Change Font Size:   A A A

May 12, 2011 | Bill Cherry

Personal Commentary: Two Men Renew Faiths in Little Rock

While my friend started his career as a pipe fitter, he spent a lot of time in politics, first as the head of his union, and then for twelve years in the state legislature.  Now he owns his own company, and that requires that he frequently travel away from La Marque.


Lloyd and his family are longtime members of La Marque’s St. Michael’s Episcopal Church.


He told me that throughout his life, his faith and the personal directives he has received from God have led him down many spiritual paths that he knows he wouldn’t have chosen on his own.  Here’s one of those stories.


Little Rock is a pretty town, especially in the spring and at the beginning of summer.  On most Sundays during that dual-season, the air is cool and clean, and in the early mornings, the leaves of the trees and the fresh flowers in the beds glisten from nature’s aleatoric drops of dew.  Damp spider webs in bizarre patterns that only the spider understands, stretch from this tree branch to that one, all the while throwing fulgurant rainbows of light through the air for all who are awake to see.   The sum total of it all can easily put a Christian in the mood to find a church, to go inside, and to join the others in giving thanksgiving for the glory of God.


My friend had gone to Little Rock on business, and when he realized on Friday that he would have to stay over for the weekend, he began investigating where he could attend church that Sunday. He called several of the seven churches of his denomination in the city, and all of the spokesmen advised that as a visitor, he really should pick the big circa-1892 gothic cathedral, Trinity Episcopal. Trinity was quite a drive from where he was staying; it was in downtown Little Rock.  So when Sunday came, he left early to be sure he would have plenty of time to get there before the service began.


As he pulled into a parking space in front of the church, he checked his watch and saw that he was about twenty minutes early, so he decided he’d sit in his car and enjoy the mandarins of nature’s morning for a few minutes before going inside.  It was then, he told me, that he got a powerful, distinct and numinous message in his most inner-being.  It told my friend that he was about to meet a man in the church who was in dire need, and that when he did, my friend was to give him the one hundred dollar bill he had in the back of his wallet.


So while he was still in the car, my friend took the bill from his wallet, folded it in quarters, and put it in his right pants pocket, and then he got out and went inside the church.  By now parishioners were beginning to gather, so he chose a pew three rows from the back and sat down, doing his best to not be conspicuous, even though visitors always are.  He looked around to see if he could pick out the person he was to give the hundred dollar bill to.


About then a man came in.  He had a crew cut, but was unshaven.  He was thin and lanky – about 5-1l.  He had on dirty and rumpled khaki pants and a worn-thin T-shirt.  It looked as though he had all of his worldly possessions with him, and they were in the plastic grocery bag he had hanging from his left arm.  He sat down in a pew over to the side and a couple of rows in front of my friend.


My friend felt that must be the person to whom he had been told to give the folded-up hundred dollar bill.  Now the question was, how was he to do it?  He went to the altar to receive communion.  It was then that he decided that on the way back to his seat, he’d just stop at the pew of the man, and in a whisper, ask him to step outside.  Then he’d give him the bill.  His mission would be complete.


But when my friend left the communion rail and turned back toward the congregation, he saw that the man was gone.  He was nowhere in sight.  My friend said that he honestly panicked.   “How am I ever going to explain the mess I’ve made of this to God?” he wondered. 


“I hadn’t done what I had been told to do,” he said to me.  “ I can’t tell you how anxious I became.”


So rather than go to his seat, my friend walked quickly out into the narthex of the church to see if he could find the man there, or perhaps on the sidewalk outside.  Just as he walked through the double doors that separated it from the nave, as if by magic, all of a sudden the man appeared out of nowhere, and was standing by his side.  Quickly my friend built up his courage, and then he said,  “I got a message from God that I was to give a man at this church this bill.  I believe it’s you,” my friend said to the man as he timidly handed him the folded up hundred dollar bill.


The man took the bill, opened it, then started whimpering.  Then he said softly to my friend,  “I haven’t eaten in two days, and I have no place to stay.  I am truly at wits end.  As I prayed this morning, I got a powerful message from God that if I would come to this church, a church where I had never been before, help would be waiting for me.  And it was.” 


By now both men were hugging and crying.  They then walked down the steps and went their separate ways, the homeless man back into the bowels of Little Rock, but this time with hope, and my friend, former state representative, Lloyd Criss to his home in La Marque, thankful that he had listened to The Message.


  And although each had visited Trinity Cathedral for a different reason, both Criss and the homeless man had left with the same powerful and personal story to tell.


Copyright 2003 - William S. Cherry, published with permission

Cherry is a member of Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, TX