Geoff had driven John to the middle of Gainesville and after having prayer and wishing him safe travel and a Merry Christmas, had headed home. He was just entering the Chiefland city limits when his prepaid cell phone rang. It was from the Pastor at Chiefland Community Church, his old boss. “Hello?”
“Hey, Geoff, it’s Phil, are you busy?”
“Not at the present. What’s up?”
“Could you come by the church? I need to talk to you.”
“Sure, I’m just pulling into town, now I’ll be there in about two minutes.”
“Great, just come right on back to my office when you get here.”
Geoff hung up and headed towards the church. He wondered what in the world Phil need to talk to him about. He knew nothing had changed at the church so it couldn’t be about coming back. Guess he’d find out soon enough. He pulled into the parking lot and headed for the office entrance.
He entered and waved at Mrs. Williams as he passed her office. She waved back and pointed to Phil’s door. “He’s waiting on ya.”
Geoff knocked on the open door frame and Phil looked up. “Come on in and shut the door, will ya?”
Geoff did as he was told and took the seat in front of Phil’s desk that Phil pointed to. “How are you doing, Geoff?”
“Well, still looking, if that’s what you mean. I reckon a lot of churches are in the same place you are. Hoping something will come along after the first of the year.”
Phil nodded, “Well, know that the elders and I are praying for you. That’s the reason I wanted you to come by. We had a meeting last night and they expressed concern for you and the family. We took up an offering and, well, here.”
Phil handed him a Christmas card. When Geoff opened it there was a Wal-Mart gift card in it for one hundred dollars. “I know it’s not much but we thought it might help you out with Christmas.”
Geoff nodded, “I won’t lie, Phil, it will. Let the elders know that I appreciate it.”
Phil stood and Geoff followed. “I will, know that we are praying that God will show you where to head next.”
“Me, too, and Sharon and I are praying for Community, too.”
The two men hugged and Phil walked Geoff to the door. Geoff climbed into the cab of his truck and stared down at the gift card in his hand. He was convinced that if he hadn’t obeyed God Phil wouldn’t have called him. God knew last night that Geoff was going to be faithful and had arranged to provide for Christmas ahead of time. Geoff pulled out his phone and called Sharon. They’d grab a few groceries and a gift for each of the kids. Sharon answered the phone, “Thank God, where are you?”
That wasn’t the greeting he’d expected. “I’m on my way to you, why?”
“I need your help.”
“You won’t believe it. Just get here.”
Now Geoff was curious, obviously nothing was wrong or she would have told him.
“I’m about five minutes away.”
“Okay. Love ya; see ya when you get here. Just hurry.”
Geoff pushed the truck to five miles over the speed limit; he didn’t dare go any faster for fear of getting a ticket. When he pulled in their drive, Sharon was standing on the patio waiting for him. He jumped out of the truck and headed to her.
“Where’s the bag? Didn’t you find anything at the dollar store?”
“Never made it there. It’s a long story. I’ll tell you in a bit. What’s wrong?”
Sharon opened the kitchen door and pointed at several large boxes sitting in the floor and on the counter. “This is the problem.”
Carol Payne came by about half an hour ago. She said she and Bill had been praying last night and God told them we needed some food. She said the dairy had just butchered a few heads that weren’t producing anymore and a couple of hogs, too. Anyway, she brought us a whole cow and a whole hog plus six gallons of milk, a couple of pounds of butter, and even two gallons of ice cream. I don’t know where to put it all!”
“Are you kidding me?”
“No, I’m not kidding. You look for yourself and then help me figure out where to put it all.”
Geoff looked in the boxes to see package after package of butcher paper wrapped meat labeled with “Not for sale” and what each package was. He opened the nearly empty freezer on his fridge and turned to Sharon. “Go get your hair dryer; if we defrost this we can get some of it in here and the rest I guess I’ll have to go out to the shed and plug in the deep freeze.”
Sharon nodded with tears dripping off her face. “How did they know, Geoff? We haven’t told anyone.”
“Get the hair dryer and let me tell you about my day.”
As they worked at defrosting the freezer and sorting the meat into what would go to the deep freeze and what they would use for the next few days, Geoff told Sharon about what had happened to him since he left the house.
