Church Camp came once a year and to me that was not nearly enough. For a little less than a week I was surrounded by old friends and new, went to chapel several times a day, prayed, read my Bible, went hiking, swimming, all out in the isolated landscape that was somewhere Kansas. Each year that camp came and went my anticipation for the on coming year increased.
One of my first years at Camp Quaker Haven, my best friend, Josh Davis, and I arrived a day late due to a previous commitment his father, our pastor (and our driver) had at the church. Driving late into the night, we pulled into Camp Quaker Haven.
The following days at camp proceeded on as usual, we had chapel, we had games, we had lunch, free time was the best time, carpet ball and cannon balls and the always mysterious and mesmerizing girls from Texas. It was truly a young boys haven.
Later that evening we made a trek to the cafeteria where the entire camp gathered to have a story time session. If there were other story tellers before or after Adam, I don't remember. Someone introduced him, saying he hailed from southern California, and Josh leaned over whispering that he and Wes were long time friends and Josh had known Adam for most of his life. He gave a short hello and introduction, and then quickly proceeded into his chosen stories. I immediately recognized his level of story telling to be quite advanced. His pauses, voice contortion and crowd work were impeccable. I found myself drawn deeper into the narrative with each passing sentence.
“Scratch, scratch… scratch…. Came from the door,” my imaginative mind exploded with images and my heart raced with anticipation as the story continued to unfold. The drama told of a man who was out in a remote cabin, and a small, quick, scraggly creature was scratching at his door, trying to get in. Vibrant teeth and wide eyes peering in from the windows, its ever persistent motivation was to enter the cabin. My imagination conjured up some disturbing creatures. The night beast with a screaming tongue and fire eyes is far scarier to me than the next door meth head, though that has changed somewhat as I have matured. I was far more terrified of a t rex showing up outside my window rather than a human intent on kidnapping or murdering me. The story concluded quite ambiguously and the campers, separated by gender, returned to their respective cabins to get some rest for the next days activities, but no one slept much as we intently listened for the scratching sound on the door from a small, black creature. Adam left the camp that night in a tight return trip back to california so I did not get to ask him how the story ended. It would be some years later before Adam and I’s path’s crossed again.
Almost a decade later, I made the decision to move to California to pursue a career in the film industry. Once again, my best friend, Josh Davis, shared my dream of moving to the coast, but he had decided on a far more noble career as a fireman. His grandpa lived in the one of many provinces of Orange County known as Fountain Valley and had agreed to house us for a year or so as we started in our areas of study.
Years before, Josh’s father had attended seminary in California and he became good friends with Adam Ayers, a southern California native. Now Josh and I were making a similar journey west. Our first week in southern California Josh and I began attending Faith Worship Community, where Adam was the pastor. This church, where Josh was somewhat of a celebrity, since his father, Wes, had been an integral part of the congregation many years before and when Josh was just a boy had been around most of these people. So I stayed back and was allowed to observe the interactions of those speaking to Josh, content to remain in the background.
As time went on and I was able to observe Adam Sunday after Sunday and ponder on his thoughts, ideas, and beliefs, I grew more intrigued not only with the idea of philosophy or thinking, but with self reflection, the attempt at understanding yourself, flaws and all. I discovered that Faith Worship had been recording all of Adams sermons for many years and I started to devour them, one after the other after the other. I listened to Adam’s old Discipleship programs and eventually stumbled upon an old radio show that he and some friends use to produce. The archaic and children’s church view I held on Christianity was slowly eroded away and a new, more complex idea of what Christianity really was, who God was and was to me, and overall existential purpose was illuminated far more than I ever wanted it to. This was a combination of events including the separation from my place of birth and family, the isolation with my best friend, the exposure to a mind like Adam’s, all typhooned to rearrange who I was. It was truly an amazing time in my life that, through many trials was forged into the man I am now. As time passed I began to set up appointments with Adam to talk (he was a very busy man and allowed for his days to be open for anyone to speak about anything, truly a remarkable way to be) about, questions that I had been dealing with, at first about Christianity but eventually they started to fall deeper within who I was. Some of my first questions were
“The difference between speaking aloud to yourself “I am going to have a good day” & asking God through prayer “Lord please allow me to have a good day.”
