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"For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves."
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LANCASTER

 A DESERT CALL

I was convinced that the city of Monrovia was exactly where God had placed me – not in a conservative Bible College which could have killed a vision that was stirring in me.

I liked the Assembly of God church and obtained a new job with World Vision helping pack relief ministry barrels.  I felt like I was growing in my understanding of the Christian faith and relationship with God through prayer.  World Vision provided scheduled chapel times for all employees, and Pastor Huffey continued to mentor me through teaching and preaching and going out into the community with me as we shared our faith in Jesus Christ.  I continued to see Mary Feister and a Hispanic Christian barber I'd become friends with. Overall, things were going good.

Prayer continued to fuel my spiritual life, but I started hearing the name ‘Lancaster’ during times when I was in a listening posture in prayer.  I couldn't figure it out.  Was it a person, place, something in the Bible?  I didn't know, but almost every week – I’d hear that name.  Finally – I got out a map and located a city with that name in the high desert north of LA. This intrigued me. One Sunday after church I spoke with Pastor Huffey about it.

“Pastor, over the past month, I've been hearing the name Lancaster during times of prayer. Have you ever had anything like this happen to you?”

“Well, yes.” Pastor continued, “It’s happened several times when God was calling us to do something, or let go of something.  God can speak in any variety of ways David, but you have to be careful about what you act on.  Was that all you heard?”

“Yes,  just ‘Lancaster.’  I've located a city with that name, north of L.A. in the desert.”

“Well David, you just can't take it for granted that this is God speaking – so go slow and keep listening.  What exactly do you think God might be saying?”

“He might be asking me to go there.”

“You have a good job at World Vision, you're getting grounded spiritually and growing nicely.  This could very well be Satan trying to uproot you before you’re ready.  I'll pray for you about this, but I wouldn't rush off into this just yet.”

I knew Pastor had my best interest at heart and this caution was for my well-being. The facts were, I didn't know anyone in Lancaster, had no promise of work and had never been there before.  I decided to give the whole subject a rest – but as the weeks past – the name Lancaster continued to surface.       

Dave's 1st good Bible

I decided to ask Mary for her take on the subject and visited the Bible Bookstore she owned.  The door jingled as I entered.  “Hi Mary”– and she quickly appeared from the backroom.  

“Well hello David, what can I do for you today?   How are things going for you?”

“Things are good.  Church, work, and witnessing are going well – and I love the Bible you gave me!  I'm reading and learning a lot.”

“I knew you would be.  So what brings you in today?  Do you need more tracts?”

“No, but I need to ask you a few questions about prayer and something that's been going on.”

“Fire away!”

“About two months ago – the word ‘Lancaster’ started coming to my mind during prayer.  I wasn’t sure if it was a person or a place, and it continues.  Out of curiosity I looked up the name on a map and found there is a city with this name in the high desert above Los Angeles.  I’m wondering if God wants me to go there.

Pastor Huffey told me to be careful and not do anything rashly, and I respect him and understand his concern.  After talking things over with him, he told me to keep listening and go slow, reminding me that I have a good job at World Vision and am still getting grounded in the faith.  The reason I’ve come to you is – I need your input on how God speaks to us in prayer.”  

“David, this is an important area of discernment for every Christian.  If God never spoke to us about specific things – as some believe, we would never know His fresh leading.  What frightens some Christians is how misuse occurs – like the person who arrogantly and frequently says, ‘God told me this’!  This person assumes that their own thoughts are God speaking – which is most often not the case at all!  But, to be closed to God's voice, ignore Him, or attribute the voice of the Holy Spirit to the devil is an equal danger.  

“When I returned to the USA after many years in the mission field, the doctors didn’t think I would survive the Malaria strain I’d picked up.  After a lengthy recovery I finally got well.  Gradually, I began to think about a Christian bookstore during prayer.  I kept praying and listening and eventually became convinced that God was telling me to step out in faith and open this bookstore as a mission for Him.  At the time I only had seven hundred dollars in savings – but somehow I have been able to pay all my bills and gradually grow this store with God’s help.  The full confirmation of this call came when I was actually doing what the Lord had spoken to me in prayer about and now seeing how He opened up a new mission field.    

