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it's his last day in Shreveport before returning to L.A., and John David decides to spend the morning worshipping with his father's congregation. Every so often Johnny calls everyone in Our Home Fellowship together for a "mass meeting" at some building he's rented for the day. Today that building is the Hot Wheels Skating Palace, a barn-sized metal structure painted red and white and decorated with castlelike turrets. Outside, a large sign says S-K-A-T-E. Another declares WE DO A GREAT BIRTHDAY PARTY $48.
By 10 a.m. the parking lot is crowded with trucks and SUVs, several of them sporting bumper stickers declaring love for the three most popular people in North Louisiana's Bible Belt: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Jesus Christ.
After Denny Duron fired him, Johnny accepted a job as athletic director at Calvary Baptist Academy, a private K--12 institution with 900 students. The football team went 4--6 last year, its first in organized play. In 2005 it promises to be much improved, but one game in particular, scheduled for Oct. 14th, is certain to give the Cavaliers trouble--a district game with Evangel. That matchup already has much of Shreveport abuzz.
A small commotion goes up when John David, handsome this morning in jeans and a light gray sweater, enters the skating rink. Dazzled boys and grizzled men want to shake his hand, and women young and old laugh nervously as they go up on their toes and kiss the air beside his ear.
There are doughnuts and coffee in back for those who missed breakfast. On the counter where Hot Wheels rents skates, there stands a lone cowboy boot with cash and bank checks stuck inside. LINE UP HERE FOR SIZES 5--7, says a sign just above it. The boot, a size 11, belongs to Johnny; it was pulled from his closet one day during a fellowship meeting at his home by one of his church members who said they should use it in lieu of a collections basket.
John David sits in back next to Abram and his family, and just a few chairs over from Sonya and Jack, who is developing into a college prospect at quarterback. The 5'9", 150-pound Jack, who will be a sophomore at Calvary, is still waiting for the growth spurt that will help him see better over his offensive line. "I'd better start growing soon if I want to play in the NFL," he says.
After a spirited round of singing, Johnny turns to face about 200 people sitting on folding chairs in a semicircle. Behind him a guitarist strums an artful tune as Johnny prays with one hand clutching a microphone, the other open and raised as if to pull something from the air. "Jesus is about to break out," he begins, "not only in this country but around the world."
From the congregation comes whispered amens. John David, eyes open, lowers his head until his chin is resting on his chest. He listens intently as his father's words fill the building.
"Lord, give us more love in our hearts," Johnny prays, his voice growing louder. "Let the spirit of God move me and take over. Once again turn America back to the living God. Gotta get back in the household, gotta get back in the family, gotta happen right here at home. Dear Lord, we ask you to do what we can't do. Breathe on our families. Breathe on them, Lord, and strengthen us together. I pray that each man here today will devote himself to being the patriarch of his family. I pray that our children will love their mothers and fathers and honor them. I pray, oh God, that your will be done, oh God. May they honor their fathers, oh Lord. May your children honor them, dear God. May they love them and honor them all the days of their lives...."