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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

A Wandering Hippie, a Witnessing Widow

By Scott Temple as told to John W. Kennedy
Aug. 22, 2010

I grew up in a loving home, the oldest of five children. My father was an executive with Woolworth’s in New York City. We enjoyed an affluent lifestyle and had a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline outside our Bergen County, N.J., family room window.

Yet nobody in our house knew the Lord. All my siblings followed my path into alcohol and illegal drugs in the 1970s. I got drunk for the first time just after my 16th birthday. In a stupor on a cold January night, I sat in the road in front of my house. A car came over the hill and struck me. The impact fractured my skull and shattered my right thigh. For three days, doctors told my parents I wouldn’t survive. I spent two weeks in intensive care and three months recovering in a hospital.

But even that didn’t knock sense into me. My involvement in drugs and alcohol deepened, and I earned a reputation as a drunk in high school.

Still, my parents paid for me to attend Bucknell University as a pre-law student. My activities made it seem like my real major was lawbreaking. I discovered that the first time you “experiment” with drugs or alcohol can destroy your life. After two years of college fraternity partying, I dropped out of school.

At 21, my best friend from childhood and I outfitted a hippie van with beds, a kitchen and a loud stereo. We embarked on seven months of traveling. We paraded at Mardi Gras in New Orleans; we swam the Rio Grande into Mexico from Texas; we descended into the Grand Canyon in Arizona. We traveled 30,000 miles, hitting 40 states, Mexico and Canada while trying to “find ourselves.”

On a side trip to Waikiki, Hawaii, police chased me for breaking and entering. An officer handcuffed me, held a .38-caliber pistol to my head, beat me and then warned that if I didn’t leave on the next plane, I would spend six months in prison.

Back in the continental U.S., our van’s engine really took a beating, climbing snowy mountains and churning through desert heat. At the end of our trip, the engine blew up on a hot day in July 1975 in Columbia City, Ind., west of Fort Wayne. My buddy deserted me, and I spent my last $5 on beer. I had no money, no vehicle, no friends and no idea what to do. My journey was about to change direction dramatically.

Dorothy Minnick, a friendly widow who lived in the house on U.S. Highway 30 where the van died, loaned me her Sunday newspaper. For months, I hadn’t paid any attention to what was going on in the world. I read page after page looking for good news, but couldn’t find any. That evening, I accepted Dorothy’s invitation to sit in her kitchen for a cup of coffee and a visit.

As I was leaving, I thanked her for the coffee and added, almost as an afterthought, “Thanks for the newspaper. But I can’t believe how awful the world is.”

“Yes, it is,” Dorothy replied. “The Book of Revelation told us it would be this way.” Her words brought the presence of God into that place. I felt as though hands on my shoulder pulled me back into her home.

Dorothy opened her Living Bible and read Matthew 24:3-14 aloud, describing lawlessness and signs of the end of the age. It seemed as though God himself spoke through her into my heart. She gave me a gospel tract called the “Romans Road to Salvation.” It was the first time anyone had ever shared Scripture with me.

I went back to the broken van and read that tract. Word mixed with faith in my heart. I got down on my knees and prayed, “God, I never knew that Jesus really lived on earth. I believe Jesus died on the cross and rose again. Please come into my life and forgive my sins.”

Jesus made a triumphal entry into this defiled Temple. He began to cleanse some sins immediately.

The next day I found a mechanic who could install a rebuilt motor — with my dad wiring him $500 — but the repairs would take a week. I found the phone number of Linda, a girl I met at Yellowstone National Park who lived near Chicago. I explained to Linda about being stuck in Indiana and asked if I could stay with her family for a week. They agreed, so I started hitchhiking.

Norm Mikesell, a guy driving a Volkswagen Beetle, picked me up. As I threw my knapsack into his backseat, I noticed a Bible. “Are you a believer?” I asked.

“Yes, I am a Christian and a professor from the University of Indiana in Bloomington,” he replied.

As I told Norm what had happened to me the night before, we both started weeping for joy. Norm gave me his Bible and put me on a bus to the suburb where Linda lived. Upon arrival, I discovered that Linda’s father was a pastor! He and Linda’s grandma discipled me that first week of my Christian life.

I hitchhiked back to Indiana to get my van. On an interstate ramp, a car screeched to a halt. By this time I had caught on to God’s divine intervention. I opened the door and asked, “Are you a preacher?”

“Yes I am; I pastor a Baptist church in Hammond,” Charlie Thorp answered. “God told me to pick you up.” He bought me lunch in a truck stop and in front of truckers boldly prayed God’s blessing over my life.

The next ride came from two Bible school students, and then a ride from a pastor’s son. I realized God was directing my steps in a providential, not coincidental, way.

God used all of these Christians to anchor faith deeply in my heart. I needed an anchored faith. I returned home only to face my family’s rejection of my newfound beliefs. They thought it was another passing fad for the prodigal hippie.

But they couldn’t deny the witness of a transformed life or the miraculous healing I was about to experience.

Because of the accident at 16, my right leg was an inch shorter than my left leg. Doctors had overlapped my thighbone to repair my shattered femur. This resulted in lower lumbar disc damage. By age 23, the sciatica pain was so severe that doctors ordered bed rest for three months. They told me I needed spinal fusion.

I went to hear an evangelist preach at an Assemblies of God church in Des Moines, Iowa. He quoted Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (NIV). He proclaimed that the sick still could be healed. I went forward for prayer. The pastor and evangelist prayed over me. Jesus instantly lengthened my leg and healed my spine at that Sunday night service in 1977.

Three years later, I met my future wife, Susan, at a Sunday night service in Emerson, N.J., where I was the guest preacher. Susan, who was active in Chi Alpha ministry, married me in 1981. We moved to Pennsylvania, where I attended Valley Forge Christian College.

My parents visited us in our tiny campus apartment. My father, Donald, couldn’t understand how we survived. I explained to my dad how every time we ran out of food someone dropped off groceries. My dad was cynical — until he stood up and opened the door and saw a sack full of food anonymously left for us.

The next day, we went to a church service at Calvary Assembly of God in Wyncote, Pa. After the service, I asked my dad if he wanted to ask Jesus into his life. My skeptical, ex-Marine, New Yorker dad became a born-again Christian in the front seat of his Volvo. Since then he has served as a deacon and a missions committee member and has traveled overseas with my mom for missions.

Following my baptism in the Spirit, one by one, my parents, brothers, sisters and their spouses came to accept Jesus as Savior. God answered the prayers of my grandmother and of a great aunt and uncle, Swedish immigrants who had been praying for the salvation of my family for years.

I’m so glad that God loved me while I was still in my sins and preserved my life by His mercy. I’ve shared my testimony in 30 nations and in more states than I drove through trying to find myself 35 years ago. There is exponential power in a single witness. I’m so glad Jesus found me and saved me through a widow’s witness. I’m eternally grateful that a Midwest widow was neither ashamed of the gospel nor afraid to tell a hippie the truth. That truth set me free.

SCOTT TEMPLE spent 20 years as an Assemblies of God pastor before becoming national director of AG U.S. Missions Intercultural Ministries in 2003. Last year the Fellowship appointed him national director for Ethnic Relations. He may be contacted at Scott and Susan have five children.

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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