McMillan Moody. A Tale of Two Elmos. OBT Bookz, 2014. E-book.
A Tale of Two Elmos is another installment in the saga (?) of Elmo Jenkins, associate pastor of a large urban church. This time we get the sense that First Church might be somewhere in Tennessee since the Ozarks are five hours to the west. Again, this is a lighthearted story of a large church and its church politics.
Now Ellington M. Jenkins, called Elmo by all, is celebrating five years at First Church. The near-legendary Rev. Jorgensen has retired, and the go-getting Rev. Billy Pike Jameson and his wife Sassie LeMay have taken over. There are some rough edges that need smoothing as is always the case when a new leader takes over, but Elmo makes the transition well.
As always seems to be the case with Elmo, he tries to solve a low-key mystery. This time the local radio station has begun carrying an inspirational program given by someone only known as the Radio Guy. Radio Guy really speaks to Elmo when Elmo hears him while driving his car. Elmo would like to know who he is, but the ratio station accepts correspondence but keeps his identity a secret. Gee, would Elmo change churches to follow this guy?
There is some fun as Elmo and his wife Bonnie are given a church anniversary gift of a stay at a bed and breakfast in the Ozarks. Their room is in a high turret in a Victorian style mansion. Rumors are that the place is haunted.
Without giving too much away, Bonnie is expecting, and much of the story is about Elmo and Bonnie getting used to the idea of being parents. They have difficulty agreeing on a name and finally reach a compromise: if it is a boy, Elmo will contribute his first name and Bonnie the middle name; if a girl, Bonnie will name the first name and Elmo the middle name. Yes, they do not want to know the gender until the child is born.
Anyone who has read The Old Man and the Tea will understand why Elmo chooses Elijah for the name of their newborn son. And Bonnie’s family has a long tradition of naming men in the family Morgan. It does not take long for someone to see that Elijah Morgan also naturally shortens to Elmo, so the baby becomes Little Elmo.
A lot of humor in this story comes from the outspoken Erlene Markham, widow and former missionary who places herself in a nursing home. Elmo also gets drafted to lead a short-term mission trip to the boondocks of Papua New Guinea. There is some fish out of water humor here, but also a lot of respect for people who give up virtually everything to bring the Gospel of Jesus to such a remote tribal region. The First Church volunteers are just there for ten days. The missionaries are devoting their lives.
A Tale of Two Elmos might not be as wild as some of the other Elmo Jenkins stories, but it is fun to read nevertheless. The publisher has kindly included a list of names in the back of the book the way we sometimes see with Russian novels. A big church does have quite a few people we have to keep track of.