Yesterday I received a phone call from a young lady in our community whom our church has helped before. As far as I can discern she has never abused the system. In fact, a couple of years ago she asked the church for a loan. Not a handout, a loan. When I gave her the money she requested and explained that it was a gift and she did not have to pay it back, she insisted it was a loan and she would be back in a few days to repay us. And true to her word, she did.
So back to yesterday. She called asking if there was any way we could help her with gas money because her father-in-law (who lives with her) had a serious medical issue that needed to be taken care of right away but his specialist is in a town an hour and a half away. I told her that the church would buy her gas and she could come by the office to pick up the money.
I hung up the phone, sat it down, and it rang again. Same number. Her husband was on the line, obviously tearful and full of gratitude. “I just want to thank you, Pastor Willie. Every time we’ve needed help, you’ve come through for us. I love you. My dad and I will be at the service on Sunday. I’ve never had a church show us this kind of love before. Thank you.”
Later last night, the guy who coordinates the Narcotics Anonymous meetings at our church stopped by the parsonage to drop off some money. Every month the NA group gives us a few bucks to thank us for giving them space for their meetings. In the years I’ve been here, I’ve developed a rapport with this guy and I think he grasps that I just view him as a person not as his past. As he handed the money to me, he again thanked me for everything our church does for them, and out it came: “I love you, Willie. Thanks again for everything.”
We’re far from the biggest church in this little town. It would be easy to focus on our struggles and our challenges. But yesterday was evidence that we are bearing good fruit. There really is something to that love, grace, mercy thing.