“I think God was testing me, Sharon. I honestly think if I hadn’t helped that man none of this would happen.”
Before Sharon could answer him there was a knock on the kitchen door. Sharon walked over and opened it to see Harold Lyons standing there. “Sharon, is Geoff here.”
“He is, Harold, come on in.”
“Actually could you send him out here? I need his help, you and the kids too.”
Geoff walked over. “Sure, Harold, how can I help?”
“Well, Karen got it in her head that you and Sharon didn’t have Christmas dinner for the kids so she went shopping. I think she got kind of carried away. I got a ton of groceries in the back of my truck for you all.”
Geoff looked at Sharon. “Go get the kids so we can get Harold unloaded.”
Sharon nodded and hugged Harold, “You give that to Karen when you see her and tell her I said thank you.”
Sharon turned and went to get the kids from their rooms. Geoff followed Harold out to the truck and realized he wasn’t kidding about Karen going over board. The whole back of the truck was covered in Hitchcock bags. “Karen wasn’t sure if you all preferred Turkey or Ham so she got both.”
Geoff laughed, “We aren’t particular, we eat both. Now just tell me which of these bags are for us and I’ll start toting them in.”
Now Harold laughed, “I told you she got carried away; these are all for your family, Geoff. I think she bought you a month’s supply on top of Christmas dinner.”
“I don’t know what to say except thank you and that doesn’t seem enough.”
Harold grasped Geoff by the shoulder. “Look, we might not go to the church you worked for but our sons learned a lot from you on Sunday nights. They have become more active in our church and in our church’s youth group. This seems like a small part of what we owe you. They were never interested before you came here and started letting them hang out after school and skateboard in the church parking lot.”
“I was just doing my job and I enjoyed having them around.”
“I know that and that church is going to be poor for letting you go. If we needed a youth pastor or even a pastor I’d have you nominated. Speaking of which, call the youth pastor. He wanted to know if you’d be willing to do a youth revival this summer with that series you taught on ‘Why we believe what we believe.’ The boys showed him the handouts you gave them and he was impressed.”
Geoff smiled. “I’d love to. I’ll call him after the holidays.”
“Speaking of that, have you gotten an offer for a church yet?”
“No, most churches don’t hire during the holidays. Maybe after the first of the year.”
“Well, I know of a little church just outside of Chiefland that’s looking for an interim pastor. They hired a guy but he can’t start till after school lets out because of his kids. They’ve been having the deacons take turns preaching but I talked with the head deacon and he said if you would give them a call they could use you ‘til you found something permanent, or August when their new pastor got here. That is, if you’re interested.”
“Harold, that’s great. Do you have his number?”
“I don’t, but I told him I’d be by to see you today and mention it to you. He should call you tonight. His name is Obadiah Long and its Fanning Springs Baptist. They run about 25 people every Sunday.”
With Sharon, Violet, Geoff Jr, and Andy’s help, they soon had the truck unloaded. Geoff and Sharon quickly shuffled the fridge around and got all the cold and frozen foods stored. Then they asked Violet to watch her brothers and for the three of them to put up the canned goods while they went Christmas shopping. With all the food God had gifted them with, Geoff and Sharon figured they could spend the whole hundred-dollar gift card on gifts for the kids.
They climbed in the truck and headed to Wal-Mart.
Geoff and Sharon entered the Wal-Mart and grabbed a cart. They’d talked about it on the way over and figured they’d hit electronics and get the boys a couple of cheap video games for their x-box that would keep them happy for several months and even though it would be two presents each, they’d share and double their fun. As for Violet, they’d grab her a CD and some new paints and art supplies and she’d be happy as well.
As they were heading past the women’s department they passed Jane Winslow, the local real estate agent and one of Geoff’s most vocal supporters back at Community Church. She was still griping about the church letting him go and losing a great asset to the church and community. She saw them and called out. “Geoff, Sharon. I’m so glad to bump into you; it’ll save me a trip. I was gonna head out to your place when I left here.
She and Sharon hugged and Geoff gave her a side squeeze, not being much of a hugger. “What’s up, Jane?”
“Well, I wanted to check in with you and see if you’d found a position yet?”
