October 23, 2017

A Long Cold Trip

It was a cold blustery Sunday morning in mid- winter. I had been invited to preach to a congregation in the next county. The church is in an isolated part of the county and we had never attended a service there. The journey to a place where one has never been before often seems endless. So it was on that morning. Mile after mile, over hills and around blind curves we went. There was a coating of snow on the road. A light snow continued blowing unceasingly. Would we ever get there?

Then, there was the little town! It was strung out along the road with sharp curves to the right and the left. But, where was the church building? We were almost to the far edge of the community. Then we made a sharp left turn, over a bridge, up the hill and there it was! A typical country frame building. It was surrounded on two sides by a grave yard with two outhouses and a coal pile out back. Only three or four cars were in the muddy parking lot.

Clutching our Bibles we hurried through the biting cold wind and entered the building. When you enter a one room church building, one step takes you from the outside into the auditorium. However, we found ourselves, not at the back of the building but at the front. The front door entered right beside the pulpit stand. The seating capacity was perhaps sixty. A large coal stove stood right in the middle of the building. And there was the congregation! Seven shivering souls, huddled about the stove. My wife and I were very young and to us the congregation seemed very old.

We received a very warm welcome.

After delaying services about fifteen minutes past starting time, they decided there would be no “late comers” and so the service began. The singing was poor, the prayers were awkward, the Lord’s supper was taken with surprising dignity and sincerity and it was time for the sermon.

Upon mounting the pulpit I found myself in a cold place some twenty feet from the stove. (On other occasions I learned to preach with my overcoat on.) I gathered myself together and proceeded to preach to the group of seven with all the enthusiasm I could muster. The sermon was entitled, “Would Thou Forget Thy God?” I spoke 25 minutes. And the service was dismissed.

The three or four men present huddled after services. After their little impromptu business meeting was over they invited me to come back and preach for them, the first Sun- day of the month for the rest of the year. Then to the second item of business — my pay. They said they usually gave the preacher the whole contribution when they had preaching, but the contribution that day only totaled $6.50. Therefore, they agreed that considering the distance I had come, they would dig into the treasury and give me $10.00.

The trip back home didn’t seem nearly so long and we were excited! Imagine — an invitation to preach once a month for ten months!

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