I am a soldier in the U.S. Army and with this chosen profession I am
afforded the opportunity to live in many different cities and
countries. Some years ago, I was assigned to the Washington D.C.
area. After searching upon arrival there, I found a small
congregation which met at the Old Town Hall in Fairfax, Virginia, with
Michael Wilke for its pastor. Now I realize this was the first
gift; opportunity to worship regularly with others.
As I approached the Old Town
Hall, I saw a family waiting outside the building . . . . the
Wilkes. I thought it strange that the pastor did not have access
to the church. It was locked. Before long, someone with a
key opened the building. When I had entered the hall, I
discovered it was only a big empty room: no altar, no pews, no
organ, no pulpit. Soon the pastor and his wife, Gloria, began
transforming the space. They set up chairs for pews, a table
became an altar, a podium became a pulpit, and a desk awaited the
arrival of a portable keyboard, the organ. In a few minutes,
several people arrived, each with a gift of their church: flowers for
the altar, the organ, words of welcome and introductions.
The service began, and I
cried as I prayed. I realized this unique group did not have
much, but when everything was put together, this turned out to be a
wonderful place to worship. All the essentials were present: the
Word of God and believers. I knew for sure this church was a gift.
Since then, Pastor Wilke has
moved on and the men of the congregation took on the responsibiliity of
conducting services. Pastor Paul Nolting flew from Rochester, NY
to conduct the monthly Lord's Supper service. What gifts the Lord
followed. I recall my first Christmas there. We planned a
Christmas Eve service at the hall and set up extra chairs hoping
passersby would join us. To our surprise, most of the chairs were
filled that night. It was the best gift I received that Christmas.
That winter I was blessed
with the gift of a child. At the time of his baptism, my family
flew in from Minnesota, Pastor Nolting came, and the Loop family opened
their cozy home for the service because the hall was always cold in
February. The friendly surroundings and the food and fellowship
after the service deeply moved my family. This was truly a
special group of people.
Over the years, the members
of the congregation grew very dear to me. They did not realize
the gifts they had given each time we gathered: the gift of
strengthening our faith, the Bible Class, the singing of hymns to
Bonnie Reedy's organ music, the gift of hearing the sermon read by one
of the elders, the gift of praying together.
In time, I know I would be needing to
leave this group and that I would no longer have these gifts to guide
me. But I can guarantee to anyone passing through or visiting the
area that this small group of believers at the Old Town Hall will be
setting up the makeshift church and singing praises to our Lord.
One day I hope to return to
Washington D.C. to find a permanent pastor and permanent church with
pews, an altar and an organ. There will be a sign at the entrance
which simply reads, "THE GIFT OF GOD".