Christmas on the River

God sometimes shows up in the strangest ways. One Christmas week in 1980, He did just that. It was a Christmas my family never forgot.

For a number of years, Dad struggled with God's call to be a full-time evangelist. After resigning his church in Orangeburg, South Carolina, in 1980, he decided it was time. The only problem was it wasn't God's time.

Resigning a church when you live in a church provided home and have nowhere to go is a scary experience. Fortunately, the church organist had a little getaway mobile home on the shores of South Carolina's Santee River.

Mom, Dad, and my two brothers loaded up their clothes, stored the remainder of their belongings at my grandparent's home, and headed for what they had never experienced before: residing in a trailer, using someone else's belongings, and living on the water. Their new home was small, cramped, and showed evidence of a bachelor's presence, but Mom made it as much of a temporary home as she could.

Mom was employed in Orangeburg-thirty miles away. Her income wasn't sufficient to pay bills. Debt was mounting. Calls for Dad to preach were few and far between. When they came, they struggled to muster the gas money for him to get there. Compensation was never enough to cover his expenses. Now, the weather had turned cold, and keeping the oil tank filled was further draining their bank account.

All the while, the season of joy was quickly approaching, but there didn't appear to be much joy this Christmas. How could they be happy when there was no money to buy a tree or presents? Mom loved to cook large Christmas meals, but the cabinets screamed empty. Meat, too, was rapidly becoming a scarce commodity.

A dose of ingenuous planning by Mom and a surprise visit from a friend turned the tide. Low County South Carolina is heavily dotted with pine trees. Why not use one as a Christmas tree? So they did. Dad and the two boys trekked through the woods until they found the perfect one. Mom even came up with a solution for the ornaments. Finding craft ornaments that required baking and painting, she accosted them and delivered them to Dad.

But it appeared this Christmas would still be meatless. During Christmas week, however, Richard-their good friend and owner of the trailer, stopped by. He worked at a local car dealership and had been given a ham and turkey as Christmas gifts. He had no use for both and wondered whether Mom, Dad, and the boys might be interested in the ham. God sent meat for Christmas. The aroma of the cooking ham snaked through every inch of the trailer, reminding them of God's goodness. They didn't have much, but God gave exactly what they needed.

Mary experienced the same. She too was a poor young woman engaged to be married when God showed up and told her fiancÚ she would birth the Savior of the world. "And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21 NLT) The excitement-and anxiety, was almost more than Mary could bear. But her willingness to accept God's plan resulted in salvation for all who call upon the name of the Son she bore.

My family needed meat for Christmas. God sent it. Soon after, He provided another church for my father to pastor. Once again, they had a place to stay and food on the table. God also provided a Savior for the world. And that's how God is. Whatever the need, He'll always supply.

Martin Wiles Hodges, South Carolina, USA

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