living God, we have come a long way since that dope den on Carlos Avenue (it seems like an eternity ago) and the beatings and arrests on Crescent Heights and those early uprisings in Sleepy Valley. Mustang Sally has put away her motion picture camera and doesn’t incite the neighborhood kids any longer into throwing rocks and homemade incendiary bombs at the buildings and breaking windows out.
As Gamaliel wisely said about that first Jesus People Movement that followed the days of Christ: “Leave them alone. If it is not of God, it will die out. If it is of God, you can’t stop it.”
How much of an operation is ours? Well, at times I hardly understand how we keep up with it. Especially Tony. How that man keeps so many things in his head, around the clock, I’ll never know. And always, no matter what vexing problem comes up in running the place and the ministry, it’s “Praise the Lord.” “Praise the Lord, Tony,” the boys respond.
We divide our witnessing groups up something like this: Fifty to Downtown Los Angeles, fifty to Hollywood Boulevard, twenty-five to one college campus, twenty-five to another, twenty or so to San Diego, a like amount each to Santa Barbara and Isla Vista.
In 1972 we began branching out even farther and soon San Francisco, four hundred miles away, was a center of our activities. We’d go to Palm Springs, a plush resort area in the desert. There, to our surprise, it was the older people who were taking to us—Jewish business and professional men and women and other wealthy people—standing around in exchange with our hippies. They loved them and would get into long conversations with them, receive the witness of the kids of the saving power of Christ and His soon return. It was not that, as elsewhere, the kids weren’t getting responses from the kids who had not yet turned to Christ, but that at Palm Springs there was a noticeably stronger response from adults than at other places. The man dressed up in his expensive clothes, drinking his cocktails, is just as hungry for the Gospel as is the runaway, the kid who is running here and there, from this thing and that to get his kicks out of life. It the Gospel is packaged in the right way, it can reach even these hungry souls. We had the right kind of package. Long-haired ragamuffins radiating an inner peace that comes only from Christ.
In time, Phoenix and Tucson and Albuquerque were added to our list; then Portland and Seattle and Tacoma. But by late in 1972, the boys were getting pretty eager to hit the really big centers in the midwest, Texas, and the southland, and the Eastern Seaboard. Many of them had come from the Eastern Seaboard and wanted desperately to extend the work of witnessing of Christ to these directions. They looked to the big centers of Canada. New fields of conquest were in their blood.
We didn’t need to look too long or to pray for any extended period. The kids started once again getting together all the money they could muster so teams could be sent. The vehicles were given special attention, working them into condition for long trips across country. Tony and the boys worked on ways to pack the vehicles to their ultimate capacity, so that every possible economy might be afforded and so that as many boys as possible might make the trips.
Within three days after taking off from Sleepy Valley our first contingent of boys was in Washington, D.C., where they headed for the home of Mr. and Mrs. William Willoughby in the Virginia suburbs. Fifteen boys, tired as they could be from the long, hard trip, but more interested in “hitting the streets” of Washington than they were in getting a hot meal, showers, and some badly needed rest. They got their meal, they refreshed themselves, and set up their sleeping gear, but there was no holding them back. Before midnight, they were on their way to reach the people of Washington.
But God had better sense than those rambunctious boys did that night. Their vehicle held up fine all the way from the Los Angeles area to Washington–2,500 or so miles. But they had no sooner gotten down the road in Fairfax, Virginia, on their way toward Washington than the vehicle broke down. A rear bearing had gone on the thing. This slowed them down, but it wasn’t about to deter them from getting into Washington’s Georgetown section to do their witnessing. One of the boys, Larry LaRoche, originally had been from the area before he headed West and met Christ at our little church. Larry called his brother and soon they had a quarter-ton pickup truck at their disposal. Without a spare!
Wouldn’t you know it? They got to within a couple of miles of Georgetown, the section where the hippies hang out in the nation’s capital, and a tire blew out. With no spare, they had to try to contact Larry’s brother again to ask him to come to the rescue. This took considerable time, and before long it had gotten to be the wee hours of the morning. Washington is not known as a city that stays up late, except on the weekends. By the time the boys limped over to Georgetown the streets were virtually deserted. The streets proved to be a bit more alive a couple of miles to the east in Downtown Washington. They did get some witnessing in that night—they weren’t about ready to let the Devil get all the licks in—but they thought it might be the better of common sense to head back to Willoughby’s home and sack in for awhile. Tomorrow was another day.
