On this half-moon night in Elko, I sip a Gentleman Jack in JR’s Bar while a sweet-voiced old guy with a white mustache and a red baseball cap sings “I thought I loved you then” at country karaoke night. A heavy set man plops down on the bar stool next to me. He is a sniper just back from Iraq, sent home because he is too old, but he has 479 confirmed kills. He wants someone to say they appreciate it, so I do, and get dizzy from the moral ambiguity of life. My glass is empty so I leave while a less romantic, more maudlin C & W favorite is on the karaoke machine. The desk clerk is singing it quietly as I go out the door into the night where the bright half-moon light -- which does not frighten me (I am only phobic of full moons) – is shining down into the clouds below.
And I remember bits of this past week. There was a whirl of news media around a scandal where I was, by virtue of my position, the appropriate point person. Bishops from all over the United States sent me messages of support and encouragement. I met 3 times with the congregation involved and was so impressed with their calm, their compassion, and their wisdom. All the things I was supposed to bring them, they already had in abundance. Even crises can be full of grace.
Thursday I was at an Army National Guard base for the commissioning of 1st Lt. Teogenes Bernardez, Jr. (our own Fr. Jun) as an officer and a chaplain. Friday I welcomed the Filipino Convocation of Episcopal Asian Ministries to a youth and young adult gathering in Las Vegas. There I discovered to my dismay that I was scheduled to be at St. Thomas, Las Vegas the next day – but I was also scheduled to be at St. Thomas the Believer in Lovelock. A calendar disaster of the first order!!! But I looked up and there, provided by the Lord like the ram with his horns caught in the bush on Mt. Moriah, was Bishop Botengan, retired from the Philippines. I asked him to save me by covering the Las Vegas service and he did. God is amazing. The one time I need a bishop; there actually is another one in the state.
Having resolved that crisis I dashed for the airport to catch a plane to Reno – not a minute to spare. But before I could get away, the Asian Ministries coordinator for Province 8 gave me a box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, a present from the Bishop of Hawaii – perfect – it was supper! Yes, I ate an entire box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts while driving lickety split to the airport.
Then it was off to Fallon – arrived just shy of 11 p.m. -- from which the Very Rev. Trudy Erquiaga and I headed out bright and early this morning to Lovelock Correctional Institution – home to our largest most Spirit-filled congregation in central Nevada. Yes the gospel is alive and well behind the barbed wire. Baptized two (full immersion), confirmed three or four, received one. Preached on Romans “If a person is in Christ, he is no longer under condemnation.” You can’t preach that anywhere else like you can in prison.
Then eastward as far as Elko. I called the people in Wells (situated about an hour on beyond Elko) to remind them I will be there tomorrow. Up to now I’ve had the impression they didn’t much want to see me. Some say they are afraid I will close them because they are so small. But today on the phone they were perfectly friendly. It’s a four person congregation, the faithful remnant of a church that split over controversies in years past. Two couples meet at our church each Sunday to say Morning Prayer. I like that. Also Wells is the former home of Elias, the mad prophet hitch-hiker who anointed me for this job when I gave him a ride in Georgia the week before the election. Closing them is unthinkable. I hope to tell them that.
Now here I am in Elko at my beloved Gold Country Inn. It was almost full when I arrived. There is a Western Shoshone reunion here this weekend. But I got one of the rooms with Moose curtains and bedspreads.
Today Trudy asked me how I am liking my job. How can I answer? Chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. Moose bedspreads. Gentleman Jack and an old guy singing “I thought I loved you then.” Prison church. Two old couples church. Filipino youth church. Army National Guard rituals. I don’t deserve this life. It is just too amazing.