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Out doing the Lord's work II by Vegard
The next day we woke at the crack of dawn like always, and I had actually forgotten about the shearing I had gotten the day before. Feeling a jolt of pleasure as I rediscovered it, I hurried to the bathroom to look at myself again. It was slightly tousled from sleep, but I simply wet it all, and combed it to the side. Done.
We returned to the old lady, Mrs Gordimer, as promised after breakfast, and smiling at me she complimented my haircut.
Feeling embarrassed at my preoccupation with it, I muttered a "Thank you Mrs Gordimer," and looked down.
The day was cooler, and we sat outside in her back yard, drinking the tea she made for us. John was going on about Job, and his suffering, and I was looking around the yard while listening. It was in need of some upkeep, and I thought that her husband had maybe been sick awhile before he died, since nothing seemed to have been maintained in years. The stairs going down from the porch seemed ready to fall apart.
As we left her that day I asked, "Couldn’t we help her John?"
"We are helping her," John answered, looking puzzled.
"Yes, I know. With the spiritual healing, and helping her find her way back to the Lord. But could we help her with her outside stairs?"
"You mean actually building her a new one?" John had noticed to.
John looked at me, thinking. Then he said, "That’s a very good idea!"
I smiled, happy that he thought so.
"We can discuss that with her tomorrow, and ask if she would like us to."
As it turned out she was very pleased at the offer, saying "My son was going to do it, but he’s so busy. Thank you boys!" She practically beamed at us.
She gave us money to buy materials, and we went in the Honda to get what we needed. John had a rack he could put on the roof, and we managed to get it all with us. As John gave her the receipt and the change I began taking the boards behind the house.
It was an easy enough job, since all we basically had to do was copy the old stairs. Taking it apart, and just laying the old boards on top of the new ones, make the necessary lines with a pencil, and cut it straight along the line. Fastening it with hammer and nails.
We worked in our t-shirts and black trousers, since we didn’t have any actual work clothes with us. But we were careful, so as not to rip anything.
After we had finished making the new stairs, Mrs Gordimer came out with cold lemonade, and it tasted fantastic. Holding the cool glass to my forehead I was grateful for my short cut. John looked more uncomfortable than me, with his longer hair. It struck me as funny that I had never thought of our regular haircut as "long" before. But everything is relative I suppose.
As we finished the lemonade we started changing out some boards on her garden shed. And we were working on this as we heard a car drive up, and stop on the other side of the house.
After a minute or two, a man in his fifties came almost marching towards us, and we both straightened up, and smiled at him as he approached us. He didn’t smile back, but we were used to that.
"What the hell do you think you’re doing?" he demanded angrily.
Lost for words, I just stared at him, before looking down, which was my normal respons when I was yelled at. Having learnt that it was usually my fault if something was wrong.
John managed to stay composed though, and asked "I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean sir. If we have wronged you in any way we apologise."
"I talked to Mum this morning and she tells me you are here to "talk about God", and that she has given you money! Is that right?" He was livid.
I looked, horrified, at my cousin, and John looked quite shocked also.
Finally gathering himself some he said "Sir, if you please, I can explain!"
"What kind of people are you?" Mr Gordimer almost spat at us, "Where are you from?"
"You!" he yelled at me, and I sputtered, "We are from the Church of the Lord Mr. Gordimer. And we try to help people."
"Help them how?" he demanded of me.
"Help them find the Lord sir." I muttered.
I looked almost pleadingly at John, and he tried to explain about the money, only to be cut off by Mr. Gordimer.
"Find the Lord?" he spat at me. And I nodded. Still looking down. But why was I looking down? We had done nothing wrong.
This is it Michael, I thought. You need to be stong now. For Him.
