When I was twelve years old, I experienced the gracious love of God through the confident, kind witness of my pastor.
My family and I lived in an apartment at a motel that my parents managed in Roanoke Rapids. One winter weekend I accompanied my father on a trip to Charlotte. My mother and my younger brother, Glen, remained to operate the motel and the adjoining restaurant.
On Saturday evening a guest became intoxicated. He began smoking in bed. Late that night, he started a fire which burned half of the motel to the ground, including the apartment where my family lived. Through the grace of God no one was killed or injured.
My father and I returned to Roanoke Rapids the next morning. We arrived and viewed the charred remains of the motel, standing behind the yellow tape with which police had cordoned off the area. Curious residents had gathered and were inspecting the devastation. Everything we owned was either destroyed by the fire or heavily damaged by the smoke and water from the fire hoses.
I had never seen my father so depressed. Our family was experiencing shock, trauma, and grief. “What are we going to do now?” we wondered.
That Sunday afternoon, our pastor, the Rev. Lester Jackson, came to visit us. He represented a powerful and generous God and a caring church to us. In the aftermath of a tragedy, he brought us compassion and support. He prayed with us, that God would help us and sustain us through this terrible loss. He helped to begin the process of healing for our disrupted lives. His visit had a profound effect on all of us. It was a wonderful gift – demonstrating God’s steadfast love. God was with us. God was able. We were going to make it.