Easter Sunday Prayer Meeting

The Saturday before Easter Sunday at our house was a little like Christmas Eve. We had the bus ready to go pick up the group of homeless people that had gathered under a bridge close to downtown Dallas.

Ray, my husband, had enlisted the help of Andrew, a doctor who had served in Vietnam. Andrew was a very large black man who had lost an eye and one arm before coming home from the war. He was as tall and big as Ray. Ray stood 6’6″ and weighed in at 285 with snow-white hair. I called them the salt and pepper brigade. They worked together to help the homeless with medications and in overcoming drug addictions. Andrew had been downtown talking to different groups to find those who wanted to come to the Easter Service. Little did we know the party was going to be crashed in more ways than one.

I had been in the kitchen baking hams, beans, and pies for a week. All the potato salad, green bean casseroles, deviled eggs, and carrot raisin salad had been prepared. I was finishing up on the eggs when I got a little more help than I bargained for. I always start pickling eggs for a couple of weeks in preparation for the Easter dinner. I had all the eggs shelled and cut. The yokes were in the mixing bowl and I discovered the mixer had been put up by Ray which meant at the very top of the shelf. I got the step stool I used for such occasions. Just as I stepped on the stool, Baby Dog (a lab Sheppard mix) arrived with a baby bunny in his mouth and deposited it on the floor in front of me. I almost stepped on the poor thing.

I had been raising miniature rabbits for some time and it looked like Baby Dog (who was in charge of guarding them) had taken his duties a little too far. I told Baby Dog he was a good boy and went to return the baby to the “Rabbit Quarters” of the barn. I had been gathering a group of rabbits to sell in town for Easter gifts for children. I had only been doing it for a few years but the proceeds paid for several projects Ray and I had going at the Children’s hospital. Baby Dog apparently did not like the idea. I thought he had opened one of the transport cages and let everyone escape. I instantly started running around trying to catch the escapees. Baby Dog ran back into the house and alerted Brutus. Brutus, our 235-pound cross-eyed Great Dane came bounding into the barn. The rabbits scattered as the dogs took over the gathering. Both dogs were so gently I was not worried about any rabbits getting hurt, however, neither dog knew the difference between a rabbit, an opossum, and a raccoon.

It seemed that is what Baby Dog had come to tell me. A raccoon had picked the latch lock of the rabbit cage and an opossum had moved into it. The baby rabbits were a prime attraction for the opossum. Brutus was only trying to help when he caught the opossum I had just shaken out of the cage and put him back inside the cage. The only thing that helped was Brutus always saw double so did not get the door closed before the opossum decided this was not the place he wanted to be. He took a run at the open door, across the shelf, and down the leg of the table. Brutus announced his departure and I assured him all was fine. The baby rabbits had been gathered but I seemed to be missing about 4 of them. I had to finish what I had started in the kitchen and decided I would look for them later.

Finally, I got all the food preparations completed and stored till time to dish things up. I had taken the 7 baked hams out and place them in the warm smoker along with the baked beans for the last few hours before time to eat.

Ray and Andrew had gone to gather the flock. The classroom had been once again converted into a church and everything was in the proper place. Even Tilly’s perch had been moved. It had become a custom for Tilly (Ray’s African Gray Parrot) to attend services since she had been the star during our Christmas Prayer Meeting. I took off to get myself ready for the festivities.

When Ray and Andrew pulled up I could not believe my eyes. Andrew was bleeding from the top of his head. Ray was holding onto a gash in his arm and had an eye that was swollen shut. The passengers pile out of the bus holding a large bald man that was very, very, angry. He too seemed to be injured. He was extremely stooped over and holding his back walked with a cane. He was shouting names at Andrew and shaking his cane at Ray. He shouted to me to call the police. “This damn Indian and black #@#$% had it coming. They don’t have the right to be at a white church. I asked beforehand and was told this was a church for white people.” I was astonished. We had all races in our little church and had never thought one way or other about it. I turned to him and said; “Our church is open to all who want to attend. I do mean All sir. Have you looked at your fellow passengers?” I waved my hands over the three Mexicans, two Japanese, four Pakistani, and six others I was not sure of. “Maybe you would be better off if I got someone to give you a ride back to town.” I motioned one of our helpers to get my car.”

