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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, October 21, 2006

That Call and Calvary

The most wonderful things that are true of my life can be traced back to phone call and the fact that Given the right subject, women know no strangers. I’m not talking about the O.J. wrong number I wrote about a few weeks ago that my wife Julie received in 1993... that was just a funny "female" thing. I'm talking about an "accidental" phone call my mom made in 1964 when she talked to a perfect stranger for an hour. By the time she hung up, some dominoes began to fall that only God could have put in place... and they're still toppling across His boundless tabletop.

The story actually starts years before the phone call. My family had been going to a steepled church on the corner every Sunday since forever. In Port Huron, it was St. Johns on 10th and Lapeer. In Detroit, it was Peace United Church of Christ on Gratiot and 8 Mile Road. We were faithful members and very involved…but something was missing.

As always, God was up to something. He placed people in my family's life who began preparing soil and watering seeds as if in some divine conspiracy. It was the Easter season, and as a family we had just seen Barabbas at one of the big theaters in Detroit. My sister had met a new friend, Brenda Brown, whose father was a pastor. For months, they had been walking to school together and talked about the Bible. This friend’s mother “did hair” in the parsonage basement, and my mom became a regular customer. Every time Mom got her hair done, the two ladies talked about the Bible and listened to something called Southern gospel music. Mom borrowed her albums by Naomi and the Segos whose hits included "Sorry I Never Knew You."* We wore the grooves out of that one. At the end of this post is another one Mom liked.

Meanwhile, my father and a handful of Bell Telephone guys, spent their lunch breaks at the “Y” gym, where a gray-haired man at the equipment window (a retired pastor) was always quoting Bible verses. The verses led to conversations, and surprisingly Dad was all ears.

That’s how the three ranking members of my family were gently exposed to the gospel for several months. Finally, Dad and Mom realized we’d only been going through the motions of church like shadow puppets gathering round a dim bulb. Though they were not yet sure what the “real light” was, they knew it wasn’t shining at our church. They were hungry for the Bible and it simply wasn't on the menu there. And so the search began.

We started popping in on various Protestant churches: Lutheran, Methodist—we even visited the little full-gospel church where Kathy’s friend’s dad was pastor. That was a new experience. The singing was rambunctious and no one was staying put. It was as if the teacher had left the room and the whole class was acting up. The only thing not moving in the room was my family. I started waiving my hands just a little to fit in, but Dad put his hand on my shoulder and we sat out the rest of service. The folks were friendly and all—I’m not knocking it—but that church was a much faster horse than we were used to riding.

A few days later, Mom let her fingers do the walking in the Yellow Pages to see where we’d go to church the next Sunday. Somewhere in the “Bs and Cs” her finger tripped and she was suddenly dialing a number she had not intended to call. A secretary named Jan Johnson picked up on the other end. She and Mom hit it off, and they talked for an hour. (If you know my mom, you know that’s a conservative estimate.)

“Now what was the name of your church?” Mom asked.
“Calvary” said her new friend.

The rest is a completely different life story. Nearly all of the most important details of my life can be traced back to that “wrong number” and two women who could make friends with a stranger.

Now add this to that Providential point in time. My mom's social nature made our front porch a magnet for “seeking” kids of all ages during those wonderful Calvary years.

If we could somehow create a gathering like that great scene at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” when George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) realizes how much his life changed the lives of others, here are just some of the neighborhood “kids” whose changed life began on our front porch: Pam C. (missionary to Nova Scotia), Carlos G. (pastor), Steve L. (missionary to the Philippines) Janet and Quitta H. (Quitta is a missionary in Turkey). Others include Peggy M., Chris B., Bob S., Jeff R., Don E., Kim K. and Minda M. There are more I’m sure, and they all could tell how their own stories go back to Mom’s front porch, which was just like any other porch on the street until…
that call and Calvary.

* Naomi and the Segos [hear her story here] was not what typically played in our home in the decades to follow that phone call, but in the beginning, because these albums had been loned to us by a friend who was also praying for our family, they played a part in our understanding what it meant to follow Christ.

Another Naomi and the Segos song is a bit slow but it does reflect my parents' feeling about life. I was born to serve the Lord.

By today’s standards, “Sorry I Never Knew You” is a sappy, eschatological ballad about a family standing at the Final Judgment. They have to sing goodbye to their father who must “go and serve the one that he served down on earth.” His little girls sings, “Daddy, we can’t go with you. We must dwell in the joys of the Lord. Sorry, for we still love you, but you'll never be our daddy anymore.” Fortunately for the dad, the song was only an evangelistic dream. We sat on the hall floor outside Mom and Dad's bedroom and played that record over and over. As a family, in time we grew in faith and learned the really great hymns, and solid Bible teaching continued (and continues) to balance our lives. But at that point in time, the desire to keep our family together was very real, and that song primed the pump for the night our new pastor came and led my father to the Lord. One by one, in about a week's time, we each responded to the gospel and trusted Christ, and all six of us were baptized on the same Sunday there at our new church.


Anonymous Don Elmore said...

Tom, how wonderful to learn of how the Lord worked to bring your family to the place He wanted you to be. I know He is still doing that in your life and I'm sure Bev is thankful for the fact that Providence led her to dial that "wrong" number. However, we know there are no mistakes with God in His Providence.

24/10/06 5:01 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

So true. Even a "wrong number" can be the right call.
Thank you for the phone call you made in 1982 about two openings at a school called Walnut Ridge in Waterloo,Iowa. See what I mean... those Calvary years changed everything. The story of Mom's phone call goes on and on. His ways are unfathomable!
Good to hear from you, Don.
Go Tigers!

24/10/06 7:32 PM  

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