Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saint Gus and His List

We called him Saint Gus because he kept and kept up with his prayer list. He spoke at the church we attended often about the importance and function of regular prayer and, as an older retired gentleman, he practiced what he preached.

I added several people to Saint Gus’ prayer list and saw results each time. If you placed someone on it, be sure that Gus would ask you about the person from time to time. For example, after initial small talk, he would say, “By the way, Dan, how is so and so. Are his needs being met?” Or, if it was an illness, Saint Gus might ask, “Is so and so healed yet? Has she shown improvement?” And so it would go. Well, I had occasion to put a very troubled person on Gus’ list one time.

I was teaching a sophomore English literature class. The first day of class, I always look at each person when I call his or her name, trying to connect their faces with the names in my roll book. It usually takes me four or five meetings to do so. The first day of this sophomore English class, I was looking at each student until I came to one young lady, I will call her Mandy. When I looked at her, I had never seen such a drawn up, depressed, desperate-looking countenance on a young person. Without thinking, I said, “What’s wrong?” I embarrassed myself by drawing attention to her and hurried on with the rest of the roll call.

After class in the hall, I heard a female voice behind me saying, “Dr. Ford, I need help.” I turned and it was Mandy. I invited her to follow me to my office and she came in and poured out her heart. This single mother had a serious alcohol problem and her mother had kicked her out and would not allow her to see her small child. She said, “I have nowhere to turn, no place to stay, no money, no friends, nothing.”

I called the local shelter that took people like Mandy in and made arrangements for her to stay there. Then I called my wife and told her I wanted to bring her by our house, which, of course, was fine with her. I asked Mandy if she was a Christian and she didn’t seem too sure of that. I asked her if she had a Bible and she said she did not. I gave her my leather bound Good News Bible with my name embossed on it. I was very fond of that Sword because of the little line drawings in it I had embellished with silly stuff. For example, I had the drawing of a donkey in there saying, “I feel like an ass.” To make a long column shorter, at my home my wife ministered to her and once we got her settled at the shelter, I got her on Gus’ prayer list. From then on, Gus would ask, “How is Mandy doing. Still sober? Did she get a job? Is she reconciled with her mother?” You see, he truly prayed and deeply cared.

One little sidelight to round this off: The day after I gave my Good News Bible to Mandy, a colleague of mine came to my office and said, “Dan, Ouachita Baptist just sent us a whole crate of Good News Bibles, do you want one?” When I said, “Thank you, Jesus,” he looked at me funny and I did not explain. I also did not mess with the little drawings this time.

Gus passed away a while back and we miss him…and his list.

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