This short story is in two parts so come back tomorrow to see the conclusion. This is based on something that happened to my family back in 2002. I’ve used what really happened and expanded it and changed the names of people involved and churches to protect everyone involved. I hope you enjoy and come back tomorrow for the conclusion. -PG
Geoff McMiller sat at his desk in his home office and looked at the bank statement again. Empty! Well not completely, he had the dollar he had to maintain to keep the account open. This was going to be the worst Christmas ever.
Four months ago everything was great; he had settled in at his position as youth pastor at Chiefland Community Church. He had taken six teens and, through his teaching and hard work, had grown it to over 30 young people who came to his Sunday night youth services. Then the bottom dropped out. The Pastor had asked him to come to his office. Once there Geoff was met by the entire elder board. They explained that in this economy there just wasn’t enough money coming into the church to keep a youth pastor on staff or even keep a youth program open. To keep from having to shut the church doors completely they were closing the youth programs down and letting him go. They would give him a reference to his next position and a month’s salary as severance. They prayed he understood that it was nothing personal, just the way things were right now.
That had been September. He had put out resumes and in October had even had a couple of in-person interviews. Once he got beat out by a local couple and the other the church had chosen a man with less experience, from Australia of all places. He’d been beaten out by a younger more energetic guy with a cool accent. But none of that helped him now. Thanks to connecting several local churches and offering to do pulpit filling in emergencies or other situations, he had made enough to keep his rent and utilities paid as well as food on the table and gas in his truck. But now it was the week before Christmas and none had needed him in the last few weeks. Thus, his pitiful bank account. He pulled out his wallet and saw five dollars left from his last preaching engagement. How was he going to do Christmas for his lovely wife Sharon and their three kids Violet, Geoff Jr, and Andy?
When he had no answers Geoff would hit the trail in the woods behind their home and do a little prayer walking.
“Sharon, I’m going prayer walking. I’ll be back later.”
His wife met him at the door, worry evident on her face even though she tried to hide it for his sake, and gave him a kiss as he passed. “I’ll pray that He gives you some answers, Darling.”
Geoff nodded and kissed her back. He was so blessed to have such a godly and supportive wife. She hadn’t complained when he’d moved them 16 hours from everyone they’d ever known to take this position and she had sat and wept with him when the church let him go. She’d prayed with him over every resume and had shined beside him even thought she was out of her element at every interview. All this he thanked God for as he walked along the trail.
He thanked God for his precious children and their love and belief in him as their dad and God as their Lord and Savior. Then he climbed up on the big rock where he often sat, poured out his heart to God, and waited for God to answer in that still small voice that warmed his soul. “God, I don’t know what to do. I’m trying to stay faithful to you. I know that all things work together for good according to your plans. What am I going to do? If I don’t make some money today, Lord, we are going to run out of food to eat, let alone give the kids the worst Christmas we’ve ever given them. Look,” Geoff pulled the five dollars out of his wallet and held it up to the heavens. “This is all I have to my name, God. You promise to supply all my needs, God, and I am holding you to your word. Please, Lord, tell me what to do?”
Geoff sat on the rock and waited as tears of frustration and fear flowed down his face. He waited and waited and yet the Lord never once whispered to his heart. After a solid hour of silence Geoff got up and headed back to his house. If God wasn’t going to answer him then he’d do the only thing he knew to do. He’d go and buy each of the kids something from the dollar store. They might not have much but at least there would be something for them to open under the tree.
He got home and told Sharon his plan. Then he climbed in his truck and headed out to the shopping plaza where the dollar store was. He was wallowing in self-pity and almost missed seeing the man walking along the side of the rode, pushing a bicycle with a flat tire. That’s when God decided to answer him. “Stop and help that man.”
Geoff looked in his rear view and saw the man who was obviously homeless and pushing the bike. “God, what do you mean by help him?”
The answer was just as plain and like a knife to Geoff’s already sad heart. “Fix his bike.”
Geoff went from self-pity to anger in less time than it took to think, “Fix his bike? God that will take most of what I have left.”
The only answer Geoff got was an even stronger feeling “FIX HIS BIKE.”
Now long past the man Geoff refused to give in. There was no way in this world that he was going to put a complete stranger over his own kids. But the Holy Spirit wasn’t done working on him and as soon as that thought left his head it was followed by scripture. ‘I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Geoff sighed and turned on his blinker, pulling into a parking lot so that he could turn around. He traveled back down the road and made a turn, pulling up right behind the man and his bike. He honked his horn as he got out of the truck. “Hey there, you need some help, mister?”
The man turned and looked at Geoff with tears running down his face. “I don’t know what to do. I hit a rock earlier and popped a tire.”
Geoff walked over and saw that not only was the tube popped but the rock had actually sliced the tire. He was going to have to spend all his money getting it fixed. “Well, put it in the back of the truck and lets go get it fixed for you.”
“That’s alright. I’ll just keep pushing it; I don’t have the money to get it fixed.”
“No offense, mister, but I didn’t think you did. Look, this may sound nuts but God told me to fix your tire, so put it in the truck and lets go get it fixed.”
The man didn’t say anything as a tear ran down his face. He just picked up the bike and placed it in the bed of the truck. Geoff held out his hand to the man, “I’m Geoff McMiller. Get in and lets go to the bike store and see what we can do for you.”