“Hell, no lady. I was promised some food. I ain’t leavin’ until I eat.” He seemed extremely angry. I motioned for him to the doors to the church. Ray and Andrew had gone into the house to get the first aide they both seemed to need. I stopped him as he got to the top of the porch. “If you do not attend, you do not eat. If you continue to use bad language you can do so with another black four-legged friend I have.” I pointed to the bay window. Brutus was standing on the inside of the bay window. It looked like a floor-to-ceiling DOG. The man looked at the window full of dog and put up both hands in surrender to my terms. I thought to myself this was going to be an interesting meeting. I also had to laugh inside. Wait till he finds out how gentle and harmless Brutus is. I whispered a little prayer for peace to prevail.

Our angry guest had taken a spot on the first row. His arms folded across his chest and the scowl on his face showed his contempt for the proceedings. The hymn that day was from a poem written by Mary Baker Eddy entitled, “Feed My Sheep.” It had been one of my favorites growing up as a child. I had furnished copies of the words on the pews.

When it came time to stand and sing.. our angry guest had pushed himself up as far as he could go. His stoop was extreme and he seemed to be in a lot of pain. Andrew did not say a word. He quietly went over to the man and examined his shoulder which seemed to be out of joint. The man started swinging wildly at Andrew. Ray, stepped in, caught the man’s arm in mid-swing, and told him to please calm down. “This man is a doctor he can help you.” Ray’s voice was calm and almost a whisper. The man looked at Ray and glanced down at the stitches that had sewn up the wound he had given Ray.

Suddenly, Andrew jerked the man’s arm and the shoulder popped back into place. The man let out a scream and a look of surprise came across his face. The horrible pain was gone. He grinned and rubbed his shoulder. Andrew fixed a sling for him. Andrew had not said a word. The gash in his head had also been bandaged. The man looked at Andrew and was as if he had seen him for the first time. He realized Andrew was missing an eye. Here this one-armed, one-eyed black man helping him after he had tried to kill him. The man lowered his eyes to the floor. “Thank you.” was all he said.

The commotion had run our meeting behind schedule so Ray announced we would sing the hymn after the sermon. It may seem funny to schedule a meeting around when food would be ready but we had learned if the food was not right, a good memory of the experience would not hold up.

Ray had been speaking for about 30 minutes. He had gotten to the part where the stone rolled away; when he suddenly stopped and starred as we all turned to see Baby Dog and Brutus bring in 4 baby rabbits. They deposited them at the foot of the alter. We all laughed a little as Brutus left.

Baby Dog laid down, the bunnies laid down, when Tilly started calling “Kitty, Kitty.” I rolled my eyes and whispered, “What next?” We looked up and my two cats came walking down the aisle and laid down with the rabbits. Brutus returned with a skunk in his mouth. We all gasped. No one dared move yet all seemed poised to run. Then Ray, in a very calm voice, said; “Even a skunk has the right to attend the church of his choice.” The entire congregation glanced at our angry guest. He too chuckled. Ray continued his sermon on the resurrection of Jesus and the rebirth Easter celebrated. Then he announced that instead of having everyone sing the hymn to close the meeting he would read it. Everyone agreed as they stared down at our little black and white guest who was sitting peacefully among the other animals. There was no music, not a sound except Ray’s low, soft voice.

He read the story of Jesus on the Cross and closed with the rolling away of the stone and the resurrection. A few minutes of silence. There was not a sound in the room.

In a very low, gentle voice, Ray announced the close of the meeting. We all stared at the little skunk. No one moved, except Baby Dog. He nudged the little fellow. We all watched as the skunk slowly made his way out the open door, followed by the cats, Brutus and Baby Dog picked up their charges and followed the two cats. Tilly, who always had the last word, let out a wolf whistle and shouted, “That was a close one.” God Bless You All.” We all laughed.

Our angry guest got to his feet and an expression of total peace came across his face. He stood up straight. He was no longer stooped over. He moved his shoulder and his neck and a huge smile came across his face. We all smiled. The man shouted, “I’ve been healed. My anger is gone. I am straight.” He started crying and walked over and hugged Andrew and then hugged Ray. “I have been crippled for over ten years.” Ray simply said, “Thank you, father.”

I hope you gleam a blessing for yourself from this story. Ray’s prayer meeting seemed to always involve a miracle or two. I witnessed many such miracles during the eleven years I was married to Ray before he passed away. Expect a miracle in your life. You cannot be deprived of one single blessing meant for you. No one can steal your blessings. Love always wins the day. Hate always cripples us. We are all God’s children.

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