|Rev Adam Bridger
(creator: Alton Gansky)
|Rev Dr Adam Bridger is the pastor of the Maple Street Community Church in San Diego. He has been a pastor for 15 years, the last 9 of which have been spent at Maple Street. "As a child, Adam had been a loner" and his loner habits "carried over into adult life", although he could still be "an entertaining host, a fine pastor and, according to his few close friends, a great confidant ... As a Pastor, he felt comfortable being confided in, but uncomfortable confiding in others."
He was "tall with dark hair and thick glasses. A highly educated scholar", who usually "had the patience of Job .... He always described himself as a middle-aged man with glasses too thick that sat upon a face that was too plain." He "considered himself unlucky with women", as he had been engaged twice but, as he put it, "Things didn't work out." His second engagement had ended three years previously when his fiancée, a member of his church, had proved unfaithful. But then he meets Dr Rachel Tremaine, as described in the first novel described below.
He is a compassionate but tough character, who is prepared to stand up for his beliefs. "At his very core, Adam was a humble man, but he had a professional pride in his education and his vocation", but he was no fanatic. "Those outside church life often thought that a spiritual mind could not be a reasoning mind. They did not realise that some of the finest minds of the ages were filled with belief and faith."
Rachel tells him "You are full of life. You're fun, intelligent, and tender ... yet, you're so intense." To her, he had at first "seemed a superstitious cleric who clutched onto God because the world was too difficult to face. But now she knew that he was a man with a keen intellect and a heart for people ... He carried himself with a confidence and assurance that few possessed ... There seemed to be a well of strength and wisdom."
Alton Gansky is the author of well over 20 novels, of which the first was By My Hands, and the second was Through My Eyes. He has B.A. and M.A. degrees in Biblical Studies. He lives with his wife Becky in Phelan, California, where he is senior pastor of High Desert Baptist Church. They have twin daughters and a son. He explains, "I used to work in a bank, I've been a firefighter, spent ten years in architecture, and am a Baptist minister. I was born in Texas but we moved to San Diego when I was three months old. I have been married since 1973. My strengths are in my characters and unusual plotlines. I tend to write about intelligent but otherwise ordinary people in extraordinary situations."
By My Hands (1996)
Meanwhile when one of Adam Bridger's parishioners is suddenly healed, and subsequently disappears, Adam feels he must look into the matter himself. Who is behind these mysterious healings, and why do the healed patients all seem to vanish? Is this an act of God or an incredible hoax? Adam felt "he had to believe in miracles, not because he was told to, but because of his belief in God. By definition God was both omnipotent and omniscient, which meant that He possessed both the power and the knowledge to perform miracles." But "Would God perform miracles in secret, leaving a mystery behind? Would He send His emissary stealthily to walk the halls of a hospital? No, God always performed miracles to draw attention to the message-giver; and since, at least so far, there was no message, then these events must have some rational explanation instead of supernatural."
TV journalist Priscilla Sims also joins in the hunt, although it seems very odd indeed that the rest of the media do not chase much more vigorously after the so-called Healer, who is said to have found his way to patients' bedsides and emits a strange blue light! And are both the people who claim to be the Healer really him or Him?
Adam Bridger himself is a strongly-drawn convincing character, who feels for the crowds of the old and the handicapped that throng the hospital in hope of a miraculous cure. "The sudden confrontation as well as the magnitude of human suffering jolted Adam." As he often felt when wanting to help the bereaved, "There was so little that could be said, and still less that could be done. The only ministry option available to him was to simply be there. Although he had done this task many times, he had never reached an emotional balance with it. No matter how often he had watched people die, he could never grow used to the grief left behind."
Other more unusual characters include Martin, a rich young problem solver who is still under 30 but who makes $150 million in one year by solving problems for computer designers, electrical engineers and medical researchers, who turn to him when all else fails, and Rev Paul Isaiah who runs a highly popular gospel mission promising God's people a wealthy return for their worship. "It is his belief that God has intended everyone to be rich. If they are not rich, then it's because they chose not to be." When addressing a crowd, he adopted a "folk preaching cadence which was popular in some areas of the deep South. He did this by adding an 'uh' sound at the end of every phrase: "If it's in your heart-uh , you can have it-uh . If you believe it,-uh, than it will be so." Could he be based on someone the author really knew?
Rachel and Adam get together to make an unlikely but highly effective team as, although at first they seem to have little in common, they both have a lot of questions, especially when it comes to so-called miracles. Adam feels that there is a problem about Rachel's apparent atheism, and is more than a little disconcerted when she suddenly appears wearing just an elegant gossamer nightgown. The problems that some clergy have! He tells his one and only close friend that he has doubts about his future with her as "We should avoid being unequally yoked". But his friend advises him, "Talk to her. If any one can show her the truth, you can."
Plenty happens, ranging from kidnapping to murder, and it makes a gripping and interesting story, although the denoument is distinctly melodramatic, and the happy all-singing, all-dancing, yet quite moving ending defies belief, and the author could be accused of taking the easy way out. Even so, the book is to be recommended for the authenticity of its portrait of an ordinary minister (albeit in extraordinary circumstances) and its sheer originality.
Through My Eyes (1977)
They turn to Adam's friend, the genius, if agnostic, Martin, for help. He still solves problems by sitting "on the floor like a stone statue, his head resting motionless in his hands, his elbows planted squarely on his knees .... Martin's body might be sedentary, but his brain was one of the most active on the planet." He tells his sister, "If I were God and I wanted to send a message I sure wouldn't use a means like this". But then he looks again at the paintings in front of him and finds that there are changing in front of his very eyes. "Unbelievable," he says. And that about sums it up. He then tells Adam that he and the others must set off on a search for the Ark, guided by the pictures that had painted themselves. You cannot but agree with Adam when he later solemnly declares, "Something highly unusual is going on here".
So, quite amazingly, they travel to Ethiopia and the Greek Islands on what sounds like a mad treasure hunt. For Adam it will be all worth while for, as he explains, the Ark "had about it the very nature of God" and might even still contain the Ten Commandments, "words inscribed by none other than God's own finger."
The crooks who are following them are nothing more than caricatures, as is a top-of-the-market lady thief, for whom "it wasn't enough to steal the most precious gems, works of art, and industrial secrets; it had to be done in a way that even the police would admire .... Adventure required some risk even if Lindsay had to introduce the risk herself." And Adam himself gets little opportunity to come across as a real pastor.
The book is rather awkwardly written with some unnecessary repetition, as when the characters repeat the stories with which we are already familiar, and some of the conversation is distinctly stilted as when the arch villain captures the Ark in an undergound gold-covered Minoan temple on a deserted Greek Island (!) and announces, "I am Gerald T. Quince. Just your knowing that is enough for me to order you kill, but I have need of you - for now."
After all these totally unbelievable happenings, it is Adam who finally remarks, "If you ask me, we all have a lot to be thankful for." Well, the survivors have, anyway. And the repentant crook who "was dead'" yet "felt alive" and saw "a silhouette drawing closer. A man. A smile that could warm any soul. A hand. A pair of arms. An embrace. A word spoken. A response given: 'Yes, Lord. Oh, yes, Lord'." Such religious messages to not seem to arise at all naturally out of such a silly story.
As the author says in his Afterword, "The scenario presented in this work of fiction is only a possibility, and should be viewed as a contrivance of storytelling and little more." Yes, contrivance is the word.
|The Adam Bridger books are described as medical suspense novels, but religious miracle stories would be nearer the point.|