About six months ago, my mom composed an album of the Gift family before there was me. Until recently, I never quite recognized the beauty and warm nostalgic feelings that these photos represent. Looking back to the days when Father was a Pentecostal Christian Minister and when the family lived on a Christian hippy commune called Gospel Outreach makes me feel like I really missed out on the good times.
Ma and Pa got their start at City By the Bay in the 70’s, leaving their Las Vegas childhoods behind. They did the appropriate things here–Mom made quilts, Dad tooled leather belts and purses and they sold their wares in a place called Golden Gate Park, maybe you’ve heard of it?
Soon enough mom got preggers with my oldest sister Heather Winona. In this whole spiritual movement of the 70’s there were really two paths: Free Love or God Love. Daddy found God AND found out that having a child out of wedlock was a sin, so he hightailed it up to Mendecino to A) Marry mom and B) Become the minister of the Northern California chapter of Gospel Outreach. Here is a photos of Mrs. Rev. Jesse Gift Jr. about 6 months onto the pregnancy, 2 months into the marriage and 3 months in Mendecino.
Soon enough Dad was leading up a whole slew of the lord’s men, mom was the happy mother and care-taker of the grounds, cooking for 40+, gardening, and fully supporting my father’s path. Here are the disciples and brothers and sisters in the Mendecino Days.
After a couple of years, Dad had the opportunity to move down to Southern California to spread the word and continue building his family of children and men. Here is the Whittier family in 1974.
Finally settling in Perris, California after stints in Whittier and Van Nuys, the family took up root on a 10 acre ranch, fully equipped with a bell tower, multi-family home, worship hall, community garden and woodshop. Oh and Mom and Dad managed to pop out a couple of other kids in the mean time, brother Noah David and sister Rebecca Marie.
I finally made my appearance on the ranch in 1984. I was everyone’s favorite I assure you. My family was done with the ministry by the time I was 8 years old, so my memories of the ranch in Perris are scant and mainly consist of our collie RobRoy, the roosters that kept getting gobbled by the coyotes, dinners for 25, and Dad performing baptisms at the beach in San Juan Capistrano.
Dad gave up the ministry after 15 years running that game. He is now an Emmy Award-winning Hollywood producer.