From Chicken Soup for the African American Soul

Let the Church Say Amen!

It’s no disgrace to start over or to begin anew.

Bebe Moore Campbell

When I received my acceptance to medical school, I was excited to begin my medical training, but frightened to be moving far from my hometown. My son was just four years old, and I was looking at spending four years in a new city in which I didn’t know anyone. Growing up in the church, I wanted to seek out some supportive, kind people to connect with. My search led me to a small church located just a few minutes away from the medical school. The church was in a dilapidated building with sparse grass and modest trees. Little did I know that the building would be in sharp contrast to the warmth and love inside.

“Hello! Hello!” We were greeted by the usher, an elderly man with a down-home voice. His eyes brightened at our arrival as if welcoming old friends. I asked to sit in the last pew because I was shy and wasn’t quite sure if this would be our new church home. I knew it would allow a quick exit if this was not the place for us.

But as the service progressed, I looked over at Jonathan clapping his small hands and swinging his feet gleefully to and fro. The music was lively and my soul, too, was exploding with the spirit and vigor of the people around me.

Then the pastor asked, “Are there any visitors this mornin’?”

I looked down at Jonathan who looked up at me and then I looked at the congregation. They all knew who the visitors were—the mother and son in the back of the church! No hiding for us!

Holding my son’s hand, I stood. “Good morning. My name is Melanie and this is my son, Jonathan. We just moved here a week ago and we are looking for a church family.”

“Church family?” The pastor echoed my words, “Did you hear that? This young mother is looking for a church family!”

The congregation clapped and smiled, shouting, “Amen!”

We felt so loved and received. We knew this was right where we were supposed to be.

During the next few months we attended service every Sunday. On Saturdays, we would be home studying and playing. Every once in a while, we would be surprised by a church member’s visit. He or she would ring the bell, usually with a fruit basket or some other goodies in hand. “Melanie, I was just thinking about you and thought you would like this. God bless you.” During finals week, I would receive calls of encouragement, “Sister Melanie, God is just blessing you. You hang in there. We are all praying for you.” And I would get the motivation I needed to keep on studying. There were many offers for babysitting. Going to church was often just the reminder I needed to be grateful, especially for the opportunity to be a single mom pursuing a medical career.

During my next year of school, I had difficulty getting money for textbooks. I went to church and prayed on it, meanwhile trying to think of using the money I did have to copy the pages I needed from my classmates.

During one Sunday service, the pastor announced that there was a family that was in need. He said that he wasn’t quite sure what the need was, but God had placed it on his heart to say that he felt we needed to collect money for this family, that those who could contribute should. His words touched my heart. I imagined a family that must be struggling, perhaps barely making ends meet.

I looked into my purse and saw two dollar bills. It was all I had in my purse, but I placed it in the tray praying for God to take care of that family in need. When the offering was collected, I felt so good to give to someone who really needed it. I didn’t worry about trying to buy my textbooks; I felt blessed with all I had—my health, my son, the opportunity to be in school and the wonderful, loving, giving church family I had. If any of these people were in need, I wanted to help them.

After the money was collected, the pastor said, “Church, I know you all will probably agree on this. We have a family right here in this church that could really use this money. Melanie, would you and Jonathan come up front and get the blessing God has provided for you?”

My eyes welled with tears as Jonathan and I walked from the back pew all the way up towards the front. My pride almost didn’t allow me to take the money, but our need was stronger. The church members applauded and smiled at us, nodding their heads and praising God for our family and the ability to help us.

When we got home, Jonathan and I counted the money. Over two hundred dollars, it was enough to cover my textbooks just fine. I didn’t know the blessing would be for me, but I learned that when we try to be a blessing for others, we can’t help but be blessed by the process. Amen!

Melanie M. Watkins

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