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..: stories

..: Pedals @ EFC Cerritos

The Pedals struck again on Friday. This time, we hit EFC, Cerritos. When we arrived in the parking lot, I saw lots of new signage. Vinyl red characters in Chinese and English on white lexan told me not to use this door, and to use this door instead, and that the chapel was this way, and the social hall was the other way. It nearly seemed excessive, all the signage. But it was sort of comforting. Nancy was there, and she directed us to the equipment in her usual, tentative way. With Nancy, I always felt we were the enemy, specifically me. Like the Pedals were these awful relatives that dropped in, messing up everything and then leaving. And the sad part is, that's exactly what we do. She pointed me to the amp, mixer, and speakers. The cords for the speakers were covered in cobwebs. I noticed they bought a new Yamaha upright for the social hall. Trying to make small talk, I said "you must like the new piano." Nancy said she didn't play it much. She told me we couldn't use one of the mics in the social hall -- it belonged to the adults. She still said that - "adults." I remember how long it took the rest of us to ween ourselves of saying that. We had long became adults ourselves before we realized that we should call them the "chinese group" or "the parents", but "adults" was simply the wrong term for these main chinese congregation.

We moved the equipment into the main sanctuary. Nancy's mom, Peggie, came and welcomed me in her usual way, asking about how I was, and then before I can answer, asking about my father, and whether he is ok. I wish she didn't ask, because my answer seems to only get worse; I always say "I don't know, I don't see him much." And I mean it more every time I say it. For a moment, I feel guilty about that arrangement, but think better. "He's not home because you aren't home," she says. That was a new one. In my mind, I disagree, but say nothing, just thankful that she cares about me after all these years. I think that's the way she ministers, shedding light into the cave of noncommunication my father and I live in. Peggie goes on to tell me the church just spent $7000 on a new sound system, and that it was scheduled to be installed by today, but was delayed. Also, they just got a new air conditioning system, so keep the side and back doors closed or it won't work. Also, don't let anyone eat or drink in here now; they just sprayed for termites. About the third directive, I begin to wonder why she always tells me these things, and not Tim, Jojo or Kane. Tim was with EFC longer than Jojo or me. And Kane, Kane still goes to EFC Cerritos. But Peggie tells me, perhaps because I've always listened more carefully. Today, that's ok, b/c I'll try.

Then Peggie tells us that the pastor is very sick, and can't make it today. She tells me he has a throat infection or something, but he wanted to be here today. She mentions the pastor's name, but I don't catch it. She tells me again, "David, David Williamson." Of course, David. I know the name, I've known him for years and years. I am surprised that he is not the person I thought she was talking about; I was not expecting a parent to be so concerned about the English Minister. But this is Peggie. She moves on and shows me where the switch for the stage lights is. It's in the same place as before, but this time the A/C people have commandeered all the other circuit box switches for the cooling system, and so there is a big piece of copier paper taped over the other switches. In my mind, I want to switch the other ones, just to see what will happen.

We set up our equipment. Me, my guitar and amp. Jojo, his drums. Kane comes straight from somewhere with a tie and dockers, and we make jokes about his fatherhood kicking in early. Karen helps me move equipment in from the car. Tim sets up his bass. Joo arrives and waits in her calming, patient way. Our practice is plaqued with a bad mix. Feedback keeps the overall volume low, and we have no monitors.

People start to arrive. Jojo tells me we are to start at 8pm. But people are in the pews and looking expectant about 7:15. I finally ask Ben. Ben says, we are supposed to start at 7. Or something like that. It's 7:35. Ugh, we all say. We won't be ready until 8pm. I tell them we need some time, we aren't done sound checking. By now, strangers have started to arrive. We go into the side hall to pray. Mostly for peace, and for our colds, our bodies. Then not for our bodies, but for the Spirit. When we are done praying, we are done. We get up on stage.

We start the first song. In song picking, the first song is usually a good one, but usually a throwaway, since people don't arrive until the second song, and always miss the first song. That's ok, since we are usually really awful for the first 2 songs. Tonight, we remedy this by revisiting the first 2 songs at the end, anyway. Part way through the first song, I look up and see that the congregation has quadrupled, and they are still coming in. It's the Irvine group, and they brought everybody tonight. They scream and cheer, louder than anyone the Pedals have ever played for. The Pedals have played for a lot of kids, all over, but we've never heard this kind of enthusiasm. They scream, sometimes, for the sake of screaming. Somewhere in there is sincerity, but I'm not sure, and we don't ask. The deafen us with their enthusiasm, and I try to not look up from my music stand. We just play harder, sing louder, jump higher, that's all you can do when the lights go down.

Usually at these praise nights, there is a scheduled speaker, or someone to bumper the night with prayer or something. That would have been David, but he's sick. That leaves Ben, but he usually shies from the responsibility, unsure what to do. He does mention to me that there are some non-Christians there tonight, and they ought to hear the gospel somewhere. So, the Pedals start about an hour later than they should have, rush through setup, and I am charged with sharing the gospel somewhere in the night.

I insert it in the break between the second and third sets of the night. Reading all those "Left Behind" books has taught me that your own testimony is the one thing you can share that doesn't leave anyone room to argue, and has the most lasting effect on a person's attitude. So that's what I share, only, it's been like years since I shared it, and in the moments I have to prepare, I can't remember how I became a believer, or why I'm still a believer. It makes me sad, and I think about how at EFC we learned and endured so much, and discovered so much about our faiths and our friendships, and how I can't remember anything now when it was time. Nobody ever asked my opinion when I was a member here, and now I have a free ticket to share whatever I want. This was my EFC experience, defined. That night, the Pedals did something entirely new: one of us shared his testimony.

The night ended in a bang. The Irvine kids were screaming for more, so we threw in "Mourning Into Dancing" at the end. Not satiated, we decided to do one last one after Ben's closing prayer. Jojo wanted a fast, energetic one, but I decided against it. I did learn one thing from those violet concerts: for extra songs, do a slow one and people will calm down and go home. So we did "Father of Lights" but did it with a long intro, taking our time to fluff the hell out of it.

When we are done, we are in kinds of pain, which is usually the case. My voice is gone. My guitar is sweaty, my back feels broken. Jojo is showing his drums to the kids. Karen has to be up early the next morning for marathon training, and so we need to leave immediately. So we do. I think about Peggy and Nancy, and all the equipment that has to go back to the right slots, and assign Kane to make sure it happens. If it really happens, I won't know, since this isn't MR and you can't just assign your friends random tasks in real life. It's a lot of work, and I know clean up will take time. In a way, I'm glad I won't have to stay. But I will miss what I always miss, which is fellowship with the people we just came to serve.

Karen and I ride home to Culver City in the Xterra. We are quiet most of the time, exhausted, but we know that some special things happenend that night, despite us. We don't really talk about them, but I do want her to know that I have emotions, I was affected, it was good. She wants me to do that more often. "Please tell me you had a good day," she usually says.

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