Witnessing to a Hermit

By Michael K. Farrar, O.D.

© God’s Breath Publications


I was a senior at Pacific University in 1976 and Resident Assistant in one of the dorms on campus. I had the responsibility of overseeing a colorful collection of college-age men. They were of all races, personality types and possessed a wide range of extracurricular interests. My task was to see that their needs were met and to keep law and order, which was quite a challenge.


I introduced myself to most of the guys on the west wing at the beginning of the year, except for one. The occupant of the room next to mine was a mystery. My roster said that his name was Les, but that was all I knew about this secretive individual. My knocks at his door to gain the attention of the occupant were ignored. During the first few months of school I never saw anyone leave or enter this room. I would often hear sounds at night. I heard drawers sliding in and out of his desk or the clinking of pencils being put into a cup. Never did I hear music or conversation. No visitors ever knocked on his door and he never received a phone call. No one knew much about him. Some people said they thought he was an art student. I began to ponder how I could reach out to Les.


I thought it might be good to invite Les to one of the Bible studies I held in my room. The challenge was catching this elusive person to speak with him. I made numerous efforts to catch him as he went to class, but failed. I decided to leave a note on his door inviting him to one of my studies. The next day I found a note attached to my door from the man of seclusion. Scrawled in pencil was a quote from a philosopher I had never heard of. The quotation was rather nebulous and I was unsure of what it had to do with my invitation to the Bible study. This was progress at least and I prayed that God would give me more opportunities at communication with Les.


God worked quickly. The next night I had been up late studying and decided to take a break. I opened my door to leave my room and there was Les right in front of me walking down the hall. I could hardly see what he looked like because his head was bowed down and his long greasy hair drooped over the sides of his head and face. His clothes fell loosely around his body. He walked quickly, eyes staring at the floor in front of his shoes. “Hi Les.” I said. He mumbled something and went into his room. I stood there frozen with amazement that I had actually seen this evasive individual. I knew I needed to remain steadfast in my efforts to communicate with him.



I continued writing notes and leaving them on Les’ door. I received frequent replies from Les but they were always strange words, quotes from famous authors, philosophers or theologians. On rare occasions I saw Les, sometimes when he was coming back from the cafeteria, or in the hallway of the dorm. I would always greet Les, but all he could manage was a grunt of acknowledgement. I wondered if I would ever make significant progress in my communication with this young eccentric hermit?


One day I found an amazing object posted on my door. It was a piece of paper with four images on it drawn in pencil. There was a title at the top of the page that said, “Mike Farrar as seen by himself (in various moods).” All of the pictures portrayed a man, which resembled myself, but in different clothes. The first was apparently a representation of a disciple of Christ in a robe preaching. The second was a Roman Catholic priest in all the regalia of his priestly office. The third illustrated a puritan complete with switch for discipline. The fourth was a Protestant minister. I was not sure how to feel. The artwork was amazing in detail and quality and had to have taken a lot of time to complete. Each picture apparently represented something Les had perceived about our brief discussions, note exchanges and things he overheard through the walls of the dorm room from my Bible studies. Here is what I saw.


I left a note on Les’ door thanking him for the artwork and praising his talent. I ran into him a few days later and thanked him again. That was the first and only time I ever saw what might have been an attempt at a smile on his face. Progress had been made I thought and my hopes rose.


A few nights later I heard some alarming sounds coming from Les’ room. I heard sounds of glass breaking, drawers slamming, things falling, a muffled gruff voice cursing. The tone of the cursing was not just one of anger there was a deep, dark aspect to it. It scared me. I got out of bed and went to Les’ door. I knocked and said, “Is everything all right Les?” Silence followed. I repeated, “Is everything all right Les?” Silence continued. I remember trying several more times, but obtained no response, I decided to return to bed. I left a note for Les on his door sharing my concern, but no notes were returned.


It was close to the end of school by now and I saw very little of Les. We never talked about that night. I noticed an art exhibit in the library a few days later. The art was pottery and sculptures that had been created during the last semester of the school year. They were amazing in detail, color and appearance. Whoever the artist was it was evident they were very talented. Then I saw the nameplate that revealed the name of the art exhibitor, it was Les. Off to the left side of the display case, down towards the front I noticed a rather curious piece of art. It was a large multicolored ceramic fish with very large letters carved on its side. The letters were “I C T H U S.” This is the English representation of the Greek letters that were a sign of identification of first century Christians. What did it mean?


I wondered if there was any meaning in them for Les spiritually? Had any spiritual seeds been planted through my efforts? I’ll never know in this life. A few months later I heard that Les committed suicide. It saddened me deeply to hear the news. Had I done enough? Should I have been bolder in my discussions? I can only trust God that somehow He used me in ministering to Les. I can only pray that Les made a decision for Christ.

We are all called to witness in word and deed to all we meet. You never know when the conversation you have with someone will be the last. Be sensitive to those God brings your way. Seek to speak and minister to those who fall into your life. You never know how God might use you in someone’s life. We may not have a lot of time to reach out to those around us. Time is short so make the most of it for the Lord.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19