Saturday, July 25, 2009

What Happened in Wayne's Basement

When Wayne Shuart was designing his new construction home, the Spirit inspired him to include a large basement meeting room in the design. It was the 1960's and Wayne and his wife, Mary, were committed to doing what they could to reach college students for Christ. I was no college student -- I was maybe 16 when I visited their home those several times. But Wayne's willingness to listen to his inspiration and act upon it allowed that basement to become a sort of holy place in the lives of literally hundreds of people -- both young and old.

Last night, I sat in a living room with Wayne and Mary and some other friends from my long ago days in Phoenix. Decades have flown by since we first became part of each others lives and stories. So many years have past since I first descended those steps leading down to the Shuart's basement meeting room for their Sunday night gathering known simply as "Fellowship in Jesus", but memories of what I experienced there remain crisp and alive. And not just for me. As our little group swapped stories full of agony and ecstasy, it was eminently clear that our various simple commitments to open our lives to whatever God had for us back then had taken each of us places we could have never imagined.

Fellowship in Jesus was not a big part of my early Christian experience, but my visits there allowed me to see what happened when an eminently "straight" couple openend their home to "whosoever will". When things first began in the Shuart's home, they were highly involved in Campus Crusade for Christ with a mission to reach local college students. But both the Shuarts and their dear friends the Selbys were committed to opening their lives to anyone God sent. This meant that there were many nights when drug-toting hippies would be seated next to scrubbed down cheerleaders while the lights were dimmed low and the praise, worship, prophecy and spontaneous prayers bubbled up. Last night, Wayne said he can still remember the sound of the toilet flushing upstairs as person after person concluded they didn't need to hold on to their precious stash of drugs any longer.

The Shuart's and Selby's were not "ministry professionals". Fellowship in Jesus was not their "job". It was their avocation -- the simple gift of their lives and household square footage offered back to God to use as He would in the lives of people He sent there. And, over the years, He sent hundreds. Wayne and Mary say they still meet people who, upon finding out who they are, tearfully tell them: "you won't remember me, but being in your basement changed my life". At one point, Fellowship had grown to a network of nine house churches informally knit together by the role the Selbys and Shuarts played in the lives of the couples who were launched out from their home to start meetings of their own.

Wayne says that he and Mary and Herb and Helen, though clearly responsible as "leaders", refused to call themselves by that title. "We didn't call ourselves leaders", Wayne said last night. "We called ourselves 'servants'". And they insisted that other "leaders" they raised up -- and there were dozens of them -- do the same.

When Wayne heard I was coming to town and that he and Mary were invited to join a few of us for a casual evening of fellowship, he did not remember me. This was no surprise to me since the meetings were quite large -- at times perhaps as many as 100 squeezed into that subterranean rec room. But, for some reason, Mary did recall my name and, to my delight, brought Wayne to our little get together. But oh how I remember them and the wonderful way they facilitated Spirit-transformed lives.

Before the evening was over, I was on my knees before Wayne and Mary and before my other friends asking for the Shuart's blessing. Those who know me understand that this is a very deliberate request that I have made of a select few people in my life. But there are times when I sense the Spirit inspiring me to ask for the blessing of particularly great Christians. Wayne and Mary are such people -- servants indeed -- and examples of those who has lived their lives in a simple, dedicated and continuing state of openess to the Lord and to the people God sends their way. Last night, I was more glad than ever to have been one of them.

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