Friday, February 28, 2014

Finding Each Other, Part 6

Continued from Part 5

Hinsdale, Illinois   Spring 1999

Dwight Fredrickson may have told us not to go to Chicago together for fun, but he underestimated the characters he had linked together through friendship forged in the heat of that Oklahoma City warehouse. Our ATI parents may have smashed our television, burned books and Cabbage Patch dolls on the barbecue grill, and kept us from going to college, but now one of our superpowers was to wring drops of pleasure out of nearly anything. So when Bill Gothard's brother-in-law wanted recruits to come along to pray and preach at Pacific Garden Mission on Thursday night, we all signed up!

I had grown up listening to "Unshackled", until Mom decided the stories were too racy for young ears, and Dad had shown us the short film "The Miracle on State Street" many times. To a history buff and evangelical Christian, PGM was practically a shrine! When we arrived, we met Phil Garvin and his wife Anne who ushered us into a room I recognized from the movie. Phil's IBLP office phone rang at my desk when he was away, and I frequently took messages for him. Anne was Bill Gothard's estranged older sister. For simplicity's sake, I accepted that her critiques of her brother had some merit. I certainly wasn't defending him to anyone anymore.

"The Old Lighthouse", on State Street

The four of us participated in the prayers and listened to the altar call; Chris or Michael may even have given a "testimony" to the all-male audience. To me, it was like reenacting a scene from one of my books. The evening's events likely made a more lasting impression on me than they did on any of the men who were merely present to get a bed that night. I had always thought of the down-and-out as spiritually needy, but many of these guys seemed to lack the intellectual capacity to "accept Jesus".

Far from being rebels, we four were zealously obedient to both the commands of Jesus and Gothard's "principles". We actually believed in the "umbrella of authority" and "strongholds" and we thought Gothard did, too! If we had realized then what we came to find out later, we would have had a lot more fun! But that winter, it was enough that we got to enjoy each other's company. Even if it meant sitting in a circle on the rug in the Production Center's deserted lobby and reading Dickens aloud, or Winnie-the-Pooh, while Michael fidgeted and Lisa crocheted. I liked to read, but I also liked to listen to Chris's voice put the inflection on different parts of the familiar sentences.

Lisa moved back home not long after that. Her parents had granted a suitor permission to court her, and courtship was incompatible with employment at IBLP. I hoped everything would work out and Lisa would be happy. Her expectations for a husband seemed different from mine, but after all, we were very different people. I still had a serious crush on our former coworker, but that was that. It was unlikely we would ever meet again.

Losing Lisa left a gap in our ranks. But we soon found ways to correct the imbalance in the CLink. Miss Julie* was a staff woman (with some seniority) who loved to shop but didn't drive. I was more than happy to drive her to T.J. Maxx if she filled out the paperwork to borrow an Institute vehicle! And with a "real adult" along, the dating question didn't come up. One adventurous evening, Miss Julie took us all to a Chinese restaurant, or rather we took her. She ordered for all of us--in Chinese--strange dishes that weren't on the menu. We had such fun over dinner, eating sharp dried fish, playing chopstick games she taught us and listening to folklore from her culture. Later we drove all the way to Naperville in search of a 24-hour Walmart. Miss Julie had a mischievous streak and a strong sense of humor. She entertained us with stories of her adventures in learning English and I laughed till I had to pee. We got back late that night, worn-out but so happy.

One weekend when spring had come to stay, Chris's parents came up to visit and "signed us out", so to speak, to go sightseeing with them. I know we got some kind of permission from somebody for Michael and I to go out to dinner with them, and we decided over manicotti to assume the permission covered the entire weekend. We all piled into Chris's two-door Nissan Pulsar (Michael's sedan had a flat tire and Chris was by far the better driver). I sat tightly against Michael in the middle of the backseat, trying not to crowd Chris's mom! But to us, the closeness was a small sacrifice. We were free in the sunshine and headed for the city!

And we packed a ton of fun into that weekend. Dinner at Olive Garden, the dolphin show at the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium (the girl who ran the Atwood Sphere had a stud in her tongue that we still talk about), lunch at Wendy's, Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio, ice cream bars, and stuffed pizza at Giordano's! I was almost giddy with the excitement.

Chris's parents were good sports about letting Michael and I tag along like their adopted kids. Every time his dad got out the camera, I made sure Michael was between Chris and me. Back at the office, we introduced his parents to Miss Julie, and I snapped a photo of them standing with Chris in her office. Little did I think how much that photo would represent later on.

Picked up next at Life at IBLP Headquarters.

*Names are pseudonyms.


  1. Are you continuing this series soon?

  2. Part of what's amazing to the outside observer is how many times you mention going to the Olive Garden as being a big thrill!