I’m folding up chairs because that’s what you do after eating lunch at church.
Or at least until you run into Harry.
Harry stops my work. He tells me that he and his wife, Margaret, have been praying for our family. They’ve heard something of the story surrounding our move to Winnipeg, but now Harry, 82, has some stories he wants to share with me. And he’s a much better storyteller.
Harry grew up during a war and then immigrated to Canada when he was 16. He didn’t know English. Just Russian and German. But when he found a bible written in English, he still knew enough words to ask God for help.
“God taught me to read that bible,” he says. And then his eyes twinkle, hinting at the deeper truth tucked inside his words, and I sense in Harry an intimacy born of many fireside chats. l wonder how much teaching we miss from God because we are too comfortable in our geography, physical or spiritual. A foreigner will take only so many steps without faith.
“Maybe your story is a little like mine,” he tells me. He lived in British Columbia, but his wife was from here and she missed her family. They moved back to Manitoba. “But I would have liked to stay in British Columbia,” he admits.
“Oh, I’d prefer British Columbia over Manitoba, too,” I say.
He smiles, though a tear shines under his right eye. “But God blesses you wherever He sends you.” He grins from a deeply rooted testimony. “Matthew,” he says, “God will bless you and prosper you here. He will do it.”
I’m still listening to Harry long after the tables and chairs have been folded up and put away. We have the large room mostly to ourselves now.
“You’re still young. Now is your time to learn how to cash in on His promises. Learn to trust Him. He’s so faithful.”
Something within me rejoices. As he speaks those words, I think back over my own fireside chats from this past week, especially those before bed, when I huddled up close to the psalms for warmth and security.
I have a history of quenching the spirit. Too often, I seek comfort and instant coffee (but only metaphorically, I promise!). And yet I sense a greater call: God’s community must learn to walk as foreigners in this world, trusting our King’s promises, regardless of the enemy or the kind of geography we face.
As a boy, Harry began to learn something about how to cash in on the promises. Now he’s ready to move in. Like Jonathan.
“Come on now, let’s go across to these uncircumcised pagans. Maybe God will work for us. There’s no rule that says God can only deliver by using a big army. No one can stop God from saving when he sets his mind to it.” (I Samuel 14:6)
Later in the evening, my wife is getting ready to leave for a funeral in Alberta. Just as she and the boys do their last goodbyes at the door, both of them dart off, running.
“You can’t leave yet!” Henry yells. “You need something to remember–” They run down the hallway, and Henry enters our bedroom. James follows. But then James makes it back to us first, with a small book in his small hands. He reaches up to his Mum and gives her a copy of ‘The Pocket Promise Book’ by David Wilkerson. And now Henry’s holding up the bible I’ve been using during my fireside chats.
We're stunned. And our hearts melt.
Because His promises are vanquishing and beautiful, once we give them feet.