Danny: A Rural Route Church Story

Have you ever had one of those awkward moments when you didn’t know what to say or do because of who was standing in front of you?  Maybe the awkwardness was brought on because your mind, like mine, has been programmed to categorize people into tightly defined stereotypes.  There is that instant of judgment where you make up your mind about the stranger who is now greeting you and engaging you in conversation.  I am ashamed to s,ay that this is where my mind was the first time I met Danny. 

There he was at my door.  I had heard the sound of his mo-ped as it pulled into my front yard.  His hair was long, grey, wet, and combed back.  His beard was equally as grey and long.  He was not wearing shoes and his jeans were torn so that his knees shone through.  He had a very worn t-shirt that was just about threadbare, and I noticed a few scary looking tattoos that were beginning to fade.  His face was wrinkled and he looked very tired.  All I could think was that this man had come to beg the new pastor for something.  Maybe it would be food or maybe he needed his light bill paid.   

“Hey there, preacher!”  His voice was gruff and sounded like he had been chewing on sandpaper for the last 40 years.  Almost before I could say, “Hello,” Danny hugged me and launched into the reason he was in my front yard.   The more he talked the more ashamed I became of my preconceived notion about who this man was.  It turns out that Danny had, indeed, come to beg me for something. . . my prayers.  Danny was leaving to go on a journey and wanted me to pray for him.  Before we go any further you need a little background (which would have been helpful for me that morning). 

Danny was saved and had joined Cottage Grove Baptist Church under the ministry of my predecessor.  Before Danny became a Christian he was known far and wide as the biggest druggie and alcoholic in the county.  I have been told that the police were frequent visitors to his home and that his salvation has saved our county thousands of dollars in law enforcement.  During the long interim period between the last pastor and myself Danny had joined a church in another town where he had been nurtured in his faith to the point that he was ready to minister to other people.

“Preacher, I have made a cross and I plan on walking with it wherever the Lord leads me”.  I was confused and must have looked it because he repeated himself.  “Preacher, I made a cross and I am going to take it down the road with me so that people will ask me what I’m doing”.  Danny’s plan was to walk across the counties of west TN carrying a big red cross.  He was going to take it into neighborhoods where he had once gotten drunk and bought dope.  Danny’s only request to me that day was that I pray for him.  I, of course, agreed to pray for Danny. 

Danny did take his cross into many towns and across many miles.  He garnered headlines wherever he went.  He held out the hope found in Jesus to people I would never come into contact with.  I prayed for him but I also prayed for me.  I prayed that God would tear down those places in my mind where I had a tendency to place myself above others.  I wish that was the only time that I had to learn a hard lesson about judging people from Danny, but he would teach me again a couple years later.  Lessons from Danny are never with words, but are taught by the way he acts.  I will tell you about my next humbling experience with Danny in the next few days.  Danny’s story is real and raw.  It is the story of faith and salvation.  It is the story of the rural church.                   

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Published in: on March 4, 2008 at 4:49 pm  Comments (2)  

2 Comments

  1. I’m afraid that we are all to prone to make the same type of judgment about people that you made of Danny. I think also that we miss some wonderful life lessons because we don’t take the time to see what others have to offer.

    You have been truly blessed by this man. I read it in your words. He is living proof that God can work miracles.

  2. […] You also have to register your float (bike) with the local Lions Club that sponsors the parade. While we were registering at the staging area, I saw my good friend Danny. […]


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