Hannah fought the onslaught of merry parishioners leaving the early service and took the bulletin offered by the smiling volunteer. Despite the fact that the same tall, grey-haired man had been standing at the entrance to the worship center every Sunday for the past eight years, he had never said more than “good morning’ to her. This Sunday was no different, but Hannah was still delighted to be there.
She liked sitting up front; this early it was sparsely populated. As people chose seats around her, Hannah smiled and greeted each one. They answered her, then turned back to their friends and conversations. She watched the slide show deliver greetings and church news, and read the announcements of upcoming events and mission trips twice as she hummed along with the praise music playing on the loud speakers. Hannah looked around hopefully, but no one seemed to notice her. She was surrounded by laughter and friendly conversations. She worshiped alone in a crowd of hundreds.
Soon, the music minister stepped to the pulpit and welcomed everyone. Hannah loved to sing, and joyfully lifted her praises with rest of the congregation. I’m here for God. I don’t care if no one knows me, she told herself, Half of it was a lie; she desperately wanted to belong.
During communion, Hannah poured her heart out to her Abba Father, confessing her selfishness and His greatness, committing herself to be His servant.
The preacher’s message, as always, lifted and fed her, and when the invitation was given she longed to approach the altar. Why do I continue to sit here, glued to my chair, week after week? She waited for an answer, but none came.
When the service was over, she stopped to shake the preacher’s hand. Sometimes his forehead wrinkled as he tried to place her, but most times, like today, he just spoke a hasty word of kindness and looked to the next person. “Bill! Good to see you this morning. How is Josh doing in boot camp?”
Hannah moved on, wishing he knew her name and her life, too.
The following Sunday, a crash of thunder woke Hannah. A blank screen stared at her from the clock radio. She found her cell phone on the nightstand and squinted at it. 10:35! She’d be so late! She rolled out of bed and dashed through the shower. An up-do and a dab of mascara would suffice.
The clock in her car read 10:58 as she passed the old brick church on the square. Her church was still fifteen minutes away. On impulse, she pulled into the parking lot.
A “Visitor” spot was waiting for her in front, and she speed-walked to the worship center. A grinning usher opened the door.
“Welcome to Grace Church. I’m Jim.”
“Good morning, I’m Hannah. Sorry to cut it so short.”
“No worries, Hannah. We’re glad you’re here. Let’s find you a seat, ok?” Jim walked her to a pew toward the middle, and spoke to the man sitting at the end. A murmur was passed down the row, and a space was made for her. Her apologies were met with forgiveness as she scrambled over feet and settled in.
Before Hannah had a chance to fully absorb the soaring bead-board ceilings and the sun-lit stained glass, the familiar routine of church began. The welcome from the pulpit was hearty and heartfelt. Visitors were then asked to stay seated “so we can find you”, while members stood in honor of their guests.
Everyone in proximity of Hannah reached for her hand and asked her name. She received three invitations to Sunday School and two for Wednesday dinner. Jim the usher handed her a card to fill out “so we can stay in touch with you.”
When she stood to join them in singing praises to God, tears glistened in her eyes.
The pastor’s message and his invitation spoke directly to her, and when the final hymn began, she found herself stepping into the aisle. Her feet and her heart carried her to the altar where the radiant pastor met her with outstretched arms.
“I want to join this church,” was out of her mouth before she knew she was going to speak.
“Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” the pastor asked.
“Yes,” she croaked through her tears. “I’ve loved him for a long time, but I found Him here today.”
“Welcome home, sister. Let’s pray.”
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