Saturday, December 3, 2011

Baptists at Our Ward Christmas Bash

I have a story to tell.  It's about a really special lady that made her own Christmas Miracle happen right here in our little town.

I want to write about this because I learned a few very important lessons today, and I feel more prepared for Christmas and it's true meaning than I have in years.

DeeDee Merrill, in our ward does everything big.  Not just big, huge.  She worked for/with Disney World in Orlando for many years and she brought her big ideas to our little town.  I mean, showmanship is so big in her family that one of her daughters married an Osmond.  (Yes, for about two weeks we had an Osmond in our ward.   Coolidge just wasn't their thing though.... I digress...)  She thinks creatively and "out of the box."

She was put in charge of our ward party this year and wanted to do something special, so she prayed and prayed, and came up with an idea.  She felt like she wanted to find another church congregation in Coolidge to celebrate Christmas with, and to make a service project for our ward.

One Sunday she felt impressed to go to the Baptist Church in our town.  This church is a small, run down, dilapidated building that has actually been condemned, (literally) and the congregation is almost entirely African American.  She arrived at their Sunday Service and sat in one of the back pews where she is completely sticking out.  The pastor gave his sermon and respectfully asked her if she has anything to share.  DeeDee proceeded to tell them she'd been praying about where to be that day and that she felt inspired to be there.

After the meeting, DeeDee met with the pastor and some other folks from the church to find out if they would be willing to come to our Ward Christmas Party and asked how we could help them.  They emotionally told her that they'd been praying for a miracle from the Lord.  They have many needy children in their congregation and didn't know how they were going to take care of them.  Needy like, need clothes and shoes - toys weren't even on the list.

So DeeDee shared her experience in our Sacrament Meeting, and shared her testimony of how wonderful this experience would be.  And then, we were all given "to do" lists. 

I'm serving in the Primary Presidency right now, and I have to admit.... after I got my "to do" list, I was feeling a little cranky and not so ready to participate.  The primary was asked to be in charge of all the children for about an hour and a half, during which time we were to prepare a nativity while the rest of the adults listened to musical numbers and did crafts seperately. Yikes!! SOOOO many reasons why that seemed like a hard and difficult thing to do.  Between both congregations, we were expecting 95 children ages 3 to 12 - and those numbers were almost certain.   After adults and children did activities, families would hayride together over to the Baptist building and everyone would sing and do the Christmas Nativity. 

We worked on our part of the assignment with (I'm ashamed to say) a lot of angst.  This time of year is so busy anyway, so to be asked to take on such a large responsibility seemed like a burden.  I know I wasn't alone in feeling a little frustrated and "put upon."

Today, like expected, we had a minimum of 95 children show up between both congregations.  There was quite a bit of hari kari: we lost children, had a hard time keeping their attention, it was chaotic as you would imagine.  We could only prepare so much for that many children in such a small space... as Primary leaders we were ready to be "done" when the hour and a half was over. 

After the activities our children hopped on the hayrides and I hopped in my car (it was raining - I have my limits) and went over to the other church.  As we were helping unload and organize children in that teeny uneven building all I could think was, we're almost done!  I was bossing kids around, getting after a few just trying to keep them in one place for the music and then slowly, the atmosphere changed. 

A few of the Baptist folks began playing the piano, drums, and singing a catchy gospel song.  Our primary children started clapping and enjoying the music.  Everyone in the room started to quiet down, sit still and listen to the music.  I mean, it was totally different music than we're used to in sacrament meeting - but the spirit entered the room with all of us enjoying music together. 

The Nativity started.  Our children made a rainbow of colors representing Mary, Joseph and the Wise Men.  They sang their musical numbers and their voices were strong and beautiful.  In that tiny building filled with at least a hundred plus people it was quiet, and everyone sang the Christmas hymns together.  While we sang, our youth decorated their Christmas tree and placed donated gifts under it.

Finally, the Pastor and our Bishop got up and spoke a few words.  Our Bishop reminded us that it wasn't the nails that kept Christ up on the cross, it was all of us and his love for us.  Their Pastor got up and spoke: "today we had a rehersal for what Heaven is really like.  It doesn't matter what color you are, it doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, it just matters that you are children of God." Amen.

(He also said that he already decided he was going to Heaven, he was just trying to get as many people as he could to come along with him. I loved that - me too then...)

DeeDee herself was raised as a Baptist.  She closed by saying that there was one hymn that she knew both churches sang, and she wanted us to sing it for the closing song: "How Great Thou Art." The feelings of love we all felt seemed to make the entire place glow.  I don't think there were many dry eyes in the room.  The spirit filled that little run down building and it was warm and strong.  It really felt like we were part of a piece of Heaven. 

So, a few thoughts.  First, I remember just like going on a mission: the bigger and greater the spiritual ourpouring, the bigger and greater the adversary will work against you.  So I should've know how awesome the day would end with all the adversity that came with it. 

Also, THIS day, and maybe for the first time in my "grown up" life, we celebrated the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.  Giving, Sharing and Remembering Jesus Christ with our brothers and sisters.

Merry Christmas Everyone.... and "Come Let Us Adore Him."