Lifting my head, I looked Mr. Gordimer in the eye and said, "We are here doing His work, and have been so fortunate as to meet your mother and be allowed to offer her some comfort and guidance." My voice was steady and stong, as if it was someone older speaking. "In doing so, we also thought we would help her with some chores"
This did not help, and Mr. Gordimer stared hatefully at me, but I kept my head up. We are doing good work in His service, and this is what we have to endure sometimes. It saddened me deeply, but I felt a calm coming over me. This man could not hurt us. Not with God Himself looking after us.
Mr Gordimer’s eyes were bulging slightly, and I continued.
"Your mother has begun accepting the Lord back in to her life, and He is helping her heal. Perhaps He could help you in the same way?" I offered kindly.
It appeared he was not interested. "Get out!" he yelled at us, pointing to the gate.
John nodded to me, that we should gather our things, and we began doing so.
Looking up as I picked up my shirt to put it on, I glanced towards the house and saw Mrs Gordimer looking quite sad at us through the window. Seeing me looking in her direction she turned away, and disappeared.
I felt so sorry for her, and hoped she would not be lost again. I decided to pray for her that evening, and for her son, and I was sure John would join me.
That night as we prayed and discussed our day, John called the meeting with Mr. Gordimer, "Your moment of awakening to the true call", and I think he was right. It sure felt that way, and it filled me with certainty where there had previously been so much doubt.
I learned so much on this trip. And John and I would sometimes read and discuss scripture well past our self appointed bedtime. It was still a blow that we were unable to help Mrs Gordimer further, but we prayed for her, and more and more often I led us in prayer. I was beginning to do more of the talking as we visited with people as well, and felt my confidence in His work growing in me.
My hair was bothering me though as it grew in. The short back and sides were not neat at all as it grew out, although I did my best to slick it down with water. It was good that the hair on top was unassuming still, but my hair made me quite self-concious.
I noticed people would look at me slightly longer than at John if, and when, they opened their door, and I was looking forward to it growing back.
And after about four weeks my hair lay kind of flat again.
John ordered me to sit on a chair in the bathroom, and he used the scissors he had bought on me. It was almost the right length on top now, having grown to a good inch and a half, and the back and sides were probably a bit less than an inch. Maybe ¾. It really was a simple job for John. He only needed to cut at the hairline in the back and over the ears, and he snipped away carefully. Wetting the comb occasionally to comb the hair straight down, so it was easy to cut. I have quite thick hair, so it still took a while, but like I said. It was easy.
I was unable to see anything since the chair was too low for me to look in the mirror, but I recognised the snipping. It was exactly as mother did it, and I knew how it would look. Modest and unassuming, but still a bit shorter than what was customary.
Declaring himself finished John used the towel to wipe away any loose hair, and as the cut hair was all wet snippets they were easy to see and dispose of.
Getting up, I looked at myself in the mirror. My hair was still wet, but only on the sides and the back, so I wet the comb some more, and pulled it through my hair where the parting was to be. Wet it again, and repeated until my hair was wet to the skin. The comb had made clear stripes from crown to forehead, and I expertly parted it, ruler straight, where all the boys and young men of our congregation parted it. And combed it neatly to the side, with no hair out of place. It was with a feeling of regret I did this, but it also felt right. It was who I was, and was meant to be.
Going back in the bedroom we read together, and discussed the scripture before praying and thanking our Lord for a summer in his service.
As we were getting ready for bed, I studied myself in the mirror again. My hair was dry, and almost exactly like it had been all my life. Thick and uniform. Parted neatly and really quite boring, or unassuming I suppose. Like a LEGO-man. It certainly wasn't hair that would make me think more about it, than on doing His bidding. There was no distraction in this. And give it another three weeks and it would be just like when we left home.
We switched towns, leaving Springfield behind after five weeks, and heading to Marksville, and kept up the good work there, and almost before we knew it the day we would head back home was upon us.
We started early, and by 3 pm we were home. John dropped me off and waited around for mother to hug us both, and professing how glad she was that God had led us home safely. With a brotherly hug John thanked me for helping him do His work, and drove off.
As we attended church that Sunday we were greeted warmly by the other men of the congregation, congratulating us on doing good work, and welcoming us back.
