Erik the Red

We called him Erik the Red. He was seven or eight. He showed up at our Anchorage mission church shortly after we arrived. I learned he was a church tramp, not by choice. Four congregations had booted him. Erik wasn’t mean, just hyper-active.

The first hint came when a Sunday school storyteller asked if any kid had ever heard a rooster. Erik gave us the most raucous rooster there ever was. He took to hanging around my study after school. To get him out of my hair one day, I gave him a handful of new pencils to sharpen. They came back four inches long.

We took on a Sunday school project for Lazy Mountain Children’s Home, inviting kids to contribute. They came with a dollar or two. Erik showed up with a fistful of bills. We phoned his dad. “Holy smoke!” he said, “I told him to take a dollar from my wallet and he cleaned me out!”  We kept a buck.

Then Erik disappeared. I learned his parents didn’t know what to do with him either. After some months, he showed up at a Sunday morning service. The sermon theme was personal salvation and I closed as I always did, offering to meet in my study after church with anyone who wanted to talk. At hand-shaking time, Erik tugged on my coat. He wanted to talk. A mite impatiently, I led him to the study and found him remarkably serious. He said he wanted to know about salvation.

I walked him through the formula and invited him to pray aloud. He received Jesus as Savior. He displayed no noticeable difference in the following weeks then disappeared again and I was called to another ministry assignment.

A year later I had occasion to visit Alaska and walked unannounced into my old Sunday school. There was Erik. He immediately latched onto me. The leader asked the kids if anyone remembered who I was and Erik’s hand shot up. I braced myself—I had been firm with him a times. He jumped to his feet and yelled, “He’s the man who told me how to be saved!”