Well I am going to tell a story today. It is a story told by a man named Tony Campolo. Tony is a Christian, a sociologist, a college professor and a gifted speaker, so he gets asked to go and give presentations all over the place. One time he was called from his east coast home to go to Honolulu. Now if you have ever flown from the East coast to Honolulu you know what happens to your time clock. He was in the hotel the first night and he woke up, wide awake, a little bit before 3 in the morning. His body said "It is 9 o'clock, time for breakfast," so he got dressed and went downstairs. Nothing was open so he went outside from the hotel and wandered around a bit until he found a place, a diner, a real greasy spoon - one of those places where you are afraid to open the menu because you're not sure what might crawl out? And there he was in that place, no one else was there. He ordered a cup of coffee, and then, in a weak moment, he also ordered a donut. And then this rather obese, unkempt, unshaven man - named Harry - that was working behind the counter came out, wiped his hands on his dirty apron, reached into the jar and gave Tony a donut. Tony wished Harry had given it to him in a different way, and yet there he was. So he was sitting back, musing to himself and drinking his coffee and eating his donut when the door suddenly burst open and 8 or 9 rather boisterous prostitutes came in. Now Tony was even more uncomfortable. They sat down at the counter next to him, because there wasn't any other place, and he drank his coffee, tried to look inconspicuous, and listened to the conversation. And one of the women said, "Tomorrow is my birthday, I'll be 39." And her friend said, "So what do you want from me? I suppose you want a party or something, maybe you want me to bake you a cake?" And this woman, whom he later found was named Agnes, said, "Why are you so mean? I don't want anything from you. Why would I want anything from you? I've never had a birthday party, and no one has ever baked me a cake, and why would I want anything from you? Be quiet." Right then Tony got an inspiration. Soon the ladies left and he said to Harry, behind the counter, "Say do they come in here every night?" and he said, "Yes they do." And he said, "This one next to me?" and Harry said, "You mean Agnes? and Tony said, "Yes, that's the one, does she come in every night?" And Harry said, "Same time just like clock work every night she is here." So Tony said, "What about if we throw a party for her, a birthday party? Tomorrow's her birthday." Harry began to smile a little bit and called to his wife who was back in the kitchen cooking, and said, "Hey, this crazy guy out here wants to have a birthday party for Agnes." And they said what a wonderful idea! So the plans were made and everything was set for the party. The next night Tony came back to the same place, same time, and the place was decorated with crepe paper, and the sign on the wall said, "Happy Birthday Agnes." It was cleaned up and it looked like a different place. They sat down and waited and pretty soon people began to trickle in. The word had gotten out on the street, prostitutes from all over Honolulu were filling up the place. The place was full and at about the appointed time Agnes and her friends came bursting through the door and they said "Happy Birthday, Agnes." Her knees buckled a bit, her friends caught her and she was stunned, speechless, touched. They led her over to the counter and she sat down. They said to her again "Happy Birthday," and Harry brought the cake out and her mouth fell open and her eyes began to fill with tears. They put the cake down in front of her, they sang happy birthday to her and Harry said, "Blow the candles out so we can have some." Agnes just stared at that cake. Finally they convinced her to blow the candles out and Harry handed her a knife and told her to cut the cake. She looked at it and said, "Do I have to? let me wait a minute." And Agnes looked at that cake, so lovingly, like it was the most precious thing she had ever seen, a sacrament of love for her, and she said, "Do I have to cut it?" And Harry said, "Well, no, I suppose you don't have to cut it." And then she said something even more strange. She said, "I would like to keep it for awhile - I don't live far from here. Can I take it home? I'll be right back." They looked at her with a puzzled look on their faces and said, "Sure, you can take it." She picked the cake up and Tony said she carried it like she was carrying the Holy Grail in a sacred Cathedral and she walked out the door. There was silence, stunned silence, and Tony said he did something on the spur of the moment that he wondered about. He stood up and said, "What do you say that we pray?" Now what an improbable picture this is. A Christian sociologist surrounded by every prostitute in Honolulu in a greasy spoon diner and he says, let us pray. But he did. A simple prayer. He prayed for Agnes that somehow she would meet Jesus, that somehow she would find salvation and that God would be good to her, especially on her birthday. He said Amen and the party resumed. Harry said to him, "Hey, I didn't know you were a preacher." And Tony answered, "I'm not a preacher, I'm a sociologist." And Harry said, "Well what kind of a church do you come from anyway?" Tony, inspired by God's spirit, said, "I guess I come from a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3 o'clock in the morning." And Harry said, "No you don't, there's no such church like that, cause if there was," he said, "I would join it." _________________________________________________ -From the 'Episcopal Voice', Nov 1994, Western Washington. Original story from a book by Tony Campolo.