My husband is an ordained Presbyterian minister. For 15 years we served in National Mission churches, which means in small towns where they could not support a minister on their own. One of those churches was in Sigourney. Iowa with another church in Deep River, Iowa which was 25 miles away. Early on, we often had beggars and con artists hitting all the churches in town, The Parsonages or mansees were usually next door to the church. Ministers didn’t want to turn away people really in need but neither did they want to suppy money for alcohol and drugs. So they all got together with the city and figured out a plan. If the person was really needy, he could register ant the police department and get a free night’s rest in the jail. Also the Salvation Army would get them one free meal. That worked pretty well. If the person was a con artist he usually left for the next town. People who needed help got it. I have two short stories from before the arrangement, that today seem humorous.
One day my husband was in the kitchen making a peanut butter sandwich. A man knocked at the back door and told my husband that he was terribly hungry and needed money to get a meal. Jim told him he didn’t have money but he would make him a peanut butter sandwich if he wanted one. The man left in digust stamping in anger.
It was early morning and our five children had been fed and were waiting for time to leave for their walk to school. The front doorbell rang and a man asked to talk to Jim. So he came in and sat down. We quickly realized something was wrong by the way he was talking. Suddenly the kids started saying loudly that the police car was driving by. Then they got excited and called out, he’s stopping. He’s coming to our door." I was scared then, but jim opened the door. The policeman said this man was told to leave town and he was following him to make sure he did. He asked Jim if he wanted him to take him, and Jim said yes. So the police man led him to the car. Suddenly the man broke away and started running down the street in the snow. The policeman ran after him and yelled, "stop or I’ll shoot". The man turned around and put his hands up and said, "you wouldn’t shoot Jesus Christ would you? That’s who I am." The policeman handcuffed him this time and took him to the station. We got word later that the man was an escaped mental patient from Alabama, and two men were flying in to take him back. The sad but funny part of this was that the gun the police was going to shoot with was his finger in the pocket of his coat. Because he had cancer and the gun hurt against his side, it was in the glove compartment of his car.