By Stan Rendahl
In September 1938, I enrolled in Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. Soon thereafter, a fellow enrollee who was serving the First Baptist Church of Prentice, Wis., as a student pastor introduced himself. During our conversation, he learned that I had grown up in Prentice and had left there eight years earlier. Immediately he invited me to spend the Thanksgiving recess with him and the church. He and the congregation had planned a full weekend with the "hometown boys" who came back.
The old Soo Line train rattled the 180 miles between St. Paul and Prentice. We walked the mile to the parsonage, which he occupied each weekend. Because winter was coming, he had made up his bed in the kitchen -- the easiest room to get and keep warm -- and had closed off the rest of the house.
For Thanksgiving dinner, we were invited to the home of my former Sunday school teacher. She had married and now lived on a farm, though her husband drove for an oil delivery service.
When we arrived at the appointed time, we found her table set with all her fine china and loaded with the Thanksgiving dinner she had prepared. We chatted in the kitchen as she prepared the final touches. Then she said, "Stan, go into the dining room and see if I've got everything on the table."
When I came back, I reported, "I think you must have everything, but I didn't see any corn." She promptly left the kitchen and came back with a can of her home-canned corn, warmed it, and served it with the rest of the meal. I was embarrassed; I had meant to be funny.
The next day we were invited to join another farm family for a 4:30 p.m. dinner. We were going to eat early so that the men would have time to do their chores and still get to the service that had been scheduled for that evening. We feasted on another rich farm dinner.
I was facing a big slice of fresh apple pie when the telephone rang. The call was for me. When I picked up the receiver on the wall phone, a voice from the other end said, "Stan, Mrs. Fryklund invited you to dinner tonight, and she's wondering where you are."
When I told the caller I had already eaten, he replied, "She is the mother of your former band director and has lived alone since he died. Furthermore, she has been pretty much a recluse since. We were thrilled that she wanted you to come over. You had better go." I left the pie and went alone.
Mrs. Fryklund greeted me warmly. She seemed excited that I had come. As we talked, it soon became apparent that her son had talked to her about my musical ineptitude.
The two of us sat down to her well-spread table. I was worried; how was I going to do justice to the feast she had prepared? She had Swedish meatballs, baked potatoes, and fresh, home-baked bread among other items.
After the table grace, I loaded my plate. I had taken a few bites when she heard the oven timer and excused herself. I put my slice of bread in one pocket. I wrapped two meatballs in my handkerchief and did likewise with half of my potato. When she returned with the coffee, it looked like I had done justice to her meal.
I added a few more "bites" to my pocket collection before concluding the meal. Because I was to speak at the service that evening, I excused myself as soon as we had finished eating.
The meeting had already begun by the time I arrived at the sanctuary. Most of the chairs were occupied by friends from years ago. I found an empty seat close to the front. In my anxiety, I forgot the items in my pocket.
When the pastor called on me, I mounted the platform and stepped behind the pulpit to begin my presentation. Everything went well until I was about two-thirds finished. At that point I stepped out from behind the pulpit and, in a gesture of emphasis, jammed my hands into the pockets of my suit coat. By now my meal had soaked through the handkerchiefs, and my hands got the benefit of the contents.
I finished my address with my hands in my pockets. A curious audience wondered why.