A LITTLE CHURCH IN GRAHAM TEXAS
A Short Story
Written by Dr. Rick McGrath, Ph.D.
Many years ago while working as an engineer for Hexcel Corporation, I was sent on a special assignment out of town. Living then and still do in Modesto, California I traveled to Graham Texas. Never having gone to Texas before, I didn’t know what to expect. Graham, Texas is located approximately one hundred miles directly west from the Dallas-Fortworth area. I arrived in the month of April. Before leaving the weather indicated that it was about 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Upon landing I was taken off guard. It was snowing and cold. I asked the Stewardess as we were getting off the plane, “Is the plane going back to California?”
“No why?” she asked.
“I don’t like all this cold and snow,” I complained.
“Well just hang around. It’ll change. It always does,” she said.
I got off the plane, picked up my luggage, rented a car and drove to my assignment. After checking in with the Plant Manager, I promptly went to the apartment they had available for out of town engineers that stopped in on special assignment. After unpacking and grabbing some dinner, I started driving around to see what there was for extra curricular activity in Graham. I have to say, back then there wasn’t much. Good thing I wasn’t one to drink. It was also a dry town. No alcohol sold there!
It was a Wednesday evening and I stumbled on to a church that looked interesting. There was a fair size crowd entering into the church so I decided to stop in and check it out.
For years I had been an evangelist part time. In other words I never received money for preaching the Gospel message. Like Paul in the bible, I had to hold down a day job. The church was a non denominational church. The Pastor seemed to be a good man and preached with enthusiasm and conviction. Lot of “Amen brother and “Preach it now!” going on from the congregation. Just my style. A lively bunch they were.
After the Wednesday evening service, I went up and introduced my self to the Pastor and several of the Elders. I told them I was from Central California and that I was an Evangelist. The Pastor and the Elders welcomed me with open arms. In fact the Pastor said he would make time this up coming Sunday and if I was interested he would let me do a little preaching. I accepted!
Churches, especially smaller ones can be interesting. They have a broad mix of folks that usually attend. They have those that are well off, those that aren’t. They have older grown ups and younger ones. This church had a good mix of all kinds.
Sunday morning rolled around and like most Non Denominational churches they had a bible study one hour before the service. I gladly attended. For my message that I had prepared for Sunday service, I chose 1 Cor. 12: 27-31. It was a message about, “The Body of Christ“, and how we are all one body, but called to contribute differently. Some are called to be apostles, some prophets, others teacher, miracle works and so on.
Even if you feel like you don’t have much to offer or to contribute, you can always contribute your hospitality. Again, small churches can be interesting. Though large churches also are interesting. Many times they seem to have several threads in common. As I have been a guest to many churches across the country of all sizes and denominations, what I find most interesting is who will invite me to dinner. For some reason, time after time, it seems those that do a better job of it are usually the poorest families in the congregation.
I remember one family in particular while I was visiting in Graham Texas. My assignment was a three month one so I was going to be spending a lot of my time off volunteering at the church. Sunday after Sunday, the same family, the poorest of the poor, would invite me to share super with them. They had eight members in the family with one on the way. They would always ask, “ Will you come have super with us?”
Since no one else gave me an invitation, I usually accepted gratefully. I remember the first time they asked, “What is your favorite meal? We want to prepare that for you,” the husband offered.
‘Honestly, I said. “It would have to be pinto beans and cornbread. That’s my most favorite of favorites,” I responded.
“No really?” the wife requisitioned me. “I know we don’t have much but we want to thank you for being here with us,” she told me.
“Really! That‘s my favorite!” I exclaimed. “There was a time when I first got married, we were so poor, those on welfare called us poor. Back in those days they didn’t give food stamps but a small box of food. Usually they gave out government bags of cornmeal, pinto beans and if you were lucky and toward the front of the line canned spam. I knew a family that didn’t like cornmeal or pinto beans so they gave them to us. That’s what we ate,” I told them.
“My wife would make cornmeal mush for breakfast, and we would have corn bread and pinto beans for dinner seven days a week. I was in the military and living off base. Between my base pay and her spousal allotment I took home $250 per month. Our studio apartment was $100 per month so we didn’t have much left after utilities and gasoline. We bought our soap and non edibles with what was left,” I continued.
To this very day, when I am treated to that special meal, cornbread and pinto beans remain my favorite.
My new family that adopted me for Sunday super obliged. I was truly blessed by the generosity and their hospitality. I found it amazing and continue to find it so, always wondering why the folks that are better off don’t extend a loving hand.
One weekend I did fly home to visit my family. While I was there I received a call from one of the Elders telling me that the Pastor had to go to the hospital and had to have surgery. He didn’t know exactly what was wrong but said he was in excruciating pain. I received the call Sunday night. I told the Elder that I was scheduled to fly out first thing in the morning and I would stop by the hospital to see how things were going.
As planed, I arrived around 2PM Texas time, and before checking in with my Manager, I stopped by the hospital to see how the Pastor was doing. When I got there his family were all gathered around his bed. The Pastor still didn’t have surgery yet so I asked him how he was doing.
“Under the circumstances, I guess I’m ok,” he said painfully. I have gallstones and they have to remove them surgically,” he told me.
“Well what are you doing under the circumstances? God never said you had to be under circumstances,” I said to him.
“What are you saying?” he asked me.
“What I’m saying is you are a Pastor and I expect you to get up out of that bed and go home,“ that’s what I said to him.
“I’m in pain,” he complained.
“Pastor do you believe Jesus can heal you? Do you believe what you have been preaching all these years?” I questioned and demanded and answer.
He thought about it for a moment as the room turned very quite anticipating an answer of some kind from him and he said, “yes I believe!” he professed.
I turned to his wife and said to her, “Call all the Elders. Tell them they need to come down here right away. We are going to lay hands on Pastor and there will be no surgery!”
Without argument or discussion she did as I asked her. Within thirty minutes all the Elders appeared. I asked the head nurse for special exception and told her I needed about fifteen minuets to pray for our Pastor. She said it wasn’t something they normally allowed but if we hurried and we didn’t make to much noise she could look the other way.
We gathered around and started praying for the Pastor and laying hands on him as the bible says we are to do. With full belief and faith, we claimed his healing. We commanded those stones to go away. In the name of Jesus something wonderful happened. The Pastor said he could feel a strong heat penetrate his body and the pain left. I was told later that evening after we left, the doctor ordered X-rays and wanted to schedule the surgery for 6 A.M early the next morning. I was also told the doctor had to redo the X-ray because it didn’t show the stones the previous X-ray showed when they first admitted him. The doctor came in and told the Pastor he should go home because the second X-ray revealed what the first X-ray showed. Nothing!
Yes, the Pastor was free without any stones. Where they went no one really knows. Perhaps they were absorbed into the body, perhaps something else happened for the Pastor from the little church in Graham, Texas. I know for me, over and over I see God’s little miracles that happen. From hospitality to healings even in little churches like Graham Texas.
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