The reverend asked me to come see him in his office after service.
As I entered he asked me to take a seat in front of his desk.
Smiling at me he said, "John says you have done very fine work this summer Michael!"
"Thank you reverend!" I said, "I feel blessed that I have been given a chance to do His work, and look greatly forward to doing more!"
The reverend beamed at me, "And so you shall!"
I looked at him expectantly, and he continued, "Our work is not only in spreading his word to people afar, but perhaps most of all to be examples to others as we go about our daily lives. And to be strong, and upright, in His eyes!"
I nodded, "This is exactly what I feel reverend! And also one of many topics John and I have discussed over the summer."
"How glad I am to hear this!" he exclaimed, and went on, "You are going back to school shortly, and your school is also a place in need of the Gospel, is it not?"
It certainly was. The word "jungle" slipped in to my head, and I quickly asked for forgiveness in my mind.
He didn’t wait for me to talk, but pressed on. "You have been given a talent by the Lord to stay strong for Him! John told me how you fared with the son of the woman you helped."
"The Lord was with us reverend," I said, "It was not my doing."
"Quite so!" he beamed again, "Quite so."
"So are you ready for this task, in His service?"
"I am!" I said, straightening in my chair as I said it. Feeling like a soldier to His call.
He smiled fondly at me, before changing topics.
"Your mother also asked me to have a talk with you about your way forward. What direction to choose in your studies." He looked at some papers on his desk, and I could see they were my grades from school. They weren’t bad, being the result of good steady work, and I could probably choose what I wanted as far as classes were conserned.
"Have you thought about it yourself? He asked, looking up.
Truth be told an idea had taken hold of me that summer, and I now shared it with the reverend.
"I think I would like to take shop," I said. Thinking about how right it had felt working with my hands to build something.
He looked a bit puzzled. "But Michael," he said, "You have the grades here to be what you want!"
"And I would like to be a carpenter." I said.
The reverend seemed lost for words, and quickly took his glasses off, as if they were misting up.
"Like our Lord?" he almost whispered, and continued in a stronger voice, "You really have grown in spirit Michael. And you truly are unassuming and modest! I am so pleased you are a part of our flock, and are devouting your life to the Church, and our ways"
With that he got up, and gave me a brotherly hug, like an equal. And I felt so happy I could be of service to Him and to our congregation.
Feeling strengthened, and sure, I went home and informed mother of what the reverend and I had talked about. She seemed surprised, but pleased.
That evening for supper mother fried us some eggs, and we sat and talked while eating.
"I will cut your hair after I have cleared away," she said, smiling fondly.
"Thank you mother," I smiled back.
As always, one of the kitchen chairs was placed in the middle of the room, and I sat down. Having no shirt on, and a towel draped around my shoulders.
She evened it around my ears and in the back. And proceeded to use scissors over comb a little bit on the sides and back, making it slightly less than an inch and gradually longer towards the two inches on top. My hair was still shorter on the left of my parting, from my accident at the beginning of summer, and maybe she noticed. If she did, she didn’t mention it.
Things had changed at home, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. But we were more cordial I suppose. More polite, and she didn’t tell me what to do, but simply let me get on with my things.
Maybe she didn’t feel she had to? I had been with John for eight weeks, and he had made sure I kept my side of the room tidy, making my bed, and having my clothes, toiletries and things in order. We each had our shirts starched, ironed, and kept racked in the closet with our trousers. Underwear and socks were folded, neatly in the drawer. It was something I wanted to keep up now that I was home. It made me feel responsible and decent.
Going up to the bathroom I took a quick shower to wash the hairs away, parting my hair while it was still wet, but hardly offering it a thought beyond that. Afterwards I went to my room, and began tidying. There was still a lot of "little boy stuff" in there, and I cleared it away. Mother heard me working up there, and came up with boxes, so I could sort things I wanted to keep, from things I was throwing away.
