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Screwed Up Beyon Belief - Part III

By ex-Pastor Dan ~

I wrote my first gospel song about a year after I was Baptized in water. I loved singing and could naturally harmonize with the melody line. In junior choir, I was put in with the altos because I was singing alto without being able to read music. Of course this was looked upon as a great ‘gift’ that God had bestowed upon me. I was on my way to a life of music ministry.

Playing the ViolinImage by dougwoods via Flickr
That same year, I joined the orchestra at grammar school. I really wanted to play the trombone, but money was scarce and we didn’t have enough to purchase that shiny horn. So mom borrowed a violin from my aunt Lil and I had my instrument. It was a little embarrassing to be playing a ‘sissy’ violin, but I wanted to be in that orchestra so badly, I sacrificed my ‘manhood’ and learned the fiddle. I played it for 3 years and got pretty good at it. It taught me to read music and gave me the basics that I would draw on for the next 30 years. By Junior High School I ditched the violin for good and began to concentrate on singing and writing songs.

I hooked up with another kid in our church who played guitar. He was really, really talented. He played the 12 string beautifully and had a decent voice. He and I would combine to write many songs over the next few years. Eventually we added another singer and a base player to the group and called ourselves, ‘Disciples Trust & Company’ (catchy huh?).

About this time (I was 16 years old) I began to feel like I should be preparing for the ministry. But, I wasn’t sure if God had ‘called’ me?? I knew that mom had called me. I knew that Brother Mac had called me. I knew that my brother was already in the ministry (he was our church’s Assistant Pastor), but I hadn’t felt the call. I went to my brother for counsel. I prayed and prayed. I waited for lightning to strike; something – anything…..nothing! That should have been my first clue, but it would be a half a lifetime before I would realize what that ‘nothing’ meant. At the time I just felt that I was not spiritual enough. I must not be sanctified enough for God to use. I must get holier! “God has to call me, he just has to call me!”

I was scared to death to try and preach, but was comfortable singing in front of people. My brother told me that maybe God was calling me to be a Minister of Music. Ah Hah!! That was it! I didn’t have to be a ‘preacher’ to be in God’s will and be ‘called’ into the ministry. I could be called to something that I loved. This was brilliant! The few times that I tried preaching (as a teen-ager) were miserable, boring flops. But put some music behind me and I could take an audience to rapturous heights of praise and worship. By all accounts I had a beautiful voice and could sing with the ‘anointing’ of the Holy Spirit. People would close their eyes and raise their hands. Tears would stream down their cheeks as my tenor voice soared to angelic heights. I was good and I knew I was good…..but it was all God’s doing. He had blessed me and my talent was all for his glory.

After Rufus went away to College, I started another gospel group. We were called ‘Salvation Song’ and we toured Southern California singing at Youth Rallies and Conventions for our organization. We became regulars at the Ventura ‘coffee house’ scene (coffee house ministries sprung up all over Southern California in the late 60’s & early 70’s as part of the ‘Jesus Movement’ that started at Calvary Chapel of Newport Beach, CA).

Things were really popping! I was doing God’s work. Souls were being saved, God was using me. I was already in the ministry…..then BAM! I got drafted into the U.S. Army!
What was going on? Why didn’t you keep me out of the Army God? How can you use me if I’m dead?

My church prayed over me and sent me off to war. I was scared shitless, but I must do my duty. Go kill a commie for Christ. The blood of Jesus would protect me, hallelujah.

After basic training I was selected to go to Chaplain’s school and become a Chaplain’s Assistant…..Yipee, God was back in control! He knew what he was doing all the time. I was assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas. Whew, no Viet Nam for me - Thank You, Jesus!

El Paso, Texas in 1971 was just beginning to feel the Jesus movement. I started another gospel group and began performing at the El Paso, Jesus Chapel (patterned after Calvary Chapel). In the year that I was there, I saw that chapel service grow from a handful of street kids, to hundreds and hundreds, packed into that rented, Lutheran sanctuary, every Friday night. Eventually we started an off-shoot ‘Jesus Chapel’ on base. We packed my chapel on Saturday nights with soldiers. I was flying high! God was using me. I was in the center of his will. I was in Ministry! Life was GREAT!!

Then, just one year into this amazing time….WHAM! I received orders to go to Viet Nam! What? Why? God, what are you doing? Texas is where I should be. This is where it is ‘happening’. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?

Next Chapter – Viet Nam, the longest year of my life!