Encouraging God’s Children #201

One day a Deerfoot camper’s mom and dad came to DL to give, in memory of their son, a framed stained glass picture of a white sailboat on a blue lake.  Their son loved Deerfoot Lodge, and this beautiful, very simple stained glass picture was placed in a window at the kitchen end of the dining hall.

At age 12 their son had taken his own life.   From what I could learn, his was a close, loving Christian family, very active in their church. What happened did not make sense to anyone I talked to.

This tragedy came to mind as I prepared to lead the memorial service of a 90 year old friend, Doug Stanton.

When we bought our home in Greenville, I went to the Stanton Insurance Agency to purchase our home owner’s policy.  As I talked to Marge Stanton about the needed insurance, she drew a curved line.  I then drew a curved line.  The two lines were the outline of a fish – the fish affixed to the back of many cars.

Marge smiled and asked if I was a Christian, for this is the way early Christians would sometimes identify themselves.

Marge then invited me to the church where she, and her husband, Doug, were members.

When our family began to attend the church, we essentially knew no one in the community.  Our children were just beginning to attend new schools – never easy!  Doug Stanton, a soft spoken farmer, soon introduced himself. Doug’s family had been farming in Greenville for over 200 years. The Stanton family helped found the church, and helped with the building of the new sanctuary in 1872. The Stanton’s seemed to know everyone – including Dirk’s school teachers.  Dirk was 12. Doug was 60.  Week after week we would attend the church, and frequently Doug would have a conversation with Dirk.  Doug would listen, encourage, ask a question, listen and encourage…. Occasionally Doug would bring old pictures of Greenville and of their farm for Dirk to see.

Harry Auble was a retired wrestling coach, and he and his wife, Marge, were also church members.  Harry was a short, stocky man – and came across like the coach he had been for 40 years.   Harry also made it a point to get to know Dirk.

Harry would greet Dirk with a big smile; probably a laugh, and a firm hand shake…”How ya doing this week, Dirk?” Occasionally Harry would really talk with Dirk…..far beyond the greeting.

Doug was quiet….soft spoken.  And Harry – big voice, big laugh.  Both understood boys.  These men were an incredible support for a 12 year old boy new to his school, community, and church.   During college, and after, Doug, Harry and Dirk were friends.

Did the 12 year old Deerfooter I remember when I see the stained glass boat on the water have men at his church who demonstrated their personal interest in him week after week – year after year?

Yesterday was the fall festival at church.  I arrived with 6 containers of dahlias to be sold at the nature table (they sold for 25 cents each!).  I asked a high school student I did not know if he could help me take the flowers to the table.   Smile: “sure”.  I learned his name was David.  I saw him twice in the afternoon and greeted him by name – more smiles.  Later I sat across the table from a teenager sitting by himself, eating a hamburger.  He seemed mentally challenged as he proudly told me he helps his mom teach Sunday school – so he must be around church.  It is easier to be with people I already know – but I need to discipline myself to get to know these two young men.  David will be easy. The other young man will be a stretch, but perhaps more important.  I can do it.

Jesus said:   “Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me”  Matthew 18:5

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