In a tiny hamlet in the Virginia foothills of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley lives my friend and prophet, Jean Crump.
It is basically a simple story of trust that I would like to tell, but also one so profound that it has changed my life forever.
Through the years of watching and listening to this most unassuming friend of mine, I have come to understand the significance and purpose of a prophet, and why the Lord through the ages has deemed it a means of revealing Himself time and time again to mankind.
In the spring of 1973, this woman and her husband moved to Miami, which is where I live. Little did I expect the impact this seemingly inconsequential move of two complete strangers would have on my life.
I was what one would call a "Pillar of the Church". My life revolved around all things church-related. First Presbyterian Church of Miami - historic, grounded in tradition, stable and main-line. I was regarded by all who knew me as the faithful Church-goer, Bible-oriented student, Leader of the Women, etc.
Our minister, Jack Kling, was one of the most intellectual men I had ever known. He constantly searched for the truth. He preached only that which he felt was Scriptural to the point that he would not even voice his own opinion in a sermon. He was an outstanding scholar and rather intimidating to those of lesser knowledge. He was also a linguist with seven languages at his command.
It was to this rather stern, no-nonsense minister that Jean arrived one day to tell him that she had moved to Miami because of this church. Because she had a vision. I, of course, did not know any of this at the time.
Every month at our church, a group of people called the Mariners, met for the purpose of socializing, studying, and in general being what church members are supposed to - Christians. It was at one of these meetings that Jack Kling casually mentioned there was a new couple in our church, and the woman was a prophet.
I was rather uncomfortable with his announcement and wondered what this woman had said that would cause this strait-laced minister whom I totally trusted and admired to accept something so startling. My first thought was, "I want to stay away from that woman!" To add further to my discomfort, Jack went on to say that he had invited them to come live in the church.
There was an apartment over the assembly room where the custodians usually lived, but was vacant at that time. The apartment was badly in need of repair and it was with the understanding that Walt and Jean would renovate the place in exchange for living accommodations. Walt would also be responsible for the basic custodial job of seeing that all doors were opened and locked before and after services, meetings, etc.
Several weeks after our Mariners group had met, I was attending a prayer meeting in the Chapel. (I was one who attended every meeting!) There was a great deal of conflict in the church at that time and many concerned members had agreed to meet every Wednesday morning to pray and ask guidance on how to resolve the problems.
Into this meeting walked the so-called prophet. Our membership was not too impressive and it was my way to welcome any and all prospective or new members with open arms. With a bit less than my usual enthusiasm, but determined to do my duty, I walked up to her and introduced myself. Because I was a bit wary of this new member, I said blandly, "Hello, I'm Frankie Nicholas. I understand you have fixed up the church apartment."
"Yes,", she said brightly, "Would you like to come up and see it?"
At a loss for words (most unusual for me), I blurted, "Our minister said that you had a vision...."
Again she nodded and asked if I would like to read about them.
"Oh boy!", I thought. I couldn't think of a single excuse off-hand and I didn't want her to think me impolite, so with great reluctance, I agreed.
Throughout the rest of the prayer meeting, I had trouble concentrating. I kept wondering what would happen if I were left alone with someone Jack had said was a prophet. I didn't even believe in modern day prophets. As I said, I was a strict traditionalist.
After the meeting, my heart beating wildly, I followed Jean up the stairs wishing I could think of some way to escape. When we entered the apartment, I was amazed. The apartment was lovely! I relaxed a bit. She offered me a cup of tea and with less trepidation, I accepted.
After we toured the apartment, and I expressed my genuine admiration at what they had accomplished, she asked if I would like to read her experiences. What could I say? I could tell that she really wasn't very comfortable sharing them, but her face sort of lit up when she talked about it. I said I would like to read them.
She had written that in May of 1972 she had visited a minister in Plant City, Florida, where she was living at the time, to discuss the meaning of being baptized with the Holy Spirit. He asked her if she would like to pray about it and after she agreed, he laid his hands on her head. After praying, he became extremely excited and scared her half to death. He said she was being baptized with fire and that God had a mighty mission for her. She knew something was happening and her response was to flee from his home. I was to see this type of response rather often during the years.
As I continued reading these experiences, which were so foreign to my way of thinking, I grew more and more uneasy. When I was finished, she asked if I would like to hear the story of how they had come to move to Miami. This part was not in her papers. I was curious, hoping it would shed some light on why our minister had so readily accepted her, because I was having trouble with this! But I said yes, I would like to hear. This was her tale, which I found both unsettling, yet fascinating.
Her youngest daughter, Linda, was attending a college in Miami and was planning to marry in the near future. Since most of her friends were college mates and living in the area, she decided she would like to have the wedding in Miami. The problem was that she had not attended any church during this time and had no idea where the wedding should be held. She set about visiting churches in the area and visited ours one Sunday morning. It was during that one visit she felt convinced that she had found the church.
A pleading phone call to her parents to come to Miami as soon as possible to see how they felt about it, was to become to me later, an example of an incredible journey into a way of life I did not know possible.
Jean and her husband drove to Miami the following weekend to check out the church their daughter seemed so taken with. They attended the Sunday morning service and Jean's response was so powerful she became convinced that not only was their daughter meant to wed in this church, but that she, herself, would move, bag and baggage just to join as members!
Walt, her husband, scarcely shared his wife's enthusiasm. In fact, recognizing the intensity of her reaction, he became downright nervous. She had been having these experiences just long enough for him to fear the worst. They would probably move. He had a host of reasons ready and waiting - they were very limited in funds, he hated the city. What would he do for employment? Where would they live? He was a very practical man.
