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"God, if this is real," he prayed, "I want it."
Back in Kansas City, Bickle walked the halls of Center High School carrying a massive Catholic Bible -- the only one he could find in his parents' house -- and wearing a 9-inch wooden cross hanging from his neck. He taught himself at "bedside Bible school," then went to the University of Missouri in Columbia for a year. He never attended seminary.
Bickle first pastored at a couple of charismatic Christian churches in St. Louis. He went to Egypt in 1982 to witness poverty firsthand and planned to move to Mexico as a missionary. Instead, after hearing God's voice say in Cairo that Bickle would help change the practice of Christianity in one generation, he returned to Kansas City.
When he started the Kansas City Fellowship church in Grandview that fall, Bickle encouraged his congregation to talk in tongues, the unintelligible speech that seems to erupt spontaneously from enraptured worshipers at Pentecostal and Holiness church services. He believed that people could be possessed by demons sent by Satan to battle the Holy Spirit. He believed that those demons could be cast out.
In March 1983, six months after Bickle's Cairo experience, a man showed up at Bickle's church office at Kansas City Fellowship. He was bundled in a winter coat, though the temperature outside was nearly eighty.
Bob Jones' fingers moved as he spoke, catching "the wind" of the Holy Spirit. He described seeing hundreds of bizarre visions. Then he said that God was going to raise a prophetic church in Kansas City and that Jones would be part of its foundation. Bickle says Jones predicted that God would call for a "time of prayer and fasting" with a sign: A previously undiscovered comet would soon soar through the heavens.
In May, a newly named comet passed the earth within 3 million miles, yet it was visible only by telescope.
Then Jones predicted a drought from June until August 23. Plenty of rain fell that June (nearly 6.5 inches at Kansas City's downtown airport), and more than an inch fell in July, but Bickle still remembers the inch or so recorded around the city on August 23 as a drought-breaking downpour. Surely, he thought, the "drought" proved that Jones was a prophet of God.
The prophet was a country boy from Arkansas with poor grammar and strange ways. His pant legs rode three inches above his socks. His bare stomach sometimes poked from ill-fitting shirts. Jones' rambling prophecies were metaphors that few could comprehend. In his "Technicolor visions," he stood in cloud-padded courtrooms of God or wrestled burly minions of Satan.
Yet he and Bickle became the core of the Kansas City Prophets. "His ministry style was like nothing I had ever seen before," Bickle wrote in his book, Growing in the Prophetic. "He would talk about feeling the wind of the Spirit or his hands getting hot during a ministry time."
Jones also spoke of an angel appearing to him along a dusty Arkansas road when he was nine years old. A few years later, the Lord called out to him from behind the stalks of a cane field. Despite -- or because of -- these divine contacts, Jones went on to a life of gambling, drinking, stealing and all-around sin. When he was 39 and living in Kansas City, Jones had a mental breakdown and was admitted to a veteran's hospital in Topeka.
"They told my doctor he might as well put me on the strong stuff," says Jones in one written account. "They said I'd be there the rest of my life."