Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC
Friday, December 11
By Dan Kelley
The Still Small Voice
Read 1 Kings 19:11-12
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
I was stationed in the Army at Third A.I.T. Brigade, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in the late 60’s. The Third Brigade had 2500 to 3000 troops and we trained them in Advanced Infantry Tactics. We graduated about 250 every week. Some we sent to Army schools. Some we sent to other Army posts in the States, Europe, and Asia. Most we sent to Vietnam. Then another 250 would ship in fresh out of Basic Training to start their training.
It was a busy, active, anxious time. There was a fellow in our squad from a small town in Southern Indiana that got a hometown newspaper every week. It really was not a newspaper, more of a hometown newsletter but it arrived every week.
There was no masthead. It just started out at the top with “GREETINGS NEIGHBORS” and ended at the bottom of the last page with “AUNT RUTH”. The top right-hand corner had a number around 300 for all the people in the town and the surrounding area. The number went up with every birth in the town and went down with every death. Those events were thoroughly documented. All the marriages and divorces were duly noted.
The old Royal Standard typewriter that she wrote the paper on had two keys that were damaged, the D and the W. So if you saw an undecipherable letter, you knew it was a D or a W and figured the word out from that. The paper was two, three, or four pages, depending on how much news was available that week. It was printed on a mimeograph machine so the paper had a slight purple tinge to it.
The paper contained stories like the 12-year-old Linda Stillwell report. Her 6th grade class went on a field trip to the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis. They went to Max Shapiro’s Jewish Deli for lunch and had food they had never heard of before. She loved her shawarma meat sandwich but could not tell her mother how to make one.
Betty Crenshaw’s cow Elsie was having trouble calving. It was her first one and Betty had to stay up all night to help her through it. Mother and child are doing well.
Ida Marshall had to go to Idaho to help her mother after she got out of the hospital. “Will someone drop off a casserole or invite them to supper so that Hank and the kids do not starve?”
They listed all the sports scores and talked about players who did well, encouraging them that they would win next time. There were few ads except yard sales, church bazaars, and girls willing to babysit. 26 CSUMC + Advent Devotions
The “TO PRAY FOR” section listed the local folks in service: my friend at Ft. Jackson, Billy Hand who was stationed at MACV in Vietnam, and Beth French, who was a nurse stationed in Germany. And everybody else that was in the hospital or having a rough time.
It started with just the guys in our squad but soon guys in other squads wanted to read the paper. Then guys in other companies in our Brigade wanted to read it. Even our Colonel and top Sergeant wanted to read it. It got a bit frayed by the time it got passed around, just in time for a new one to arrive.
People started thinking they knew the people from his small town. They would ask him if Helen had had her baby yet, and what she and Brett were going to name her. They started asking for Jim Starnes’ address so they could send him a sympathy card on the death of his mother; would he still get to go to Indiana State on a tennis scholarship? They asked him if he had any pictures of the town or the people because there were none in the paper.
The paper became a lifeline for soldiers who had been torn from their lives and families, and were thrown together with strangers far from home. Their own letters from home were few and far between or non-existent. Their own hometown papers were sterile, professional, and more about business than people. The small town paper helped them center their lives, by caring for people amidst the chaos of activities among strangers.
Dear Lord, as we enter this Advent season, help us remember that the coming of the Child in a small, quiet, out-of-the-way place is God’s gift to us. As a small town newsletter brought comfort and peace to soldiers amidst chaos, let us see the love of God for us in the small, quiet gift of His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ amidst the chaos of Christmas of 2020.
This devotion was written by Dan Kelley in honor of Stephen Ministries.