copyright 1997, Rex Ballard
When I started junior high, I suddenly became a very good student. I got involved in the Ham Radio club, and took to Algebra, Philosophical Discussions, Persuasive writing, and Algebra like a duck takes to water. It was as if I had been bored to tears through elementary school and suddenly had found an environment that stimulated me enough to keep me interested.
The one class I hated was Gym. I had to take a shower each day. Since I had no hair, anywhere, they called me a queer and a fairy. They would whip me with wet towels until I had welts from my ankles to my neck. I would scream and the gym teacher would just stand their and watch, sometimes for as long as 10 minutes while I gritted my teeth and tried not to scream. I had learned that screaming made it worse. I had to control my emotions to stay out of the hospital. I didn't understand at the time, that these boys were being prepared to fight in Vietnam. As a "4F", I was a perfect target for "dehumanization".
I also started getting interested in girls. At one of the first dances, a girl asked me if I would take her to the dance. She was a very pretty girl, pretty popular, and I liked the way she dressed (more grown-up). My parents had taught me to dance that summer and I was looking forward to trying it out. Of course, my parents had taught me to jitterbug and twist, not exactly the style of the times. Anyway, she asked if I would give her a ring. It could be any kind of ring, but she wanted me to give it to her at the dance. I ditched school for the last two periods, found a place where I could get an affordable ring (woolworths), and raced back to meet her at the dance. By the time I got there, there were people lining the hallway. I found the girl and gave her the ring. She scolded me for being late and giving her such a cheap ring and poured a cup of orange soda all over my head and my clean white dress shirt (I'd dressed up special for the occaision). It was then that I realized that this whole thing was a joke and that all she wanted to do was humiliate me in front of all her friends. I tried to laugh it off, smiled, and walked home.
When I was 13, I went to a church retreat. At a Catholic Eucharist, I had the Babtism of the Holy Spirit. I could see into the hearts of people, I could heal the wounds of the spirit. I had a number of gifts which were more appropriate for the tasks God was preparing me to do. I wasn't sure what God wanted me to do, but I asked him to show me.
That fall, my cousin David killed himself. He was only a few weeks older than I was and found himself having "thoughts that would condemn me to hell". He gave himself a shot of the poison they use to put dogs to sleep, and then started writing the note. He was awake for about 15 minutes before he just fell asleep and died.
When he died, I asked God why? At this point, I hadn't read the letter, I didn't know anything about it. I found myself talking to David, and he told me exactly what he had said in the letter. Then God asked me if I would be willing to help people like David. God said he had more than enough preachers for the righteous folk, but he needed someone who was willing to do what it would take to reach people like David. He needed someone who could reach out to Alchoholics, Addicts, homosexuals, lesbians, those who felt cut off from God. He needed someone who could meet them on their terms. I asked how I would be trained for this. God told me that I would have to become one of them first, only then could I actually reach out to them and have them accept what I had to offer. I told God that if that's what he really needed, that I would be his servant.
About a week after my mom returned from the funeral and told me what the letter had said, I realised that this was real, that I really had been able to share my thoughts with David. God had shown me my "mission". I suddenly realized that all of this might be part of God's plan.
I went to a Youth Group retreat and my friends invited me to a seance. I told them that they were going to call an evil spirit and that they should leave it alone. They left me downstairs and I prayed while they got drunk, then they conjured something up. They came down, drunk, and told me they had spoken to a spirit. I told them it was still here. They told me it was safe and we went to sleep. That night, at 3:15 A.M., I woke to pitch blackness. I could feel the evil spirit trying to attack me. I could see nothing, hear nothing, and I couldn't even hear myself speak. The spirit wanted me to die. I called for my friends Barry and Larry. There was no sound. Then I called to Jesus, I asked God to cast out this deamon in Jesus Name. In a few seconds, I was completely relaxed and fell asleep.
The next morning, my friends asked me what I was doing last night. They thought I was playing a practical joke. They heard me scream in the night, turned on the light, saw me with my eyes wide open, heard me screaming out their names, and saw me choking. Then they heard me say Jesus, mumble something, and fall asleep. I know today, that the deamon was trying to attack me, trying to get me to either die right then and there, or get me to submit to it's will. Suddenly, my mission was no game. I prayed to God that my training would begin soon. I knew I wasn't prepared for an enemy like this.
