It was painful watching my neighbors back their giant 5th wheel rig into the narrow slot that was barely as long as they were. They were in the middle of it, when Happy, Belle, and I pulled in. I backed right in and had Happy set up in under 3 minutes. My neighbor, who was on his 5th try, looked at me and said, “I’m embarrassed. You make this look so easy.”
I laughed. “It’s easy with my little camper. But think of all the extra room you have.”
His wife and another couple were supervising this poor man’s humiliation. Judging from the foul language coming from the campsite, something bad happened. “I can’t believe I’m so stupid,” The owner of the trailer huffed. The wife of the other couple looked at me, shook her head, walked over. She read the side of Happy and asked, “So what is Pocket Full of Quarters?”
“I’m still trying to figure that out,” I quipped. I told her about my calling from God.
“That’s wonderful,” she said in awe. “This camper is just the right size for what you’re doing.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “It was a little crowded when my husband was here this weekend. My daughter is joining me tomorrow and we’ll see how that goes. God gave me this camper so I’m not complaining. It’s better than the tent I used to travel in.”
Changing the subject, I asked, “So, you sound interested in spiritual things. Do you go to church?”
“I’m Lutheran and they’re Catholics,” she said pointing to the other couple. “I’m afraid we’re not very good at being Lutheran. We went faithfully when our kids were small but we don’t go now. I think of places like this as my church.” She pointed to the serene Mississippi River flowing along the Iowa coast, framed by the backdrop of the rolling green hills of Northern Illinois.
She continued. “I talk to God all the time. I like to call myself a Christian rather than identifying with any kind of religion.”
“How many kids do you have?” I asked.
“I have two – a son and a daughter. They’re both grown now. My daughter is married and she has a daughter.”
Do you kids go church?” I asked.
“No,” she said a little defensively. “I wish they did. They need it. I want my granddaughter in church but they are too busy to take her. We planted the seed with our children so I guess we did our job. What they do now is up to them. You should read the letter my son got this week from our church. He called and read it to me.” As she changed the subject to the letter, her eyes grew stone cold, her voice raised, and the lines on her face hardened.
“What was the letter about?” I asked.
“They were telling him that if he didn’t abide by the church by-laws, they were throwing him out,” she said indignantly. “Can you imagine? A church should be about love.”
“Is there something your son did to them upset?” I questioned.
“No, he just doesn’t give them his money.” By this time, she was almost shouting.
“When was the last time your son was in that church?” I quietly questioned.
She seemed to match my tone and grew quieter. In her quietness, I could hear pain. “It’s been years, but that was the church he grew up in. I used to be in charge of their Sunday School. I can’t believe they’re throwing him out.”
“Some churches go through a purging of rolls and send out letters to find out the status of inactive members,” I offered as a way of explanation, hoping it would ease her pain.
“That’s probably what they were doing but I don’t believe in that,” she commented. “It’s not right.”
“What did the letter actually say?” I asked.
She repeated herself but gave a few more details. “It gave the definition of membership from the bylaws and then asked if he wanted to continue to be a member.”
“What was the definition of membership?”
“To be a believer in Christ, to participate in worship, and to give your time and talents to the church. In other words, they wanted his money.” She grew agitated again and waved her arms. I was tempted to debate her conclusion about them just wanting his money. It sounded like the letter was gently asking his status. I felt the Holy Spirit warning me not to debate.
“It sounds like you and your son are hurt by this letter,” I commented. “You must still care about the church.”
“We are hurt. My son is devastated. We gave that church a lot. We only left after they got so political that we couldn’t stand it anymore. They became too much like a business.” She got quiet for a second. “I guess we do still care about it. It was a big part of our lives for a long time.”
“Do you ever miss church?” I asked.
“Yes,” she whispered.
“You said you wanted your granddaughter in church. Do you think if you went back to church, it might set an example for your daughter to go back?” I whispered, matching her tone.
“I guess it could,” she admitted. I saw her fight off the responsibility for setting an example. Her voice rose to a normal volume. “But that seed is already there. We took her when she was young. My daughter knows that her daughter needs to be in church.”
“But faith can’t live on a memory,” I insisted. “You daughter may have forgotten. If she saw you go back and saw the changes in you, it could trigger a forgotten longing. I agree with you that your granddaughter needs to be in church. The seed that is planted with your children may never be planted in her if they don’t take her to church.” She nodded in agreement.
She hadn’t tensed up so I continued to push. “You say you talk to God all the time. What do you think He wants you to do about church?”
It took her almost a minute to answer. Whispering again, she said, “I suppose He would want me in church.” I saw the movement of the Holy Spirit and knew there was nothing else I could add. We changed the subject and went on to talk about mundane stuff like mosquitoes and the river. It was dark so we said goodnight and went into our campers.