It was February 1972, when the “Jesus-hippies” asked to visit our church.
An invisible line had been drawn in the church carpet. Some of the congregation were adamantly against having the Jesus-hippies come with their beaded necklaces, peace signs, psychedelic-painted vans, and message of love.
Their music was too loud. The hippy girls with their flowing flower-power dresses and the long-haired, bearded guys with torn jeans, we’re too wild for the tastes of many in our congregation.
“These freaks will ruin our kids.” The arguments continued. It seemed the hippies would lose.
Then my childhood Sunday School teacher quietly affirmed, “You need to hear their message—it may give our kids exactly what they need. ”
Perhaps it was God’s poetic way of ending the argument—having the woman who had introduced all the church’s children to Jesus, speak words of reconciliation.
The hippies came and youth from all over town came to hear the music and the messages that followed.
Red checkered tablecloths covered round tables, and candles burned in old wine bottles in the same place where Bible studies had been just the week before. I’m certain there were raised eyebrows from some of the congregation. But every evening, youth arrived eager to listen.
The hippies stayed with some church families. A girl named Joy slept on a cot in my bedroom. During the meetings, I saw some school friends shedding tears that gave way to hugs filled with hope. I had no idea the anguish some of them had been living through. Yet, they walked away with Jesus.
On the final night, I sat alone in the back of our beautiful sanctuary. The hippies’ pastor and wife came and sat on either side of me. We talked about all that had transpired over the past days. Then the pastor asked if I knew Jesus. I didn’t really—not in the life-changing way they all did. That night, without any music or fanfare, I was able to piece together enough of the Jesus puzzle, that I could see the picture for myself.
Did my life change? Yes. But not in the way I expected. A year and a half later, my parents divorced, divided their belongings, and sold our family home. Everything familiar was now different. But I had something holding me together while the life I knew was breaking apart. It was Jesus.
A group of young Jesus-loving hippies helped prepare my heart. I didn’t know what was ahead, but God did.
That was over fifty years ago. I never had the chance to thank those Jesus hippies for traveling from church to church—or thank my childhood Sunday School teacher who wasn’t afraid to let them come because she knew it was a message that was needed.
Since then I’ve learned there can be lots of different messengers, but if it’s the right message about Jesus, it will be life changing.