When I was done, there was my desk, bed, chair and bookshelf almost bare. Some books filled two shelves in the bookshelf, with my Bible and books discussing the scripture on the top shelf, and my schoolbooks on the one below.
Checking my closet I picked out a fresh white shirt for school tomorrow, and black trousers. I did not pick out a tie. Ties were for representing, not for normal everyday life.
The other kids in my class were talking, and shouting to each other, talking about their holidays, and what was new. No one paid me any mind, and I was ok with that, as I waited paitently for our teacher to show up.
"What did you do over the summer Michael?" Mrs. Turner asked me after she had got some control over the class. Maybe she felt it was my turn to say something.
My initial thought was to say I had been on a road trip with my cousin. I had always tried to keep my head down, when it came to matters of the Faith. Not lying about it, I wouldn’t do that, but often withholding information, making it sound more like everybody else’s lives and activities.
But emboldened by my newfound role as a missionary I said, loud and clear, "My cousin and I have been out trying to spread the Word of Our Lord Mrs. Turner."
She looked a bit bewildered, and some kids giggled. Fred in the back row laughed openly.
"We went around knocking on doors, and offered our help to people in need of guidance. And told them ways they could welcome the Lord in to their lives."
A few others were laughing now, and Fred asked "Did anyone actually want to listen to that crap?"
I looked at him with a calm smile, and said, "Not many, but we hope we managed to help a few find their way to Him. And if we did, we are grateful."
Fred looked bewildered, and Mrs. Turner quickly asked Stephanie what she had been doing. Gawping slightly at me, I smiled at her, and when she found her tongue she said, "We went to see my Grandparents in Iowa."
Fred was in shop, and he really looked surprised when I walked in. So did many others, maybe not expecting to see an honor student in shop. I felt that was a bit sad, because why shouldn’t we be?
One thing I was sure of was that they all knew me by appearance, and sure enough, I could hear by their muffled conversations I was considered "a religious freak", and some stated I was "just nuts".
Since I hadn’t had shop first year, I patiently waited to be allocated a workbench. And was assigned next to Eddy Parker. Eddy wasn’t the brightest by a long shot but he got by in his own way. And He has a plan for everyone.
Edward was not much of a talker either and even if he had been we probably would not have much to talk about, but we got by amicably enough.
I was the butt of quite a few jokes, especially at the start. Not having done shop before, and not having a father, I didn’t really know my way around tools when I came. But I like to think that I learned fast enough, and the jokes didn’t bother me. Many had endured so much more for our Lord, and I felt honored if I could serve as an example for Him.
Days went by, and I still didn’t make any friends. I was still too different for that.
At recess I would keep working at my station, finding meaning in my work, or I would sit and read a bit from the Bible by myself. Finding great solace in the scripture.
The teachers were very happy with my work, but they, like my fellow students, shyed away from me if I tried to talk about the Lord, or His work in any way.
I discussed this with the reverend, expressing my regret at this, and he smiled fondly at me. "Michael, this, sadly, is how the world often looks at our work for Him. Is it weakening your resolve?"
I shook my head, "Not in the least reverend. I only wish I could reach someone." I said.
"Oh, but you are Michael, you are!" seeing the doubt on my face he said, "Think about what an example you are setting! What do they see when they see you?"
"A freak?" I ventured, and we both smiled at this.
"No Michael! They do not see a freak! They see a young man, who has the inner strength through the Lord’s grace to be himself, and to not be trapped by the fallacies of human society, with all it’s pitfalls and abominations!"
I listened raptly. He was right. Several of the boys were using pot, and drinking beer, chasing girls it seemed, just to be with them "like that". Several were from broken homes, and it didn’t seem their parents were leading much better lives.
"You think I’m actually helping them?" I asked, still a bit doubtful. And the reverend assured me I was.
"So, what should I do?" I asked.
"Just continue being a beacon on to others, leading by example Michael. And be there if one of them eventually wants to talk."