Does God shown through natural disasters (volcano) and people interpret that as God (Katrina) or does he use Supernatural ways such as fire from heaven (asteroid?)?
The Trinity? What is it? The metaphor Ice vs Water vs Steam is not a good example? What are the differences?
Easy enough to answer right? Im sure Adam was thrilled to have me blast him with these questions, yet he never disregarded my questions. These sorts of questions began this way and over time became more and more refined, as well as more personalized. As I discovered more about myself, my questions altered as well. I began to ask about Hermunitics, the area of study that Adam had saturated himself with. Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation of texts through various disciplines. Adam had chosen Biblical Hermeneutics as his Ph.D. thesis (I have read his thesis on the subject and at the time was working on set of Chef’s Table as a production assistant. It was fascinating and difficult for me to comprehend, as if Lebron James wanted to play a little one on one. Perhaps its time to revisit the text?) I asked questions about screenwriters and movie structures, we ventured down Campbell’s ideas and where Adam thought they were flawed. He loaned me books on literary theory and philosophical views of literature. Our relationship continued on like this for many years until he approached me about the idea for Bible Walkthrough, a DIY youtube series helping people “walkthrough, the bible.” It was Adam’s attempt at breaking down difficult passages that to the untrained and unread mind could be confusing. He spoke and read greek and hebrew, could help with translation issues, shed light on what life was like back then versus today’s mores, and offer up his knowledge on passages all throughout the ancient texts. Along with Wesley Warner, the three of us began filming these episodes (They are still on youtube and I hope that someday we can return to producing them) After shooting over 40 episodes and spending countless hours with Adam and Wes via editing, I had been exposed to two of the best mind’s that understood the bible in great detail, and I had heard their answers to these passages over and over again with each edit. I was to the point that I felt like I could be asked a question and predict how Adam or Wes would probably answer. Though I never rested upon this idea that I didn't need or want to hear what they would have to say about a subject and as time was proceeded there were many times where I was surprised by their response, but I always had a hunch.
As I continued to meet with Adam and we spent time together geeking out over stories, wrestling with philosophical ideas, and sharing experiences and memories I began to take notes and eventually I would record each session as to return to it at a later time when I would be older and hopefully wiser. This technique has proved successful as I have returned to our talks many times and just lately have transcribed some of them into word documents where I can read over them at any time necessary. My notebooks over flowed with quotes, stories and answers to my questions. My phone recorded hours of conversations between the two of us. I would listen over and over again to pick up on small details that I may have missed. I saved emails where, looking back I was asking some big questions, so in return I was getting some big answers.
I still remain in contact with Adam, though he has relocated to the island shores of Hawaii where he spends his time enjoying the sun and surf as well as working on several publications. Last I spoke to him he said something about building a college, sounds like Adam. I will still email him questions regarding story structure, character design, and existential hums that I struggle with and in return I always get a detailed and well thought out response that I take and add to my collection to return to at a later time.
Adam helped form me into the man I am now and much of his words have settled into the foundations of my manhood alongside words from my own father, grandparents, other mentors and the experiences that culminated to help build me. I met him at a very charged* moment within my life, one where I was changing fast, testing myself, my beliefs and my ideas. Through his patience I was able to learn and grow not only in my faith, but as a man. There is folder on my note app titled “Wisdom and Observations of the Great Adam Ayers” this folder contains most of the recorded interactions that I have had with Adam. Quotes. Sayings. Scripture. Lessons. Advice. This series of blogs will ruminate on those things in which Adam has taught me, challenged me, the things I have learned from him and reflect on moments I spent with him. He is an exceptional person and I hope to walk my path as integral and courageous as he has walked his.