‘God set me up.’
David says this with a smile. His rheumy eyes stare at me from behind smeared bifocals. He is about to tell me his role in the birth of the Lutheran school where I work.
‘We started out with a thought—a dream, really—of a school at Plainland. People thought we were crazy. Three of us gathered for a meeting on the dusty bonnet of an old ute.’ He laughs. His rat-a-tat-tat mirth is contagious and I find myself becoming part of the story.
‘When I was growing up, my mother prayed for me, every day.’ He scratches his head and I notice the outfit he is wearing: maroon striped shirt, dark-blue short shorts, white socks with blue and red stripes, and tennis shoes. He has just helped me serve communion for the closing worship.
‘She prayed for me that God’s will would be done in my life.’ He fixes his gaze on the wall of my office as if it were a movie screen replaying his childhood.
‘So, I think, God is gloriously crazy to use some old foolish bloke like me to be part of something so amazing.’ He stretches his long legs out in front of him, like a stork reclining in a marsh. He lowers his voice and takes a deep breath.
‘Sometimes I walk around here at night and I shiver because God’s vision is so vast, so immense.’ He stares at me intently; I shift uncomfortably. David’s faith is all-consuming and I wish that I could ride that cloud with him.
‘When Shirley and I lived in Mt Isa, I was a diesel fitter, and somehow the two of us crazy kids found a way to start a childcare centre there. It’s still going.’ His smile is as broad as the plain land in which we sit, and I scribble furiously, trying to scribe his journey.
‘It took a lot of effort, but this …’ He waves his long arms around him at the school that surrounds us. ‘This is something else. God set me up.’ He waggles a finger at me.
As our time leaks into the late afternoon, I continue to be amazed at this man, David, a school bus-driver, who, in his younger years, was instrumental in bringing to fruition two places that take care of kids. He is humble to a fault and takes no credit for himself. Speaking of God’s majesty and omniscience and power and … and … and he dives into the ocean of the incredulity of being part of God’s plan. He isn’t able to stop speaking because the Spirit overwhelms him, and I feel as if I have been part of something sacred.
He stops suddenly as if coming back from the third heaven. Patting the breast pocket of his collared shirt, he chuckles. ‘Well, that’s probably enough of that then. Thanks, Padre.’
He is a walking prayer; one of God’s angels of mercy and vision.
I think God set me up for this one.
Reid Matthias is school pastor at Faith Lutheran College, Plainland, Queensland.