At 10PM on a Friday night, Don Stratton, a 15 year-old run-away darted out between two parked cars on Main Street. It was mid October and a slight rain was falling. A speeding car whizzed by, causing him to trip and fall.
A lone figure, standing on the sidewalk approached. “Need help?”
Don got up. “I’m fine.”
“Mine’s Don. What of it?”
“Nothing, just trying to be friendly.”
“You a cop or something?”
“Not a cop.”
“I work out of that church over there.” He pointed to a small white church with a bell tower. Lights from its stained-glass windows glistened on the dark, wet pavement.
“Got no use for churches.”
“Maybe, but you’re shivering and most likely hungry. We’ve food and warm clothes…a safe place to stay.”
“I’m not going home.”
“I can’t send you back home.”
Don looked across the street. “What’s going on over there? I hear music or something.”
Peter smiled. “We’re having a prayer meeting.” He motioned towards the church. “Come, follow me. I think you’ll be surprised.”
He hesitated. “I ain’t clean.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Don rubbed his arms for warmth. “Ma was always trying to get me to go to church; you know, praying I’d be saved and such.”
“I have a feeling a lot of people have been praying for you, Don.”
At the back of the sanctuary, Don stood in awe. The pews were filled with worshipers. Candles lit the side of each pew, their light gently stirred by the murmured prayers. A harp, cast in shadows, played softly from behind the altar.
Don whispered, “I’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t feel cold or hungry like outside. Is God here?”
“Wherever two or more are gathered in His name, He is there. So, yes, God is most certainly here.”
“It’s nice, but what’s that funny smell?”
“The Bible it says our prayers are as incense, rising up and pleasing to the nostrils of God. It is their prayers that you smell.”
Don shrugged, cocking his head. “Funny, some of those voices, the praying ones, sounds familiar.”
Peter moved to sit them in a back pew. “Don, do you know what salvation is?”
“Ma explained it to me once.” He hung his head. “Like I said, she prays for me.”
‘I know,” Peter answered.
Don continued, “Remember that movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, where the angel gets his wings? Sometimes I think about her reading her Bible and waiting to hear a bell like that to ring for me. You know to tell her I’ve been saved.”
“What do you think - about being saved?”
He looked out over the sanctuary. “I know I’ve done some pretty bad stuff, but still, down here,” he touched his heart, through his dirty t-shirt, “that God still loves me. Dumb, huh?”
“Not dumb at all, Don. Because He does; and more than anything, wants you to live in heaven with Him. But none of us has forever to make that choice.”
Don shivered, and swallowed hard, listening to the prayers and music. “I know, but how’s a guy do that?”
“By following your heart. That one that tells you that God loves you. What’s your heart telling you to do right now, at this moment?”
Don tried to bite back tears, but failed. “To say I’m sorry for the things I’ve done and repent from doing them again.”
“Yes, and what else?
“That He’s my God and I love Him back.”
“And that He forgives you for your sins?”
“That’s a hard one, but yes. That’s what my heart tells me to believe, too.”
As he spoke those words, the prayers from the pews swelled and a brilliant golden light lovingly enveloped him. And, out over the night air, the bell from the steeple suddenly began to chime a joyous report.
At 11PM across town, the bells stirred a woman reading her Bible. At the same moment, there was a knock at her door. She rose to answer it.
“I’m Detective Morgan.” He took off his cap. “Do you have a son, a Don Stratton?”
“Yes, he ran away – a silly fight.” She looked over his shoulder, hope and fear racing across her face.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Davis. But your son, was killed by a hit and run driver over on Main at 10 this evening.”
She clutched her Bible to her heart, tears welling and the sound of a steeple bell ringing in her ears.
“For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their prayer…” (I Peter 3:12 AMP).
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