Love, a struggle with drug addiction and a brush with death put Forrest and Maggie Griffin in their van and on the road to a different sort of Christian ministry.
The Griffins live in their van as they frequently travel back and forth between Oregon and Portales. In their many stops between Portales and Eugene, Ore., they are giving away Bibles, food, blankets and lessons on Christianity to the homeless and drug addicts.
Their brightly painted van is an everyday sighting around Portales, where they stop for several weeks to visit their children and grandchildren.
The van features depictions of nomads, peace signs, hippies, a multi-colored mushroom and declares “High On Jesus” in bold lettering. They plan to remain in the area until Jan. 1, when they will return to their home in Eugene.
Griffin, 50, is a native of Floyd, who says he left ranching and took to the road about 30 years ago to do something different with his life.
Griffin said he mostly slept in a sleeping bag in the woods during his travels, sometimes staying in the mountains for two to three months at a time. But between his travels, he worked as a car salesman in Clovis, which is where he met his wife Maggie, 35, eight years ago.
They purchased the van and started a part time traveling ministry.
“We saved each others’ lives … literally,” said Griffin. “It’s kind of like we threw life rafts out to each other.”
Griffin looked at his wife as he spoke.
“Maggie’s my rock,” he said.
“And he’s mine,” said Maggie in response.
Griffin said he and his wife were both addicted to methamphetamines when they met and their lives were sinking fast. Becoming part of each others’ lives made each want to change for the better.
Griffin said although he and Maggie’s lives changed for the better when they met, the real transformation came four years ago, when Griffin had two heart attacks within three days.
“I came face to face with death and it made me realize my own mortality,” said Griffin. “You seem to think you’ll live forever until something like that happens.”
Griffin said he had always believed in God and always helped the homeless when he was able. But after almost dying, he realized that God was his only chance for completely and radically changing his life and his heart.
Griffin said after the heart attacks, they began the traveling ministry full time.
Griffin said he and his wife focus mainly on drug addicts living on the street, because they want to help others overcome their addictions in the same way God helped them.
“Life is all about evolution. You evolve every day that you live,” said Griffin. “You never stop changing. I’m a sinner just like the next guy.”
“We make a great team together,” added Maggie. “My life is still changing for the better every day.”
Griffin said he and Maggie will also be working regularly with The Last Resort, a ministry in Eugene run by Dale and Pam Kezey. Griffin will also begin receiving treatment for kidney failure next year but plans to continue his ministry as readily as before.
“Our faith enabled us to fully see ourselves,” said Griffin. “Every day, he (Jesus) works with us even more.”