We met for the first time in an old eatery.
I was a church- planting pastor looking for a place for the flock to meet.
The on-campus Episcopal chapel location was moving to an end and we needed more space.
Marvin was the head of a fraternal order, the Knights of Pythias….and they owned an old bingo hall just blocks from the chapel we were already meeting in…Lodge #14.
The Marvin information was being given to me by someone I had met with to seek ideas. And that person was telling me about Marvin and the Lodge and "maybe they would let you rent it on Sundays. They have bingo on Saturdays, but perhaps…– You need to contact Marvin. He is in charge, but he is really hard to get with" - and then they paused and said…"well, could you believe it, there is Marvin right over there." He too was getting food.
And so we met, Marvin and I.
A crusty, stocky, button-nosed middle-aged man with guttural voice and a fearsome reputation in the business community. Hair flying in all directions and a few warts to boot…with story after story of wheeling and dealing, profit and loss. Glee and anger.
And me, a young church planter, thin, with tenor voice and a smallish nose and knowing nothing at all about business.
And he rented the Bingo hall to us – gave us a good deal…and after a time started dropping in on our guitar-led, half-circled, long, long services.
My first understanding of how he really felt about us was when he attached us to the Lodge in a formal introduction…and did so with evident pride.
And when the Lodge just didn't work for the church any more, we found a Seventh-day Adventist building – aren't you glad they worship on Saturdays? – and Marvin followed us there.
And finally we outgrew that place too, and now 10 years into the life of the church we were trying to buy land. And Marvin emerged again to help us negotiate and contributed greatly to the process.
And when the building opened he was there…..with his wife, Dorothy.
And on some days he would wipe tears. And sometimes he would just get angry over something. And I remember one day when he raised his hand.
And on some days he would write his own version of beatitude: "blessed are the gruff for they shall take the earth by force."
And after so long there were occasions of prayer.
And on a cold windy day, I conducted Dorothy's funeral.
And this week………………………………………..I have paused long knowing someone was doing his funeral.
And I marvel at the intricate journey of life….
The way God uses people, all kinds of people, to build His church.
The combinations of people He puts together to provide the chemistry that ignites.
The way He rescues the ignorant and insecure J and surrounds them with strength.
The orchestration of inches that produce miles of progress. (1400 people, 15 acres, a huge building)
It is after all, all about….