“What we each need to do is carefully and prayerfully ask God to reveal His leading to us in an unmistakable way.  Most missionaries like me have heard a specific call in the depths of our soul to go somewhere and proclaim Jesus' love.  And it’s hard to discern the difference between what we want and His perfect undeniable will, because sometimes they’re the same.  What I mean is, God may put a certain people on our heart, and we seek a position on the mission field ministering to these people.  There is nothing wrong with that. 

“I appreciate Pastor Huffey's concern for you and agree with Him for the most part – considering his caution and counsel to be wise.  On the other hand – if the Lord persists in telling you something, which seems to be the case, it presents another possibility.  Since you have no personal interest or selfish motive in going to Lancaster, it could be that God is calling you there.  I don’t know – but when God speaks, it is usually very clear, persistent, and doesn’t go away. From what you’ve said, this is what's been happening with you.  I cannot counsel you one way or the other, because this is one of those times when it’s ‘you and God.’  You are the only one who can know how God is speaking to you.”

“Is there any way I can be sure?”

“Well, you mentioned the Lord was teaching you about fasting and prayer.  This would be an excellent question to fast and pray about.  Ask God for a clear sign and confirmation – that it's definitely His voice.  Ask Him to reveal more to you about Lancaster.  Ask Him if this is someplace where He has a work for you to do?  When I think back to when I was your age, I was open to God's leading and that's what put me on the mission field.  And, being where God wanted me was the best place to be!  My parents feared for my safety and longed for me to have a secure life, but Jesus called me to walk with Him down a dusty dirt path among tribal people.  When it's all said and done, it's all about listening to God and obeying His still small voice and doing what He has called and gifted us for in this life.  Have you ever read about how God spoke to Elijah on a mountain and called him out of a cave where he was hiding?”

“I don’t think so.”

Lightning, Fire, Smoke over the mountains

Taking her Bible, Mary turned to I Kings chapter 19 saying, “I’ll read a portion of this account – but it would be good for you to read this carefully yourself to grasp the background of what had already occurred.

“Verses 11-13 read: ‘So, God called to Elijah in the cave and told him to go out and stand on the mountain as the Lord Almighty was about to pass by.  [But Elijah was afraid and stayed inside the cave.] ‘Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.’

“This ‘gentle whisper’ or ‘still small voice,’ as the King James Bible renders it, is the voice of the Lord.  The wind, earthquake and fire were powerful, but God’s voice is heard in quietness.  This is why Jesus taught us to go into our own private prayer closet and pray – to slip away to a quiet place where we are not distracted and enter into God’s holy presence, surrendering our life, plans, and ambitions for the purpose of doing His will.  It takes time, but every Christian should learn how to recognize God’s voice, if they hope to be led by Him.  Churches are full of people who do almost everything in their own steam – their own way – with the wrong motivations. Seeking God and asking for His plans seems foolish to them!  Sad. 

“So, as Paul the Apostle said, ‘stand firm in the truth of the gospel’ and pray to be able to hear His voice and recognize when He is speaking.     

“No person can give you an answer about ‘Lancaster,’ but I can encourage you to pray and keep praying.  He'll show you!  Allow the Word of God from the Scriptures to speak to you as well.  Often we get a confirmation of something we're praying about from the Bible.  Fasting will help you in this process, and I'll be praying along with you.  Now, is there anything else I can help you with today?”

“I don't think so.  Thanks Mary!”

On Mary’s advice, I began a fast and continued praying.  Fasting was a good spiritual discipline – as I endeavored to focus my mind and heart on the things of the Lord and his Word.  After a couple of days my appetite began to taper off and food wasn’t on my mind as much.  I drank water and some fruit and vegetable drinks if I began to feel weak at work.  Over all, it was a cleansing feeling and my concentration and spiritual hunger sharpened considerably.

