If you've been keeping up, we've covered alot of ground... tornadoes in T'town, three groups setting out to serve and getting split up, only to have two groups serve in ways they didn't think would ever happen... and another group finding out that sometimes God sends you in a direction and only lets you think you know the final destination. If you haven't kept up, then by all means, you can read here:
Installment One, featuring Parts 1 - 3
Installment Two, featuring Parts 4 - 8
Installment Three, featuring Parts 9 -12
Installment Four, featuring Parts 13 - 15
Installment Five, featuring Parts 16- 20
Installment Six, featuring Parts 21 - 23
And you can join me soon for the final installment. But for now, here's Part 24...
Faith walked back in the children’s room with two small paper sacks in each hand and a cell phone wedged between her ear and shoulder.
“Why yes,” Faith smiled to the person she was talking to, “It’s quite amazing. I had no help and these four just showed up at the door. It was as if God had sent them himself!”
Some of the kids were already asleep, and a few were playing quietly in the corner. Steph, Amy, Shawn and Matt were no longer participating in the playtime of the children, but now just supervising and observing.
She set the bags on the table, pointed at Amy and then the bags.
“These are for you,” she mouthed, going back to the phone conversation. “Really? How weird is that?”
Amy watched as Faith’s face went from a normal expression to one of complete joy.
“That’s so incredible! I’m so happy for her! Wow, I’ll have to share that with my new volunteers here! Well, they say the roads won’t open up here until at least four in the morning, so I might be here for the night. Okay, the connection is breaking up… well, my battery is full, so it’s either your battery or the lines are going down again. Bye!”
She hung up the phone and turned to Steph, Matt, Amy and Shawn.
“My friend just told me that my niece just became a Christian!”
“Wow, that’s awesome!” Steph said.
“That’s so exciting to me,” Faith said as she handed the four bags to each person, while explaining her conversation, “Claire is someone who really needed direction. And listen to this: I have a friend who works at a Waffle House down the interstate, and much like I was, they were overwhelmed. And like the four of you, some people just randomly showed up and started helping out! She said they could not have survived without them! She said that one guy was cooking, one was waiting tables, someone was washing dishes, and one of them even sat down with my niece and gave her the plan of salvation! They prayed right there at the counter!”
“That’s so cool,” Shawn said, sitting in one of the children’s chairs.
“That’s so God,” Amy added.
“That’s so Drew and them, is what that is,” Matt replied.
“You think it was Drew, Tommy, Jennifer, Tom and Justin?” Steph looked at Matt.
“I dunno,” he replied, unwrapping the sandwich he’d picked out of the bag given to him. “But that could be them. It wouldn’t surprise me at all.” Then he perked up, looking at Faith. “If you used your cell phone, that means that some lines are up!”
Amy pulled hers out of her pocket quickly and started dialing. First she dialed Michael’s.
“No answer,” she said, hanging up. Matt was trying Ginger’s, with the same results.
Neither Drew’s, nor Justin’s, nor Jennifer’s picked up, and there was no answer to Tom’s pager.
“Can we use your phone to call?” Amy asked Faith. “We can call back and at least see if they are there.”
“You can try, but I think either Bethany’s battery was dying or there was no connection.” Faith handed her phone to Amy, and she dialed in the number as it appeared on the phone screen.
“Nothing,” she sighed, closing the phone.
“Well, I guess we can hope they are okay,” Shawn said, chewing his sandwich.
“Matt?” Faith asked. “I have to do rounds in a few minutes. I haven’t been able to do them because I’ve been in here all afternoon, but before I do that, will you do me a favor?”
“Sure. What can I do for you?”
“I’d like you to read the Christmas story to the boys and girls who are awake.”
“Yes ma’am, I’d love to,” Matt smiled.
25. MRS. KELLER
“That’s about the poorest job I’ve ever seen of cutting firewood there, boys,” Roger sneered as Michael and I brought in an armful of roughly chopped wood.
“Hey, it’ll burn,” Michael replied. He lowered his voice and muttered, "You can take this wood and..." He stopped after I kicked him in the back of the leg. He glared at me, muttering softly, "Stupid Mexican..."
We set the wood right beside the front door on a metal rack I had not noticed earlier, and went inside. Ginger and Mrs. Keller sat in the living room, Ginger on the couch and Mrs. Keller on a rocking chair.
“Come in, boys, have a seat,” she smiled to us. “Ginger was just telling us about how you two work with youth at your church. That’s so wonderful.”
I smiled and sat on the couch with Ginger, while Michael sat on the rug in front of the couch.
“Baby, I’m going to bed,” Roger grunted, walking towards the bedroom. “You holler at me if any ‘them boys does something, or if that girl does something.”
“Go to sleep Roger, I’ll be in there directly.”
