Little Hector McDougal was just fifteen days old when his mama and papa, Jessie and Marty, brought him to the Garsonville Church for an official baptism. The parents were so grateful for little Hector that they could not wait to see him sanctified in all the right spots.
Yet there was some sadness mingled in with their joy. Although Hector was born with all of his digits in place, immediately after his arrival he developed a severe bacterial infection in both of his ears, which left him deaf. No one was sure if it would be permanent, but the hospital certainly wasn’t prepared to offer much hope.
So even though Jessie and Marty had a baby, they had resigned themselves to the fact that he would never be able to hear the praises they so wished to heap upon his ears.
Now, Reverend Meningsbee was not very experienced at baptisms, so he had reviewed the liturgy and pageantry feverishly. He even bought himself a bright-colored tie with Mickey and Minnie Mouse on it, having read somewhere that children were nearly hypnotized by the bright colors.
So you can imagine how surprised the pastor was when he dipped his fingers in the water, placed it on the baby’s head, and the child began to scream and holler like a wounded animal. Everybody immediately turned and stared at the preacher, wondering if he had somehow pinched, shocked, poked, stabbed or wounded the hapless repenter.
Meningsbee just stepped back in horror.
The baby continued to scream with hellish decibels–so much so that Mama felt it necessary to hurriedly leave the sanctuary to tend to her little one. Daddy trailed behind, holding a blanket in one hand and a pacifier in the other.
This left Meningsbee standing there in his Looney Tunes tie, sheepishly looking at the congregation, feeling like he had hexed the young fella.
The screaming continued.
Attempting to be clever, Meningsbee suggested that the gathered sing “Brahms’ Lullaby,” only to realize that nobody knew the words. A nervous, tenuous, but meaningful humming ensued. It did not calm the raging storm which had burst across the brow of Hector McDougal.
As a precaution, a decision was made to rush the little one to the hospital to see if the medical field could somehow remove the screaming curse.
Needless to say, the morning’s worship service was shortened–and considerably less appreciated by the folks who had hoped that their minister would be much more successful on his christening journey.
Stranger still, four hours later the phone rang at Meningsbee’s house and Jessie McDougal, with motherly tears, explained that the little boy had been squalling because he could hear. Apparently it was quite a surprise to him, and set off the onslaught of his throat alarm.
Yes–after testing Hector, the doctors found there was a healing, and he was now able to hear just as well as any other fifteen-day-old infant.
The news spread quickly.
It became known as “the miracle baptism.” Matter of fact, three days later at the Wednesday night “Stay and Pray” service, many of the congregational members contended it was God speaking to the church–to become an international center of healing. They suggested that the whole outreach of the Garsonville Church should be using the sacraments of baptism and communion as vehicles for God to intervene–healing the sick and maybe even raising the dead.
After all, they explained, Meningsbee wanted it to be a Jesus church–and what could be more like Jesus than a “hallelujah healing?”
Meningsbee did not know what to say. He was not sure how they came up with such a conclusion based on Hector’s experience, but he also did not want to dampen their hopes and dreams.
“Folks, it could be that what happened to Hector was meant for Hector and Hector alone. Just his personal piece of God.”
Everyone was baffled at Meningsbee’s ignorance. Certainly God would not give his grace to one poor little boy, and not intend it to be offered to the masses.
“I’m just saying, maybe it’s not like Coca-Cola, to be bottled up and served over the counter to anyone with a dollar-fifty who needs a magical elixir…”
No one was listening. Meningsbee was not shouted down. It was worse. He was ignored.
Complicating matters, a news organization–one of them with all the letters in its name–called and wanted to come and do an interview with the church folk, pastor, mayor, city elders and even teenagers, to discuss the strange and bizarre happenings in Garsonville, Nebraska. You see, they deemed that with all the church splits, a suicide, drug overdose and now deaf ears being opened, it was quite a feature story, and the news division felt they could market it pretty well to their listening audience.
Reverend Meningsbee was against it. But the church council saw it as a wonderful chance to share the faith and vision, and show people on the West and East Coast that God truly did favor the prairie.