In the early 80’s Sandy and I—along with our two small boys, Justin, not quite 3, and Josh, not quite 1— left coastal Maine and moved into an old farmhouse in northern Maine. Built in the early 1900’s, it sat in the middle of hundreds of acres of rolling potato fields. Attached to the old, two-story, white, clapboard house was a garage. Why did we move there? We were in Presque Isle, Maine to start a church.
We weren’t there long before we discovered there was a problem with our well. I think Sandy first noticed that the water tasted and smelled differently. A friend recommended we contact an elderly man who was retired, but had built a career remedying those kinds of problems, so we did.
He agreed to help us, and after some investigation our new friend discovered that the well casing was cracked, and through that crack ground water was seeping into our well. Testing the water he found it was contaminated by the run-off of the powerful fertilizers and insecticides used on the potato crops. Patiently, he guided me step-by-step on how to repair the damaged casing, and then he bombed the well with gallons of bleach to purify the water. When he was done, another water sample proved it worked—the water was clear!
Working side by side we struck up a friendship, and I invited him to our fledgling church that had outgrown our living room and moved to the garage. He said he would come if I would first go to one of his weekly “meetings.” He assured me they were of a spiritual nature.
Later that week, arriving at the venue we seated ourselves in a circle of chairs. The meeting started with some preliminaries and then continued with a half-dozen confessions and testimonials that went something like this: Hello, my name is ________. I am an alcoholic. I have been sober for ________. Alcohol affected my life this way___________ (a catalogue of brokenness).
I was caught off guard. Alcohol was not a problem I struggled with. I had never been to a meeting where people were so transparent as to their brokenness! After a while it came time for me to say something, so I did.
I said, Hello, my name is Bill. I am trying to start a church.
My response caught them off guard. There was an awkward silence. I suspect they had expected me to say, “I am an alcoholic…” Slowly, they kindly leaned toward me and sympathetically said things like, “It’s OK, Bill. It’s safe here. Just go ahead and tell us your story. You won’t be rejected here; we will walk with you...”