Thursday, September 20, 2012

Refresh: A Spaghetti Tale

"Good news refreshes the bones." - Proverbs 15:30b

This is the first post of an ongoing series I'm calling "Refresh", named for the verse above. "Gospel" means "good news", and so it seems appropriate that I highlight tales of God providing, especially in amazing, fun and unexpected ways. I've read and heard a lot of great stories over the years, and I look forward to sharing them with you. I'll make it a point to change names and modify the stories just enough so as not to incriminate the innocent... or guilty =)


Most of these stories won't be from personal experience (I'll share enough of those throughout the rest of the blog), but this one happens to be a story I wrote years ago and have often shared with those about to embark on their first fundraising journey.  Disclaimer: this is by far the strangest story I personally have to offer - most fundraising appointments are not like this...


I hope this tale helps "refresh your bones"!


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Everything seemed to be going rather well on that unusually chilly summer evening... until about the time he answered the door.

As Jim greeted me, I noticed over his shoulder that his wife was still cleaning up dinner.  Uh-oh.  Was I early?  I hesitantly stepped inside, taking note of the clock on the wall.  Seven.  Just as he had told me the night before.


I glanced around at the two - no, wait, there’s a third one behind the couch - three kids and smiled helplessly as they began asking their parents who I was.  Jim told them I was "Tom" and that I was a "missionary", but apparently they viewed that as a far-from-sufficient answer, and the inquisition continued.


Meanwhile, I had been hoping to get introduced to Jim's wife, who had yet to make eye contact with me.  Or perhaps I could meet the older lady who was still sitting at the dinner table.  Perhaps she was his mom?  Her mom?  A neighbor?  The cleaning lady?


While I pondered these things, Jim had rushed away to subdue the wrath of what appeared to be the oldest boy (perhaps six years of age) who had proceeded to lay siege to a stray meatball that had escaped his dinner plate.  It appeared to be seeking refuge on the nearby carpet to no avail.


After approximately two hundred and thirty seven painstakingly slow seconds, Jim's wife looked up as if noticing me for the first time.  "Please, sit down!  My name is Suzanne!  I'm sorry for the mess."  I breathed a sigh of relief and found a seat at the table, opposite the older lady and next to a baby who was still sucking on some spaghetti strands.  In retrospect, that was a poor decision.


Jim rushed by with paper towels and a bottle of something called "Stain-Out."


The older lady began to introduce herself, but I didn’t catch her name because the middle child had begun screaming that she wanted dessert.  Now I'm no lip-reader, but I thought that the lady had said, "Betty".  So I took a chance and said, "Nice to meet you, Betty!"


No negative reaction.  Good!  (I hate mixing up names!)


Finally both Jim and Suzanne were done cleaning up and they sat on either side of me.  "So tell us about what you’re doing, Tom," said Jim.  At least that's what I pictured him saying, for I couldn't actually hear over the little girl who hadn't ceased yelling for cookies.


Surprisingly, things seemed to calm down as I began relating to them my testimony.  In fact, I was perhaps moments away from finishing my story when Betty suddenly stood up.  I was under the impression that something important must have happened, but when nothing was said or done by Jim or Suzanne, I continued.  Betty kept standing.


I then asked Jim and Suzanne for their testimonies, and that's when Betty began heading for the door saying, "I’m going to the supermarket.  Be back soon."


The next twenty minutes went relatively well, considering.  The girl kept yelling for some time, but eventually found a Barbie to put in her mouth.  (The silence was deafening.)  The young Meatball Gladiator appeared to be falling asleep next to his prey, and the baby was murmuring while still sucking on spaghetti. 


And then it happened.


"One of the things that I personally find most exciting about the ministry is our interest in shar-"  I never finished my sentence.  Rather, all I heard was a loud crash as I looked over just in time for the baby's entire bowl of sauce-covered pasta to land everywhere between my eyebrows and my khakis.


(If you’ve never had tomato sauce in your eye before, I highly recommend it.  It’s quite the rush.)


As best I could tell, the baby, in a fit of rage rivaled only by his older brother’s meatball conquests, had smashed his hand down with all his might onto the side of his bowl. Consequently the laws of physics took over and I ended up covered in dinner.


Jim offered me a napkin.


I asked for the bathroom and cleaned up a bit, all the while wondering if I could fit through the tiny bathroom window to escape unnoticed.  For the few minutes I was in that little room, I prayed prayers for help like I’d never prayed before.


I came back out to find Betty back at the table.  Suzanne said something to her, calling her "mom".  Well that clears up that question.


So to make a long story ever-so-slightly shorter, I finished the presentation.


"So would you be willing to prayerfully consider joining my support team at $100 per month?"  


I waited.  Jim and Suzanne looked at each other, then back at me.  I felt spaghetti sauce in my ear.


"We'll have to think and pray about that."


"Great! I certainly appreci-"


Suddenly Betty chimes in: "One hundred a month?  That seems reasonable!  I'd like to do that."


I barely knew what to say.  She had missed most of my presentation - including the unprecedented Pasta Olympics in which the youngest had won the gold - and she wants to support me?  "Awesome!  Praise God!  Thanks so much, Betty!"


I handed out giving cards, prayed with them, thanked them for their time, headed home, and took a shower.


Jim and Suzanne never did end up supporting me financially, but Betty did.  About two weeks later I received her giving card in the mail.


Betty's name was Diane.