it’s time for a little Fred

December 22, 2014


Fred, the wild man

Our Sunday evening church service had just ended and the church office phone was ringing. I picked up the phone and heard a man say; “You a preacher, and are you any good?” My response was yes, but it depends on whom you talk to if you want to find out if I’m any good. “I like a man with a sense of humor,” he says. “Let me tell you what’s happening. I down at the city hospital and my old lady is sitting her next to me with a shotgun ducted tapped in her mouth. I want to know what you’re going to do about that PREACHER, he shouted.” Well I could call the cops,” I said. “Then she’d be dead” the voice replied. “I could come down there and talk to you, would you like that?” “Here’s what I want you to do, I need to be committed, and can you get me committed?” “Yes I can, I can have you committed tonight.” “Well there is one more thing, I’m afraid that they’ll give me electric shock, I don’t want that happening, will you commit me and spend the night with me in the hospital and make sure they won’t give me electric shock?”

To say that a million things are rushing through my mind is an over statement. My wife can’t get home with the kids because we came in one car. The kids have school tomorrow, she hates driving home at night, and we live 22 miles away from the church because we live closer to the Seminary than the church. A man has called and said there’s a gun in his wife’s mouth and oh, yeah the voices in his head are yelling pull the trigger. Not your typical end of a church service.

“Fred, I know this is asking a lot but can you hold on for a half an hour so I can make arrangements for my wife and kids to spend the night here in town?” “You promise me your coming, your not jerking me around or nothing, because these voices are telling me to kill the wife and when the cops come, go out shooting.” “That’s not a good idea Fred; I can’t do anything for you if you kill yourself.” “I’ll wait” click, dead goes the phone.

I quickly make arrangements for my wife and kids to spend the night at a church member’s house with the understanding that I would be at the hospital. In the morning I would get there early, take the kids to school, get my wife home and then get to class.

It’s now 11pm as I pull into the hospital. There’s a beat up old station wagon, the dome light comes on as I pull up about 50 feet away from the car. “Come on over pastor, and see what you’re getting yourself into.” I’m walking towards the car and praying, God don’t let me get killed and spare the woman, I probably said that about 200 times in 50 feet. As I come up to the car Fred says, “go over on my wife’s side so you can get a good look.” I said no, I want to be by you because you’re the one that said you wanted my help. He just smiled, (there was going to be a lot of smiles throughout the night) “so you’re no dummy heh, figure if you’re over there and I blow her head off you might get it to. Stay over here and maybe your safe.”

No, I’m over here because that way you can hand me the shotgun butt first, we are not going to do a thing unless you give full co-operation. One thing you need to learn about me Fred is that I’ll go a long way to help you, but screw with me and you’ll wish you never me.”  “Suppose I don’t want to?” he replies. “This isn’t a contest, we either become best friends and hold each others hand an we solve all the problems or I walk, go to a phone booth and call the cops and hope they shoot you.” Another one of those smiles. “Ok,” he rips off the duck tape and starts to hand me the shotgun when he stops and smiles, with the barrel only inches from her head he tells her to unbutton her blouse and for her to show me her breasts. “Fred that’s nothing I need to see,” again the smile. “Oh yes you do, you need to see how **************(a full minute of cursing) while screaming at her, show him your breasts. She complies and quickly unbuttons her shirt, her breast are bruised and strangely marked, and it takes me a while to understand the strange marks on her breasts. I see that the nipple on her left breast is gone it dawns on me that I’m looking at bite marks. Not the everyday kind of bites you see at a daycare, one kid biting another kid bite, but deep puncture wounds, ripping and tearing of her flesh.

Fred looks at me with huge tears moving down his face, “you see those marks, she says that I did those, I don’t remember, honest I don’t remember you have to believe me.” He begins sobbing, I take the shotgun from him and open it up, it’s a single shot H&R and its not even loaded. I open the car door on his side and take him by the arm and pull him from the car, it’s then that I notice two little kids in the back seat, looking like they’re sound asleep. Come on Fred come with me, I lean him over the hood of the car and tell him to assume the position, he looks wildly at me and says, “you must be a cop” and starts to swing at me. I step right into him, chest to chest and say no, I’m no cop but I am a pastor that will beat your butt right through the pavement if you don’t do exactly what I tell you to do at all times from now on, get it, good.” He leans across the hood, hands behind his head. I do everything but a cavity search. “Ok, stand up and be a good boy,” I say.

