Some call the man-giant “Python Slayer,” but the woman-giant has battled pythons, too. They rolled out a python skin, ten feet long. (That was the small one.) We touched the skin of a crocodile which swam in the same river toward the giant, once upon a time. On the wall hung a bow, longer than I am tall, and a poison arrow. The man-giant presented another arrow to my children. Don’t touch the tip! I wanted to tell them.
But these giants were not of the Jack-in-the-Beanstalk kind, so we sat around their dining table in chairs, not atop it on platters. They are Arnie and Dorothy Egeler, giants of the faith.
Mr. and Mrs. Egeler sat across from our three sons while Charles and I sat at the two heads of the table (which felt odd). We passed zucchini and tomato slices grown in their garden. The centerpiece was a vase full of dahlias, also from the backyard.
“Do you boys know how to set up a lawn for croquet?” asked Mr. Egeler.
“Oh, I’ve read about croquet! You grab a flamingo and use it to whack a hedgehog…” Titus explained, giving the Alice in Wonderland variation.
“Should I have thirds?” Byron wondered, full of garlic bread and spaghetti. “It depends if there will be a dessert,” he said aloud. Not exactly subtle.
This is the table of Dorothy Egeler. Of course there will be a fabulous dessert.
“Did you see the cake?” Mr. Egeler asked, confirming my thoughts.
Our six-year-old craned his neck, searching the kitchen counters. “No…”
“It’s in the refrigerator.” Mrs. Egeler wiped out his worries. “This is a very special cake. It’s the one our grandchildren always ask for on their birthdays.”
I dropped my jaw a little. The grandchildren’s favorite birthday cake? For us? (It’s called “Tunnel Cake”—lots of chocolate and whipped cream.)
Mr. Egeler looked out the window. “Is that rain? I guess that cancels our croquet plans.”
But it turned out for the better. He offered other options. “Have you seen our African curios? Or, we could show you a classic slide show.”
“Let’s do both!” I said, wanting again to hear the stories I knew would come.
Arnie rolled out the ten-foot python skin. “This one I shot, but it’s about the same size as the one Mrs. Egeler beat off of our dog with a baseball bat.”
We saw a second python skin. “This one we didn’t kill ourselves; we purchased it.” We needed the entire room to unroll that one. It was nineteen feet long.
Byron helped roll it up again. “It’s heavy!”
The Egelers lived on Ukara Island in Lake Victoria. They were the only ones there who killed pythons. The islanders believed their ancestors’ spirits lived in pythons, so they never killed the big snakes that ate their chickens and livestock.
We moved to the living room. “See, guys?” I said, “That’s an old-fashioned slide projector!” Arnie had set up a full carousel of slides from their missionary days in Africa. I settled into the couch, ready for these storytellers’ God-written stories.
We heard antique sounds: the projector fan whirring, slide after slide clicking into place. We saw a picture of their first boat. We saw their mud house. We saw Stephen who became the first African pastor on that island, and who became a widower two years ago. We saw Arnie teaching children Bible verses in Swahili. We saw Dorothy distributing medicine from her dispensary, looking through a microscope at a stool sample, or pressing a stethoscope to an infant’s chest, his little fingers wrapped around one of hers.
We saw Arnie at the beach, teaching people how to make bricks. “We purchased concrete, and had sand from the beach, and water from the lake, so we made the bricks right there on the beach.”
We saw these same people laying those homemade bricks into their first church building. “I showed them how to use a level and a plumb line, and they made this wall,” Arnie said.
Dorothy told of Arnie’s severe illness, when he had to leave the island for three weeks. The people thought he died, and they held a funeral. I’d love to tell you that story sometime. Another time.
Story after story, soul after soul after soul stepping out of darkness into the marvelous light of knowing Jesus. The Egelers have touched countless lives for the sake of Christ who loves and saves. I only dream of being as fruitful.
Then, I consider . . .
The God who abides in the Egelers and does wonders through them is the same God who abides in me.
Lord, could you use me like that, too?
It was time to go home. We went to the door to put our shoes back on. Next to the shoes were the dahlias, for me. They sent the leftover Tunnel Cake home with us, too.
The sudden storm had long since stopped, but the ground was still wet with fallen rain. We got home, and I put the dahlias on my own table—blooms transferred from the giants’ home to my own.
(For more giants, read here.)
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