On The Beach

The Where the Boys Are scene. In 1976 I was there doing beach evangelism with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship college students. I-V had a long history with Fort Lauderdale. The crowds and parties became so wild that at some point the city had invited I-V to come because we were known as a mitigating factor and good influence.

In 1976 I-V was the only organization allowed on the beach, and we wore green wristbands as IDs. In the morning we had training and discussion, and in the afternoon we went out on the beach in pairs to talk with people and share the Gospel. If they weren’t interested in talking, we still invited them to the TWENTYONEHUNDRED show that was on every evening in a place close to the beach.

2100 (from Roman numeral MMC for Multi-Media Communication) was an I-V media group that began in the early days of the Jesus Movement. Those who came in the evening knew we were Christians because we’d already been seen on the beach. The show featured slides and songs of the times. We were in the aftermath of years of protests and riots, and there was a wealth of lyrics questioning life, purpose, alienation, pain, evil: all the whys of our existence. The music and visuals did the work of bringing the reality of sin and asking the questions of longing for hope and reason; discussion of the Lord Jesus and the Gospel flowed freely. The one song I remember from the show was a clip of Paul Stookey’s “John Henry Bosworth” played at the very end. The words are still powerful as they tell the story of John Henry Bosworth, a Christian who packed up his family and moved to the mountain to get them out of the city. Read the last stanza. Those are the words I haven’t forgotten after all these years.

John Henry Bosworth, late in ‘sixty-eight
Decided that the time had come to settle his estate.
The riots of the summer were creeping into fall
So he packed his family in the car
And chose to leave it all.
Out on the open road with his elbow in the breeze
He pulled his woman to him
And he gave her heart a squeeze.
With a song that he’d been singing
And they waved to the people that they passed
All along the highway they went winging
Headed for their paradise at last.

John Henry Bosworth’s family on the farm
Elizabeth is sitting knitting from a ball of yarn.
Koolaid’s in the kitchen, Button’s up in her bed
And John he takes a long pull on his pipe
And lays his head back in the easy chair.
With the Good Book in his hand
He close his eyes and thank the Lord
For making him a lucky man.
With a song that he’d been singing
And they waved to the people that they passed
All along the highway they were winging
Headed for their paradise at last.

John Henry Bosworth, 1984,
The sky is red, the city’s dead
And there’s a knock upon the door.
Every piece of Scripture, every prayer he prayed
Had brought him to this moment
Of this particular day.
“Open the doors,” he cried.
“Let the brothers and the sisters inside.
I got everything to give now and nothing left to hide.”
With a song that he’d been singing
And they waved to the people that they passed
All along the highway they’d been winging
Headed for their paradise at last.

And I was wondering if you had been to the mountain
To look at the valley below?
Did you see all the roads tangled down in the valley?
Did you know which way to go?
Oh the mountain stream runs pure and clear
And I wish to my soul I could always be here,
But there’s a reason for living way down in the valley
That only the mountain knows.

We were truly a “generation lost in space,” but those of us found by the Lord Jesus echoed the truth of the Apostle Peter’s words, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” We’d lived in that valley. I remember those days of “first love,” when our gratitude and love for God spilled over into a yearning to please Him and honor Him, and our love for God spilled over into our love for one another.

We’re all drawn to go to that mountain and stay there. I’ve felt that scorching sun, known the choking thorns, and at times wondered how shallow the good soil was in my life,* so, yes, I’d rather be up on that mountain and never leave.

But there’s a reason for living way down in the valley
That only the mountain knows.

__________
Postcard image from eBay.  I think the 1960 movie, Where the Boys Are, helped make Fort Lauderdale the mecca of Spring Break in the ’60s. The movie has its moments of hilarity, but as it unwinds it becomes more tragedy than comedy. The reality of the sexual freedom so glibly discussed in the beginning hits hard at the end. Many of my generation, however, went ahead and sowed that wind and spread the whirlwind.
From all I’ve read, I-V has been going full woke. I’ll always be grateful for what I learned then, but I can’t recommend it anymore. We don’t live in the valley to copy its futile ways. We live in the valley because that tangled futile road of sin is a killer, and we have the Good News of Jesus Christ.
*See The Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13:1-23.

Copyright ©2021 Iwana Carpenter

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