Jun 22, 2014

Summer 1974: The Boy on the Prospect List

When I was growing up in Rock Island,  anyone who set foot inside the Nazarene Church for any reason, but didn't "get saved" and become a member, was placed on the Prospect List.

Even if they just came for Vacation Bible School, or to cheer for a friend at a Jump Quiz Tournament.

They stayed on that list forever, unless they asked to be removed or the Church Board decided to purge the list of names from many years ago.

Every August, about a month before the fall revival, our Sunday school teacher gave each of us the contact information for 10 age- and -gender appropriate Prospects.  We were supposed to make it our business to "win them for the Lord," or at least invite them to church.

During the next month, we received 1 point for each Prospect that we prayed for, 2 points for each letter or post card, 5 points for each telephone call, and 10 points for each in-person visit, plus an extra 10 point if they actually came to church.

You might think that the Prospects would be buried in letters or harassed by constantly-ringing telephones, but in fact most people settled for prayer. It's a daunting prospect to cold-call someone you don't know, who has been to your church just once.

During the fall revival, the kid, teenager, and adult with the most points received awards, usually Bibles, while the whole congregation clapped and yelled "Amen!"

During the summer after 5th grade, the first year I was eligible, I wimped out with "prayer only."

In 6th grade,  I sent a few post cards.

In 7th grade, I tried phone calls, only to get two "wrong numbers" (which didn't count) and one "You made a mistake -- I never went to that church."

During the summer after 8th grade, I decided to go all the way with a personal visit.

I was fascinated by a name that appeared on the Prospect List every year: Francis DePew, who came to Vacation Bible School one summer, but never appeared again. He was in the same grade as me, and he lived on the Hill, but he didn't go to Washington Junior High.

That meant he went to Jordan Catholic School!

The Preacher told us all about Catholics!  When they weren't worshipping idols and being brainwashed by evil priests, they were laughing in the face of God, drinking, smoking, dancing, playing cards, going to movies.  But their favorite form of sin was the sex orgy, men cavorting with other men's wives, teenagers having sex without being married, all manner of abominations, as in the days before the Flood!

All manner of abominations?  I had to meet this Francis DePew!  Maybe I could get him to the altar, where he would cry and apologize to God, and I could wrap my arm around his waist and hug him.

The rest of the story, with uncensored photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood