I shivered in the cold. My thick jacket failed to keep me warm. The January sun, dimmed by thick clouds, painted the South Park Blocks in a dreary world of grey.
I had been preaching at PSU while working at The Oregonian for almost a year now. Day in and day out, I ventured to the campus after work, preaching the Word.
This day, however, in the heart of a bleak winter, not a single student was walking around, and I wondered if maybe I should just go home.
As I turned to leave, someone caught my eye. One student, with glasses, sat eating on the benches of the park blocks. I opened my Bible and started preaching out all the red letters in the Book of John. As I preached out the various words YahShua said, I forgot about the coldness, the bleakness of the winter’s day, everything around me except that one student sitting in the bleachers.
After about an hour, the student approached me. He was soft spoken and looked a little irritated. “What are you reading?”
“The red letters in the book of John. Just the words the Messiah spoke,” I explained.
The student nodded curtly, stuffed his hands into his jacket, and marched away.
A few weeks later, as I was out preaching, that same student approached me. “Can I speak with you?”
“Sure. My name is Daniel. I remember we had a brief conversation a couple weeks ago.”
He grinned sheepishly. “My name is Mark. Sorry for being so rude the other day. But I want to explain what happened.”
Mark admitted that he had been a backslidden 7th Day Adventist. The words that I had preached to him a few weeks ago had torn into him. “I just hated what you were saying! Every single word you preached just really got me upset. But when I asked you what you had been preaching, I felt so embarrassed. How could I have gotten so angry at just the Words of Jesus?”
So he went home that night, convicted over his sin, and for the first time in a long time, opened his Bible.
“I’ve recommitted my life back to the Messiah,” Mark declared. “Thank you for preaching what you did.”
I embraced Mark, excited. “Well, shalom my friend! Welcome back to the family.”
Mark, driving his trusted motorcycle, quickly became a member of our family. Frequently we would have Bible studies, searching the Torah, as we deepened in our love toward YahShua. As our friendship grew, I knew that Yah had taught me one of my most important lessons. Even when it had seemed like no one was listening on that dreary day in January -- the preaching had actually transformed a life.
For over two years I worked at The Oregonian and preached at PSU -- sometimes to hostile crowds, sometimes to students standing in the rain, sometimes to just those who would walk past me, sometimes to large crowds, sometimes to small crowds -- PSU became the perfect training ground in learning how to walk by the Spirit.
I will never forget one winter’s day, as I was preaching the Word, a student with clenched fists marched toward me. His face steamed red with anger, and he looked as if he would deck me. As he got closer, I bound the dark spirits in YahShua’s Blood and commanded them to depart. Like a puppet on strings, the man suddenly jerked ninety degrees in another direction and continued walking, shouting curses at me. YahShua’s blood provided a powerful shield and buckler against many hostile forces at PSU. I rejoiced in His protection over me.
Then, one day, my whole life changed.
Making calls as usual at The Oregonian, I entered into a friendly debate with a co-worker about homosexuality. As we sat in the cubicles, we would carry on our debate between phone calls. Though my boss was out for the day, a substitute manager overheard our debate and told us both to get back to work. Little did I know, I had just committed the unpardonable sin of one of the most liberal newspapers on the West Coast: declaring that homosexuality was wrong.
The next morning, my boss called me into his glassed office. As I entered, I was surprised to see the human resources manager sitting next to him. With a sickening feeling in my stomach, I could see where this was all leading.
“Daniel, we heard there was an incident that occurred yesterday afternoon,” my boss said.
The human resources manager, face stoic, sat tight lipped and her hawkish gaze penetrated me.
“Yes, I was having a debate about homosexuality with some co-workers,” I explained.
“We’re going to need to place you on suspension until we thoroughly investigate what happened.”
That morning, as I walked away from The Oregonian, I called my wife and told her everything.
“Well, we’ll just pray about this whole situation,” she encouraged me. “Yah will take care of us.”
And the hits just kept on coming. When I got home that evening to check an internet forum where I had posted my preaching reports, I noticed someone had posted a link from the Portland State University Vanguard newspaper. PREACHER DAN BANNED FROM SOUTH PARK BLOCKS. As I clicked on the link, I read to my horror that a student organization had reserved the park blocks stage for the remainder of the year in an effort to keep me from the university.
“Can they do that?” Annika wondered.
“I have no idea!” I said in dismay. “I need to find out what’s going on.”
The following week, as I waited to hear what would happen with my job at The Oregonian, I headed to the campus administrator’s building.
The perky student sitting at the computer smiled at me, “Oh, hi, Preacher Dan. What’s up?”
“I read that the Park Blocks has been reserved for the rest of the year. Can they do that?”
Her fingers tapped along the keyboard as she studied her screen. “Oh, yes, it looks like a student organization did this. They have it reserved through the end of the school year.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Actually, I just remembered something!” she said. She picked up a message from her desk. “The President of PSU wants to speak with you. He wants you to give him a call.”
“Thank you,” I said. As I called the president, his secretary answered the phone. “Yes, are you available to meet with him tomorrow morning?”
The following morning I stepped into a large office. The President, along with several other administrators were sitting at a large round polished table, including the lady who headed the student organization that had reserved the park blocks stage.
I sat at the far end, facing all the leaders of PSU, wondering how this was going to turn out.
“Daniel, we just want to make sure that you’re not inciting any violence on the campus,” the President explained. “We don’t want you calling anyone out by name.”
“Absolutely,” I agreed. “I’m not interested in starting any violence, just preaching the Word.”
As we continued to speak, I could tell I was gaining more and more favor with the President. The lady who had blocked me from campus began to shift uncomfortably in her seat.
“Very good,” The President concluded the meeting. “Preacher Dan, I have told the student organization they cannot block you from the campus. In fact, if you wish, you can head down to the administration building and reserve the stage area for yourself.”
My mouth dropped open. “Really?”
“With my blessing,” the President said, smiling.
I remember Mark and I grinning from ear to ear as we officially reserved the stage area for the rest of the school year. In effect, anyone who wanted to use the stage would now have to go through me. How the tables had turned!
As the week drew to a close, I called The Oregonian to find out what the status of my employment was. They informed me they were still conducting an investigation but should be able to let me know by next week sometime.
“I think we should just take a vacation,” I told my wife. “Get out of here. Let our minds relax.”
“Sounds good,” she agreed.
Packing our two little boys in the van, we headed south to San Diego. Balboa Park, Coronado Island and the beautiful, sun bathed beaches of southern California helped to refresh us in the aftermath of the PSU battle.
One afternoon, as we stood in the middle of Disneyland, our boys filled with excitement, cotton candy in our hands, my cell phone rang.
“Looks like we’re going to have let you go,” my boss said. “I’m sorry, Daniel.”
“They fired me,” I said to Annika as we walked through the fairy land park. I took both her hands in mine and looked her in the eyes. “I say we sell everything we have, pack up our things, and hit the road. Go preaching across the United States.”
Annika nodded. “Well, we said if anything ever happened to your job at The Oregonian, that this is what we should do.”
We both stared into each other’s eyes for a suspended moment, the Disneyland scene slow motion around us, realizing that we were about to take a huge leap of faith.
“HallaluYah. Let’s do it.”
Now life was going to totally change, in ways I could not then even imagine