Sep 25, 2013

Fall 1977: Winning the Waiter's Soul

October 1977, my senior year at Rocky High: though my ex-boyfriend Verne had dropped out of Olivet, our Bible college on the prairie, I still had my early admission and a substantial scholarship.  So in early October, I think the 8th-10th, I caught a ride to Olivet for an "early admission weekend."

We sat in on actual classes, slept in actual dorm rooms, ate in the cafeteria, and heard lectures on everything from Campus Church to intramural sports.I hated every minute of it.

We had Saturday afternoon free to explore the ugly campus and the dismal little village of Bourbonnais, but we were cautioned to not walk more than ten blocks, or onto Convent Street (too Catholic), and especially not into the worldly, ungodly city of Kankakee.

The only bright spot: I "went around with" with a boy named Beau, a tall, dark-haired preacher’s kid from Ohio who I met in Switzerland last summer  (no pic, but in my memory he looks like this).

There wasn't much to see in Bourbonnais, but we gamely stopped at a sporting goods store and a used furniture store, and I eyed a comic book store just on the other side of Brookmont Boulevard, in Kankakee, but Beau reminded me that it was against the rules.

We stopped for a snack in a little diner, where the waiter (named Rich) was a few years older than us, handsome, with sandy brown hair and a gleaming smile.  There was no one else around, so he sat down with us for awhile.  He had just graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in theater, and he kept driving up to Chicago for auditions.  He had been in The Music Man and South Pacific.

South Pacific! He must be very muscular to star in that beefcake heavy musical!

Suddenly I got an vision of hugging and holding Rich at the altar as he Prayed through to Victory. I decided to invite him to church.  Wait -- I'd be going home tomorrow.

But I could win his soul right there!

Every Nazarene teen learned the skills of soulwinning, or convincing friends, acquaintances, or perfect strangers to accept Jesus on the spot, without waiting for a Sunday sermon.  It was much more difficult than inviting them to church, but worth the effort --even one soul won would vastly increase your prestige and catapult you into the ranks of church royalty. Besides, you got to hug them as they Prayed Through.

I used the simplest opening:  “Have you ever heard of the Four Spiritual Laws?"

But instead of giving the textbook answer, Rich rolled his eyes and said, "I've heard that one five times this week.  Don't they give you fundy kids any new material?"

We retreated in red-faced ignominy to the street.

“I shouldn’t have tried such an easy opener!” It hadn’t occurred to me that Bourbonnais had been overrun by generations of Johnny and Suzie Nazarenes eager to win souls and forbidden from walking more than ten blocks from campus.

“Don’t get bugged."  “I don’t think any soulwinning tactic would work on her.”

“Her? That was obviously a guy!”

He clapped me on the back. “Nope – try again. That was definitely a Fruitcake.”

"A what?"

"A Fruit. . .you know. . . .” He flashed a loose wrist.

“Oh. . .um, in Rock Island we call Them something else.”  I was still homophobic, and aa sudden wave of fear rushed over me, as if I had just avoided being hit by a car. “Do you think that was one of Their hangouts?”

“Doubtful – she just works there. Sometimes normal people don’t realize that they’re Fruits, and give them jobs. But you can always tell from the lisp.  And the acting!”

“Yeah, I definitely heard the lisp!”, I lied. I was strangely disappointed. Where was the handbag, the sickly-sweet smell of commingled cologne and perfume, the soul-destroying leer?  Until the fundy quip, Rich was actually pleasant.  And cute.  I wanted to get to know him, hug him.

Maybe gay people weren't so bad after all.

I didn't get to hug Beau, either.