We had work to do. And so we started, sorting, talking, cleaning, investigating, sifting through papers and possessions.
And people came and went. Some brought meals, comfort food, soup and sandwiches. Others whisked us out for coffee and cake. Some came in business capacities, friendly, helpful, understanding. Some opened their homes to us.
And others, strangers, opened their arms and their hearts.
We knew the biggest challenge would be the attic. The sorting through the rooms was manageable. But the attic was a different story.
I had thought (and prayed) long and hard about how we would get the boxes down from the attic. There was a ladder, but, like middle seats in planes, I do not cope well with ladders. I can climb them. I can even get off them. But I am a bit stuck trying to get back on them at a height to climb down again.
So how would we cope with this attic and this ladder?
A thought had flashed through my mind. ‘Write to the local church and see if they can put you in touch with anyone who can help.’
And so I did. I wanted names of people in the area with handyman businesses really. I was not asking for a favour.
But I was blown away by the response.
Yes, they said, there was a couple in the congregation who would be very willing to help. We just had to arrange when and where with them. The letter writer had noticed, she continued, we would be arriving on a Sunday. Could she help us by doing some shopping for us – bread and milk – to see us through until Monday.
I cried when I received that letter. Here, across the world, were our brothers and sisters in Christ reaching out to us in love, willing to help us in ways we had not even imagined.
We knew we would be able to sort out our own supplies but we were thrilled at the offer of help, and we accepted.
We arranged for them to come on the first Sunday after Church. We thought we would have got a handle on the sorting for the main rooms by then and would have space for whatever delights the attic contained.
It rained. On that Sunday the heavens opened and it rained. I had never walked to church in the rain before. It was a wonderful experience for me, for whom rain is a treasured gift, especially heavy rain like we had on that day, to walk with an umbrella and a waterproof jacket through the small town to the beautiful little church.
At once we were recognised as strangers – and welcomed with open arms. On introducing ourselves people clustered around us.
“Oh yes, we have been expecting you. We’re so glad you have joined us this morning. Welcome, welcome, …”
I had a lump in my throat. Was this how it would be when I reach my heavenly home? These people were strangers. And yet they were not. For they were family I had not yet met. And they enveloped us in love and joy at our being with them, and we worshipped our God together in a beautiful way.
Afterwards, after we had been given coffee and chocolate biscuits, we met the folks who were going to help us with the attic. Within an hour the job was done, and we were faced with more sorting to do. But it had been done with such grace and love and willingness to help. Rather than the daunting task we had feared, it was a time of fellowship and family.
When we had said goodbye to our helpers, we high-fived with tears in our eyes.
“That’s God …”
That’s my God …