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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Home Group (11/29/07)

TITLE: The Gracious Heart of God
By Deborah Engle


Evangel Baptist Church is on the threshold of a new era. After 37 years, the much-loved Senior Pastor has retired and we are now searching for his replacement. It will become a time of challenge, stretching, and growth for every member. This is Gloria’s story.

The middle-aged woman is still trying to get on an even keel after divorce ended her 30-year marriage. Though she has many needs, she has chosen to have a positive perspective on life. Pastoral counsel and godly messages have provided the strength she needs to make her way in the world. Although unsure how she will cope without that vital support, Gloria realizes it is time for her to “...prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

It’s Sunday today and Gloria will be in church. After the evening service the first of many prayer fellowships will be held. Not altogether comfortable in small groups, she has decided to go anyway - it’s not supposed to be about her, after all. The purpose is to pray for God’s direction concerning the next Senior Pastor.

Choir practice has ended and evening service will begin shortly. As Gloria finds her seat, Pastor Jerry, the assistant pastor, approaches her with an envelope in his hand. “Hi, Gloria,” he says. “I was asked to give this to you.”

Accepting the envelope, Gloria thanks him, but he is already on his way to begin the service. The white envelope is about ¾” thick. Curious, she breaks the seal to have a quick look before the service starts. What she finds is a stack of twenties that have to add up to hundreds of dollars. She is stunned. As the service begins, Gloria quickly tucks the packet away, but she can barely rouse herself to take part in the singing. This anonymous gift is too much for her mind to take in. Later, she is pretty sure the service was inspiring, but she can’t tell you truthfully. Afterwards she looks for Pastor Jerry, hoping to gain some information, but he has made a quick exit to host his own fellowship group.

Gloria attends the prayer fellowship at her friend May’s house. Not wanting any greater distraction, she determines not to count the money until later. There is a good-sized crowd and things are busy but eventually, Gloria and May share a moment. In amazement, Gloria shares her secret. May is delighted for her and wonders, “How much is it?”

Gloria answers, “I haven’t counted it yet, but I’d guess about $400.”

As things begin to get organized, Gloria is able to get involved. After all are fed, there is a short devotional. Everyone’s mind is brought to focus on the need of the hour - God’s will for the future of Evangel and the next Senior Pastor. Then prayers are offered up to that purpose, as 24 people make their way to the throne of God. Gloria is thrilled to hear several young children taking a turn. Some of the adults are normally just as inhibited as her, but the prayers that night are inspired and she feels blessed to be a part of the meeting.

Over the next couple of years there will be many more such prayer meetings, but to Gloria, this one is special. Combined with the 16 other sites, hundreds of petitions are sent heavenward that night. The gracious heart of God is revealed just as much in the warm fellowship and the prayers of surrender and faith as in her unexpected gift.

When she arrives home, Gloria sits down with her Bible and says a prayer before counting the money in the envelope. Her quick estimate of $400 was wrong; instead, there is $1000! Overcome with emotion, she offers it up to God, knowing that only He would know how this money should be used.

God met her needs in an amazing way that day, and over the years Gloria has learned that God is faithful to provide. She has also learned that He is faithful to meet the needs of His Church. Our new Senior Pastor will lead his first official service this week.

Evangel Baptist did not expect their search to last two and a half years, but God knew. This was Gloria’s story. Other members have their own stories and together they represent our pilgrimage to the place God wanted us to be.

Our search has ended. Let the new era begin!

Holy Bible; King James Version; Romans 12:2

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 12/07/07
I love your title, as "grace" has always been my favorite aspect of God. Gloria's story was inspiring.

Consider writing part of this again in past tense, rather than present, to compare the two. I'm thinking that past tense fits the mood of this story a bit better, but it's definitely your call...just an experiment in mood.
Joanne Sher 12/08/07
Definitely inspiring. I could feel her struggles and celebrations.
william price12/09/07
Very good and encouraging. I enjoyed it very much. Fitting title, too. God bless.
LauraLee Shaw12/09/07
Very encouraging story, and the title is fitting.