The man sat in his wheelchair with his head drooping forward as I walked by. He seemed unremarkable and was in most ways what I often see in a nursing home.
I made my rounds and stopped to visit Joy Robbins.
“Did you meet Pastor Schneider?” she asked.
“I don’t think I know Pastor Schneider,” I replied.
“Don’t know Pastor Schneider?” Joy clucked her tongue. “Why he’s the reason most of us left a path to hell itself for streets of gold.”
There was a light in Joy’s eyes as she spoke, “Night after night he came to a tent just outside of town. Pastor Schneider told us the truth and didn’t care who was offended.”
I smiled at Joy as she relived a bygone era. “The hymns were filled with power and his words made us squirm. The hounds of heaven were chasing us and we were having a hard time running far enough away.”
“He was a traveling evangelist?” I asked.
“Indeed he was, and a good one. Every night men and women would come weeping to the front of the tent and surrender their low-down, mean and ornery lives by allowing the Holy Ghost to fill them up.”
Joy began humming. She closed her eyes and recalled a time when she’d conducted business with God and ended up transferring life ownership to God. It was in a holy moment.
In was then I detected another voice humming in harmony. A wheelchair rolled in and Pastor Schneider had tears streaming down his face. In a crackling voice the two sang.
Jesus is all the world to me,
My life, my joy, my all;
He is my strength from day to day,
Without Him I would fall.
When I am sad, to Him I go,
No other one can cheer me so;
When I am sad, He makes me glad,
He’s my Friend.
I couldn’t refute the holiness of the moment; two citizens of a heavenly kingdom drawing on the strength of a Friend they would join one day soon. Sixty years faded between the two and there was rejoicing in a lifelong journey that led them to a point of mutual yearning for a land not so far away.
Joy and Pastor Schneider visited about the tent revivals of times long past. I was summarily dismissed from their conversation. Yet, for me it was a moment to draw from the conversation like a sponge.
The spiritual history was legendary, yet widely unknown. I was privy to an honor roll of saints that had already made the pilgrimage from earth to their country of citizenship.
As a nurse came in to check on Joy, Pastor Schneider began to share the gospel with her. She pacified the aging pastor as best she could and then excused herself.
“I’m sorry, young man. I’m afraid I’ve left you completely out of the conversation,” Pastor Schneider said as he looked at me with eyes dimmed with age.
“Oh, that’s fine, Sir. I have simply been enjoying eavesdropping,” I replied, genuinely sorry to have their conversation interrupted.
“And what’s your name, son?” Pastor Schneider asked.
I told him my name and he put his hand over his mouth and began to weep silently.
“I’m sorry, did I say something wrong?” I asked.
“No, no,” Pastor Schneider replied, “I am just so grateful I have finally been able to meet you.”
“I just recently moved to town,” I replied.
“And you’re the pastor at Community Church.” Pastor Schneider said this as a statement.
“That’s right,” I said with a smile.
“Your grandfather was a degenerate,” Pastor Schneider said without preamble. “I have never seen a man in more need of regeneration than he.”
I was a little unsure how to respond, “Uh, I never actually met my grandfather, Sir. He passed on shortly after my dad was born.”
“Yes, in a car accident. Terrible, just terrible,” Pastor Schneider said shaking his head sadly. “Did you know that I had the honor of pointing him to Jesus the night of his accident. He was on his way to tell your grandmother when the accident happened.”
What?” I asked in utter amazement.
“I had to leave for Chicago and heard about the accident much later. Imagine, all these years and I’m finally able to share good news,” Pastor Schneider said as he squeezed my shoulder and wept with a younger pastor who’d just had decades of doubt wiped clean in a moment of rejoicing.
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