A young man I used to babysit got married recently to a gal from another community. They decided to get married at his church since they wanted to have the reception celebration out at his family farm. The evening before the wedding, the couple stood under the beautiful lights strung through the trees above the dance floor in expectation of the next day’s events. The reception tent for the guests was set up and looked more beautiful than they had ever imagined. In the morning all the hustle and bustle of a wedding began at the bride’s home. When the phone rang, the bride answered and heard the groom share some devastating news. He informed her of a wind storm that had passed through the farm and the mess it left behind. The reception tent had been completely destroyed, leaving the linens and other décor soaked and muddy. As she hung up the phone, with tears in her eyes, she told her mom, “God has a plan.” And that He did…
News of the destroyed reception site spread quickly in the small community and soon everything from the farm had been hauled to a shed by the elevator in town. The day went on and as the bridal party prepared for the ceremony, friends and family, and even a few individuals who were practically strangers, got to work. Someone took all the table linens home to wash and press them, chairs and tables were cleaned at the fire department, a local farmer dropped off a couple massive tarps to create walls like a tent inside the shed. It was truly all hands on deck, and at one time someone counted over eighty people at the site helping. There were others who were out and about gathering items and a woman who was folding and pressing table linens. When the newlyweds arrived at the reception, the groom covered his new bride’s face with his cowboy hat only to reveal the reception looking exactly how it had been left the evening before.
I had heard some of this story on Facebook through the groom’s mom, but was blessed to hear it first hand from the bride’s parents while we were at the fair. I stopped by their show box in the cattle barn to congratulate them on their daughter’s marriage and shared how I knew the family. The bride’s mom couldn’t help but share how complete strangers had helped them in their time of need and she was completely overwhelmed by the love and generosity they had experienced in my little hometown community. As she shared, it reminded me of the community of believers we read about in Acts 2. “42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The early church did everything together and for one another; they sacrificed what they had so everyone’s needs were met, they worshiped God together, and led a life filled with joy – together.
After some reflection, it caused me to wonder how well I’ve been participating in the community I am part of. Have I offered help with an outstretched hand to those in need? How do I welcome a stranger into my community to share in the joys and sorrows of life? I’d encourage you to do the same. Maybe even stop and wonder how we as a congregation are doing. How well have we welcomed the stranger into our community so we can praise God together? Are we a community that shares life with others, no matter the cost, all for the Kingdom of God? This scripture is one of my favorites because it is a beautiful picture of God’s people sharing Christ’s love with all they encounter. I want to be like that, and I pray it would be so of our church family as well.
Blessed to be part of this community,
PS – The woman who washed the linens lost her house in a fire several years ago. Completely overwhelmed by love and generosity she experienced, she wanted to pay it forward. After some conversation at the reception, it turns out the bride had anonymously sent a few of her favorite toys to this woman’s children after the fire. Neither of the ladies had any idea of this and had never met until they were at the reception and the bride’s mom wanted to thank the kind lady who had washed the linens. Wow! I just love those little stories God leaves for his faithful servants to find!