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Thursday, June 11, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

We met in an inner city store—small and quaint.

He, dapper, was dressed in expensive casual duds. I figured him to be in his mid-20s. Sure enough, I was right.

We shook hands. I asked him if he had a degree, for I assumed he did in that he appeared suave, educated and of cosmopolitan mindset.

He answered, “I went to hell’s hole.”

That snapped my attention, obviously. I asked the definition of “hell’s hole.” He said, “Lynchburg Virginia.” Of course, that translated as Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.

Why do you call Liberty University as “hell’s hole,” I wondered. He answered, “Well, you might imagine a woman had something to do with it.”

Ok. I let it go at that. But he did add that he spent two years in the hole. Must have been quite the young lady.

“So you were reared in an evangelical home, right?” I queried.

Not at all, he replied. His mother deserted him. His grandmother reared him. He did not get along with his Catholic father.

“So why did Catholic father send you to a fundamentalist university?” I asked.

“He just wanted me to go somewhere.”

Good enough.

All the while, he had no idea that he was talking to an evangelical minister of half a century. So I told him.

He remained cordial, though learning the data about his new acquaintance.

“So what do you do for work?” I ventured. He double-talked an answer.
Therefore, I let that go.

“Do you have a business card?” he asked. I handed me my pastor’s card. He noted the email address on it.

“I’ll send you an email,” he offered. I thanked him, shook his hand, wished him well, and so we parted but not before I told him briefly about Jesus.

When I got home, there was an email from the fellow. It was quite strange in that he talked about the universe, the frequencies set loose between the sun and moon as well as planetary influences on worldly events.

He signed off with: “Service over self.”

That was a threesome that he had verbalized as a farewell to me in the store. I thought him to be a humanitarian of high quality, though not that interested in biblical theology.

I replied to his email message by stating that I believed Jesus to be God, the Savior, that I held that when a mortal confessed his sins to Jesus salvation came to the soul and heaven was in the offing.

The fellow responded by stating that he did not believe that Jesus was an historical figure but if we imagined Him in our heads that Jesus was indeed present.

I answered him with the biblical line—that Jesus actually lived, died on the cross, and rose again.

He responded with more universe-studded gobbledygook and signed off with “Service over self.”

We did not email correspond after that.

However, I did visit with him several more times in the store, every time being most pleasant. He proved to be a likeable young adult with an interesting philosophy. He also was concerned about the shop for he donated items to it without expecting anything in return. It was one of those kinds of

I knew his good looks brought him many beautiful women. And I learned later that some handsome men found their ways to his confines as well.

One day while several of us were seated outside the shop, a gorgeous female approached. The young fellow immediately stood, approached her, giving all signals that they were close friends now meeting on the sidewalk. There was the warm embrace and kiss.

So it goes when young and attractive.

The other evening I watched the city news. There was this new friend’s photo on the screen. The bottom line: he had strangled a young woman. With that atrocity were other details most gross, one being that he sliced off her head and so forth.

Today he sits in a jail where I once served as substance abuse counselor. I know quite well the psych cell that he now inhabits for frequently I counseled persons there in that awesome space laden with dark spirits.

I think back. I at least told him about Jesus. I don’t have any idea what he will do what that detail.

“Service over self.” I wonder what he meant by that, finally.