By John R. Houghton
Business Consultant and Life Coach
I’ve had the pleasure of serving with Ken Birks for years as part of an eldership team in in Roseville, Ca. When I first met Ken, twelve years ago, I was impressed by his theological astuteness and sober minded approach to church life. He had been a pastor, but it was more than that. He seemed to understand the boundaries and guidelines of scripture as they pertained to the local church and God’s expectations for those He loved and those He had saved.
Over the years, I discovered that underneath this exterior of Biblical knowledge, there was a significant story of redemption. Not that each of us, who have experienced God’s grace, doesn’t have an interesting story of redemption, but Ken’s seemed to have some pieces that didn’t all come together for me. As I learned more and more of what we had in common, our music, our former lostness, our belief that God was always working in our lives, even when we weren’t aware of Him or His workings, a mystery began to emerge. How had Ken come to know Jesus and the love of God in his life? I knew it wasn’t ‘boy grows up, goes to church, enjoys Sunday school, and dedicates his life at Summer Camp, goes to a young adult group, become a solid Christian citizen, gets married and fulfills his lifelong dream of becoming a pastor.’ I knew it was a different story, a story that was embedded and fashioned out of the times we grew up in.
The Adventures of Space and Hobo tells that story—of Ken’s vagabond life after Vietnam. It explores the on-the-ground confusion and chaos of the Vietnam War and its effects on a generation, and those who served. Named Space by a new friend, Hobo, Ken and his traveling companion hit the road to partake of all the possibilities of that generation in search of adventure and uncharted experiences. They were looking for what was real, authentic, and the invisible mysteries behind it all. The story takes us step by step along the path of an awakening of a lost soul, on his way to finding understanding of himself, his path, and the meaning of his life.
And along the way we discover the futility of expecting different surroundings and new happenings to fill what’s missing in ourselves. And we discover the grace of God. We watch as His patience, protection and kindness take every opportunity to express His love and intercept the consciousness of a young man who was looking for more, but didn’t know exactly what. We see the diligent pursuit of a God who won’t let go and can outwit our stubbornness and deception and complacency—A God who knows those who are His and won’t stop until we look with awe at how he has called and led us, without force, to a moment of awe-inspiring revelation and a true change of identity, heart and mind.
The Adventures of Space and Hobo narrates the empty and exhausting search for “something more” that characterized a generation. And it tells the story of the God who was there all along, waiting at the end of their road with open arms, as the searchers realized they were looking for a Person, and their real selves, not an experience.