It was just before Christmas and I told him “no,” and sent him away. It was eight in the morning and cold. I did not want to stand there with the door open. I did not think to ask him in. I didn’t even give him a Christmas Tract which we kept by the door, I am ashamed to say. I just said “no.” My wife Ivete watched as the neighbor across the street did the same, and then the neighbor next to him. She watched as he walked up to another door. She said “I don’t know why, but you should go after that man and tell him he can rake our leaves.” (In Raleigh, there are still leaves on the ground in December). “I can rake my own leaves,” I said. “I know,” she came back, “but there is … I don’t know…I just think you should go after him.” I called to him to return. Now there he was standing before us like someone out of the Grapes of Wrath or Gone With the Wind. “Hobo” was not the word, but from what I saw in movies about Hooverville, it would be close. Perhaps, (I’m sorry- this is not politically correct, but he was what I always imagined a runaway slave might look like). He stood there with his hat in his hand, held across his chest (people don’t do that any more- do they?) As he stood there on our porch, I thought he was “on stage.” If he was acting, he commanded the theater, and his little audience of two were mesmerized with his presence. On one hand, he had the look of poverty (after all, he was a leaf-raker) then on the other, he was something more and had a strange and other-worldly presence. If our life was a play, we were ready for the present scene to end, and for the curtain to go up on another act. It was as if we were sitting in the mezzanine watching Billy Goodnews.
Billy Goodnews. Yep, that’s what he said. “My name is Billy Goodnews.” My wife and I looked at each other trying not to embarrass him with our amusement. “Sure,” I thought, “and I’m Johnny Apple-Seed.” Billy Goodnews was not phased a bit by our skepticism. His smile was so large and bright that is was contagious. We all stood there grinning. We smiled, even though it was difficult for us to smile lately. We were going through a very hard and difficult time. We had almost reached the place where we began to blame each other, and allow the Evil one to even divide us and add our names to his large pile of bones and to the pile of all the other divided houses that did not stand.
Billy grinned, “I’z be raken,” he said. He talked like someone in a movie. “And I’z be raken your leaves and they be outta here in a jiffey.” Who talked like that today? We could not help but smile at this character who was standing in our vestibule. He said, “I know youz [sic] be in the Lord’s work, and youz be having some domestic problems …Satan is trying to divide you….” We stopped him right there. (This was a prophet, or something more). “How did you know we were in the Lord’s work,” I asked. I had never seen him around, and how did he know I was in ministry? More importantly, how did he know what Satan was doing? And believe me, he was doing! Billy was correct on both points. Bluffing, I said, “Oh? And how do you know all this?” “Billy’s got ways of knowing stuff,” he said and smiled even larger. I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to smile that big. We agreed on a price for raking the leaves and I went back to work. An hour later the doorbell rang again. There he was, hat in hand. After I thanked him and paid him, he said “If I could I would likes ta warsh [sic] my hands and then I wid [sic] likes to pray for you.” Here the minister and his wife (discouraged and under attack) looked at each other as this unusual, and now unearthly being walked into our kitchen. After drying his hands on a paper towel, he took our hands (forming a little circle which was either a show of faith and unity, or some kind of portal which opened a way to heaven) and began to pray. No pastor, seminary professor, or evangelist had ever prayed a more powerful or eloquent prayer for us than the one Mr. Billy Goodnews (or whatever his real name was) prayed as he asked God to help us. Then Billy looked up after he ended his prayer, and with more authority than Moses, smiled at us and said “Da blessing is on da way.” With that he thanked us for letting him rake our leaves and left. When we closed the door behind him we looked at each other and felt better than we had in days, and as strange as it may sound, we both knew that "the blessing was on the way."
If we could see with angel’s eyes, we would have known that all along. If we were able to see with the eyes of faith as the lad under Elisha’s charge saw the chariots coming to the prophet’s aid, we would have known that already. If we could see with spirit eyes, when Billy finished praying, perhaps we would have seen something like this: We would have seen that they were coming from a hundred different directions. Yes, Help was on the way. Perhaps a whole division of angels taking off like fighter pilots, as they scrambled to the alarm of a single word from God. Perhaps we would have watched as they lifted off from a distant golden tarmac in a nano-meter of what we might call time. Perhaps we would have seen a winged being, with an arm of alabaster raised high, like a church steeple, anchoring the formation as it lifted off as something like a flock of feathers but only much more serious, resolute, and sacred than any formation of Canadian geese you had ever seen. This was war and these ethereal beings were fixed in purpose and on their way like so many heat-seeking missiles locked on their targets. They were sent from afar as reinforcements to fill the gaps in a broken hedge around our home and our wounded hearts, which seemed to be under the fury of a full and Satanic siege.
One glimpse of this air force and heavenly host sweeping across the stratosphere must have sent those imps and that evil army fleeing. The siege was broken. And with the glint of spirit swords, and among the sea of feathered wings, they were bringing... yes, they were bringing blessings.