I had a plan, and Steve interfered—or at least it seemed to be Steve. He suggested we go to “Maggie’s Auctions” and see what they did there on Monday nights. We’d passed the place many times when picking Tina up for church, just a few blocks away.
Grudgingly, I agreed. Unusual for me, I’d actually planned my dinner menu and was looking forward to the chicken and homemade noodles. Of course they could wait a day with no problem, for I knew that once we were there, we’d eat nearby.
And joy! I had a $25 coupon I’d bought for $2 to The Black Sheep, across the street from Maggie’s. Things were looking up.
At the auction, we were uninspired by the merchandise. Never once did I wish I’d gotten a number. Then I noticed that a side room was labeled “Nell’s Kitchen.” Hmmm. I had the vague idea that a Nell who sometimes attended our church worked for Maggie, so I went to Nell’s Kitchen. I hadn’t seen her at church in months, but she’d sent us a Christmas card saying “We’ll be back.” Sure enough, there she was, and she seemed delighted to see me.
“I was at church yesterday,” she said quickly, “but I helped in the nursery. I took my granddaughter down there and it worked out fine. Our daughter was with us, too.” Nell couldn’t get it all out fast enough. “She’s the one that had the son that died four years ago and she’s been going through a bad time recently. She’s going to a therapist who told her she needed to be going to church.” She paused for a breath.
“That’s a great idea!” I said. “Not all therapists recommend that.” As well as I could recall, Nell and Jerry had never brought their daughter with them before this. They had begun by coming to the Bread of Life Café on Wednesday nights and then on Sunday mornings, too. Jerry had told me that Nell had a bad church experience as a child and he’d had to talk her into visiting our church.
“Oh, we’ll be back next week!” Nell assured me, and asked about Steve. I told her he’d stop in before we left. When he did, he got the same joyful greeting that I’d received. We chatted with Nell about her duties for Maggie, her food preparation, and how we were sorry we hadn’t spoken to her on Sunday. She and Jerry always scoot out pretty quickly.
Delighted with talking to Nell, we left the auction to go to the restaurant across the street. Heading up to the crosswalk, I almost bumped into a slender blonde who had just exited the adjacent door.
“Well, hi!” she said. “I live upstairs here. Say, I want you to know—I want to come back to your church!”
“Marcia!” we greeted her and I gave her a hug. “It’s great to see you. It’s been a while. How are you?”
At that moment her boyfriend Chris came out and we shook hands with him, saying that we missed him, too. Chris and Marcia had visited church a couple of Sunday mornings and Marcia comes occasionally to our free Wednesday meals, the Bread of Life Café..
“I’ll tell you—I just love it that your church has AA!*” Marcia said. “I don’t know what I’d do without those meetings to go to.”
“Well, you’re looking really good,” I honestly answered. She looked much healthier than she had a few weeks ago.
“And GA!** I’m so glad you introduced me to those people! I go all the time and Chris goes, too. And on 11/11, a couple that had met there got married and we all went to Red Lobster together. That was such fun!” She rattled on for a while, and then said they had to go. She and Chris promised to see us at church soon.
She kept saying, “I really want to come to your church again!” as though she wasn’t allowed. We assured her she’d be welcome.
I know a bit about Marcia. She has a daughter around 8 that she lost custody of. Perhaps AA and GA will help her be better equipped to raise a daughter. Chris seems like a really nice guy, so perhaps she’s making better companion choices now, too. Time will tell.
As they left, Steve and I grinned at each other. “Who’d imagine that this turned out to be a ministering trip?” Steve said, and I agreed.
“Maybe we should walk the streets of Cheviot some time and see who we run into,” I suggested, and we may do that soon.
I’m convinced that these encounters were not random, but God-directed. He had prompted Steve to “suddenly” have the idea that this was a good afternoon to go to the auction. And I’m so glad I didn’t dig in my heels to have my chicken and noodles that night.
We never know who God wants us to talk to until he thrusts them right in front of us. We just have to keep our eyes open to see them there—and give them hugs.
*Alcoholics Anonymous meets in our church building Monday through Friday at noon.
**Gamblers Anonymous meets there at 7 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays.