In August 1969 I chose to live in a boarding house on University Oaks across Wheeler from the University of Houston campus.
As a transfer sophomore Music Education major, I knew no one on campus, except Mickey and Karen, my cousins. I wanted independence,
shutting even my family out.
In the evenings I often went for walks down the tree lined streets of the neighborhood. The attractive and well cared for houses were pleasing to the eye. One house, a two story grey and white home in the style of a cape cod on the same side of the street as my boarding house attracted my attention. I thought it was unusual that there were so many young men going in and out of the house laughing and talking with one another. Was it a fraternity house? Someone there owned a yellow Karman ghia a truly cute car! I saw a young woman getting out of it a number of times. Who was she? Why was she at a house with so many men?
I tried to be invisible as I observed this house. Often I heard lovely singing floating out of the open windows as I walked by. I lingered to listen. If I thought anyone noticed me I hurried away or pretended I had just stopped to catch my breath or tie my shoe!
A few weeks into the semester, I was selected to be in the acappella choir which was THE best choir to be in at U of H. Shortly thereafter I met 2nd year senior tenor, Gary Miles, a funny guy with sharp features and glasses. One day in November, he approached me and asked if I would like to sing a duet with him at a concert. Amazed, I agreed and he asked me to meet him to rehearse at 4:00 PM. the following day. He gave me the address. “Strange,” I thought. Gary also lived on University Oaks.
The next day as I approached the address he gave me I nearly fainted! It was THE HOUSE. Oh my gosh! With racing heart and sweaty palms, I rang the doorbell and was let in to the cool, shady living room by a very nice young man, Paul. “Should I stay in a house with men I don’t know?” I debated with myself.
Paul and Victor, another student, invited me to stay for a cup of tea and a chat while I waited for Gary. These guys were nice looking and seemed to be normal. So, throwing caution to the wind I stayed.
I was eager to find out more about this house and the people who lived in it and this was my chance. They were all members of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. They lived together intentionally to minister to the students at U of H. I was intrigued by their answers and wanted to know more. By the time 5:00 rolled around, Gary still hadn’t arrived but other residents of the house began coming home. Sylvia Wilkes was the only woman. She and her husband Jon were heads of the household, what ever that meant, and the owners of the yellow Kharman ghia!
Sylvia invited me to stay for dinner. Finally, Gary arrived. He had forgotten our rehearsal. I really didn’t care that he was late as I felt so welcomed by the others in the house. I felt immersed in the warmth of these people gathered together. They talked, laughed and then sang together. I couldn’t believe that I was now in the house while several nights before I had been outside looking in. Amazing!
Gary and I rehearsed and I’m sure we sang the duet, but I really don’t remember the details. What I do remember happening was that Gary invited me to his church. I quickly said “No, no way, nuh uh.” I had always been a Methodist “church-goer” and arrogantly decided in a conversation with God the year before that He would have to show me a church where people lived the Gospel and didn’t just talk about it. Until then, (which at that time I thought meant never) I would just live the best way I could and believe me, that wasn’t good at all
Whenever I saw Gary on campus he was very kind to me. He continued to invite me to come to church with him. I gave in shortly before Easter. On Sunday morning, the yellow Kharman Ghia was waiting for me outside my apartment. Paul, not Gary, arrived to pick me up. Gary was already at church for a choir rehearsal.
When we arrived at the church, the sanctuary was already full of people, hugging and talking, laughing and praying. An incredible mural at the front of the church with Jesus in the center of common working people overwhelmed me. I felt something relax deep inside and knew, even before the service began, that I was at home.
I don’t remember many details about the service itself. What happened to me overshadowed everything else. My previous conversations with God were always one sided. As I knelt in the midst of the congregation, God spoke to ME. “Who said that?” I looked behind me. No, everyone was praying. God spoke to me not just inside my head, but through my ears. I heard his voice say, “Diane, I love you.” Tears came from deep within me. I wept and couldn’t stop. God brought me to this church to show me that truly there were people living and working together to bring God’s life and love to those around them. I knew at that moment I wanted to be a part of this church family whatever that meant. So began my intentional journey with God that continues today.
©2006 Diane D. Andrew email@example.com