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Chapter 1. The Skid Row Church

January 8, 2010

The Skid Row Church

A flashing red neon sign interrupted the dark.  The Salvation Army Rescue Mission across the street was hard not to notice. The homeless drifted up and down the sidewalk looking for a hand out. The window of the new storefront church had a hand scrawled welcome sign inviting one and all to come in.

As the door opens, the smell of fresh paint announces the recent renovations. Battleship Gray paint was on the walls, the old wooden floor and on the home made benches. Everything in the church was painted gray except the pulpit and the piano.

The piano had been pushed up against the wall on the main floor. Sitting close to the six-inch high platform. It was positioned to the left of the pulpit. The pastor’s wife played sweetly. It was like she was anointed. She sat facing the wall, but when she looks into the antique mirror fastened on the old upright, she can see her husband, the pastor and watch for his direction. Oh how they sing! They sang with all their heart. The presence of the Lord was easily felt.

There were no songbooks or microphones. A tambourine and the rhythm of hands clapping complemented the evening worship service. The pastor’s small children sat respectful and quiet. They knew not to play during church.

There are five children in the pastor’s family. The oldest was barely in his teens. They live in a migrant farm workers camp. The one room, clapboard shanty has been their home for a year. The shack they live in has no running water, no electricity, but it does have a wooden cook stove. The restroom facilities are about 200 feet away. One double bed, a built-in bunk bed and pallets on the floor provided sleeping arraignments for them. Their little “house” looked just like the 75 or so others in the worker’s camp. Unpainted, no lawn, no porch, just shelter.

The whole family had picked apples in the local orchards when they had first arrived. It was harvest time. The ladders that the fruit pickers used, leaned tediously against the tree limbs. Canvas bags were strapped around the laborer’s necks that held the apples, and became very heavy very fast. It was not easy work. It was piece rate labor.

Everyone one else living at “Schwarter’s Station was Hispanic. Their light skin stood out. The pastor finally got a day job at Libby’s Cannery and his wife worked nights at Del Monty’s Cannery to help make ends meet. Their 14 year old son learned to help cook for the family on the old wood cook stove.

An older retired couple had lived in town for several years and had not gone to church anywhere because there was not a Jesus Name church in the area. They had grown cold spiritually. Now, they had rejoiced over the prospect of having a church in town. They were more than glad to help the new pastor start a church.

They found pails of old gray paint in the barn and felt, that though it might not would look pretty, at least it would make the place look clean. There also was enough lumber in the shed to make a small platform and eight benches.

Counting the old drunk on the front row that only came inside because of the weather, there were ten people present and five of them were children. The drunk awoke during the altar call and left. The faithful few gathered around the front. They were disappointed that one got away. There was always a next time, if Jesus tarried.

The small group had no support from anyone, just a burden for souls.

This is Home Missions!

(The Church is Yakima, WA is still thriving today.)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2010 8:42 pm

    My friend, as you well know it was those simple people with a real burden for the lost that gave us much of the heritage we cherish. The other day we welcomed a new bible college into our fellowship. They had sent us photos of the dedication of this little block building with dirt floors in South India. I wept when I noticed that the people were bare foot. No shoes, no service at the big churches in America, but in India, God was blessing his people who are hungry for him.

    Great blog. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. January 8, 2010 3:02 pm

    Great idea for a blog. Congratulations. Wish you well.

  3. Carlene Branham permalink
    January 8, 2010 10:58 pm

    What a lot of memories that brought!!!! Wow!!

  4. January 9, 2010 10:27 am

    Great idea and great writing.

  5. January 11, 2010 1:49 pm

    You put me in mind of my teen years, when I lived, with my Mom and Dad, in one room in the back of a Recue Mission, at 217 East Washington Street, in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

    My Dad was the Baptist Lay Preacher, and Mom was the Piano player and COOK, for all the
    skidrow rejects. When the meeting was over, all the men fed and gone, lights out, we were in bed, I could hear scores of big Cockroaches running across the walls. Mama, would suddenly pull the string to turn on the single light, hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room, and all those big, inch long, Roaches would scurry up the wall, to hide behind a picture Mom had hanging there. She then took the broom, turned it sideways, and slammed it against the picture, and a dozen Roaches would fall out, dead. She didn’t have that good of results with the foot long Rats in the narrow alley, out side our back door.

    It was there, at 15 years of age, that learned to start making my own way in life. I would get up very early and get on a big truck, with 15 or so other adults and kids, to go out to the little towns of England and Coy, to pick cotton. My buddy, was a black boy my same age, named ROOSEVELT. He and I would be talking, stopped picking cotton, his Mama saw us and yelled to him, R O O S E V E L T!! stop talking with that white boy, and PICK that cotton.

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