Early in the morning, Wesley Johnson slipped outside to breathe in the crisp air of the Appalachian Mountains. He set forth along a familiar path that led deep into the woods. Several favorite spots were within a few minutes walk, but today he headed to the heights. His heart was heavy; he craved additional time in quiet meditation and prayer.
Wesley had moved with his family to this remote, backwoods, little town some months ago. At the time, he was sure God was calling him to be the preacher of a tiny little church, but now his mind was filled with questions and second-guessing.
His mind focused on the words of a favorite verse almost like a chant. “In the morning, oh Lord, you hear my voice. In the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”*
A brisk pace kept away the chill, his breath clouding in front of him as he repeated the words again and again. Abruptly his body shuddered; pent-up frustrations bubbling inside him violently erupted, rising to heaven as a fervent cry for peace and affirmation, his heart and mind fending off the scorching pain of disappointment and failure.
He slumped upon a fallen log, holding his head in his hands. “God, I shouldn’t have come here. I thought you were calling me to this church. But I’m an outsider here. And to these proud mountain people, I will always be a flatlander--they won’t even talk to me. Plus bills are piling up and… I just don’t know what to do.”
A swirling breeze rippled through the pine bristles, warm rays of morning sunlight lightly kissed the tears on his upturned face, and a peace that was beyond understanding whispered in a tantalizing fragrance:
“I know. That’s My job.”
Wesley snatched the phone on the second ring, delighted that anyone would call, answering with a hope-filled “Hello, this is Brother Wesley.”
“Hello, Brother Wesley, this is Mildred Huddleston. I want to ask a favor of you.”
Wesley breathed in deeply and held it, finally saying tentatively, “Yes, Sister Mildred, what is it?”
“Well, the other day when you were preaching, you mentioned you’re pretty good at fixing automobiles and appliances. Well, I need someone to help out at the store from time to time, making deliveries and installing appliances that folk purchase from the store. I can pay you a little and give you a discount on anything you might need.”
Wesley was startled, remembering how just this very morning he had prayed about the bills piling up. He looked up, silently mouthing the words, “Thank you for hearing me.”
Later that day, he stopped at a small house sorely in need of a new paint job; a rebuilt washing machine was sitting in the back of Mildred’s truck. Hearing the vehicle pull up, a young woman ambled outside. She was hauling a baby in one arm while a toddler held tight to the opposite leg; her expression held a mixture of excitement and weariness.
Wesley’s warm greeting received a curt nod; subsequent efforts to draw her into pleasant conversation brought forth one-word answers. Painfully, he learned her name was Sarah and the boys were Jefferson and Robert Lee, Jr.
Gradually he settled into his task, hooking up the washing machine where she wanted it, absently humming as he worked. Suddenly Sarah blurted, “I know that song--the one you’re humming. My Granny loved that song.”
Surprised by the sudden wellspring of words, Wesley gathered himself quickly, “Why, it was my Granny’s favorite, too. She taught it to me long, long ago.”
Sarah relaxed, “You’re not from around here, are you?”
Wesley smiled, “No, you can tell by the way I talk, can’t you?”
“Yeah, it’s funny!” she said. “Not bad or anything,” she added quickly. “Just different.”
Wesley nodded. “Actually, I’m the new preacher down at the little white church--do you ever go there?”
He watched as her eyes grew large as lemons. “I’ve never know any preacher to be delivering washing machines,” she exclaimed. “I don’t go often, but sometimes I do go. You’re really a preacher?”
Wesley nodded, remembering again how he had prayed just this very morning how none of the mountain people would talk to him.
God answered in the strangest way. His new part-time job would help pay the bills and also bring him to meet people he would never meet otherwise.
“I know. That’s My job.”
*Psalm 5:3 (NIV)
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