Back in the 1970s my hairdresser invited me to a roller-skating party sponsored by her church. Her church, the Rehoboth Church of God in Christ, had chartered a bus to take us from the Bronx to the Empire Dome roller-skating rink in Brooklyn.
Gospel music was blasting when we walked inside the roller rink, and a lot of people were there already, talking and skating. I checked my coat, rented a pair of skates, and headed for the floor. I hadn’t skated since I was in elementary school and used those metal skates you put on over your shoes.
I had to be careful just going around the rink. I took my time; I didn’t race. I tried to skate on the outer edge of the rink so I could hold on to the rail. I did that for about 20 minutes.
Then, feeling a little more confident, I let go of the wall and skated with the flow of traffic. Before I knew it, I began to skate, listening to and enjoying the music. Around and around we went. The lights were bright and there were lots of young people about my age (13), some older, some younger. Members of several other churches were there.
I was having fun when the inevitable happened: I fell on my bottom. Just as I was getting up, a cute boy came over to help me to my feet. “Are you OK?” he asked.
He had friendly brown eyes and he smiled brightly as he introduced himself. Then we started skating together. He and I skated together the rest of the evening. Near the end of the party we exchanged telephone numbers. We headed back to the buses and mine drove me back to the Bronx.
Within a week or so he called, and we talked for a long time. He said he and his family attended the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I spoke to his aunt and asked about her church. “We keep the Ten Commandments and worship on Saturday.” That’s all she said. Jesus used that family.
A couple years later my mom asked me to deliver a package to our hairdresser. She wanted the package delivered on Sunday morning, when our hairdresser would be in church.
I wasn’t excited about going to church; I didn’t want anybody to invite me to stay. To make sure, I wore a dirty T-shirt and raggedy jeans. (I have to smile when I think that a lot of young people wear clothes like that today.) It worked. I delivered the packageand nobody asked me to stay. I happily walked away.
After I had walked about a block, it started to rain. I had an umbrella, so I opened it as I started to cross the street. Then I heard a woman’s voice: “Young lady, young lady!”
I turned and saw a woman dressed all in white: white dress, white stockings, white gloves, white head cover. She looked like a deaconess on Communion Sabbath. “May I walk with you under your umbrella?” she asked. “I’m on my way to church.”
I invited her to join me. She said, “Do you go to church?”
When I answered no, she said, “Honey, you should go to church. You don’t know what a blessing you’re missing.”
My mind began to race. I wanted to get to her church so I wouldn’t have to listen to her. We finally reached her church, a cozy little storefront church. She invited me to attend the next Sunday. I said I would.
That next Sunday I didn’t go to church; I went to the movies instead.
Several Sundays came and went. My conscience began to trouble me. You told that woman you were going to church.
I know, but I don’t have anything to wear.
So make something.
I don’t have any money.
That week someone gave me $20 that I wasn’t expecting. I went to the fabric store and looked through the pattern catalog until I found a nice dress pattern. Then I chose some beautiful red and white gingham fabric and accessories (buttons, zipper, thread). I made a beautiful short-sleeve A-line dress that hung just below my knees and had a sash that tied in the back.
The next Sunday I went to church. The woman was happy to see me, and I was happy to see her. Everyone was so nice, and the service was a blessing.
When the service was over, the woman gave me a big hug. She invited me back the following week. No promises! I told myself.
Besides, how could I explain that I was vain; that I didn’t want anyone to see me wearing the same dress two weeks in a row (I had only one).
The following Sunday I went to church, but to a different church. It was nice, the service and the people were wonderful, but I never returned because I had only one dress. For four Sundays I went to four different churches.
Once as I was walking down the street I wondered: Why are there so many churches? They’re almost all the same. Remember that family from years ago? Try the Saturday church. You have only one dress, and you haven’t been there yet.
I’ll try it.
Trouble was, I had no idea how to find one.
But that Saturday afternoon, members of the City Tabernacle in Manhattan came through my grandmother’s neighborhood handing out literature stamped with the church’s name, address, and phone number.
I found the people very kind. Although I couldn’t put my finger on it, I felt completely at home. I was invited to participate in the afternoon program and I made many new friends. When I got home that evening, I knew I wanted to go back. But I had only one dress.
God blessed me with some money, and I ended up making four dresses. I used the same pattern, but different fabric to make them unique.
I began studying the Bible. At first the people’s love kept me going to church. But the services and Bible studies opened my heart to Christ’s love.
One day I was standing in our kitchen, looking out the window at the few cloud formations. One of the clouds looked like a throne. It reminded me of God on His throne, the same God who sent His Son to die for me.
Suddenly the Bible lessons I had studied for a year became clear. I knew that Christ had died for me. The Bible story was true. The Holy Spirit was real. I wanted to give my heart to the Lord. I fell on my knees and sobbed.
I attended City Tabernacle for several months. Then I started attending services at the Washington Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Bronx and was baptized there. At 17 years old I knew I had made the right choice. My life is a testimony to the words: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (Eccl. 12:1).
Michele McNear writes from Bronx, New York.