Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Encouragement (among believers) (11/08/07)
TITLE: The Living Artifact
By Marlene Bonney
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The old saints and their testimonies echoing around the sanctuary corners from ages past, steadfastly linger, as if they are mounted on the cement-block walls, invisible, yet urging hearts onward and upward.
I remember a boy, Sonny was his name, who held onto me so tightly I thought his knucklebones would burst through his skin. In spite of a poor home life, he was a sweet boy and I loved watching friends cheer him along.
Then there was Mazie, an elderly widow, whose tears ran freely down my back as she fought for strength, her family having decided she belonged in a Care Home. Oh, how her supporters hugged and prayed over her that morning!
Years later came Mr. Miller, a stock market groupie who had lost a fortune and was destitute, living from one shelter to another until one of the church members brought him here. I was his anchor while he rocked back and forth on bent knees, pleading for Godís mercy. It was glorious to see all the professional businessmen praying in a circle around him, and one gave him a job!
Then, a few months back, I watched in disbelief as backslider Denny LaRusso rededicated his life to Christ! How the ďhallelujahsĒ rang that morning! And I saw, though now concealed, all the cards sent to him and the tears shed by his family, along with hundreds of prayers. And the joy on his face as he pounded my back was priceless!
So plainly I can see Doug, a mentally-challenged 30-yr.-old, singing off-key praises to God in a monotone voice, as he sways to the praise music. I was awed at the tolerance and love showered on him by the others and thought how much God delights in the pure and simple hearts of ďone of these the least of my brothersĒ.
As if yesterday, I recall the Donnelly boys, those pesky twins who would crawl all over me for attention. One became a Sunday School teacher, and the other, a missionary pilot. How their Sunday School teacher took them on little excursions, provided them with little New Testaments, and prayed for their souls!
Iíll never forget Johnny Wright. It was in Ď44, I believe, when he was drafted and sent off to war. The whole church would hand me letters to him, praying for his safety and quick return. He was killed in action a year later, but all those letters, every single one, were found in his footlocker, smudged use. Now his invisible face graces one of these old walls, along with scores of others, as they applaud the souls still in this world.
Itís been a long while now since anyone has approached me and Iíve begun to think Iím a relic of the past. But, itís hard to stay discouraged when Godís shining face shows through His sunlight waltzing across the stained glass windows of His church.
And, gradually, the silence is replaced by people entering the sanctuary for the Sunday morning service, greeting each other and holding dozens of fragmented conversations while the organ warms up for the prelude.
But something seems different as I observe the tableau before me. Pastor Kinglsey stands, arms raised in supplication, while the people in the congregation confusedly search their bulletins for the dayís program. The rattling papers subside and a great hush suspends over all of us, like a great floating open tent coming down from heaven through the ceiling. And the only audible sound is Mrs. Barkís hearing aid humming in the background.
Suddenly, out of the silence comes a soft rustling, like a whispered breeze of a yesteryear. The Pastor then does an extraordinary thing. He comes forward and kneels against me, softly pleading for Godís Presence to be felt by each person present. Soon, one by one, his flock joins him here with me, clasping each otherís hands and encircling my rails until all are linked in unity. The LOVE present here, in this room, has never been stronger and I hear the invisible faces cheering reassurances from the sidelines.
And it is then I realize that I, the hand-hewn, tear-polished 85-yr.-old altar of Faith Heritage Church, will never be a relic.
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