Rune Rofke - Glenn Emery

Howie Comis


Tomorrow is the last day of competition and right now I am doing the brothers' laundry. This competition has been fairly difficult, nor have I been fundraising every day.

The last few days of January I spent doing PR work in several towns, including Alexandria, which has been our greatest problem permission-wise. I took my direction from Steven Schutte, my old team captain in Colorado before Captain Yasuda. Steven had been doing permission work here in Louisiana since the beginning of the year, and I took over from him as there are a lot police problems in the state, one of the worst in the country.

At first I didn't know what I was supposed to do, but eventually I caught on. Basically, the problem is that there are no ordinances in most places against fundraising, nor should there be as it is our constitutional right under the first amendment to fundraise. But almost every town is negative toward the church so they won't grant us permission, which means if we fundraise and they get a complaint, they will arrest us. Even if the case gets thrown out in court, since we didn't actually break any laws, they just want to discourage us from coming to their towns.

So somehow we -- I -- must persuade them to grant us the right to fundraise without harassment. I traveled around by myself for a couple weeks in a small rental car, an AMC Pacer, and went town to town, talking to the city managers, mayors, city attorneys, chiefs of police -- anyone in authority who could give us permission, and then try to get it in writing.

At night I would fundraise parking lots. Lately we've been selling key chains, with clear plastic bulbs filled with fluid and tiny arrangements of dried flowers. They're really quite pretty and easy to sell. They're not nearly as bulky or heavy to carry around as candy or candles or even flowers. The Eagles have a new song on the radio called "Hotel California" that I really like. One night I had it playing in my head as I ran around selling key chains, and the song made me feel really good. I made a lot of money that night.

I love the line from that song, "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." That perfectly describes the church. Outsiders think the church is a place or physical thing that someone can walk away from. It's not. It's a way of thinking, a belief system. I can be hundreds of miles away from members and church centers and it doesn't matter. I carry the church around in my head.

One of the towns I got permission in was Lake Charles. I drove the team there and as I had agreed with the police chief a couple weeks earlier, I registered our names with the police department when we came to town. I guess they knew they couldn't stop us legally, but they had some other tricks. On our second morning in town, the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper carried a front page story titled, "Moonies Soliciting in Lake Charles." It wasn't so bad. At least they gave us credit as a legitimate organization. The local radio also had some reports about us being in town, so we encountered a great deal of negativity.

But we didn't get arrested. I've come to learn that we must take responsibility for the people's negativity. It is not their fault. It's our fault. It's up to us to fix it.

Richard Ehrlich from Oakland, whom I hadn't seen since Yankee Stadium, came to our team. He fundraised for a few days and then became captain of the challenge team, which were the high sellers challenging to made new records. One night we were blitzing Lafayette and Richard never came to pick us up. Turned out he had run the van off the road and had a pretty bad wreck and broke his back. He was operated on in New Orleans yesterday, but we haven't heard anything else.

One of our top sellers is a brother named Howard Comis. I've never met anyone else like him in the church. He is Italian and has an incredible sense of humor. In school he must have been the class clown. He's always doing Daffy Duck and Porky Pig impressions that are hilarious. Even when he's dead serious, he has an expression on his face that makes you want to smile and laugh.

One night after we were done fundraising we were having unison prayer in the van and Howie was sitting next to Roger, one of the most humble and pleasant and intelligent brothers you'd ever want to meet. Everyone was so serious in their prayer, thanking God for the fundraising result they had made, offering the money to heaven.

Howie suddenly blurted out really loud, "Heavenly Father, please forgive Roger for his fallen nature. He doesn't realize how obnoxious and evil he is and how he's dragging down the entire team. Amen." We all started laughing and couldn't stop for a long time. We laughed so hard we were crying. Howie had that effect on everyone, everywhere he went. No matter how much the rest of the team was struggling, Howie could always cheer everyone up. And Howie always made a lot of money. He was like the perfect member. 

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