Jack wrote this in December, 2005. I’m adding the next post he made to the end of this one, and there is another one about this encounter tomorrow.
The town of Truth or Consequences installed a Vietnam Memorial Wall in 1982. A replica of the Wall in Washington, D.C., in a city part a mile off IH25. It’s a good stopping place for stretching your legs, munching a sandwich and pondering as a break on the long drive between El Paso and Albuquerque.
Today I pulled in there figuring to do a hamburger and the stretch routine. Down at the other end was a beat up brown Econoline van with POW MIA stickers on it and a painted sign along the top: RAINBOW CHRISTIAN MINISTRIES.
Beside the van cooking something on a Coleman stove on legs was a guy I haven’t seen in a long while. Doctor Jonas. He looked up when I got out of the truck and we waved at one another from a hundred yards, then he went on cooking while I strolled leisurely along the wall, as I’m prone to do.
“Life good, brother Jack?” As I neared him, from about 30 yards. Jonas, I observed, was still wearing old BDUs and more hair than any man needs. He had the look of a man with an odor, though I can’t say I noticed one about him.
“Still good, Jonas.” He turned down the stove and took a few steps in my direction, arms extended. “We don’t hug, Jonas.” I held out a hand for shaking, instead (in lieu of the hug). “How’s the preaching business?”
“Get’s tougher all the time.”
We wandered back toward the van and he turned the stove back up.
Jonas is usually known as Doctor Jonas. He carries the Christian gospel to the street people, speed freaks, street prostitutes in Albuquerque. His foot in the door with them is that he uses skills acquired during two tours as a combat medic in Vietnam to provide them with unofficial medical care.
Jonas is something of an institution. He funds his ministry by bringing prescription anti-biotics, anti-inflamatories and whatnot up from Mexico and selling them to illegal aliens in Albuquerque. That, and selling a bit of jade on the side keeps him preaching and ministering to people who need it as badly as anyone in the US can need it.
As we talked I heard a moan from inside the van. I shot a questioning glance at Jonas and he just shrugged. “Junkie having a try at withdrawal. I brought him down to Caballo where I thought I could keep a better eye on him, but the Park Pigs were getting too nosy.”
Another of Jonas’s services. He serves as a nursemaid and guardian angel for people going through withdrawal from hard drugs. I never saw the guy in the truck, but he moaned on and off all the time we were near enough to the van to hear him.
We talked a bit longer and I had an, “I wish I’d said that” experience before I left, which I’ll relate to you maybe in the next entry.
A bit more Jonas
I’m going to save the “I wish I’d said that” portion of today’s Jonas encounter for tomorrow, but I’ve re-read the anecdote below and I feel I need to broaden the brush stroke on him a bit.
Jonas isn’t an easy man to be around. It’s impossible not to have an almost breathless respect for him, but difficult to like him as a personality. He must be near my age, and the years are telling on him, but he has an almost obnoxious youthful enthusiasm, a robustness and exuberance that’s not easy to take.
As I mentioned, the appendage above his torso is hair in every direction with a grinning set of somewhat snaggled, yellowing teeth and a pair of eyes peering out.
His clothing, BDU fatigues with cargo pockets, are worn and give the impression of not being clean, though I suspect they actually are. His appearance causes the viewer to expect him to stink, which he doesn’t.
Jonas is definitely a gentle soul, maybe a wise one, but his demeanor speaks of a puppy foolishness.
However, having said all that, I’ll say again, you can’t know him, or know of him, without feeling a humility and respect entirely out of proportion to the human being in front of you.
I’d say the non-Christian religions are lucky there aren’t more Christians of the Jonas variety. He’s one of the handful of Christians I’ve met in my entire lifetime who behaves as though he actually believes in Jesus Christ.
An added comment:
Someone PMed me expressing the concern that some cop-type of the ‘other’ Christian variety would pick up on the description I’ve given of Jonas and his activities that fall outside the US definitions of legality.
I probably should have prefaced one of these two entries with the caveat: Jonas ain’t his real name, Rainbow isn’t the name of the ministry that’s on his van, and brown isn’t the color.
Having said that, I should also say that the law enforcement community is well aware of Jonas and his activities. They’ve done everything they could think of to make his life difficult for the last quarter-century, or more. He’s been busted more times than I’ve eaten at McDonalds. Which is to say, it doesn’t happen any more often than either of us can help it, but it occasionally does.
But you can’t stop a man who knows he’s right and keeps coming. Even in America.