I met JP Prediger 6 and a half years ago when I came to Sparta to pastor the Potter’s House Church. One of the highlights was to take a road trip with JP and his wife Dixie, and Kenneth and Maida, their best friends, and Joan and I. We took the back roads out of Sparta taking us to the Mississippi below Chester. We made our way to the Little Grand Canyon. This was fall and the colors were fabulous. We stopped at the stores representing the apple farmers of the area. We went across the state to a great National Wilderness Area; Garden of the Gods. We then made our way south to the Ohio River and checked out the Cave in the Rocks where pirates use to raid the boats going down the river. We crossed over and spent the night in Kentucky. The next day we visited Paducah. We then made our way to Cairo where the Mississippi and the Ohio meet. From there we headed home.
As they were passing judgment on me, their new pastor, I was passing judgment on them. Here is what I noticed about JP. He loves his food. Each food stop was accompanied by a string of superlative adjectives that could not even be equaled by Bill Murray in “What About Bob”. These were important events that I gladly rejoiced with him in the pure joy that emanated from him with each food stop. There was barbeque, fish fry, special apples, ice cream and a farmer’s market where JP showed his knowledge about gardening and pickling. JP knew his food and he knew his good deals.
It was great to get a call every once in a while about a particular good deal at Walmart or Aldis. Of course, any roadside deals deserved extra special care in descriptions and directions. We then discovered a peach orchard. Not just any peach orchard, but a pick your own peach orchard. Now this is a little piece of heaven that I could share with JP. Trying to compare the delicious peach I just ate with the delicious peach he just ate was no contest. He won every time.
JP gardened but I found there was one item that I consistently grew that he really appreciated. When I showed up in the Midwest I bought some black tomatoes. Delicious, and a first for me. I would buy plants from May’s farm as well as other locations. They never produced tons but they had a peculiar way of ripening and splitting that just added to the joy for me. A joy I could share with JP.
There was a time when JP would show me his spiritual side by asking me to search out a lost soul named Steve who seemed to be some kind of survivalist. It could be a dangerous undertaking for me; but he seemed to think it was worth the risk. I found Steve in a little trailer set back in the woods outside of Tilden. The more I got to know Steve the more I could see why he and JP were such good friends. Steve knew where to find big hickory nuts and every once in a while would stumble upon the morels hiding out in the woods.
Our Easter celebration with a meal will be a moment for me to remember JP again. In the mean time I will be thinking of him whenever I smell or see Good and Plenty. For a man of his years to have that simple joy of eating candy the way only he could can never be something I forget.
“Behold I stand at the door, and knock. If any man hear my voice, and open the door. I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me”. Spoken by Jesus to all of us. Rev. 3:20
Enjoy the feast JP.