The dream haunted me. I awoke in the pre-dawn darkness, my breath quick and shallow, the vision still burning in my mind.
My wife lay asleep next to me, undisturbed. I settled back into bed, swallowing, wondering what was going on.
I had seen my pastor from the Wesleyan Holiness Church we had been attending for the past several months. He stood in the pulpit, looking out over the congregation. Two shadowy figures stood on his right and his left. They had actually taken on the likeness of my pastor. Just as he had an egg-shaped bald head, these two shadowy figures had more grotesque bulbous shaped craniums.
For weeks, I had no idea what the dream meant. My pastor seemed like a warm, funny, delightful man who pastored the small community church. Perhaps I had eaten some bad pizza, or my highly active imagination had simply gone into over-drive.
One evening, in our small studio apartment, as I was working on some studies and my wife was strumming her guitar, I looked up at her and said. “Honey, I have to go out and preach. I have to.”
I had first done open-air preaching over a year ago down in Texas. But with my new marriage, going to school full time and the move from Texas to Oregon, I had let my passion for evangelism slumber. For weeks, as I walked back and forth between my college and our apartment, I felt Yah’s Spirit pricking me, urging me to get back out on the streets to win the lost.
That Friday evening, my wife and I ventured into downtown Eugene. Like many towns in the Pacific Northwest, this one had an outdoor market square lined with shops. By day, it was a fun place for families and couples eating out, shopping, or enjoying the glittering streams of a nearby fountain. But by night -- it was a completely different story. Drug addicts, gang members, runaways and street kids crowded the area.
That first Friday night, I remember wading through the crowds, eyeing my surroundings nervously. This seemed like the worst place imaginable to do any preaching. Visions of getting mugged flashed through my mind. I shuddered. Maybe I had misheard from the Lord. Maybe this had all been one huge mistake.
I grabbed my wife’s hand and began to lead her back toward our car.
My wife stopped. “Daniel, aren’t you going to preach?”
Her words made me wince. I had very clearly laid out my strong conviction to evangelize and here I was, wimping out.
I can’t exactly remember the entire conversation we had, but I at last said, “Yes. I need to preach. I need to just do this.”
I jumped onto the stone ledge of a fountain and began lifting up my voice, preaching on I Corinthians 6:9-11. The crowd turned to me, frozen, unsure what to make of me. I don’t think they had ever seen an open air preacher before.
I only preached for a short time that night, before rain gushed from the sky. My wife tightened her hood over her head and ran for shelter. I continued to preach in the rain, and much of the crowd, though also seeking shelter from the nearby buildings, continued to listen.
A rush of excitement filled me. The Creator of the Heavens and Earth was actually using me to reach others! And even the rain was not driving them away.
In retrospect, I see that first night of preaching was Yah’s gift to me. He had graciously used the elements to protect me from any hecklers, giving me the courage I needed to start evangelizing after a year of silence. My wife and I returned home that night, celebrating, joyfully recounting what had happened.
For weeks, every Friday night, we continued to preach in downtown Eugene. However, it steadily began to become more dangerous.
One night, as I stood on the fountain, a drunken man staggered toward me and poured alcohol all over my clothes. He taunted me with his lighter, saying he would try to light me on fire. Another night, one young man strung out on drugs, pulled out a knife and lunged toward me. Fortunately, another street preacher who had joined me that night grabbed the man’s arm and was able to calm him down until his friends took him away. Still, on yet another evening, one guy punched me right in the face. I remember twirling around, hitting the wall behind me, and slumping to the floor before rising to my feet once again.
But through all the violence, YHVH continued to sustain us.
One evening, as the golden sun still painted downtown Eugene in a rich golden hue, I was once again preaching on I Corinthians 6:9-11. “ . . . no whore or whoremonger shall inherit the kingdom of God . . .” Evidently, a young lewdly dressed woman thought that I had called her a whore. Even though I had not, but was merely preaching from the text, she angrily called the police.
A heavy-set officer arrived on the scene. When I explained to the police officer that I had merely been preaching from the Bible, and had not called the woman any names, he refused to believe me.
Leaning close to me, his nose almost touching mine, he warned, “If you come down here preaching again, I’m going to arrest you.”
Shaken, and unsure what to do, my wife and I went home that night. I knew I had not violated any laws and the first amendment covered my freedom of speech. More importantly, I also knew the Holy Spirit had directed me to preach in that location.
I called my pastor and told him about what had happened.
“Don’t worry, Daniel. I think I’d like to come down with you this next Friday night and help you preach.”
I rejoiced! Surely this was the sign I needed to keep on persevering.
Friday night arrived. My pastor stood next to me as I began preaching. A crowd soon gathered around us. As I lifted my Bible in one hand, declaring the Word, I felt strong hands grabbing my arms. Cold handcuffs locked around my wrists, and the officer shoved me into his cop car.
As I sat in the backseat, the officer looked at my angrily. “I told you not to come back and preach!”
“I have to do what God tells me to do,” I said simply.
In the downtown police station, they booked me and threw me in with about five or six other men. I immediately began evangelizing, and the same angry police officer burst into the holding tank. “Oh, no you don’t!”
He shoved me into an isolated cell. Remembering what Paul and the early apostles did in a similar situation, I began to worship. The cement walls of the tiny cell provided perfect acoustics. My voice echoed all around me, and I couldn’t help but wonder if angels were joining with me as I sang to the Most High.
After only a few hours, they released me, and my pastor picked me up from jail.
A few days later, my pastor called. “Daniel, could you come over to my house? I want to talk to you about some things.” Something in his voice didn’t sound quite right, and I remembered the dream. I wondered if now I would finally understand what Yah had been trying to show me.
Holding a hot dog in his hand, he greeted me at the door and invited me in. “Lemme just finish my lunch,” he said, as he wolfed down the rest of his food.
I took a seat in his living room and waited. My pastor smiled at me nervously before taking a seat across from me. “Listen, Daniel, I thought your preaching was great. But, look, if it’s going to get you arrested, maybe we should just tone things down.”
I was shocked. I thought for sure if one man would support me, it would me my pastor. I could only sit in stunned silence.
“Sometimes, I think, we just need to figure out a different way to evangelize. One, maybe, that’s less controversial.”
“Pastor, I have to do what God is calling me to do. When the Apostles went out and preached, even though they were often arrested -- this didn’t stop them from doing what God had called them to do.”
He smiled and nodded, but it was as if he were looking right through me. I left his home that afternoon feeling disgusted and disheartened.
My wife and I would continue to go out and preach in downtown Eugene, and I was never bothered by the local police again. In fact, about three years later, a Jewish attorney who had agreed to represent me in court for a mere 25 bucks a month, helped me to win my case against the City of Eugene for unlawfully arresting me.
But at only 19 years of age, I encountered, for the very first time, the dark religious spirits that can control church leadership. In the scriptures we read of Messiah YahShua warning us that there will be wolves among the sheep. We also read in Matthew 24 that in the end times, a period of betrayal will cause believers to turn on each other.
I think, in a small way, this first lesson taught me that not everything is as it appears in the church world.