The gravel road that led to the church generated puffs of dust as we traveled along. An outhouse from the days before indoor plumbing rested in the church backyard, a testament to progress, convenience and the long history of the congregation. A water pump was on the south-side. An idyllic scene of days gone by was captured in this country church that found ten to fifteen people in attendance each Sunday morning.
A big attraction for the children was the inch-thick brown rope knotted at the end that led upwards to the belfry. Pulling the rope each week brought delight to the four or five children who attended.
The people who attended Zoar were either farmers or worked in the large General Electric plastic plant situated on the paved road we took to the church. A few people did both - farmed the land part-time and worked at GE.
We often returned home on Sunday morning with a bag of zucchini or string beans or a dozen freshly laid eggs from these people who shared generously their resources. We were surprised, however, at the first all-church Thanksgiving dinner we attended in November, 1979, to find a row of brown paper grocery bags on the old church pews that formed a border on one side of the fellowship hall.
We enjoyed a delicious meal that evening with tables covered with food characteristic of Thanksgiving Day. Following dinner, one of the church leaders stood before those gathered, welcoming everyone especially Mike, me and one-year-old Sarah.
Overwhelmed with gratitude, we hardly knew what to say. Carrying the bags to our small car required multiple trips with help from a few of the men. When we arrived home, we put our sleepy Sarah to bed and unpacked all of the bags. We found beans, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, all from their gardens, as well as store-bought candy, flour, sugar, two-dozen fresh eggs, turnips and a pumpkin. We didn't have enough room in our small kitchen to store our bounty so we placed the surplus on shelves in the basement.
A few people put small toys or books for Sarah. Our hearts were surely filled that first Thanksgiving dinner with the Zoar congregation and the four that followed. The sweet, generous people in this farming community shared from their abundance in a way that covered our table all winter.
Prayer: God, your generosity was reflected in the kindness shown by the members of Zoar Church that left an imprint on my heart long ago. Guide me each day to show your love to all I encounter in ways appropriate to their needs. Amen.