Even Haystacks Can’t Hide God’s Kids

Even Haystacks Can’t Hide God’s Kids

Within a few months I would be heading to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I would begin a Master of Divinity program at Harvard Divinity School. My “girlfriend” (perhaps just “friend”? I wasn’t sure what to call her, since I was madly in love with her and was determined to marry her, but she did not feel the same about me) was also headed to Boston, to begin a Master’s program in violin performance at the New England Conservatory of Music. I was living in Austin, but spent most weekends in Houston in order to attend weekly prayer/worship/ministry meetings at the home of Harold and Veranne Graham.

One young man became part of the group only briefly, before he moved out of town. This was in late spring. He had just discovered God’s reality and grace, including the power of the Holy Spirit. One weekend shortly before he left town, he learned that my “friend” and I were headed to the Boston area in the fall. He said that his cousin, whom I will name “OA,” was somewhere in the greater Boston area (population at the time about 3 million) and had himself just discovered the reality of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, and was part of a wonderful prayer group that met in the home of a local pastor, and that it might be a good idea for us to meet OA.

Unfortunately, this young man had zero contact information for OA, either direct or indirect. My friend and I prayed (probably only once or twice?) that somehow, if God wanted us to meet OA, it would happen. Then we pretty much forgot about him.

Fast-forward a few months. My friend and I drove up to Boston together. I had been assigned a room in Divinity Hall, the dorm in Cambridge for divinity students. My friend decided to rent a room only a few blocks away. That meant that she would have to take the subway to the New England Conservatory; but it also meant that we could be together regularly. She began preparing dinner for the two of us every evening in her tiny room, using a two-burner electric hotplate and a small toaster oven (we washed the dishes in the shower she shared with a very friendly old Russian gentleman who spoke no English).

We immediately began attending a local church, which from time to time provided meaningful worship, and where we made many dear friends; but it provided no deep spiritual fellowship, since no one else there shared our experience of how profoundly and powerfully one can encounter the presence of the Holy Spirit. We longed for fellowship where we could completely be ourselves, and asked God to provide such fellowship.

Diagonally across from my room in Divinity Hall lived a delightful guy whom I shall call “AN.” He was at least ten years older than I, bright, highly cultured, very knowledgeable, captivating in conversation, and totally uninterested in things theological. He was there only because, after Congress cancelled traditional education deferments for the draft (it no longer mattered if you were an undergraduate or were in graduate school, you were still liable to be drafted), one of the only remaining deferments was attendance at a seminary or divinity school. I was there for the education; AN was there for the deferment.

AN supported himself as a major-league seller of marijuana. He also was a major consumer of his product, and the local joke was that you could get high just from breathing the smoke that leaked from under his door. We became friends. He strongly encouraged me to try his product, even offered to give me some for free, but I politely demurred. I learned a lot from him about cooking, since he had previously been a high-end chef.

My female friend spent a lot of time at Divinity Hall, often eating lunch with me in the basement area where there were several refrigerators and stoves and a lot of storage area, including tables/chairs, couches, and even a black-and-white TV set. That led to our becoming friendly with a number of Divinity Hall residents, including AN.

Several weeks after the semester began, a new face showed up. He was a tall, friendly guy who, although not a student, was “crashing” with AN because his previous lodgings had become unavailable. He introduced himself as “O.” We would greet each other in the hallway outside our rooms, and occasionally chat in the basement lounge area.

Here’s the thing: Since he was crashing with AN, we assumed O was a pothead (the then-current term for someone who was very much into smoking marijuana). Since I was at the Divinity School, O assumed I and my female friend were not serious Christians, since Harvard Divinity School was not well known as a haven for evangelicals (to say the least).

We had known O superficially for several weeks when, one day during lunchtime, O happened to mention his last name. My friend and I looked at each other, our eyes open wide, then turned as one to O and asked if he had a cousin in Texas. To which he answered Yes. . .

O—now identified as OA—was indeed the cousin of the young man in Texas who had mentioned his cousin “somewhere in the Boston area” (population at the time ~3 million).

God had sent OA to live nearly across the hall from me!

Of course, OA was not a pothead in spite of his living with AN, and of course we were very serious, Spirit-filled Christians in spite of my being at Harvard Divinity School.

We became very close friends with OA, who moved into his own apartment shortly after this incident. OA introduced us to and we became an integral part of the group that met in the home of a Presbyterian pastor and his wife, who were delightful, wise, discerning, Jesus-loving people.



Even though the following factoid is irrelevant to the basic story, I nevertheless want to mention it because both my wife and I (she died of Alzheimer’s nearly two years ago, after more than 49 years of marriage) felt that the incident was spiritually significant.

We also became friends with OA’s ex-fiancée, named “R.” After my friend and I were engaged, we were walking together down a random Cambridge street when we met R on the sidewalk, walking from the opposite direction. She had come from the Harvard Coop, where she had just purchased a wedding gift for us. It was in her hand. She said that, given the extreme unlikelihood that she would have seen us as she walked home, she figured that our meeting was a sign from God that she ought to give us our gift early, on that very spot (the wedding was still several months and 1100 miles away). It was Robert Farrar Capon’s book The Supper of the Lamb, an extraordinary hybrid of unique recipes (e.g., “leg of lamb for eight people four times”), cooking tips, profound theology, and stirring poetry—we once even used lengthy selections in a communion service at our church!

It was our very first wedding gift. And what a blessing! We guessed, in later times, that the book prophetically and powerfully presaged our experiences of hosting, over the years, hundreds of people for feasts of good food and love and friendship and fellowship with not only other mortals but also the presence of the Lamb Himself.