There’s no telling what God may ask you to do when you meet to pray about options for ministry in your town. So found a small committee of believers from Hillside EMC, struck to consider hospitality and benevolence in Mt. Albert, Ontario. With Sports Day coming up the committee pondered how the church could be a blessing during this annual community event. God planted an idea.
Someone mentioned hearing that there was tension between townspeople and the travelling carnival workers. Word had it that those running the midway rides and games felt unwelcome in the town. A plan emerged as the committee thought about what it must be like to live life on the road, constantly setting up and tearing down -- on the move every few days. How often would people thus employed get a home-cooked meal? …Maybe the church could say ‘welcome and thanks for coming’ by doing something churches often do so well - making a great dinner and sharing an evening.
This was a plan not without risk. Would they come, or would it fall flat? No way to know, but as the committee thought and prayed they became convinced that God wanted them to step out and do it.
The Midway’s contact person was extremely hesitant when he received the invitation by phone from a church committee member. He wondered aloud about ‘the catch’…how long would the sermon be they’d be required to sit through in exchange for this meal? It was hard to believe that these church people wanted nothing more than to provide a good hot meal for the people running the midway. After several more assurances that there were no strings attached, he put aside his misgivings and agreed to do ‘the ask’ to see if the workers would come.
On the day the carnival pulled into town and began set-up one of the committee members drove over to the fairground and gave the invitation in person, promising that the church wanted nothing more than to welcome them and say thanks for coming. He told them preparations were underway, the food would be great and everyone hoped they would come enjoy it. In the meantime congregation members were functioning as the body of Christ should. They prayed. And they were using their gifts - ‘an eye was being an eye, and a foot was being a foot’ – all working together as one.
That night twenty-some carnival workers arrived at the church door and came in, somewhat apprehensive and uncomfortable. No doubt the mingled aromas drew them towards the room and eased their concern a smidge. The awkwardness on both sides melted away a few minutes later when the two groups sat down together to eat.
What followed was an evening full of good food and relaxed conversations as people talked together about their lives, hopes and plans. “We’ve never experienced anything like this before”, some said. The church had planned for leftovers and the guests were elated when they saw the takeout boxes and realized they were being invited to take food with them as they left. One individual mentioned that if he isn’t eating the usual carnival fare, he’s eating what you can pick up in a variety store encased in cellophane or boxboard. The church supper was a real treat. Could they do this again when they come next year? some asked.
As the evening was wrapping up the team lead came to one of the committee members and pressed a wad of cash into his hand. “This is not to pay for our meal, but please use it to do this again for others who come to town,” he said.
The next day when the carnival rides were in full swing many from the church took their families. Instead of seeing the men and women running the rides as nameless ticket-takers, now it was, “Hi Bob, Hi Sue.” Smiles all around. What a difference.
This was in no way an overtly Christian event, but was an event put on by Christians to bless others. “There is no way to know how God is going to use this night,” says Pastor Scott Clubine. “We can’t gauge the success of it, but God gave us the opportunity to do it and we took it.”