It was mid-afternoon on Friday, maybe 35 years ago. Lake Charles, Louisiana, lay about half an hour away as I was driving west. Sundown was coming. Soon I was checking into a motel at the edge of town. Alone. Lonely. It was time to find a Seventh-day Adventist church!
The woman at the desk gave me precise directions. I was up at sunrise and soon on the way. Alone. Lonely. I arrived an hour early and sat in my car. When church members arrived they came and warmly greeted me—friendly, kind people. Together we went into the church. By that time they had found out that I had worked in Africa. Of course, I would give the mission story.
The congregation was small. There was no evidence of a fellowship meal to be served. Was I to spend the afternoon in my motel room? Alone. Lonely.
Then, after church, it happened on the porch. An elderly woman (I’m sure she wasn’t as old as I am now) came and put her arm around me. With a twinkle in her eye she said: “I don’t like eating alone on Sabbath. I always invite our church guests to my house. It’s not fancy, but we have a good time getting to know each other before we go to heaven.” Not alone. Not lonely.
She also invited two young men who were visitors. They had never met each other before. We followed her in our cars to a very humble little white house out in the country.
“Come in and sit down here in the living room while I warm the food,” she invited. From the cracked linoleum on the floor to the fraying draperies on the windows, everything testified of poverty. But the house was neat and clean and felt like a warm Adventist home.
Soon we sat down to eat at the kitchen table. Brightly colored oilcloth gleamed between the dishes of fried sweet potatoes, boiled collard greens, and genuine homemade cornbread.
She asked the blessing—grateful for the half bushel of sweet potatoes a neighbor had given her and for the greens that had grown in her garden. So grateful for company. Not alone. Not lonely.
After we had all had two or three servings of each kind of food—I could have made a meal of her cornbread—we went into the living room to visit. Dishes would wait until after sundown. We talked about Jesus, about angels, about heaven. On and on after we read from Revelation, we imagined what it would be like to spend eternity with Jesus in His home. More than two hours went by. What a joyous time we had! We would meet again in heaven!
Not alone. Not lonely!
“Love, courtesy, self-sacrifice—these are never lost. When God’s chosen ones are changed from mortality to immortality, their words and deeds of goodness will be made manifest, and will be preserved through the eternal ages. No act of unselfish service, however small or simple, is ever lost. Through the merits of Christ’s imputed righteousness, the fragrance of such words and deeds is forever preserved.”*
But between now and heaven there are tens of thousands of people who are hungry and lonely. O Lord, may there be many widows who are able and willing to share sweet potatoes and heaven with those who are hungry and lonely!
Carolyn Stuyvesant, a former missionary, is retired and lives in Yucaipa, California.
* Ellen G. White, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, March 10, 1904.