Greatly consoled by this I went about my daily routines, and kept my school work up to an immaculate standard.
Towards the end of the year we were to go to a work-site, as part of a cooperation between a building company and our school. It was great practice, and I much appreciated the opportunities they gave us to learn.
My hair was not ideal for this though, since we had to wear hard hats at the site, like everyone else.
I watched the men with their short hairstyles with something akin to envy as they took their hats off. They looked fine, with just a bit of hair flattened in places, wheras my hair took on the appearance of a shaggy mop when I had worked with a hard hat on. The parting often having been disrupted, and my hair being tousled and flattened along the band of the helmet. It looked neither modest nor unassuming, but simply untidy.
Normally I would wet it down after work, and comb it, but it wasn’t every day I had time to do this. One day I returned home feeling very self-conscious about my hair sticking up in places, and looking kind of a mess. And who should happen to be at our house that very day, if not the reverend.
"Oh my!" he said as he saw me, and I quickly apologized for my appearance.
"Nothing to apologize for Michael. I am sure you would have fixed it, if you could."
"In fact, why don’t you go and do just that while your mother and I talk".
I showered and changed from my work clothes to a white shirt, and came down to them, looking, and feeling better.
"How are you Michael?" the reverend asked.
"I’m very well reverend, and you?"
He was well also, and he sat, smiling as I joined them at the table.
"I am here to talk to you about your apprenticeship," he said, and I was eager to hear more. Many of the boys were discussing this, and some already had arranged for a place to go when the time came.
"You are not to be apprenticed quite yet, but I would like you to meet a carpenter who is coming to do work on our church steeple this week. He is a member of our congregation, but hasn’t lived here since you were a little boy. I would like for you to meet him, and work with him after school this week, and on Saturday.
Mother let me borrow the car to school, since I had to get right to the church after, and Matthew Stark met me there, and greeted me with a firm handshake. He wasn’t very tall, but looked really fit, like many carpenters do.
What impressed me most about him though was his haircut. It wasn’t like all the others in the Church.
It was nice and really short. Especially the back and sides, which were just bristles. The top was maybe an inch and a half, but it was combed with the customary parting, and lay flat.
"Have you had your hair like that long Mr. Stark?" I asked before I could stop myself.
"About twenty years. And call me Matthew."
I tried not to stare, but I think he noticed.
"Tired of the regulation cut, are you?" he asked with a grin, "I sure was! First thing I did when I became an apprentice carpenter was to have it cut short."
"While you were still here?" I asked.
Still smiling, he said, "Yep. And no one said anything bad about it either. I guess they understand that for some jobs it’s more plain and unassuming to have it like this. Less upkeep, you know?"
Realising I was still staring, I tore my gaze away, and looked at the church steeple. The scaffolding was up, and Matthew had begun tearing off the old boards.
I really enjoyed working with him, and did as good a job as I could, which must have been good, because on Saturday I was asked to join Matthew and the reverend in the church office.
After exchanging the usual formalities the reverend said, "Would you like to be apprenticed to Matthew Michael?"
"Yes please!" I grinned, "I’ll have to wait til fall though, won’t I?"
Matthew looked pleased at my acceptance, and said, "Yes. But, I was was wondering if you would like to come work with me over the summer as well."
It struck me that I had no idea where Matthew lived, and I asked him.
"I live in Haverbrook, a small town, four hours east of here. But I have work over the summer in Springfield. The reverend told me you and another young man in the congregation were there last summer?"
"We were," I said solemnly, "We were there to spread the word of our Lord."
Matthew nodded approvingly, before taking upon him to explain some more. I would be living in an apartment with himself and one other man, who was not a member of our congregation. "Ben is a good guy though, you’ll like him!" Matthew assured me.
As for transportation both men had trucks, and Matthew was sure I could borrow one most times, if I needed to.
I could hardly wait. Looking greatly forward to going to work with Matthew and Ben. But mostly because I had a plan, and going back to Springfield was exactly the place for it.