“Not yet. Most churches put off hiring ‘til after the holidays. However, Harold Lyons told me about a local church looking for an interim pastor. I’m supposed to get a call from the head deacon tonight.”
“Would that be Fanning Springs Baptist? I talked to Obadiah about you today as well. He told me he was planning on calling you. It’s a shame they didn’t know about you back before they hired that Yankee to come down here.”
“Now Jane, I’m not a senior pastor, I’m a youth pastor. Filling in for a while is one thing but my calling is to teens, you know that.”
“Oh, Poppycock, I know you believe that but I also know how many adults snuck in to your youth meetings to learn what you were teaching to them young’uns. One of these days you’re gonna wake up and realize your calling is to everyone. Maybe this temporary job will show you just how gifted you are. Anyway, that wasn’t why I was coming by. I made a big sale this week and God told me to give you part of my tithes. So here.”
With that, Jane handed Sharon a check made out to Geoff in the amount of two thousand five hundred dollars.
Geoff shook his head. “Jane, your tithes should go to your church, not to us.”
“Listen, Geoff, I don’t answer to you and the church is still getting most of my tithe. I’m obeying God so you just be quiet and take this here check.”
Sharon put it in her purse and hugged the older woman again. “Thank you, Jane. Geoff is just overwhelmed but we are grateful for the blessing God had you give us.”
“I know you are, darling, you keep that man of yours in line. Them preachers just don’t know when to turn it off, do they?”
Sharon looked over at Geoff and winked. “No, they sure don’t, Jane. Merry Christmas.”
“You, too, darling, and tell them kids I said Merry Christmas as well.”
With that Jane turned and headed off towards the check out, her buggy full of her purchases.
Sharon turned to Geoff, “Well, that takes care of next month’s rent and utilities and still leaves us about four hundred more we can put on Christmas if you want.”
“Well, let’s not go that crazy but we can spend a part of it if you want. Just don’t let me forget to deposit it over at the bank when we leave.”
“Sounds good. You go get the boys some games and I’ll grab some canvases and new brushes and paints for Violet. Lets meet back up at the beauty supplies; we need to get some shampoo and toiletries, too.”
Geoff nodded, “Sounds good.” He’d grab a few baubles for Sharon while he was at it. Just before she left him a Wal-Mart employee walked up to him. ” Excuse me, sir, is your name Geoff McMiller?”
“I know this is unusual but do you have some ID I could see?”
Geoff’s head wrinkled in confusion as he pulled his wallet out and showed the man his driver’s license. “Will that do?”
The man smiled “That’s fine. Sorry just I had to be certain you were the right man. Here, this is for you. I was told to give it to you and say Merry Christmas.” The man thrust a Christmas card into Geoff’s hand and walked off.
Sharon looked at the envelope in Geoff’s hand. It had his name written in flowing purple script on it. “What do you think that was all about?”
Geoff shrugged and opened the card and tears started to flow down his face. On the blank side in the same purple script was the note. “To those who are faithful in the little things will more be given.” Laying in the fold was a stack of hundred dollar bills. Sharon counted them. “Geoff, there’s five thousand dollars here!”
Geoff looked the whole card over; there was no signature or any indication who the card had come from. He quickly went and found the employee who had given him the card. “Who told you to give me that card?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. McMiller, they didn’t give me their name. Is something wrong?”
“No, no, nothings wrong. They just forgot to sign it.”
“I’m pretty sure they didn’t want you to know who it came from. Why else would they ask me to give it to you?”
“I guess you’re right. Thanks again.”
“Any time, sir. I’m glad to help and you have a Merry Christmas.”
Geoff walked back to his wife struggling to hold back the tears that were threatening to overwhelm him.
“Can you handle this? I think I need to go out to the truck for a bit.”
“Sure, are you okay?”
“Am I okay? Sharon do you know anyone who can walk into Wal-Mart with a hundred dollars and walk out with over seven thousand?”
Sharon laughed, “No, and no one would believe us if we told them. God sure did bless your five dollar sacrifice in a big way, didn’t he.”
With voice shaking with the emotion he was struggling to hold back, “In more ways than I would ever have imagined. I guess that old saying is right. You can never out give God.”
Sharon nodded her head and said, “Go on, spend the time you need thanking God, then get in here and help me give our kids a great Christmas.”