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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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For The Strength of Youth

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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
Submitted by Steven ODell on 12 January 2009 - 5:23pm.

Unfinished Business
Steven G. O'Dell © 2008

Click, click, click! The clattering of aluminum crutches broke the attentive silence as the first speaker got up to address the congregation. The assigned speaker waited patiently and respectfully for Brother Delmar to take a seat. It didn't feel that way to Brother Delmar, though. He felt too conspicuous as he entered, making noise and disturbing everyone's concentration. This is how he saw himself—a disturber in a peaceful kingdom. It wasn't bad enough that he arrived late most of the time, struggling with his newly acquired handicap; he had to make a terrible racket as he did so. Maybe I will just sit in the foyer from now on, he thought. Or maybe I will just stop coming to church altogether and save myself some embarrassment.

It had been a horrendous thing to have lost his wife just after they joined the church, but he had within a few weeks of that event been hit by a car while crossing the street to retrieve his mail. It seemed like adding insult to injury. Why would a loving God allow such a thing? Brother Delmar knew better than to think God would cause it, but he did question why it was allowed. Two such terrible events in such a short time was very near the limits of his endurance.

Brother Delmar sat and removed his hands from the crutches, leaning them quietly next to him against the bench. The meeting went on as planned and he did his best to listen to the messages that were shared. Just as his mind was wandering, he came to full alert at what he heard.

“God never gives a challenge without also giving a potential blessing at the end of it. Never!”

Brother Delmar didn't hear anything else the rest of the meeting. His mind was racing over those words, repeating them continuously. He certainly had a challenge, but what was the blessing that accompanied it and what did he need to do to earn it? He had to know.

A week went by, two weeks and then three. All the while, Brother Delmar pondered what his blessing might be, but to no avail. One day it occurred to him that he hadn't fasted to find God's will in the matter. Immediately, he began to fast properly and set aside the equivalent amount of money as an offering, praying more earnestly than before to know his required course of action. It was some time before his answer came.

One day, out of the blue, the thought sprang suddenly upon him that he honestly wasn't sure he knew the real nature of his challenge, let alone what his blessing was to be. He was looking at the whole thing in reverse and that was truly a shock. That very day he began anew to consider his life and direction.

The wind was blowing softly through the trees on Brother Delmar's street as he sat, quietly pondering, on his front porch. The gentle swaying motion of the branches had so fully captivated him that he didn't notice the man approaching from down the block.

“Excuse me, sir. Might I put you out for a glass of water? I've been walking a long way today and I'm very thirsty.”

Brother Delmar studied the man's face closely for a few seconds and decided that he looked harmless enough. Grabbing his crutches, he heaved himself to a standing position and acknowledged that he would go get some water. When he returned with the glass, which was extremely difficult with his crutches, the man was waiting on the porch. He held the door open as Brother Delmar reached it.

“Oh, thank you so much.” He drank deeply and sighed as he remove the glass from his lips. “You have no idea how good this is right now.”

“You're quite welcome. Won't you have a seat for awhile?” He nodded toward the chair next to his.

“Yes, please. And thank you. I'm very tired.” The stranger sat heavily, then paused for a moment, looking about at his surroundings before speaking again. “You have a wonderful neighborhood. Have you been here long?”

“Twenty years, give or take. My wife and I bought it as our first home together after we were married.”

“She must love it to stay this long.”

“She did love it,” Brother Delmar corrected. “She passed away a few months ago.”

“I am sorry to hear that. Did you have children together?”

“One son. He left home when he was fifteen and we lost contact with him almost immediately—four years now. He was a bit rebellious.” For some reason the stranger was easy to talk to and Brother Delmar needed to talk today.

“How did you hurt yourself? I hope you don't mind me asking.”

“No. Car accident. I was struck as I crossed the street. It was my fault. Wasn't watching where I was going, y'know? That's the price you pay for stupidity.”

“It could happen to anyone.” He drank some more of his water. “Have you tried to find your son?”

“No. I figured that he would come home when he was ready. So far, he doesn't seem inclined to do so.”

“What did your wife think about it?”

