Aaron and Lizzie just finished stuffing 120 eggs. They stuffed half of what we’ll need for the annual egg hunt at Tarkio First Baptist Church. Tomorrow all the brightly colored eggs will dot the front lawn of our church and kids of all shapes and sizes in their Easter best will make a run for it.
We’ll rise early tomorrow and hide the Easter goodies in the super-sized eggs purchased at Hobby Lobby. In Lizzie’s stash, a boy Barbie, by request, and lots of chocolate. Josh will land a toy truck and in Aaron’s, his first Bible, his name embossed on the front cover.
At church, we’ll worship with our friends, many whom I’ve been attending church with for over 30 years. I’ll sit next to my family and many friends and neighbors I’ve known for over 30 years. I’ll remember my first Easters in those pews with my white knee socks in the dresses sewed by my Grandma singing with the M&M choir Easter songs that I still remember all the words. I’ll think of the Easter my pastor and his family came to town. I was 14 and they shared Easter dinner with us.
If we are lucky, our local sheriff will sing his rendition of He’s Alive, the local attorney and hospital board member will play the piano and my kids will sing with the children’s choir. We’ll breakfast together and return to our homes with the words of Up from the Grave He Arose on our lips and the joy of a risen Savior in our hearts.
You don’t have to travel far out of Atchison County to find many critics of churches and of Christians. Religion is viewed as something appropriate for the uneducated, the small minded and those of us from the backwoods sheltered from the diverse peoples and problems of the world. Christians, at times have earned this reputation. I’ve seen it in my own church and community when the doctrine of loving your neighbor is forgotten.
In the vast majority of my experience with small town religion, I’ve seen the good that comes from a group of people bound by common beliefs, supporting each other in both the joyful and difficult times. I’ve seen churches help the needy by supplying clothes, appliances, court fees and travel expenses. I’ve seen the tears of sorrow when a fellow parishioner is suffering from cancer and the outpouring of consolation and casseroles when a loved one is lost. I see the stacks of Christmas gifts for needy children, the turkeys at Thanksgiving and the full schedule of volunteers when meals need delivered to the homebound.
I still have the handwritten card delivered to our door when my husband lost his mother. I smile at the memory of my pastor carrying my sick child on his shoulders when the IV in his foot prevented him from walking. And in those first years of marriage when our hot water heater broke and a church member supplied us one for free…it still chugs out hot showers after a long day at work.
In my community, churches provide for spiritual and physical needs in manner far more efficient than any government agency. There’s no paperwork, or forms to fill out or long lines…there’s just a need and a group of people, filled with a desire to meet those needs in a spirit of love and hope.
I hope tomorrow that you find yourself in a pew somewhere in Atchison County. You won’t need fancy clothes or an invitation. You won’t be sitting by people that are perfect or who don’t routinely make mistakes. But I know that if you can find a seat, Love will find you.