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With the autumn season fast approaching it has been a quickly paced day here at Tom Lively’s feed store. The farm folks have been coming in all day needing this and that in preparation for the cooler months that lie shortly ahead. The biggest thing on their list has been bailing wire so they can bail up their hay and alfalfa for the winter months to feed the cattle. Then there are the mason jars for the women to can up their vegetables and berries. All through the day, I have had a wanting for some of Miss Reba’s stewed tomatoes or mother Mary’s marmalade preserves. Oh yes! There is nothing better than some of her marmalade resting on top of a buttermilk biscuit with sausage links gathering around. Usually, my day at the feed store ends at five but the folks just kept coming and now it is six as the last pal of mine gathered his purchases and drove off in the pickup truck. I stopped by the post office to gather up the bills to fret over and there in the stack was a letter from Aunt Agnes. I was thinking I was about to have an adventure reading this when my mind jumped back a few months back on another Friday afternoon with the key about to turn the lock on the feed store.
As all Fridays, I began to look forward to a personal day around the little cabin in the meadow. Mother Mary had a long list but I think I may just prioritize the list into a short list and spend some time with the Spenser along the Greenbrier floating in an old tractor tire. With things put in their place and the key in the door, I heard the sound of another pickup truck on the street. Turning around I saw Johnny Crawford with his grinning face asking if I had a minute. You know sometimes we say things that we really do not mean, as I blurted out “for you Johnny my time is yours.”
“Your Aunt Agnes wanted me to stop by and tell you that they are having a special service tomorrow evening at Grace Baptist and you should come.” I was amazed that Johnny could say all that and not lose his grin. Before I could answer came salvo two. “Yeah, Robert is coming too along with us. Perhaps you and Aunt Agnes and Pierce could come on over to the Kountry Kitchen and have a bit to eat before the service.” Now Johnny has unloaded all his guns. Aunt Agnes is a very demanding lady and if it is she who is inviting me there would be a price to pay if I didn’t go. Robert and my son Pierce are as Johnny and me, best friends and seldom separated. Of course, there’s Johnny who always looks so disappointed when I say no. “Are you suggesting or is this an invite to the Kitchen?” I asked. “Hey, it’s on me, bro.” With that said it is a done deal and it appears that my short list just grew back to a long list.
Spending time at the Kountry Kitchen with Aunt Agnes, Johnny, Pierce, and Robert was a pleasant time. Johnny didn’t spare much on the meal at the Kitchen either. We didn’t order off the menu as Johnny knew what Aunt Agnes’ favorite was and that is what we had. Smoked ham, scallop potatoes, corn on the cob, broccoli smothered in cheese, and pumpkin pie for dessert. The conversation was great, mostly because I didn’t have to say much, or didn’t really have the opportunity. Aunt Agnes certainly had the gift to carry the topic. Pierce and Robert were busy window watching although I know it was the girls walking down the sidewalk they were watching. Johnny is usually a listener and was feeling crafty that I had been drawn out of my cabin for the evening.
Agnes kept talking about a fellow named Brendan McGrath who was from Ireland. He was the one that was having the service at Grace Baptist this evening. Brendan was a missionary that Grace Baptist helped support and he had come to let the members know how his ministry was going along. Agnes kept going on how she would love to go to Ireland and be a missionary and see the sights of the country. I did get to remind Aunt Agnes that we were Scottish and she smiled at that. “That’s right and Ireland is our neighbor and you know the Lord says we are to love our neighbor.” Aunt Agnes jabbed back in response. I considered calling that a draw and busied myself working on the pumpkin pie.
When we got to the service the Church was about half full and we had no trouble finding a front row seat. Aunt Agnes remarked how fortunate we were to be so close to the podium where we could hear everything being said. I just had to reply, “Aunt Agnes we are in a Baptist Church and nobody sits in the front seat.” If smiles could kill, then I died with Aunt Agnes happy. The service began with nimble fingers dancing across the keys of the piano playing “Onward Christian Soldiers” which I almost remarked was a fitting song for a missionary service but remembered the smile of Aunt Agnes.
After the praise music, Pastor Waylon came out and told us that we were in for a special treat this evening as Brendan McGrath our missionary to Ireland was here to tell us all what the Lord is doing with his ministry in Ireland. Then Brendan McGrath came up and began to tell us all the exciting things that are happening there in Cork Ireland. They had a hall for the homeless and discarded of Cork. How they would visit the parks and countryside helping the people out with cleaning up their homes and land. But the most exciting was the street ministry in Cork itself. How their teams would spend the day going up and down the streets of Cork sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Brendan spoke that on the high end of town many would just rather not be bothered with their interruption but on the low end of town, people were very interested.
He gave praise that no matter where they went lives were changed and many made decisions for Jesus. Brendan talked about how this year they had a band and a rented hall in town they turned into a club for the young people of the town. He said that every night the club was filled with young people who enjoyed the singing and fellowship, who listened to the testimonies of what Jesus had done in the lives of others, and increasingly many would come on Sundays when they had a formal Church service to grow the people in their faith.
As I looked around the sanctuary the people there seemed interested and sometimes shouted out an Amen. It was an amazing evening to hear the mighty works that the Lord was doing in other parts of the world. I felt that he was a man that had answered the call of Matthew 28:19-20 and was not only doing the good work but living the abundant life. There was a special joy about him. Not the fake joy salesman have about a product they are trying to sale but a deep joy that comes from within. I was impressed and started scratching around in my pocket, as I knew there would be an offering to give to his ministry.
He closed with this that the world is a busy place and people fill their time in a hurry but really never go anywhere. There is a better place, a greater pan, and a divine mission that leads to the gates of Heaven. Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." (Luke 10:2) As I was clutching a few dollars to offer Brendan finished with this call. Ladies and gentleman if you feel a spiritual tug on your heart, if you want to be a part of something bigger than we are if you want to find a greater place, and if you want to be a part of a divine mission, then I invite you to join our team. To my shock, Aunt Agnes and Robert got up and went forward and stood with Brendan.
As I was walking Aunt Agnes home after the service I was struggling with how I was to oppose her decision to join Brendan and go to Ireland. Finally, I mustered the courage and said. “Aunt Agnes you are an eighty-one-year-old lady and have no business going to the mission field. And taking Robert with you who is just a kid out of High School.” Aunt Agnes said Robert was eighteen and is of age to do what he feels he should. With that, I replied, “Roberts of age but you are...” “What?” Agnes asked. I knew the argument was lost and said to her want a wonderful evening we have had together.
I read the letter from Aunt Agnes and I was right it was an adventure. She and Robert are having the time of their life in Cork Ireland. It was a town built around a monastery and I think that is very fitting to their call to go there. She spoke of how Robert works at the club telling all about life here in the “Almost Heaven.” Then he shifts to talking about the real Heaven and the way to get there. Aunt Agnes said he is doing a fine work for the Lord. Agnes, she tends to the little children at the hall telling those Stories of David and Goliath, Samson and Delilah, Moses at the Red Sea, and many others. She has become quite a conversation piece among the other workers and Brendan has named her Saint Agnes.
As I sit here swaying back and forth in the old rocker on my porch I find a smile attached to my face for Aunt Agnes, Robert, Brendan, and his team of harvesters. They are having the time of their lives that will live with them throughout eternity. I think we as people place our own restrictions upon ourselves and miss the true life that we can have. An eighty-year-old lady, an eighteen-year-old boy, and they found their life by losing their restrictions. It may not be the proper verse of Scripture but it is the one that flows through my mind. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25)
Thomas N Kirkpatrick
Ballengee April 26, 2018
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