One evening while reading the Scriptures I came across the verses below:

“Some wandered in desert wastelands finding no way to a city where they could settle.  They were hungry and thirsty and their lives ebbed awayThen they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and  He delivered them from their distress.  He led them to a straight way – to a city where they could settle.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds to men, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:4-9 NIV).

Compass on map to Lancaster

These verses seemed to jump off the pages of my Bible as a confirmation.  The city of Lancaster was a medium sized desert town near Palmdale.  Psalm 107 was loaded with various stories of deliverance and God reaching out to those in desperate straits.  It seemed like a long-shot but I was open, sensing a responsibility to follow God's lead. The more I prayed the more convinced I was – I had a destiny with a place called ‘Lancaster, California.’

It was difficult to bring up the subject to Pastor Huffey, because I knew he would be sad to see me go and probably with good reason feel I wasn’t ready, so I kept praying for the right timing.  

Slowly but surely a nest egg of savings began to grow.  During prayer the Lord gave me a peace about taking this step with Him into the unknown.  I received a number of Bible verses that strengthened my resolution to press forward – trusting God to be with me.  By now I had enough money to last a number of months – which at this time in my life was more than I was used to.

Two weeks before leaving, I finally got enough courage to tell Pastor what my plans were.  As expected, he wasn’t excited – but more worried for my well-being.  We hugged on my last Sunday in church, and he said he would not forget me in his prayers.  I thanked him and we said goodbye.  It seemed like my decision hurt him, and I felt sad about it.

Suitcase in hand I bought a one-way ticket and boarded a Greyhound Bus, destination California's high desert and the city of Lancaster.  A little apprehensive yet faith-filled, I’d be trying out my spiritual wings – testing what I believed to be God's voice sending me.  

Lancaster was a flat, spread-out town surrounded by a sandy, brush-filled terrain of brown and silver green – an ideal setting for more rabbits than I'd ever seen in my life.  The first day I landed a job at the local car wash – not the ideal work, but it would do until I could find something better. It was early fall – the winds were cold, the pay was minimal, the work was hard, but I was thankful!  It helped me afford a room rental by the week without dipping into what I had saved.

Not many people were out and about on the streets like other places I'd lived – but with the passing of each day I felt I was here for a purpose.  Two more positive signs came in the way of finding a home church at Foursquare Gospel where I was welcomed, and an additional blessing of being invited to live with an older Christian couple who attended there, for a very minimal rent.

The couple that invited me into their home were the Blazedales, but they insisted I call them Ma and Pa. They were among a growing list of loving Christian people God would bring into my life who believed in me and were excited about the vision of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those outside of the church.

In addition to a job, home church, and a place to live, I met a guy my age named Christian who used to be a druggie in town, but had joined the military and found Christ while enlisted.  Sitting in a coffee shop he told me about his journey, and we both shared stories of our conversion to Jesus Christ.  What amazed me was that almost all of the local drug-dealers were his old friends, and he was hoping to find a way to share Christ with them.  I told him how God had led me to Lancaster, and we both sensed this was a teaming-up to share Christ – that God had arranged it.  My new friend’s military leave was only a week, so we decided to make the rounds of as many of his old friends as possible and see what would happen.  We prayed and sensed a oneness of purpose to lift up the name of Jesus.

Christian had wheels, so he picked me up and we drove to house of an old buddy.  He was home, and another friend of Christian’s was there too.  Both were high on something.  They offered us drugs, but we declined and made some small talk to change the subject.  Both of us shared a smattering of our testimonies, and just as we began telling them why God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins, something bizarre happened to both of them.  One began shaking uncontrollably and the other began to cry in sobs.

“What's up?” I said, looking at Christian.  “I don't have a clue,” he blurted out.  I hoped they weren't on bad drugs. Both of us were alarmed, especially about the one who was shaking – hoping he wasn’t overdosing.  How would we call an emergency vehicle?  What if the police showed up and we got popped with them if a drug stash was found?   There was also the possibility that the one shaking could die. How would we explain this?  We stayed with them over the next ten to twenty minutes until it appeared the reaction we'd witnessed subsided.  Relieved, we asked, “What’s going on?”

