thinking what

Have you ever tried to step onto a running treadmill? I did ...........once!
That’s the best way to describe how Birdie and I looked when we changed addresses in January 1997 and set the first performance and public opening of the amphitheatre for May 22, 1997!


What were we thinking?!

After the lease was signed to occupy King’s Arena, the property manager told us that a national entertainment group had previously shown interest in the amphitheater area but backed out when they estimated it would take $2,000,000.00 to restore it and produce a show.

That was encouraging news!
We received a desperately-needed donation - $400,000.00, and started writing checks.
Lighting - $100,000.00.
Electricians - $30,000.00.
Marketing - $35,000.00.
Lumber, building supplies, liability insurance, property insurance, and the list went on.

I was accustomed to talking about money in terms of hundreds. Now we talked in tens-of-thousands.

There was no money incoming, so with every check we wrote, we watched the balance going down.

The word spread that something was “going on” at the “old amphitheatre.” Most people were confused about who we were and where we came from. If they didn’t know our story, they made one up.
Some said Jim Bakker was behind it all.
Some said Dr. Joe and his mega-church were underwriting us.
Some said we were RICH, RETIRED executives from Kentucky!

Retired!?...not likely!
People had a hard time believing that anyone would take on such an enormous and expensive task with no resources and no Plan B. They thought there had to be more to the story.
A secret stash.
An anonymous benefactor.
Something more “believable” than simple, bare-naked faith.

We say God is all-sufficient. We sing “He is all we need.” But it’s a different matter to lose it and prove it.

When we reflect about those days, the phrase that comes up most is, “What were we thinking?”
But that may be the secret of our success. We were so child-like in this beginning. Like anxious toddlers we stood at the deep end of a pool, and when the Father said, “Jump! I’ll catch you!”
We jumped!

It didn’t take so much courage as it took sheer, unabashed trust. And God was able to do an incredible thing.

Courage lays the burden at my feet. Trust, at the feet of Jesus.

Along with the bills, came big decisions.
The last biblical show we had performed was, “TWO THIEVES & A SAVIOR.” So “which show” to open with was the easiest decision we had to make. Plus, the wonderful people at First Baptist Church, Pikeville, KY donated the specialty capes and several biblical costumes. That was a life-saver!

We scheduled auditions and ended up with 100-ish people. We conducted rehearsals anywhere we could find electricity and a roof over our heads - typically inside one of the musky, unused buildings surrounding the amphitheater. It was so cold that we told the cast to wear warm clothes because there might not be any heat.

chapel rehearsal
guys rehearsing
birdie near piano
ladies rehearsing
angels rehearsing

All the while, the hard labor of renovating the amphitheater continued every waking moment.

Little by little, it started coming together.
The top of the amphitheater went from this ... to this.

top of amphitheatre
roof top
scrubbing steps
trash at top
more trash
renovated amphitheatre entrance

The palace ...

original palace
palace roof
painting palace
painting palace
working on palace
biblical palace

The temple ...

original temple
hilda resting
temple top
biblical temple finished

The old Heritage USA lights were rusted on the poles. We had to have them so we chiseled them down, pried them open, removed wasp nests, sanded off the rust, repaired the wiring, replaced the 2000 watt bulbs and – wah lah – we had more lights.

sanding lights
rusted lights

The amphitheater landscaping had grown so large that some of the set was hidden. We cleaned, cut, trimmed, soiled and planted.

original garden
original landscape
moving rocks
cleaning pond
planting garden
finished landscape

Then, there were the restrooms!!! Now, the bathrooms were a feat in both humility and stamina!

awful toilets
repairing bathrooms
repairing restrooms
insulating bathrooms
repairing bathrooms
painting bathrooms

The task was exhausting. It was like a lumberjack in a log-rolling contest. We just kept kicking, trying to stay on top of the log. We knew if we slowed down, we were sunk.
Well, my brother Joe was known to take an occasional break when I wasn’t looking!

joe sleeping

Then one day, we walked through the gates of King’s Arena, tired, overwhelmed, afraid... and for the first time we realized: We’re going to make it!!

One piece of rotten lumber replaced...
One bill paid that cleared...
One load of trash hauled out...
One stroke of a paint brush...
One small step after another...using the wisdom that we got from that step, to light the way for the next.

Then one day we stood alone at the top of the amphitheater and said: THIS is what we were thinking!

renovated amphitheatre