“Jessie,” Ann Marie called across the room. “Come and help me with this, would you?”
Jessie looked up from where she was shelling peas and smiled at Ann Marie. Gramma Ann, most folks called her. She was over 90 – how far, no one really knew since Gramma Ann wouldn’t say. She had a mischievous sparkle in her eyes that lit her entire face when she brushed aside the question, or pulled other mild jokes and tricks on unsuspecting members of the church.
“It’s a calling, Jessie-girl,” she’d chuckle. “Have to keep people on their toes and smiling and hoppin’ along. Otherwise, they get mired down. Stuck in their muck. Himself taught me that by reading His stories and learnin’ more about folks down all the years who followed Him well.”
Gramma Ann was certainly not mired down in anyway. In her wheelchair — which she pushed by hand, no electric wheelchairs for Gramma Ann, oh no – she moved more quickly, and filled the room with more vibrancy — than most folks in the room who were easily half her age.
Jesse set down her bowl of shelled peas and wiped her hands on the towel next to her. As she stood up, she overheard Marcella telling Renee about the latest prayer meeting with fervid intensity. Renee never attended the prayer meetings, and had a look of deep skepticism on her face.
“I was just sure I could feel Him standing there, Renee, while we prayed for that poor young man who lost his wife and children to a drunk driver last week. There was this golden glow and the tears seemed to up and dry away.” Marcella paused for breath and continued, “He moved among the room. I know because I watched people’s faces change as we prayed. They softened and gentled . . . and the more we prayed together the happier people were.”
Renee kept pace with her potato peeling, her lips tightly compressed. Jesse wondered how long it would be before Renee burst with indignation, and paused by their table on her way over to Gramma Ann.
“Now, Marcella,” she said, leaning down close to the two women and setting a gentle hand on Renee’s arm to still her for a moment, “He comes in so many different ways – and not in the same way – to each of us. He is with you when you are sharing the moment with a group. For some of us,” and Jesse smiled encouragingly at Renee, “He gathers us close when we sit still and quiet and on our own just listening for His voice. And for others,” Jesse smiled across the room at Gramma Ann, “He makes Himself known through action – by what we do in His name.” Jesse straightened up and added, “There is certainly room in the Kingdom for all those ways of connecting with Him.”
Jesse wended her way around the clumps of apron-clad women industriously working together to make the huge pots of soup to provide the community dinner that night. Generally, the women did the meal prep and the men were in charge of setting up tables and washing the dishes after. It was a pattern that worked well, and no one saw any reason to fix it.
Anyone was welcome to join them at the weekly dinners, and encouraged to bring whatever they could share. The little town of Roanoke might be filled with material poverty, but open hearts and sharing hands made a huge difference.
Gramma Ann had started the community dinners back in the Depression days and had coaxed, cajoled, bullied, encouraged, demanded, and sweet-talked the community into continuing the weekly tradition through all these years.
According to Gramma Ann, building community and feeding anyone who was hungry was one of the many ways He walked among them each and every day. Gramma Ann was intent on following in His footsteps by being of service, as well.
Jesse slipped into the chair next to Gramma Ann, and folded her hands around the old lady’s in gentle welcome. She felt so blessed to know Gramma Ann – not just for the beauty and fun of the woman herself, but for the picture Gramma Ann had painted so clearly over the years for Jesse about who He was by consistent loving example and service to others.
Gramma Ann left Jesse in no doubt that she had a friend in Jesus, easily seen with her inside eyes in so many different ways, each and every day.