Itinerant puts dent in American dream

Published 4:45pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

There is something to be said for the stable life. Regular paychecks, a dentist who knows your name, homestead exemption – these are the underpinnings of a comfortable, predictable American Dream.

Every so often, though, you run into someone who has bucked the system, a renegade who thinks predictable and dream should never share the same sentence. This particular renegade’s tag says he’s from Jones County. It also said something like “pisteuo,” which in Greek means to believe.

Sitting in the pew, I hear him call himself an itinerant. The word brings to mind duffle bags and dusty roads. I conjure up a character from the Canterbury Tales.

But the guy standing up front is big and burly, with a football bio from Southern to back him up. “Three-year starting punter for USM’s Golden Eagles”, a sports site bears out the claims. “2006 NFL Draft.” He was eventually caught up in a commission of a different sort, though.

We sit mesmerized as he tells of seven trips to India in three years. Of hiking in Himalayas where people are cut off from the world for six snowy months. Of slums where poor snake charmers know him by face and name.

And then there is the video. While the missionaries of my childhood pulled out snake skins from Indonesia and wooden carvings from Ethiopia for us to pass around, today we are feted with virtual images.

We feel as if we know world-away fellows like Moncy because we hear his voice and see him serving meals to turbaned visitors in his New Delhi home. We also sit still – very still – as we witness the arrival of the first New Testaments in the Kimyal language. That was 2010, and the village men there in West Guinea are weeping as the plane arrives.

Scenes like that can do serious damage to my American dream.

Later, we are 10 deep around our dining room table, six more around one in the kitchen, and we are breaking bread. In more ways than one.

The Itinerant tells of a flood that shut down New Orleans roads in 1983, nearly keeping his parents from making an important pickup at the Baptist Sellers Home for Unwed Mothers.

“My dad almost hired a helicopter,” he says over a second helping of spaghetti. “And get this,” he adds, shaking his head. “Twenty-five years later I was back, less than a quarter of a mile from Sellers, helping plant a church.”

The irony is not lost on those around the table, even though we are passing tea and pieces of pound cake.

I thought of Luke Johnson’s story this week as the country noted another anniversary of Roe v. Wade. And I thought of a scared twenty-year-old at Sellers who chose life for her baby, not knowing his tiny feet would one day kick 76-yard punts and frequent the halls of an orphanage in the East Indian state of Bihar.

Next month the Itinerant will again head back to the land of curry and spices. This time he’ll be accompanied by a not-so-itinerant pastor whose license plate says he’s from Lincoln County. But even though his tag doesn’t spell it out, he, too, understands that pisteuo can cut pretty hard into predictable dreams.

Godspeed to you both.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at