She looked as if she was forcing a smile as she watched him disappear into the kitchen that led to the bedroom. She turned to us and sighed, “His health is failing more everyday, but I guess that happens when you hit 70. He’s too stubborn to go to the doctor, but what worries me most is that he’s not a Christian. One day, the good Lord will get tired of waiting on him to get some common sense, and he’ll take Roger away. And by then, it’ll be too late.”
Mrs. Keller began to ask each of us about our backgrounds, who we were, where we were going and generally grandmother-like questions. Nothing was too personal, but everything was more than a yes-no answer.
She told us of her childhood growing up, and how she had accepted Christ as a young child. She told us of meeting Roger, their courtship, and how she fell in love with him.
“Married in 1949, we were,” she smiled. “He was 19, I was 15, and we were so in love. But let me warn you, if you don’t have the Lord in the center of your marriage, it’s a lot harder than it has to be.”
For the next few hours, in the light of only the fireplace and a few candles, I felt as if I was five years old again, listening to grandmother’s stories. When I glanced at Michael and Ginger, they both had a very attentive tone, as we were all three hanging on every word she had to say.
About midnight or so, she pointed to a small end table in the corner.
“Michael, can you hand me that bible there on that table?” she asked.
“Yes ma’am,” Michael said. He stood up and was forced to pick up the huge book with both hands. He walked over to Mrs. Keller, but she held her hand up.
“No, I don't think I'll be able to this time. Could you hand it to Ginger?”
“Um… okay,” he turned and handed the book to Ginger, whom I could tell underestimated its weight. When she put her hands under it and Michael let go, she almost dropped it on the coffee table in front of us.
“Now David, if you’ll look on the mantle, you’ll find a small oil lamp with some matches beside it. Could you light it and set it in front of Ginger so that she may see?”
“Yes ma’am,” I stood up and walked over to the mantle. I lit the oil lamp and brought to Ginger.
“Now, Ginger, would you mind reading the story of Jesus’ birth before I go to bed?” “I would love to, Mrs. Keller,” Ginger smiled, as she opened up the large cover and began flipping to Luke.
“Wookiee, what’s your favorite Bible story?” Brit asked.
“You know, Brit, I don’t know,” Wookiee replied. “I guess I never thought about it.”
“Do you have one?”
“Well, I guess maybe not. I like a bunch of them, but I never really picked out a favorite.”
“Would you like me to pick you a favorite, so you’ll have one when somebody asks?”
“I think that would be a great idea. I’d really like to have a favorite bible story. What do you suggest?”
“I think your favorite bible story should be…” Brit leaned her head on the pillow like she was thinking really hard. “It’s Christmas, so your favorite Bible story should be Jesus’ birthday.”
“I like that story, Brit. I think that’s a great suggestion, and just because you picked it out, the birth of Jesus is my new favorite Bible story.”
“Okay, that’s cool! Now, since it’s your favorite Bible story, can you read it to me?” Brit smiled at Wookiee.
“Yes, I can,” Wookiee smiled back, taking the children’s Bible from her hands and flipping it open.
“I’m so excited!” Bethany put her arms around Claire, who still had tears in her eyes. “I just got off the phone with your Aunt Faith, and she was about to cry too!”
“I’m glad the place isn’t very full right now,” Claire laughed, wiping her running mascara away. “I looked like a wreck anyway with Mr. Keller in here earlier, and now this!”
Jennifer, Tom, Drew, Justin and Tommy kind of stood back in a line, all with big smiles on their faces.
Jerome, the cook, walked from behind the counter and put his arms around Claire, and with his deep, booming black voice said, “Praise God for you, Claire. Me and Nancy been prayin' for you for as long as I've been here.”
“No, praise God for these guys,” Claire smiled and looked at the five standing together.
“Yes, very much so,” Bethany walked to them. “You are like angels sent here from heaven, all of you!”
“Thanks for the free dinner,” Tom smiled.
“I wish we could pay you,” Jerome said. “You need to come work with me, Tom. You make a mean hash brown.”
Justin pulled a wad of cash out of his pockets and set it on the counter.
“That’s about fifty dollars or so, Claire,” he said. “That’s not much, but put it towards your college money for law school.”
“No, I couldn’t…”
“Take it,” he cut her off. “I don’t need it right now.”
“Yeah, now all you need is about twenty nine thousand, nine hundred and fifty dollars instead of the thirty thousand for a year at Harvard,” Tommy cracked.
“Alright,” Bethany said, “its almost midnight! It’s almost Christmas Eve! Someone has to read the Christmas story!”
“In here?” Drew asked.
“Yes!” Bethany replied. “It’s a tradition. You know we are open 24 hours a day, all year long, so every year at midnight on Christmas, someone reads the story of Jesus. If the customers get offended, there are a thousand Waffle Houses in Alabama they could go to.”
