The following series is a reprint of three short pieces I submitted for publication in a Spokane Christian paper in 2015. The paper’s editor sent me a polite letter afterward, saying that he would not be able to publish them. Gary knew the editor’s father, the man who started the paper, now gone to be with the Lord. Gary went and spoke to him when he was struggling and about to shut down the paper, telling him that God wanted him to continue publishing it, and that He would bless it. The son knew nothing about the prophet who encouraged his father, but the paper was doing well and still publishing good news.
I’m not comfortable with titles; they make my skin crawl. When a person has to announce that they are an apostle, evangelist, spiritual healer, or prophet, I usually run the other way. When I met my friend Gary Ring in 1993, it wasn’t like that. He was a big truck mechanic who injured his lungs and could no longer work around fumes and exhaust. The Veteran’s Administration decided to retrain him as an aide – my aide – because we happened to have an opening in our department at the Spokane VA hospital.
He seemed like a bad fit. He talked loudly and said whatever he wanted to say to anyone he wanted to say it to. It turned out he was a Christian, and some kind of prophet. I never saw him heal anyone at work, but he was known to march into the attending doctors’ staff meetings to give them a piece of his mind. He was not impressed by lab coats, degrees, M.D.’s or anything else. When a vet was not getting the care he needed, he found the doctors and told them to do their jobs.
I have known Gary for more than twenty years now, and since that time at the VA hospital I have seen him heal, prophesy, or lead total strangers to Jesus many times. In all that time, I’ve never heard him say anything that didn’t happen just like he said it would.
Gary was well-known in the Spokane area as the “grease prophet,” walking around in shorts and a dirty T-shirt with grease on his hands and face. After he left the VA hospital, he eventually went back to working on trucks. Besides preaching Jesus, diesel mechanics was all he knew. The man can hardly read or write, but I’ve heard him quote scripture perfectly without ever opening a Bible to hunt the passage. I have often wondered how the gift he has was put into such a broken vessel.
It began for Gary as a youngster in the back of a Roman Catholic church in Wilbur, WA with his mother. His daddy and brothers were hard-working, hard-drinking rodeo riders. While his mother worshipped, he prayed, “If You are real, then show me, otherwise I want nothing to do with You.”
He saw a bright light surround him, that filled him with joy. He raised his hands and began to speak in an unknown tongue. His parents thought something was wrong with him and took him privately to see the priest. The priest said not to worry, that he would grow out if it, but he never did. He would be out on the tractor plowing and singing, and the spirit would fall on him like it did that day in the church. Later on when he began to heal people, the priest said he was crazy. There was a lady with a tumor on her face, and after he prayed for her it just disappeared. He prayed for Alzheimer’s patients, and they were able to remember all about God.
When he left the VA but was not yet recovered enough to work on trucks, he had a wife, a house, and a land-line phone. He took a job working for a psychic hotline. He would dial a number to log-in, and the switchboard sent him calls until he logged out. I listened as he took calls from across the country. He told the caller not to tell him anything, because God knew why they called and was going to speak to them. He told them everything that was in their heart, and that Father knew all about it. Then he would lead the person to Jesus, pray the sinner’s prayer with them, and tell them to find a good Bible teaching church. Call after call, same thing. He led them all to Jesus.
He’s not what you would expect. He tells crude stories when people start to treat him like a holy man. “All I want,” he says, “is one of those Victoria Secret girls.” After his wife died, he just had his cat for company. He lived in a fifth wheel trailer and moved around from park to park. He used to ride with the Christian Motorcycle Association, but had to give it up when his hips couldn’t take the long rides anymore.
A prophet’s job is to say what Jesus would say to a lost and wicked generation. He often went privately to speak to pastors and evangelists that needed to be reminded to repent themselves. He told their secret sins until their faces went as white as a sheet, and then gave a message from God to turn around and be faithful in the ministry they had. He was well-known at pastor’s breakfasts and prayer meetings in the area. I wonder how many he saved from falling.
“It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature…” (Ephesians 4:11-13a).
In the next post, My Prophet Friend Gary, Part Two, he meets a prominent leader in Seattle’s Wiccan community.