Our little apartment of a small living room, with a tiny kitchen on one side and an alcove for me to study on the other, two small bathrooms and an adequate bedroom, has become a place of “old papers.” We are forever trying to reduce the piles.
Today, the 5th of July, after a quiet Independence Day of church at Colonial and waffles for lunch at a daughter’s house, I am up in a quiet house at 4:30 am, shaving, washing my face, and finally deciding to write my blog for this week.
I sit in my alcove as the room becomes brighter with the light of morning, and I shuffle papers, seeking a writing pad, and stumble upon a packet of letters from about ten years ago. One was a respective, loving letter from a life-time friend who had been in my first confirmation class, telling me she had just learned of my brother’s death in the Hitchcock Hospital in Hanover, NH, and how I had flown home from Rwanda to see him before he died, noting that I had washed his feet, and how she wished she might have done that for her mother who had died not long before that.
The next was a letter from a man at WCCO Radio with a story he had to tell me about how he had come to Colonial Church on Wooddale Avenue, and how much it had meant to him, and about how, after 30 intervening years he had come back to that church building under its new ownership by Wooddale Church of Eden Prairie.
“I just had to share with you a story, a blessing really, an amazing blessing that confirms once again that God so loves us and is so involved in our entire Christian walk, that he can see blessings coming for us 30 years down the road when we have no clue as to what he might be up to.
“I just recently got involved in a new church, in the actual renovation of the building, on nightly and Saturday painting teams and just last week with the usher training and the like. One night last week a fellow painter and I were finishing off one of the bathrooms, and he mentioned that he had gone to this church when he was a little boy in 3rd grade. He mentioned the pastor at this church who was pastor for decades. And when he said his name, my heart jumped. I was still paralyzed, and filled with such joy and praise for God I could not keep myself from crying at that very moment.
“Because 30 years ago as a young disco king living the life separated from God, the fellows I was rooming with, all students at Bethel, would drag me out of bed and we would go to church on Sunday. And I marveled at the pastor, and the ministry of this church. I remember sitting in the pew, half awake soon to be fully awakened by you, Dr. Rouner. And I would watch you preach as you stared out the side window and spoke so lovingly of our Lord. I loved that church. I loved you and your ministry. I learned so much from you and you would strangely come to mind when I needed self-correction.
“For the next 30 years I would think about that church, about you, Dr. Rouner, about my time there. I would pray for you through the years overseas in Guam and wherever I landed in life, about how I would give anything to be a member of that church and preach in that pulpit someday. And the thoughts of that church stayed with me my whole life.
“I would return to Minnesota eventually in 1994 but have yet to find a church home. With a Catholic raised wife, harmony has been difficult.
“When my painting buddy mentioned your name, I knew God had just blessed me beyond what I could ever imagine and will ever deserve. That church I was painting, the church I would soon be a member of, was the very church you ministered over and I had attended 30 years ago. That was Colonial of Edina, the church that was handed over to Wooddale Church that would soon become Wooddale of Edina. I had no idea. None.
“When I walked out that night of what was once just a building, those walls became home for me. God had brought me out of the fire so many times in life, and blessed me in such amazing ways that here I could serve him in the very church I had never forgotten for all of these years. And soon I will share my faith story from the pulpit I had always hoped I would stand in.
“How about that?
“Blessings to you always.
“Your brother in Christ.”
It was a letter I just couldn’t throw away. And now it tells the story of what a church can mean to a young person, and even over 30 years of his life. It touched my heart. And maybe would touch yours.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES