Calling, Cadence and Clapping

A place where God found me

by Scott Morris

The first time I met Roy Allen, he asked, “Doctor, do you think I will be okay to go back to fishing tomorrow?” He had a twinkle in his eye.

“Yes sir, I think that will work out just fine.” We both laughed.

He told me he did odd jobs, and he had a small church where he was the pastor on Sundays. Over the next 30 years Rev. Allen had a number of health issues. He started having his daughter come to appointments. He was getting forgetful, but he always had a smile.

He had me on my feet, clapping and holding Rev. Allen’s hand. It was magic—or it was the presence of God.

One day he said, “They are having a party for my ninety-third birthday at the church. I would be mighty proud if you would come.”

I touched the leg of the brown suit he always wore. “I’ll be there, and Mary will come with me.”

When the date arrived, I really didn’t have the time or energy. Surely he wouldn’t miss me. And then I thought, You need to go.

Small and sitting on a hill, the church could seat about 50 people, and there were 30 in the room. When we walked in, Mr. Allen’s daughter saw us. “You came! He will be so happy.”

Mr. Allen’s daughter took my hand. “Daddy, look who’s here.”

He looked at me for a second. “My doctor is here. This must be a special day. Jesus has shined brightly on me.”

I felt tears in my eyes and reached out to give him a hug. “I told you we would come.”

An electric organ, guitarist and drummer began to play. The musicians were all young men, in church on a hot Sunday afternoon. Rev. Allen’s daughter sang with a deep alto voice as good as any I have ever heard. One person after the other had kind words to say about Rev. Allen. Then the MC said, “And now Rev. Allen’s doctor will have a few words to say.”

Oh my. I talked about how he helped me know what it means to live the Christian life and that I knew my first responsibility was to keep him fishing.

Then he fiddled for his cane and came to whisper in my ear. “Doc, I love you.”

“I love you too.”

By then on my right was a young man I thought I recognized. He soon got up to give “the message.” Rev. Bartholomew Orr was only 40 but was the pastor of Brown Baptist Church. From a church not much bigger than the one we were in, Rev. Orr’s church had grown to over 10,000 members. I’m sure he’d already preached at least twice that day to thousands of people, but here he was preaching to a congregation of 30. He developed a call-and-response cadence. He was shouting. He was stomping. He was electric. He was filled with the Spirit. He had me on my feet, clapping and holding Rev. Allen’s hand. It was magic—or it was the presence of God. Fifty years ago, Rev. Allen bought a single-family home and lovingly turned it into a place of worship.

A place where God found me.

As is always the case, the feeling of that afternoon didn’t last long. By that night there were other things to do. The next day, there were meetings and decisions. But if I took a deep breath and I stopped what I was doing, I was convinced I was touched by God’s presence that hot summer Sunday afternoon.

Intellectually I can make a case for God that will refute modern atheists. What I’ve come to love are the patients I care for like Rev. Allen, where the reality of God cannot be debated. For them God is an ever-present reality. In the midst of life’s troubles there is always God to carry one’s burdens. To say otherwise is to be terribly foolish. If you did, they wouldn’t debate you; they would just take you by the hand and get you something to eat. It could only be because you need food that you could think otherwise.

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