It is the end of the first day of the much touted winter storm, one I understand that has been named Leon. I did not know they named winter storms, but whoever “they” are, they must have been doing it a while because they are up L.
I was actually looking forward to this storm. I am about three weeks behind in some office work and have about 300 letters to write. Today was going to be a day to drink coffee and write letters from my office at home. I brought home all of the things on my cluttered desk so I could take care of them.
Just as I settled down to write I received an e-mail from Sasha, our Director of Children’s Ministry. She doesn’t usually send me something unless it is very important, so I stopped writing to check what she had to say. The e-mail was titled “It’s cold outside” and the message said simply, “Dear Pastor Mike, I know that this may be asking a lot but Rob and I were wondering if there was anyway to open the church tonight for those who have nowhere else to go. Rob is willing to stay overnight.”
That was it, but, for me, it was one of those “God speaking to Abraham” moments. A lot of things suddenly started coming together. And I was being asked to go somewhere I did not know. Let me explain.
Several weeks ago I preached on Abraham’s answer to God calling him. I asked the question in my sermon, “Would you be willing to go where you did not you you were going if God called you?” I asked the question of myself, as well as of the congregation, looking at how we usually want to know everything before we start out.
Last week Jim Hunter, a clergy friend in Mt. Pleasant posted on Facebook about how Hibben UMC (where he and his wife are pastors)had been opening their church for homeless people to stay in at night during these cold winter nights. Yesterday I called Jim and asked him about it- logistics, how they communicated to the people about the opportunity, things to watch out for, etc. He told me that they were learning this on the fly. They had only been doing it a week. But he gave me good advice. I told him that we (Highland Park UMC) might do that, but we would need to plan for a while to get it done.Maybe by next winter we could be an emergency shelter for those in need when the temperature dropped below freezing. Jim was the only person I talked with about this. I swear this is true.
Pete Halbert stopped the church a couple of days ago to give me his usual harassment while helping make sure the church buildings are in good repair. He asked me if I knew about the “Church of Whosoever” downtown. I said I did. It’s a ministry to mostly street people, housed in a small building near the railroad tracks on Baroody. Pete was on his way down there to take some clothes and help with some of their building needs. A handyman is a good person to have as a friend!
So….the e-mail comes in from Sasha. I call Sonny Powell, chair of trustees, and ask if we could house some folks, if needed, in the ATTIC. He said (as you would expect), “If there’s people in need of a warm place to stay, and we have a warm place for them, then we ought to do. It’s what the church does.” I called Hope Whaley, our director of youth ministries, to make sure the ATTIC was okay, and she said, “This is great! Go for it!” I called Adriane Woodrum, our new chair of church council and she said, “All the bases have been covered. Looks like this is what God wants us to do.” I called Pete and asked if he would help with transportation. He said, "The roads might be a little dicey tonight....sure, I'll help!"(I love being in a church with people like that!)
So I called Matt Davis at the Church of Whosoever, told him if he had an overflow crowd, that we would house some of them tonight. He was elated!
I sent out an e-mail to the church asking for air-mattresses, sheets, blankets, and pillows, and almost immediately my phone started buzzing. The response has been overwhelming! (Again, I love being in a church with people like that!)
I don’t know if we will have many guests, or any, tonight. But we are ready. If we do, Rob and I will stay there help make them feel warm, and give them a sandwich, and a place to stay, and a listening ear.
Regardless, “I love it when a plan comes together.” It’s not my plan. It’s God’s plan. And I think Hannibal Smith would be proud. (For you whippersnappers who are under forty and do not get the reference, Netflix an episode or two of the old TV show ‘The A Team.’)
Now, if we could somehow figure out the plan to get all those letters typed….