Seeing (or Hearing or Feeling) God at Work
Family Promise of Greater Kingsport (formerly Interfaith Hospitality Network)
One of our church members pointed out that our Newsheet always has an article before we host for Interfaith Hospitality Network, but we never have an article after it is over. Well, if there was ever a week that has a “story” to tell, this is the one … It started on February 14 (Valentine’s Day) and ended February 22… and in that time Kingsport had the coldest temperatures ever recorded and the most snowfall.
In spite of the weather, 3 wonderful families stayed warm, had lots of Christian love extended to them, built a top-notch snowman to greet our members coming to church on Sunday morning, and were one step closer to getting their lives back in order.
And, the rest of the story… oh yes, that would be all our volunteers… again in spite of the weather, we had a great crowd to set up our IHN City in the Fellowship Hall on Valentine’s Day; we had one dinner prepared by a church member who cooked it at home in the morning, delivered it, and stayed to serve it – all after being seen in an urgent care clinic and an emergency room. We had one volunteer who had their car pushed by guests to get into our parking lot; we had a child care director whose car got a helpful push out of the parking lot; we had volunteers carpooling; we had volunteers driving in others’ vehicles (i.e., pickups) because of concern about the predicted snow (incidentally, the guests thought that her pickup was cool); we had people brushing snow off cars to enable visibility; and last but not least, not a single volunteer missed their assigned time – so love and prayers were shared with our guests.
In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about feeding people who are hungry, providing drink when thirsty, and taking in strangers… and with a lot of prayers and a lot of work (and a lot of good times), we did just that. And for me, that is a pretty good story.
How God Brought Me to WRPC and Why I Stay
If you know Gladys, you know she is a lady of few words. But those few words are always carefully chosen. She has been a faithful, staunch, and quiet supporter of Waverly Road Presbyterian church for many decades. Everyone who knows her considers it a great privilege to call her a friend.
She is like one of the lady friends who followed Jesus around during his ministry here on earth. Their names are unknown, most of their deeds were anonymous, and yet their faithfulness has been and will be remembered for eternity.
When I asked Gladys how she came to WRPC and why she has stayed, she was true to form: succinct and direct. Here is her answer: “When I first moved to Kingsport in the 1950s, a lady in one of my social groups invited me to Waverly Road Presbyterian Church. I visited one Sunday because of that invitation. I have stayed because of my many friendships in the church. I also like the style of service, and the music is exceptional. And I have liked most of the ministers.”
As God prompts you, let Gladys know she is one of our treasures. And invite one of your friends to church. You never know when one of them will stay for more than 60 years!
Howard and Karen
At the beginning of March 2004, at the age of 45, I did not attend church. I had not attended church regularly since leaving my parents’ home (and oversight) at the age of 18. Although raised in church until that point, as an adult I had become an avid atheist who rejected even the concept of God. Karen, my wife for 15 years, did not attend church either. She did not actively reject God, as I did; she just did not actively embrace God. That all changed in March and April of 2004.
During that time period, a series of events took place that cannot, in our present opinion, be reconciled without God. Both Karen and I became convinced that God does exist. A personal, living, and loving God. We were not looking for Him. We believe that He intervened in our lives. And He did so with the help of interactions with several people who attended Waverly Road Presbyterian Church.
In mid-March of that year, I suffered a serious mental and physical breakdown attributed to a severely high blood pressure spike. During the month that followed, Sharon P., Ted G., and Catherine C. demonstrated to both Karen and me the type of love that we now know comes from following Jesus Christ. As our experiences during this time led to our own acceptance of God, His grace, and His Son as Lord and Savior, it became apparent that Waverly Road should be our first church home together. We joined WRPC on April 18, 2004.
We have stayed because we have found that the love we first experienced among a few members is prevalent throughout the entire congregation. The people of Waverly Road love God and they love each other. And they share that love wherever they go, with whomever they meet. And they have helped to guide us to do the same. The people of Waverly Road epitomize the words of the apostle Paul when he told the Galatians “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith” (Gal 6:10). Everyone is family at Waverly Road, whether you’ve been a member for 69 years, or a visitor for a day. It is a good place to be. That’s why we stay.
In the Fall of 1939, I came to Kingsport to be Director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church. In the Fall of 1940, I married my husband, and continued as D.C.E. at First Pres. until the end of 1941 when I became pregnant with my first child. In March of 1942, my husband was called into service at the beginning of World War II, and for the next four years we were away from Kingsport.
After the war, in early 1946, my husband returned to Eastman, and we returned to Kingsport. We looked forward to returning to First Presbyterian and being back with good friends there. At the same time, First Pres was starting a new church (Waverly Road Pres). Ervin and Clyde Rankin had committed to help start the church, as had a few other young couples who had come to Kingsport during the war. Ervin and Clyde appealed to us to come and help.
Reluctantly, we left First Pres and good friends there. But we felt the call – and were excited as well – to help start a new church. It was located in a growing neighborhood of young families, many of whom, like us, were returning from service in World War II and starting new lives. We were charter members of Waverly Road Presbyterian Church, and have loved this church family even as we loved the family at First Pres.
Sixty-nine years at Waverly Road Presbyterian Church – a great blessing with many happy relationships, worshipping and working together.
When my husband and I decided to get married over two decades ago, we felt we both needed to leave our own churches and find one together. (He had been a member of WRPC for years with his first wife, and I had been a member of a Baptist church with my first husband. Both of them had moved away from Kingsport.) We visited several churches of different denominations. Often we discussed during the week which church we would attend the coming Sunday. If we had not done so, our default was to go to Waverly Road. One Sunday when my husband was out of town, I asked my 10-year-old daughter where she wanted to go that day. She replied, “Why, Waverly Road, of course.” Her certainty that WRPC was her new church convinced us that our first conclusion was wrong; we didn’t both have to leave our churches.
We were still a little apprehensive about how I would be received by the people who had been very close to my husband’s first wife. We were pleasantly surprised many times by the extensions of hospitality and offers of friendship that came our way. Soon it was truly our church. The friends we have made are now lifelong friends, wherever circumstances may lead us.
Besides our friends being at WRPC, through its ministries we have many opportunities to encounter God. At worship, where our leaders’ preparation and dedication truly lead us to God instead of dominating the service; on mission trips, where we see God in the faces of people in different locations; in community service, when God appears to us as one of the least of God’s children; in congregational care, which offers us the opportunity to walk beside a hurting friend in various ways; in administrative activities, when “oiling the engine” of WRPC’s mission to Love God, Love Others and Make Disciples requires behind-the-scenes work. In short, this congregation gives us opportunities to use the gifts God has given to us, and the church appreciates our sharing them. To God be the glory, now and forevermore.