That afternoon, my friends tried to get me drunk. I barely drank anything, and appeared to be drunk almost immediately. It was annissette. I appeared very tipsy and silly, and suddenly I was telling them that God loves them. They laughed and told me to have another drink. I asked God if this was part of my training. He said yes. Later that day, on the way home from the retreat, my friends started actually listening to me. I asked them about what I was seeing in their hearts. They started to open up to me and realized that I really believed in Jesus.
My mother was beginning to get worried about my constant solitude. She told me that I should start going out and socializing more. I made friends with a guy named Paul Shumpert. Paul wasn't a super-egghead, but he was a christian. He invited me to go to his church youth group with him. I thought this would be good in several ways. The kids in my own youth group weren't exactly model citizens, and I could use some support from a strong Christian fellowship.
I went to Paul's youth group a couple of times a week, and found that it was very nice. Also nice was that there seemed to be several attractive girls my age who seemed to be quite friendly and didn't want to either pour coke over my head or start having sex with me (or try and humliate my by offering). I liked it, and brought a friend of my own. My friend got caught smoking by the preacher who ridiculed him in front of the bus. I asked the preacher who we should emulate, who would be a good model. He pointed to two kids sitting at the front of the bus. I said "these kids beat other kids up because they are "queers" or mentally retarded. In my Bible, it says, "that which you have done to the least of my brothren, you have done unto me". The preacher looked streight into my eyes, looked like he was about to kill something, and announced to the entire bus that I was "Anathama", that no one was to speak to me, look at me, or even listen to me, lest they become Anathama too.
The next morning, at school, none of my friends would even look at me. They formed a tight circle and refused to let me in. I even apologized, but it did no good. I had been banished by the community and would not be allowed back in, no matter what I did. I realize today that I had directly challenged the authority of the church pastor to speak on behalf of God. Having lost all of my friends, I found that I also wanted people in my life.
I went back to my old youth group. They were rowdier than ever now, regularly using booze and grass to enhance "spiritual experiences". I went out with them to a drive-in movie. Soon I was drinking and smoking grass. I felt so lonely, and the only requirement for membership in this group is that you drink what they drink and smoke what they smoke. I continued like this for about 3 months when we almost got arrested for Joy Riding in a parent's car. Fortunately the charges were dropped, before we even got to the police station.
I started talking to some of the "outcasts". About ten boys and girls who were either homosexuals, incest survivors, or children of alcholic parents. I found myself just accepting them, and I found that they accepted me. When the Christians taunted them, I taunted back. Soon, the choir teacher heard me yelling on the playground and decided that I would make a good Bass. She told me I could either audition for her, or spend the rest of the week in the principle's office. For some reason, I decided to audition anyway. Not only did I have a big strong powerful Bass voice, I also had a 3 octave range. She told me to put myself in the choir. She told me I would make lots of new friends.
I decided to try singing in our church choir. I had sung in the Junior Choir since I was 8 and had to quit when I turned 11 because my voice was cracking. As a Bass, I was very wanted by the church choir. Soon I was leading a multiple lifestyle. At school, I was a supergenious, a persuasive writer, and a master at exploring and questioning the status quo, at pointing out inconsistancies of belief and action. At church, I became a church leader, in a circle of adults, many with children my age, they were turning to me for wisdom and insight. In fact, I had become a "superhero" with a "secret identity".
On the weekends, I became a "party boy", often going to drive-in movies with my church friends and drinking myself into a blackout. The girl and boy in the front seat would send me and my friend out for Pizza or Popcorn and lock the doors so they could make out (kiss and grope). I got into the habit of banging on the windows of cars where the couple in the car were obviously trying to have sex. After about 10 of them were out looking for me and ready to kill me, I'd return to the car or truck. My friends were 6'3, 6'6, and 6'9. I was the "runt" at 6'0. They would pull out lacrosse sticks covered with blood, and suddenly my persuers would stop in their tracks. My friends would offer to beat me up for them. They'd through me in the back of the truck, beat a tire while I screamed, and when the angry young men would leave, they'd get in the truck and we'd leave in a big hurry. After a while, they stopped taking me to drive-ins.Next: Rennaisance Man