Sunday, May 24, 2009
Lloyd Buddle and the Angel
In 1971 Lloyd Buddle attended an outdoor Christian revival. He sat in the congregation mesmerized by the tribal atmosphere. There was singing and preaching and healings and speaking in tongues. The preacher spoke of the wrath of God about to befall mankind. He described the pestilence and wars and rumors of wars. He outlined the signs of the times and warned of Hell’s fires to any soul unsaved by the blood of the lamb. From his knees the preacher begged the unsaved and unwashed to come forward to taste the living water of salvation.
Something deep inside Lloyd snapped that moment. Some say it was his sanity. His family always believed it hung by the thinnest of threads anyway. Others say it was the sound of the devil himself releasing Lloyd into the loving hands of God. Lloyd stood, not under his own power but under the power of an unseen hand, and walked toward the front of the large circus tent. The preacher’s eyes widened on his approach. He jumped from the podium and embraced Lloyd as he did all the others. After the choir finished the last verse of “Just As I Am” the preacher led the lost in the Sinner’s Prayer. Shouts of Hallelujah filled the tent at the amen. Lloyd was saved. He would never the same.
For the past thirty eight years Lloyd honored the calling he received that day and conducted his own ministry in the parks of the Confederacy. He traveled from Fernwood on the Moor, to Cloverdale, to Tamworth on Tide preaching the end of the world was at hand. He urged all within the sound of his voice to accept Jesus Christ as their savior and receive his promised salvation. Never once did Lloyd preach hell, fire and damnation. The joy of the gospel filled Lloyd’s heart. He wanted everyone to obey God because of love, not fear.
When he ran out of money, Lloyd asked people in the park for donations. The appeals brought in enough money to keep him in modest food and shelter. An unnamed conductor on the Coastal Express let him ride the train for free as long as he didn’t bother the other passengers. He could preach only if asked.
Life passed Lloyd over the years. From the parks Lloyd saw people moving back and forth on their daily business. He saw couples holding hands. A few weeks later they were kissing. A few years later he saw the same couples with small children of their own. There was a yearning in his soul but Lloyd was sure the end was at hand. He couldn’t abandon his flock. His love for the people and God spurred him on. There were so many souls to save and so little time.
The people grew to admire Lloyd. He became a fixture in their parks. He was never loud or obnoxious like many of the other street preachers. His message of love encouraged many to look for religion in their local churches. Many of the townspeople felt a debt of gratitude toward him.
Ten years ago the people petitioned the Confederacy’s Ministry of Health and Asylums to name Lloyd a ‘Eccentric Citizen’. The people of the Confederacy value individuality and uniqueness. Eccentric Citizen’s give communities flavor and character. As a Confederacy of Dunces Eccentric Citizen, Lloyd received a small government pension to continue benefiting the lives of the people through words, song, actions, and deeds. Lloyd was humbled by the honor and worked diligently to continue his work in the parks to quietly bring people to God.
Three months ago an old woman Lloyd had never seen before was walking her dog in Cloverdale’s Park. He approached her with his sign proclaiming “The End is Near!”
“Christ’s coming is near at hand,” he said to the woman. “Have you been washed clean in his blood?”
“How long have you been preaching in the park?” the woman asked, ignoring his question.
“Over thirty years,” he said proudly.
“You’ve brought people to God?” she asked, looking at his outdated but tidy appearance.
“I answered the call and hope to help others do the same but I’m only a messenger.”
“Jesus said no man knows of his coming. Now, you’re wanting to tell me you see the signs and you may be right. You will point out all the horrible things people are doing to each other. You will list natural disasters and diseases as further proof your statement is correct. But I can tell you how the world is getting better. I can show you there have always been wars - many of them. The signs you proclaim as proof he is coming have been here every since the crucifixion. There are no more or less.”
Lloyd rose his finger to take control of the conversation but the woman wouldn’t allow it. She took a deep breath and continued. “ You can’t know when he is coming. God won’t allow that. He will come on his own time. So...... here you are. For thirty years or more you’ve been preaching something that will most probably not happen for a long, long time. What have you given up?” She stopped at that statement to let him think. She looked deep into his eyes and smiled. He started to speak. She put her index finger up to his mouth to stop him. “Lloyd, God is joy. He wants his children to experience joy. Its time to put your sign away. Its time to step out of the park and into life. Its time to let God reward you with a little personal happiness before you go home to meet him. You’ve been a good servant but now its time to get out there and experience what life is all about. Do it before its too late.”
The woman patted him very gently on the cheek with her leather gloved hand and walked toward the fountain.
Something inside Lloyd snapped. He sat down on the nearest bench. He spent the rest of the afternoon watching children playing in the park. He watched couples both young and old enjoy each other’s company. Instead of thinking of the impending end of all things, his mind - for the first time in over three decades - entertained the notion that the end might be far in the future. A different sunshine shone on him that afternoon.
Lloyd left his sign in the park that night. On his way home he stopped at the city offices and officially resigned his status as Eccentric Citizen. He slowly walked to the train station. A weight was lifted from his shoulders and a new love of God filled his heart. Lloyd spoke to an angel that day and his life would never be the same. Tomorrow was the first day of the rest of his life.