A bemused expression flickered across the faces of the first family to arrive as they pulled into the empty parking lot.
It was July 8, the long-awaited day. For the first time in history, West Virginia would be home to a Family Encouragement Weekend! Six o’clock was starting time; 4:30 was dinner time; and the doors had opened at 3:00. Since 3:00, a thousand last-minute preparations were made. The church was ready. The chalk easel was set up. A feast was prepared in the kitchen.
Eventually four o’clock rolled around and we still had no one. Major Mike made a run to another church on the same road to check and see if attendees had parked there instead by mistake. He returned alone.
Now, of the many invited, the ones to RSVP seemed to be those of a dependable nature—Surely there had been a major mistake on the directions! Or was there? Whether the answer to that question was yes or no, we were convinced, (partly from our own experience attending family conferences) that this was a time of intense spiritual warfare. We knew that somewhere out there the families were fighting: fighting the clock, fighting the enemy, fighting their own human nature to be able to come. Four fifteen. . . . Four twenty. . . . A miracle was about to happen.
But already we had seen many miracles:
A mere two weeks and two days before, a location had been provided. Without internet, we began making the invitations by phone, once reaching four different very-busy pastors within the space of about an hour. Jonathan took careful notes to make a site map during the first trip to the church, Michael agreed to help on registration, and James tackled design projects on the schedule, hotel locations, and maps, while Esther, David, and Mom thought through every detail concerning the menu, orchestra and guest arrangements. During Robert and Kendalyn’s visit, Robert solved our internet connection problem—without the service fee! (Later, after his return to Chicago, the dreaded problem did resurface but the Lord intervened and it was taken care of by a couple of diligent non-professionals 🙂 ) Wise advice from the Wilkes Team poured in and the Neely Team found a way to print the name tags for three cents each. At about the same time a $500 check from another church came as a surprise gift. God was clearly at work!
Yes, many miracles and one solid week of work had brought us to this day and we didn’t expect the Lord to stop working. Yes, no one who waits on Him is confounded. . . . That evening, in direct answer to prayer, the house was full!