Published 5:00 am Friday, August 16, 2019
“Church is boring!” some would say. At times, maybe, but the following stories happened to real people in churches I served. Similar stories could be told by most any church. “Boring? No way!”
“We’ve been challenged!” was the announcement that Sunday morning in a small-town church with 50 people attending. The local food shelter needs milk. One church responded with 23 gallons. Three churches combined to provide 52 gallons. I don’t know what we can do but I think we need to help. The pastor said, I believe we can do better than 52 gallons. Two weeks later, this “small church with a big heart” purchased 175 gallons of milk, filling the shelter freezers to overflowing.
A woman unexpectedly found herself in the middle of a divorce. There was no family in the area to help. Another woman suggested she attend church with her. The woman and her children were welcomed warmly. The friendship and faith of the people she met combined with the inspiration of the services were just what she needed. “I felt the true presence of Jesus Christ,” she said. “I have never been so happy. I try every day to show the same gift of God’s love to all I meet.” Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
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A nurse at a local hospital often offers to pray with patients. In her words, the Holy Spirit “directs me to offer this precious gift of prayer.” Being a patient at a hospital can be an overwhelming experience. She feels called to offer the healing comfort of God.
“Our daughter and son-in-law live in London, so getting together with friends is not easy. They decided to have a yearly triathlon event and invite their friends. On the second year they decided to make the event a fundraiser for the Louisa County Resource Council. They wanted to have some type of outreach and figured it could be fun and a fundraiser at the same time. One company promised to match everything raised. Our church is very involved in the Resource Council, so they support our annual triathlon with volunteers. So far, we raised about $500,000.”
The Resource Council has expanded to four warehouses and now handles more than 1.5 million pounds of food per year. Programs include Community Cupboard, Over 60 help, Grocery Assistance, Emergency Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels, Clothing, Caring Connections and Dental Assistance.
At a recent youth camp, crews were assembled to do work projects. One group took on the job of building a wheelchair ramp for an elderly woman with health conditions. She seldom left her home because of the steps. After the ramp was completed the woman smiled and told the group her wheelchair bound sister could now visit. When they left that Friday afternoon, the woman and her sister were in the living room together for the first time in years. We regularly host community dinners for those who need a free home-cooked meal.
Recently, we placed prayer cards on the tables. The concerns written on the cards are shared with our prayer team. Many of our guests look forward to the prayer cards and reach for them soon after finding their seats. “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, Goodbye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well — but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” James 2:15-16
When our newspapers were filled with news of violence, our youth director asked for help from the congregation to bake cookies and give them to those who serve in our community so we could say “Thank you and we are praying for you.” Soon, the whole church was baking and delivering cookies.
One Sunday morning, a family, newly arrived from war-torn Liberia walked into our church. From that day, we began to provide transportation, household goods, furniture, job assistance, English and driving lessons, financial assistance and friendship. Long after the family was settled, we continued our friendship. Recently, a fourth child was born. She was named after two members of our church. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:4
After an Ash Wednesday service, a husband and wife went to dinner. An elderly gentleman came over to their table and said, “Excuse me but I saw the ashes from your Ash Wednesday service on your forehead and would like to ask a favor. We are traveling and have been unable to attend a service. Would you mind sharing your ashes with me?” It was on overwhelming emotional moment but the husband somehow managed to accommodate his request.
As he transferred his ashes to mark the Cross on the man’s forehead, the gentleman placidly stood there, bent forward with his eyes closed and a slight smile on his face. The husband tried to say, “Christ be with you,” but could only mouth the words. His wife quietly said in the background, “May God be with you.” “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8 Come to me all of you who are weary … Never deny someone the food or clothing they need … Look to the Lord and his strength … Trust in God at all times …
These everyday life-changing miracles bear testimony that churches are far from boring. Some of the most exciting and fulfilling moments of my life are directly related to a church or church member.
If you have been away from church for a while, for whatever reason, maybe it’s time to reconsider. Those life-changing moments are happening all around you. Your name could be on the next one.
REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at email@example.com.