At the intersection of Highway 96 and the railroad crossing just east of downtown Franklin, Tennessee, a little bluish-gray house sits atop a hill. Inside that house, in the room closest to the railroad tracks, there is this well-worn leather chair. As many musicians and artists can tell you, this is Al’s office at Porter’s Call.
Built in the late 1800s, this old house was once occupied by the men who were in charge of the railroad crossing, doing repairs and keeping the tracks clear so that the passing trains could continue on their journey. Al wasn't here in the 1800s, but, he has, in a different sort of way, picked up where the railroad foremen left off. In this office, from this leather chair, Al has worked to help others find their way home. Instead of railroad foremen, the house is now home to porters.
In the old monasteries, the porter took care of the the travelers who needed a place to rest, needed company, or needed sustenance for the journey. Founded by Al and Nita Andrews sixteen years ago, Porter’s Call combines the presence of the old railroad foremen and the hospitality of a porter to carry out this work. They have, along with their staff, created a place where musicians and artists could find a friend, a place to rest, and time to be rejuvenated — clearing the tracks and filling souls.
I am humbled to join this effort. I’m even more humbled to move into Al’s office. I asked Al to leave the chair. He graciously agreed to do so. When I finally mustered the courage to sit down in the chair, I tried to imagine all that he had seen and heard from this vantage point. I recalled words he shared with me, the the times he listened to me struggle with debris on the tracks of my life. I said a prayer of thanksgiving and asked God to fill me with a similar empathy and wisdom, of love and hope. I want to be faithful to this chair and to the call of God in my life; I want to be present at this intersection, and serve the needs of travelers who stop by Porter’s Call.
I met Al at a crucial intersection in my own journey. He was one of my professors in graduate school. In addition to my studies in counseling, I was learning how to be a man, a husband, and a new dad. When I think about where I’ve ended up, working alongside of he and the staff at Porter’s Call, sitting in his chair, I’m in awe of God’s gracious and persistent leading. One thing has been made abundantly clear as we have moved to Franklin and started this work, God is into the details. And, God uses people like Al to help clear the path and offer a timely word.
To know Al is to know a rare mixture of humor, kindness, strength, wisdom, and empathy. You might just as weep in his presence as you are to laugh hysterically. Either way, it is good for the soul. In this way, Al has the rare ability to put other men at ease and invite them into a level of honesty and transparency that promotes beauty and strength in their life. Like the railroad foremen who once lived in this old house, Al is more than willing to climb down on the tracks and sort through debris in your story. He’s not afraid of the work that caring for souls requires of the porter. He welcomes the traveler as they are and sets about to clearing the way and feeding the heart with God’s grace and truth. He helps you find your way home.
By that same grace, I’m equipped for this work. As I take my place in this well-worn chair, I want to share with others what has been shared with me.