First Baptist Church, third Sunday, too many pot luck suppers to count. Predictable as snow in the North Pole. Sister Julia’s Swedish Meatballs, brother Joe’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken and the Pastor’s wife’s Macaroni and Cheese. I wouldn’t have blamed the Lord if he headed over to the Presbyterian church down the street, they have theirs catered.
This past Sunday was different.
No one at First Baptist had ever seen them before. The seventy something, silver haired lady holding onto the arm of a much younger man. On his other arm, he balanced a large aluminum pan, the aroma of its contents causing rumbles in our stomachs like thunder before lightning strikes!
The elderly stranger smiled, then with a distinct Irish brogue, introduced herself as Abbey and the younger man, her grandson Danny. Once Danny found a spot for their potluck dish on the crowded table, Pastor said grace. No sooner was amen uttered, I pushed my way towards the newcomers aluminum covered surprise. Sister Carol, the server opposite me, peeled off the foil cover almost reverently. Oohs and aahs escaped watering mouths like the steam from the intoxicating dish. Once we tasted it, we all agreed it had a very continental flavor, like what you might feast upon in some exotic corner of the world, indescribably delicious!
In between bites I asked Abbey what led her to our small church. Instead she recounted her life with few details. The daughter of missionaries, at seven she traveled to Tanzania where her family ministered fifteen years. From there her own mission work led her to some of the remotest parts of the globe up until a month ago when exhaustion forced her to take time to rest and recover.
Abby then filled her own plate. After a few minutes she began to comment on certain dishes with the expression of a child eating ice cream after being deprived of it for so long.
“What marvelous meatballs!” she exclaimed, “they taste just like kindness, the kind I have seen in some of the bleakest places on earth.”
How odd we thought. Yet somehow we weren’t surprised. Julia had, without grumbling or complaining, taken care of her bed ridden mother-in-law, changing her soiled diapers and enduring insults from the women suffering with dementia. Mother of the man who left them both for another women before disappearing.
“Oh my, this Jerk Chicken is the best I’ve ever eaten! It tastes like integrity and faithfulness with a few dashes of strength that I’ve seen in the poorest countries”.
How odd we thought. Yet somehow not surprised. Joe was a wonderful, loving husband and father of five. Although times were hard and money extremely tight he never lost his integrity, a testimony to the younger men. His strength and faith while his daughter battled leukemia reflected deep intimacy with God.
Then as Abbey took a bite of Molly’s Macaroni and Cheese, a single tear ran down her wrinkled cheek. ‘
“Oh my dear, this dish takes me back to when I was seven. It tastes like the time I had to leave my best friend and go off to Africa with my parents. It was so difficult the first few years in a foreign land but then it became home for me. Years later, my parents were called to minister in another country. I cried so hard, having to leave my African friends. Yet wherever the Lord has led me, I meet so many wonderful people like yourselves.
By now we weren’t surprised at all, recalling the story of how Pastor and his wife Molly met. While on a mission trip to Ireland, Pastor stayed at the home of a local minister who happened to be Molly’s father! They fell in love, got married and a year later Molly left her beloved Ireland for America where Rob was asked to be First Baptist’s new pastor. It was difficult in the beginning but in time America had became her home. The tears now flowed from our eyes because in a few months they were leaving for India where they believed the Lord was calling them as missionaries.
I’ll never complain again about the same old, same old. I’ll be thankful for Swedish Meatballs and Jamaican Jerk Chicken while missing terribly Macaroni and Cheese. And I’ll never forget two strangers who I never saw again, though I won’t be surprised to see them undisguised as I pass through heavens gates. They will be the angels with the Irish brogues!
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