Both said they had taken a hefty hit of drugs right before we arrived but were now both straight.  They couldn’t figure out what brought them down so quickly.  Then, the clincher came.  They both asked us to tell them how they could receive Jesus Christ. 

Christian and I were both in awe.  We hadn’t completed our testimonies or told them much about what Jesus Christ did on the cross to forgive and pay for human sin.  We had no idea that God was working mysteriously, doing something deep inside each one to get them to a place of being totally straight so they could invite Him into their lives.  This was the first of a number of miracles that confirmed that God was fully in charge and He was going to do something amazing in Lancaster.

Thanks to the Blazedales – I didn’t have to worry about a roof over my head or food.  Ma Blazedale was a great cook, and  I was working steady now, doing heavy manual labor busting up and carrying concrete from a huge storage barn, and also herding and loading turkeys part-time when the work was there.  Neither were gravy jobs, and I was exhausted at the end of every day. One night, after a grueling work day, I experienced a serious Satanic attack in my sleep.   

In a half-awake, half-asleep state – I sensed a terrible evil presence in my room. Then I heard a voice whispering in a raspy voice, “I want you!” I knew it was Satan or one of his demons, but I felt paralyzed and I couldn't move to get up. My mouth seemed stopped with fear and I couldn't say the name Jesus. I kept fighting to gain control over my mouth and tongue and legs that just wouldn't move. The voice continued, “I want you!” in a cold and evil whisper. It was as if a dark cloud had settled over my room and I was under its power. Fighting the paralysis of fear I managed to crawl out of the bed and locate the light switch. As I turned it on I managed to stammer out the words, “In Jesus Name, the Lord rebuke you Satan!”  I felt in a cold sweat and stood there regaining my composure.

Angel with sword

Pa Blazedale heard me from the living room, knocked on my door, and asked what had happened.  I let him in and recounted the event.  He prayed with me and encouraged me to pray for God's protection every night before going to sleep. He challenged me to make an agreement with the Lord to read the Bible daily and memorize verses of protection.  He explained how perverse Satan is, seeking to torment us in our sleep, and added that I should ask for God's angelic protection over my sleeping hours.

I took it all to heart and never experienced that kind of fear again. Pa Blazedale also told me that the enemy would try to attack or intimidate us before or while God is doing something significant in our lives or ministry. I was grateful that I was learning how to stand firm in Jesus Christ against the spiritual forces of darkness.

The next day Christian called to tell me that the two who'd received Christ had told some of their friends who were also into the local drug scene, and they too were interested in meeting us and hearing about God. I told my pastor's son Gary Goodell about this and he was excited. He knew more of the Bible than both of us, and we invited him to join us in answering any questions that might arise.  We didn't know what to expect.

The venue for this event was a house party thrown by friends of the first two guys who had received Christ.  The word was out – it was an open-party.  When I heard this I felt overwhelmed.  How would we be able to share Christ in this setting?  We prayed tossed around a few ideas but didn’t know what to expect.

The night of the party arrived and people started arriving in a steady flow. The music was blasting – there was plenty of food and the home was quickly crowded – overflowing into the front and back yard.  Our new friends gave the rule – anybody doing drugs had to do them outside!  At their urging they decided that every half an hour or so they’d pull the plug on the music and have one of us who'd been a Christian for a while share our testimony or something from the Bible.  We did this, and the looks on the guests’ faces revealed surprised amazement.  Had they accidentally taken some religious drug?  What was going on?

Way Inn Team

Sometime in the middle of the evening God’s presence descended on the house.  It was like seeing eternity and walking in slow motion. Without human urging, people were being saved. God's Spirit was convicting many of their sin. They were asking for forgiveness and believing what they were hearing.  We were shocked!  The good news of Jesus Christ was impacting people’s hearts with power from the Holy Spirit, and genuine conversions were occurring supernaturally.  

