But he answered and said to them,
“I tell you that if these should keep silent,
the stones would immediately cry out.”
Can limestone, granite,
or pumice proclaim the deity of our Lord?
Do they reveal creation’s story?
If we don’t, do they?
God sent us thousands of miles from our families for Rod to practice medicine. It seemed odd to us at the time. In hindsight it opened a world for us and our children. During our years in Michigan the body of Christ became our family. Thirty years later, the friendships fostered along the Lake Michigan shore remain intact even though we are scattered throughout the country. A men’s Zoom Bible study and gatherings from Greece to the Pacific Northwest, prayers, and words of encouragement continue to bless our days.
When we first arrived in the north, Dale Whitman became a heart-friend because of his wife, Virginia, my prayer partner and spiritual mentor. Dale was a gift to us, the impish grandfather our kids needed. He had served during WWII and his tales of having ships sunk twice while he was on board, being stuck on an island guarding supplies because he was supposed to be dead and didn’t have orders, and his raft of card tricks kept us entertained. So did his Irish humor.
When his beloved Virginia died, we kept an eye on Dale, taking him meals or enjoying his company for dinner. Once, when he and Rod had been working on a project, Rod was called in. He hauled Dale along where he mesmerized the nurses while Rod delivered a baby.
Our friend Dale asked only one thing of us when we traveled, “Bring me back a rock from someplace.” Dale rarely asked us for anything, so I wrote his request down in my ever-present notebook. We were on our way to China the first time he asked for us to find a rock. An unusual request—a rock. Hiking on a river bank along the Yangtze, I found an igneous for Dale. I also found one for me. When I gave it to him, he quizzed me about our trip as we shared a cup of tea. This link between us, this water smoothed pebble became a tangible memory of time. I described to him the lap of the water against the shore, the pungent smell of the cooking fires along the river and, as he tapped my senses to get a clearer picture, I now recall the dancing eyes of a loving friend.
In life there are granite-hard people. Their smiles are brittle and the air about them icy. The soft, friable, people give away bits of themselves to those in need. They are as rare as a sunny day during Kenya’s monsoon season. We treasure them.
Who are the people God has placed in my life that are givers of time, substance, and joy? Who holds me up when the world is crumbling? Virginia and Dale Whitman were rare treasures—people who could not stay silent about the grace of God, prayer warriors who declared the goodness of God in the midst of heartache.
This Christmas I held my Yangtze rock in my hand as I set up our Nativity. It was a perfect perch for one of the Roman soldiers, so I plopped the shield bearer on top and walked away. But the memory of Dale lingered like a sweet aroma of love.