Saving a Drunk Man from Alabama

Saving a Drunk Man from Alabama

I grew up in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, a small town near the banks of the Tennessee River, and a short distance down Hwy 72, to the Alabama state line. As a 16 year-old, I remember that nothing exciting ever happened there…except during football season, when the entire town turned out for every game. Then one day, three Asbury Seminary students visited our little town turning it upside down with their clever music, stories, and conversations about God. It was a gathering unlike anything we’d ever seen before, and young folks came from all around the area, some just curious, others wanting to be a part of something big. The message of peace, love, and God, was delivered to packed congregations via songs, and captivating stories. The youth revival started at the Holly Avenue United Methodist church then after the first night, moved to the larger First Baptist church, due to the huge crowds of kids that lined up, down the block to get into see what was happening. I was caught up in something that I didn’t quite understand, and one night I took a drive down to Bridgeport, Alabama, a town not far from our state line. As fate would have it, I rolled down my car window to speak to an old man that was frantically waving for me to stop. He stuck his face in the window, reeking of alcohol, as he asked if I could help him, and if I knew where POPs was…(a shady little place, that sold liquor to anybody with cash). I told him that I knew where it was, then he asked me if I’d give him a ride there. Now I was very new at the business of “saving” people, but I was quick at recognizing opportunities. As I drove the old fellow back across the Tennessee state line, and proceeded to pass his destination, he stated…”you just passed it!” . I quickly told him that we were stopping somewhere else first, then he demanded to know where I was taking him. After the revival was over, and the seminary students were gone to the next town, the “awakening” continued, so the minister of the Baptist church decided to leave the door unlocked for teens that might want to stop in and pray. As I pulled into the church parking lot, the man yelled “what in the hell are you doing? ” . I told him that he had to go inside with me, and talk with God, then I yanked him out of the car and pulled him into the church. It was dark, and no one was around to help, but I figured that I’d seen enough of how to “save” people, and proceeded to make the old fellow sit in the pew. I said a quick Lord’s prayer, then sang the first verse of “Amazing Grace”, stopping just long enough to ask him if he could feel God. He screamed and cussed at me, and I prayed for God to forgive him for cussing in church, and sang the rest of the verses. Then, I asked him again if he was saved yet. After the first couple of hours, I realized that saving people was not as easy as I had thought, and this man didn’t seem like he wanted to be saved. Suddenly, I remembered something in the bible that said “they know not what they do!”, so that bolstered my tenacity, and I told the intoxicated man to bow his head, and pray. He was crying and begging for me to let him go, then I started singing Amazing Grace again. He yelled and sarcastically asked if that was the only song I knew. It wasn’t, and I immediately launched into House of the Rising Sun. When I finished, I asked him once more if he was saved, and he screamed out “hell yes I’m saved! Now boy, you take me home!” We got back into my car, and headed back to Alabama. I made him pray all the way back, thanking God for saving him. As I pulled into the parking lot where I’d picked him up almost four hours earlier, he opened the door before I could stop, and fell twice as he ran away, looking back at me with wide open eyes. The next day, I met with a group of kids, in the old rock church next to the high school. My dear mentor, Coach Sam Brooks, had gotten the key, and was meeting with us each day before school started, to talk about what was happening in our home town. During the meeting, I proudly announced to everyone that I had saved a drunk man from Alabama last night, and passionately told the details of my adventure. As we dismissed and headed out of the church for school, coach Brooks stopped me and said “James, let’s sit and talk for a minute. He proceeded to explain that saving people didn’t quite work that way…especially with folks that had alcohol problems. He assured me, that I had more enthusiasm and energy than anyone he knew, and that he believed that in time, I would make a difference in our world. He never mentioned to me that I had essentially kidnapped that poor drunk man from Alabama.

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