You can never know who that stranger is, until s/he is no longer a stranger. And, what an adventure it is, to turn that stranger-status into budding friendship based on knowledge.
The evening that we arrived at our campground, weary from a thousand mile journey, concerned about the decisions we had made, in need of rest and reassurance, we were met by a weathered, white haired man who looks like a crusty sea captain. He was welcoming to our weary spirits, gentle with our confusion about how to hook up our utilities, kind with answers to our questions. He made us feel that we really could live this great adventure that had lured us here. He did all this so graciously, at the ending of his day, when he could have been at home in his own space, had he not been awaiting our arrival.
During the weeks, he has been a reliably friendly face, always with a wave, or a smile, or a word of cheer, as we have seen him hard at work. He seems to be always on duty, helping others or working about the grounds, and we have begun to worry that he needs a day off from his persistent labor to maintain the quality of service here.
On a quiet Sunday afternoon, we stood in the office and chatted with the on-duty staff. Bob came in, and listened for awhile. As he moved toward the door, to continue his duties, he and Abby engaged in conversation that deepened into a glimpse of his life.
After successful careers in the corporate world, Bob and his wife retired. They agreed to accompany his parents from Arizona to Florida, to stay in Florida for a month or two. On the way, his father died, and Bob and his wife stayed on, to be near his mother in her last years.
They are still here. Bob mows, and mends, and teaches rookie campers, fulfilling many roles, performing uncounted tasks, always with a smile and a gentle spirit. Today we learned that this kind and pleasant person has his doctorate in ministry. He did not feel called to the pastoral ministry, but works as a laborer among those who need respite, relaxation, and recreation. As Jesus did, Dr. Bob ministers to the world from within the world. What a ministry! What a life! What a blessing is this person. He walks among us as a safari saint of whom most people are unaware. Yet Jesus walks with him, and the spirit of Christ touches us all.