True Story. We walk into the pub, order our Sam Adams, and sit down at a little table in the corner. Before long, a third Lutheran pastor joins us. He knows me, and, with a little help, I put together his name with his face. Long, rambling conversation ensues, one of the best and most enjoyable things about a pastors' conference. More Gospel is heard and received in the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren than in the conference itself.
Turns out, this third Lutheran pastor has an adult son who suffers from autism. That dear young man is "twenty-three going on five." This past summer, the father accompanied his son at a Lutheran camp for adults with such infirmities. And four of my young friends from Emmaus happened to be volunteering at that very camp during that same week.
So, the secret is out. I saw digital pictures on that third Lutheran pastor's camera to prove it. There was dancing involved. Evidently, or so the story goes, one of the young Emmaus ladies was cutting a rug and having a ball, while the other demurred. It so happens, however, that the pastor's dear son was left without a dancing partner at one point, and up got the girl who would not dance to dance with him. When all was said and done, he got to dance with both girls, and his father tells me that it made his son's summer.
As a father, I love to hear other people tell me nice things about my children. It is hardly any less significant for me, as a pastor, to hear nice things about the young people of my congregation. I was already very proud of the four Emmaus youth who volunteered to serve at the camp, but listening to my colleague describe how much it meant to his son to be there, and to hear him tell how impressed he was with those young men and ladies who are almost as dear to me as if they were my own, I could not have been more pleased and proud.
It is a small world after all. Seeing pictures of my young friends on a colleague's digital camera, dancing with his twenty-three-old autistic son, was both surrealistic and delightful. I did not take for granted their volunteer service at the camp this past summer, but it had not occurred to me how significant it was to the people they served. I wonder if they have any idea how much it meant to those people. I was profoundly moved by my encounter with that third Lutheran pastor in the pub this evening. It wasn't what I expected when I walked into the place, but it was a poignant reminder of what a wonderful congregation I am given to serve. And now, as I get ready to lay me down to sleep, I am giving thanks especially for those dear young friends and parishioners of mine, of whom I am more proud than words can say.