The boys had brought several hundred thousand tracts with them and even brought a tiny printing press that could supply them more. They could hardly wait to get to the streets, eagerly asking where the most people would be and at what hour of the day. They took to these spots. Before long the downtown area of Washington had been blitzed, government workers had been witnessed to by the hundreds, and there were some who took the step of faith with Christ.
Some women from one of the black churches, spurred on by Mrs. McDaniel, sought the boys out, bringing them sandwiches and drinks as they put in their long days of witnessing. Mrs. McDaniel’s daughter, Charlena, had been a student at Washington’s Howard University, militant in her distrust of the white man. The girl made her way to California, eventually wound up at one of our services, and found Christ. Her militancy went when Christ came in. At the center, she met Sylvester Primous, a hate-spouting Black Panther, who turned to Christ and was wondrously changed. Only a few weeks before Sylvester made the trip to Washington with two other blacks, some Jewish boys, plus the nine others of the team, he and Charlena were married. Mrs. McDaniel and her friends could not do enough for the boys.
One night the boys took the service at the National Evangelical Free Church in Annandale, Virginia, just outside Washington. It was a new experience to this congregation, the church the Willoughbys attend, a church used to strong Gospel preaching and a strong witness for Christ, but quite unused to having a hippie take over the pulpit and the service. Before long, nearly everyone was joining in the singing, clapping their hands, some even raising them Heavenward. Three persons who were visiting that night came forward at the invitation. One was Larry LaRoche’s brother. Another was the girlfriend of the boy.
They boys were eager to get a chance to witness to the President and Mrs. Richard Nixon, but that was a bit much to expect. No one gets to see the President or His wife just for the asking. Everyone who comes to Washington, whether he likes the President or not, would count a visit a real goal to be attained. But naturally, it is practically a thing impossible.
Well, the boys–especially the Jewish kids in the gang–were chomping at the bit to get to New York City, where there were really lots of people. Washington is big, but New York is big. Late one night, after a full day of witnessing, they pulled up stakes in Fairfax and were on their way to the big city.
They had found the Washingtonians friendly and quite receptive—allaying many of the fears they had. But they were utterly astounded by the response they received in New York City. “We had heard that these people up here are cold and hard-hearted, that they wouldn’t bother to listen to the Gospel,” the boys commented. But what a difference when the real test came.
Contacts were made; a warm welcome came from the parents of Bill Levy on Long Island. Mrs. Levy outdid herself in feeding the boys sumptuous Jewish pastries and desserts, along with some good solid body-timber Jewish main courses. The boys were on the verge of being spoiled by the treatment they were getting in the East.
Soon they had acquired themselves some make-do quarters in the heart of the city where they could reach those tens and thousands of passersby. They set up their printing press and cranked out tracts by the tens and hundreds of thousands. New York City was eating them up voraciously. Many were receiving, besides the tracts, solid witnesses. Some were being saved. But what a sight it must have been! Right in the middle of the sidewalk one well-dressed businessman came so much under conviction upon hearing the witnessing of faith that he unhesitatingly knelt down to pray as our hippies led him into the kingdom. The city that was supposed to be so inured against the Gospel was waiting, as hungry—or even hungrier—than most of the other cities we had worked in.
What the boys were to be deprived of in Washington in their desire to witness to the First Family was made up to them on Columbus Day, October 16, in New York City. The boys could hardly wait to get on the telephone to tell Tony and me what had happened. I, in turn, could hardly wait to get on the telephone to tell Bill Willoughby at the Washington Star-News what had happened. Bill right away saw in it a beautiful story. Here is how he related the incident in his column in the newspaper on Saturday, October 21, 1972. The column read:
NO ONE’S GONNA SHUT RONNIE UP
It just might have ended up in the nearest wastepaper can. On the other hand, Pat Nixon might actually have read it like she said she would, when Ronnie Pryor handed it to her during last Monday’s Columbus Day celebration in New York City.
Whatever the case, Ronnie, a big lanky, handsome black from down Tennessee way was absolutely elated. Pushing through the crowd and square-one into the wary and unbelieving stares of the First Lady’s security men, Ronnie made his way. He came toward Mrs. Nixon tightly holding a bundle of papers, extending one to her.
