If you care about your church, pray for it. That conviction inspired my parents to drive to church half an hour early to pray for the service on Sunday. All did not go as planned.
On the snaking county road to church, they saw a woman in a black dress and pink-lensed glasses walking up the shoulder of the road toward the next town. She left behind a pickup truck decked with deer horns, a volunteer firefighter’s light, and almost enough bumper stickers to obscure the vehicle’s red paint.
My parents stopped. “We ran out of gas,” the woman said, indicating a man who sat in the truck. She explained that her mother-in-law had died and they were on the way to her benefit. “But we’ve got to get to Aunt Susie’s in Avoca,” she said. “She has gas money for us. We thought we could get up this hill, but we couldn’t.”
Dad asked if she had a gas can, invited her into the car, and drove her back toward her vehicle. “Give this nice man your gas can,” she said to the man in the truck.
My father stopped to drop my mother off at the church on the way to the gas station. He put the Crock-Pot in the basement, took a gospel tract and a church conference brochure for the travelers, and left my mother to pray. Soon after entering the church, Mom saw that flies covered the basement steps, and that an exterminator’s bill lay on the guest book in the foyer. She sat down in the pew to pray anyway. “I should clean up those flies,” she thought. Soon the pastor’s wife arrived, and they cleaned the stairs together. She had prayed for five minutes.
At prayer request time during the service, my father raised his hand.
“I had the opportunity to help out some people on the road this morning,” he said, adding a petition that the church pray the wanderers would walk through our little red door one day.
Having driven separately and arrived five minutes late, I knew nothing of the encounter he described. “My gosh,”I thought. “How early do you wake up?”
“It is such a picture of the gospel,” my mother said later, “to want to borrow money from Aunt Susie. It’s such a picture of exactly how we come to Christ. We can’t get there. God has to rescue us. I saw her and said, ‘That lady walking alongside the road is me.’ It reminds me of that hymn: ‘Without money, without money, come to Jesus Christ and buy.’”
When I move away from home, no cable package will ever make up for the pleasure of living with evangelistic parents. Bemoaning the state of the church in America has become popular. But I sat in Starbucks this week listening to the man adjacent to me tell a woman with no teeth about Christ’s death, and explaining that God had designed her for fellowship with Him. I wanted to stand up, wave my arms, and say, “I’m a Christian, too, and you make me so excited!” We can rejoice that in many unknown corners, the church itself marches on, spreading its flame.