After a 50 degree night in the hills of eastern Ohio, I pulled up to Sam’s house for another day of ministry. We started with a prayer and drove to a house where two families greeted me. The first family was hosting the day’s events while the other was a major reason for my coming.
It seems as though sin in the form of anger and all forms of abuse can happen even in a society that has worked hard to create peace and harmony. Again, while I am listening to pains I am also training a family who is greatly respected in the community. There is a certain spirit that evokes confidence and reassurance. This couple has it. My goal will be to help them realize what they are doing that is so approachable so they can repeat it on purpose.
After the morning session and another meal with more people around the table than at the Last Supper, I took a walk with the oldest son of the family of focus. While walking for a while and talking about how much he had increased his smoking of cigars (only cigarettes with white paper are frowned upon), we stopped in a work barn and found a place to sit. There I found myself doing the kind of helping that I love. Nothing formal. Easy and relaxed talking with no real agenda except to listen. I was with a young man looking for guidance but finding no one he could trust within his community. I was thankful he could find such a person in me. My job will be to help the community know how to be trustworthy and safe with such an angry young man who does not want to be controlled. These people are learning that their good intentions can actually be more harmful than good.
His father was not around and would not be around for several years. All this left the family in turmoil and in deep pain. I did not expect to find here another example of the negative affects of an absent father. But I did.
After a short afternoon break, I drove to the next appointment. Several miles on a two lane road, led me to a two story framed white house with a welcoming front porch. Their barn and workshop were close by, nestled in the midst of tall timbered rolling hills. A half acre garden was just behind the house and one of several buggies were standing ready for the evening’s travels. Four children were entertaining themselves with scooters and chasing butterflies. A dog was resting on the porch preparing for his duties tonight of keeping the deer and other varmints away from their garden.
After exchanging greetings, we were eventually led to another vast dinner table. Six (or seven) boys set next to the wall on a long bench. The other side was filled with three girls, mom (Cevilla) who was attending a baby, and my wife Janice. it seems that the women sit where they can get up and down easily so to serve where needed. Mose and I headed each end of the table. I have been placed opposite of the father at each meal I have attended. I am assuming that this is a place of honor. Two boys, whose work was closer to the meeting house for the evening, chose not to be there for supper so they could be at the meeting on time.
After a great meal of venison sausage, homemade bread and sloppy Joe cooked on a wood burning stove, we topped the meal off with homemade Elderberry pie and butternut ice cream. Then it was time for the meeting.
About 25 horse drawn buggies pulled up to an auction barn that had been cleared for this special meeting. Mostly young couples and teenagers with a sprinkling of gray hairs filled half of the risers. I was given a wireless mike and told to present on the floor level where livestock were usually displayed. Fortunately, no one bid on me.
The night was filled with everyone leaning in and soaking up every word I said. I tried hard to give examples that they could relate to like Jesus did when he talked to all those farmers of the day. I talked about cultivators left in the rain, sugar forgotten at the store, and people who say they will help with canning but do more talking than helping. I think they appreciated my efforts and often gifted me with their laughter. Especially when I accidentally bumped into their reality that they had never before knew how to express with words.
After I finished my talk and led the group of about 75 in prayer, they wanted to do one more thing. They had carried with them their hymnals the size of a pocket dictionary. They wanted to praise God in song. They had chosen the song, and at the appropriate time, a man began singing alone. He sang a phrase, followed by a response from the group. This was all in Pennsylvania Dutch and it lasted for about 5 minutes. He would introduce what must have been a first phrase and this was followed with everyone singing in a united response. There were crescendos with abrupt endings followed by the lone voice beginning another verse. While Janice and I could not understand a word, we heard heartfelt praise in its simplest form. No guitar and no one waving hands of direction. Simple praise.
Afterwards, I moved outside and before I realized it, about 20 young men in their late teens had circled around me. They said nothing. In a silence they have grown comfortable in, they simply looked at me. I wasn’t sure if they were really cannibals sizing me up for their next meal or if they wanted more of what I had to say. Either way, tonight they seemed to leave wanting more.
Janice and I are sitting around a camp fire crafting this blog together. We look forward to what tomorrow brings.