He stepped out of his house into what looked like a war zone. Roofing tiles lay strewn across the front yard. The largest tree, the one closest to the street, was down. It stretched completely across the road, making it impossible for anyone to pass. Not that anyone would try, for when he looked in both directions all he saw was more tree limbs and more debris, scattered up and down the neighborhood as far as the eye could see.
His wife grabbed his hand and whispered under her breath. "Honey."
He tried to smile. "I know." He looked at his wife and daughter. "I'm going to walk a little bit and see what I can."
"Can I go, Daddy?"
There was a sound of awe and fear in his daughter's voice that he had never heard before, and with compassion and sympathy, he answered yes.
Pastor Mike Phillips was cleaning up in the back when his six-year-old daughter Lilly tapped him on the shoulder. "When are we going to church, Daddy?"
Mike smiled at her innocence. "No church today, I'm afraid." He looked around at the mess in his yard. "The hurricane took care of that."
The disappointment on his daughter's face caught him off guard. He stopped what he was doing and put his arm around her shoulder. She spoke again, this time through tears. "But...who's going to preach today?"
"No one, honey. There's no power on at the church, just like here. And besides, everyone's working on cleaning up after the hurricane." He wiped a tear from her face. "I'm sure by next Sunday the church will be full of people, and you can see all of your friends."
She smiled. "Like Tammy...and Nancy?"
Still, she looked confused. "So...they won't be having church today either..." It was more a thought than a question.
"No. Not today." Mike hung his head. "I don't think anyone will be having church today."
Lilly's face suddenly lit up. "I know. We can have it here!"
Lilly nodded. "In the back yard."
Mike started to say something, but his six-year-old was on a roll. "Me and Suzie can make flyers, and we can invite the neighbors."
Mike got on his knees and faced his daughter. He put his hands on her face, looked into her eyes and smiled. "I think that's a wonderful idea, Lilly."
Lilly broke her father's hold and ran back into the hose, yelling the whole way, "Mommy! Suzie! We're going to have church in the back yard! We're going to have church in the back yard."
Pastor Michael Phillips smiled as he picked up the pace on the backyard cleaning. "Out of the mouth of babes," he thought, "out of the mouth of babes."
They came home after an hour or so. His first impulse was to kiss his wife, and he did.
"How bad?" she asked.
He shook his head. "Bad. Trees. Power lines. Poles. Roofs. Mailboxes. Stuff...everywhere." He looked at the pile on the kitchen table. There were candles, a lighter, flashlights, batteries, and even a couple of board games. And there was a small radio.
She saw him starring at the radio. "Who knows how long we'll be without power. They're talking about two to three weeks for some areas."
He sighed. "Deaths?"
She shook her head. "I haven't heard of any."
This time her head lowered.
He took his queue and put his arms around his wife. "We'll be okay, honey." He hugged her as she started to cry. "We'll be okay."
She looked up at him through the tears. "I just wish there was something we could do. Something to take our minds off of it, if only for a little while."
Lilly sat across from her sister Suzie. "What do we want them to say?"
Suzie thought about it. "How about..." she took a marker and wrote something down while Lilly waited anxiously. Finally, Suzie slid the piece of paper over to her.
Lilly tried to read it herself, but her little mind couldn't quit get it. "What's it say, Suzie? What's it say?"
Suzie picked it up, turned it toward her sister, and exclaimed. "Today. Backyard Service. Five o'clock. And then it has our address."
"I like it. How many can we make?"
"Maybe ten. Or twenty. Yeah, let's make twenty."
"And then we can pass them out."
The girl's mom heard their plan. "You're not going without your father."
They both answered in unison. "Yes, Ma'am." And back to work they went.
His daughter was bored. "I don't want to play anymore. I want to watch TV."
"I'm sorry, dear. Our power's still off." He looked to his wife for help just as a knock came at the front door.
His daughter jumped up from her chair. "I'll get it!" And off she went. Father and mother following close behind.
The door opened and revealed two young girls. "Hi! My name's Suzie and this is my little sister..."
Little sister interrupted. "Hey...I'm already six!" She looked at the three on the other side of the door. "Almost seven," she beamed.
Suzie smiled. "Anyway...my father's a Pastor and we're having a backyard service at five o'clock today."
Lily held out a flyer. "At our house." She looked at the girl standing in front of her parents. "Will you come?"
The girl looked at her Father. Father looked at his wife then back at the two young girls. He noticed a man waiting at the end of their driveway. For a brief moment they shared what seemed like much more than a wave. He turned his attention back to the girls as he put his arm around his family. "We'll be there, thanks."
The backyard was in full "Church Service" mode. There were rows of chairs with an isle in the middle. There were a few metal folding chairs, as well as some from different rooms in the house. A few neighbors brought chairs with them. There was food and drinks on a serving table, mostly non-perishables...some from the kitchen, some from the congregation. There was even a makeshift pulpit on the grass set-up to face the chairs.
And there were people.
And there was a man. He sat with his wife and daughter. He sang songs of praise and thanksgiving. He prayed for what was. He prayed about what could have been. And soon the preacher stood before him, and the man opened his Bible, and the healing process began...
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