LISBON, Maine — Growing up, David Garnett lived in a white house at the corner of Gartley and Lisbon streets.
Out back there were woods and a pretty good vegetable garden, which almost everyone had in those days. They would fill scores of canning jars with beans and more each fall to help them get through the long winter.
Now, Garnett, 70, is pastor of the Open Door Bible Baptist Church built on the site of that garden, where he tries to cultivate souls instead of produce.
The pastor, who donated the land to create the church three decades ago, finds it remarkable that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump plans to come there Friday as part of his campaign to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8.
Garnett called it “a gift from God” and a “a great privilege” that one of the two top contenders for the White House would seek out his church in the final days of such an important election, taking the stage on property where Garnett played as a child.
Trump is slated to hold a rally at 3 p.m. in the gymnasium of the church’s Christian Academy, a room that the fire department said can only hold 1,000 people safely. The doors open at 1 p.m. with entry on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets are no longer available, according to the candidate’s website.
Barbara St. Jean, a Lewiston resident and big Trump fan, scouted out the location Thursday to make sure she knew where to go for the rally.
“We’re excited, and we want to be here,” St. Jean said.
St. Jean said that she agreed with Trump on every policy and opposed Clinton on everything from abortion to allowing “unvetted Syrian refugees” into the country, though the Democrat actually supports the long and detailed vetting process used now by the U.S. government.
She said it’s important to stop Clinton because she would offer “four more years of Obama” and represents “too much big money and political injustice on her side” of the divide that has split much of the nation.
Roger Bickford, chairman of the town council, said he doesn’t really care who wins the presidency.
He said he’s glad that Trump is coming, though.
“It puts us on the board,” Bickford said. “I think it’s pretty neat.”
Bickford said he’s mostly concerned about protecting his Second Amendment rights, no matter who wins the nation’s top job.
Bickford said he doesn’t anticipate any problems connected to Trump’s visit, pointing out that Gov. Paul LePage has visited the school without any incidents.
Besides, he said, “We’ve got a pretty good police department and fire department.”
Garnett said he also hopes there are no incidents. “I’ve been praying that everything will go well and nobody will be destructive,” he said.
He said that one of the town council members asked him recently about hosting a Trump rally. He said he thought it through carefully before saying yes, spurred mostly by the recognition it would be “a good thing for the academy students.”
The pastor said that students at the junior and senior high school offered at the church — which has 103 students — have been invited to attend Trump’s rally as part of their civics education.
He said it doesn’t matter which presidential candidate comes — even President Barack Obama would be welcome, he said — because either of them would give students an up-close look at politics and government.
“We’ve got an exciting event,” Garnett said. He said he’s especially glad that the rally is bringing so much attention to his hometown.
“We want to be a service for our community,” the pastor said.