Saturday, May 1

My kind of church

I love this story that appears in Tony Campolo's The Kingdom Of God Is A Party. Below is Gary Snowden's abbreviated retelling of the story...

Campolo found himself wide awake and hungry one morning at 3:30 a.m. while on a speaking trip to Honolulu. He found a greasy spoon diner open and ordered coffee and a donut which Harry grabbed off the shelf (without tongs or wax paper of course) and plopped on his plate. As he was eating, a group of 8 or 9 streetwalkers noisily entered the diner. Their language was crude as well as the subject matter of their conversation and Campolo was planning his exit when he heard one of them who was seated next to him tell her companion that the next day was her birthday. Her friend seated on the other side of her from Campolo responded, “What do you expect me to do, throw you a party or something?” The woman by Campolo replied, “No, I wouldn’t expect you to do that. In fact, I’ve never had a birthday party in my entire life.”

After the women left, Campolo asked Harry if they came in often. He replied that they were regulars every night. Campolo asked if the lady seated next to him also came each night. Harry identified her as Agnes and said she was there each evening. Campolo proposed to Harry that he come back the next night if it was okay and decorate the diner for a birthday celebration for Agnes. Harry agreed and insisted that he would bake a birthday cake for the occasion.

The next night Campolo arrived about 2:30 to decorate the diner with balloons and streamers and a big banner that said “Happy Birthday Agnes.” By the time Agnes and her friends arrived, the diner was packed with other women who shared her profession. News had gotten out via the grapevine about the party. On cue, Campolo led the group in singing Happy Birthday to Agnes and Harry brought out the cake with the candles already lit. Agnes had gotten a bit teary-eyed at the singing of Happy Birthday, but at the sight of the cake she lost it totally and began to weep uncontrollably. Harry kept insisting that she blow out the candles or he’d do so himself, which he finally did. Harry handed Agnes a knife and said, “Go ahead and cut the cake, Agnes. We’re hungry. We want some cake.”

Agnes paused, staring at the cake and finally spoke to Harry. She asked him if they might wait a bit before the cut the cake. He replied, “Sure, it’s your cake. You can even take it home if you’d like.”

Agnes replied, “Can I really? I live just down the street. I’ll be right back, I promise.” Then carrying the cake as if it were the Holy Grail, she walked out of the diner and everyone sat in stunned silence.

At that point Campolo said, “What do you say we pray?” Looking back on the event Campolo said it was a highly unusual setting—a Baptist preacher surrounded by streetwalkers in a diner at 3:30 a.m. in a prayer meeting. He prayed for Agnes’ salvation and the blessings of God upon her life.

When he had concluded his prayer, Harry leaned over the counter a bit confrontationally and said gruffly, “Hey, you never told me you were a preacher! What kind of church do you belong to?”

In a moment of inspiration, Campolo replied, “The kind of church that throws birthday parties for streetwalkers at 3:30 a.m.”

After a brief pause, Harry responded, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”

3 comments:

Gary Snowden said...

Guy,

Thanks for sharing the story with your readership which is about a gazillion times larger than mine. That is one of my favorite Campolo stories.

GuyMuse said...

I loved it too, Gary. Thanks for sharing it in the first place!

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