Psalm 62:8 – Trust in him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. (RSV)
Matthew 25:35 – I was a stranger and you welcomed me. (RSV)
As a part of our Thanksgiving celebration this year, my husband, John, and I looked back at the past year and gave thanks again for all the things for which we were thankful. This year we found much for which to thank God.
My husband and I went on an Elderhostel tour to New Zealand and Australia last January, something to which we had looked forward for many years. We had a wonderful trip that lasted a month. Then … the morning that we were to start our trip back to the United States, my husband became very ill with cellulitis from a flesh-eating bacteria. Instead of being on our way home with the rest of the group, I couldn't believe it, but I had to put him in the hospital in Hobart, Tasmania. Can you imagine what it must have been like for my husband to be so ill when he was half a world away from home? For my part, I have never felt so alone and lost as when I saw the bus driving down the road with everyone I knew on it and we had to stay behind.
There was nothing that either of us could do. We were alone. We were powerless. My husband was too ill to be aware of anything except the room, the pain of his leg and the fact that I was there with him. At such a moment, all I could do was place my trust in God … and I did. How I prayed to God! God became my refuge, my source of hope, my strength and indeed the granter of inner peace during the first terrible five days until the doctors could tell us that my husband was going to live. How well God cared for us during the two weeks that he was in the hospital!
This caring started the minute that I arrived back in my motel room after I had said good-bye to those who were on the tour with us. I didn't think that I knew anyone in Tasmania, yet my phone light was blinking. It was an Australian couple we had met, calling to wish us a good trip home. I told the woman what had happened, and instantly, she said, "You stay right there. You are not going to go through this alone. Greg and I will be right over."
I never was alone! They called each morning to see how my husband was, came into Hobart each afternoon, visited John just long enough for him to realize that I was being taken care of, ate with me each dinner and took me safely back to my motel. On the two nights that they'd already had plans, they made arrangements for me to be with one of their neighbours.
How kind everyone was! The Australian leader of the Elderhostel group checked from his home in Sydney several times to make sure that I had enough money. Without any questions, he loaned me some when my funds ran low. The clerk in a sewing machine store where I had gone to buy some scissors, told me to be sure and come and borrow their machines if I needed to do any sewing. Two computer stores offered me free computer time so that I could stay in touch with family here in the States. E-mail was my lifeline, so I thanked God for this. The housekeeper at the motel slipped me extra towels and soap by way of trying to make me feel better. The cafeteria folk told me each day what was the best luncheon dish. Two ministers came to visit us and were of tremendous help. One decided, as my husband began to get better, that I needed a change of scenery so took part of her day off to spirit me away to a wonderful, quaint little village. The list of the deeds of so many wonderful folk goes on and on.I was the stranger but I was never allowed to feel alone. I was tremendously touched by these beautiful people, but I don't believe that they even knew how extraordinary they were. To them this is how you act when someone is in trouble. I came to realize that this is what the Kingdom of God is all about. It is there for each of us if we will only trust God.
Prayer: Holy One, remind us always that in our need, in our fear, and in our hope, you are here for each of us. Help us to realize that we can not do everything ourselves but that we have to turn to you in trust. Assure us that you are just waiting for the invitation to enter our lives with more blessings than we can ever imagine. We thank you for the windows into your kingdom that you show us so that we know what life with you is like. I pray this in Christ's name. Amen.