If I had not been there, I would not have believed what happened, not in a million years.
That particular Saturday morning was Farmer City’s annual Sidewalk Sales Extravaganza. Crowds of people filled the streets of the downtown business district. All checked out the sales bargains lining the tables in front of retail stores. Brown jersey gloves were three pairs for a dollar at Hesston’s Hardware. Dollar General sold Handi-Wipes for seventy-nine cents a package. Though the city was populated with nineteen hundred tight-fisted Norwegian and German-Americans, these blond-haired, blue-eyed conservatives liked nothing better than saving a buck or two.
My little concession trailer sat on the street in front of the court house. Popcorn, snow cones, and cotton candy were hot items for the first two hours. Sales slacked off around 11:30 AM.
I took a break and stood outside the trailer, smoking a cigarette, when I saw the stranger heading toward me. And if ever a fish was out of water, it was this man. An African-American in Farmer City. His pock-marked face was covered with four-day stubble. A jagged scar stretched from the base of his neck to his left ear and he wore a black Oakland Raiders’ sweatshirt rolled up to his elbows, revealing gang tattoos on his bulging forearms. Plus, he had the thousand-yard stare of an ex-con.
As he passed by, he nodded at me.
“Hi, how are you?” he whispered without breaking stride.
Being curious, I turned to watch him.
He walked over to a green bench in the city square and climbed up on it. Then, he cupped his mouth with his massive hands.
“Hey, everyone, listen up. I’m holding a healing crusade in Jesus’ name this morning. So, if you need a miraculous healing, come over here,” he shouted.
People stopped what they were doing and looked at him. They had to be wondering who he thought he was, an Oral Roberts or some other evangelist like that. But believe it or not, the crowd moved toward him as if he were a Pied Piper.
An eighty year old lady scooted her walker up to the front of the group. She looked up at the stranger.
“Okay, sonny, let’s see you do your stuff,” she said with arched eyebrows.
A slight smile etched his chiseled face. He jumped down, and in one continuous motion, he grabbed the walker and flung it onto the lawn, saying, “In Jesus’ name, be healed. Now, dance for Him.”
The crowd gasped as she teetered there, her weak legs straining to hold her up. A man reached to grab her, but the African-American slapped the Good Samaritan’s hands away. “Don’t help her,” he said. “Let the Lord finish His work in her.”
A few in the crowd booed the African-American, but he paid them no attention. He knew what he was doing.
Then, it happened. A big smile lit up the lady’s face. She straightened up, kicked one leg up in the air, and then the other. She followed with a scissors kick, using both legs at once. Tears streamed down her face as she lifted up her hands and danced on the sidewalk, praising Jesus for the miracle.
People instantly formed a line in the street. Some were young. Some were old. There were cripples, amputees, cancer sufferers, heart victims, mentally ill, and numerous others who were afflicted with some malady or another. They waited patiently for the stranger to pray for them.
As the man moved toward the first person in line, an arm reached out and grabbed his shoulder. The stranger stopped and turned around, looking into the face of a middle-aged man wearing a black suit.
“Yes, may I help you?” he asked in a deep voice.
“I’m Reverend Adam Johnson, head of Farmer City’s ministerial board,” said the man. “We don’t believe you should be holding a healing crusade just yet. No one knows whom you are accountable to. Allow us to check out your credentials. And if everything turns out okay, you can hold some healing meetings in one of our churches next week.”
The smile on the African-American’s face dipped downward.
“To whom were you referring when you said we?”
Reverend Johnson pointed to six men dressed in dark suits, standing under an oak tree behind the bench.
“Those are the other pastors on our board. And like most pastors, we just want to protect our flocks from unknown strangers like you.”
The African-American put his hands under the armpits of Reverend Johnson, picking him off the ground. He tossed him as if he were a basketball over the bench at the other six pastors. The clergy reached out their arms and cushioned Johnson’s fall to the ground.
The stranger stood there, clenching and unclenching his fists, as if he were deciding further action against the group. Fear crept into the seven pastor’s eyes. They stepped back away from him.
“Don’t you ever get in my way again! I came here to hold a healing crusade for Jesus this morning and people like you are not going to stop me. Do you hear me?” he proclaimed, pointing a finger at the pastors.
They nodded in agreement at the man’s words and fled the city square.
The stranger then turned around and began praying for people.
What happened next was unbelievable. It was as if Jesus Himself was holding a healing meeting in Farmer City. Everyone received his healing, no one was disappointed. When the stranger finished, he walked away. A few tried to stop him, but he shook them off.
“Just thank Jesus and give Him the glory, okay?” he said over his shoulder.
But as he walked toward me, he slowed down and stopped a few feet away from me. He eyed me up and down for a few seconds as I puffed a cigarette. Our eyes locked, but neither of us spoke.
Finally, I looked away.
The burning love and compassion in his eyes made me feel like I was standing naked in front of him. He knew the type of man I was and yet, he still cared about me. Why? I do not know, but I wanted to know.
When I looked again, he was gone.