Monday, July 07, 2008
Maybe He is Watching
I visited an old friend in the hospital today. It is not a pretty sight to see a friend suffering and my friend was definitely suffering today. I am positive he was suffering in more ways than one. I’m sure he knew I was there but there was no conversation. Only moan and groans. Hopefully what he is going through now is caused by an adverse reaction to medication and he will get through this crisis. But long term he is fighting for his life… and he knows it.
I think only 58 people were in his graduating class in 1969 at Taylor County High School in Butler, GA. About three months ago, Edward stood at the graveside after the funeral of one of those classmates. In fact two of his classmates were buried that same day – both after a long bout with cancer. Edward made the comment that day to one of his other classmates that nobody knows who will be next. Or who has that dreaded disease and doesn’t even know it.
I first met Edward Arnold on the little league baseball field in Reynolds some 46 years ago. He was a very good baseball player and he got it honestly because his dad was a very good baseball player in his day. Two things stick out in my mind during those years. Edward had a great curve ball and Edward’s dad was very proud of his son.
Edward was like most boys growing up. He blended in with the crowd and did whatever most of his friends were doing. Peer pressure has been around a long time. But Edward didn’t give in to that peer pressure very long. I’m not exactly sure how old he was – I think probably 15 or 16 – but he got a call from way out in left field and out of the blue. It was left field because nobody was expecting the call – including Edward.
He was called to preach.
And preach he did. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. As a kid he preached with the authority and wisdom of someone much older and experienced. The churches were packed where he preached. Everybody came to see and hear the teenage boy preacher who all of a sudden had a supernatural ability to communicate. He was articulate and spoke with authority. Edward impacted a lot of teenagers during the late 60’s in Taylor County.
Edward grew up, married and had four children. He moved away from Taylor County and began pastoring churches in different places. As you would expect, the churches he pastored quickly grew. He would come back to town from time to time to preach funerals. As the undertaker I always marveled at his command in the pulpit. He was a gifted speaker.
As seemingly happens to many pastors, Edward took a few knocks along the way. This curve ball pitcher began to face some curveballs of his own in life. I’ve never been a pastor but I have known a few really well. I have noticed that churches can be rough on their pastors when they turn out to be less than perfect or somehow fall short of their expectations. Sometimes I wonder what the outside world thinks when they see the politics of the workings of a church.
During all those years – the good and the bad – Edward and I remained friends. He asked me to play in a minister’s golf tournament with him in another town years ago. We didn’t spend much time discussing problems that day. We laughed a lot. In fact we laughed all the way to the trophy presentation where we came home with a first place trophy. We were still laughing when he dropped me off at my house.
Whenever Edward was in town, he would usually stop by the Reynolds Golf Club and join me and my dad and whoever else happened to be playing on the course. A lot of lifelong friendships are nurtured at places like golf courses.
Edward continued to take knocks. He went through a divorce and more personal problems. He eventually got out of the ministry. To make a long story short, a year or so ago he moved back home to look after his mom. The boy wonder preacher who filled churches wherever he preached was now back home where he started without a job and not doing well enough physically to even pursue a job.
I got an email from Edward a couple of weeks ago. In his very articulate manner, he told me that he had just been diagnosed with Angioimmunoblastic T Cell Lymphoma. The prognosis is not good. On top of that he has no insurance. When I talked with him that day he was waiting on a call from Social Security so he could apply for Medicaid and hoping and praying he would be covered.
I write this tonight because Edward Arnold is my friend. Our friendship didn’t start when he was a “wonder preacher” and it sure didn’t end when he began to experience and face the challenges of life that could happen to any of us.
By the way, I suppose there can be several potential responses to this blog. You can read it, forget it and move on to the next blog. Or you can feel sorry for Edward which would be the last thing he would want. Or you could play God and judge him for the predicament he finds himself in.
Or just maybe you could keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers , show a little mercy and even help him out.
If you find yourself thinking about the latter possibility, a trust account in his name has been opened at two banks -Citizens State Bank, 36 Martin Luther King, Reynolds, GA 31076 and Central Bank of Georgia, 97 S. Broad Street, Butler, GA 31006.. Whether you can afford $1, $10, $20, $100 or $1,000 - anything will help. And he desperately needs your help.
In spite of Edward’s imperfections and shortcomings (as we all have), I am certain that Edward Arnold is one of God’s elect. And I am also certain he has had a tremendous positive influence on a lot of folks in his lifetime. For sure I am one of them.
And just maybe the God in heaven is watching now to see how His children respond.