By Robert H. Reardon
A few days ago, without any notice in the media, the autumnal equinox silently came and went. Now the days are shorter and the nights longer. Soon the wonderful holidays will be upon us with all the homecoming, joy, laughter, and the deeper sense of gratitude for God’s unspeakable gifts.
I thought about this as I drove along last Sunday toward the Church of God in Eaton, Indiana, where I was scheduled to preach. When I arrived, matters were in a general state of confusion. The night before, an Indiana thunderstorm had taken out a transformer and the church was completely devoid of power. What? No light or air-conditioning? No red and green lights flashing in the PA control booth? No sound from the organ, guitars, or electric piano? Would anyone be able to hear the solo or the preacher? Well, miracle of miracles, God turned on some heavenly power from above and his energy blessed the service.
After the benediction, Dewayne Roberts, chair of the board of trustees, walked me to my car. Dewayne is a highly respected businessman in the area, with deep roots in this local church and a passion to help carry out its mission. “How is your cousin, Lois Harris?” he asked.
Now I was surprised, since Lois lives in Tulsa and has little do with Eaton, Indiana. “How do you know Lois?” I asked.
He said that back during the Great Depression he and his mother were living alone in Bloomington, Illinois, struggling to survive. When he was eight years old, Lois Harris knocked on the door and invited him to come with her and her husband Jim to the Church of God Sunday school. It was her loving persistence that finally persuaded him. Soon he and his mother were regularly picked up on Sundays in the Harris car, since they had no car of their own.
The love of the Bloomington congregation and the nurturing in faith of Lois as a youth leader soon led Dewayne to surrender his life to Jesus Christ. Now this good man stood outside the church he loves and serves with tears of gratitude in his eyes for that special person down in Tulsa whose godly influence and example helped change his life.
I relate this story to remind us all that this is the way it happens. I am sure that current marketing strategies, church growth concepts, and the application of various methodologies are helpful. But it all began when someone had a burden for an eight-year-old boy, prayed for him, and brought him to a Sunday school and into the arms of a loving, nurturing community of faith. God bless all the Lois Harrises of the church.
As I drove home, I thought of Thanksgiving and those special people we all have who, at a critical juncture in our pilgrimage, have been there to touch our lives with love and encouragement and to help us find our way. Find that person before it is too late. Write a letter of thanks. For heaven’s sake, “Say it!”
A few years ago, I urged Anderson College students in chapel to do this. I know one who did, and her letter meant so much to the retired high school teacher that he carried it in his billfold until he died. I know that to many Thanksgiving means Turkey Day and football. To the TV Simpsons, Thanksgiving dinner began with the prayer, “God, we’ve paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.” But “Hollow Days” can be redeemed and become “Holy Days” again with a grateful heart.
Robert H. Reardon served as president of Anderson University from 1958 until 1983. Article originally published in the November 1994 issue of Vital Christianity. Republished by permission. Across the United States and around the world, God is on the move in the Church of God. Join the movement. Give life! Donate today at www.jesusisthesubject.org/give.