THE RAILROAD CHURCH
The email on the phone shouted, “Where are you?” I didn’t have to look at the sender. It was my business partner, wondering why I missed another meeting. Emails from my wife were far less pleasant.
I found myself ignoring both, like the rest of my world that I knew. There are a hundred different names for it. Going over the edge, off the wagon, outside the ropes, off the grid or just being an asshole. They all fit me.
Like other nights, my life danced in places I should not be and always ended with a drink in my hand. One night I found myself in some dive, dark and dirty with the sweat of life. I looked around and saw people at the end of their rope, lost souls with no hope, just like me.
I didn’t want to be them or me. Just then a voice rang out from the other side of the bar. “I am Pastor Robert. You look troubled. Come with me, be saved and redeemed.”
I turned and looked at a slightly built black man with gray hair and a cropped beard in a simple suit.
He reached out his arms again, “Its waiting for you just a short walk from here.”
The bar tender turned to another man at the bar, “Not this guy again.” He motioned toward the hard-looking bouncer across the room and back at Pastor Robert.
Most in the bar ignored Pastor Robert, but a blond middle-aged woman who could hardly stand straight and two of her friends got up. “We will go with you.”
With nothing else to lose, I tagged along. No one said a word. We walked to a small church nestled in the woods. Only a parking lot in front distinguished it.
Pastor Roberts gave a sermon about how everyone could be saved and return to the good of life. He walked over to me, “It’s not too late son.”
There were no other souls with us that night, just our own and they were not good company.
As he continued to speak, the building started to rock and shake. From behind the church, you could hear the sound of a train barreling down the tracks, its whistle blowing. The sound washed over us as the shaking continued. Not knowing if the place was going to hold together, it scared me fueled by my already wobbly state. Soon though the train passed, and calm returned.
Pastor Robert looked at me, “It’s just God’s way of telling us we are not here for long. We don’t have much time to get in his graces before our world shakes apart.”
The message and night resonated with me. For a time, my life got better. I stopped drinking, my wife forgave me and my partner still did business with me.
I wanted to go back to thank Pastor Robert, so I again drove to the church. It looked even more humble in daylight. A little place, brown in color with a white cross over the door. The sign out front that read Railroad Church.
I opened the front door and walked in hoping to find Pastor Robert. The place was empty. A bible lay open on the pulpit and the rows of pews quiet, waiting for the next service. As I began to leave, a young clergyman appeared from a door at the back of the church.
“Can I help you?”
I turned, “Please forgive my intrusion. I was looking for Pastor Robert?” I paused and then said, “His sermon and talk meant everything to me a couple of months ago.”
The clergyman looked surprised. He looked at me oddly and said, “I’m sorry, Pastor Robert died several years ago.”