Gray clouds opened without mercy drenching the picnickers by the river. Men huddled around the BBQ desperately trying to keep the food dry while it cooked. Children squealed, splashing about in puddles. Ladies put the final touches to the pot-luck lunch table under the covered area. Jerry and his youth group continued to play baseball despite getting soaked. Kyle looked up from the salad she was preparing, smiling broadly as she watched Jerry make a home run. Everyone cheered regardless of what team they were on.
Kylie had met Jerry three years previously when he visited the church she and her parents attended. A few weeks later, she discovered that he worked at the local hospital where she was undergoing her nurse’s training. With similar interests, their friendship grew. Her parents had liked him from the time he’d arrived and often he would share a meal at their home.
Jerry had a heart for youth, developing a youth group over those early months. With the increase in church attendance, Kylie became involved with the music ministry to help out and eventually took over the leadership from her mother. They had worked as a team ever since. Kylie smiled remembering the frustration of teaching him a new song. She recalled a surprise birthday party her parents held for him. His widowed mother secretly flew out for the weekend. Jerry was Kylie’s best friend. She didn’t want to lose him.
In less than three months, Jerry, an already qualified eye surgeon, was going to attend a Bible seminary on the west coast before heading to China. Her heart ached as she thought of losing him. Lord, you have a plan for his life. Don’t let me hold him back.
Jerry waved as he approached the shelter. He had mud smeared down his left side and a single wet curl stuck to his forehead. The rain eased and the clouds evaporated as if on cue. Kylie laughed and wanted to embrace him, but it wasn’t protocol. Their behavior needed to be a witness to the vulnerable young people he instructed. Some were from broken homes. One girl had been abused by a jealous boyfriend.
Throwing Jerry a towel, Pastor Michael laughed. “Jerry, we’re going to miss you.”
Pastor Michael invited Jerry to give thanks for lunch. Kylie bowed her head. Silently she added her own prayer that she may release Jerry into His will and not her own.
A small group of friends from their Bible study class sat talking with Kylie and Jerry at the end of a picnic table. The day had become warm and some of the youth were sitting on the river bank dangling their feet. Jerry kept a tender brotherly watch over a couple in their mid teens who were chatting closely in the shade of a nearby tree. Parents had gathered at the playground with their children while Pastor Michael sat at another table talking to a newly married couple. It was a perfect day.
Pastor Michael joined them at the table, talked briefly to Jerry before sounding his famous whistle to bring his flock together. Kylie always thought of Pastor Michael as a shepherd. He was also like a father to her since her own parents died in a boating accident last summer. I’m losing Jerry too, Lord. Help me to be thankful for this family you have given me.
“Everyone,” the Pastor began. “I’m so glad the Lord allowed the sun to shine on us today. Not only because we would have had a soggy lunch, but we wouldn’t have had the privilege of enjoying each other’s company in such a relaxing way. This is our last picnic before the end of summer, which means it’s also the last church family picnic with Jerry. Although he’ll be with us until the end of fall, I think it’s a good time and place for Jerry to share some of his future plans.”
Jerry stood and stepped forward, a little to the right of Kylie. She smiled, but inwardly her heart ached as she thought of his final weeks with them. She hardly heard the words he spoke. It was like she was stepping into sad dream.
“I have one more thing to add,” she finally heard him say. She looked up to see him retrieve something from his pocket.
He knelt down on one knee. “Kylie, would you do me the honor of being my wife?”
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