“But it’s only Christmas Eve,” Jenn said.
“Doesn’t matter,” she smiled. “We’ll make a special exception because you are here. Drew, would you read it for us?”
28... THE CHRISTMAS STORY
Leslie sat on the end of Ty’s bed, away from his harnessed leg, and had been there for about two hours or so, when Ty asked for the Bible on the nightstand.
“Do me a favor,” Ty asked.
“Anything Ty,” she said.
“Read the story. Turn to Luke, and read it to me,” Ty said. “It’s Christmas, and I’d like to hear it.
“Certainly,” she smiled. She opened up the book to the second chapter of Luke, and using her fingers to find her place, started at verse one.
“In those days Caeser Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone went to his own town to register.”
Matt looked out to the kids sitting in front of him, and to Amy, Steph, Shawn and Faith that were in the audience, and continued reading. He tried to be as expressive as he could reciting God’s word, saying “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him, and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Drew took a sip of water before continuing the reading. He looked up and realized he had the entire attention of the restaurant, which, while not full, had several people in booths and at the counter.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Wookiee smiled as he read, noticing that Brit had drifted off to sleep. He debated on slipping out, but he decided to finish reading his new favorite Bible story. Softly, he read, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’”
Ginger squinted in the dark light of the oil lamp, but the print was rather large, so she didn’t have much trouble seeing the words. She read, “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
“That was beautiful, Ginger,” Mrs. Keller smiled. “Let me get you some blankets and such. I only have one extra pillow, and that will be for Ginger here. You boys will have to rough it on the floor.” She stood up and walked to a small door on the opposite wall from the fireplace. She pulled out three blankets and the pillow she spoke of.
“David, Michael, here are some sweats and old cloths you can bundle up and use for pillows. They are clean, so don’t worry about catching anything. And for Ginger, I have one pair of clean socks. I would give you boys a pair to warm your feet, but I’m afraid all I have are Roger’s socks, and you’d probably catch some sort of unidentifiable fungus.”
“Wouldn’t change anything from my usual socks,” Michael whispered to me.
“Now, can I ask one more favor of the three of you?”
“Yes ma’am,” I replied.
“Would you pray with me tonight? I don’t get out a whole lot, and I haven’t had anyone to pray with me outside of church in, oh, twenty years.”
“What would you like us to pray about, Mrs. Keller?” Michael asked.
“Oh, anything really. Let’s pray for your safety and that your friend is okay. We can pray for all your friends who might have gotten caught in the storm. We can pray for how wonderful Jesus is, and thank God that he let Jesus be born. And we can say a prayer for Roger.”
Mrs. Keller grabbed my hand, I grabbed Ginger’s, she grabbed Michael’s and Michael completed the circle by taking Mrs. Keller’s free hand.
Wookiee put the Bible down on the table, and smiled at Britany’s slumbering body. He put his head down and whispered, “God, I don’t know where I go after this, but thank you for my new friend. Take care of her. Take care of her sister, who works at Waffle House. She’ll need the prayer if she works at Waffle House. You just taught me a lot through this little girl, so don’t let me forget it. Amen.”
He looked around and grabbed the chart off the end of the bed. He took the pen out, and ripped out an empty piece of paper from the back of the chart.
He scribbled “Remember, Jesus will always love you and so will I. Your friend, the Wookiee.”
Chris stuck it in the Bible and stood up. He paused for a second, and then lightly reached over and kissed her forehead.
“Oh, and God,” he smiled as he looked up. “If I ever have a daughter, use this one as a model.”
He turned to walk out and jumped when he saw a nurse standing there.
“Who are you and why were you praying over Brit?” she asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Wookiee explained. “I came in here accidentally thinking this was a different room, and she started talking to me. So, we chatted for a while.”
“Yeah, we had a long conversation.”
“With this little girl here in this bed?”
Wookiee was a bit puzzled at this question, because not only did he see no other little girl she could be confused about, he saw no other bed.
“Yes ma’am. We talked about Batman, Star Wars, Jesus and stuff. Smart kid. She asked me to read her the Christmas story, and she fell asleep. I just said a quick prayer for her.”
The nurse put her hands to her mouth, and then used her shoulder to wipe away a tear that quickly appeared. “I’m sorry, but Brit is my niece. She’s been so lonely. She never talks to anyone.”
She looked up at Wookiee and back at Brit. “I don’t think you realize how much God has used you tonight. She really needed a friend, and anyone she talks about Batman to is considered her friend.”
“Oh, I think God used her too,” he replied. “Faith like a child. I have to keep remembering that.”
“My name is Faith,” she stuck her hand out.
“Nice to meet you,” he shook her hand. “I’m Chris.”
“Chris? I think some friends of yours have been looking for you.”
And finally... on Christmas Day, the conclusion of "A Very Deuce Christmas Story", plus a new epilogue....