Reverend Willie Cook was a robust man with black shiny skin, a white crop of wiry hair that stood straight out like a conductor of sorts emitting the electricity he generated in the room as he preached, and gigantic round eyes that peered deep into the soul of every sinner in the room with a piercing scrutiny. As his voice resonated soft then loud and louder off the walls of the tiny Baptist Church, beads of sweat popped out on the furrowed skin of Reverend Willie’s brow during the heat of God’s Word. When he spoke, his large nostrils flared like, what Sister Ruby Smith described as those of the stallions of Armageddon, especially when he became passionate about what he had to say, which was when he got into the full gallop of his message. Today, Reverend Willie was speaking on miracles, and he paced back and forth in front of the pulpit during the last refrains of When the Roll is Called up Yonder and shuffled his feet nervously like a horse at the starting gate in anticipation of what he had to say. After Brother Diggs, who was the official song leader this particular Sunday morning, told the congregation they could resume their sitting positions on the hard oak pews, Reverend Willie took hold of the sides of the podium and, panning the room left to right, looked deep and hard into the eyes of his congregation, then flashing a grin, with the toss of his head, he cleared his throat and began speaking God’s word:
As Jessie stood up the congregation began to clap their hands and, intermittent, “Amens” could be heard from a chorus of voices. His face darkened in color a bit as he gave a proud grin and wiped a tear from his left eye with the long slender fingers of his redeemed card dealing hand, then sat back down. As he did, Sister Effie put a hand on her husband’s strong shoulder and said, “Thank you Jesus. Amen to dat.”
Stepping in front of the pulpit, Brother Willie continued; “Now, Congregation! I’s going to challenge you today to open you eyes right now, and in a spirit of boldness to raise yo hand and speak da miracles you see in dis room beside you. Don’t hold back. God’s been good to each one of us and we need to lift each other up by sharin’ what he’s been doin’ in our lives.
Ah hah! As da good book says, ‘a child shall lead da way’. Isaiah Renfro here done put up his hand to speak "What you got to declare Child?” Reverend Willie boomed. “Stand up and be heard!”
“Yes Sir," Isaiah began. “Dis mornin’ we was getting ready to come to Sunday School and my mama says, “Iffin that ol car of ours starts, it’ll be a miracle, and it did. So, we done thanked the Lawd and all of us is here. Den when we got here, my mama told Serena’s daddy and mama the car been actin’ bad and her daddy say he gonna fix it for free dis afternoon cause it needs da carbuator re did, plus Serena’s mama is fixin’ all of us Sunday supper while he be makin’ da car run good again.”
With that the congregation applauded and the Amen’s floated among the sea of faces that turned, smiling, in the direction of Serena and her parents, sitting toward the back of the large room.
Reverend Willie smiled, and said, “Yes’em Isaiah. Dats a mighty miracle fo sure. Dat’s a whole jar full of shiny pennies on da ground type of miracle. Da last mechanic dat I paid God’s money t’ fix my car had him a set of horns like the devil dat no one could see, and when he was done, took my money and da car still didn’t run right. I say, dat is a powerful miracle. Brother Terry, I’d likes to speak to you about my old Buick after services, if you got a moment,” Reverend Willie stated, lowering his voice and glancing toward Serena’s father, then winked and grinned a big grin.
The congregation laughed, as Reverend Willie cleared his throat.
Next to stand was Doc Reeves. Lookin’ toward Sister Grace and her husband Charles, he stated, “I sees me five miracles sittin’ in that pew. I told Sister Grace after she got a dread case of the mumps when she was fifteen years old and dey went down to her ovaries dat she’d probably never bear children and she done made a liar outa me and has five of them, thanks to God’s hand o’ protection, and dats a miracle and den some.”
“Sister Grace, you and yo chillen stand up please,” commanded Reverend Willie. Again the Amens were heard and the clappin’ of hands resonated off the walls. “Praise God!” shouted Reverend Willie. “Ain’t God good?” he implored. Again, the applause and Amens filled the room. As they did, Sister’s grace youngest miracle began to cry in her arms, awakened from a peaceful slumber.
“No sleepin’ during Reverend Willie’s sermons Child,” Reverend Willie grinned, radiating a loving glance toward Sister Grace.
Again, the congregation burst into laughter.
Reverend Willie walked back in front of his pulpit, grabbing the corners of it once more, and leaning forward, shouted, “I sees many hands up. We have lots to be thankful for. We has lots to hope for. There is many dreams just waiting to be born, and many flowers in yo hearts that went and withered up just waitin’ to bloom again and have dat sweet fragrance of hope come floating to your nostrils, but you gotta believe. You gotta have dat mustard seed penny on the ground type of faith. You gotta expect! And folks, you ain’t going to get nothin’ if you just gives up and keeps yo eyes closed. So I wants you to promise me…yes promise me…dat you is going to expect a miracle, and get one….Do you hear me?”
“Yes,” the congregation shouted. “We hears you Pasta.”
“I’s askin’ you one more time….Folks! Is you going to find a miracle dis day. Is you going to find it in you own back yard? Is you going to see it wit yo eyes so dat you know others is on dere way?”
“Yes,” the congregation shouted. “We is Pasta! We going to find it.”