The wedding day arrived. Jean and Walt in a motel, their lovely daughter, a beautiful bride and all went well. Until the drive home, back to Plant City.
Jean was content, tired but happy. She leaned back on the seat, closed her eyes and thought about how nicely things had gone at the wedding. Then she had one of her experiences.
She saw the Lord walking with Linda and Sammy, her new son-in-law. He had one arm around Linda's shoulders and the other around Sammy's. It was a scene of complete peace and serenity.
Jean bolted upright in her seat and cried to her husband, "I just saw Jesus!"
Poor Walt. He glanced over at his wife, startled to be sure, but there did seem to be some sort of glow about her. Being a man of few words, he said nothing.
When they arrived back in Plant City, there was no holding her back. Convinced was she that they absolutely had to move.
I came to learn through the years that guidance can be a very specific thing, but at this point in her story, I felt like bolting for the door myself.
She continued. They had been living on their daughter's farm. This oldest daughter, Diane, was somewhat of a celebrity having been the first woman jockey and the first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby. Diane had bought a small farm and dreamed of turning it into a first-class thoroughbred horse farm. And who better to accomplish this formidable task other than her own parents. Her father at the time was operating and running his own business - a marina not far from Tampa, Florida.
Their response to Diane's request was one I would see again and again. They leased the marina and moved to Diane's farm to set about the task of fulfilling Diane's dream.
They had been there three and a half years when Linda's phone call broke into their routine. By this time, all the work necessary to bring Diane's dream to fruition had been completed and restlessness began to creep in. So reasoned this determined wife to her less convinced husband, since it was time to move on, why not Miami?
Walt, knowing he would have no peace until she got it out of her system (or so he hoped), urged her to go stay with their newly-married daughter for a week or so. Maybe she would dislike the city as much as he did. Maybe this notion would just fade away.
Off she went to stay with her daughter. After a few restless days, Linda said, "Mother, you came here to see why that church is so important to you. Just go there, see the minister and tell him about your experience. If he accepts you, you will know it's right. If he doesn't, go home and forget it." Linda takes after her father. She is a very practical young lady.
Now it was Jean who was nervous. "Oh no," she thought, "Suppose he thinks I am some kind of nut and throws me out!" Guess there is only one way to find out.... and she went.
Jack Kling was in his office talking to some people when she arrived. She sat there with near panic setting in when the door opened, the people left and he invited her in. He seemed nice enough and patient enough waiting to see why she wanted to see him.
"Well, here goes," she thought, and told him why she was there.
To her utter astonishment, he completely accepted her story.
Two weeks later, Walt and Jean were in Miami waiting to see what their future held. Three months later, they were living in the church.
This was my first visit with the one who was to become my most trusted and dearest friend, one who would take me on paths I never thought possible in today's world.
Trust does not come easily to most people, and I am no exception. A relationship based on trust takes a long time to build.
Since I was a most frequent participant in all phases of church activities and Jean was there all of the time, it was only natural that we would be together at meetings, Bible studies, etc. But I still felt uncomfortable being alone with her.
One day she called me on the phone and said, Frankie, you have been on my mind so much, I was wondering if something was bothering you.
Oh great! I thought, Donï¿½t tell me she can read minds too! But I said, Well, I am concerned about all of the problems in the church. I began to realize that her concern for the church was as genuine as mine. Gradually I felt more at ease being around her. She did seem quite ordinary and normal and a lot of fun as well. The feeling must have been mutual because when she would have one of her experiences, she would call and tell me about it. My doubts were fading. In their stead I was becoming more and more awed with the idea that the Lord would actually be speaking to someone today.
When she first started having visions (she wouldn't use that word for years - they were always experiences), she had received some strange words. As she grew closer to Jack and learned to trust his integrity and brilliance more, she decided she would share all of her experiences with him. Always, always, she would approach him with a certain fear. Of all people, she was the most confused as to why these things were happening to her.
When she got the Words, as she called them, she had written them down but had never shown them to anyone. Still questioning her soundness of mind, she decided to tell Jack and wait for the boom to fall.
Her heart was beating as wildly as mine had when I first went up to her apartment, as she walked into the Ministerï¿½s office. She sat timidly before his desk and told him about the words. He did not ask to see what she had written, but rather asked her to say them aloud. He leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes and waited. With quivering voice, she spoke them for the first time. He listened with impassive face and was silent for a while. Then he opened his eyes, turned to her and asked, Do you want me to interpret them for you? Is this why you are here? He was calm and serious!
Interpret them? she cried. You mean these are real words?
Yes, he said, They are Vulgate Latin, not in use today. And he proceeded to interpret each phrase.
Jean sat in stunned silence. He was giving the same interpretation that she had received upon first hearing the words. Her mind was racing along with her heart. Of all the people in Miami, here I am sitting with a linguist! she thought. She wanted to escape to the safety of her apartment, the way she had wanted to escape when told of her mighty mission. But he was not finished.
Being the minister that he was, he became rather stern. He cautioned her against running around telling everyone what was happening. The warning seemed hardly necessary. Her fear was deterrent enough. He suggested that she record every one of her experiences, date them and to stay as unemotionally detached as possible.
Her eyes widened. Not to be affected by something so incredibly overpowering?
I could see the tremendous effect these things were having on my new-found friend. My awe was approaching her own. Her trust in the Lord and the manifestations of that trust were being indelibly impressed on my mind and heart..................