No one is answering. Andy Hausted and Karla Martinez stand before a door refusing to open up. As Andy looks around, he notices two people in the backyard sitting on couches in a sort of outside porch area. The current ARISE Cornerstone track is making itself known for their energy and passion. Perhaps a shyer pair would have turned around and left, but Andy and Karla decided to approach the senior couple and ask.
Emma, the wife, is watching television and Bud, her husband, is simply relaxing enjoying the beautiful and precious Oregon sun in October. It’s an interesting setting. With a tree in the middle of their house, and couches outside creating a sort of outdoor living room. Introductions are made and Andy and Karla are invited to take a seat.
“In your opinion, is there a God?” Andy launches into the survey after the preliminaries.
“Yes, I believe in God,” Bud hesitates, pauses for a moment, then finishes, “but my experience with Him was not positive.” Andy and Karla ask for elaboration.
“A long time ago, as a child I was riding my bike. I was enjoying myself, having a good old time and then I remembered something. As soon as I remembered, I was horrified and quickly dismounted my bike. I hoped no one had seen me.”
“But it was too late,” Bud adds ominously. “It was Saturday and my dad had already seen me riding my bike.”
As it can be imagined, Andy and Karla at first were confused by the story and where it was headed. How does riding a bike have anything to do with an experience with God? Apparently, much in every way.
When Bud describes the consequences of his bike riding, they can’t help but be disgusted. “My dad sent me to the toolshed,” Bud explains, “and I waited there for two hours. Two hours I sat in the toolshed in solitary confinement and after that, my dad came. It was the worst beating of my life. You see,” Bud is looking to add context, “I had broken the Sabbath and my dad punished me for it.” Though Bud is no longer bitter sounding about this experience, the residue pain can still be felt. The two students show him sympathy as they begin to understand what bike rides could possibly have to do with God.
On behalf of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and your father, I just want to apologize for the way in which we misrepresented Jesus and God.
“When I came back from the Korean war,” Bud continues, “my dad took me to church. We were seated towards the front listening to the pastor speak. This is what he said, Look around you guys, do you see all these empty pews? You need to go out and evangelize to your neighbors. If they do not join this church, they will all be lost.”
“I was disgusted,” Bud states. “That was my last church experience.”
After a moment of silence, Andy and Karla sympathize. Andy notes on the disharmony in the pastor’s statement with the Scriptures. Church is not a place. Salvation is not in a building.
“Oh by the way, what church did your father go to?” Andy inquires with a bit of dread.
“He was a Seventh-day Adventist.”
A bomb dropped. Granted, they were already braced for this, but nevertheless, to hear such grievous offenses from someone with the same name, is not easy to swallow. Nor easy to handle. Even more nervous were they when Bud turns and asks, “What religion are you?”
“Funny enough,” not sure why Andy begins this way, “we are Seventh-day Adventists.” Bud and Emma would have been forgiven for immediately raising up barriers. They would be forgiven for, at the sound of this, politely ending the conversations and asking the students to leave. They would be forgiven for thanking them and sending them on their way. But they didn’t.
The Spirit then moves Andy to say, “On behalf of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and your father, I just want to apologize for the way in which we misrepresented Jesus and God. They are not like us. They are better.”
Bud relaxes. “I appreciate that.” His simple response breathes sincerity.
Andy and Karla are on their way out of the home. They had a great time and were there for over an hour—talking about war stories, connecting the Spanish speaking Karla with the Spanish speaking Emma, and discussing humorous stories about their usual lack of interest in religious proselytizers. Bud and Emma express, “We hate dealing with religious solicitors. This is different for us to be talking with you two. We like the different response.” By the end, the four were completely at ease with one another. The thought of being driven out of the home at the confession of their religion was completely gone. Andy and Karla were invited to return. No, they were encouraged to return for a meal and conversation.
“A lo que ustedes quieren, pueden venir,” Emma said.
“Come by any time, we are always here,” Bud reiterates.
“When will you be back?” Emma asked as she hugged them good bye.
Perhaps they may not get to a point where Bud is comfortable with studies, but as Andy and Karla seek table fellowship with them, the memory of fanatically legalistic Seventh-day Adventists may yet be replaced by these two young and bright eyed students. As they meet inside this home, with this tree growing large in the middle of it, perhaps they can bring to life a third experience with God: meals with Andy and Karla. And who knows, perhaps this last experience will outweigh, overstep, and grow up deep within their hearts, like a tree planted in the midst of their lives.
And this is ministry.
Andy Hausted and Karla Martinez are attending the 2012 ARISE Cornerstone Program.