The spindly lady of the Bluegrass State bought me time.
Mrs. Hottenstein’s sponsorship gift achieved what she’d hoped. Freed me to attend more to my college work at hand. And the extra hours away from the teletype keys meant added time with my young nurse-student wife. That meant a lot. Our ships-passing-in-the-night could sit a few more minutes each day in their common harbor – the thirty-five by eight-foot rented house trailer we called home.
The added margin freed me to drive northward. To a meeting I felt strongly drawn to make.
“Hey David, I feel I should visit my home church in Oklahoma. Special meetings are going on next week. If you’re free to come, it would be great having time together.”
The nine-hour road trip brought us to the sanctuary of Living Way Tabernacle, my place of worship from childhood. What followed set the course for decades of adventure to come.
Vigorous hand-clapping accompanied robust singing as organist Ragsdale’s nimble fingers brought life to the instrument. Monday night, first evening in a string of special meetings.
Rev. G.C., a pastor hailing from the deep south, was handed the mic. He was a large man, gigantic by any standard I knew. I had never met him. It was preaching time.
Over the past two weeks my thoughts had pivoted back and forth between two topics. An African language whose sounds I wouldn’t recognize if I heard it. And a phrase, leadership training. A seemingly random visit with a former missionary had spawned these musings and the themes wouldn’t let go.
Rev. G. C.’s deep, graveled voice thundered away as he moved deeper into his message. Rivulets of sweat glistened on his broad face as his three hundred or so pounds of Georgia preacher-man paced across the front, up and down the center aisle. His command of sacred text was impressive. His passion ran deep.
Twenty minutes into the sermon it happened.
G.C. paced into center aisle, his preaching on a roll. Suddenly, in mid-sentence, he halted. His head tilted upward. The pause continued. Then the preacher man uttered a single word no one expected.
I stared his direction, astonished at the sudden turn in his message. And especially that word. Swahili. The language I had encountered days before. I felt a mist of tears form, a hint at a gathering stream. The preacher went on. “I am hearing the Swahili language.” He scanned the audience.
“Someone in this room is called as a missionary to east or central Africa.”
Another pause. Longer this time. Clearly he wasn’t finished.
©2017 Jerry Lout