I got into the weird people business very early in my mission.
In my first area we did weekly service at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, famous because it had been one of the filming locations for Strange Brew. Sometimes I could swear I saw Rick Moranis’s tuque disappearing around the corner. We worked in the second-hand store the patients shopped at once a week. We picked up some referrals from our time there and even a baptism or two, but I don’t think they were the kind of baptisms bishops appreciate.
But the strangest guy I knew on my mission (aside from most of my companions) lived in an unheated townhouse. It was full of huge, dark, heavy furniture–so much of it that you had to sidle in order to make your way through the living room. He was a tall man with piercing eyes and thick, half-smiling lips. Long gray hair fell to the small of his back. The missionary I was on splits with had baptized him a few weeks ago, and we had arrived to teach him a new member lesson.
I was trying to pull my coat and gloves back on nonchalantly when he trained his huge eyes on me. “Do you know why it’s so cold in here?” he asked leaning over a massive coffee table between us. “I feel I can tell you this because you are servants of the Lord. I must keep this house cold because it is the gateway to hell. I am its guardian.”
He was at church the next Sunday for testimony meeting. He walked to the stand, but another person was already at the podium, so he sat down next to the bishop and, smiling, whispered a few things to him. The bishop’s eyes got really wide and he grabbed the guy by the arm, pulling him toward the stairs. But the Guardian of the Gates of Hell struggled mightily toward the podium. One of the bishop’s counselors grabbed the other arm and they succeeded in dragging him all the way out of the chapel.
We ran out behind them and found our buddy weeping in the foyer. “I came to reclaim my church,” he cried. “See these hands?” He showed them to us. “Pierced for the sins of the world. Each drop of blood to save a soul. And my own church rejects me!”
He left and didn’t come back.
The interesting thing is, I don’t remember this guy with derision. He wasn’t just plain nuts. He was earnest, compelling, dedicated nuts–the kind of nuts that might have passed for prophetic a few hundred years ago. The kind of nuts that I would totally trust to guard the gates of hell. I’m glad he has the job.