Recently, our family experienced some interesting contrasts, which we feel are important, and that we hope to learn from.
The first Sabbath, we and our friends went to a church in another city. We drove about an hour, so took food with us to contribute to a potluck. We had plans for the afternoon in the area, so did not plan to return home between church and the concert we were to attend. Church was nice, and, as visitors, we received a loaf of bread from a local bakery (“Raise your hand if it’s your first time here, and you’ll be given a loaf of bread”). That was very thoughtful.
When church was finished, we realized that this church did not have a potluck, or fellowship meal, as they are more commonly called now. We realized, to our chagrin, that we had so assumed that we could join the potluck, that neither we nor our friends had brought anything to eat our food with. No plates or bowls, no utensils. Hmmm…we discussed what we would do. We had brought a crock pot full of chili, some chips, and we did have that loaf of bread that the church gave us. Our friends had actually left without grabbing their food, and just had the bread. While our family got sidetracked trying to catch one of the speakers to ask her a question, our friends decided to go ahead and leave, since we had to find seats at the next venue.
We sat there, wondering what would be our best move, and actually left the church without anyone saying anything to us. Kind of different. I had someone speak to me between Sabbath School and church, actually two people, but Mr. Friendly had no one say anything to him the whole time. And one of the ladies who said hi to me told me that she would invite us over, but she did not have anything fixed. How many times have I thought that on a Sabbath? Many. Anyway, after church to have no one say hi makes you feel invisible, like you don’t matter.
We know a man, a friend now, who came to the church we now attend, before we began attending, who came and went with no one at all saying a word to him, and he never came back. He’s not uncommon, but is maybe more honest than some people who wouldn’t tell you their experience. But that’s all it takes for some people.
While we were still at this church, I sat down on a bench right outside the doorway, with two of the boys, in a little courtyard area, to wait for Mr. Friendly to come out (potty stop for a Little A). There were clumps of people surrounding us, chatting, and several people glanced our way, but no one spoke. We are not offended, we just felt a little funny. We all walked out together to our truck, not yet sure of what we would do for lunch, but still feeling a little invisible as other folks walked to their cars alongside us, still quiet. It really made us think about our own church and our own observation skills towards visitors.
What did we do? We contacted our friends, who had decided to stop by the roadside and eat with gratitude the one loaf of bread, shared between five people. They quoted the verse that says “Bread will be given him, his water shall be sure…” Thank the Lord for that one loaf of bread!
We followed suit and pulled off at a different location and thanked God for our feast–we ate chili fondue-style–that is, we ate our chili with chips instead of spoons, from the pot instead of bowls! It was unconventional, but it worked, and it was tasty. I almost forgot–we also had cold scalloped potatoes that we shared too. And, as we looked in the glove compartment, we found a few plastic utensils, left over from a stop at Taco Bell some time. So, some of us were able to use one of those instead of just chip dippers. 🙂
Why do I mention this? Is it because we felt sorry for ourselves? No, not really. We did end up with plenty to eat, and saw how God can help us turn lemons to lemonade if we are flexible.
I mention it because I know that many of us, although we consider ourselves friendly, are really kind of unaware of others that we don’t know, and sometimes we like it that way. How glad I am for a husband who notices new people, and makes it a point to go out of his way to speak to strangers.
It just made us think.
This past Sabbath, we were in a totally different situation. We had been traveling, and tent camping some of the time. On Friday afternoon, we pulled into a new campground, and barely had time to make a fire and set up the tent before Sabbath began. So, this time, we had no food prepared, which wasn’t a big deal since we’d been eating cold food anyway pretty much every meal. Haystacks were the daily fare, and would be lunch today too. Except that we were out of beans. And chips. And olives. So, we had lettuce, plus plenty of assorted odds and ends that we could put together. But it wouldn’t be too normal. I think we decided that cereal would be the best option, or try another church and our luck at a potluck. But I don’t really like to show up with nothing to share, and perhaps a few eyebrows would have raised over Toasted Oats at the potluck table. 😉
As it turned out, when we woke up on Sabbath, everything outside had frozen, and so it felt way too cold for showers. We all needed one (badly), but could not endure a wet head in that freezing cold air. One look at ourselves, and we decided a day in nature would be a better option for us that day. You know that feeling you get when you camp–like everything gets all smoky-smelling, dirt creeps under fingernails and makes you look and feel grungy, hair seems to do its own thing, etc, etc. And someone forgot to bring shoes besides snow boots, so getting “cleaned up” seemed like a hard undertaking.