Momentary confusion gave way to the First Lady’s indication that she wanted to hear the Vietnam veteran out. Ronnie stood there, almost frozen in his tracks. Nine other young men, most of them long-haired, bearded, and rather shabbily dressed, stood there backing Ronnie up.
Then it came out. “We are from the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation in Saugus, California, and we go out and witness to people on the streets that Jesus Christ came to save the world. We have brought thousands of people to Him through our witnessing.
“Mrs. Nixon, Jesus Christ is coming back soon. I hope you will take the tract and see what we have to say.” “I certainly will,” Mrs. Nixon said, as the unlikely scene came to a close.
The scene came to a close, that is, except for one thing. Jubilation broke out over Ronnie and his gang. And what a gang! There was Sylvester Primous, who less than four years ago was a Black Panther, regularly helping to take hundreds of black youths, not yet in their teens, out into the mountains of California to give them target practice. The ultimate target—the white honkie.
Towering Sylvester, who had been a parachutist in Vietnam, grew to hate the white man so much that he would go behind lines and consort with the Vietcong how to plot against white soldiers. He came back from Vietnam determined not to return to college but do everything he could to see that “Whitey” got what was coming to him. That is, until one day a white girl passed him by going the opposite direction. “Hey, you,” the girl’s voice shot back.
Sylvester was about to let loose with his choicest expletives when he realized it was a white girl. But something he described as the “supernatural working of God” arrested him and he found himself listening to what she had to say. She was from the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation, she said, and she invited him to come to “a little church that meets in a house” just off Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Against himself, he went, but arrived long after the service was over. But fortunately not everyone had gone.
The words of the girl had stuck in his mind. One of the “brothers” walked up to him and asked if he could help him. “Yeah, man. How do I get saved?” the embittered drug pusher asked. Moments later he made a decision for Christ that changed him completely.
Rejoicing with Ronnie in the heart of Gotham also was Bill Levy, a Jew whose father is a copy editor on the New York Times—a youth who kicked six years of heroin addiction instantly after making a decision for Christ at that little Hollywood church. And there was Danny Shapiro, another Jew, not at all ashamed of telling the world what it was that got him off drugs and got his head straightened around.
There was Kent Kaufuss, a bright, well-adjusted kid who set out to free himself from the mold well-heeled society tried to force him into, but who eventually ended up at the end of a drug heap in Hollywood. And Tom Gorbea, who faced a five year prison term stemming from the drug traffic. And Larry LaRoche, a runaway from the Washington area who finally got it all put together out in Hollywood. And Terry Leach and Tom Barnett and James Richardson—each an interesting, yet pathetic story. Pathetic if the stories had ended there in the dope dens of Hollywood. But not pathetic because the stories didn’t end there. Tony and Sue didn’t let them end there.
The famed crooner of the Fifties and his wife, long associated with the movie industry, instead of damning the hippies along Sunset Strip, suddenly felt something should be done for them. They took them into their home and fed them, and brought them to their senses through the Gospel message.
The hippies responded to the pleas of these Jewish Christians far beyond what the Alamos believed possible. That was nearly seven years ago. The Jesus Movement was on its way. But not without severe persecution.
Ronnie Pryor must have had flashbacks amid his jubilations last Monday over having the privileges to witness to the First Lady. Remember, Ronnie, how that captain on the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department had it out for you? How those under him took the nightsticks to you when you witnessed to acid heads along the strip? The gashes in your head? Or the night they packed the towel down your throat and jeered, “Now go out and tell people about your Jesus!”
Mrs. Nixon, whether you realize it or not, by taking Ronnie’s tract you gave the Jesus People Movement a great boost. Count on it. There’s no one who’s gonna shut Ronnie up now.
The boys finally set out for the South, and one thing led to another. One of the boys had a brother in Florida, who, when he heard the team’s testimonies, arranged for them to appear at a college campus, where they went over real well. Florida’s Gold Coast, with places like Miami, Miami Beach, Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale, was a wonderful witnessing paradise for the boys. Successes were registered every day as they got the message out.
