Recently Art Rorheim passed away just a few months from being 100 years old. I knew “of” Art since I was a kid. Like the time he and Winnie were out to dinner with my parents and my dad mentioned I had to do a research paper on a Christian organization for one of my Moody classes. Art sent him home with a stack of 8 1/2 x 11 pictures of Awana clubs in action. I wrote the paper and got an A – thanks to all the visuals.
But personally I didn’t really know Art until I started working at Awana Headquarters. Shortly after I was hired, someone told him who my dad was, so he invited me to his office for a visit.
We talked about different things, then he told me this story …
Once your Dad and I flew out to New York for an Awana Ministry Conference. The missionary met us at the airport to drive us to the church. Lightning flashed and thunder roared and rain fell from the sky in sheets. We were caught in a massive storm.
Then we saw a man hitchhiking along the side of the road. We couldn’t leave him there in the rain, so the missionary pulled over and we yelled through the storm for him to get in.
“What a blankety, blankety, blankety night,” the man said, filling the air with a string of swear words.
Then your dad said, “Before you go any further, I think you should know that you’re in the car with three pastors.”
The man became very quiet. But later, when we left him out at his destination, he said, “By the way, I’m a Sunday school superintendent.” (The forerunner of a Children’s Ministry Director.)
That was the story.
When I told my brother about Art’s experience with Dad, Roger said, “I’ve heard that story, too.”
And then I heard it again and again. In fact, every time Roger or I talked to Art, we heard the story about
our dad, the storm and the swearing hitchhiker. The repetition was endearing. Obviously that storm, that hitchhiker and my dad telling the man they were all pastors made an impression on Art.
One time I was supposed to be honored for something in staff meeting – might’ve been a service award. I can’t remember. I just remember that Art was the one who was supposed to give it to me and explain what it was for.
You guessed it. What Art did was tell the story of my dad, the storm and the swearing hitchhiker and said nothing about why I was standing on the platform. I thought it was kind of funny.
A few years ago – the last year Summit was at Pheasant Run, I took Chloe over to watch the games one afternoon. Art was at one of the tables chatting with some staff members and someone asked us to join them.
I thought it would be cool for Chloe to meet Art, so we sat down.
And yes, I knew exactly what I was doing when I said to Chloe loud enough for Art to hear, “Mr. Rorheim was a good friend of your great grandfathers.”
He did not fail me, “Once, your great-grandfather and I flew to New York and … ”
I like to think maybe Dad and Art are up in heaven reminiscing about storms and hitchhikers.