rainy reminiscence

Adel, GA

Lots of rain. Last night, hard, and then five straight hours of it this morning. We stayed dry, though, under a church's picnic shelter. And a short ride yesterday and again today allowed us to make good progress anyway.

The long rain reminded me of my first walk, passing along this same road seven years ago. Here's a passage from that journal, written along this stretch:

I was a little ashamed of the church last night. I arrived at a church in the late afternoon, tired from walking all day. Just as I sat down, a church van pulled up, bringing members back from some function. I was sitting on the front steps. Of course everyone could see me, a few walked right by me, saying nothing, until I asked one woman when Sunday services were held. After they left, a woman wandered over from next door, looking for her cat. We talked a little; then when she left, her son came over and I talked to him. He was impressed that I wanted to be poor, that I'd "rather be doing this than driving a Cadillac," like other preachers. He asked how much money I had ($1), and promptly pulled out his wallet and gave me a ten. Then he invited me to his house. We had real Southern fried chicken, talked for over an hour, and they gave me something for breakfast (though they were by no means wealthy). Then the mother called the pastor of the church, to see if he'd let me stay inside. Nope. They'd had problems, so it wasn't their policy anymore. I couldn't stay with my hosts because they had cats [I'm allergic], but they gave me a blanket and I slept just fine outside the church. "I'd rather sleep on the threshold of the house of God..."(Ps 84.10) Those people were great; I'm just sorry the church looked so empty-hearted in front of them.

The members of the church turned out to be much more impressive than the pastor. The Sunday school was good (a rare find!), much better than the preaching; and the music was excellent. At the end of the service the pastor did mention my pilgrimage, apparently forgetting that the pilgrim that he was now commending was the same pilgrim he turned away the night before. Two people also gave me gifts: $30. And I met a big guy, "Bane," who hung around me all morning and even stayed and ate lunch with me. He was huge and somewhat limited mentally, but very gentle. Happy and interested, too. He gave me a pack of gum as a gift. After lunch, the guy from last night ("Big John" West) pulled up and offered me a ride to the next town. I got some food there and walked to the outskirts, finding a place to stop just as the rain started. Now it's been raining for a couple hours. I'm on the covered porch of a "Jaycees" meeting hall, with my poncho hung up to shield me from the splashing drops. Looks like I'll be here all night.

...That night turned out to be a wet one. A tropical storm had moved inland from the Gulf, triggering 18 hours of rain where I was. I managed to stay dry until about 6am, then had to flee to a warehouse across the street. Talked to a couple of truckers there about my pilgrimage. I couldn't proceed in the rain, so I walked back towards town, where I had seen a laundromat not too far back.

There I met old Samuel. We talked probably an hour about politics and money in the church, and how he felt his church often seemed to be more about entertainment than worship. He also didn't think much of seminaries: "That's not where you learn to preach; that's where you learn to manipulate people." He was something of a preacher himself—a prophetic type, true to his name.

And yesterday, for the first time, I stopped in a homeless shelter. I was worried about the cold and the rain that wouldn't stop. The place was funded solely by donations, and had 20 or so occupants. Not a real uplifting place, though. There were Bible verses tacked up everywhere, but I didn't find them comforting at all. They came across as a stern voice spewing propaganda. I ate lunch there (not bad), then left. It rained a little more on me as I got started, but the sky was clear by evening and I had covered almost 20 miles (surprising myself). Big monster mosquitoes as I walked. They were gone, though, when I found a church for the night.

I hope the mosquitoes are smaller this time...