But even though all the boys were in their twenties (some even older) and even though they were doing what they had come to love to do the most, they became homesick for Saugus and for the rest of the family. “Tony, when can we come back?” they asked. The team did not arrive back into Sleepy Valley until Thanksgiving Day. And what a thanksgiving it was for all of us.
In the meantime, another team had gone to Chicago and other big centers along the northern route through the Midwest. Their reports of success were exhilarating at times. It just whet their—and our—appetites for bigger and better things. Almost immediately we started making plans for opening centers similar to ours in California so the Gospel ministry could be expanded. There is so much to do.
We also set our eyes on Europe and Israel. Our work already is well known in those places through the seemingly never-ending filming that foreign companies do of our services. A number of foreign publications have done stories on the work, and while it is not always done in a favorable light, we nonetheless are known. We get numerous reports from Europe—especially Italy and France—from people who know of what we are doing. We have a few French kids living and ministering with us at the Foundation.
But we also want to get there, and other places, to present the Gospel of Christ. By the hundreds of thousands, our tracts are sent overseas. With the varied backgrounds of our kids and of friends associated with the work, it becomes relatively simple to get the material translated into French, Italian, German, Japanese—nearly any major language going. But we will never rest until we get to these places ourselves.
Tony never says anything to the boys about their hair or dress. He goes after their hearts, not their hair. But Tony is a dapper dresser, and always has that well-groomed look, preferring short hair. It is not long before some of the boys are there a while that they say, “I think I’ll get a Tony cut”, and off goes the hair, cut down to size. Some of them start copying his style of dress, saying, “Man, Tony is a cool dresser. Man, his clothes are heavy. But in saying this, I am not implying that we think there is anything wrong with the boys who wear their hair long, just so long as their bodily habits are clean. As with any boys, some of them have to be watched pretty carefully. The boys usually have their own way of letting the fellow who is out of line in cleanliness know that he ought to get with it--or else.
No, not all the boys who come into our fellowship sport long hair to begin with. I know of a few of them, once they became part of the family, who went the other way. They let their hair grow long partially because they came to like it that way or because they feel they can relate to the kids in the streets a lot better if they look a bit more like them. I’m certain that some of our success is because we look very human and we present a Jesus who didn’t worry much about getting dirt under His fingernails.
The boys are proud of Tony. He doesn’t crawl into the pigpen with any of them. He quietly, and without show, sets a high standard for them to pull up to. In their language, he’s their old man and he is cool.
I do not wear miniskirts or hot pants or any of the other revealing styles that make the scene, and I don’t allow the girls to wear them, either. Most of the girls, when they arrived at the church, had abandoned the practice of wearing bras and panties. That was extremely old-fashioned and completely out of it for them. They wear them now.
This was a shocking thing to me, a person who had tried to be very proper in the way I act and in how I dress. Like Tony, I dress well. Both of us usually wear clothes that are pretty well coordinated. I sure wised up in a hurry when I discovered the girls were wearing short dresses without so much as the benefit of any underclothes. Old-fashioned or not, we were running a church, not a burlesque show. Now there is an overseer girl who is stationed at the front door to check the girls coming in off the streets to services. We keep girls’ clothing in the girls’ restroom and the girls coming in with see-through blouses or miniskirts on, or any type of clothing that is too revealing, geared to arouse the sex drive of males, are taken to the ladies’ room and given a choice of putting on the clothing or leaving.
Our girls do not wear slacks to the church services, although they can wear them on the streets or around the church grounds during the day. This is the house of God and they are taught to respect it.
I came out of a Pentecostalist background where I heard any number of sermons against the use of makeup or tinted hair. Any hint at doing these things was associated with Jezebel, and no woman ever wanted to be thought of as a Jezebel. Sermon after sermon would tell how Jezebel had been torn to pieces by dogs because she painted her face. There was nothing about the real reason, the hard-fact reality of her sins. The fact that she had been so sinful as to cause the prophets of God to be slain had become completely overshadowed by the fact that the Bible refers to her as using cosmetics.
When I see my girls start using makeup again and doing their hair, then I know they are on the way back to womanhood, to respectability once more.
