The Unexpected Blessing of a Rural Church

The Unexpected Blessing of a Rural Church

The love that welcomed me seventeen years ago, lowered my guard, and prepared my heart to receive the gospel, has done the same thing to many others over the years. It’s the love of God in his people—a surprising love to those without hope and without God—and it still draws the lost to their Savior today.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

 – John 13:34–35

As I sat on a hard wooden pew in a tiny church listening to the preacher, my heart raced and beads of sweat covered my forehead. I blushed as I looked to and fro like a trapped rabbit before a hound dog, afraid to be seen if I moved, but filled with a panicked desire to flee. Even in my guilt and shame, my ears and eyes fixated on the pastor as every word he spoke resonated with and pierced my soul. The sermon centered on a woman who found faith and mercy, forgiveness and grace—words I had never heard before. She should have been ashamed, instead she openly and freely worshiped her Savior as she wiped Jesus’s feet with her hair and tears. I felt as if I were the only one in the room. It seemed the pastor spoke directly to me as one who knew my thoughts and feelings. Could he know? I twisted my feet in restless angst, wishing I were invisible. Yet I hung on every word, drawn to them like a magnet. The wrestling match within my soul ceased with a quiet solitary prayer for forgiveness and mercy. That was the day the Holy Spirit melted my rock-hard heart and redeemed me—the day I found true peace.

The town I live in is a small community in a rural Canadian province. By small and rural, I mean population: 700. We live a one-hour drive from the nearest city. The “big city” here is as populous as most people would describe a small town. Because of its size and location, many would think this community is insignificant, but it has proven not too small for God to do his mighty work. This little town was the last place I thought I would find the Lord—not that I even looked for him.

I didn’t look because I didn’t need him. Life was just grand, you know. I had it all—a husband who was my high-school sweetheart, best friend, and co-laborer in raising our two responsible pre-teen children. We both worked decent jobs which provided all that we could ask for including the standard two cars, a nice house with a view, and so much more. Somehow though emptiness and hopelessness still gnawed on my fearful soul.

The Lord often draws a lost person by the most unusual means. In my case, he used a guitar-teacher-turned-small-town-gospel-preacher. This former musician had just moved to our community to plant a new church, of which I cared little about. Church was for religious people, and I was not one of them. My son began taking guitar lessons with him, and he often came home with invitations to various church events. I grew curious yet resisted.

I met many from the church, each time captivated by their sincere love.

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