(A continuation of the previous stories)
Matthew 11:28-"Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."
Funny how things start. I was just thinking today how God uses our weaknesses to show His power and strength. Andrew and I established a friendship through human weakness, but God knew His plans and had shook the holds of evil selfishness, birthing a new, lovely heart for the "nameless" of Bloomington.
August days vanished like vapors, but we remainded faithful in maintaining and developing relationships with those on Kirkwood. We saw Carl a few times that week. At one such time, Carl told us about a church not too far from town which he had attended a few times earlier in the year. He mentioned how welcome he felt there and invited us to go one Wednesday night. We agreed to meet at 5:30 outside of the library. I stopped by Alcazar to meet Andrew. I must admit I was nervous. We were going to allow this total stranger in a car with us...what if he tried to kill us? Silly, perhaps. I had to trust God's provision. Andrew told me that I could take him. Haha...yeah.
We pulled up to the library and sure enough, there sat Carl. He was slightly cleaner than usual. He had moved into an apartment with a friend of his. We got into the car and started off. I kept praying as we listened to the Christian radio. Carl kept on talking...I think silence made him nervous at times. He called Andrew cute. "Is strange for me to call you that," he said in his southern twang. Andrew accepted the compliment and we soon arrived at the church.
The House of Prayer was tucked away on this street off the main road. The gravel crunched underneath the tires as we pulled into our parking spot. It was beautiful to me. The building was much like that of a newer church, nothing rustic about it, but the climbing wall at the bottom of the hill coupled with the landscaping and welcoming faces was nothing short of stunning. Carl kept talking...made me think he was nervous. He said he hadn't been back in a while, but directed us to the main room. We were clearly early, but we found a seat and looked through our Bibles for a little while.
The main sanctuary was decorated with ministry opportunities, Bible verses and symbols of our faith. At the front of the room, which was to our left as we walked in, was a stage decorated with road signs. Signs like "No sin" or "Caution: Christian biker crossing" and my personal favorite "Body Piercing saved my life". The worship band was practicing their music. The lead singer was a bald guy, tight jeans and a couple earrings. The lead guitarist had a long pony tail, a matching long beard/mustache combination, and biking leathers.
Needless to say, this was not your average all-American church-going crowd...or was it? Perhaps not picture perfect, but since when did pictures determine standards? The congregation was an eclectic mix of individuals. Some looked exactly like your typical midwestern individual-nicely dressed and calm. While others donned biker gear, soiled shirts and pants with accidental holes, still others in suits and dresses. All I could do was smile...how Jesus must be dancing for this place.
Anyway, we looked around the church for a little bit and found a seat near the front. Carl stepped out for a few minutes to smoke while Andrew and I got acquainted with a couple ladies sitting nearby. One was just visiting her son, the worship pastor and another was a frequent attender. Both older, but both on fire for Jesus! They were so welcoming.
The service started with worship. People were excited! I thought about how difficult it had been to start the clapping at church back in Bloomington, but you had people clapping on all kinds of beats here! I looked over at Andrew and saw him smiling. My heart echoed the joy portrayed by his smile's size. Following worship, they had a time of prayer for healing and then testimonies. People told stories of healing of cancer, pain in limbs, peace of the heart. The Pastor asked if anyone was blessed this week and Andrew leaned over shortly after saying, "I've got something to tell you later...its really encouraging." One man, while sharing his healing ran around the church a couple times in joy. What freedom!!
The Pastor introduced the speaker for the evening. The head pastor was out on a biking trip to Georgia with some of the congregation. That night, the man speaking was a missionary from India. I would butcher his name if I tried to spell it, but it really isn't his name that matters. This man was radiant. He spoke of how God transformed His life and used him to share the gospel in a nation where Christianity was punishable by death. God had healed his hand, provided finances, and allowed him to see Indian men and women come to know the Lord. He spoke for about an hour-long, yes, but I couldn't get over how excited this man was about Jesus. I silently prayed for God's provision for me. I asked him to give us a plan and a structure for our Saturday lunch endeavors. It still amazes me at how completely clueless I was to what He had...but He was preparing Andrew and me for something far greater than we could have ever dreamed.
The service ended and we made our way back to the car. The sky was magnificent. It was golden...seriously. The clouds seemed to have a metallic glow. Magenta, orange and gold. Breath-taking.
As we got back into Bloomington, Carl was talking about how he needed to "get better". He had apparently wasted this half of his life. I was quick to encourage him...he had the rest of his life to live for Christ. I asked him if he had a Bible at home. He first said yes, but soon changed his answer to no. Almost instinctively, I offered him mine. I had another one at home...and though this one was one of my favorite Bibles I did have the luxury to purchase another. We found his apartment, dropped him off, and drove away.
One of the things I've learned throughout all of this is to never forget where you've come from...and worship God for where He's brought you in the midst of it. Harold Myra, in his book "Living by God's Surprises" says, ""God appears in the most illogical connections and when we least expect Him. And sometimes His surprises come right out of the heart of our weaknesses. If we have eyes to see."
God began paving a way for His work in us. And as we sat down for a quick Subway lunch, just days before the summer ended, we offered up the future to Him, knowing He would work, of course...but not having a clue as to how far, deep, wide, and long. God had written a masterpiece, choosing us as His instruments.