Brother Delmar lowered his head. “She loved him with all her heart and wanted me to search for him. I told her I didn't know what to do to find him. Seemed like looking for a needle in a haystack to me. I regret that I didn't try when she asked. The trail is probably too cold now. She wanted the boy to come home more than anything in the world. He'd be a young man now.” He stared off into the tree branches again and envisioned what his son must be like after the passage of so much time.

“Things change. He chose to leave, but maybe he needs an invitation to come back. Four years can build some walls that need tearing down, but it may be worse to let them stand.”

“What do you mean?” He turned to look at the stranger.

“ If you think you regret it now, how will you feel in another four years?”

The stranger's stare penetrated to the very core and the words had hit like a brick. It was true. He would likely hate himself for not trying. He needed his son as much as the wife had, but had tried to be strong for her and not show it. Now he knew that he had been a fool. Family was what it was all about, after all. The Church taught it and he knew it in his heart. Besides, the boy didn't know that his mother had passed away and he had every right to know.

The sun was now low in the west and it was beginning to cool. “Would you care to stay the night? It's getting too late to go out walking now. How far do you have to go?”

The man smiled. “I'll know when I get there, I guess.”

“Well, you're welcome to stay the night, if you like.”

Brother Delmar treated his guest quite well that night. Dinner, although simple, was filling and delicious. The time was passed in pleasant conversation, which eventually led to the subject of religious faith. When the guest learned his host was a Latter-day Saint, he beamed brightly and urged Brother Delmar all the more that he must find his son and reunite his family. He was firm, but convincing in his manner.

When the conversation had wound down for the evening and the time felt right, a bed was provided for the visitor, whose name was was found to be Mathoni. Brother Delmar slept quite peacefully for the first time in months, knowing he was not alone in an otherwise empty house.

The next morning, as Mathoni was being plied with things to eat along his journey, he suggested to Brother Delmar that they pray together for the insight needed to find the boy. As they knelt, there was a power conspicuously present that had not been felt in the home for some time—not since the missionaries had taught them the gospel. Upon rising, Mathoni looked deeply into Brother Delmar's eyes.

“You have been very kind to me. I want you to know that I am on an errand to do our Father's work and He has shown me that I am to give you a blessing. You are a good man and you deserve some encouragement in your life at this time. Sit down, please.”

Brother Delmar was somewhat surprised at the request, but felt it his duty to obey direction from a servant of the Lord. He had felt the power of the prayer and the overflowing goodness in this man's heart. Certainly no harm could come of it.

As the hands settled softly upon his head, Brother Delmar felt a wave of power sweep over him from his head to his toes. There was no doubt the Holy Ghost was in the room with them. Every particle of Brother Delmar's being was alive in a way it had never been before. The very will of the heavens was being poured into him at that moment and his tears could not be withheld.

“...and I promise you health and strength, from this very moment, sufficient to carry out this duty and find your son in due time. It is the Lord's will and you will not fail, so long as you try valiantly to be in tune with Him. You will not only feel the presence of the Lord in this quest, but you will know the help of your former wife in this matter.”

The words hit hard, with an impact that he had never felt since his wife had passed. '...former wife.' They had not been sealed yet in the temple and he knew this must be accomplished or they could never be sealed to their son, should the boy decide to allow such a thing.

“And I promise that you will have the full cooperation of your employer in this matter; therefore, take no concern for a short loss of time from your profession. Be certain to heed all possible channels in your search and you will succeed. Your challenge is to maintain your focus on eternal goals and have faith that it shall be accomplished, even as you have been promised. In completion of this goal, you will have great blessing come upon you and those whom you serve.”

There was more to the blessing, but Brother Delmar pondered deeply the words '... you will have great blessing come upon you and those whom you serve.' How was he to be serving others when he was looking for his son? It made no sense. But the challenge had been defined—to maintain focus on eternal goals and have faith that it would be accomplished—just as promised.

As he wiped away the tears and stood to thank Mathoni, Brother Delmar felt this sinews, muscles and bones suddenly snap into place and again operate as the Lord had intended them to. He was now physically whole, just as promised. Just that quickly, by the power of God, he no longer needed crutches. The word of the scriptures came to him—the blind shall see, the deaf shall hear and the lame shall leap and walk. He had always believed it to be true, but now he had experienced it in his own life. God had now become real to him.

