with Teresa Brown
The day the phone rang was like having a giant bowl of popcorn and tripping on the way to the couch and everything in the bowl just got tossed into the air.
Something happened that year. I don’t mean a specific “event” or issue. Our spirit was troubled. Something wasn’t right.
It was like a homesick feeling. The feeling you get when you want to stay somewhere forever but you know it’s time to go.
I remember standing in the house and making this statement to Birdie: “By the time we are forty years old, NarroWay will be something.” I don’t remember what we were discussing or why I said it.
I felt a whole lot like Jacob in Genesis 32:24-26. The Bible recounts the story where Jacob wrestled with the Lord. The struggle was difficult and long but Jacob would not let go until God blessed him.
When God has had you long, long, long on the potter’s wheel - shaping, pressing, forming, pushing, spinning - making you into the vessel he needs. There is a struggle when it is time to pry that damp, vulnerable clay off the wheel.
We shared an office. On the morning of April 24, 1996 we had prayed out loud for some reason.
I was at my desk at one end of the office. Rebecca was on the opposite side. I prayed first.
I remember nothing about the prayers except what I declared in my last sentence:
“God, no church is in control of our destiny.
No man (as in human being) is in control of our destiny.
YOU are in control of our destiny and we commit to do whatever you want us to do.”
And the phone rang.
The secretary said, “Rebecca, your sister Teresa is on the phone.”
It wasn’t unusual for us to call or get a call from Tessie. We had talked to her just the day before. What was unusual was her message.
We’ll let Tessie tell you how she remembers it.
TERESA MARTIN BROWN –
There was a great unrest in our spirits. On April 23, 1996 we talked on the phone and committed to diligently seek God’s direction. There was a push away from where we were and a pull to something broader. But to what or where we didn’t know, nor could we imagine.
The next day, on April 24, my quiet time led me to Jeremiah 32. Oddly enough, as I read the verses which were intended for Israel, I sensed God was speaking to me, personally. No longer was I simply reading about the promises God made to His chosen people of old. Suddenly there was a message in those words for Birdie, Rebecca and me.
In my mind’s eye I began to see another place not far from me, in Fort Mill, SC. It was a place that once had great significance in the Kingdom of God – the old Heritage USA. Just as Israel failed to remain faithful, this holy ground, too, had fallen with its leader, televangelist Jim Bakker.
I saw it as I read: “And they came in and took possession of it, but they did not obey Thy voice or walk in Thy law; they have done nothing of all that Thou commanded them to do; therefore, Thou hast made all this calamity come upon them.”
Birdie and Rebecca had a reputation for putting on amazing, Broadway-style biblical productions. At this moment, the Lord allowed me to envision their ministry in this rundown, boarded-up amphitheater on those desecrated grounds.
I knew it would be a difficult undertaking – not only to restore the ruins and create a working theater but even to secure permission to perform there. But God answered me in 32:27,
“Behold I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”
So I claimed that amphitheater for Rebecca and Birdie – to be returned to the glory of God.
I claimed broken walls and light poles with broken lights and toilets that wouldn’t flush.
I claimed decaying set structures and crumbling concrete.
I claimed a sound system that didn’t exist and money to renovate that hadn’t been promised.
And I claimed it all because I believed Jeremiah 33:10:
“Thus says the LORD, ‘In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man and beast.’ Yet again there shall be heard in this place the voice of joy,
and the voice of gladness,
the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride,
the voice of those who say,
‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.’”
I thanked God for what He was about to do. Then I picked up the phone.
And that was the day the phone rang.
These are the notes Tessie wrote in the margins of her Bible as she read Jeremiah 32 and 33.