The best memories in my life are usually not the result of careful preparation but are surprises.
Ten years ago, my husband Stetson felt called to Cornerstone Baptist Temple as the Youth Director. We visited right after Christmas and before their big New Year’s Eve service. I was so overwhelmed with the joy within the church when Pastor Siler lead the congregation in Come and Dine. It was something so different that I never had experienced. I always anticipated that time at the beginning of the service when Preacher (as his congregation fondly calls him) led us in Come and Dine.
Preacher sacrifices for his congregation. I remember being in labor with my son Isaiah. It was an unfortunate 48 hour ordeal that nearly killed me. After more than a day in labor, I asked Stetson to call Preacher and ask him to pray for me. Due to the dehydration and pain, I didn’t know it was well after 12am. Preacher did not only pray for me but he also came up to the hospital and prayed outside my door in the wee hours of the morning. Another instance, when my grandfather passed Preacher drove more than 40 minutes to show me support.
Throughout deputation, I truly developed a great respect, admiration and better understanding for my Pastor. Not only is he a great preacher but he is one of the most humble and giving people I have ever known. He not only truly has a heart for missionaries but all people.
Our very last service, Christmas morning was a special one. He used his text to make application and give Stetson, me, and our children a charge. At the end a special poem was read and most of the congregation came up and prayed over our family. There was many hugs, tears and farewells. But one thing was missing… I didn’t get to hear Preacher lead Come and Dine one last time. I was in tears as I was exiting and I mentioned to my friend Heather, who is on staff at the church, that Come and Dine wasn’t part of the service.
Preacher and a few others drove us to the airport on December 28th to board a plane to fly to Italy. The time leading up to our departure had been nothing less than chaotic. There were many memorable goodbyes that I have reflected on already and I am sure I will in time to come. But as we were getting ready to say our final goodbyes at the airport, Preacher called us over to him. It was visible that he was fighting back tears and seemed like he had some important words of wisdom to give Stetson and me. Little did I know what to expect. And then he started singing, Come and Dine for me. He sang both verses and the chorus just like he had every Sunday morning since I had been attending Cornerstone Baptist Temple. It was the joy during his leading of that song that opened my heart to CBT 10 years earlier (maybe the exact day). Those brief moments of my Preacher singing Come and Dine for me will be one of those special unexpected surprises that I will carry with me the rest of my life.