Sunday, October 4, 2009
The little church that could
When we first moved to our current neighborhood, we couldn't help noticing a slightly dilapidated little church at the foot of our hill. Nor could we miss the scant and dwindling group of worshippers leaving there each Sunday morning. We would pass them as we headed to our own service, at our own church, and I was guilt-stricken thinking that here we went, driving away from a perfectly good little church building within a 2-minute stroll of our yard. We embarked to our own popular, booming, busy city church, and all the while this sad, small congregation in our own community grew weaker and weaker.
Eventually, it closed up shop. The little church gave in, locked the doors, and left a hopeful "Peace on Earth" message in its glass-covered sign board out front. But then some hoodlums broke the glass one night, and the letters fell bit by bit until the message was a meaningless "n Eart" and the whole thing just depressed me tremendously.
The empty building sat for a good year or two, and Marcus and I would talk about it as we drove past. "There's that little church," I'd say, and he'd pipe up, drawing on previous conversations, "That little church needs a family." I wondered many times if it would be torn down; it was obviously old, with an original flagstone foundation that was beginning to crumble into powder, and the siding grew increasingly gray with age and grime. The whole place was tucked into a tiny valley next to a creek, which didn't help matters at all, what with the creek's flooding tendencies—and it had no parking to speak of, and no sidewalks on the road where it sat, which pretty much made it inhospitable and dangerous... I waited, fearing its doom. Yet it stood.
And then. Oh, then. One day over the summer, cars were parked alongside the dirty building. Work vans joined them a few days later. The church's doors were open at times when we crept past, revealing things under construction inside. Friendly-looking, happy people trooped in and out, carrying things and looking determined and purposeful. Men hoisted heavy boards, bricks, and pipes; ladies sanded and painted railings and door frames. How would they do it, I wondered? Could they overcome the poor location? The ancient structure itself? The lack of parking?
Silly me: Of course they could! The last week of August, we watched a woman and young boy make their patient way down and up our fair street, carrying what appeared to be literature of some sort. Fearing they were of a certain sect that falls into the cult category at our home, we avoided the door and watched from the bedroom window (I'm not proud of this, folks). And the lady and youngster left a flyer in our door, which we surreptitiously grabbed and read as soon as they were out of sight. Lo and behold, we'd been way off base: the pair was from the little church! They were going to start holding services there in one week!
We had commitments at our own church on that momentous weekend, and our services started earlier than theirs, so the church was still quiet when we left that Sunday morning. But upon our return, my heart swelled to see the doors open, and a smiling, tie-sporting fellow greeting worshippers as they made their way inside. Even better, I noticed with glee that three separate businesses, all located within a few steps of the church's doors, had allowed church parking; all the lots were clearly marked with folding signs and were, even better, populated with a more-than-respectable number of cars. Best of all: the broken-down sign had been replaced with a new one that hung invitingly, beckoning visitors.
Why was I so happy about this? Have I even attended a service there? I'm not sure why, and no, I haven't yet trekked down to see what it's all about. I want to. In time, I will. I did check their website (it was listed on the flyer), and was pleased to see a similar mindset to my own—a simple, no-frills philosophy about faith in our powerful God and His son. I suppose I was, and continue to be, uplifted by the church members' hard work and success, by the way other locals have contributed with parking opportunities, by the much-needed reminder that God Makes a Way. You see, I forget sometimes about His authority. We're here in this world, it's all screwed up, people are sick and dying and pursuing evil and making horrible choices... but here comes a pint-sized army of faithful people and suddenly, there's hope again in a once-abandoned valley.
There's always hope in that valley. Isn't it wonderful?!