Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kirk Stevens


Re-Discovering Hand in Hand
I stumbled upon the Hand in Hand Memories page recently; some 36 years after the Hand in Hand ministry profoundly changed my life. I had just cleaned out some closets and given away numerous household items to Healing Minds a ministry for the mentally challenged. Among the items was a collection of record albums including a cherished copy of, “People Who Walk in Light”, with the fantastic cover showing the glowing, light-formed cross. In a weak moment, with the thinking that “I don’t own a turntable and am not likely in this day and age to ever buy one so why would I want to keep any of these old records”, I tossed them all into the heap for donation to someone who might better benefit from them.

A few days later, I began to regret that I gave away such a nostalgic item as that 1974 vintage album. I decided to do a search for the album and...Wow… I found it online at Christ Wings and was able to download it and add it to my collection of 8200 digitized albums. Then, as I happily played those tunes from that album, I proceeded to use the wonder of the internet, doing a search for “Hand in Hand Phoenix”, and was amazed to find the Hand in Hand memories page. The whole time I had been lamenting giving away that album, I just kept hearing that wonderful female singer’s (don’t recall her name, Joyce?) soul touching words, “People Who Walk In Light, Don’t Have to Be Afraid…. And if The Dark Deceive You, The Devil Won’t Release You”. After all these years I could still recall some of the words, and vividly recalled how deeply this and other songs of Hand in Hand had moved me, and led me to find the Lord back in 1974.

My Story
Having read the stories shared on the memories page I felt moved to share my story as someone who was touched by the Hand In Hand ministry. I especially liked Bernie’s story about his encounter with the bikers while he was putting up a flyer at Circle K. I could really relate to that story, though not a biker, at the time I was living with bikers, had hair down to my shoulders, and was in total rebellion. It was just such a flyer at a Circle K that led me to the Hand in Hand ministry just in time to save my life.

Travails of a Lost Soul
When I came to Hand in Hand Ministry, I was about as lost as one soul can be. I was only 22 years old. I had a failing marriage and had left my wife and two year old little girl in Michigan. I travelled all the way to Phoenix to start life anew. I had joined up with a friend, Jim, and we packed our things in my GMC Jimmy with his 750 Honda in tow on a trailer behind us. The first thing that happened was I fell asleep at the wheel, went into a ditch and half totaled my friend’s motorcycle. Then, on the way to Phoenix we stopped in Albuquerque to spend time with a friend of Jim’s. Well, we stayed too long, partied too much, and ended up spending most of the money we had saved for the trip. When we finally landed in Phoenix, we were broke with no money for gas or food. We had no means of support, no way to get money and nowhere to stay, so we camped out in the desert outside Phoenix.

Some time later, we were at a Circle K and happened to meet a guy named John who incredibly invited us to stay with him and his friends at his house in Phoenix. The only problem was his friends were bikers who made their living stealing bikes and parting them out to sell for money. In 1974, the country was in a deep recession with an oil crisis, and there were no jobs to be had. I tried for months to get a job, but the only thing I could find were sales on commission types of jobs. I had brief stints selling Rainbow vacuum cleaners and Water King water purifiers. But these never ended up paying any real money, and I found myself struggling to even have food to eat.

Life living with thieves was chaotic to say the least. I remember times when days went by where the only thing to eat was corn nuts…washed down with cheap beer that others had bought. Living in this house was a guy named Dennis and his girlfriend along with her young child.  One day he threw them out on the street. She was in tears with nowhere to go. I felt compassion for her (and had some feeling for her) so I offered to help her. I did so at the anger of the residents of the house, with the result being that I was ostracized and banned from there forever. I had also previously had a fight with my friend Jim over a girl, and he had moved away from the house. Anyway, I packed up her things and took her to an apartment where I spent the last of my money getting her settled in, and began planning to start a life with her.  Well, within a couple days she decided she did not want a relationship with me and asked me to leave. I was devastated. I had begun to have deep feelings for her and for her plight, but now she was coldly rejecting me. Worse was that I now was without a place to live, penniless, and without a friend in the world. I had nowhere to go. I had no one who cared about me. I was empty, bitter, and lonely.

I drove out to the desert, parked my car and got out wondering what to do next. I looked up at the stars and wondered what does it all mean. I said out loud, “If there really is a God, I need for you to show me. I need you to touch my life and tell me what to do”. Well, I immediately felt a warmth and a reassurance that there was someone who cared who was looking over me. Of course I did not know what it meant. And in a crude way, I think I was actually inviting Jesus into my heart right then and there. I was at rock bottom. And in those times it becomes easy to look beyond yourself and open yourself to God. In that moment, Jesus touched me.