Mrs. S*******, are you all right to drive home?” “Yes I am, are you really going to stay with Fred tonight?” “Yes ma’m I am, go home and take care of your self, see a doctor tomorrow and I’ll call you.”  She slides into the drivers seat and starts the car, Fred stands up and she just drives off. I realize it’s almost midnight and I’m in a semi dark parking lot with a man that out weighs me by 50 lbs, and I’m no spring chicken and he’s at least a foot taller than me, and there’s that smile again. He’s dressed in bib overalls and sandals, with nothing on under the bibs. (This was his standard method of dress for as long as I know him) “Well pastor it looks like it just you and me.” “And Jesus,” I said, now I have to be honest, I’m not sure that was a statement of faith or I just wanted him to know that there was a witness if they didn’t find my body.

We walked into the emergency room and I told them that my friend wanted to be admitted to the mental ward and that I would be staying with him. We filled out all the paper work and waited. While we waited Fred held my hand like a little boy and sat as close to me as possible while he kept repeating; “ your not going to leave me are you, you promised you know, your not going to let them give me electric shock, you promised, you promised.” I kept telling him I would spend the night with him and he would not get electric shock.

Fred, why are you so worried about electric shock” “I’ve had it before, I hear someone screaming but I don’t think it’s me. My brain itches and writhes, I can feel it crawling inside my head I don’t ever want to go through that again.” He starts singing Jesus loves me and starts rocking back and forth, every time a nurse or doctor approaches us he just stops moving, I think he’s even holding his breath until they pass.

Finally they admit him, and as promised I spend the night with him, with no misadventures. He’s asleep in the bed and I’m passed out in a chair.

The next day after leaving for a couple of hours to take of family matters I’m back at the hospital. Fred is doing ok and has agreed to 90-day stay. They will not be doing electric shock and I’ve worked it out with the women’s prayer group at church that he will get a visit everyday. The emphasis will be on praying for him to have good nights sleep. As no one, including myself will be spending the night. He has to believe God will keep him safe without a hostage.

After about 3-4 weeks Fred and I are having a long visit in the day room and it’s time to take his medication. The orderly hands him the little paper cup with his pills in it. He takes the pills with a little glass of water. The orderly leaves and Fred gets up and spits the pills into his hand. He then walks over next to two coffee makers, one is labeled staff and the other one is labeled patient. He lifts the lid to the staff pot and drops in his pills. “Fred, what in the sam hill are you doing?” Again the same smile and says “the staff needs medication as much as I do, I’m just doing them a favor, trying to make their day go a little better.”

Ninety days later they release Fred into the church’s care. We have found him a small cabin to live in that is owned by a veterinarian that attends our church. Fred will live there and work there for room and board. The vet will bring him to all church services including men’s retreats and prayer meetings. He never misses a meeting, still wears bib overalls, this time with under clothes and a shirt, still only sandals. He always sits on the second row, first section and cries the whole time we sing hymns. When church is over he stands behind me in the foyer watching me shake peoples’ hands as they leave. About every 10th person that goes by he has to say, “this is my pastor, he slept with me in the hospital and I’m always going to watch his back.”

We never had a bit of trouble with Fred; he always took his medicine, even after the long debates about him going to the altar and being healed and not needing his medicine. I would always say, “Fred, when God tells me your healed I’ll tell you, and then you can stop taking your medicine.” Again the smile and his same reply, “whatever you say Pastor, you’re the boss.”

Fred showed such childlike faith, simple devotion and full obedience. He was struck by a car one snowy night walking to a grocery store and died. As long as I was the pastor at that church I missed him standing behind me knowing he would tell someone that I was his favorite pastor because he knew I loved him and never shooed him away. At church afterglows it was like having a personal butler, he would never let me get my own plate and drink; he always had to do it. He threw a fit one-day because I was shoveling the church sidewalk one day and he chewed out a deacon royally because Fred felt that I could use my time better and didn’t the deacon’s know better. I miss the feeling that Fred was always “watching my back.”

Sure I counseled Fred and sought to understand his problems. But I truly think that he needed acceptance more than anything and as long as he felt that he was always obedient. A great lesson, it’s not the counseling, or the counselor it’s the love we share. Christ can do so much more through us when we truly love our neighbors.

I, starting right with the phone call, made Ten million mistakes. Would I do things different today? Certainly, which is why the phone won’t ring. I’m to cautious, to old, to much an old fuddy. Back then I really thought I was invincible, I could give as good as I got. Now that the body is older, and I’m a little older and hopefully wiser I would certainly handle things different. Sadly, Fred may have been a casualty and not a victory. God blesses fools, whether they are the pastor or the patient.

I’ve told this story before, but since it happened around Christmas I was thinking about it again. 2014 is almost over there has been victories and many failures, I’m more cautious than ever before, maybe not quite as brave, my best friend’s favorite saying is; “stud up and fight.” I don’t take punches as well as I used to, you may have good insurance but it pays to be wise.

God bless from

2 Responses to “it’s time for a little Fred”

  1. I always get a little melancholy around the holidays and miss some of the victories like Fred, God bless

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