December 20, 2010
Several months ago, Jeannie my mother-in-law, and a friend stopped for lunch at The Olive Garden. The young man waiting their table had such a commendable way about him that they began to speculate as to whether he knew Jesus. Jeannie, usually unable to contain her love for people, finally had to ask him if he knew Jesus. Yes ... he knew Jesus, his name was Luke, and he was working his way through an online college degree from Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, Illinois.
Today, Pam and I took Jeannie to do some shopping and out for lunch so we would have time to talk. Originally, we had talked about having breakfast together so we would have the rest of the morning and early afternoon for shopping. But, as God would have it, we took lunch, instead, at the same Olive Garden Restaurant. For a brief moment, Jeannie lobbied for a table or booth closer to a window, but easily gave in to a table in the corner.
Our waitress was a young woman named Gracie and she was delightful. Soon after she brought our beverages, my mother-in-law asked Gracie if there was a young man that worked there. That question brought an immediate yes and three smiles. Gracie asked Jeannie if she knew the name of the young man and Mom said, “I think his name is Luke.” Gracie replied that Luke not only worked there, but was waiting tables at that very moment.
Luke took a break and came into our corner. He discovered he had waited on Jeannie after she asked him if he was the young man who was taking college at Moody online. She told him, as she motioned across the table toward us, that her daughter and son-in-law worked in Africa as missionaries. Luke told us he had been on a short term mission trip to China. We had a few moments to talk before he needed to rush back to take care of his customers.
Mom and I were sitting at the edge of our table while we had this short conversation with Luke. I was unaware that Gracie was still around. She had gone around behind me and to the other side of Pam. She leaned over and whispered in Pam’s ear, “You guys must be Christians too. That’s great!” After both Luke and Gracie had left our table, Pam shared her comment with Mom and me. Gathering that Gracie was spiritual family it explained why Gracie was so delightful.
When Gracie returned to check on us, she told us that she had always wanted to go to Africa. If you know anything about Pam and me, you will know that we try never to turn away from an opportunity to invite people to come to Uganda and to stay with us in our guest house. This opportunity didn’t slip away from us either. Her reaction to our invitation was obvious. She appeared a bit flushed and waved her hand near her face as if to cool it. She was excited and amazed that she would be given such an opening. She told us she was about to cry and had to leave the table.
As soon as Gracie brought the check, she told us that it was a long story, but after her daughter had been mistreated at her church and it was exposed, it was she who was asked to leave the church … even though she had even preached there previously. Now, to have such an invitation to come to Africa and work with some missionaries was overwhelming. We exchanged email addresses and I gave Gracie our phone number. I told her that God was not finished with her yet. Again she appeared close to tears and she disappeared from our table.
As we continued to visit with each other, a third member of the wait staff approached us and asked if there was anything she could get for us. We told her, Gracie had taken care of us and we have even paid our bill. She informed us that Gracie had to excuse herself for a moment because of some strong emotions she had and she was covering for her so Gracie could regain her composure.
As we were getting up to leave, Gracie again appeared, and hugged all three of us, drawing stares from the customers in our section. I left the ladies and hurried through the rain to retrieve the car to bring it to the door of the restaurant to minimize Mom’s walking. Pam and Jeannie got in the car and we drove away. Then, at about the same time, they asked me, “Do you want to hear the rest of the story?” Yes … there was more.
Several days ago, Gracie had told them, she had a dream. In that dream God told her that He was going to speak to her and that He would give her a message through Luke. The following day, at work, Gracie told Luke about the dream and notified him that God wanted to give her a message through him. She informed Pam and Jeannie, “You are that message.” That was why she was so overcome with emotion.
- We could have had breakfast and skipped lunch like we had planned.
- We could have chosen any number of restaurants and had discussed several options.
- We could have opted for and insisted on a window booth or table.
- We could have had any of the wait staff assigned to our table.
- Luke could have been off that shift.
- We could have related to Gracie as though she was just someone who takes orders and delivers them.
But God …..