Sunday. Day two of rest. I really enjoy going to our hosts' churches on Sunday because I get to spend more time with them and share more life with them. I had a blueberry muffin (which looked funny, but tasted great... Jane attributed the funny look to them being whole wheat) and oatmeal for breakfast.
Tom and I joined the college group Bible study before going to the service and I was very surprised at how many students were in attendence. The teacher was very talkative and was very strong in her conviction of the message she wanted to portray. Her illustrations proved her points well and I certainly identified with much of what she was saying (and a lot of it could be very useful if the listener really connects), but I still had an uneasyness about my time there. Again (like in Hill City), I think it was how she conveyed the message in her tone. I'm sad to say I can't provide a specific example, but it seemed a bit forceful to me... unnecessarily poignant. Or, perhaps I was uncomfortable because I felt like this was much more of a lecture than a seminar. That is, she had points that she wanted to reach, but wouldn't necessarily let conversation arrive at those points (albeit, we weren't the most talkative group. I like to have more time to think about a passage and its implications and through conversation arrive at new realizations). I did sometimes feel like we were being talked down to like children who've misbehaved (it seemed somehow condescending), not young adults seeking God together cooperatively. Now, I feel a little unnecessarily critical of her, but those were the vibes I felt during the lesson.
Maybe I'm thinking too much about this (I tend to do that, sorry). I didn't gain much from the lesson. Either the lesson was not for me (because I have already learned it) or it didn't have time to take hold or (I have to leave open this possible explanation) I was not receptive to the message because of the state of my own heart.
Getting back on track. Gateway Christian Church had great facilities and friendly, committed members. This was for me a very evident result of Paul's legacy of following Jesus Christ. Paul was starting a series on the Beatitudes. Since this was the 36th anniversary of his church, he spent this service sharing what blessings the church has had over the years (and showed a nice slide show of pictures through the years) and covering lessons learned. I took some notes on my phone. Here are some of his church's lessons (these are from my notes and are either paraphrases, summaries, or direct quotes):
"When it comes to God's will: It doesn't matter whether we can afford it, but whether God wants us to do this.
God doesn't need perfect circumstances for His miracles.
No disgrace in failing at great goals. It is only disgrace to have the fear to not make great goals.
He will always provide if we are doing His will.
'Never doubt in the dark what God has proven to be true in the light.'
'It is helpful, but it is not necessary to know and understand what God is doing and why. It is necessary to trust that He knows what He is doing.'
Sometimes He delivers us to the fire instead of from the fire. He has promised to always be with us through the valley, through the storm, through the fire."
We went out to eat lunch at a place called Zapatas (I think). I had the Mexican buffet. We were joined by their intern, Josh, and his girlfriend, Julie. Also there was Anna, a young lady we met in the college group, and Julie's sister. It was a pleasant lunch. Many thanks are in order for how Paul and Jane provided for me and Tom and for how we were welcomed by the others at the table.
At about 4 or 5 pm, Tom, Jane, and I arrived at the picnic. The kids were just finishing up their slip-n-slide with mustard and relish. Gross, but fun for a young boy. I played volleyball, my favorite sport (to participate in). Supper was fantastic. You really can't beat a church potluck. At the end, there were a couple testimonies and I was really touched to see how much Gateway meant to the couple of people who spoke about their experience at Gateway. It reminded me a lot of Bennington Bible Church in Kansas. Community. That's what I see making such impacts in their lives. I was also touched that Paul prayed for me and Tom before the whole congregation. That was so unexpected and so precious. I praise God for His children and the love they showed to me. I am really awestruck by their care and compassion... and for them it was second nature. They loved with such ease.
Before I went to bed I squared away plans for Monday. I was in touch with the Carlyle Church of God in Illinois. Pastor Wagner was one of the kindest people I spoke with and I'm sad I never got the chance to meet him. I remember thinking about his initiative in trying to help us. On the Katy trail Thursday and Friday, I spoke with him and a Lutheran church. I thought I'd be able to secure something with the Lutheran church because our conversation was so upbeat, so I told Pastor Wagner that I thought we'd be taken care of. The Lutheran Church ended up falling through, but Pastor Wagner made it clear that if the Lutheran Church couldn't help he would work something out for us. And that he did. He arranged for us to meet with a member of his congregation (Carol) at the Eldon Hazlet State Park campground at the Carlyle Reservoir. There, we could pitch our tent (plot paid for by Carol) and Carol would feed us supper and breakfast as well as give us some money collected for us at the Sunday service. I really couldn't believe that once again someone (and his church) would reach out to us like this. It really makes me want to cry each time I think about it. Pastor Wagner really hit the ball out of the park, even with my curveball pitch.
We took our second consecutive day of rest in St. Louis, Missouri on Sunday, June 7, 2009.