In the first summer of my graduate work I took a week-long modular course. I traveled to the college and stayed in a hotel while taking the class. Loitering around the campus early in the week, I asked one of the students if he could recommend a church that would have a mid-week prayer meeting. He enthusiastically gave me directions to his church.
On Wednesday night I ate a lonely dinner and headed north out of the city toward the church. I left early and drove slowly. When I can I like to savor the countryside especially in the mellow fullness of late summer. It was a perfect summer evening and the highway bisected huge fields of tasseled corn nodding in the breeze. The corn in that part of the country grows like an adolescent boy until it stands nearly ten-feet high. Hundreds and hundreds of acres of it grew in perfect undulating fields. Every farm had its own cluster of neat buildings shaded and its own grove of trees. I never saw a farm in that part of the country that didn’t have a Cedar. Huge grain elevators towered above even the smallest village in this part of the country.
When I arrived, I found the church. It wasn’t hard. It was modest, but it was the nicest building in the tiny village. I still had a little margin of time so I drove through the little berg, across a railroad trestle and along the river. It looked like the kind of place that looked like a good place to grow up or raise a family if you could manage a way to feed them.
By the time I arrived back at the church there were quite a few cars lining the street in front of the small white building. The young pastor conducted the prayer meeting so much like the ones I remember growing up it was as if he and my Dad were working from the same script. A song, missionary letters and prayer requests, and then a brief teaching, followed by prayer clusters. Dad never preached on Wednesday night, he taught. Pastor John Hartog was clearly a teacher too.
He handed out a sheet of notes with little blanks to fill in and taught for about 20 minutes to leave adequate time to break into small prayer groups. The little church was in the village of Cambridge, Iowa about a half-hour north of Des Moines.
After prayer he asked the group to gather in a circle and hold hands and he had a little lad count the crowd. If I remember right there were almost a hundred people in the little church for a prayer meeting in the summer. Most suburban churches have not had a hundred people in prayer meeting in many, many years.
I drove home slow as I had come. Fireflies courted in the farm yards. Martins swooped around gathering dinner avoiding the phosphorescent bugs, because they tell me, they don’t taste as good as they look. I lowered the windows and enjoyed the smell of new mown hay on the fresh evening air. The sun fell behind the misty corn and the stars came on in the blue and purple sky.
Now I can tell people I have studied at Cambridge. I prayed there too. The bad things that happed in our once-great and good land are oppressive but I like to believe there is hope as long as little bands of ChristianS gather to pray like they do at the little church in Cambridge, Iowa.
Riverfront Character Inn
August 22, 2006