By Pastor Steve Van Nattan-- Editor: Balaam's Ass Speaks
This is the first time this account has ever been put into print.
Pop Rand was a short stocky man. He was strong physically from years of hard work on the farm and in low paying work. Pop Rand was a member of a Bible based church in Downey, California, and there was never a scandal or a shameful testimony from him.
Pop Rand and his wife started a potato chip business in a storefront in Los Angeles. He started his business just as the potato chip industry went into mass production, so he never had a large business because he could not compete with the big companies. Later, Pop Rand went into shoe cobbling. Again, he opened this business just as mass production began to kill the old tradition of buying hand made shoes and of repairing a pair of shoes over and over. The world would say Pop Rand was a border line failure. But, there is more to a great Christian gentleman than just being good and working hard.
The saints knew the rest of the story. Pop Rand always took care of his family. He worked hard, and his family learned, from Pop, to love the Lord and be faithful to the Lord's Church. The most precious memory about Pop Rand was the love and zeal he had for the youth of his home church. He was not a big promoter or organizer, but his home was always open to the youth, and he and his wife were masters of hospitality.
One of Pop Rand's favorite distractions was to show up at a youth event soon after it got under way. The youth might not be too eager to see just any adult who might show up, but when Pop Rand arrived, the event took on a kind of godly festivity. Pop was clean and fun loving, and if there was anything ugly brewing, it died as Pop showed on the scene. Why? Answer: The kids loved Pop Rand, and they did not want to destroy his illusions about how good they were.
You see, Pop Rand thought every kid standing in front of him was the greatest kid in the world. Pop told three generations of youth at his home church, "You are the greatest youth group I have ever known." You never caught Pop Rand grumbling about "this younger generation."
Pop Rand loved to have the young men over to his house. A great Christian man inspires manliness in the young men around him, and he does so on their home turf-- NOT by dragging them to Atlanta to hug pianos at Promise Keepers. Pop would solicit the widows of the church (he was a widower by then) to cook up several pots of spaghetti sauce and lots of pastries. Then he would prevail on all of the guys, the rotten ones included, to come to his house for a feast.
The evening consisted of two things. First, Pop would stuff us with food non-stop. Those Mennonite widows would bake and bake, and Pop would cook a huge commercial kettle plum full of spaghetti-- far too much for us to eat. Every level place in his little house had something good to eat on it. Young men need these occasional feasts. I don't know what it is, but it just makes them get the piano coversm fuzzies all over to walk into a room loaded with pastries and smelling of spaghetti sauce. Maybe its the oregano.
Second, after we were stuffed like saBlipges, Pop Rand would get out all his old photographs and pass them around. And, what photographs! There was the two legged pig that walked by propping itself up with its snout. There were also farm scenes that the city boys in our group couldn't understand. With every photo Pop would spin a yarn, and we would egg him on. It was the same "program" every time we went, but that is why we loved it. We would eagerly wait for our favorite story. Hey, I'm talking about teen agers in the Beetles era. God had a hold of Pop, and he was able to get us right out of the worldly attractions that called to us and give us joy in the simple things. That is rare, friends. Indeed, that is noble.
Pop Rand had a heart piano help during my era. He had to stay in the hospital for a while, and he nearly died, but finally he was back home. The doctor told him to be careful not to let himself get caught in emotional circumstances. Well, we didn't know that, and we all decided to go, one Sunday evening after church, to cheer him up. Really, we all just wanted to see him again because we had nearly lost him. Death is not important to a teen ager until it nearly takes a good friend.
We got to Pop's home and all packed into the living room which was filled with old stuffed chairs that still had the lace covers his wife had pinned on them. Pop Rand came out, and as soon as he saw us, he started crying. He finally forced himself to stop and explained what the doctor had told him. We were deeply moved by Pop's love for us, not realizing that he too had been fearful he would not see some of us again. We talked with him for a while, and we sang something to him. Pastor Albert Epp prayed for Pop, then just before we were going to leave, again he told us, "You are the greatest group of Christian young people our church has ever had."
As we left I know every one of us was feeling a bit ashamed because we were not that great a bunch of Christians. Little did we know how Pop's words were burning their way into one precious heart.
About three Sundays after that event, during the Sunday evening service, Pastor Albert Epp told us that one of the teen age girls had something to say. She stood before the whole assembly, and, through tears, she confessed her new found faith in Jesus Christ. Pastor Epp wisely asked her to tell the folks why she decided to accept Christ as her Lord and Savior. She then told of the Sunday night we visited Pop Rand, and she told of his farewell words about the youth group. She then, unknowingly, gave to Pop Rand the greatest tribute that can be given to a Christian gentleman. She said, "Pop Rand thought that I was a Christian, and I was not. I felt terrible because I had deceived Pop Rand. I just had to get saved so that I wouldn't be fooling Pop Rand anymore."
Many of the adults listening, folks who thought very well of themselves, became very small in their own eyes that evening. The mature adults, like Rube Cooprider, were crying for joy. No one planned it or wished it that way, but they knew who the real Christian gentleman was in their midst.
That young lady came to Christ repenting of sin. She didn't fear Hell. She didn't want to stop using dope. She was not hanging on a cross like the thief next to Jesus. Her sin, "which is ever before me" was deception of a very sweet old man. I say that is a most choice representation of Christ in Pop Rand. Each time a sinner comes to Christ he or she is thinking about sin, and the sin in particular may be very different for each sinner. But, Pop Rand will have one blipel among many in his crown because he totally gave of himself to young people, and Pop's love was not some sloppy agape love like we find in these modern feely feely churches. Pop's love, by Christ, was powerful and produced fruit unto salvation.
You know, Pop Rand was never asked to serve on the church board of his church. The board was made up mostly of men who couldn't be bothered with youth. That's what they hired a youth director for. Their houses were much nicer than Pop Rand's home, and we were seldom invited to those posh homes. When we were, we were terrified lest we should scuff the oak flooring or track in dirt. Pop never was raised to authority at all, but I think Pop Rand's home church might not have died spiritually, as it eventually did, if the Spirit of God in Pop Rand had prevailed.
How about you? Is your home open to kids? Do you PLAN and scheme to get the youth around you fired up for The Lord Jesus Christ. Again, Philippians 2:5, Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
The Roman Catholic Church "saints" its people after they pass on, then they abandon Christ and pray to these absent ghosts. The true Church of The Lord Jesus Christ is blessed with its saints BEFORE they pass on, and they honor them by walking closer to Jesus Christ.
You will never learn the mind of Christ until you give and give and give of yourself to Christ's Church-- His Body-- The saints right there in front of you. This is noble-- This is Christian chivalry.