Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Billboard/Poster/Sign (any or all) (12/02/10)
TITLE: Miracle Revival Services Nightly
By Leola Ogle
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His mind wandered to how it all began in July of 1953 when he and Sammy first saw the flimsy billboard on the vacant lot. It read Miracle Revival Service Nightly – Jesus Saves – Jesus Heals.
In the center of the lot sat a dusty, billowing tent, its open flaps allowing the warm breeze to circulate. They could see rows of folding chairs, a makeshift platform with its cheap wooden pulpit, and an organ. They had sat that day in the shade of the billboard sharing a cold cola, the droplets of moisture on the bottle dampening their hands, the carbonated liquid tickling their noses.
The preacher had approached them smiling widely, shaking their hands and inviting them to service. “Bring your maw and paw with you,” he said as he walked away. They had no intention of ever attending.
At night when the wind was blowing just right, they could hear the music and preaching at their houses two blocks away. It was probably a combination of boredom and curiosity that finally prompted them to attend. Sammy said they could poke fun, maybe pull a prank for excitement.
“Sure,” Mike said, his voice lacking confidence. What if it made God mad and He struck them dead or something?
They lingered awhile on the sidewalk that night, beads of sweat trickling down the back of Mike’s neck as nervous anticipation caused flutters in his stomach. He glanced over at Sammy, who flashed a big grin and gave him the go-ahead sign.
The music had just started as they entered one of the openings. A man greeted them, motioning to two seats in the last row. Mike read the sign behind the platform that said God Is A Miracle God. People were standing and singing, some clapping and raising their hands, a few were doing funny little dances. Mike thought they sure seemed a weird, happy bunch.
That music seemed to go on for a long time, but he supposed it was because the people liked it so much. He noticed a woman sitting at the back, a thin blanket thrown over her shoulder. Her eyes were closed as one hand clutched a nursing baby under the blanket, the other hand waving in the air. He looked to see who she was waving to but no one was paying her any mind.
When several men collected money in cloth bags, Sammy whispered “Should we take some?” Mike vigorously shook his head, pointing at the two men standing at the back.
The people settled down for the preaching, women with their round cardboard fans swishing the air, men mopping their foreheads with white handkerchiefs, kids squirming on their seats or laying on blankets on the ground.
That preacher was a funny little man - pompous and flamboyant, theatrical in his presentation as he hopped around, thumping his bible or waving it in the air. He drawled out God which sounded like Gawd. He had an elaborate come-over of hair and as he became more animated, the flap came loose and did a dance of its own atop his head, bobbing and swaying to his movements. Sammy and Mike elbowed each other and snickered.
The preacher got so wound up that he pulled his suit jacket off, popping his red suspenders against his chest just as some lady jumped up shouting hallelujah. Startled, the boys almost fell off their chairs, giggling nervously, although no one seemed surprised, a few even shouted amen in response.
It was all quite entertaining, so much so that they decided they would attend the next night. In retrospect, it was rather corny and unpolished, but there was something irresistibly compelling about the atmosphere there.
The boys went forward later that week and made a commitment to Jesus. Mike’s parents attended the next week and did the same. It was a humble, yet profound beginning that would influence Mike’s family for generations. Now he sat in a fine church, sophisticated and modern, but the message hadn’t changed over the years: Jesus Saves – Jesus Heals – God Is A Miracle God.
Mike’s heart swelled with gratitude.
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