I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of our church here at Gaylord E-Free. What an amazing morning we had today for our HEROES DAY. It was a very special morning and one that I believe God used and will continue to use for quite some time.
The morning didn’t go off exactly as we had planned due to the weather. As soon as I heard the thunder about 4:15 this morning I wondered how the day would go. By 4:45am I received my first text message from Joshua (our Director of Worship) as the rain came down outside. By 6am the rain had stopped and the radar I looked at on the internet showed just one more small cell coming our way. We made the decision to go ahead and go for the outdoor venue at the fairgrounds and started unloading all of the equipment from the many trailers we had used to transport them from the church.
By 7am I headed back to the church to change clothes and do my final preparations as final set-up and rehearsals began at the fairgrounds. Within the next hour the sky grew dark again, the thunder and lightning arrived, and a downpour of rain and even some pea –sized hail fell from the heavens. Imagine that – we have one of the driest summers on record and it picked this weekend to rain. But that is OK. I once read about a 113 year old woman who was asked the secret to her longevity of life. Her response was, “When it rains, I let it!”
Well, we could not control the rain so we just let it happen. This led to the decision by Jack Dutton (our Director of Counseling who was the leader and organizer of the entire event) to cancel the outdoor venue, load everything back up in the pouring rain, and then bring it all back to church only to unload it in the rain and re-set the whole thing back up, realizing that we only had 2 hours left before the start of the service at 10am.
To make matters even more challenging, because we were planning on having this Sunday’s special service at the Fairgrounds, we scheduled this 2-week period to install our new digital sound board. The board was installed this past week but all of the training for our techs was not scheduled until this coming week. This meant that spur of the moment our sound techs had to make a digital sound board that they had never run before work. This slowed the process down even more which resulted in us having very little time to go through our final rehearsal for our program.
We ended up starting about 5-minutes late and without practicing all of our elements, but God gave us grace and blessed us in a very obvious way. I’m sure that we would have had even more people had we been able to stay at the Fairgrounds for the program but the Gospel Center was still packed. From the worship team, to the 8-man ensemble, to the color guard, to the recognizing of all of our heroes that were present, to the Pledge of Allegiance monologue – it all came off without a hitch and it was a sensational service from start to finish.
I heard so many wonderful and encouraging comments after the service. Perhaps my favorite comment came from a woman we said that she had been the wife of a military man for over 40 years and had attended many functions where her husband was honored for his service. But she went on to say that this was the first time she had ever been publicly honored as the spouse which was very special to her. It was also very moving to see the response that our church gave to the WWII vets that were with us. As these HEROES stood when I called upon them our church gave them to only standing ovation of the morning as people all around them took time to shake their hands.
By the time the service had ended the rain had stopped. A crew from our church had stayed at the fairgrounds during the service to prepare our free cook-out. We invited all those in attendance to drive back over to the fairgrounds to enjoy the picnic. To be honest, I seriously doubted how many people would actually do this but to my amazement the vast majority (I’d say a good 80%) of all who came to the HEROES DAY service drove over to the fairgrounds afterwards for a wonderful time of food and fun.
Throughout the morning it was obvious that God was working in spite of the fact that our plans had been changed. We had more pageantry that we were planning to do but which could not be done inside. But that’s fine. God certainly knows best.
We had an amazing amount of military, local law enforcement, local fire-fighters and first responders who were present in uniform. Most of them also came to the cook-out afterwards. As I walked through the picnic area at the fairgrounds greeting people, I could hardly go one step without one of these HEROES or someone from their family stopping me and thanking me for the service and telling me how very much they appreciated the morning. In fact, as I was driving into the fairgrounds, one of our EMS HEROES was driving out at the same time. He recognized me, turned his vehicle around, and came back to thank me for the morning, sharing with me how much it meant to those who serve our community.
I enjoyed meeting at the picnic the man who represented the Coast Guard in our Color Guard. I thanked him for helping us out in this way only to find out that this was actually his second Sunday at our church. The Sunday previous was he and his family’s first time at our church. They had just moved in to Gaylord and he was honored to be part of our Color Guard and shared with me how much they love attending our church.
Let me end by sharing the two things that excited me the most about today. First, today we had people in our church that would have never come to church under “ordinary” circumstances. In fact, we had people in our church today for HEROES DAY that we would most likely not even see inside of our church on Easter. One lady from our church shared with me and introduced me to a couple that came with them because of the type of program we were having. This is a couple that is pretty “anti-church.” She shared with me that this couple loved the morning. Because of the special type of program we put on this morning this couple heard the Gospel. As is the purpose of our church, we were able to MEET this couple right where they were at and then help to MOVE them one step closer to where God wants them to be. And I am sure there were many others like them who were with us this morning.
Second, I loved watching our church work together to pull off this event. It is true, there is nothing like the local church when the local church is working right. This weekend, I got to sit back and watch Gaylord E-Free Church come together with one mind for the cause of Christ and it was absolutely beautiful. That’s what true fellowship is – it is partnering together for the cause of Christ. If we were to send out a thank you note to every person from our church that was involved it would take a few hundred stamps. This weekend was great evidence that if we as a church will always put the purpose of our church over our personal preferences we can accomplish great things for God!
Thank you, E-Free! And most of all, thank you, Lord (even for the rain)!