I’m active in my local church, serving as an Usher and Worker during Altar Call. For those of different backgrounds or faiths, altar call is time during the end of the church service were attendees can come to the altar for prayer. My church is fairly large, so we could have anywhere from 10 to 100 people at the altar at a time. Sometimes my role is simply to collect cards from those wanting to become church members, at other times I pray one on one with people.
As Pastor prays corporately over those at the altar, I quietly pray while walking behind the crowd. If a person is weeping, I provide comfort whether it is a touch on the shoulder or giving them a tissue. If they are praying with hands raised, I clasp their hand as a sign of agreement. I’ve been given the freedom to minister as I’m led.
On this particular Sunday Pastor taught a message on vision being a creative force. He used Hebrews 12: 1-11 as a foundation, encouraging us to focus on Jesus when we feel like giving up. We may be going through crazy times, but so did Jesus. Jesus’ vision of the end goal (salvation of the world) gave him the energy of 3 cans of Red Bull and he kept going. Pastor’s use of illustrations during the message stirred many hearts, and the altar was full of people seeking prayer.
As I quietly prayed behind a couple, I felt someone brush my arm. I turned my head slightly, and made eye contact with gentlemen next to me.
I smiled and held his hand, giving it a gently squeeze.
John and I had worked together over twenty years ago. When I left the organization we stayed in touch via email and later social media. I’d not seen him in over a year. John’s blonde hair was nearly white, and his 100 pound weight loss made his 47 year old, 6’5 frame appear frail. He’d experienced setbacks in recent years that caused him to battle severe depression (a broken engagement, nervous breakdown, job downsizing, death of his father and homelessness to name a few). His being in church was a tremendous step.
Pastor finished praying and asked all to give him their names so he could continue praying. John completed a card and handed it to me.
“Fluffy, I forgot this was your church. When I walked down the aisle, I was so happy to see a familiar face. This is my second time here, and I don’t know anyone.”
“I’m glad I was here to see you! Did you enjoy the message?”
“Yes, it’s like Pastor spoke directly to me. But he doesn’t know me, so that was kind of weird.”
I nodded and smiled, continuing to collect cards from others at the altar. John walked along with me.
“That’s how you know God's talking to you, not the Pastor.”
“I feel such a peace. I broke up with my girlfriend a few weeks back, and all this stuff started going on. This lady who works at the shelter told me to come to her church, that I would like it here. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“That’s the experience we’ve all pretty much had. Everyone is welcome here, and God helps us get what we need.”
“Fluffy, so how are things going with that guy? Are you still dating him?”
Whoa - where did that come from??? How did John know about Avant? I stopped walking and looked up at him.
“What did you say, John?”
“I heard you were dating this guy, but I never learned his name. You still with him?”
“I’m always amazed how news travels. No, that didn’t quite work out.”
“Do you still talk to him?”
“Umm, at times. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know why people hurt us like that. Have you ever been married, Fluffy?”
“Why is that? What man wouldn’t want a little hit of your brown sugar?”
What????? Hit my Brown Sugar? I had no clue where this conversation was going and I didn’t like it. Propositioned at the altar??? Unbeknownst to me one of Pastor’s guards had been watching and listening to the exchange. My eyes scanned the area around the altar, trying to find a reason to excuse myself when the guard and I locked eyes. He gave a secret signal and relief washed over me.
“No kids because I do things in order. Husband first, children next. John, would you like to meet my Pastor?”
The guard had let me know that Pastor was coming down to talk with those remaining at the altar. I mouthed thank you, the guard winked and I escorted John to Pastor. Pastor warmly greeted him and John gushed how the message addressed all the turmoil in his life. Pastor prayed for him.
“John, you stay focused just like Jesus. He took all you troubles to Calvary, you have to keep going – never give up.”
I honor and love my Pastor dearly, but what he said next made me want to choke him.
“It’s no accident you came to church today. Stay in God’s word and stay by this Sis’ side. She’s good people, a world changer.”
Seriously, Pastor? You’re handing me over to a man who wants to hit him some ‘brown sugar?’
Pastor excused himself and exited the sanctuary with his guard, who rolled his eyes at me and shrugged his shoulders. John literally stayed by my side as I went about my remaining usher/altar tasks before the next service started. His speech was more rambling than conversation, and he made several remarks as we left the church about all the beautiful black women who could ease his loneliness with some brown sugar. Recognizing he was in a vulnerable state and wrestling with lust, I prayed before I spoke.
“John, ask Jesus to help you deal with the loneliness. You have to be healed and at peace before you try to get into a relationship with anyone. Concentrate on you. Keep coming to church, listen to the message and read your Bible. When the time is right God will lead you to the right person. When you go to our food pantry I told you about, ask to speak to a prayer counselor. He or she can be a listening ear and pray for you, too.”
John stopped walking and gave me a long hug.
“When you held my hand at the altar, that was the first caring touch I’d had in a long time. Did you know that people can die from lack of human touch? You saved me, Fluffy. Thank you! I’ll see you next Sunday.”
And with a wave, he was gone.
John has been on my mind all day. The remark about me saving him was very unsettling because he considered harming himself years ago. God, please protect John. I don’t understand what happened at church yesterday, but I thank you that I was able to give him a little hope.
Question: When was the last time you helped a hurting person?
Scripture: Hebrews 12: 1-11