A Beacon of Light

A Beacon of Light

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

A Beacon of Light

Faith is the pencil of the soul that pictures heavenly things.

~Thomas Burbridge

In Tulsa, everyone who has ever driven downtown at night has experienced the breathtakingly brilliant light glowing from the fifteen-story church tower of Boston Avenue Methodist. The warm beacon of light burns brightly every night. But that was not always the case.

Up until 1950, the tower was lit for only two weeks a year—during the Christmas season—because the cost was so steep. One bitterly cold, windy night of that year close to Christmas, the church’s minister, Dr. Paul Galloway, decided to catch up on some paperwork. So, after dinner, he returned to the church. As he walked up to the heavy sanctuary doors, he glanced up at the beautiful building whose art deco style had made the church a landmark since it opened in 1929.

As he unlocked the doors, he looked up at the tower’s light glowing in the sky and, as always, felt warmed within.

The minister walked through to his office and began to work. He was soon so lost in thought that he did not hear the sanctuary door open or the footsteps coming through the carpeted church. He was startled when his office door opened, and he looked up to see a young woman in an elegant fur coat close the door behind her and swiftly turned to face him. Framed by wind-blown bleached hair, a bleak despondent face he’d never seen before turned defiant eyes on him. “Are you the pastor of this church?” she demanded, slumping against the door.

“Yes,” he answered.

Suddenly she straightened and blurted out belligerently, “What do you have to say to someone who’s going to commit suicide?”

Thus a dialogue started which revealed that the woman had come to town to see her brother, a professor at Tulsa University, for the last time. Then she’d rented a room at a downtown hotel where she planned to end her life. But, as she’d started to close the green drapes of her hotel window facing Boston Avenue, a great shining light had caught her attention. She’d stood staring at the beacon of light in the sky. It called to her somehow, as if offering a hope she’d so longed for these last three years.

She’d thrown on her coat and rushed downstairs to the hotel desk. There she’d inquired of a clerk, “Where is that big light in the sky coming from?”

“Boston Avenue Methodist Church,” he’d answered.

“How do I get there?”

“Go out the front door, turn right, go to the traffic light and turn left,” the clerk said. “That church is only a few blocks away.”

Now, sitting in the office of Paul Galloway, she found the heavy-set, graying minister to be a warm, friendly man who did not try to dissuade her from her determined task. Instead, he listened carefully with only gentle comments to her reasons for committing suicide (none of which is known to anyone to this very day except those two). When they had talked together for some time, the minister asked, “Would you be willing to read two little books before you destroy yourself?” After some talk about the books, which spoke of a meaningful life, she agreed.

He handed her a small volume and said, “The other book is at my home. Would you be willing to ride there with me to get it?” After several moments of hesitation, she said, “Okay.” The minister was hoping that once they got to his home, his warm caring wife could help him better relate to the young woman.

But, when they arrived at the parsonage on Hazel Boulevard, she refused to go inside. So the minister went in, got the book, and asked his wife to ride along with him and the woman to her hotel. After they saw the woman into the attractive lobby of her hotel and she left them, the minister told his wife as much as he could (which was little) about the strange encounter.

The next week, Paul Galloway’s wife noticed how relieved he looked when he received one of the books in the mail. After another few weeks, the other book arrived.

A year later during Christmas season, a special delivery letter came from the woman. She wrote that the warm reception she’d received on that bitterly cold winter night, when the tower’s light had brought her to the church, was so great that she had not only survived her terrible depression, but she had since entered a training school to serve as a medical missionary.

At the next meeting of the church stewards, Dr. Galloway told them the story and asked that the budget include the cost for lighting the tower every night of the year. The stewards enthusiastically agreed after their minister read them the letter’s last sentence. The young woman wrote, “I want to serve as a ray of hope to others as your tower’s beacon of light reached out to save me that night.”

~Jeanne Hill

Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul

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