We drove to a beautiful ocean setting. The drive was pleasant over rolling, hilly countryside that was so green that we were reminded of the Irish countryside. The green hills ended abruptly at the rocky shoreline, again, reminiscent of Ireland. We had to hike down to get to the ocean level, then just really enjoyed our day climbing over the jagged rocks, the boys collecting seashells, and all of us drinking in the beauty of the crashing waves. We spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon at the ocean, and could have stayed all day except for the fact that our stomachs began to beg for attention (they always do).
Because we wanted to drive to see Elmshaven, the home where Ellen White lived for her last fifteen years of like, we grabbed some quick snack-type food from the truck, then planned to eat a good meal that evening, after our tour, and after the Sabbath ended.
Elmshaven we really enjoyed. It’s been years since anyone’s lived there, but it’s still set up like it was in the early 1900s, just like when they lived there. You literally felt like you were sitting in a cozy living room, and not in a museum. We got to see the big Bible (an exact replica) that Ellen held while in vision. We prayed in the room where angels visited Ellen and where her workers and family members saw light glowing out of when she had a vision. This was a special day for us, and this tour through Elmshaven felt like a nice way to wrap up this memorable day.
But we had a surprise awaiting us. As we prepared to leave, our tour guide’s wife pulled me aside and said quietly, “Why don’t you meet me out back and I’ll take you to our home for a bowl of soup before you get on the road.” I was shocked, honestly. We had never met these people, and had just come for the tour, but they somehow perceived that we might appreciate a hot meal before heading back to our chilly tent. We gratefully accepted, still in awe, really. I pulled our boys aside and whispered to them not to act like little piggies and gobble up everything. We promised them we could get something down the road if they didn’t get enough to eat! I knew they were hungry, and these boys can EAT !! In fact, my husband’s uncle recently remarked that they eat like farm hands, and I can’t deny it!
What amazed us about this couple who graciously took us into their home that night was that they had just barely moved into their home, like the week before. They had very little furniture, and most everything they owned was still packed in boxes. But the hostess opened soup cans and began combining soups to make a delightfully tasty soup, and with crackers, very satisfying. The boys started out hungrily, emptying their bowls before I’d even gotten a taste of mine! And I think that simple soup multiplied! She kept on filling their bowls, although at first they hesitated about taking seconds. But once she insisted she had plenty, the bowl cleared out rapidly, and I think each boy had four bowls! So much for not eating like little piggies, but the lady really seemed to enjoy seeing them eat!
We had almost finished our soup, and the pot had diminished significantly, when the husband returned home after his last tour of the day, and wouldn’t you know it–he brought with him two more young ladies to share in the hospitality. The hostess didn’t miss a beat, but went to find a few more cans of this and that, and soon had soup for everyone who had just arrived! It was really neat to witness such generous people opening up their home to travelers!
So, here are a few things that I observed from this experience:
1) You don’t have to have much before you share. This family shared very simple things, but the warmness that was shared was not just from the soup!
2) Your house doesn’t have to be fancy in order to share. The kindness of this couple is what impressed us about them, not furniture, pictures, or decorations.
3) You don’t really need to plan every time before you invite someone over. It’s OK to say “I don’t have anything special prepared, but I’d be glad to share what I do have.”
4) You do need to be prepared, though, for the unexpected. I can buy cans of soup and easy ingredients so that I have a quick meal to share with anyone, anytime. I can store these things away, and be ready to invite someone over. Yet, if I don’t have exactly what I’d like to have, I can still share something–popcorn and applesauce, fruit, soup, or even green beans or tomato soup! I can learn to shop in order to have something quick to share! (this is something I need to work on)
5) You do need to ask God to show you people who are new, who are traveling, or who are just plain lonely, and you need to listen and act on it. (when I say you I mean me and you)
6) I observed the need of having a meal every Sabbath for travelers and new people, even if it is just a very simple meal. It doesn’t have to be at the church, but that is convenient. We seem to be out of the habit of looking for visitors, as families, and inviting them over, but I think that we would gain a blessing if we would revive this practice as a missionary endeavor. People will not come up to you, you will have to find them. But, like our host and hostess, if we follow that prompting of the Holy Spirit, then we are cooperating with him in the blessing of others as well as ourselves.
When we had all finished eating and visiting, it was time for us to get back on the road. As we bade our hosts good-bye, we told them to be sure to look us up if they ever passed through Tennessee, and we could return the hospitality. They just shook their heads and said, “No, don’t wait for us. When you have the opportunity, you just pass on the blessings to someone else. ”
I think that pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?