Brother Delmar found that his employer was not only happy to give him the time to find his son, but donated money to the effort and contacted a detective firm he had been pleased to do business with in the past. He also found that his Bishop had already contacted Church Headquarters to do a search for membership records, just in case the son had followed his father's example. Although nothing had turned up, the thought was appreciated. The detective, however, had narrowed the search to two cities in Connecticut. Work history and records of minor traffic infractions seemed to indicate that this was the young man they were looking for and all they had to do was find a current address, if they could. Brother Delmar packed his things into the car as quickly as he could and, cell phone in hand, drove directly to Connecticut. His mind was flooded with wondering—what if the boy still wanted nothing to do with him? What was he to say to him after all this time? How could he expect the boy to drop everything in his life and just come home with him? These thoughts were about to consume him with doubt when he felt a familiar hand on his shoulder and he began to cry openly as faith flowed back into his bosom to drive away all fear. The words of the promise of God came rushing back to him and he burst into song.

“The spirit of God like a fire is burning...”

The miles passed quickly and Brother Delmar found himself at the intersection of a highway that split and led to the two cities in question, but they were in opposite directions. This was certainly a time for prayer and the exercise of faith. Bowing his head reverently, Brother Delmar prayed in earnest for thee guidance and prompting he needed. The sure voice of the Spirit told him to turn right. When he reached the city limits, he again stopped along the roadside and begged direction further from his Heavenly Father. Again, he was not disappointed.

Step by step he was pointed in the right direction, until he was told to turn on a small dead end lane only a few houses in length. Pulling the car over, he noticed a pile of furniture on one of the lawns. As he watched, a young man emerged from the house and deposited another chair alongside the other worn pieces already there. The fellow looked down-hearted. It was easily read in his mannerisms. He moved slowly and with little to no energy, as if he were a man who had lost his last friend. He then turned again toward the house.

Brother Delmar knew the face the moment he saw it. The body was taller and more full, but the face was unmistakable. This was his son. Wiping away the sudden flood of tears, Brother Delmar slowly opened his car door and stepped out into the street. Closing the door automatically, he began to walk slowly toward the house where he knew the face would soon reappear. He did not have long to wait, as a table emerged from the doorway with a clatter as it struck the door jamb. Setting the table down, the young man looked about to collapse from some secret heartache that he carried.

“Could you use some help with that?”

The troubled face looked up with momentary questioning, stared for a few seconds in puzzlement and then the mouth dropped open in surprise and recognition. He almost tripped over the table as he ran forward to embrace the older man. Long minutes passed in silence, save for the gentle sobbing of both men, as they held one another tightly. Brother Delmar acutely felt the presence of others there with them. The Lord was there and so was the boy's mother. God had been faithful and kept His promise.

When the young man was able to speak, he blurted out, “I wanted to come home, but I was afraid you wouldn't want me anymore.”

“I always wanted you, son. Always. But I was afraid to come looking for you.”

The boy looked toward the car. “Where's Mom? Didn't she come with you?”

“No, son. She passed away a few months ago. You are all I have now.”

After his son shared all the recent hardships he had been going through, Brother Delmar made a call to the local ward of the Church. A trailer was then rented and there soon arrived a few new smiling faces and helping hands to remove furniture from the house and pack it for the trip home. The miles home were filled with questions about how his father knew these men who had come to help, why would they come to help if they didn't know him and what it was like to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The greatest question of all came in the form of what could be done to have their wife and mother with them again. Brother Delmar smiled to himself as he felt again that presence and hand on his shoulder, reassuring him he was now on the correct path.

By the time he had returned home, Brother Delmar knew he had met his challenge and received his blessing. And now he knew more fully what a blessing this would be, not only to himself, but to all who had made effort to help him and all who would share in his joy. He had blessed them by allowing them to serve and he had served them by allowing them to be blessed, strange as it sounded. The hands of the Priesthood had healed him, found his son and shown him that there was unfinished business yet to be done—here...and in the House of the Lord.

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