(This is a fictional story, inspired by a sign in front of a church building near my home. Here is “Part 1.”)
“Our Sundays are better than Dairy Queen.”
I drove by the sign in front of the church building as I pulled into the line of cars headed out of the parking lot and onto the highway. I had experienced their “Sunday,” and I hoped they would consider my “Sundae” as well.
It only took our small caravan a few minutes to drive to the first traffic, turn right on the bypass, then pull into the Dairy Queen. It was only when I stepped out of the car that I realized there was a problem. I didn’t have enough money.
I had planned to buy everyone an ice cream sundae from DQ, but I did not know that our trip would turn into lunch as well as sundaes. Catching up to the group, I explained my predicament. They all smiled and assured me that they would buy their own lunch, and they even said that I did not have to buy the ice cream. But, I did insist on that.
And, who knew! Dairy Queen makes pretty good chicken fingers. I decided to go with the chicken instead of the hamburger or hot dog. Something about the sign just looked a little more appetizing.
We found a table outside under one of the big red and white umbrellas and began to get to know each other better. Well, to be honest, I started to get to know them, and they began to get to know each other better. It was a fun group – some single, some married, but none with children unfortunately. I love children, and I love how children always brighten up a group.
It turned out that two of the people actually lived in my subdivision… which gave me a great idea. But, I would save that for later.
Eventually, I told the story that I thought about when the pastor was presenting his sermon. I was hoping that the story would be helpful, and it seemed to be. Several people used the story as a jumping off point to discuss their own walk with Jesus, both the positives and the negatives, the ups and the downs.
One lady began crying as she shared about problems at work. Another sitting near her hugged her and encouraged her. I’d always found that eating together and talking together was a great way to get people to open up about themselves so we can help one another deal with the real issues, and that was proving true in this case as well.
At some point, one of the young men said, “What about that ice cream?” Everyone else laughed, and I quickly grabbed all the papers and trays and napkins and tossed them in the trashcan near our table.
“Is hot fudge sundaes okay with everyone?” I asked, and was relieved when they all nodded. That made ordering easier, although I was certainly open to taking special requests.
It only took a few minutes for the DQ staff to fix our sundaes, and I took them back out to our table. Just then, the pastor and his family walked up.
“Sorry,” he started, “it took us a little longer than usual to eat dinner. The kids were too excited about the ice cream.”
“You’re not late,” I replied. “You’re right on time. Let’s get that ice cream.”
He asked if we could get kiddie cones for his children, and he accompanied me back inside while his wife joined the group and the kids played around the table. When we returned, I sat his wife’s sundae down in front of her and noticed that they were deep in conversation… serious conversation. The pastor noticed too and motioned to me that he and the kids would sit at a nearby table.
I joined them and laughed and joked with the children while they gobbled up their ice cream cones. They were great children – very happy, social, and well-behaved – and I could tell that they were showered with love by their parents.
Between chats and jokes with the kids, I was able to get to know the pastor better. He had only been in this area for a couple of years, having moved down from a previous church that was a couple of hundred miles north. I told him that I had just moved from another city that was a couple of hundred miles south.
As expected, he asked me about my church background, and I explained as much as possible without getting into too many details.
“Well, you really seem to have hit it off with the people here,” the pastor continued, nodding toward the group of people nearby and finishing off his sundae.
“Yeah, they’re great people,” I answered. I scraped the bottom of my bowl and made a sad face at one of the kids who giggled in response.
About that time, several people began standing and preparing to leave. I jumped up and thanked them for joining me. I told them that they truly made me feel welcomed and accepted. I also thanked them for sharing their stories with me.
“So, does that mean that we will see you again next Sunday?” the pastor asked.
Everyone stopped and waited for my answer.
“I’m not going to make any promises. But, I have decided that I’m going to invite some of my neighbors to my house for ice cream this Tuesday.” I had been paying attention to their schedules as much as possible, and it seemed that Tuesday was the least busy day – at least as far as the church calendar was concerned. “I’d love to have you all join me.” I especially looked at the two guys who lived near me, and I was glad to see at least one nod.
“Well, that’s all great,” the pastor continued, “but we’d love to have you as part of our church, too.”
“I appreciate that very much,” I said. “I’d like to talk to you about this more sometime, maybe after we get to know each other better.”
I paused a moment and looked around at the group of people who were still gathering their belongings.
“You see,” I said, turning back to the pastor, and waving my hand at the people around us, “I prefer this type of Sundae to the other kind.”