Friday, January 21, 2011

His Beloved "Reb"



He told his wife and daughter to stay in the house. He loaded the shotgun and went outside to hide behind some garbage cans. He had robbed these men, men who knew him, to feed his desperate drug habit. They would be coming. They knew where he lived. He found himself praying, "Help me Jesus, help me Jesus. Save me Jesus." A pact was made that if he survived the night he would give his life to the Lord. What was there to give? Petty juvenile thief, turned armed robber, turned jailbird, turned neighbourhood drug king, turned desperate addict.

And the Lord showed mercy. Henry Covington survived the night. He told his wife of the strange pact. She joined with him in a struggle to withdraw from the life and the crack...

In later years author Mitch Albom would meet this man who was pastoring a dilapidated church in recession weary Detroit, offering food and shelter to the homeless and preaching on the wonder of second and third chances with Jesus.

Albom was investigating worthy causes in his home town. He had learned some things about community and hope and giving and giving thanks from his rabbi of former years, Albert Lewis of New Jersey, affectionately called "the Reb". Although Mitch had turned from the synagogue and entered into a mixed marriage, the imposing rabbi had not turned from him.

At a speaking engagement Mitch had been approached surprisingly by Albert with a single request; "Would you give my eulogy?" Mitch felt awkward and inappropriate for the task; but a dialogue had begun with this solid man of conservative faith, and a friendship forged over the ensuing eight years.

"Reb" Lewis is the real hero of the best-seller "Have a Little Faith". One recognizes some of the ear-marks of the previous account by Albom entitled "Tuesdays with Morrie". That one brought together Albom the sports writer and his former college professor Morrie, with ample life wisdom from a secularist with a heart, and one who was rapidly dying.

Now Albom tackles crushing life issues and questions with men of faith and much respected; one an aging and weakening rabbi in the suburbs, and the other an Afro-American Protestant pastor in the threatening inner-city.

Mitch does get to offer the eulogy. A beautiful one. He also gets to help to raise resources for the Detroit church with the "huge hole in the roof".

Read the book. Beautiful insights of hope; numerous vignettes; few lines drawn.

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