The Preacher

Seven or eight years ago I was still a teen, and as such I was still living under the rule of my mother, who at that time was a deeply religious woman and had aspirations for me to follow the faith as well. To this aim I was sent to a Pentecostal church camp in a rural area of Portage County for two weeks (I know, sounds pretty lame). This camp was nice enough, not very flashy due to the fact that its budget was funded mostly by the offering plate. We had activities, fair grub and a lot of prayer. So far this scene shapes up to be one easily forgotten behind many other memories of much higher impact and influence, except for something I saw that changed my life and the way I saw the world around me.

There were a fair spectrum of personalities there, but very few characters, and I mean characters only in the sense that you may see them in some fiction film or book perhaps. The one person I would identify as a real character was one of the preachers, who was from a congregation in Racine. The man’s name escapes me, but he sticks out in my mind because of the fact that he was blind and not just legally blind – this man had zero vision in both of his eyes. Despite this (or perhaps in some small way because of it) he was somewhat of an overall leader at this Pentecostal camp.

One evening we were rushed out early from our six o’clock prayer service. At the time no one knew what was going on; it appeared to me that there was a young woman who had come to alter that was having some sort of a seizure. The group retreated across the football field to the main block of dorms about 150 yards away from the temple. As we stood outside we began to hear these terrible screams escaping the temple–horrible, shrill screams. The one thing that was remarkable about the screams was not the tone or personality of them so much as the volume–it was tremendous, bellowing even. I don’t think then, or even today, that 5 people could have achieved such a volume. It was stunning, and it was probably the most terrifying thing I had heard up to that point in my life.

I wanted to investigate, the others did not for obvious reasons. I am skeptical of such things, and I was overwhelmed with curiosity at this point. i made my way across the grass and back to the temple; I went inside. The first thing I saw were perhaps 5 or 6 adult individuals holding this girl down. This girl was not having a seizure, but what was it then? The blind preacher stood over her and the men holding her down –he was praying, quite loudly, but his words were drowned out, enveloped, by the still, shrill screams coming from the girl. At this point it didn’t even seem that they were coming from her at all, but instead from all around, the center focused at her center. I was struck with the visuals of this thing unfolding before me. I was one of only perhaps 3 bystanders in the temple; one of the others informed me that the girl was possessed, and they were in the process of cleansing her of her demonic affliction. It made sense where nothing else did; it was the only answer to what I was seeing in front of my eyes.

The scene unfolded for about 30 minutes. During this time I saw feats of human strength from this girl who astounded me. She was able to un-seat and almost lift 3 men at once, with one arm, and she was maybe 130 pounds herself. I can’t explain it.

When everything was over she walked past me and out of the temple, completely clear-eyed, completely collected, and her energy was different. I don’t want to explain anymore for the fear of sounding like a fool–just realize that she had completely changed.

That blind preacher was the one symbol of that whole event, the whole duration of the camp even. I thought back on this instance infrequently in the last 8 years. It proved something to me that I cannot deny to this day. I don’t speak from a position of , on the contrary I have drifted far away from my faith, and have come to embrace other ways of living, but still, in all that I have seen and done in those 8 years nothing has unseated logically what I saw on that day.

                       

Today I was riding the bus through the university and a blind man got on at one of the stops. I recognized him immediately as the preacher from that day. I had not seen nor heard anything about anyone else in the church for all those years. It was a real surprise. I thought about approaching him, but I did not. I simply sat back and studied him, remembered him, and marveled at the way fate re-introduces people into our lives at times for which we cannot appreciate for their value until years later.

I wonder why I saw him today, I wonder why I saw him here, and I wonder why fate didn’t bring me around to say a few words to him as we both rode on that bus to where ever life was taking us next.

 

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