Hand in Hand Reaches Out
Enter again, Circle K. The next morning I went there to get a drink and what did I find?

Free Hand in Hand Concert!
2616 East Fairmount in Phoenix
8 PM Saturday nights!

Well, it was Saturday! With nowhere to go and no idea what came next, the only thing I could do was go to the concert. That first encounter with Hand In Hand was incredible. The music was so full of life and love and it just washed over me. Suddenly things were beginning to make sense. There seemed to be a purpose to life. I was not alone anymore. Someone really cared about me and His name was Jesus!

At the end of the concert I said the prayer and accepted Jesus into my life. I now had a plan for my life… whatever God wanted to do with it was fine with me. All my fears and doubts were washed away with the cleansing power of the blood of Christ. I want you to know how that ministry literally saved me. It came just at the right time for someone who was really at the end of his rope in the pits of despair, full of tears and fears. That ministry brought me from the bottom of a dark pit to the light of God. Oh how those words were comforting… People Who Walk in Light…Don’t Have to be Afraid…. Cause Jesus Will Be There Right by Your Side. God bless those people who were there to reach out to me at that time of my deepest need.

All these events were so long ago, yet I remember some of them as if they were yesterday. At the same time much of what transpired back then is just a blur beyond reach of my failing memory cells. I don’t recall who it was that took me in. I can’t remember their names. But a generous couple from the ministry offered to let me stay with them in their home. I had nowhere else to go, and these people took in a long-haired, lost stranger and showed him the love of God. I remember having long conversations full of questions with a kind young man who helped me understand all the things a newborn in Christ yearns to know. (Looking at the photos on Bernie’s site I think it was Wayne). I remember travelling with these folks who took me in up to do a concert at an Indian reservation in the four corners area. What an outreach, to reach out to poor and isolated Indians! If anyone in your circle can remember a concert to Indians at four corners in late 1974, and can remember this stranger who they took in and took along… it would be so great to pass along my deepest gratitude for their generosity way back then, when it was so needed.

A Healed Life
These people also helped me deal with my issues of having abandoned my family in Michigan. I ended up facing those issues and going back to Michigan where I reconciled with my wife. They helped me realize that was the right thing to do. I did not stay with them long, but the time with them was so important. After I got back with my wife, we had another child. Her name is Cheryl and she is a blessing to me and to her three kids and husband. She may not have ever been born into this world without the effects of the Hand in Hand ministry on my life.

It was not easy going back home. I still had no job or money, and my car had been repossessed.  I had to hitchhike all the way back to Michigan. But, incredibly, on the last leg of the journey I was picked up by a van full of Christians who happily shared their joy of Jesus. They shared about a church they were excited about called, “Deeper Life”, that was just a few miles from where my wife lived. They drove me right to the doorstep of my wife. That church became a beacon of my life for many years. It was a charismatic church full of the love of God, vibrant with lively music reminiscent of Hand in Hand’s music outreach. Our church life together helped strengthen our fractured relationship so that my wife and I successfully reconciled and went on to be blessed with Cheryl. Not only that, but in that church I met an old childhood friend, and we became business partners. Wow does God work in glorious ways!

It’s been many years since all this transpired. I spent more than ten years with my total focus on delving into the Bible and attempting to derive the most I could from what it all means. Many trials later, God is still most important in my life. Having been set on the path by the Hand in Hand ministry way back in 1974, I have never waivered in my faith in God. My understandings about Him have matured, and what I find most important, Is that God is Love. Love is the most powerful thing anywhere. I even wrote a book summarizing my discoveries about the meanings of God’s love and His purposes.

Praise be to God for the Hand in Hand ministry, and for all that they did for so many lost souls. My personal heartfelt thanks to all those of HIH who touched my life in 1974.

My name is Kirk Stevens, and my friend’s name was Jim Whitmore. If anyone can remember helping these lost souls in 1974, it would be wonderful to express my gratitude to those who reached out to me in my darkest hour. I now live in the mountains near Denver, Colorado. My email is kirkastevens@msn.com. Thanks for reading my story.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What an amazing story! Thank you Kirk for sharing this miraculous journey. All those who were involved in Hand in Hand will be so blessed and encouraged knowing that God used them to lead you to Him. It would be awesome if you and others who came to Hand in Hand could come to the reunion. Here's the link with registration info.