Michael, My Friend

Dick Duerksen
Michael, My Friend

No one was responding to Pastor Tana’s altar call. Instead of the “Prayed For” groups of people coming to the front to give their lives to Jesus, the schoolhouse congregation was silent and unmoving.

Pastor Tana stood waiting, the silence giving the Holy Spirit time to work.

A stirring in the back caught everyone’s attention.

The man rising from his bench was Arnold, the bulldozer driver from the other side of the island. Short. Strong. His muscles bulging beneath his work T-shirt. His face darkened to the color of coal by constant work beneath the intense Solomon Islands sun. His eyes, accustomed to squinting, now wide open and glowing.

Arnold strode toward the speaker as if on an urgent mission.

“You know me,” the driver said, leaving a brief silence that was filled with grunts and nods of agreement.

“I have lived here a very long time and have worked hard in the forests for many years. I have always done my work well and have been an honest man.”

Everyone in the room nodded agreement.

“I must tell you a story,” Arnold continued. “Six weeks ago, on a Tuesday, as I was driving back up the hill to bring more logs to the beach, a man waved to me from the edge of the forest. He was a stranger to me, a very tall Solomon Islands man with skin as black as mine.”

“I slowed my bulldozer, and this man ran across the torn-up hillside to me. When he reached my machine, he stepped up on the rings and introduced himself as Michael and asked if he could ride with me that day.

“No,” I told him. “To ride on my bulldozer is very dangerous, and the company requires that anyone working here must wear a hard hat.”

With that, Arnold lifted his own dented and stained yellow hard hat for all to see.

“Like this one,” he said. “I told him that he could ride with me for a bit, but only if he had a hard hat like mine. I did not have a second one to share.”

“The man smiled and said he would be right back. I watched him as he walked through the brush back to the forest edge. He walked into the dark shadows and, just seconds later, returned with a brand-new bright-yellow hard hat like mine.”

Why did this man, Michael, forget his hat? I wondered.”

“When he climbed back up on the rings, he asked where he should sit. There’s a safe place on the metal right beside me. I pointed to it, and he sat. I added power, and drove up the hill to work again.”

For the next few minutes Arnold talked about his friend Michael. He told how Michael met him at the same place every morning and stayed with him on the machine all day. He spoke of the man’s kind spirit and soft words, of how Michael was good with the winch, and seemed to know the machine even better than Arnold did.

“Even though the man Michael had a soft voice, I could hear every word he said, as if we were sitting together in the evening beneath a palm by the lagoon. Every word was perfectly clear.”

“What did you talk about all day?” one of the Islanders asked from a bench near a window.

“It was so wonderful,” Arnold answered. “Michael had a Christian Bible with him, and all day, each day, we studied the Bible as I drove the machine. He showed me how God created the world because He loves us. Then he showed me about Moses, the Ten Commandments, Abraham, Joseph, David, and many other great men and women.”

“Did he tell you about Jesus, the way Pastor Tana has been preaching?”

“Yes, he did. In fact, all last week we talked about Jesus, His birth, ministry, stories, miracles, and death. On the last day he was with me, just two weeks ago, we talked about the resurrection, and Michael showed me—for sure—that Jesus will be coming back soon.”

“Where is this Michael now?” Pastor Tana asked.

That’s the most interesting part, Pastor,” responded Arnold. “Two Fridays ago, at the end of our work and study, Michael told me that he was not going to be able to ride with me anymore.”

“Tomorrow is Saturday—God’s Sabbath—Michael reminded me. Then here’s what he said:

“ ‘Arnold, I have enjoyed our time together very much, and I wish I could stay, but I have other duties. But you will not be alone. God is sending another, a Solomon Island pastor, to your island. Beginning tomorrow morning this man, Pastor Lawrence Tanabose, will be teaching about Jesus and the Bible at the big schoolhouse on the hill. You must go. Pastor Tana knows these stories well, and you can trust everything he says. He is a very good friend of God.’ ”

There was lots of talking, immediately and loud, throughout the schoolhouse congregation as Arnold paused.

“What else did this Michael say?” several asked.

“ ‘Go to Pastor Tana’s meetings,’ Michael told me. ‘Listen to what he says, and then tell all the people how Pastor Tana is saying true things about God. You must learn to speak as Pastor Tana does so all the people of your island will say yes to Jesus.’ ”

Silence filled the schoolhouse. A deep silence filled with thinking. And deciding.

Arnold broke the silence.

“Before Michael got down from my bulldozer—with his heavenly hard hat now dirty and bent—he asked me to accept Jesus as my Savior. I told him, ‘YES!’ Then he asked me to tell Pastor Tana about my decision.”

“Pastor Tana,” Arnold turned toward the visiting pastor. “I am standing today because what you say and what Michael says are the one and same truth. I have accepted this Jesus as my Savior.”

Dick Duerksen, a pastor and storyteller living in Portland, Oregon, United States, is known around the world as “an itinerant pollinator of grace.”


Dick Duerksen