Libby and I met fifty years ago, when we were both children. I was a sophomore in college, dating her sister Alice. Libby was a sophomore in high school. Since leaving Pennsylvania, I may have seen her three times: once in 1986, twelve years later in 1998; then another nineteen years brings us to last Friday. Nineteen years ago, Libby told me about her husband Pat, who I had yearned to meet ever since. Today I feel blessed to know them both.
Libby and Pat invited me into their home. They live in a modified A-Frame, in the woods, near the top of a mountain, surrounded by many other mountains in Western Maryland. Stock flowers, Impatiens, Lantana and vegetables grow in their gardens, which are visited by deer, bears and turkeys. Inside, knotty pine walls adorned with pictures slant inward and upward to create a cozy living room, dining room and kitchen.
We began talking while sitting on the deck, and never stopped. We continued sharing and listening as we gathered in the kitchen and Libby prepared supper. Pat said grace because he claimed supper would get cold if he allowed Libby to pray. After supper we retired to the living room, with two soft couches and fluffy pillows, to enjoy some strawberry shortcake. Libby and Pat cuddled on the couch and we continued our conversations until all were sleepy-eyed. I slept soundly in a soft bed upstairs.
We talked of family, of common friends. Old friends. We talked about our lives, what we have been doing, our joys and tribulations. We talked about Martha, whom Libby has never met. We talked about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit. Libby and Pat pray often, and hear God speaking to them. They ask God for help and directions before making decisions.
Pat is a Pastor. He started a nearby church many years ago. Beginning with three people, it grew and flourished. A few years ago, he left the church behind, and now Libby and Pat meet with small groups in peoples’ homes. They call them Gatherings. They say the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts. I believe that too.
Friday night I told them the story of when I was saved. I had never before shared that event with anyone. I told them because Libby asked. It’s not a pretty story and it’s also an amazing story, that happened 36 years ago. I didn’t deserve to get saved, but I asked and I received.
I remember going to Tonj with the Evangelicals in 1998. We fed starving people, treated the sick, and vaccinated children. At night we showed the Jesus film and Sunday morning pastors baptized people in the river. I remember how they counted the number of people who were saved. They divided the world into two groups – the saved and un-saved. I never wanted to tell anyone which group I was in. However people judge me is their business. I believe the relationship between each person and God is between the two of them, not for others to judge. Matthew 7:1.
Libby asked because she cared – not to decide if I was one of the flock or one of the others. Still, I hesitated. Libby said I didn’t have to share. A voice told me to speak. I felt safe and I felt loved. I knew if ever I was going to tell the story, it was then and it was to them. I believe God brought me to their home to share my story and I feel blessed.
Although we seldom see each other, Libby says our hearts are stitched together by the Holy Spirit. I believe that to be true. Wow!