Deniray, Davis, Gifford and Fr. Bill; A.J. and Justin, with a goofball in the middle
Nigerian Gay activist Davis Mac-Iyalla has completed his first week in America, with speaking engagements in Columbus, Cleveland, and Athens, Ohio, as well as Pittsburgh. Tonight he speaks in Cincinnati and tomorrow he preaches on Pentecost at Church of Our Saviour.
I am traveling with him as tour coordinator, driver and bodyguard. It’s been exhausting at times, but we are meeting the most amazing friends and faithful Christians. In Athens we stayed with the Carrolls, a clergy couple and their two children, a bright, pretty 9-year-old girl and a cute 6-year-old boy with Down’s Syndrome. He is quite a handful, and keeping watch over him has curtailed his mother’s ministry. Nevertheless, this family opened their home to a couple of strangers in need of hospitality; where do people get commitment like that? (From God, obviously.)
Davis spoke at Church of the Good Shepherd’s Adult Education hour, was commissioned to start his journey during the Eucharist, and gave a speech at a community event that afternoon. (A link to Fr. Bill’s sermon, discussing Davis, is here.) The Carrolls even threw a party for us, and we met some incredible folks; three stand out in my mind. Gifford is a professor emeritus of history at Ohio U., a World War II veteran and prisoner of war like my father. He’s traveled to Africa several times and has many friends there; he’s also a raconteur par excellence. Davis stayed Sunday night in his home.
And then there were those two guys, A.J. and his partner Justin; A.J. is a social worker, devoted to the church, and Justin is following the same path in social work school. A.J. gave a fine little speech Sunday morning about how much money and energy would be saved if every home in America simply replaced one incandescent lightbulb with a compact fluorescent; we’d need 50 fewer coal-fired power plants. God and the earth would really like that. A.J. was also excellent with the Carrolls’ young son and had him bouncing around and laughing in delight.
But the person who most impressed me in Athens, because his gift is so rare, was Justin. I haven’t seen a look or met a spirit like his in almost 40 years.
I speak of his look (cute, not a movie star) because eyes can be a window to the soul, but only if the person you meet is open enough to let you look inside. Most people are somewhat guarded; Justin lets in everyone who dares to venture inside.
He is the soul of gentle goodness, and I rejoiced in him instantly. A.J. is incredibly lucky to have him in his life, just as I was lucky to meet him. Justin is outwardly normal, with faults I don’t know, yet he’s inwardly pure; encountering him is a bit like meeting Christ. (I’m sure he’d snort at that comparison but it’s true. Saints do exist in this life and Justin is one of them.)
And then there was Deniray; I don’t know who’s more outstanding, her or her fabulous partner Karen. They deserve their own post, but this is all I have time for now.
Thank you, all who have contributed to the success of Davis’s tour.++