J. Grant Swank, Jr.

There were tears in his eyes—worry tears, concerned tears.

“So how are things?” I asked, curious as to why Ken was not his usual smiling face.

I had come to know Ken mornings when getting my coffee at Windham’s Wal-Mart. He is the cheery greeter who smiles at all the customers—even first thing in the morning!

Ken and I had come to know one another through those cliché exchanges which matured into a friendship sharing—little things and now—what’s with the tears?

“Was up all last night. Not a good night.”

I had first noted Ken years prior when visiting his Lakes Region church—not the one I pastor. It was one of those early Sunday morning excursions that I enjoy in summers when congregations have early worships. That means that I can slip into another’s service and still get back to my own worship later in the morning.

So it was that I saw Ken time and again as he kept watch from the near back of his sanctuary. He was one of the core group—faithful and true.

But I had never dreamt that I would actually come to know the fellow—first name basis and all that. So it was that when I spied him working at Wal-Mart I recalled for him my slip-ins at his church during summers. He smiled when I told him that I always noted him paying particular attention to the sermons delivered.

However, now things were different. There was “trouble in the camp”—or at least at home base. Something was off kilter.

“What’s going on, Ken?” I asked.

“Ellen is having a lot of pain. She’s going in for surgery on Thursday. Cancer.”

The dreaded C word. Wouldn’t you know it? Poor Ken. Poor Ellen. My heart went out to them immediately. How interesting that I was now moving into two hearts that before I had barely known. How comforting that pain shared between friends bonds the friendship all the more.

“Pastor has been over to the house. We had prayer together. Then I told him that you and I meet every morning here. And how I have come to know you. He said that he knew you, too.”

I chuckled to myself, realizing that the good pastor and I know one another at a distance—clergy in the same community—though I had never had the chance to really know the man intimately. However, maybe some day I will, hopefully.

“He is such a good pastor. Always there,” Ken added.

“Be assured that our church will be praying for you and Ellen, Ken. You know that, don’t you? You have prayer friends with us as well. We are standing alongside you in all this. God will oversee. Our faith will see to it. Okay?”

“Okay,” he answered. The tears lingered. I felt so sorry for the two of them as I left the store.

The next day and the next day Ken was not at the store. He was tending his wife’s situation, naturally.

Then came the morning when Ken was at his post once more.

“And how are things?” I inquired.

“She came through surgery in fine shape. Pastor was with us throughout. And they say that she is going to be just fine. Thank God.”

Tears again. But this time, tears of thanksgiving and relief.

What a privilege it is to make cross prayer paths with friends as we go along life’s way.


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