Be There

She called from the hospital. A sweet, old great-grandmother who lives alone on a big ranch, Velma hauls her own wood, feeds her own horses, and kills rattlesnakes when she has to. So she has authority when she asks me to do something.

"Pastor, my brother Virgel is here in intensive care and he's not going to make it," Velma said. "He's in a coma and his kidneys and liver are starting to shut down, and he don't know the Lord. Could you please come down here?"

I pastor a small church in Tiller, a tiny mountain town in southern Oregon. If you knock on any door in downtown Tiller, there's a one in five chance that it's my house. The other 400 people live at the ends of dirt driveways off dirt roads, some so long you wonder why anyone would live out so far. The hospital is an hour away.

I found Virgel's family in the waiting room. After greeting them, I went into the ICU where I prayed for a comatose man I didn't know. Then I walked to the hospital chapel and prayed again, discussing this strange ...

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