It's a strange day.
20 years ago today I had the encounter with an evangelist that would go on to reshape my life completely, and all because of a dear old saint who prayed.
Alma was one of those easily-overlooked-on- earth heaven shakers. Alma prayed and things happened.
It being Halloween, and Alma being what some would describe as a prayer warrior, intercessor, spiritually attuned (pick your favourite term, or tell me of a better one), she was certainly going to be at the prayer meeting in church that night, to pray for God to touch the lives of young people especially, and to ask his protection for those who might be opening themselves up to less than helpful spiritual experiences on that day when darkness seems just a touch darker still.
That early evening, as she waited for her bus, Alma spotted some graffiti left by a local gang, a list of names and tags. Alma, being Alma, took out a notepad and wrote down the names as best she could, struggling to make out what some of them were, but knowing that God knew anyway.
At 7.30 the prayer meeting started with some sung worship, followed by a chance for people to share prayer requests. Alma, got out her list, and spoke about how she wanted the meeting to pray for young people especially, and how she'd seen a list of names, so could we pray for those people.
Earlier that day I had been with a group of friends, a small gang who called themselves "The Rejects", a name that pretty much summed up how we felt about ourselves. We had been at the bus stop, it was newly painted, no-one else had tagged it yet, so we decided to list our names, and claim it as our own.
Later that evening, some time between 7.30 and 8pm we were on our way to a field where we intended to have a kind of firework fight, launching them at each other across the grass in the dark.
As we walked we passed a church hall, and, hearing some singing, looked in to see people with their hands in the air, singing, and one person even playing a tambourine!
It was simply too tempting.
We began to search for the right rockets to let off in their meeting, going through our bags, laughing, joking, building up the bravado to actually do it. The people inside stopped singing, they sat and talked and we had no idea what they were speaking about, our laughter became more raucous, and just as we were about to fire off some small rockets, out came a man called Dave with a warm smile, and a very pretty 18 year old girl called Michelle who seemed quite interested in talking with us, not merely shooing us away.
20 years before then, Alma had begun praying for a young man named Dave, who she was convinced God was calling to be some kind of an evangelist, even though he wasn't then a Jesus-follower...
Alma died in the mid-1990's and her funeral was a place of celebration, as the large congregation of the people she had prayed for worshipped the God who inspired her, and thanked him for her hidden ministry in our lives.
I thank God this time of year, every year, for the elderly ladies who pray, who are open to the nudges of the Holy Spirit, who share the love of the Father, and who point to the Son.