To pick up the baton, we would have to move into a turn-of-the-century (as in the 1900s!) farm house that would make our little ranch and former cottage look like palaces in comparison. By October, we were on our way to Presque Isle. We had been in contact with the church through Myrna Smith, one of the few surviving members. We set a date and time to head north and meet with the faithful remnant.
Once again we stepped into the old farm house. Our first impression back in August had been less than favorable. Now, a wave of hopelessness threatened to drown both of us. The interior was dark. The drapes were dark and the wall paper was dark brown with big burnt orange flowers. When the door closed behind us, the soft sills that held up the house that sat on a stone foundation had settled, leaving an inch and a half gap under the door. The gap provided a stream of light and a steady blast of cold air on our ankles! Inside we were introduced to Irma and Charlie Hitchcock, Don and Theresa Ross, Myrna and her husband with several adopted children. Another lady -- whom nobody seemed to notice -- never looked up when we entered the house, but steadily grazed on the coffee, punch, and donuts.
We huddled up; I tried to be reassuring and pastoral. Secretly, I was fighting my own battles. I was only 27 years old and had enjoyed the safety net of working for a more seasoned pastor. As the saying goes, "There is quite a difference between riding a horse and walking beside one." We prayed together with our little flock for the first time.
When I finished encouraging, coaching, cheerleading and praying, Myrna handed me an overdue notice for a couple hundred dollars; the power company was going to turn off the electricity in five days. Then she handed me bills for three past due mortgage payments of $454.00 each. I looked at the bills and then looked at the group around me. Charlie drawled in a raspy voice, "I'm tired of all this." Irma was silent. Don and Theresa were committed to keep going. The mysterious other lady kept grazing on the coffee, punch, and donuts.
Everyone else left.
I stood in a daze.
Early the next day, I pleaded with God and then went to the bank and power company to plead with them to give us some more time. At the bank, God already had a redeemer in place!