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Previous Message From Virtual Church

The Stranger

It was almost two a.m. and rain was coming down in a torrent. The night was pitch black. A stranger slipped into one of the booths next to the door of the all night diner. The stranger had a patch over one eye and walked with a limp. Gloria, the waitress, came to take the stranger’s order and the stranger noticed Gloria  seemed distracted. The stranger asked, "How’s it going?" Gloria’s eyes filled with tears and she just shook her head. The facts were she had a sick child at home, she was divorced, and she was spending more money for a shabby apartment, a baby sitter, and food each week than she made on her job. The stranger did not know all the details but he knew the big picture. He ordered bacon and eggs and told Gloria "We’ve all been down the rough road." She nodded and said, "Yeah." A few minutes later she brought the stranger’s plate of food and his coffee. As the coffee cup and saucer hit the table with the familiar clack, the stranger said, "Ever pray?" Gloria replied in a deadpan monotone voice "Not much, it never helps." Gloria spun away immediately thinking the stranger was going to pound her with Bible verses. After the stranger finished his bacon and eggs Gloria took his plate away and left the half-filled cup of coffee for the stranger to finish. The stranger downed the lukewarm coffee in one gulp, picked up the ticket and laid a $10 bill on top of the bill. Gloria came back and scooped up the money and ticket. When she brought back the change the stranger held out his hand and said, "Maybe you need to keep after God. Sometimes God doesn’t open the door the first time you knock. And check the help wanted ads." Gloria dropped the change in the stranger’s hand and said "Yeah, maybe!" The stranger gave her four one-dollar bills for a tip, turned, and moved away. Gloria said "Thanks" as the stranger pushed the exit door open and disappeared into the darkness and the rain.

As Gloria sank into the kitchen chair in her apartment the baby sitter stood up to leave. She said the little girl was sleeping better and the flu seemed to be less severe. Gloria said "Thanks" as the baby sitter pulled the front door open to leave the apartment. When the baby sitter had left, Gloria walked into the bedroom she and her little girl shared. As she sat down on her own bed, Gloria's eyes filled with tears and she fell back on the bed and wept from her physical exhaustion and the hopelessness of the way things were. Gloria pulled herself together a little and prayed "God, I am not a religious person. Sometimes I don’t think you are real. But this little girl needs a better life than we have now. If you don’t want to help me, at least help her."

A couple days later Gloria saw a help wanted ad in a newspaper that had been lying around for a month. Before she left for work, Gloria called the number in the help wanted ad. The man who answered the telephone asked her a few questions, took down her telephone number, and said, "Thanks for calling." Gloria hung up the telephone and forgot about the call and the ad. Three weeks later the man who answered the phone about the employment opening left a message on Gloria’s answering machine asking Gloria to come in for an interview. For some reason, Gloria felt a little hope and optimism creep into her thinking. And she kept thinking about the stranger with a patch over one eye.

Gloria borrowed a dress from a friend and did her best to look good for the interview. The interview wasn't much of an interview. The man on the phone and the man who did the interview were the same person. He also owned the company and during the interview he did all the talking. The job paid a lot more, the owner of the company offered to pay for courses and classes for skill upgrading. The owner of the company took Gloria's references and said he would be back in touch. Gloria got home and checked her answering machine. The owner of the company had left a message offering her the job. She called him back immediately and accepted his offer. The whole job thing was almost too good to be true. Gloria kept thinking about the man with a patch over one eye.

Gloria did pray a little more often. She never saw the stranger again but she wondered who he was, and where he was from. There was also something about that night in the diner that just did not fit. There was something about the stranger that seemed so odd Gloria could not put it into words.

A couple weeks later, after Gloria had started the new job, Gloria started looking for a better apartment. During the search, Gloria met a secretary in a rental office. Gloria could tell the secretary was overwhelmed just as she had been a few weeks before. They chatted briefly about the rentals and for some unknown reason Gloria said, "Ever pray?" The secretary looked a bit stunned and said, "Not much, it never helps." It all had a familiar ring.

Gloria said, "Maybe you need to keep after God. Sometimes God doesn’t open the door the first time you knock. And check the help wanted ads." The secretary didn’t say anything for a moment. She stared at Gloria and finally she said "Yeah, maybe!" Gloria didn’t say anything either. Gloria just smiled a little and turned to leave. When Gloria got to her car, she was in disbelief at her remarks about praying and God. She had little faith in God and wasn’t sure about praying, at least not sure enough about it to go tell other people to pray. And Gloria kept thinking about the man with the patch over his eye. Something about him was very strange. Something about the way he talked, or looked, or ate, or something...something just seemed out of place.

When Gloria got home she looked in the mirror and thought about the stranger. Then it dawned on her what was so unusual about the stranger. What was so unusual was the stranger had just come in from the rain but the stranger didn't have a drop of rain on him. His clothes, his hair, his coat, everything on him was dry as a bone. How could anyone come in from a torrential rain and not be soaking wet? For a moment, for just a split second, Gloria thought she saw the stranger in the mirror. Then Gloria realized who the stranger was. The stranger was…

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018