Wednesday, August 10, 2011

PART TWO: Welcome OR Keep Out?

“Good morning! How are you folks? I don’t believe I’ve seen you here before."

The lady's friendly smile and warm clasp on Beth's hand seemed genuine. "I'm Cindy. Welcome to Everett United Methodist!"

“Thanks! I’m Beth. This is my husband Chris.”

Cindy grabbed Chris’ hand, too, and stood chatting with the couple for a few more minutes; she introduced them to some of the people as they meandered in.

Beth looked around for her cousin (who had invited them to the church), but didn’t see her anywhere. As she and Chris made their way to a pew, many people stood to shake hands and welcome them, and several reached out and hugged them.

By the time the couple found a seat, they were both overwhelmed by the kindness extended to them. Tears threatened to spill down Beth’s cheeks. Chris kept a comforting arm around her shoulder.

“That was not what I expected,” Chris whispered in her ear.

“No, it wasn’t!” Beth agreed.

Then she smiled so big it wrinkled her nose, crinkled her eyes, and dried all traces of tears. “It was awesome!”

Right then and there they decided they would come back the next week.

The following Sunday a mission trip to Mississippi was announced. A group from the Altoona area planned to travel to down to help victims of Hurricane Katrina fix up their homes. In Seasons of the Soul: Weathered by Faith, a collection of devotionals from the Everett United Methodist Church, Chris shares, “Following the service, [I] asked about the trip. Learning the details, [I] signed up, thinking ‘I don’t know anything about being a Christian, but I know a lot about building houses.’”

That was the first of eight mission trips and the start of a new chapter in the lives of Chris and Beth, a chapter full of exciting beginnings—the beginning of a relationship with Jesus as Savior, the beginning of a covenant with a church family, the beginning of a call to ministry!

My husband and I had the great privilege of seeing all this unfold firsthand. I praise God for the cousin who invited Beth and Chris and for the Everett United Methodist Church, who unlocked their hearts, opened their arms, and welcomed two precious gifts from God into their fellowship—tattoos, peepy-colored hair and all! What an awesome blessing Beth and Chris have been!

“Don't forget to welcome strangers.
By doing that, some people have welcomed angels
without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:2

P.S. Beth is now EUMC's church secretary and is studying for pastoral ministry! Chris started a Volunteers in Mission team that works on local projects bringing together those who wish to serve and those who have needs in the Everett area. GOD IS SOOOOO GOOD!

Blessings all!

©2011 Pamela D. Williams