As I pulled into Elma, Washington I knew I had to get out and meet some of the people that made this town so cool. It just has a great vibe to it, kind of friendly and relaxed. Wouldn’t you know it, the first parking place I find is right in front of the Northwest Life Center, and they are open with free food!
I introduced myself, and when asked, told them that I was a photographer that was traveling through Washington to meet great people and get to know them and take their photos. There were several in the room that politely asked me not to photograph them, mumbling that it wouldn’t be good for the law to know where they are. Isn’t that interesting? My mind was drawn to the stories in the bible of how Jesus spent time with the common people, the sinners of the world. It touched my heart to be in such a place, and to feel accepted and welcome. A very cool thing indeed.
The stars of the show had to be Dick and Jerlean. She had cooked a couple of crock pot dishes to bring (the sign says “snacks” the reality was it was a full blown pot-luck lunch. I had just eaten sadly, so I didn’t eat, but it smelled great!) and Dick was the entertainment.
Boy if there was a hint of a lull in the conversation Dick would jump in with a story. He had a wide variety of stories of how things came to be in the county, the dealings of business, the everyday lives of people who lived around him, and the history of the area in general, and personal stories from his life. He has a great way of telling that always has everyone laughing, and he took special effort to make sure that I felt included in what was going on. He’d make a reference in his story, turn to me and make sure I understood why that reference was important, and then continue.
Several times while I was there they talked about the trials they had gone through to build this church. It had been built as an opera house, but the years where hard on it, and when they took over it had been a bar for a number of years. They were so proud of what they had accomplished. It made me feel just a little guilty for taking the beautiful church I attend for granted.
The thing they were most proud of was their prayer room. They spoke of it a lot. They often did 24 hour prayers they told me. This is where people sign up for a time slot and come in and pray for an hour. Then they have a list of people, a prayer list, that have asked to be remembered in those prayers. Dick told me of one event they had where they went for 72 hours with one or two people in there praying the whole time. I thought that was remarkable.
Far too soon it was time for me to go, and Dick and one of his friends (sorry, I don’t remember his name) asked if I’d like to see their prayer room on my way out. As we began walking toward the prayer room I noticed their voices became hushed, their demeanor more reverent as we walked down the hallway. This was sacred ground to them.
They shared with me again how much it meant to them to have a room where they could come be close to the Lord. Dick then offered to have a prayer with me to send me on my way. I was happy to accept. We remained standing, and the other two kind of closed in to form a small circle. The other man started the prayer, and then through some unseen signal, about a minute into it, Dick started praying and the other man became silent.
I don’t remember a lot of what was said in the prayer. But at one point, Dick asked that my eyes be open to the beauty of the world around me, to the wonder of God’s creations, and that my talent with the camera would be sufficient to record it for many to enjoy. He then asked that I would be directed to those people that would help me most on my journey.
I was genuinely touched. He had listened to me. He had heard me and remembered what was important to me. His prayer was humble, and was truly a prayer for me. I expected a prayer on some grand scale thanking God for the church and the prayer room, and what I got was a feeling that Dick was really praying for me, it was his gift to me to speed me on my journey.
Truly remarkable in today’s world. I’m grateful I stopped and got to know a few of the great people in Elma.