Volume 1, Issue 8
April 6, 2009

“Hey! Excuse me!” The voice rang over the din of passing cars and the bustle of town. “Can you tell me where I can find the church in this place?”

“The church? What church do you want? They are all over the place,” came the expected reply.

“Well…Let me ask this: Where can I find the people in this town who really love each other?”

“Oh, sorry! I thought you said you wanted to find a church. The only people I know who act like they love each other are just down the street and around the corner to the left. Second place on the right. Same people, always together having a great time! Take care of each other.”

“OK. Hey, thanks. Great day to ya.”

Driving slowly along, so as not to miss the cross-street, the stranger in town looked eagerly to follow the directions given: “First left, second place on the right. Ah, there it is!”

Baffled, he parked and stared at the marquee: “Alabaster Grill: Food and Spirits,” it read. The two benches near the door were occupied by elderly men visiting and laughing; the single outside table was surrounded by several women deep in conversation punctuated with exclamations.

“Well,” he thought, “I did ask for a place where people loved each other. Maybe this is as good as it gets here.”

Just as he entered the front door, a young man paraded by, hat in hand, obviously taking donations. “For what?” the stranger asked.

“Jody’s having surgery tomorrow. Won’t be able to work for six weeks. Kids are having trouble finding enough work to hold them over ‘til she’s back to work. We thought we’d hit each other up for a few bucks to help out. You wanna share? Every little bit helps!”

“Well, OK. Who’s Jody, anyway? How old are the kids? Where can they work?”

“Jody is a regular here. Husband ran off years ago. She washes dishes, irons clothes, run errands for old folks in town, dog-sits, house-sits, anything she can find to do to help out others. The town just kind of chips in to make sure she has rent money and food money. Anything she needs, we find a way to take care of it. Terry, over there, makes sure her car runs good. Kids are 8 and 11; good kids; helpful like their Mom. It’s sad they don’t have a real dad, but lots of us make sure they know how to fish and play baseball. Put yer money in the hat and I’ll be sure she knows you helped out. Thanks, Mack.”

“That’s OK. Glad to help out. Hey, can you tell me where the church is here in town? The guy up the street thought maybe this was it, but it doesn’t look like this is the right place.”

“Church? Which church you want?”

“Well, when I go to towns and get that kind of question, I usually say that I’m looking for the people in town who love each other. You know, followers of Jesus.”

“OK. That doesn’t help much. There are quite a few churches here, for the size of this little town. But, what you ask doesn’t match what I know of them. Most of them squabble about who’s right and which of them are going to hell or heaven or somewhere! I wouldn’t say they love each other. One or two of them pal around together, but I don’t see much love lost between any of them. I even called some of them about Jody, and none of them offered a red cent! Is that love? Followers of Jesus? Maybe, but somewhere I heard that Jesus loved everyone. I don’t think I’m helping you find what you want very well. Any church in particular you want?”

“Thanks. I think you’ve answered my question. What is this place, anyway?”

“Well, it’s just the local hang-out. Folks come all the time and most of us know each other pretty well. Nobody holds anything back and we share all kinds of troubles. You know, like with Jody and the kids. We don’t tell each other how impressive we are or how bad we are; we listen a lot and talk a lot. Some of the folks who have lots of experience with life offer suggestions. Some- times we get mad at each other, but we always work it out because we don’t have anybody else; town’s too small! Life’s too short! We gotta get along! Where you from, anyway, Mister?”

“Me? I’m from the highway; nowhere special. Just travellin’, lookin’ for life, and enjoying it where I find it. Was just reading the Bible the other day about where Jesus said that people would know his disciples by the way they loved each other. So, I’ve been asking around a lot for the people in towns who love each other.”

“Well, what’ve you found out?”

“I’ve found out that a lot of people don’t love each other! I also read in the Bible that the followers of Jesus were called ‘the church,’ or ‘believers,’ or ‘disciples,’ and other things. That’s why I asked about the church. It seems to me that there are lots of places called ‘churches,’ but not many of them are occupied by people who love each other like Jesus loved people. Have you noticed that?”

“Yeah, I sure have. ‘Member, I told you that I called about helping Jody and not one of the churches offered to help out! Something is wrong with that!”

“Well, how come you guys here seem to love each other?”

“I dunno. We just kinda get along and get to know one another and begin caring for each other. We sorta grew into being a family, I guess.”

“Do you have any idea why the churches don’t seem to be like you guys? What hinders them from acting like you do?”

“Maybe they’re too busy being religious. Most of ‘em don’t even act friendly when you see ‘em on the street or at their stores. I don’t trust a lot of them! Seems kind of like their religion cripples them when it comes to loving. Was this Jesus religious like that?”

“Good question! Are there rooms to rent nearby? I think I’d like to stay a couple of days and get to know you folks here better. And, I want to have some discussions with this “family” to see what you really are made of. Would that be OK, do you think? I’d like to tell you some stories about this guy who changed his world, sort of like you guys are doing here, but even more! And, I’d like to see if we can help Jody get back on her feet and maybe I can take her kids fishing. Are there other people in town like Jody?”

Hamstrung – To disable by cutting the great tendon at the back of the hock; cripple; to render powerless or useless; thwart.


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