I grew up in the very small town of Wardensville, West Virginia. But, even Wardensville had a “suburb,” and it was call “The Sandfield.” There were many homes that lined the road out through the Sandfield, one of which housed the Traxler family.
What I knew of the Traxlers was good for the most part. The elder Traxler and his son were good newspaper route customers while I made the deliveries. They carried life insurance policies with my Dad, who would speak well of them, too.
But, they did have one reputation. They were notorious poachers. Mr. Traxler once told Dad that he had killed a deer for every year of his life – all 476 of them. They were also avid turkey hunters which brings my brother, Chris, into the story.
At one time, Chris got interested in exclusively hunting for turkey. So, Chris said he approached the Traxlers about taking him hunting with them so they could teach him their turkey hunting techniques first hand. They agreed. On the appointed Saturday, Chris said he rode his bike to their house about four in the morning, because they had told him, “Chrissy-boy, it is a long way out where we hunt for turkey.”
They refused to say exactly where it was that they were going, but when they started out Waite’s Run Chris thought he had an idea. But, after they passed Hawkin’s Farm, he had no clue from that point. Chris said that the old Bronco they were in was so rusted out the only thing that held it together had to have been the rust termites holding hands. They had to wench themselves through two deep mud holes, and Chris had to raise his feet when the water got into the cab. The small roadway was extremely rugged.
It was still dark when the Bronco came to a stop, and Mr. Traxler said, “All right, Chrissy-boy, this is where you get out.” Without saying where, he said, “Meet us at Billy-boy (their name for the Bronco) at 1 PM.” Mr. Traxler’s final exhortation was, “If you are not out by Tuesday, Chrissy-boy, we will be sure to send somebody looking for you.” Chris said he was utterly discombobulated from the dark darkness in which he stood after they pulled away.
Chris’ humorous account of turkey hunting with the Traxlers came to mind recently as I thought about how the people of the Church sometimes deal with people trying to relate rightly with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. These come to church needing friendly assistance with the expectations of the worship agenda. These need help finding the location of Scripture. These need encouragement in areas of spiritual growth. These may need Bible-based counseling and personal explanation of God’s Christian expectations. These may need ministered to by listening to their concerns, disappointments, and discouragements, and offering a word of prayer on their behalf.
But, we of the Church are all too often like how the Traxlers treated Chris about learning how to turkey hunt. We relate to them like these are on their own.
One thing that gets me about the Traxlers of the Church is how shy they proclaim themselves to be. Church Traxlers are too shy to introduce themselves with a smile and handshake and a warm welcome. Church Traxlers are too shy to share a seat with the newcomer. Their proclaimed shyness actually is a form of spiritual arrogance and self-righteousness that ensures their church exclusivity. These shyly dismiss themselves as being incapable of talking about Christ, and that another should be asked to do so.
For the sake of Jesus Christ, the people of the Church should be the most friendly and up-front and helpful people there are. We should offer that our time is their time. Our resources are their resources. The love of God for us is the same as God’s love for them. THAT CHRIST DIED FOR ALL – regardless of color, or creed, or sex, or age. Church Traxlers wind up letting too many slip through the church cracks because we refuse to get personally involved.
Chris said he tried to hunt around, but all it did was turn him more around. When he happened to hear Billy-boy start up a little after noon, he began to run aggressively toward the sound. The Traxlers were actually starting to head back to the Sandfield without him.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.