Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Christmas We Should All Remember

A pastor and his wife were transferred to a new ministry in Brooklyn New York. Their assignment was to reopen an old church.  When they arrived at their new assignment in early October, they were excited. 

However, upon seeing their assigned church and how run down it actually was and all the work it needed, they decided to set a goal to have it ready to open on Christmas Eve.

The pastor and his wife worked hard everyday repairing the pews, scrubbing the floors, plastering and painting the walls, etc.; however on December 18, they were ahead of schedule and so happy that they were just about finished.

On December 19 a terrible driving rainstorm hit the area. The storm conditions lasted for two days and, when the pastor arrived at the church on the morning of December 21, his heart sank. The old roof had leaked, causing water to enter the building and the water damaged a large area of a wall they had re-plastered - an area of about 20 feet by 8 feet – near the front of the sanctuary.  

The pastor did his best to clean up the mess on the floor, but not knowing what else he could do, he decided to tell his wife they would have to postpone the Christmas Eve service.  However on his drive home, he noticed a local flea market type sale for charity, so he stopped in to look around.   One of the items he noticed was a beautiful, handmade, ivory-colored, hand-crocheted tablecloth. It was really an exquisite piece of work, with fine colors and a large cross embroidered in the center.  The pastor thought this tablecloth might be just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall of the church so he bought it and headed back to the church.

By now it had started to snow now and when he arrived back at the church, he saw an elderly woman running, trying to catch a bus. Unfortunately, she missed the bus.   Knowing the next bus wouldn’t come for about 30 minutes, the pastor invited her in the church to get out of the cold and keep warm as she waited for her bus.   

As she sat in a pew, she watched the pastor get a ladder and hangers to mount the tablecloth up on the wall as a tapestry.  The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked, as it was the perfect size to cover up the entire problem area.

The woman, upon seeing the tablecloth hanging on the wall, stood up and walked toward the pastor.  Her face was white as a sheet. "Pastor," she asked, "Where did you get this tablecloth?"  The pastor explained the story.  The woman asked him to check the lower right hand corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it. He checked and yes they were.   These were her initials - initials which she sewed in this tablecloth when she made it 45 years ago in Austria. The woman explained that, before the war, she and her husband were Austrians. 

Then the Nazis came and her husband asked her to leave for America.  He promised he would follow in two weeks; however she later learned he was captured by the Nazis and sent to concentration camp.   She never saw her husband or her homeland again.

The pastor got back on the ladder and offered to give her the tablecloth; but she insisted he keep it for his church. The pastor then insisted on driving her home as that was the least he could do for her.  She lived way over on Staten Island and had come to Brooklyn just for the day.

Well when Christmas Eve arrived, the old church was almost full.  The music and the holiday spirit of the people filled the air.  At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife stood at the door and greeted everyone goodbye and wished them a Merry Christmas.

When they returned to lock up the church, they noticed an old man sitting in a pew crying.  The pastor had recognized from the neighborhood but did not know him.   The old man just sat silently in the pew, weeping and staring at the tapestry. The pastor wondered why he didn't leave and walked over to talk to him.

The man asked him where he had gotten the tablecloth on the wall because it was identical to one his wife made for him many years ago when they lived in Austria before the war, and how could it be possible that two tablecloths could be so much alike?

He told the pastor how the Nazis came and how he forced his wife to flee to America for her safety and that he promised he would follow her, but he was arrested and put in a concentration camp for four years until the Allied soldiers can and freed the prisoners. With the war over he had come to America to look for his wife but could not find her.  He never again saw his wife or his home land.

The Pastor asked the gentlemen if he would allow him to take him for a ride; the man agreed.  The Pastor drove over to Staten Island to an old brown stone apartment building - the same building the pastor had taken an old woman too just a few days earlier. 

The pastor helped the old man walk the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment.   Once at the door, the Pastor knocked and then right before him he witnessed the greatest Christmas present ever imaginable - a reunion never to be forgotten.

This is a 'True Story" -  which happened to Pastor Rob Reid