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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: End (02/13/06)

TITLE: All This Born Again Talk
By Charles Duncan


The open side windows of the old wooden church provided the only breath of air on these hot summer nights in Central Texas. It also gave us a view inside, a regular Sunday night feature for the four of us. We were almost teenagers and this was pretty daring, trying to avoid being detected while grabbing glimpses of church goers screaming, shouting, crying and rolling on the floor. It was pretty scary to us at the time. Mighty unorthodox for a couple of us who dressed up every week for Sunday School at the Presbyterian Church and always wore our seven-year perfect attendance pins on our jacket. But those classes did not teach us anything about being born again.

Those vivid memories of peeking through the open church window, returned years later as I watched shotgun toting parishioners of a much different church guard their compound keeping the curious out and the residents in. The dirty streets and yards led to houses that were nothing but broken down shacks struggling to maintain precarious positions on the rocky hills outside a town called Bangs in west Texas. It was home to a few hundred devoted followers of David Terrell, home to the poor, practically homeless Terrellites. That’s the name the folks in Bangs and the news media gave to the followers of the fiery tent revivalist preacher, Brother David Terrell as he insisted on being called.

The thin, lanky preacher set up revival tents in small west Texas towns attracting the curious and most of his followers. Each weekend the screams from cult members who roll in the aisles could be heard blocks away. Terrell appeared to heal pains and remove afflictions as the Terrellites and some of the visitors jumped onto the stage and received a heavy slap on the head and a loud “heal” from the preacher. Terrell spoke in tongues and later screamed to his audience to be born again.

In stark contrast, I began hearing Dr. Billy Graham preach about being born again. His strong convictions came through clearly. And I listened.

Later, I researched and produced an in depth television series on Lester Roloff, the radio revivalist from Corpus Christi, Texas. Juvenile court judges throughout the nation sent hundreds of youngsters facing serious run-ins with the law to the Roloff homes for rehab. The teenagers fished and worked huge gardens providing most of the food for several hundred residents and staff. Roloff added big helpings of born again preaching twice daily, seven days a week. He often reminded his congregations that by the time the teens were ready to leave his homes, most of them had been born again.

My early memories left me confused rather than doubting or judgmental. But that confusion is now erased as I see a new life, a life that God wants us to have. A life that begins where your past ends. It’s written in John 3:3 (NIV), the very words spoken more than two thousand years ago: In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”


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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 02/22/06
I liked the first 3 paragraphs of this very much--I could really picture these Texas scenes. I would have liked your 4th paragraph expanded more, with more of a contrast between Graham and Terrell, and have that be the focus of your story. It faltered toward the end, but the beginning was extremely compelling.