Carl Carter reached over and patted his wife on the knee as they sat in a line of traffic waiting to exit the mega church’s parking lot. “Don’t give up, honey. We’ll find a church, I promise.”
Though the Carters had only lived in their new city two months, they felt they’d been without a church for much longer. Twelve-year-old Nathan chimed in from the backseat. “I liked this church. It had a bowling alley and the preacher was funny.”
“I liked the church last week,” Nathan’s fourteen-year-old sister, Emily, said as she dug through her purse for a emery board.
“That’s because you thought the youth minister was cute.” Nathan made kissy faces at his sister. She responded by rolling her eyes and mouthing “brat!”
Kathy scanned the church’s bulletin. “They certainly offer a variety of activities. The message was inspirational, but the pastor didn’t read a single verse of scripture during the sermon.”
A traffic cop in a florescent vest waved Carl out of the parking lot.
Kathy turned the bulletin over. “I visit each church with an open mind, but each week I find something that just isn’t right.”
“I bet I know what it was last week,” Carl said.
“Elect Eldo,” they said simultaneously and then exchanged a smile. They had met Eldo Smithers last week when he handed them a campaign flyer during Sunday School. He wanted to be elected to the Building Committee.
“What about that preacher three weeks ago?” Nathan asked as he fired up his Game Boy.
“Yes, that was interesting,” Kathy admitted. When the family had spoken to the preacher before the service, he’d had a Southern twang, but when he preached he sounded more like Jonathan Edwards. He yelled, waved his Bible, said “thee” and “thou” and spoke in a fake English accent.
Kathy looked up from the bulletin and glanced around. “Where are we?”
“It’s a beautiful day, so I thought we’d take the scenic route home.”
“Dad!” Nathan put his Game Boy down. “The Cowboys play at one.”
“Relax. It’s TiVoed” Carl winked at his son. A relieved Nathan returned to his Game Boy.
“I’m just glad we didn’t have to pay our way out of church today,” Emily said as she examined her nails, feigning boredom. The first church they’d visited the pastor had been unhappy with the amount that was in the offering plates, so he’d had the deacons pass the plates until he was satisfied with the total.
“That was the pits,” Nathan said with feeling. “Dad was so hungry and ready to leave, he put kept putting money in the plate.”
“The irony was, that was our lunch money so we couldn’t eat out after church anyway,” Carl said. The family shared a chuckle.
Kathy watched the passing countryside. “This is a beautiful road. Hey, look, there’s a church. They’re having a pic–“ Kathy was cut off when the car hit a bump. The subsequent thumping noise got everyone’s attention.
“Uh oh,” Emily said.
Carl pulled over and got out to inspect the situation. He opened Nathan’s door. “It’s a flat. Come on. I need your help.”
As the women waited in the car, they observed the scene in front of the church building. People of all ages were mingling and eating. The younger kids were involved in a serious game of “tag.” Emily spotted a group of teenagers visiting under a large oak tree. She slumped down in the seat. “How embarrassing.”
A tall, slender man in khaki pants and a short sleeved polo spotted the Carter’s car. Moments later an entourage of three men and their sons, all about Nathan’s age, headed over to help. After brief introductions, one of the men stuck his head in the car. “Ladies, why don’t you go sit in the shade and have some food while we help out.”
“Oh, no, we couldn’t.” Kathy fanned herself with the bulletin.
“We insist. Once a month our congregation has an old-fashioned potluck. Since the weather was nice, we brought it outside. Your family may be the reason we’re out here today. Anyway, there’s more food than we can eat.”
After much insisting, Kathy and Emily joined the other women at a table while Carl, Nathan and the men changed the tire. Actually, Carl and Nathan didn’t have to do a thing.
Two hours later the family got back in the car. They had a fixed flat, full tummies, and a new church family.
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