Provision: walking with the God of miracles
An excerpt from an unpublished memoir about our first ten years in Haiti Walking with the God of Miracles. A true miracle that included lots of laughter!
I panicked. “My God, what are we going to do? We do not have enough money for gasoline to get to Richmond!” Suddenly a credit card seemed smart but we did not have a credit card, since Joel who lived out of the US for the past seven years had no credit history. We paid cash for the used station wagon and planned to sell it at the end of our stateside deputation to purchase plane tickets home.
Pregnant and now this, I demanded, “You better call Brother Worley and tell him what happened. He told us to come here.”
Joel lay on the bed starring at the ceiling; he was stunned by our misfortune, “It is Saturday, and no one will book us for Sunday now.”
Defiant I said, “Ok, I will call him.”
I called the evangelist we met in Haiti; apparently unmoved by our dilemma or two pastors canceling services with no notice, he said, “Call the people at Travelers Rest; they buried their pastor yesterday. They need someone to minister tomorrow morning.”
I scribbled the phone number on a motel notepad.
When I incredulously repeated to my shell-shocked husband the short round evangelist’s words, “They buried their pastor yesterday? And they need someone to minister tomorrow?”
Joel refused to make the cold call.
Determined to get my children fed and out of the decrepit motel, I picked up the faded yellow, push button phone and called the Travelers Rest church. An elder voice answered, I said, “Brother Worley told me to call.”
I wanted to include I was pregnant with my fourth child and we did not have the money for another night in this filthy room or the gas money to get to our next service but he said, “Com’on ahead!”
I penciled the directions to the church as he spoke, “In an old Dairy Queen, parallel to the railroad tracks, between two junk yards.”
Sunday morning, we checked out of the moldy motel dressed for church. Joel drove past the unmarked, peeling angular building twice, “Do you think this is it?”
I studied my scribbled directions again; though our family was now late, only three cars parked in the church lot; just then, an elder gentleman opened the front door looking for us. “Yes, this is it.” I said.
We grabbed children, projector, film, diaper bag, purse, and bibles. The man held the door as I struggled through with Paul on my hip, purse and diaper bag slung over my shoulder and the film in my hand.
Already inside, Joel shook hands, introduced himself and asked for a table to set up the projector. Another elderly gentleman helped him while I bee lined for the front, arranging myself and children in a pew. (I hated being late for church especially when we were the speakers!)
The elder gentleman helping Joel with the table moved to the back where he spoke with the elder gentleman who held the door. Attached to their ears, each lank, old man had a tumorous hearing aid; they were brothers.
One shouted to the other, “Did you tell this fella’ you’d give ‘m sumtin’?”
“Nope,” yelled the other, “I’m committed fer dis month.” Joel and I looked up from our preparations and grinned at each other, not remembering our need; this was funny.
The rest of the church members entered through a side door; there were six of them, all over seventy and all related to each other. One white haired tall woman played two unfamiliar songs from the hymnal. Curious I flipped to the publication and copyright date; the hymnal predated the church members.
Joel showed our twenty-minute film with the voodoo service and Brother Danny’s convicting appeal and then opened his bible to preach. Five minutes into his testimony, the man, who held the door and now sat behind me, leaned over to his wife and shouted, “If he goes on much longer we’ll just git up and leave.”
Joel winked at me, closed his bible, and ended his sermon.
Another man clutched the bench back to stand and blared, “Dinner’z almost ready, we eat out back!”
As we gathered our things to reload the car, the man who held the door, shook my hand and pressed a folded bill into mine.
He said, “Honey, dis z for you.”
I smiled, thanked him and without looking stuck it in my purse, and thought, “We’ve got gas money to Richmond.”
They’d not passed a plate, so I figured, this is it.
Soon his brother handed me a folded check and said, “Honey, you use dis for you and your chilun.” Again, I stuck it in my purse without looking. It was time to eat and my baby and I were very hungry.
Through the side door, from which the others entered the church, we feasted at a cloth-covered table of Southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, hush puppies, black-eyed peas, biscuits, fried okra and multiple deserts. Joel proclaimed, “This is the best fried chicken I have ever eaten!” It was.
During the meal, the wiry gentleman, who opened the door for me, leaned across the table and asked Joel, “Preach, did I hear you right? Or did you say, you was hooked?”
Joel fought a smile, “Yes, sir, I did drugs.”
The old man wagged his head, “Well, I guess God had to reach down purdy low to pick you up, didn’t He?”
“Yes, sir, He did.” Joel nodded as he took another scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy.
Then the cousins and brothers began to tease the organ player and cook. “Grace, iz dis here chicken, one of ‘ur boys?”
Grace shook her head, “No.”
They chuckled and explained, “Grace raises chickens but ‘ems her boys and she won’t let us et ‘em!”
As we backed out of the church’s gravel parking lot on our way to Richmond, Joel asked me, “How much did you get?”
I opened my purse, “Two hundred dollars!” Someone gave Joel another hundred.
In 1982 when two pastors canceled scheduled services leaving us penniless & panicked, we miraculously walked out of a tiny country church of six very old congregants with a $300 offering!
And the little church in Travelers Rest SC supported Haiti For Christ monthly until the last one departed for glory.