24 April, 2011

The Faith Entry: The Salvation Army Major Players and More Details on Pt 2

I spent at total of almost 7 adult years of my life with this organization. They have the most spiritual influence on me both good and bad, mostly bad. They meant well, but in the end of the scheme of things, it simply wasn't a fit.

When I first became acquainted with The San Francisco Salvation Army Chinatown Corps, I was simply keeping the lady I was seeing pacified. This was the church she grew up in and it was important to her for me to attend. Ironically, she herself was not a regular attender, but I HAD TO be there. So for the most part, I attended their Friday College Fellowship after my Friday lion dance practice. This was a common occurrence in the summer of 1990. I was still living in Oakland, so my weekend commute to San Francisco began Friday morning after my classes at College of Alameda and ended Monday morning when I left "Cindy's*" North Beach apartment. I had enough seniority at my movie theater job in Oakland such that I was not needed to be there on the weekends, or I "commuted" from SF to Oakland, back to SF on the Saturdays I did work.

In a lot of ways, I did not attend Salvation Army events as "Jarrett." I believe that I was known amongst the Salvation Army College and High School group as "Cindy's "FRIEND."" (Noticed that I was NOT known as her "boyfriend?" That was all in her decision) She was very paranoid with me in regards to my behavior around "Sherry*," the youngest daughter of the Corps Officer, Major and Mrs Yee. Reason one: she looked up to her and was only a few years older than us. Cindy even followed a trend of reversing how her t-shirt was worn. Reason two: it was Sherry's idea that I either attend church or for Cindy to not see me. I found Sherry intimidating for a different reason altogether: she was just hot.

Sherry's older sister Sharon* was married to Richard*. They just had a daughter who was a year old. They were both Sunday school teachers who also intimidated Cindy much to the point that Cindy overreacted after every conversation they had with me. ("Jarrett, what did you say to them???" "Oh my God, you didn't tell them THAT, did you???")

At the end of the summer, Cindy and I split up. I decided to keep going to the fellowship. Then again, it wasn't like Cindy was a regular attender. News traveled quick about the split. Bob* introduced himself and his then girlfriend Noreen* to me. They invited me to a dinner they were hosting because up until that point, they only knew me as "Cindy's "FRIEND,"" not as Jarrett, and they wanted an opportunity to get to know me. I accepted their invite, and as I recall, had a great steak and potato dinner! It was unfortunate that shortly after that dinner, I eventually weened away from the group.

When I began to date Marie in the summer of 91, the topic of church and theology came up again. Marie's background was Seventh Day Adventist and to her, anyone attending church on a Sunday was considered Satanic. A year after my last visit to SF Salvation Army in the fall of 91, I decided to return there because I had so much questions. When I returned there, the mood was absolute somber. I was not attending the College Fellowship, I was attending their Asian American English Speaking Worship Service. (That title was considered "modern" within Salvation Army because worship service within the organization were called "Holiness meetings.") I met a new couple who were officers ("Officers" were those in pastoral position within The Salvation Army) Lieutenants Don and Sheila Choy*. Sheila was the eldest of the three sisters who recently moved back to SF from Southern California. The mood was somber because of the recent death of their mother Mrs Yee. On top of that, I returned to their service an evening after a colleague of mine was shot. At the conclusion of the service, they opened a "Mercy Seat" (bench on the front) to see who was willing to make a public commitment or "re-commitment" to Jesus. I went up. Afterwards, Bob and Richard came up to me to offer support. Don and Sheila came up to introduce themselves to me. Bob and I had a conversation about Marie in regards to the conflict. Bob suggested that now that I recommitted, it's best to go in a separate direction from Marie. That was my last visit to the Chinatown Corps. Besides, I had a dream and a pursuit of a comedy career at stake.

Marie and I survived three years together after indulgence in drinking binges, drug-induced raves, her cheating, and my heavily invested interest in my first exposure to both the multi-level marketing and personal development culture. My pursuit of personal development not only threatened the relationship, but eventually became the undoing in the end. That was 1994-95 and I don't think I was ever in more turmoil. I had dropped out of undergrad at SF State, accumulated a lot of debt, and was in pursuit of meeting my biological mother which in the end was a complete disaster. The pressure, drinking, and drugging was ever so increasing following the meeting of my biological mother in Feb 1995. Couple that with a new tumultuous relationship to Janice* and an emotional timebomb was awaiting.

That timebomb ticked and exploded on Mother's Day weekend 1995. Nothing worse than to be on a drunken public rage where the police got involved. Luckily or unluckily for me, the cop knew who I was and instead of taking me in, took me around until I sobered up. The drinking binge began following the phone conversation I had with my biological mother who was offended by the Mother's Day gift I gave to her. As for the mother who reared me, the one whom I referred to as my "REAL" mother, imagine the look on her face watching me arrive home hungover from a police car. Neither of my mothers had a good Mother's Day that year.

That following Sunday, I trekked over to the Salvation Army Golden Gate Divisional Facilities in the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco. I saved the numerous letters of encouragement and invites from Sharon, Bob, and Noreen over those years, and knew that the then Asian American English Speaking Service eventually became an autonomous separate Corps: The San Francisco Asian American Corps. A year prior, a newly promoted Lieutenant Colonel Yee retired from his post at the Chinatown Corps. (He was then Major when I was visiting Chinatown in 1990) Upon entering the facilities, I was recognized immediately by Richard. Then moments later, Bob and Noreen spotted me and approached me, asking me if I had plans after the service and if I was interested in lunch with them since they hadn't seen me in 4 years. I accepted. During the dim sum lunch, I explained to Bob that I felt like he gave me an ultimatum of me having to chose between Marie at that time or my commitment to church. He felt bad that I interpreted it as an ultimatum and he only wanted me to avoid conflict in the long run.

I don't want to say that Richard was happy about my situation. He wasn't. He simply saw my situation as an opportunity for me to learn about his latest spiritual passion: The Promise Keepers. It was a movement of an all men's sporting pep rally for Jesus. It was created by Bill McCartney aka "Coach Mac." Funny because my only visit to Denver Colorado was in the winter of 94. The newspaper headline was about how this winning coach of the Colorado University football program recently tendered his resignation because of his "vision." That coach turned out to be McCarthy, and the "vision" of his turned out to be what is now known as The Promise Keepers. All these years of attending pep rallies for his football team had him wondering if it was possible to hold a similar rally for Jesus. Richard was gung-ho about the movement and sure enough, that year the West Coast rally was taking place in Oakland. It MUST BE God's provision that I went through what I went through in order to attend an event in the "backyard" of my own home. I was such a wreck at that point, I believed it.

* If you noticed, the asterisk was placed next to the names because those were not their real names.

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