Winter Morning Guest

Winter Morning Guest

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

Winter Morning Guest

The heart of the giver makes the gift dear and precious.

~Martin Luther

One winter morning in 1931, I came down to breakfast—and found the table empty.

It was cold outside. The worst blizzard on record had paralyzed the city. No cars were out. The snow had drifted up two stories high against our house, blackening the windows.

“Daddy, what’s happening?” I asked.

I was six years old. Gently Dad told me our fuel and food supplies were exhausted. He’d just put the last piece of coal on the fire. Mother had eight ounces of milk left for my baby brother, Tom. After that—nothing.

“So what are we going to eat?” I asked.

“We’ll have our devotions first, John Edmund,” he said, in a voice that told me I should not ask questions.

My father was a pastor. As a Christian, he’d been chased out of his Syrian homeland. He arrived as a teenager in the United States with no money and barely a word of English—nothing but his vocation to preach. He knew hardship of a kind few see today. Yet my parents consistently gave away at least ten percent of their income, and no one but God ever knew when we were in financial need.

That morning, Dad read the scriptures as usual, and afterwards we knelt for prayer. He prayed earnestly for the family, for our relatives and friends, for those he called the “missionaries of the cross” and those in the city who’d endured the blizzard without adequate shelter.

Then he prayed something like this: “Lord, Thou knowest we have no more coal to burn. If it can please Thee, send us some fuel. If not, Thy will be done—we thank Thee for warm clothes and bed covers, which will keep us comfortable, even without the fire. Also, Thou knowest we have no food except milk for Baby Thomas. If it can please Thee.... ”

For someone facing bitter cold and hunger, he was remarkably calm. Nothing deflected him from completing the family devotions—not even the clamor we now heard beyond the muffling wall of snow.

Finally someone pounded on the door. The visitor had cleared the snow off the windowpane, and we saw his face peering in.

“Your door’s iced up,” he yelled. “I can’t open it.”

The devotions over, Dad jumped up. He pulled; the man pushed. When the door suddenly gave, an avalanche of snow fell into the entrance hall. I didn’t recognize the man, and I don’t think Dad did either because he said politely, “Can I help you?”

The man explained he was a farmer who’d heard Dad preach in Allegan three years earlier.

“I awakened at four o’clock this morning,” he said, “and I couldn’t get you out of my mind. The truck was stuck in the garage, so I harnessed the horses to the sleigh and came over.”

“Well, please come in,” my father said. On any other occasion, he’d have added, “And have some breakfast with us.” But, of course, today there was no breakfast.

The man thanked him. And then—to our astonishment—he plucked a large box off the sleigh. More than sixty years later, I can see that box as clear as yesterday. It contained milk, eggs, butter, pork chops, grain, homemade bread and a host of other things. When the farmer had delivered the box, he went back out and got a cord of wood. Finally, after a very hearty breakfast, he insisted Dad take a ten-dollar bill.

Almost every day Dad reminded us that “God is the Provider.” And my experience throughout adult life has confirmed it. “I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor their children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25) The Bible said it. But Dad and Mom showed me it was true.

~John Edmund Haggai

Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul

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