From this night an initial core group was formed which would eventually start a discipleship ministry called ‘The Way Inn Ranch.’  The Lancaster Foursquare Gospel Church became our sponsor as well as our spiritual home.  Pastor Goodell Sr. helped baptize and teach many of the new believers in the ways of Jesus.     

Chapel at Way Inn

Christian returned to the military, and I stayed on to help as much as I was able.  Gary Goodell, our pastor’s son, had returned at just the right time and was influential in helping many of the new believers – through teaching and music.   

We rented an abandoned nursing home with spacious grounds located outside of town and began fixing it up. We restored the living quarters, dining hall / chapel, and other buildings – including a chicken coop, a pig pen, and a corral with several horses boarded on the grounds.  It was an ambitious endeavor for a group of city kids and ex-drug users – but God was doing the impossible. 

Explaining the events we’d experienced was beyond our ability.  We’d been lost, and God was obviously interested in seeing us find the truth and freedom.   And – Jesus Christ was the truth and giver of this freedom!  God was doing deep things inside of us that couldn’t be faked or fabricated – things to help us know with certainty that Jesus was the true Son of God.  His Holy Spirit was convincing us, changing our minds and hearts, and our sins were falling away.  Wow!

Dave painting a banner

Repainting the rooms at the old nursing home as well as making signs was getting into my blood. It was like putting down stakes and occupying territory for God’s kingdom – and I liked it. 

Strangely enough, almost all of our core-group were guys, which made life easier at the ranch.  We all had chores and were each growing at different levels spiritually.  We got a pig and laying hens, and even planted veggie gardens.

Up until now I'd never had a deep relationship with a woman, but in Lancaster I met and fell for a very beautiful Christian young lady.  I was smitten with love, and she too was interested.  In a relatively short time we became engaged.  Unfortunately our engagement was short-lived, as my flash-temper and jealousy spoiled things – and she cut it off.  It was humbling and discouraging, but I accepted that I was probably too immature for marriage and needed to wait.

The work of the ranch was fairly well established now, with Pastor Goodell Sr. and his son Gary in charge now.  I was more than OK with this.  A number of these early converts went on to Life Bible College in Los Angeles and a few into the ministry as pastors.  I never saw, or heard from Christian again, but God had allowed us to sow a few seeds, and He brought in the harvest!

Lancaster had been a place on the heart of God, and I'd learned a valuable lesson. Better to listen and obey than to get comfortable and shelve the voice of God.  Security is something we all gravitate to – but as Larry Normal would soon write, ‘We're only visiting this planet,’ and this life will soon be past. 

About this time I received a letter and phone call from Pastor Kent telling me about what was currently going on in the way of new outreach in the San Francisco Bay area, and he invited me to return and help.  With the break-up of my engagement, I'd already felt it might be time to move on, but this invitation helped nudge me toward the move.  This was going to be the beginning of many adventures to come . . .

                                                      

Golden wheatfiled with John 4:34-35

  TO BE CONTINUED

Dave Hoyt

Dave Hoyt and his wife Ginny reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He grew up a troubled teen in Los Angeles. In 1966 he moved to San Francisco’s ‘Haight District’ seeking truth and God. Reaching a crisis of belief in Eastern Religions – he turned to prayer and came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. He went on to be an early participant in the Jesus People Movement in the USA and Europe. He continues as a follower of Jesus Christ.


Read previous installments in David Hoyt's "Jesus Revolution" Series:

Part 1: Jesus People Days

Part 2: A Cry Rushed Upward to a Place Called Heaven

Part 3: Ripe for Change and Heart Revolution

Part 4: Recollections of My Search for Truth

Part 5: My Search - A Prelude to Finding God

Part 6: A Search for God Unraveling

Part 7: An Appointment with God

Part 8: Launched into a New Life

Part 9: A Steep Learning Curve

Part 10: God - An Incredible Teacher

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Last Update: 2017-07-24 18:57