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Fred Craddock tells the story of a time that he was on vacation. He and his wife had found a quiet little restaurant where they looked forward to a private meal, just the two of them. While they were waiting for their meal they noticed a distinguished looking white haired man moving from table to table, visiting guests. Craddock whispered to his wife, “I hope he doesn’t come over here!” He didn’t want the man to intrude upon their privacy. But that’s exactly what the man did. “Where you folks from,” the man asked. “Oklahoma,” said Fred. “Splendid State, I hear. Although I’ve never been there. What do you do for a living?” “I teach homiletics,” Said Fred hoping that this would scare the man off. “Oh, so you teach preachers, do you! Well, have I got a story for you!” And with that he pulled up a chair and sat down. Dr. Craddock said he groaned inwardly thinking to himself, “Oh no! Here it comes. Another preacher story. It seems like everyone has one.” At that point the man stuck out his hand and said,

I’m Ben Hooper. I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasn’t married when I was born so I had a hard time. When I started school my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and during lunch time because the taunts of my playmates cut so deeply. What was worse was going down town on Saturday afternoon and feeling every eye burning a hole through me. They were all wondering just who my real father was. When I was about 12 years old a new preacher came to our church. He preached hell fire and brimstone.

He scared me and fascinated me all at the same time. I would always slip into church late and leave early so no one would see me. I feared that if anyone saw me they would ask what a boy like me was doing in their church. One day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in the church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up to see the ...

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