The man shook his hand. “John, my name is John. Did you mean it when you said God told you to fix my tire?”
Geoff climbed into the truck and looked over at John. “He sure did. Why does that seem strange to you? I’m not crazy and I don’t hear voices. It was more like a feeling.”
“No, I don’t guess it’s strange. Can I tell you a story?”
“Sure, if you feel like you need to.”
“It all started about twenty years ago. I had just graduated from high school and turned eighteen. I thought I knew it all and wanted my own way. I was a man after all. My Dad didn’t see it that way, being a pastor, and he told me that as long as I lived in his house I’d obey his rules. So I packed my bag and left Saint Augustine for New York City. I did whatever I wanted-drugs, booze, women. I had it all and then I couldn’t stop drinking. I lost everything; my apartment, my job, all my so-called friends and I ended up on the streets. That’s where I’ve been until three months ago. I wandered into this shelter for something to eat and the rule was before they fed anyone they had to attend a church service. The man there talked about no matter what you had done God had sent Jesus to pay for your sins and to offer forgiveness and a second chance. I don’t know why I heard that message this time. It wasn’t much different than one I’d heard my Dad preach hundreds of times. But I found myself at the altar asking Jesus to save me and change me. That was the last day I’ve had a drink. Those people at the shelter helped me get clean and I met with that preacher several times. I told him I felt like I needed to go home and ask my Dad and Mom to forgive me. We prayed about it and then the next day some lady from the shelter asked me to come outside with her. She gave me that there bike and told me God told her I’d need it. I left for home the next day. Everything went great till about two hours ago when I hit that rock. I had been asking God what to do when you pulled up and said God told you to fix my tire. I didn’t think I was going to make it home before Christmas but, thanks to you, I should be home in a couple of days.”
Geoff was amazed at John’s story and pulled into the bike shop where one of his former teens worked. “Hey PG, what you doing here?”
“Hey, Chris, this is my new friend John. He hit a rock a while back and popped his tire. I’ve only got five dollars, do you think you can fix it for that?”
Chris pulled the bike out of the back of the truck and looked at the busted tire. “PG, the tube is gonna cost you that much. I can’t put a new tire on it, those are expensive, but I did just have a guy replace a tire on a bike this exact size. He told me to throw away his old tire. It ain’t new but there was hardly any wear on it. I’ll put that on at no cost. Will that be okay?”
Geoff smiled, “That would be great, Chris. How long do you think that will take?”
“Oh, give me about an hour and I should have it on and ready to ride.”
“Is your sister working over at the Burger House today?”
“Yeah, until five this evening, I think.”
“Well, we’ll go pay her a visit then.”
Chris’s sister Judy was the manager at the Burger House, a local joint where teens hung out. When he’d arrived she had told him anytime he wanted a burger just ask for her and she would give him one free of charge. The owner liked having clergy in his place, it gave the kids someone they could talk to if they needed it.
Geoff and John went inside and Geoff saw Judy and waved at her. She saw him and smiled. “Hey, PG, you come to eat or just say hi?”
“Hello, Judy, Merry Christmas. Would you be willing to give me two burger meals today, one for me and one for my new friend John? Chris is working on John’s bike and I thought this would be a great place to wait.”
Judy looked at John and smiled. “Sure, Preacher, you guys order anything you want.” She turned to the cashier. “Linda, give PG and his friend what ever they want, on me.”
“Sure thing, Judy.”
Geoff smiled, “Thanks, Judy. I appreciate it.”
“Your welcome, PG. By the way, Daddy wanted me to ask if you have found a new church position yet if I saw you.”
Geoff shook his head, “Not yet. Most churches won’t interview during the holidays. Maybe something will come up after the first of the year.”
“Well, he said to tell you if you need to make some money that he has some work out at the Kennels that needs done. He was going to hire one of the kids from church but thought you might need the work while waiting.”
“That would be great. Tell him I’ll call him tonight.”
“Will do. You all enjoy now.”
Geoff and John got their meals and dug in. Chris walked in right as they were finishing. “Hey PG, got that bike finished and ready to go.”
Geoff stood, “How much do I owe you, Chris?”
“Well, the tube came to 4.99 and I’m not gonna charge you for putting it or the tire on.”
Geoff pulled the five dollar bill from his wallet and gave it to Chris. “Thanks. I appreciate it.”
“Any time, PG, you know that. I put the bike in the back of your truck.”
Geoff and John walked out to Geoff’s truck and sure enough there was the bike in the back. There was a bag from the bike store hanging off the handlebars with a tire patch kit in it. On a scrap of paper Chris had wrote. “In case you need another repair before you get where you’re going. Merry Christmas and God bless.”
John started to wrestle the bike off the back of Geoff’s truck when Geoff stopped him. “Leave it in there, John. I want to run you to Gainesville. I reckon that will help make sure you get home by Christmas.”
John shook his head, “You’ve done too much already. I heard that lady say you weren’t working right now.”
“You’re right, I am in between jobs right now but God’s always taken care of us, sometimes through the generosity of his people. This is the least I can do to repay Him. Now get in, I’m not taking no for an answer.”
John got in and Geoff pulled out heading to Fanning Springs and Route 26 to Gainesville, 45 minutes away.