My church is a pretty typical Indiana country church; it varies anywhere from pretty conservative to very conservative. A large portion of our congregation are veterans, and we have a large number of our children who are either currently serving in the military, or waiting for graduation to leave for basic training. We have a lot of farmers, and most of us who aren’t farmers grew up on farms.
It is home to a lot of ordinary people, but also has more than its fair share of characters; you know what I mean – people who, despite their seeming ordinariness, are just a bit skewed. They are the tellers of tall tales, or the basis for them. A few weeks ago, during the prayer request time, one of them stood up.
Now, if your church is like mine, most of the time, folks with a prayer request just raise their hand, and briefly share it when called upon by the preacher. Not this guy. I always look forward to this guy talking, because he doesn’t just make an announcement or a request, he always has a story, and I love stories. I’m going to share this one with you as close to exactly as I can remember it:
Larry’s Prayer Request:
Well . . . Shirley and I were at the Dayton Mall the other day, and she was off shoppin’, and I was lookin’ around, like I do, and I seen this woman sitting on a bench with one o’ them scarf things on her head. Now you know me, I like to talk to the girlies, so I went up and asked her did that thing have something to do with her religion.
She looked a little scared, but said yes, she was a Muslim. Well, we got to talkin’ and it turned out that she was from Iraq. She’d been here seven years, and still talked to her family back home every day on the phone. Now ain’t that somethin’?
I asked her how she liked it here, and she said she loved it. She couldn’t believe all the opportunities there were here. She said right now, she was working three jobs, and had just started her own business, and was trying to get it goin’. She said she didn’t have no opportunities like this for her back in Iraq. She just kept goin’ on and on about what a wonderful country this was.
I asked her about her family, and she said she worried about them all the time, and was tryin’ to save up money to bring more of them over here. She said a lot of them had been killed in all the fighting over the years, especially the men. She’d got pretty teary-eyed talkin’ about that, and I asked her if it’d be okay if I put her family on the prayer list at church.
She said, but aren’t you a Christian? And I said, well yeah, but it really sounded like her family could use all the prayers they could get. Well, that little gal started in cryin’ for real, and give me a big hug, and said yes, that’d be fine, and thank you very much, that would be wonderful. Then she told me to wait, and she run over to this little store, I don’t know if she worked there or not, but she bought up a big bunch of stuff, mostly for girl’s hair, flowers with clips, and the like, and run back over to me and gave ’em to me and said they were for the children in our congregation.
Well, about this time, Shirley come back, and seen this girl a’cryin’, and wanted to know what I’d done, so I told that gal good luck, and I hoped everything worked out okay for her and her family, and we got on out of there. So I want to put her and her family in Iraq on the prayer list. It don’t matter that they’re Muslims, they’re people, and they need the Lord’s help as much as anybody.
So we did.
It strikes me that Larry, an ordinary, redneck, Indiana farmer has found the solutions to much of the world’s problems. I don’t think that Larry’s offer to put Muslims on our prayer list is really that far out of the box. What is unusual is that Larry, unlike the rest of us, is less afraid of appearing foolish than most of the rest of us, and willing to speak openly and frankly with people differently than him, just to satisfy his curiosity about people. If that makes him a fool, then he’s God’s fool, which makes him wiser than most of us.
Note that he didn’t try to convert her, he showed her what a Christian is. He didn’t tell her she didn’t belong, he listened to her. He didn’t try to defend the violence that has cost her so much of her family, he sympathized with her. He didn’t project his fears onto her because of her appearance, he showed her his heart, and in doing so, maybe changed her perception of people like himself. I’m glad to be part of a church that’s home to a character like Larry; A character of character.
We could all learn a lesson from this ordinary, redneck, Indiana farmer, and, if we did, then we might start breaking down the walls that divide us, and maybe make a start on ushering in an age of understanding, empathy, and understanding; three things that really seem to have fallen out of fashion lately. Just a thought.