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Thursday, April 23, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

My wife and I came upon an eatery: quaint and country.

As we ordered breakfast, we fell into conversation with several. In the process, we ended up staying over three hours. It was some conclave, for sure. Camaraderie maximum.

We ended up not only in the café by the river but also in two village homes. We were invited to see the antiques and the art work. We were introduced to family photos. We heard stories about marriage and divorce, children astray and those nearby. Biographical detail flowed like the river over spring waterfalls.

In the conversation, I related how I came upon a miracle. I told being fired as a substance abuse counselor at a methadone clinic. My friends there were heroin addicts seeking to kick the habit.

One day my supervisor came into my office to accuse the client I was counseling. I could tell from my client’s overview that she should not have been accused of the altercation the supervisor said she was involved in. As the talk progressed, I said, “I am going to absent myself from this dialogue because I don’t professionally agree with where it’s going.”

The supervisor was using undue pressure on the client. Barbara, addict, was in tears. Supervisor took away her weekend privileges to see her mother in upstate Maine. She had earned those take-homes of methadone doses because of her compliance at the clinic. Now they were wiped out. So was her weekend visit with her elderly mother.

At 1:30 my supervisor opened my office door with these words: “You are fired for insubordination.”

I went to the counselor next to mine and said, “I’ve just been fired.”

“What?” With that, she helped me empty my office of my personal belongings. The second time to my van I looked out the clinic’s front windows to spy two police cruisers driving into the parking lot. They were coming after me. The supervisor was going to have me arrested. For what? God only knows. Odd happenings occur in methadone clinics sometimes.

I walked calmly to my van, turned the key, and drove out of the parking lot to lose my vehicle among hundreds of others at the nearby mall.

Then I looked at my watch. At 2:30 I had an appointment at the county jail for a substance abuse counselor position for a new agency contracted by the jail.

I showed up on time. The fellow from Virginia asked me all about life in Maine. I told him. About forty-five minutes later he scanned my resume and said, “I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t hire you.”

I was fired at 1:30. I was hired at 2:30.

I thoroughly enjoyed my jail job. It was fulfilling to the limit. I counseled rapists,
murderers, robbers, you name it.

One day I came upon a handsome dude walking toward the laundry where he was assigned. He was carrying a Bible.

“I was facing twenty years! I knew nothing of God. My first night here I dropped to my knees and cried out that if there was a God for Him to help me. My life was over. Done. Dead. When I opened my eyes, I saw this Bible in the corner of my cell. I have read it through three times.”

I told Glenn I was a believer as he was a believer.

God performed a miracle. Glenn was released from his cell in less than a year. I followed him as a close friend, Bible student, and counselor on the outside. He became my son that I never really had. That was over seven years ago.

If I had not been fired from the clinic, I would have never met Glenn, my son surrogate.

When that true story was over, those in the eatery gasped. Some wiped tears from their
eyes. A mother came to me to embrace me. “It is divine intervention that you and your wife are here today. My son is on heroine. You have given me hope.” Her tears were real.

Another mother asked for our phone number. “My son too is on drugs. If he calls you, will you help him?” I assured her that I would do my best. Interestingly enough, only half a dozen customers came into the eatery during our entire exchange. God blocked off the time and space.

But one of the women informed us throughout the back-and-forth that she was into "spirits." Then she spoke of a life before this one, of incarnation.

When I told her that I pastored a church, she mentioned off-handedly that she did not particularly like the Bible. She informed me that the eatery owner was of like “spirits communication.” They had the “voices” speak to them all day long. The two women were never alone. They received their guidance. It was real.

“We disagree on politics. We disagree on Protestant versus Catholicism. But when we first met, we knew that the spirits brought us together. And in that we agree!” the one exclaimed.

My wife and I left the new friends near noontime after having had that stretched-out breakfast.

On the way home, I said, “That was quite the morning, eh? Who would have thought?”

Yet we both knew that the camaraderie was but surface. We would return. We would probably see those same people for they hang out there every day. That’s the way it is in a small Maine village.

And we would smile. We would exchange weather reports. We would ask about health and so forth — everything that makes the American converse merry-go-round function.

But deepening spiritual friendships? We would have hoped. But we two knew it would not happen. Christ and “spirits” don’t mix. It’s that simple. Christ and “spirits” don’t mix.