Being Church, Becoming Family

By: William Johnson

It started with a phone call asking for permission to set up a tent and spend the night on the church property. Seemed like a simple enough request, but with insurance coverage and liability issues, it was not. But we worked it out and by signing a release form, the four young men could spend the night on the church property.

Two of the young men, accompanied by two assistants, were running over 3200 miles, from New York to California to raise awareness of two charities that had profoundly impacted their lives. They had raised over $25,000 dollars and were now running to “earn” the money.

Having already run through West Virginia, they were now in Kentucky and Louisville was a good stopping place. They had selected our church as a safe place to spend the night.

The call came on a Wednesday afternoon and the “Church” took over. Several members said they should join us for our Wednesday evening fellowship meal. We had plenty of food and it would be great to have them eat with us. And so it happened, and if you have run 35 miles during the day, a huge hunger develops and these two slender runners ate very heartily. The church surrounded them with welcome, hospitality, and love. One spoke briefly to the church about their journey, and then the four young men joined our youth group for their evening program. The truly found home there.

Speaking of home, another church member invited the four young men to their home for the evening, to shower and relax and sleep in a real bed surrounded by air conditioning. They gladly and gratefully accepted. Then the next morning they were on their way again, but not before they helped us to truly be church by reminding us they were our sons too.

It was an unexpected and unannounced moment in time for us, but it was God’s grace and goodness for us. It began with a phone call and it ended in the mix of providence as they embodied God’s presence to us and in turn, we became God’s presence to them.

And we were all the better as church and as one human family.