In California perhaps we’re more sensitive to the inroads the unisex culture is making into our society than in many other parts of the country. Much of the force behind it is homosexual designers whose aims are to make male and female look alike. Women’s shoes become more masculine; men’s shoes change to make the difference less. To me, there is very little that is feminine about big, ugly clodhopper heels which appear to be designed to make the legs look short and stubby, almost completely shapeless. Old-fashioned? Well, at this point, maybe I am. But to me, a boy should be a boy in the best sense of the word and a girl should be a girl and there should be no mistaking them.
This trend our society has taken in recent years, where affluent people are bored to tears has done more to set the stage for the Jesus Movement than anything else I can think of. Many kids, coming out of such family backgrounds, with fairly easy access to money, have never really given the time-honored things that make for satisfaction in life a try. They, instead, try to cover over their boredom by getting into the forbidden and debilitation areas of life. This set the scene for the drug culture and all that has gone along with it. It made the way clear for the trips into Eastern mysticism and into the occult, anything that could distract from boredom and emptiness. Fortunately, also there were a few people who were standing ready to offer something else, the Gospel of the Living God.
The pathos of the whole thing struck Tony and me as we were watching a television documentary. The documentary showed an affluent upper middle-class family in a suburban community in the United States. The wife told of her boredom in her beautiful home, saying she did not feel that any of her children needed her anymore even though her children were in their formative years, and the most dangerous years, grammar and junior high school years. She claimed that she must find who she really is; she must feel needed and wanted.
From where I surveyed the scene, I thought her role in life–her calling and career–was very concise and well cut out for her: a wife and mother and homemaker.
But she was not satisfied with that and was looking for something to fill her time. She joined group therapy classes. In these classes they were teaching her to lose her individual identity completely and to mold into a pattern of sophistication and intelligence, meaning that whatever the particular group is pushing, by all means buy it without question. Otherwise, you are ignorant and unsophisticated.
In the next scene we saw this woman among a group of other wealthy females. A man was tearing them to shreds accusing them, insulting them, and to my surprise , they just sat there, taking it.
“How could a group of females subject themselves to that?” Tony cut in. It flabbergasted him.
“They have been completely prepared, Tony. They’ve been programmed and conditioned, completely prepared. Not one of them will offer any resistance or even indicate that she is being offended by what the man is saying. They wouldn’t dare. That would make them look ignorant and unsophisticated.”
We are all conformists; we, at least most of us. The hippies who came our way are as good an example that modern society can be afforded. Those girls coming in with their scant clothing and no underwear were really only conforming to a way of life that was saying to the rest of America that it wasn’t going to conform. In insisting that they weren’t going to conform, they set their own pattern of dress and of morals. They set their own types of social activities and developed their own kind of language. They developed their own kind of status symbol. They could tell the plastic from the real, at least so far as their standards determined what was real and what wasn’t. For people who boasted of being nonconformist, they were the most predictable types of persons one could find anywhere. There was no mistaking them. If you had seen one, you had seen them all.
A lot of what they were revolting from was not good, and some of it was a revolt from the type of conditions that television documentary was showing. The only problem is that in their revolting, they substituted something that was not better, and in many points was a lot worse. It made withered vegetables out of some; we know all too well.
Yet, underneath every one of these hippies, for all their veneer, for all the outlandish ways some of them dress, there is a real person, full of unused humanity. We have been seeing the Holy Spirit bring that out in them. There is a saying, and the more Tony and I work with these kids, the more I realize how true it is. “No one is more human than the person who is filled with God.”
Tony Alamo Christian Ministries Worldwide
P. O. Box 6467
Texarkana, Texas 75505
Twenty-four hour prayer and information line: (479) 782-7370 / FAX (479) 782-7406
Tony Alamo Christian Ministries provides a place to live with all the things necessary for life
to all those who truly want serve the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Services held every evening at 8 P.M. and Sunday at 3 P.M. and 8 P.M. at the following locations:
New York City Church: Please call for the address
Arkansas Churches: 4401 Windsor Dr., Fort Smith, Arkansas 72904 • 1005 Highway 71 South, Fouke, Arkansas 71837
Los Angeles Area Church: 13136 Sierra Hwy., Canyon Country, California 91390 (661)251-9424
MEALS SERVED AFTER EACH SERVICE
Free transportation to and from services provided at the corner of:
Hollywood Blvd. & Highland Ave., Hollywood, California, daily at 6:30 P.M., Sundays at 1:30 P.M. and 6:30 P.M.