by Miles Rost
Steven Latrell was an ordinary man. One of the most unassuming people you could have ever met. Middle aged, salt-and-pepper hair, had a couple of grown kids who loved him and a wife that cared deeply for him. He wasn’t much of a man of faith, but he called himself a believer.
His life changed with one voicemail left on his cell phone.
“Steve, this is Dr. Langston at Memorial Hospital. You need to come back to the hospital as soon as you can.”
Within a few days, Steve received the news that every man in the world dreads to hear.
“You have prostate cancer. Stage 4. The most we can say is that you should get your affairs in order and be ready for things.”
Steve didn’t know what he could do. He felt shock, especially since his father’s side of the family never had the occurrences of cancer. Most of them died of old age in the fields of North Dakota. He felt anger, that all the work he put into having a life and a great family was now about to be gone from his sight.
“Honey, I am going to take a walk. I will be back in a little while,” he called in, calmly. His wife gave a shoutback of acknowledgement, and he went off walking.
He walked down his street until he couldn’t go straight anymore. He looked to the left and saw nothing but fields and fences. To his right, he saw trees and grasses. Following his heart, he went right and followed the road through the trees. He walked for a good while, getting lost in the news and thoughts that he was focused on.
After a while, he saw a path that looked like it was barely taken. He looked in his heart, and realizing that there really wasn’t anything to lose, he decided to take it. He walked down the path and through a thick grove of trees and thicket. After walking for a good while, he came upon a stump of a grand old tree. He was about to walk past it, when he noticed words carved into the top.
Curious, he thought to himself, as he then started to walk again. He walked for a shorter distance, and came upon a beautiful river and a wider lake-like area. He smiled at seeing this beautiful, nearly untouched piece of paradise.
“Come out to find answers, have ya?”
Steve turned and looked in the direction of the words that came past his ears. He saw an older man sitting on a stump, looking into the water. He looked like he had been in that swamp his whole life, but yet had a calm about him that said, “Listen.”
Steve looked back at him and gave him a wry smile.
“When you find out that you just received your ticket off of Earth, it makes you want to go somewhere and think,” he said.
The old man looked at him, and shifted himself. His overalls shifted along with, showing a bit of the boniness of his upper body.
“What you got?”
“Stage 4 prostate cancer. They think I’ll survive 8 weeks at most.”
“How are you with God?”
Steve sighed at the question, one he was asked many times.
“Honestly, not good. I have never really been a churchgoer, and I believe that Christ saved me, but I also don’t feel like I want to go.”
“What is church to you?”
Steve sat and thought for a few moments.
“It’s a place to go and meet with other people. It’s a set location somewhere.”
The old man leaned forward and gave him an impish smile.
“Would you believe you’re in church now?”
Steve was taken aback by this. It didn’t make sense to him.
“What…do you mean?”
“Well, Christ said that when two or three are gathered together in worship of Him, he’d be there. Church can describe a building, or more importantly, it can describe the body of believers in Christ. There is a difference between a church building and The Church.”
Steve thought about that for a moment, processing it in his mind.
“I never really thought of it that way.”
“You believe Christ saved you, right?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“You should have nothing to worry about, then. Talk to our Father about the things that you’ve done, square them away, and you’re ready for action.”
“It isn’t that simple.”
“When you’re facing a doctor imposed deadline of 8 weeks, it can be.”
Steve sat down, his back leaning against a tree, the damp soil soaking into his khakis. The old man looked back at him and slowly stood up. He walked over to the water, and smiled.
“You have a choice, young man. You can take the time you have left to do great things for God’s service, or you can waste them. Someone asked me once “Where do we go when all our time’s been wasted?” I answered him by saying we go where God wants us to.”
Steve looked at him and started to listen a little bit more.
“Have you ever been baptized, young man?”
Steve blinked, and though for a few seconds.
“I don’t think I have. Never had a reason to do it.”
“Don’t you think you have a reason now?”
“But, aren’t ministers supposed to do that?”
“Sonny, In God’s kingdom and at some point, we’re all ministers.”
“Think you’re ready to give the rest of your time here on Earth to finishing your business with family and making a mark for God on the world?”
Steve thought about it, and smiled. He was ready. He waded into the water, where the old man was waiting. With a quick prayer, and a blessing that seemed to be divinely inspired, Steve Latrell was baptized.
They walked out of the semi-cool river, and Steve dried off as much as he could with a seemingly new towel the old man gave him. Steve looked at him, and smiled.
“Have you been waiting down here for me?”
“Nah. I’ve been down here for nearly 50 years. This is a place where people go to either face their mortality, get right with God, or take their own life. I’m here, simply, as a minister who helps people with their choices.”
“I guess it’s time to go back, and put everything in order.”
“Just remember something, young man: Let go, Let God, and do good. That’s your job, besides making disciples of the nations.”
Steve looked back, nodded, and proceeded to leave the beautiful lake area.
In the short time he had left, he spent enough time with his wife and kids to help them with their impending loss. And in the 6 weeks since that day, he spent almost the rest of his time volunteering with the local church’s youth groups.
He got ready for bed on week 7, and looked at his wife.
His wife looked at him, and blinked.
“I’m actually at peace. Christ’s been working in my life. I think I understand now.”
She looked at him funny, and gave her husband a kiss.
“I love you, honey. And even if you are gone tomorrow, I know that we’ll see each other again. Maybe even where those healing waters are.”
Steve got into bed and turned off the light, and held his wife tight through the night.
That was the last thing that Steve Latrell, a lay minister of God, did in his time on Earth. At 5:45AM, he left the Earth and went to where the healing waters flow.
The old man that sat by the river looked up at the sky at that precise moment.
“Lord, you have another of your men now,” he said, calmly, “Thank you for bringing him back to you in such a quick way.”