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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: PICNIC - deadline 7-12-12 @ 9:59 AM NY Time (07/05/12)

TITLE: The Annual Summer Church Picnic
By Tim Pickl
07/09/12


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“Welcome everyone to the 99th Annual Summer Church Picnic. What a beautiful day that The Lord has made!”

“Amen, sister! When are you gonna auction some pies?!?” Laughter erupted in the open-aired tent.

“Slow down, Pastor! Many folks are still eatin’. We are so glad you-all could make it, from the youngest to the oldest; and from the newest saint to the founding families. Speaking of the founding families—we’re now going to hear a word from our oldest saint, Sister Elizabeth.”

Sister Elizabeth, now in her mid 80s, feebly rolled over to the aged, mobile wooden podium in her wheelchair. Sister Mary adjusted the microphone, pointing it down so everyone could hear her message.

“Thank you, Sister Mary. I am so thankful to be here. This will probably by my last Summer Church Picnic with all of you—until the marriage supper of The Lamb. Don’t act so surprised. As many of you know, I’ve been battling major health issues the last few years. I’ve been prayed for dozens of times and Jesus has miraculously healed me—and I’m still here, thank The Lord. There is a reason why I’m still here—one of them is sitting right here. Pastor Michael, my loud, silly, ever-joyful son who happens to be the Pastor. He loves making you laugh.”

“Preach it, sister!” Everyone laughed again.

“Now, Michael, you know how I feel about you callin’ me sister.”

“Yes, mama.”

“It has come to my attention that there is a division in the camp.”

“Not now, mama—we don’t wanna learn math!??!”

“Not that kind of division, Michael. There is an argument about whether or not this is the 99th Annual Summer Church Picnic or the 100th Annual Summer Church Picnic. I am thinking really? REALLY? You people want to argue about what number the picnic should be when there are a host of folks right around this pretty park who’ve never heard about the Good News of Jesus? Really?!?”

This time the people clapped in agreement.

“Let me explain. Back in 1972 we had a tornado outbreak in this area and it devastated most of the town, but thank The Lord our church building survived. The Annual Summer Church Picnic that year was cancelled; instead we used all the food and beverages to help families who had literally lost everything. We used what the Lord blessed us with to help others… Sister Mary, can you bring me that ice cream bucket—the one in the back of the tent…right—that one you will clean tables off with later.”

Sister Mary obeyed, smiling.

“Now, I am going to ask the church leaders—especially the Ladies Ministry leaders to come up and sit on the front row by this podium. Come on now, don’t be scared, I ain’t gonna bite you.”

One by one, the good people came and sat in the front row of plastic blue folding chairs. Sister Elizabeth looked toward heaven, and prayed a short prayer, asking for forgiveness for herself and the church.

She then wheeled over to the Pastor.

“Take off your sandals. Gimme your foot.” Shaking his head, with tears, he lifted up his right foot and Sister Elizabeth washed it. Then, she washed his left foot.

Sister Mary stood up as if she was going to leave. “I’m not doing this.”

“Mary.”

Sister Mary froze. “Who said that?”

“Who said what? We didn’t hear anything, except these folks crying.”

“Someone said my name.”

“The Lord is speaking to your heart. You might want to stay, Mary. It’s your choice.”

For a few seconds Sister Mary hesitated, hovering in that eternal moment between fear and faith.

She chose faith.

“Forgive me, forgive us for squabbling over the stupidest little things, Father.” Sister Elizabeth washed Mary’s feet. Mary knelt by Sister Elizabeth, hugging her around the wheelchair, weeping.

Pastor Michael stood up and stepped over to the podium, pointing the microphone so everyone could hear him. “Let’s not wait for another tornado to do the right thing, right here, right now. For far too long, we have—I have—been content in the status quo, living in our own little world when there are precious souls all around us. Let’s take an hour—just one hour of this precious day—and reach out and invite people to join our Church Picnic. The number of the picnic doesn’t matter—the souls around us matter. I will start by asking those boys over there playing basketball.

“Will you join me?”


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This article has been read 293 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/12/12
This is such a gripping story. There are so many truths in it. I'm amazed you were able to pack so much in the limited word count, but you did. I highly suspect, that different people will receive a different message depending on where they are in their journey. that's not an easy hing to do.

Just tiny red ink is when you use Mama as a name be sure to capitalize it. The same thing with Pastor but if you put a a, the, or my in front then it changes from a proper noun to a noun and should be lowercase.

I loved the vision you painted for me of this -- feebly rolled over to the aged, mobile wooden podium in her wheelchair. I did chuckle out loud.

I'm not used to calling people Sister or Saints (I always thought you couldn't be a saint until years after your death) so I had a tiny bit of trouble keeping the two ladies separate in my mind but that is because of me not you. I like exploring things I'm not familiar with and I totally understand it is a way to be respectful. Again you made me laugh aloud when Sister Elizabeth chided her son for calling her Sister. For me, it was especially hysterical because of my unfamiliarity of the words.

You did a great job of nailing the topic while delivering so many messages. it is too easy for churches to get caught in their own membership. I remember a local church donating food to a family but they didn't need it as much as another family did. When suggested to give it to the other family, the request was denied because they weren't members of the church. I just can't imagine how sad that would make Jesus. Your story really made that clear. I think all humans need to be reminded from time to time and you did a great job of doing just that without coming off as preachy or sanctimonious. And on top of all of that you told a fun and interesting story.
CD Swanson 07/13/12
This was a powerful entry. The messages packed into this piece were abundant, and the truths undeniable. Nicely done and nicely written. Thank you, it touched my heart.

God bless~
Myrna Noyes07/15/12
Inspiring story with a great message about our ministry to the world as followers of Jesus.

I liked the dialogue among the people, and through your writing I could see the whole scene unfolding in my mind!

Thank you for sharing this!
Noel Mitaxa 07/15/12
Very evocative entry, with a good mix of homespun humor and wisdom laying a path for a challenge to come through at the close.
Leola Ogle 07/16/12
I really enjoyed this because I did come from an era when church folks were called Sister so and so or Brother or referred to as saints. And the truth that I took from this entry is that we are so guilty as Christians on getting hung up on the trivial (what number is the Church Picnic) instead of focusing on winning souls. Well written and an excellent piece. God bless. (PS, sometimes I'm still called Sister Leola and I don't mind a bit)
Genia Gilbert07/16/12
I enjoyed this. You made several good points that all of us as Christians/church members need to remember. Well written.
Hiram Claudio07/18/12
This was awesome! I too was part of a Sister/Brother/Saint calling church when I was younger (still am!) and the whole scene of the church picnic really brought back some wonderful memories. I really loved the respect given to the eldery woman inthe wheelchair. As i read I could feel her timely and deep wisdom being so respectfully received. And her message was one we all need to follow today too! Nice job!