I first met Henry at a backyard BBQ. He wore baggy jeans, a flannel shirt, a do-rag, and wraparound sunglasses. It wasn’t until he removed those shades that I saw the signs of advanced alcoholism. The whites of his eyes were leopard orange, evidence of his failing liver.
At the end of that first conversation, I invited him to church. “Sure,” he said, nodding absently. To my surprise, he showed up the next Sunday, his attire identical, sunglasses hiding his eyes.
The Spirit so worked on Henry that, in time, he asked if he could be re-baptized. I explained that one immersion was enough, but quickly added that if he wanted to recommit his life publically the next week, we would welcome him with alleluias!
Sunday morning arrived, and Henry was there, his Pendleton shirt pressed neatly. When he came forward, I asked if anyone else would like to join him for a laying on of hands.
About half the congregation formed a circle around us. My eyes scanned their faces, wondering if their acceptance would survive the next few moments.
“Henry,” I said, “you’re among friends here. Would you take off your glasses before I ask these questions?”
He slowly slipped them from his face, those shockingly jaundiced eyes scanning the saints encircling us. I tracked his gaze, wondering what I would see, and my heart soared! There was only love, grace, and hospitality. Romans 15:7 came to mind: “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you.” When we prayed, many of us cried.
Henry died shortly thereafter, at age 39. I was at his bedside in the final hours.
“Pastor Krin,” he said, “how can I thank you and our church for all the love you have shown me? I failed in many ways in this life, but you helped me find inner peace.”
“Henry,” I said, “you are a precious child of God, and not even death will separate you from Christ’s love. It has been our privilege to know you.”
I took his hand and we prayed.