Summary: John gives some advice for this season of Advent: hold a baby, wonder, and look to the stars.
I Met John the Baptist at Yoder’s Dept. Store
December 4, 2005
Haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like to meet John the Baptist? I’ve always thought that he would be an interesting person to get to know. He walked around the wilderness in camel skin eating bugs and tree bark, announcing the coming of Jesus of Nazareth. He was a fellow who wasn’t afraid of anybody; wasn’t afraid of offending polite sensibilities; wasn’t afraid to take on the mighty and powerful. His only concern was to prepare the people for the coming of the One spoken of and dreamed about for generations. He may have been brash and even a little rude, but he got the job done. Anyway, I finally got the chance I’ve been waiting for. I met him at Yoder’s Department Store up in Shipshewana.
There are two places in the state of Indiana where you can go to get cowboy boots. Actually, there are probably more than two, but these are my favorites. One is Boot City, which is a few miles south of Terre Haute. The other is Yoder’s Department Store. Boot City is boot heaven for me. They have thousands of pairs of cowboy boots for both men and women. They always have two pairs of each boot on display – a work boot and a dress boot. If my wife would allow it, I would spend my vacations at Boot City.
But since that store is pretty far away, the next best place is Yoder’s in Shipshewana. When you go there, you probably ought to remember to go in the front door. The Amish park their buggies out in back on the hitching posts, and it is usually a challenge to weave your way through the…(there is no delicate way to say this)…through the horse stuff.
Anyway, when you get in to the store, you are in for a treat. The owners, by the way - Mr. and Mrs. Yoder – have a daughter who was crowned Miss Indiana ten years ago or so. Believe it or not, a couple years after that, another Shipshewana young woman was crowned Miss Indiana. Not bad for a town of 750 people.
But anyway, I’m getting away from my story. The great thing about Shipshewana is that it is a real town. In the summer, it is not unusual for 15 to 20,000 people a day to come for the flea market and shops in town. But they eventually go home. The residents of the town and the Amish who live on farms on the outskirts are left. That means that there has to be services…banks, businesses, and stores that sell more than just trinkets for the tourists.
So when you go into Yoder’s, you find the small grocery store. Harold takes care of this part. He is a great guy and was always willing to help me out when I was pastor up there. When I needed to send someone down to get some food, he would always say, “Tell them to come. I’ll send you a bill later.”
Next to the grocery store, on the other side of the wall, was the hardware store. Mr. Yoder took are of that. If you need anything, anything at all, you can find it there.
Mrs. Yoder runs the dry goods department. Clothes for the whole family, hats, coats, socks…it was all there. There is a huge sewing department. Hundreds of bolts of cloth line the walls and filled the isles. The woman who made many of my vestments was on the textile faculty at Notre Dame, but she always bought the cloth for my stuff over at Yoder’s. And of course, there is the shoe department where I buy my cowboy boots.
So anyway, I was on the way in to Yoder’s last week., when I saw this fellow with a piece of ragged cardboard with writing on it. When I got close enough to read it, I noticed that it said, “It’s time for a change.” He looked a little weird, not like someone who usually can be found in Shipshewana, but I really didn’t think too much about him.
When I came out, he was still there. He was standing in the place where the Salvation Army volunteer usually stands with the red bucket for holiday donations. I thought that was what he was doing. Toni and I have, for a few years now, made a point never to pass one of those buckets without throwing in a dollar, so I had some money in my hand ready for him. But I didn’t see a bucket, only John the Baptist holding a sign that said, “It’s time for a change.” “I’ve got some change here for you,” I said, thinking that I was being cute, but he wasn’t impressed. He looked back at me and said, “Are you prepared?”