Some people describe church as boring. At times, maybe, but the following stories happened to real people in the church I serve. Similar stories could be told by most any church. Boring? No way!
A woman was devastated when she unexpectedly found herself in the middle of a divorce. She had all the emotions of betrayal, shame, loneliness, insecurity and desperation. She had no family in the area to turn to for help. A church member invited her to come. She was welcomed so warmly and genuinely that she returned. The friendship and faith of the people she met combined with the inspiration of the services seemed to be aimed right at her. She said, “I felt the true presence of Jesus Christ. I have never been so happy in my life. I try every day to show the gift of God’s love to all I meet.”
One member is a nurse at a hospital. She will often offer 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.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Following a recent hurricane, the call went out to assemble flood buckets filled with $60 to $80 worth of items that enable people to begin the overwhelming job of cleaning up after a flood. Within days, hundreds of buckets were assembled by several churches and shipped to where they were needed.
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 wheel chair 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, “Good-bye 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
Every weekday our food pantry provides food. Families include, elderly living on a fixed income, new residents looking for gainful employment and single parent families struggling to make ends meet. We often pray with our clients and provide a listing of other resources and agencies.
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 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.
My eight-year-old was raised in the church but praying from his heart has never come easily. One morning before running in a race, in response to nerves, he prayed out loud for help. It was a simple prayer but it came from his heart. At bedtime, he said earnestly, “Mom, that prayer really worked.”
“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:4
Upward Basketball is designed to promote the ministry of Jesus through sports. The kids practice one day and play on Saturday. The coaches spend time working on basketball skills and teaching Christian virtues. During half-time they hear devotions. During those three months, regardless of where the kids and their parents are from, they share a common bond that is grounded in Jesus Christ.
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 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.