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  • Doug Tjapkes

Never sure who you'll meet at the ice cream stand!

There was a day when I was pretty upset with a local area church. Some years ago I had a meeting with a member of that church’s Missions Committee. A church member with a daughter in prison appreciated the assistance HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS had provided, and thought that perhaps his church might be willing to provide some financial support. I made, what I thought was a meaningful and accurate presentation, about our “action with compassion.” But, it wasn’t as effective as I had hoped. A few weeks later we were informed that the committee voted against supporting HFP. They felt the church should support only missions that “teach Jesus.” I was quite offended by that. It’s like the old story of church missionaries going to foreign countries and preaching the gospel to starving people. What the starving people needed was food, not Bible lessons. Later, with stomachs full, perhaps they could start thinking about their souls. You’ve heard my arguments before on this topic. There are wonderful agencies already teaching Jesus in the prisons. There is no other agency like ours, doing our best to model Jesus as we tend to the practical needs of prisoners. OK. That’s the preface to my story. Now this little anecdote. On a hot summer evening a few days ago I was standing outside a neighborhood ice cream hut, waiting for a couple of dessert cones for Marcia and me. I was properly masked and maintaining a social distance when a very nice woman came up to me---also masked---and said, “Excuse me.” She went on to say that she had intended to pay for my ice cream, but didn’t get there in time. But, she said, she also felt the need to say a prayer with me. Was there something she could pray for? I assured her there was, indeed. I explained my work with prisoners, and the terrible situation behind bars right now because of extreme heat and the pandemic. “Prisoners need our prayers,” I said. Without hesitation she offered a very short, but meaningful prayer, for prisoners and for HFP. She said “Amen” just as the ice cream cones arrived. I thanked her, and as we parted ways. I asked her name. “Rachel,” she said…and then she gave me the name of the church she represented. The whole episode took only a few minutes. Not until the next day did I realize that this was the same church that opted not to give us any money. And I could hear God saying, “Dollars aren’t the only kind of support you need.” Thank you, Lord, for that reminder. Thank you, Rachel, for that prayer.

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