Janice Lemke, with her husband Corey, is a missionary in Ukraine. She is always looking for a good story and she found one in a church in Kirovskaya, and then shared it in her weekly email update. In her words:
Cory likes to be early (his definition of "on time") and while waiting for things to get going, I decided to talk to an old woman who sat alone in the sanctuary. She greeting me warmly and I figured she might be good for a story or two to pass the time.
She's 89 years old, but details about World War II were just as clear to her as though it happened last month. It was a time of fear and hunger. Even though her father was a Christian, he had a position of authority on a collective farm. And even though Christians were supposed to keep their faith to themselves, he said one day, "Anyone who knows how to pray, you may go to the church and pray today for an end to this war." She recalled how they walked to the village, got down on their knees, and prayed with weeping. The next day, they heard no planes or bombs. The war was over.
When she was 40, she was expecting another child. The doctors told her she was too old and must have an abortion. She told them, "I have never even killed a kitten. How can I kill my own child?" Her daughter grew up to be a sweet and gentle woman who has a daughter who attends Bible college.
Her son lives in Germany. Her daughter does too. "They all do," she said. They wrote to say that life is easier there, and they wanted her to move there with them. She refused. "I have everything here I need," she said. "I have a garden and some chickens. I am very rich. I don't need anything more."
Her words challenged me more than any sermon I heard that day. Her clothes obviously came from some humanitarian aid box. On her feet, she wore dirty sandals with baggy boy's athletic socks with a red stripe and a hole in the heel. And her smell, frankly, told me she doesn't have hot water or a washing machine. Yet, Janice concluded, she says, "I have everything I need. I am very rich." (Lemke Update, 7/23/2005).
Reading this story led me to Proverbs 10:22, "The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it." As we come to the Lord's Table we can be thankful for the riches we receive here. As Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 8:9, For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich."
At His table we both celebrate and receive the richness of His grace. His love, and His forgiveness. No wonder the Lord's Supper is called "eucharist" in Greek -- it is the Great Thanksgiving.