Monday, February 20, 2006

Northern Exposure...

God bless the Meaford Church of Christ. Meaford is a tiny town on Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada. The church has been there for 150 years, faithfully serving even though geographically and culturally isolated from most of their brethren. Most of the members have gray hair but that doesn't stop them from hosting a wonderful youth weekend every year. This year I was honored by being asked to speak. So, while my son headed for Winterfest in Tennessee (and now is in Mississippi working for Katrina survivors) I went the other direction, crossed the bridge into Canada and headed north. Way, way north.

Snow squalls pounded my car all the way up. Roads were closed in front of me time and time again as I tried to reach Meaford. I knew your prayers were with me so I kept pushing forward and, in time, got to Meaford. I didn't get a count of the kids, but it seems to me that sixty or so teens were there that weekend. A lot of adults were there, too. Most of them were grandparent-aged if not older. Meaford is a faithful, loving congregation that is conservative in its traditions, yet it encouraged the teens to sing as they wanted to sing, the songs they wanted to sing, and the older people didn't cringe at the clapping or 'percussion' that came with some of the more upbeat tunes. They gave the kids homes to sleep in, warm meals, a long list of activities in the afternoon (you know you're not in Gatlinburg anymore when the activities are snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hockey....), and, greater than anything else, their loving approval. I was amazed, impressed, and challenged by their dedication to these teens who must, to them, be a strange species indeed.

The teens weren't afraid to sing their songs and pray their prayers with great faith even as they are raised in an aggressively secular culture. Canada is not the friendliest ground for Christians. There isn't any persecution, but the secular state is loud and insistent. But these kids stood firm and proclaime their faith due, in no small part, to the older people around them who 'held up their arms' without judgment and with great sacrifice.

During Saturday night's devotional a man walked in the back. To make a long story short, his name was Wayne and he wanted some food for the next day. I asked him to wait until the devotional was done so that I could talk to some of the members and see what they could provide. He sat next to me and I got him a couple cups of coffee as we waited for the kids to be done. They kept going past the time I thought they would end but Wayne sat there patiently, sipping his coffee, trying to sing or clap with them when songs punctuated the devotional talk. Eventually, I leaned over and asked him if there was anything else I could get for him. He said, "I'd like some peanut butter for tomorrow. It's two ninety nine at the Spar." We had Spar convenience stores in Scotland so I assumed that's what he meant. I looked in my wallet and there were two Canadian five dollar bills. I gave him one. "Will that be enough?" He said yes and thanked me with a smile. I hope he's okay today. I hope he comes back to the Meaford church of Christ. They'll treat him kindly. They are special servants of Christ. I told Wayne he'd come to the right place.

Because of my position and the fact that our congregation is one of the larger ones in the brotherhood -- and maybe the largest in the north -- I get asked to speak at big events and megachurches quite frequently. I enjoy speaking to them, but I spend 90% of my "away time" at smaller churches like Meaford. It is not a sacrifice, for it helps me more than it helps them. I love seeing how God works in churches of ten, fifty, or a hundred. I love seeing His best servants -- the ones on whose faces you can see the Spirit of God's love -- serving so faithfully, but so unnoticed, tucked away in this or that corner of the globe.

Once again, I thank God for the faithful who serve year after year in tiny churches. They get no applause and are never asked to speak at our major events, but they are the heroes of the faith. I am a better man because I know the faithful at Meaford, DeRidder, Jennings, and a hundred other smaller congregations. May God bless them, for they have surely blessed me.


At 2/20/2006 01:33:00 PM , Blogger Laurie said...

I grew up in Northern Eastern Montana. Back in the 1960's and early 1970's I used to attend a week of summer camp in a little place called Mona, MT. Every year this little tiny congregation invited the kids of MT to stay in the basement of their kitchen and the basement of their building for a week. We had Bible classes, recreation, evening services and the best food you could find. Our only!! task was washing the dishes. One thing that always struck me was this congregation was full of ONLY GRAY HAIR! (or some dyed but you get my drift) The people from the congregations around (probably withing 200 miles) would send both their kids and their teachers to this event once a year. NO child paid to attend. No teacher was paid to teach. The congregation of elderly people cooked for the kids, interacted and loved the kids, bought every piece of the Bible class materials. At my age now, this is pretty astounding, as a kid it was just the best week of summer. If you asked me what one of my favorite childhood memories was I would have to mention this camp as one of them. You are correct about the effect an "older" congregation can have on the future of young Christians (and some of my friends who weren't as well).

At 2/20/2006 11:04:00 PM , Blogger jettybetty said...

Great story! I'm with you--God Bless the Meaford Church of Christ--and the example they are!

From what I hear of the Gatlinburg Winterfest--they could have had snow shoeing and hockey there, too!

At 2/20/2006 11:29:00 PM , Blogger Paul said...

I spent most of my life in little churches. God loves them a whole lot! There are a lot of good, faithful, loving people out their doing their best for the kingdom. Glad to hear your ministry includes lots of smaller churches too!

At 2/21/2006 10:03:00 AM , Blogger David U said...

Wayne is a blessed man for coming in to meet you and the other good folks there, and you are also blessed to have met him.
Maybe he will get to know his Savior and be eating peanut butter with his brother Patrick in Heaven for eternity!


At 2/21/2006 05:27:00 PM , Blogger KentF said...

God bless any elderly Christian for having the maturity to allow younger Christians the freedom to worship as the Spirit moves them. My favorite part of Winterfest in Texas is when Jeff calls up the elders on Saturday evening for prayer. Hate to say it - but many, many Bible belt elders I know would be unhappy with what they see going on at some of our larger youth rallies - sad.


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